Ask Andrew – My husband puts his friends before me
I have read Resolve your differences and feel like my H and I keep going in circles about one issue that is affecting our marriage deeply. Starting 2 yrs ago, my H, 36 yo, had a mid-life crisis (hair colouring, told me he was in love with a co-workers 21 yo sister, tried drugs, hanging out with younger friends from work who have marriage problems and don’t want to come home). We were high school sweethearts and married very young. I have tried to be patient throughout this ordeal & have even tried counselling. He went 1x with me & I went 8x but we can’t seem to move on beyond this phase in our marriage because of what he is asking from me. He claims he found his best friends at work and wants to still see the one guy where he told me he had feelings for his 21 year old sister. After much fighting and some time of not seeing his special group of friends, he says he has recently shown me that he is a trusting person now & committed to me but wants to be able to go out with the group of guys from work, not to their home but outdoor hobby activities. He says he needs friends in his life right now and that this group of friends understand him like nobody ever has. I have never told him who he could and could not be friends with but I told him that he crossed the line with this group of friends and I would rather he not see them any more. He says that I am trying to control him and that it is not right for me to do that. But, I feel it is like this is a slap in the face and is a constant reminder of when we were in a horrible place in our marriage and he even left home for a period. These outside influences are not good for our marriage. He should understand that he can always find other people to hang out with. I am just terribly frustrated with the whole situation and feel like we really headed towards divorce over this.
It is really tough when it seems that the person who have been in love with forever morphs into someone else who you don’t recognise and throws that love back in your face.
However, I want you to take a step back and try and stop focusing on WHAT he’s been doing and look at WHY? Although he’s told you why he’s rebelling – he feels controlled – you can’t get your head round this idea. In your mind, you’ve never told him what to do – beyond not going after 21 year olds – so where has this idea sprung from?
To keep the peace, to keep you happy and because he’s a nice guy, he’s often swallowed his needs (for couple needs). Everything has run along smoothly but he’s made sacrifices – everybody does, because it’s part of being in a relationship. However if you are not assertive and don’t explain your needs – just drop hints or hope someone will notice – you will one day explode (which is what happened). I know you didn’t ask him to swallow his needs but do you make a lot of decisions for both of you, are you a go getter, do you often think you know best? All good qualities…. but over time, it’s possible for someone to feel you are controlling? Look back at the chapter on assertiveness in Resolve your Differences, can you husband say NO. In fact ask him, do you feel you can say no to me. Get him to explain, what he means and discuss how you can have a marriage where you both explain your needs, debate the differences, compromise, negotiate and sometimes back down.
This brings me back to your dilemma. You say find other friends. We wants these ones (with sensible precautions). From where he stands now, if you forbid them you will have confirmed that you are CONTROLLING and will be controlling until the end of time and he will NEVER get his needs met. I have to say, it does not sounds like the recipe for a successful marriage. Alternatively, you could let him see these friends – with good grace and interest in the activities – and he may take this an opportunity to stray but it could be a turning point to transforming your marriage.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting a different life at 36 than 16, we all need to review and change. It is only a problem if you are seen as the enemy rather than as part of the change.
To understand more about assertiveness versus being domineering, see my latest book ‘My wife doesn’t love me any more’ because although it looks from a man’s viewpoint it explains how to win back your partner. I would also look at ‘Help your partner say yes’ which explains how we can often come across as our partner’s parent – so no wonder they rebel – and how to speak Adult to Adult.