March 4, 2011 at 11:11 am , by Jennifer Castoro
It’s not tough to understand why those early years of marriage – the child-free, travel-ready, never-too-tired-for-sex ones – could be the happiest of all your wedded years. According to new research from Britain’s Understanding Society, older couples are far less content in their unions than younger ones, and young, childless couples are happiest of all. Not really shocking stuff. But what happens when you hit those middle-of-the-road years and find yourself a bit . . . bored? That’s the case for Emily, a 36-year old schoolteacher and mother of two who’s been married to Joe, 40, for 15 years, in this week’s story.
Emily’s turn Her husband is total dullsville. He used to have interests like reading and woodworking and took her on romantic trips on the spur of the moment, but now he’s so focused on running his insurance business and taking care of their house that he does nothing else. She’s not attracted to him anymore, since he’s gained some weight and wears old-man clothes, so they rarely have sex. Her close friend, Deb, is getting a divorce and moving across the country, and Emily’s jealous of her freedom and daydreaming about leaving, too. Joe was her first and only boyfriend and she married him at 21, mostly to escape her overbearing parents that clearly favored her older brother. And she’s bored with work, too: She never wanted to be a teacher but took the job to please her parents. They’ve always been an issue for Joe, who thinks they control his wife. Either way, Emily just can’t find any redeeming qualities in her husband anymore.
Joe’s turn He’s insulted that his wife thinks he’s a bore and angry that his hard work and devotion to his home aren’t enough to keep her happy. He thinks it’s ridiculous that her happiness depends on whether or not he has a hobby, and also says she’s hypocritical because she doesn’t have many interests herself. He feels Emily needs to accept that they’re not single anymore and they have jobs and responsibilities, and wants her to get rid of this divorcee friend who’s clearly a bad influence. He can’t stand her parents and thinks they’re manipulative and mean and he’s lost respect for his wife because she complains about them but won’t do anything about the problem. He’s not mad at her for disliking him, just heartbroken, and he wants to save their marriage if she can change her attitude.
The counselor’s side The root of Emily’s boredom wasn’t Joe; it was her own unhappiness with herself. She was, in classic psych-speak, “projecting.” She fixated on his petty faults to explain her misery. Her parents were narcissists and nothing could please them, so she had to learn to stop trying and start standing up to them when they criticized or bullied her. Emily deeply regretted not following her desired career path, so she went back to school to study library science and became a school librarian, which greatly improved her satisfaction with her life and marriage. Joe had also lost his joy for things he used to love and focused on household chores as a way to avoid his wife, so he started making efforts to get back into his old hobbies, and the couple went out on dates alone. As they grew happier with themselves and closer as a pair, their sex life picked up, too, and they felt like newlyweds again.
Your turn! Do you think your husband is a bit dull? Do you miss activities you used to enjoy? Would you ever leave your marriage out of boredom?
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