Jennifer Castoro

Can This Marriage Be Saved? He’s Old Fashioned and Sexist

September 15, 2011 at 4:42 pm , by

Sure, sometimes we ladies like to be treated with chivalry and a touch of old-fashioned manners: opened car doors, chairs pulled back from dinner tables, a romantic gesture from our hubbies. But we like our modern, independent roles, too. (I can change that flat tire myself, thankyouverymuch.) So what happens when you’re a liberated lady and your spouse is stuck in Leave It to Beaver Land?

Maria, a 41-year-old mom of three, has been married to Jose for 20 years. When they met and fell in love, Jose promised she could go to school and get a job, but she got pregnant on their honeymoon and that was the end of that.

Maria’s turn Yes, Jose is a good husband, but he doesn’t understand that Maria has dreams and goals of her own that don’t involve him or their kids. He thinks that because he supports her financially and doesn’t drink, curse or sleep around, she should be completely happy in their marriage. He holds very traditional Latino ideals: The man’s place is at work, and the woman’s is at home. But Maria hates relying on Jose for every decision and purchase and wants to find fulfillment in working and making her own money; she even won a scholarship to a junior college but Jose wouldn’t let her accept it. Because he works so much to support them, they never spend any time together, and he gets angry when she goes out with friends or chats with strangers. He thinks of her as his property, not as his partner, and she’s tired of being the obedient wife.

Jose’s turn What has gotten into his wife? She didn’t make a peep about being unhappy for 20 years and now she wants a divorce. He gives her everything she could want – new clothes, nice cars, financial security – and yet she’s unhappy. So what if he doesn’t compliment her or call her or hold her hand? That’s how marriage was for his parents, who’ve been married 50 years. He does his job, which is to provide for the family, and he doesn’t understand why his wife still wants more. Why go to school now, since she won’t be done until she’s nearly 50? Besides, they don’t need the money. And he doesn’t like her seeing her friends because they’re the ones planting these ideas in her head. He’s baffled that Maria thinks their marriage is in trouble. Read more


Can This Marriage Be Saved? This One Wasn’t!

September 2, 2011 at 1:21 pm , by

As you may know, in the 50-plus-year history of our Can This Marriage Be Saved? column, there have been just a handful of times the marriages we’ve covered haven’t made it through counseling (see one example here, of a husband and wife who probably should never have married in the first place). Inspired by our Facebook fan Heather Fraser’s question about these doomed unions, here’s another of the marriages that could not be saved.

In our February 1973 issue, with a ravishing Liz Taylor on the cover, is the story of Sandy and Guy, a young married couple who weren’t mature enough to understand that marriage is a serious commitment but tied the knot anyway. From our editor’s notes in the introduction, “Marriage is not a game for children, yet many people behave as if it were.”

Sandy’s turn Her husband has “a total lack of fiscal responsibility”, can’t hold down a job and spends all his time drinking. Sandy had been on a round-the-world cruise, financed by her family, and while away she decided to give the marriage another shot. Guy showed up when her ship docked completely drunk, didn’t say a word about missing her while she was gone and left her “tottering with fatigue” when she arrived home and had to clean the house and put the kids to bed. When she confronted him about his behavior, he told her to bug off (in slightly rougher language) and turned on the TV. Sandy decided then and there to get a divorce and had her father hire a lawyer. Guy objected but eventually moved out, though he still shows up unannounced all the time. Sandy’s first marriage was a disaster arranged by her in-laws, and they divorced because her husband turned out to be gay. She became disillusioned with all men except her father, and when she met Guy she found him spoiled and lazy. She only agreed to marry him after she got pregnant. Before they even wed, he quit his job and invested in a coke-bottling plant that quickly went belly-up. Now all he does is sit around the house all day, sleeping till noon and drinking, and pays the bills with handouts from his mother. Read more


Can This Marriage Be Saved? My Infertility Is Ruining Our Marriage

August 18, 2011 at 12:40 pm , by

l_101756380Even the strongest of marriages can be tested by the wild ups and downs of infertility. Didi, a 37-year-old sales rep, who has been married to husband Mark, 35, for three years, was diagnosed with premature ovarian failure and is unable to have kids as a result. The couple desperately want a baby, but they can’t even discuss their options without a meltdown. (Read the full article in this month’s issue of LHJ, and here.)

Didi’s turn She is absolutely devastated that she can’t bear a child, and Mark makes her feel worse about it. He suggests using donor eggs like it’s no big deal, but it’s a big deal to Didi that she’d be carrying a child that’s not biologically her own. Plus, if something were to happen and she miscarried with a donor egg, she’d feel like a double failure. And she thinks he’s a class-A jerk to not even consider adoption as an option. The other issue is that Didi is East Indian, and donor eggs from that background are tough to find – not to mention expensive. With adoption, at least there’s a guarantee you’ll have a baby, but there’s no guarantee with IVF. She can’t understand why her husband is so concerned with passing on his genes and hates that he doesn’t acknowledge that Didi is grieving the loss of that chance for herself.

Mark’s turn He thinks acknowledging his wife’s infertility is dwelling on something they can’t change, so he doesn’t like to talk about the problem. He hates seeing her so upset all the time and thinks his encouragement to try a donor egg is a way to focus on the positive. Adoption terrifies him because of the horror stories he’s heard about kids hating their adoptive parents or biological parents coming back to claim their children years later. He’s also worried that he won’t love an adopted child as much as a biological one, and he resents Didi for telling him it’s ridiculous that he feels that way; she complains that he dismisses her feelings but she doesn’t realize she does the same thing. And life’s short – why not risk IVF and if it doesn’t work, use adoption as a backup option? He doesn’t think it’s fair he has to give up on his chance to be a father just because she can’t be a biological mother.

The counselor’s turn There are no easy answers in the IVF-versus-adoption debate, and many couples have the same issues that Didi and Mark are confronting. Didi’s emotional ups and downs and Mark’s temper were an issue, so they took steps recommended by the counselor to manage their feelings better (read more here). The counselor suspected Mark’s anger may be masking depression, so he visited a psychiatrist, who confirmed the diagnosis and put him on antidepressants, which helped his mood immensely. The couple had to take the time to mourn their loss and acknowledge that they’d never have a biological child together, and their pattern of ignoring the issue just kept them mired in it. They had serious questions to consider: Would Didi regret not attempting to carry a baby? Would she feel guilty she denied Mark the chance to be a father? Would Mark resent Didi if she refused to try IVF? After nine months of discussion, they reached an agreement: They would try to find an Indian egg donor but if they couldn’t, they’d adopt. They searched and searched and eventually did find a donor who looked a lot like Didi, but the woman changed her mind and Didi and Mark were crushed. That was the catalyst for their ultimate decision to adopt a child from India. They’ll travel to meet 18-month-old Nikel next month and bring him home to their family.

Have you struggled with infertility? Adopted a child? Do you think Didi and Mark made the right decision? Share your thoughts with us below.


Can This Marriage Be Saved? I Can’t Turn Him On

July 28, 2011 at 3:14 pm , by

When you’re newly married, in love and childless, sex is usually pretty easy to keep at the top of the agenda. But what happens when a romantic slump sets in while you’re still young, mad about each other and have a butt whose size is relatively similar to the one you had when you got hitched? For Angela and Lane, a young couple married for several years who are now dealing with Lane’s disinterest in sex, the problem started a bit too soon.

Angela’s turn She and Lane haven’t successfully had sex in eight months; he usually flat-out shuts down Angela’s advances, and when he doesn’t he can’t keep an erection. They’ve always had amazing chemistry and equally amazing sex, and Lane was always a generous lover. But after one unsuccessful attempt that ended with Lane insisting there was nothing wrong and turning on the TV, they haven’t so much as cuddled. One of Angela’s friends is pregnant, which makes her insanely jealous because she’s dying to start a family, too. She’s terrified that her husband doesn’t find her attractive anymore and tells him so constantly – and she also tells him she refuses to stay in a sexless marriage.

Lane’s turn He feels like a complete failure at absolutely everything – his job, his marriage and his life in general. He’s scared to initiate sex because he’s sure he’ll fail again, and when Angela says it must be because he’s no longer attracted to her, it makes him feel worse. Lane works for the family business and feels like a loser there, too, since he isn’t as successful as his older brother, who’s always been better than Lane at everything. The incident Angela mentions as the start of their problems happened after Lane had just lost a big contract at work and his brother secured one. Then Angela told him their friend was pregnant and he started to think about supporting a family on his own – and freaked out. He’s not sure he’s ready to be a father yet, but it’s a moot point since they can’t have sex anyway. He doesn’t want to lose his wife over this but can’t see how to fix it.

The counselor’s turn The cause of Lane’s erectile dysfunction, or ED, was purely emotional. At work, he was terrified of making a mistake and regretted not pursuing another career. At home, he feared not being able to support his family and was embarrassed about his problems in bed. The counselor started by having Lane write out on paper his successes at work, and he realized he was more than adequate and even equal to his brother. As for parenthood, Lane feared losing his independence just as much as supporting his family, so he and Angela discussed it and promised that they would still travel, spend time together and do the things they loved as individuals after the kids come. Angela also realized she wasn’t quite ready for kids herself but felt compelled after her friends starting having babies, so they agreed to start trying in a few years, which eased Lane’s anxiety. And as for sex, once Angela realized her attractiveness had nothing to do with Lane’s ED, she stopped panicking and taking it personally. They worked to resume non-sexual contact, like massages and cuddling, and gradually resumed their once-active sex life. If it doesn’t happen one night, they don’t make a big deal of it and are able to make it work the next time. Lane is thriving on the job, too, and no longer feels like a failure.


Can This Marriage Be Saved? My Teenager Is A Terror

July 21, 2011 at 12:51 pm , by

p_101300524If only all blended families could resemble The Brady Bunch: a life of zany hijinks and good-natured ribbing where the biggest problems involve the race for class president and who stole Cindy’s Kitty Karry-All doll. In real life, creating a new family from the parts of an old one is much more complicated. When Lisa, a 39-year old mother of two teen girls from a previous marriage, wed John, a successful 52-year-old businessman with no kids of his own, one child adjusted quickly while the other outright revolted.

Lisa’s turn Her 16-year-old daughter, Ali, is making their lives hell. She’s disrespectful, defiant and ignores the rules of the house. Ali was just 5 when Lisa and her ex-husband, Ken, split up, and she’s never been able to adjust. And Ken isn’t helping, either: He’s asked Ali to live with him full-time and promised her no curfew and a car, though he’s completely unreliable when it comes to seeing the girls or dropping them off. Lisa tried to make her first marriage work for years but eventually gave up, and she’s tried hard to do everything right in her new marriage, too, including taking it slow when introducing John into her girls’ lives. In fact, she’s always tried too hard in everything – she’s constantly told she’s too nice. The situation with Ali really came to a head when she shoved Lisa after an argument, John grabbed Ali’s arm, and Ali reacted by calling the police.

John’s turn Ali has been a headache from day one. John has tried and tried to love her like he loves her mom and sister, but the kid won’t give an inch. She blames John for her parents’ divorce, even though John and Lisa hadn’t even met until three years later, and it kills him to see how hard Lisa tries to make it work. They’ve taken away Ali’s privileges, grounded her and bent over backwards to please her and nothing’s worked. He can’t tolerate Ken – the man is always messing up their plans and is horribly irresponsible – and he can’t stand how Lisa lets her ex walk all over her. The stunt with the police put him over the edge. He doesn’t mean to take his anger at Ali out on his wife, but he can’t take much more if this situation doesn’t change. Read more


Can This Marriage Be Saved? We’ve Been Growing Apart for Years

July 14, 2011 at 1:25 pm , by

Chances are that the husband you’re currently married to is, at least in some ways, different from the man he was when you first laid eyes on him. Odds are also pretty good that you’ve changed a bit, too. (And not just in dress size.) Hopefully the differences are good, and you’ve grown together as a couple. But Pam, a 41-year-old marketing manager, and her lawyer husband, Ross, 45, have decidedly grown apart. (Read the full story in our August issue, which hits newsstands this week!)

Pam’s turn Ross is more like her roommate than her husband. Their conversations never go deeper than the grocery list, and his 60-hour workweeks leave her stuck with all the parenting duties even though she works as well. If she complains about feeling overwhelmed, he’ll help for a few days then go back to his old ways. She knows their relationship isn’t terrible, but whenever she expresses that she misses their closeness, Ross says it’s not that bad and refuses to discuss it. And she’s in charge of everything around the house, not just parenting. The man can’t give her a single opinion – it’s like he’s an employee waiting for instructions. She’s also overwhelmed caring for her aging parents. The final straw came when she almost had an affair with a coworker because for once, she’d found someone that made her feel like a whole person, not just the director of the family.

Ross’s turn Pam seems so much happier at work than she does at home, and it makes Ross sad. He’s jealous of her coworkers and can’t remember the last time her eyes lit up for him like they do when she talks about them. He doesn’t think they live separate lives, just that they’re busy with work and the kids and can’t spend time together like they used to. Whenever he tries to help around the house, Pam criticizes him or asks why he didn’t do other chores, too. Her anger is off the charts, and they have epic battles every time they fight, so he avoids the confrontations completely. And of course he has ideas and opinions, he’s just been deferring to her to keep the peace. He didn’t mean to brush her off and doesn’t want a divorce. Read more


Can This Marriage Be Saved? He’s Hooked On Online Porn

July 7, 2011 at 12:40 pm , by

p_ONLINE1Between pop-up ads, risque tabloids, celeb gossip sites and spam email, sometimes it seems like online porn is everywhere. One thing’s for sure: If you’re looking for x-rated content on the web, you won’t have a problem finding it. The accessibility and (relative) discretion of viewing the content raises tons of issues for couples like 29-year-old Mia, a stay-at-home-mom, and her 30-year-old realtor husband, Carson. (Read the full story here.)

Mia’s Turn This isn’t the first time she’s caught her husband looking at online porn. She discovered his habit three years ago, they had a huge blowout and he promised to stop – but clearly he hasn’t. He also blames her for it, saying he wouldn’t need the sites if they had sex more often, which infuriates her. It’s his problem, not hers! They have a 4-month-old son and she’s so tired all she wants to do in bed is sleep. He’s also a huge flirt, hugging and chatting up other women, and it drives her crazy. Carson’s father used to make lewd comments about women in front of Carson’s mother and no one made an issue of it. Mia’s own parents were proper and buttoned-up, so her father-in-law’s behavior and her husband’s porn habits totally appall her. She feels as betrayed as if he physically cheated.

Carson’s Turn He feels completely sexually rejected by his wife. He hates fighting about it or upsetting her, so he does what he needs to do in his private time. Looking at online porn is just a physical thing – he doesn’t have a steady “partner” he chats with so there’s no relationship – and he feels he has no other choice since his wife shuts him down all the time. He’d never have an affair and thinks she should be happy he’s not running around with someone else. He understands his flirting makes her uncomfortable but doesn’t see the harm since he’d never actually cheat; it’s innocent. And though he’s embarrassed by his dad’s sexist comments, too, he still thinks Mia should ignore them.

The Counselor’s Turn Just as an affair can indicate that a marriage needs a wake-up call, so can a habit like Carson’s. They were both uncomfortable talking about sex, for different reasons, so they never discussed their unhappiness. Carson’s viewing tastes tended towards standard sexual situations, so his interest in porn was pretty normal. Mia had to understand that his porn-watching didn’t mean anything about her – that she was unattractive or that he didn’t love her – but she also had to accept that her constant rejection of his advances helped in part to drive him away. Men equate sex and love, and if he felt desired and wanted, the counselor thought he’d stop looking elsewhere. Mia also withheld sex to get back at him for flirting and for when he ignored her valid concerns about his behavior. Carson first needed to limit his flirtations with other women, which he succeeded in doing once he realized how much it hurt his wife. Once she saw the improvement, Mia began to accept his advances more and learned to gently decline when she’s not in the mood. As for the porn, Carson quit the habit cold-turkey, and since their sex life has improved he hasn’t felt the need to use it anyway.


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