December 8, 2011 at 3:51 pm , by Lauren Piro
Do you remember that classic Ferris Bueller line? “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once and a while, you could miss it.” It’s truly a great rule to live by, and one that Amy, 27, and Sean, 29, forgot after they had kids. As Sean himself puts it, “Everything happened quickly. We got married, had a baby, moved halfway across the country, had another baby.” Now, with two kids (Jake, 3, and Ian, 4 months), the couple’s connection is waning, they’re constantly fighting, and they’re dealing with other major issues they can’ t ignore any longer. Read the full story here.
Amy’s turn: This stay-at-home mom just had a new baby and has a lot of the typical gripes that come with the job: her husband doesn’t understand how hard she works, doesn’t help out around the house, and forgets the things she asks him to do (“Just when will Sean look up those flights to Seattle so we can see my family?” Amy laments). But there’s also a larger problem at play—Amy’s suffering from postpartum depression. She cries at the drop of a hat, doesn’t feel a connection to her newborn, and no one seems to get what she’s going through. Sean took a temporary leave of absence from work, and her mom stayed with her for a while, but now that she’s without them again, her anxiety is at an all time high. She misses feeling like herself, misses the satisfaction of working as a nursery school teacher, and misses her husband’s friendship. All they do now is fight, not to mention Sean’s mother meddles and makes back-handed comments about how Amy runs her household. Everything feels wrong, and she’s not sure her marriage is going to make it.
Sean’s turn: Sean just can’t figure Amy out. It seems that in her eyes he can do no right—she’s always screaming at him for something. He knows he could work harder at controlling his temper and could do more around the house, but he just doesn’t feel like he and Amy share the same special bond they did before. He knows his mother can be difficult, but Sean grew up with a physically abusive father, and is glad to have fostered a decent relationship with his mother later on in their lives, though she still denies the abuse. Amy calls Sean at work hysterical, and he just never thought it would get this bad. His secretary mentioned that counseling helped her when she had a newborn daughter, so Sean decided he and Amy should give therapy a try.
December 1, 2011 at 2:29 pm , by Lauren Piro
Combining homes with a new husband can be tough (“No, dear, I don’t actually store the clean silverware in the dishwasher), but blending families with kids offers even more unexpected hurdles. You just don’t know how things will shake out until everyone is under one roof, trying on new roles with names that start with “step.” This is what happened to Sheila and Will, and Sheila’s 8-year-old daughter Ashley. After the couple got married, and Will became the new family patriarch, things got trickier than expected. How did they make it work? Read our recap and check out the full version of the story here.
Shelia’s Turn: When Shelia and Will were dating, he seemed like he loved kids, especially Ashley. He’d bring her presents, play games with her, and he seemed psyched at the idea of becoming part of their little family. But after the wedding, things took a turn. Will suddenly became a super strict stepdad, scolding Ashley for watching too many cartoons, constantly picking fights and punishing her for offenses as small as spilling milk. Sheila’s thought about leaving Will, but soon after they married, they had a son, Billy. Will adores his well-behaved boy (and having Billy is the only thing that makes him happy since he hates his job as an accountant), but Ashley, well, hates him. Shelia doesn’t know what to do—her daughter is miserable, but leaving her husband might mean losing her son, which would be devastating.
Will’s Turn: Will was so excited to be a male role model in Ashley’s life. He didn’t just want to be a guy living in her house; he wanted to treat her like his own daughter, which, to Will, meant giving Ashely more rules and structure. He’d always felt that Shelia was too lenient with Ashley, that the girl could use some boundaries to improve her behavior and help her learn responsibility. But after the wedding, Will was surprised that Sheila didn’t want him defining Ashley’s upbringing, and now he’s upset that she’s constantly undermining his parenting tactics. If Will takes away Ashley’s TV privileges or tells her to clean up her room, Shelia just lets Ashley do what she likes and does the chores herself. What gives? Will and Billy are a perfect pair, but Ashley won’t even give him the time of day, and that’s not what Will signed up for. At this point, he’d rather take his son and go.
November 17, 2011 at 12:11 pm , by Lauren Piro
Do you ever wish you could switch brains with your husband just for an hour and really see what each other is thinking? Even a simple mind-reading gadget might make all marital woes a bit easier to overcome (do you hear us Apple? We could call it the iMarriageMender. Too wordy? Eh, it’s a working title.). But alas, we are mere mortals, and sometimes you just have to take a deep breath and say what you feel. Laurel, 29, and Ryan, 28, quickly discovered this less than a year into their marriage. Read the full story here.
Laurel’s turn: When Laurel suddenly gained 20 pounds right before the wedding, she thought that stress and too much fast food were the culprits. She lost the weight to fit into her white dress, but soon after gained 60 more pounds, and felt too sluggish to get to the gym (or go fishing with her new husband, or eat dinner anywhere but in front of the TV, or have sex … you see where this is going). Eventually she was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disorder—Hashimoto’s disease—which affects her thyroid and hormones. She was devastated, and feels like Ryan thinks she can just snap out of it. Lacking sympathy from her husband, she turned to her girlfriends to take her out for the night, but when Ryan found out, he flipped. Since she had enough energy to go out with her friends, he accused her of exaggerated her lethargic symptoms, even though she really needed the support they were providing. Laurel misses being “the golden couple” that always went out dinner or movie dates—and what happened to their vow to stick together in sickness or in health?
Ryan’s turn: He doesn’t understand why Laurel is giving into her disease. With some extra exercise and a healthier diet, she could manage it much better—he knows because he’s done the research! But whenever he suggests a plan of action to Laurel, she just cries. He knows her condition is real, but can’t stand that she won’t do anything to help herself, so yeah, he thinks she’s being lazy. He works hard all week and would love to take his wife to the lake on weekends to unwind, but Laurel just sleeps in. He didn’t picture married life to include no together-time (and no sex!). He always thought they had similar values, even though he grew up on a farm and she in the city, and he was really looking forward to married life together. But could they be the first in their families headed for divorce?
November 11, 2011 at 12:08 pm , by Lauren Piro
For many of the squabbles the counselors help couples solve in our CTMBS series, their advice often includes working on communicating. But what if a couple’s communication roadblocks are … genetic? This is the trouble Susan, 47, and Neil, 50, finally needed to face after years of marriage when Neil was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. Read on to find out how they coped and check out the full story here.
Susan’s turn: She fell in love with her husband’s charm, wit, and smarts but has always been annoyed by his absentmindedness, selfishness and awkward social tendencies. While their kids were growing up, Neil could hardly handle the chaos children bring to married life—he’d go crazy if plans changed unexpectedly, and was often too honest with his kids (telling your daughter point-black that her drawings don’t look quite right? Not so great for her self-esteem). Neil seems incapable of handling anything, from paying bills to keeping a job to acting normally on social outings with friends. When Susan read an article about Asperger’s syndrome, she was shocked how much it reminded her of her husband—a bright guy who has tons of trouble interacting and communicating. But where do they go from here? She loves him too much to lose him, but will he be able to make some lifestyle changes before they both go insane?
Neil’s turn: Neil has always felt like he’s disappointing Susan (she seems to scold him constantly) but has never understood exactly what she wants from him. She’s made him out to be an ogre to their kids, always getting a word in edgewise when he tries teach them something or bond with them, but again, he doesn’t get what he’s doing wrong. Neil realizes he’s always had trouble dealing with other people, especially at work (he was once fired for taking an old typewriter from his office; it was “just sitting there” so it seemed like a logical thing to do), but can’t Susan just accept that social situations cause him anxiety? He’s miserable at parties, and hates when Susan gives him the third degree about how he acts at them. Neil’s always felt different from everyone else, like the rest of world has secret way of communicating. After discovering Asperger’s, he’d love to learn more and start repairing his family life.
November 3, 2011 at 4:29 pm , by Lauren Piro
A marriage is a marathon, not a sprint down the aisle followed by decades spent smoothly on autopilot. It needs tending, respect, and more than a few “state-of-the-union” chats. Otherwise, tiny, navigable speed bumps can grow into brick walls that smack your relationship down quicker than you realize. Kate, 39, and Alberto, 40, have reached one of these barriers in their marriage, and they turned to a counselor to help scale it. Read the full story here, or in our November issue, on newsstands now!
Kate’s turn: Kate’s job requires her to spend four days a week on the road, leaving Alberto alone with the kids—and his new friend, Nina, another mother from their children’s school. At first, Kate was glad her husband and kids had found someone to hang out with while she traveled, but the first time she met Nina, she sensed something was off. And when Nina visited their house, her familiarity with her way around their home (and Alberto) seemed like a big red flag. Sure enough, two weeks later, Kate came across a note from Nina to Alberto that was not so innocent. Kate’s convinced they’re having an affair, but Alberto staunchly denies it. Sure, he may have flirted with the idea, but he claims nothing happened. They tried seeing a marriage therapist to help them talk about everything, but when Kate felt like Alberto still wasn’t telling the whole truth, she quit going. She’s ready to work on their marriage, but can’t pretend they’re communicating while he’s lying to her.
Alberto’s turn: The whole story? He is, in fact, lying. Privately, Alberto revealed everything to the therapist: he did have sex with Nina, and on more than one occasion. Alberto feels lonely and overwhelmed taking care of two kids and working 60-hour weeks. Kate doesn’t call much when she’s away and seems tied to work when she’s home. When he met Nina, he wasn’t looking for a relationship but was glad to have a companion whose kids were friends with his kids. As they saw each other more, it became clear Nina wanted to pursue a romantic relationship, and Alberto didn’t stop it. And once they’d slept together, what was the harm in doing it again? He felt guilty, but justified it since Kate was absent, and Nina made him feel wanted. When Kate found the note from Nina, he panicked. It was never his intention to break up his family, and he’s afraid Kate will leave if he owns up to his mistake.
October 20, 2011 at 4:25 pm , by Lauren Piro
We all deal with the work day encroaching on our family time (how many of you spend more time canoodling your Blackberry than your husband?). But not all of us deal with the stress of a spouse with a job that’s not just stressful, but also potentially dangerous and traumatic, like Liz. Her husband Nick is a New York City police officer, and it’s wreaking havoc on their bond. Read the full story here.
Liz’s turn: Nary a day goes by that Liz, a 41-year-old stay-at-home mom of three kids, doesn’t worry that she’ll see her husband’s name on the evening news or that she’ll hear a knock at her door, and Nick’s captain will tell her that Nick didn’t make it back from a call. She’s proud of her husband and his work, but can’t help but let her imagination run wild with worst-case scenarios. Nick’s suggested she join a support group, but with the housework and child-rearing he leaves her to do alone, she doesn’t have the time. Plus, she’d really love to open up to her own husband about her feelings and not feel shut out. When Nick received a promotion to a position that would keep him at his desk and off the streets, she was thrilled that they might have a “normal life.” But with new responsibilities came longer hours, and she and the kids rarely spend time with him together. She feels exhausted and abandoned, and whenever they do get a chance to talk, they end up fighting.
Nick’s turn: The 39-year-old cop’s day job takes a huge emotional toll—he deals with violence and drama every day, but the gig requires him to put his head down and block it out to stay calm. He’s wiped when he gets home, he does still help around the house, even more than most dads he knows. Liz only whines and complains, gabs with her girlfriends on the phone all day, signs their kids up for endless extra-curricular activities, and, oh yeah, spends too much money stuff they can’t afford. She ambushes him as soon as he walks through the door every evening with new list of grievances and emotional blather. He takes a lot of pride in his work and provides for his family, but he’s missing a supportive spouse.
October 13, 2011 at 2:17 pm , by Lauren Piro
Working moms and wives today crave one thing most of all: more balance. Time for your career, your kids, your husband, yourself (gasp!)—like Liz Lemon, we just want to have it all. Gillian, 41, thought she’d finally figured it out. She’d quit her high-power, high-stress (and high-paying) banking job and open a yoga studio in her home. Her husband, Kevin, 42, would relocate his photo studio there as well, they’d both get tons more family time with their 8-year-old twin boys, she’d stop buying fancy clothes and dining to save money, and Everything. Would. Be. Perfect. And it was! Until it wasn’t. (Read the full story here).
Gillian’s turn: She thought Kevin was totally on board with the yoga-photo-studio plan, but now he’s balking. He’s changed his mind about moving his photography business from its current location, and works seven days a week. The addition they’re putting on their house for the yoga studio is also way over budget, and though Gillian knows she’ll recoup the cash once she opens, tensions are high. Kevin’s started yelling at Gillian in front of their kids, refusing to talk things out like they always would. He ignores Gillian’s requests to help with things around the house, and she hates nagging him, but just needs some things done! Their arguing has completely slowed her sex drive, which just causes more fighting. She doesn’t want a divorce, but can’t believe her perfect life has become such a mess.
Kevin’s turn: It’s always bugged Kevin that Gillian took home the bigger paycheck, and he’s excited to grow his business and become family’s main breadwinner—but also, unsurprisingly, a little scared. If he moves his studio, he’ll lose clients and students, and he doesn’t see how he can give up photographing events on nights and weekends. The honey-do list new stay-at-home Gillian has given him is driving him mad—she notices small details she never did before, always dislikes how Kevin does things, and then withholds sex as punishment. And as for cutting back on their spending? Gillian’s wardrobe and the family’s leftover take-out beg to differ. Kevin loves Gillian, but if they’re going to radically change their lives, it’s going to have to be a two-way street. He has dreams he wants to fulfill just like she does.