October 6, 2011 at 1:23 pm , by Lauren Piro
Big families can be loads of fun—you always a have a group to take to dinner, you could host a mini-Olympics in your backyard if you felt like it, and you get that warm-fuzzy feeling watching siblings bond and grow up together. But lots of children also means, well, lots of work. And pressure. And laundry. Gaby, 34, and Greg, 35, were married 13 years ago and started having kids right away. But when Gaby got pregnant with their fourth child, the couple’s marriage took a huge hit. Read the full story here.
Gaby’s turn: Gaby was a little surprised with she got pregnant for the fourth time, but warmed to the idea quickly since she’s one of five kids. Greg, on the other hand, flew off the handle. He immediately blamed Gaby for being careless with her birth control, and would openly chastise her about it in front of their friends.. When the baby arrived, things only got worse. Greg’s parenting style invoked mostly screaming whenever a few Legos were left lying around, or when their oldest son, Zach, wasn’t the football star dad wanted him to be. Gaby knows that Greg’s job at brokerage firm had become a lot more stressful over the years, but she can’t believe he’s taking out all of his anger on her and the kids. She feels demeaned and ashamed, and the only reason she’s attending counseling is to prepare for an amicable divorce.
Greg’s turn: He knows been a jerk, but didn’t think it had gotten as bad as Gaby says. He loves Gaby and their kids (even if she doesn’t believe it), but still feels they started their family way too young. With kids came less time and energy for dinner with friends, date nights, and, yes, sex. Greg’s company had just laid off hundreds of people when he found out he and Gaby were pregnant again, and he couldn’t help but express how bummed he was about everything. But when he blamed Gaby for accidentally getting pregnant in front of his friends, he thought she knew he was joking. Greg knows he’s a tough disciplinarian (like his own dad was), but feels like Gaby has pitted the kids against him and always disagrees with how he handles things. They barely even talk anymore, but Greg hopes that if he can find a way to calm down, Gaby will give him another chance.
The counselor’s turn: Right off the bat, the counselor made it clear that she believed in saving marriages, and that the couple needed take divorce off the table for six months to give their relationship another real chance. First they needed to understand that Greg’s outbursts were truly damaging verbal abuse. They’d had a lot working against them from the beginning of their marriage (young parenthood, Gaby’s traditional upbringing in which it was taboo for wives to argue, the high standard Greg’s father placed on him during his own childhood), but they needed to open up the lines of communication ASAP. Gaby told Greg that she wasn’t going to tolerate being taunted or belittled anymore; her plan was to calmly leave the room or restaurant if things got out of hand. And if Greg didn’t treat their children better, she’d divorce him. Gaby’s new found self-assuredness was a wake-up call for Greg. He met with a psychologist to manage his stress at work, apologized to the kids for his behavior, and now works side-by-side with Gaby on parenting. He makes sure to show Gaby he loves her everyday, and their intimacy has sky-rocketed. Now, Gaby can’t believe how happy marriage makes her.
September 30, 2011 at 2:40 pm , by Lauren Piro
A death in the family could easily put a new relationship on the fast-track. Add becoming parents into the mix you’d hardly recognize your own life. Alison, 31, and Trevor, 35, had only been dating eight months when his sister, Yvette, was killed and they were left to raise Yvette’s four-year-old son, Donovan. Years later, they’re still overwhelmed with grief and the parental learning curve, creating a schism that has each questioning their relationship—big time. Read the full story in our October issue, on newsstands now.
Alison’s turn: After Yvette died, Alison immediately stepped up to be a mother to Donovan, but feels like Trevor isn’t even trying. She knows he’s grieving, but can’t understand why he isn’t acting a like a father figure for his nephew, who desperately needs love as well as discipline. Trevor won’t even talk about Yvette and his pain, and Alison feels abandoned. She’d rather spend time with friends, they never have sex, and she feels like taking on the role of Donovan’s mom without Trevor’s support has left her lost. She won’t leave Donovan without a mom again, and that’s the only reason she wants to stay in her marriage.
Trevor’s turn: Yvette’s death crushed him—she was his closest friend. He wishes he could be as close to Donovan as Alison (and knows he’s lucky Alison’s there for his nephew), but one look at them playing together and all he can think of is his dead sister. Unlike Alison, he’s a laid back, deal-with-it-later kind of guy and feels attacked when she pushes him to talk about his grief. He doesn’t feel comfortable talking about personal stuff before he’s ready, and Yvette was the only one he trusted because she didn’t push. And don’t get him started on Alison’s demands that he help more with household chores. He’ll pitch in when asked, but stonewalls when Alison picks these little fights as a way to channel her anger at him for how he’s been acting. Still, he thinks that because they’ve been through so much, maybe they still have a shot at making it work.
September 15, 2011 at 4:42 pm , by Jennifer Castoro
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
September 2, 2011 at 1:21 pm , by Jennifer Castoro
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
August 18, 2011 at 12:40 pm , by Jennifer Castoro
Even 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.
July 28, 2011 at 3:14 pm , by Jennifer Castoro
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.
July 21, 2011 at 12:51 pm , by Jennifer Castoro
If 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