February 3, 2012 at 11:17 am , by Lauren Piro
Newlyweds Isabella and Ryan assumed that married life would be blissful and easy. Kids, right? Read on to find out how they learned to communicate (and keep their problems off the internet!), and find the full story here.
Isabella’s turn: Isabella comes from a very close-knit, traditional family. Her mother’s home was always immaculate, Isabella is very close to her sister, and everyone in her family knew they had responsibilities. Then she married scruffy, free-spirited Ryan, and found that their home life was, well, different. To Isabella, Ryan is a slob stuck in a dead-end job. He never helps around the house and resents the fact that she makes more money than he does (even though she knows he could be a successful comic-book writer if he put his mind to it). Tensions were rising, and then Isabella stumbled upon the real kicker. Ryan had been keeping a blog (which had garnered a bunch of readers!) complaining about life with Isabella. She feels betrayed and wonders how well she knows him at all.
Ryan’s turn: Isabella is overreacting—he’s only using a the blog as a way to express his feelings, and likes the advice he gets from his readers. He says it’s like anonymous group therapy, that’s all. Ryan’s life has always been a bit difficult. His parents had him at a very young age, his dad was an alcoholic, and recently they got a divorce, which Ryan took pretty hard. For awhile, Isabella made his life better—she was romantic and caring, and he loved spending time with her. But now, she just nags him as soon as she gets home from work. He feels like nothing in his life is working right now (including his dull job), so he took to the internet to sort things out. It’s not a big deal. Why can’t Isabella just drop it?
The counselor’s turn: Like many couples, Ryan and Isabella didn’t think it was important to discuss how they would handle everyday tasks once they got married. They seem trivial, but responsibilities like managing housework can quickly cause fighting and marital disappointment. Ryan’s blog was definitely hurtful, but it helped the couple finally get their feelings and problems out in the open. After working with the counselor, each agreed to try harder. They created a chore schedule to organize their household management in way that worked for both of them, and Isabella curbed her constant nagging, trading her resentment for better communication. Ryan apologized for hurting Isabella and minimizing her concerns, and admitted that it bothered him that Isabella was the family breadwinner. The counselor recognized that Ryan had a tough childhood, but told him it was time to change the outcome of his story and earn some self-worth. The couple decided that Ryan would enroll in art school to kick-off his new career, and before long their closeness returned.
December 16, 2011 at 3:24 pm , by Lauren Piro
Here’s a couple with a head-scratching dilemma: Glenn, 47, has never wanted anything more than to be a stay-at-home dad. And when his wife, Sheila, 45, had twins three years ago, he got his wish. Glenn quit his job to raise his kids, and Sheila spends her days as a business executive, but still dedicates time to cooking wonderful gourmet meals for her family. And Glenn is quite ticked off about that. Huh? Read on; it’s more complicated than it seems. And pick up our December/January issue for the full story, on newsstands now.
Sheila’s turn: All Sheila wants to do after a long day at the office is come home, hug her kids and cook her family a healthy and tasty meal. She wishes that Glenn would appreciate her efforts, but no. He complains that they’re spending too much money on food; Sheila thinks they’d be eating PB&J’s for dinner if it were up to her husband. When they got married, Glenn was intelligent, rugged and ambitious, but now he just whines all the time. Sheila isn’t sure he realized how overwhelming parenting would be, and it shows. The house is a pigsty, he makes lame excuses to avoid doing things he once loved (like mountain biking), and he’s constantly negative. Maybe he’s jealous that Sheila gets to be out doing fulfilling work everyday? Whatever it is, the tension is at an all-time high, and Sheila is losing her patience.
Glenn’s turn: Glenn really hates Sheila’s gourmet cooking habit, but not because he dislikes good food (duh). He’d rather she come home to chat and unwind with him, not spend two hours over the stove while he’s stuck parenting alone. He has long days too—kids aren’t a cakewalk!—and also knows they need to curb their spending on non-essential fancy meals and hobbies like his mountain biking. Now he just avoids his wife to avoid a fight, so Sheila thinks he’s always off sulking somewhere alone. Glenn’s glad Sheila’s given him the opportunity to watch his kids grow up, and is actually happy with his new job as dad, but still feels short-changed. He’s constantly making sure everyone’s needs are met, but Sheila only blows up at him when he mentions what’s bothering him.
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 14, 2011 at 1:25 pm , by Jennifer Castoro
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
June 23, 2011 at 2:37 pm , by Jennifer Castoro
We’ve all had our share of stressful days at the office, after which we’ve gone home to greet our hubbies with little more than a peck and a grunt. But for Jon, a 38-year-old chief financial officer at a small engineering firm, every day is sheer torture. And his wife, Lara, a stay-at-home mom to their 1-year old son, can’t deal with his stress any longer.
Lara’s turn Jon is completely shut-down, anxious and jumpy, and ignores her and their son. She wants to help ease his stress and empathize, but every time she asks a question about his day he snaps at her. He’d been out of work before he took this new job, so she understands he’s reluctant to leave it, but his boss is a raving tyrant. She did anticipate that Jon would work hard, but he’s doing more than that, keeping his phone on at all hours and skipping weekend activites. They haven’t been married very long and Jon didn’t work for much of the marriage, so she knows they’ll be able to survive if he gets out of this horrible situation. So why won’t he help himself?
Jon’s turn He’s so tense from the situation at work that he has no energy left for his wife or his son. He’d heard his new boss was difficult, but he had no idea it would be this bad. The man bullies everyone, berates his employees and calls Jon at 2 in the morning. He was happy at his former job but when the company moved to a new state and Jon didn’t go along, he thought he could find something else he liked just as much. Now, he feels stuck and he’s not sure why – maybe because he was recently unemployed or because his own father unhappily stayed at the same company his whole career to provide for the family. Jon plans to stick it out and learn to deal with his ogre of a boss, but he’s resigned to a life of misery that his wife can’t accept. Read more