"He Never Comes Through for Me"

Sara is nagging and controlling. Tom is lazy and passive-aggressive. Can this marriage be saved?
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Her Turn

"I can't rely on Tom for anything," said Sara, 36, a director of career planning at a college in southeastern Virginia, where she lives with her husband of nine years. "Whether it's cutting the lawn, booking a hotel, or getting the cars inspected, he makes nothing but empty promises. And he rarely completes a project, even though he's extremely handy. Eight months ago he decided to reupholster the dining-room chairs; he's halfway done, and the fabric and staple gun are still sitting on the table. Whenever I complain about his poor follow-through, Tom, a high school math teacher, says I'm making a mountain out of a molehill and offers his usual lame excuses: 'I ran out of time' or 'I got too tired.' With the chairs, Tom claims that he didn't want to disturb the paperwork I'd been doing on the table. Yes, I had some files there, but the chairs are separate from the table! He could have moved them into the kitchen. The problem is now reaching a crisis point because we're in the process of adopting a baby girl from Russia, whom we're going to name Rebecca. We decided a few years ago to adopt rather than have a biological child. I had no urge to be pregnant and Tom didn't feel compelled to pass on his genes. We'd rather give a good home to a child who otherwise wouldn't have one. But I've begun to question how good a home that will be. I'm not sure I can count on Tom to be a responsible father. My disappointment in him has made me withdraw. At the end of the day, he wants to talk and watch TV together, but I'd rather go upstairs and read. I've also lost interest in sex, mostly because he's gained 25 pounds and I no longer find him attractive. Besides, he often falls asleep in front of the TV and comes to bed at 3 a.m. -- hardly a time for romance. So, as the adoption day draws near, I've become increasingly anxious about our future.

"I grew up in a small town, the elder child of an accountant and a librarian. From the time I was young I felt pressure to excel in everything, because Mom derived so much satisfaction from my successes. She'd gush and beam if I made the cheerleading squad or first-chair flute in the school orchestra. I was in junior high when she said, 'I'm glad you're popular; I don't know what I'd do if you weren't,' and that statement guided me until college. I did whatever I could to please Mom, including sticking with the flute even though I wanted to quit at 16. Overall, though, my childhood was comfortable. Mom and Dad were teen sweethearts who never argued; they just celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary.

"After college I taught history at a high school in rural Appalachia. It turned out that I liked advising students more than I liked teaching, so I decided to go to graduate school to become a guidance counselor. Tom was a fellow student. I spotted him in the dining hall and was drawn to his boyish good looks. A few weeks later he struck up a conversation at the salad bar. We had so much in common: We'd both taught in rural schools, sang in our church choirs, and enjoyed biking. I also liked his shy, unassuming demeanor.

"But after a month of eating together and talking on the phone Tom hadn't asked me on a real date. Finally I teasingly asked him, 'Are you going to invite me to the holiday dance, or do I have to invite you?' Blushing, he promptly asked me to be his date."

Continued on page 2:  "We fell in love that night"


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