"His Big Mouth is Costing Us Our Marriage": Can This Marriage Be Saved?

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His Turn

"Am I an ogre because I speak my mind?" asked Norman, 53. "If I offer my opinion, I expect my sparring partners to offer theirsin return. If we disagree, I don't take it personally. It's just an intellectual exercise in which we put forth our respective views. The fact that my wife's best friend's husband may not agree with me on federal tax cuts, the food at a new restaurant or the Philadelphia Eagles' defensive line is no reason for me to be mute. Small talk isn't my thing. I enjoy lively debate. Meg should accept me and stop taking everything so personally -- and assuming our friends do, too. If they hated my supposedly brutish behavior as much as Meg thinks they do, they would have abandoned us long ago.

"Her friend Susan was the exception. Here's what happened: I politely requested salt. Susan replied that she never used it because it was unhealthy. So I moved the bland chicken and vegetables around my plate. When Susan asked me why I wasn't eating, I said, 'I like my food seasoned.' At that point Susan insisted her food was delicious and exhorted me to eat it. To this day I believe that Susan was at fault. If she'd simply said she had no salt and left it at that, the conversation would have ended. But she pushed -- and I pushed back.

"I'm also sick of Meg's constant criticism. If the label on my sweater is sticking out, I'll hear about it. If I drop a dime on the floor, I'll hear about it. Meg nags me as if she were my mother -- and at my age, I don't need mothering.

"I Can't Bear to Lose Her"

"My own mother was more loving than my dad, but neither of them gave my sister or me much emotional support. When I was 10 Mom developed skin cancer. She went into remission after surgery but the disease metastasized into bone cancer and she died when I was 17. I was devastated. I wanted to be a history teacher, but Dad, who owned a shoe store, said he'd pay for college only if I chose a high-paying profession, such as business. So I got a master's degree in finance and eventually became a certified public accountant. I married my first wife while I was in grad school and we had our son a few years later. The marriage was polite, but lacked physical passion and intellectual connection. We split up after 13 years.

"I found Meg irresistible from the moment I met her. She's not only beautiful but she's also a fabulous conversationalist with far-ranging interests. Within days I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her. I never dreamed we'd have so many problems as a married couple.

"For too long there's been a simmering hostility between us that's ruining our sex life and our marriage. My wife is a smart, sexy, wonderful woman, and when she isn't criticizing or nagging, there's no one I'd rather be with. I can't bear to lose her, so I'm hoping counseling will help."

Continued on page 4:  The Counselor's Turn


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