"We Fight All the Time"
His Turn"She's My Mother All Over Again"
"Why does Valerie always think she's the only one working on this relationship?" asks Mike, forty-one, who co-owns a small real-estate-development company. "She's not exactly easy to live with. Anything and everything can make my wife come unglued.
"I don't think she has any idea what she sounds like. I don't appreciate her negativity and her sarcasm. In her book, I'm not contributing enough, and when I do contribute, I get it wrong. If I go grocery shopping, I brace for the inquisition afterward. 'Why did you buy this brand of macaroni and cheese?' 'Jenna doesn't like that kind of peanut butter.' Also, it would be nice if she saw things from my point of view. I have a thing about waste, for instance. If the coffeepot works, why buy a new one? And I think it's ridiculous to spend a fortune on a muffin that Jenna takes two bites of.
"Valerie is never content to stick to the problem at hand; before I realize it, I'm defending myself for something I did a year ago. She's an obsessive worrier. When she spouts her anxieties and complaints, I have to get out of there fast. She's my mother all over again.
"My parents were both in a concentration camp in Germany, and emigrated right after the war. My dad died of cancer when I was only ten, so I don't have a lot of memories of him. For my mother, daily life was always a huge burden. I know she'd been through hell, but she was always crying when I was a kid. I know she loved me and my sister, but she was never there for us. I was dying to join Little League, but she had no way to get me to practice. She could have called a friend or the coach, but she never made the effort.
"If I got mad or misbehaved, Mom would take it personally. 'Why are you doing this to me?' she'd sob. When I got older, I became the man of the house-- I'd pay the bills, do the chores, and try to mediate between my older sister and my mother. Believe me, I know how difficult my mother can be, but I feel a huge obligation to include her in our lives. Valerie's being selfish about our Sunday afternoons."I Still Believe We're Meant For Each Other"
"I met my first wife in college. I was crushed when she walked out, but it left me determined to make my next relationship work. I fell in love with Valerie the minute I saw her. She's gorgeous, she laughed at my jokes, and we could talk for hours without getting bored. Even now, though we fight all the time, I still believe we're meant for each other.
"She's right when she links our problems to her first pregnancy. Valerie was a maniac, and I just tried to hold on until the baby was born. I still don't think I acted inappropriately when her water broke with Jenna. There was nothing I could do for her until the contractions started; at least one of us needed to get a decent night's sleep.
"Valerie's anxieties get worse and worse. I try to be helpful, but she goes on like a broken record. She tells me I'm not there for her; I feel the same way about her. She's got plenty of time to talk to her friends all night, but no time for me, no time for sex, no time even to go out for dinner. Valerie has to stop blaming me for everything, or I'm out of this marriage."