Trying to keep and please my husband

Dear Guys,
I have found myself on your site several times over the past few years, and would much appreciate some male insight into my situation, without talking to another man about my marriage.

I have been married for five years next week. I met my husband in 2006. I was a single mom. A mutual friend expressed that a friend from out of town was in a fire, and in need of Rx burn cream… I being a chef, had such burn cream at home. I met and fell in love with my husband that day. I started caring for his burns, insisted he stay with me until he healed. We’ve been together since. We later spent two weeks camping in the woods together. After being in the woods for two weeks, and still loving every second with him, I asked him to marry me. A year later, we had a courthouse wedding. My husband is an eccentric guy. He’s smart, rebellious, artistic, and good at anything he puts his mind to. He did not have a job, but had traveled the country becoming famous for his art. He did not bring in any income, but offered to stay home and care for my son until he figured something out. We have moved all over the country together, meeting in my home city, living near the best fly fishing creek, cross country to be near his father, back to fly fishing creeks where I had another baby, was accepted to a university and denied because of moving twice, back across country again to be in his home city, and most recently again across the country to be in his desired “tropical” conditions.

While in Cali, I worked 75+ hours a week. I was never home. For the 6 months we were there, I worked. I went to the beach to watch him surf, and ate at one Mexican resturaunt. I have worked and missed out on so much. I am not a trust fund kid, I work hard for the money we use to move all over the country. I have been trying very hard, in many ways, to support my husband and show him that he can enter the work world, and be super successful at something… sometimes I have been angry and mad that I do all the finances alone. In the past two years, since moving to the tropics, I lost our family car, lost my credit score, and watched my husband go through a period of complete mental breakdown. I have always tried to make him happy, to give him what he wants not just what he needs. I have been depressed because I dont think he is happy.

He became someone else. He started selling drugs out of my house while I was working , and then got our home raided by police. It was a disaster. I stuck by him. Helped him get clear of the legal trouble, and forgave his actions. I have tried to support his art more then anything. About a year ago I paid for him to get a tattoo, and another and another… the ball set in motion and he found a niche. All his skills, his personality everything set him up for this perfect career. He entered an apprenticeship! This was amazing. With him finally out in the world, I am getting a chance to spend time at home with my kids. I love that. He works 7 days a week, and has made no money for 6 months. I am so proud and happy that he is moving forward. We have needed this for a long time.   However, since starting there have been flags that I can’t ignore. On his Facebook, which I’m not savvy with, he had invited to make another girl brunch (which he never has for me). I asked him about it, he said it was a joke. He shut down the Facebook, and turned off his email. Only to secretly start another a week later. Which when looking at his hand while laying in bed I noticed at the top of the page, its a hash tag he tried to say, then later admitted his obvious lie.

He has a cell phone with a broken screen that he keeps only at work, and rarely answers. He never goes out. Except to work. In the past when he has gone out, it couldn’t be for a few hours. (In Cali he once said he was going to a flea market and left for 2 days.)

I am still paying the bills, I don’t know how, with no work, staying home with the kids, I’ve somehow pulled it together to keep us from eviction. He does not like to talk about the past. He feels like if I do I am attacking him. I am I guess “breaking down” now that I have some time to myself. Not being in a workplace, I can finally cry about the things that have been on my shoulders for five years. This man, has amazing games; he punishes me for nagging at him by not having sex with me. He holds grudges for months. He says things to me that I have directly said to him, as if I am the one doing them. He turns everything around. He likes to (has talked about this) do things and say things just to get a REACTION from me. I am so overloaded, so worn down, I can’t pass his tests. I need his affection. I want to have sex, all the time. We may not have had sex for two weeks, and when I initiate, he lies there and won’t kiss me, won’t move, just allows me to have sex with him.

I have been trying to find work in night shifts. In a small town, it’s been hard. The last position I got, I was to start at 5 am. He was up watching shows on the laptop a foot away from my head until 1:30 in the am. I freaked out, told him I felt disrespected… we fought, I ended up on the tile floor, couldn’t go to the new job, and have had back pain since. two nights ago, I was going to tell him that I was jealous of the tattoo shop bathroom (where there is porn, lotion, and condoms, before I finished my thought he started yelling at me in the dark calling me names. I get so mad and feel so little and weak and helpless, I just started screaming and whaling on him. That was ended with an in the dark accidental shot to the face. We have had many physical arguments. We fight. He doesn’t have make up sex. He turns the other way…. I have begged for more sex; I have begged for a wedding ring (I never got one, but he did the day we married.) When my kids start school again I will be back to making money. He will be out, it will be like normal relationship. Maybe things will smooth out. I ask him, a lot lately, why is he with me? I dont feel his love. I want him to be happy. When he is mad he wants a divorce, then nothing. I don’t know what to do, he says he doesn’t know what to do. I can’t afford therapy, I don’t have any friends. I have been researching a lot, and found that the most imortant things to keeping a guy happy seem to be:

-don’t nag
-show respect
-be proud of him
-stroke his ego
-give him space
-and stay sexy

I am trying to let go of all I have been through and done, and focus on right now and tomorrow. But it is very hard with no stability to latch onto, no signs of his love.. Am I stupid? Would he ever tell me when he really wants out? Knowing that I will be here through his toughest shit? Will he ever admit to cheating? I have been so down lately, I’m having a hard time wanting to be in this world at all.

Do all men cheat? Am I naieve? Do I have hope? How can I know what’s really going on?

Carrie

Dear Carrie,

Thanks for your question. This is tough. We’re sorry. But you seem like a strong woman. You’ll get through this one way or another.

We know this is confusing to you, but your story makes perfect sense. Basically you’ve built this guy up from the ground floor, literally. You started by nurturing him back to health, then allowing—even encouraging— his eccentric lifestyle, to supporting him financially, encouraging his work, and giving him a place to live while he gets started.

He’s lucky to have you, but he no longer sees it. Basically, he’s been depressed for much of the time he’s been with you. And what you represent is his emasculation. You are competent, confident, and put together, all the things that remind him of what he’d like to be. We’re not saying he’s not talented and smart; we’re saying he doesn’t have that other thing—business mind, practical mind—to take his talents to the market. You see all guys want to be successful—however they define that. At some point it’s about being able to provide for themselves or their family, and have enough to be independent and not have to rely on other people to do the things they want and get the things they want to get.

He’s had to rely on you for all of those things and he’s grown resentful. This is not your fault, except that you’ve unwittingly enabled him. And now you’re seeing the fruits of all your labors being thrown in your face. This is not so dissimilar to a child finally breaking free from parents that have sacrificed much to feed and nurture their children, only to see these very children lash out as they try to become independent. (Usually, once kids find their way, they come back, feeling a bit embarrassed and sheepish by how extreme they acted, wanting reconciliation and a friendship.) Sometimes this takes a long time, usually around five years or so.

That’s what’s going on here. Your guy is misbehaving as he’s trying to establish his own identity beyond you. He’s finally happy to be working, he’s finally out in the world as his own person, he’s meeting new people, he’s checking out other women, he’s possibly meeting other women, and who knows what else. Basically he’s acting like a sullen teen and you represent his parent. (Sorry for this image.)

He needs his space but is afraid to ask for you it because a part of him doesn’t want to lose you, and a part of him still needs you. That’s why he’s so confused, and why he treats you poorly. All of those things you listed don’t come into play here. (Don’t nag, stay sexy, etc.) Because there are bigger things at play here. This isn’t about a husband losing interest, this is about a guy who’s coming out of his shell, enabled by you. This is about a parent and a child.

The two you need to start talking about this ASAP before things spiral out of control and irreparable damage is done. We’re not sure if this can be salvaged, but you need to get on the same page soon. The two of you need to break free from this enabling relationship, and get into a more healthy AND balanced one.

One final note: The parent/child analogy only goes so far. If he’s cheating on you, misbehaving in other ways, or verbally or physically abusing you, that’s a whole other matter entirely. You should not put up with that kind of behavior and betrayal. Remember, you also have children to look after, and they need a stable and calm household to feel secure in. (We know you know this, but we’re just reminding you.)

Feel free to ask us as many follow up questions as you’d like.

Take care,

THE GUYS

ps. Please consider a small donation to THE GUYS. Thanks!

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