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December 15, 2014

Ask Me Anything: Anger Undermines Marriage. {Weekly Advice Column}

depressed man blue

*Editor’s Note: Elephant Journal articles represent the personal opinion, view or experience of the authors, and can not reflect Elephant Journal as a whole. Disagree with an Op-Ed or opinion? We’re happy to share your experience here. 

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Dear Elephants,

Welcome to this week’s Ask Me Anything, where no question is out of bounds! To submit questions for next week, please email me at [email protected] or private message me on Facebook.
I look forward to hearing from you!

Dear Erica,

I have been married to my husband for a little over a year.

We were dating for a year, but have known each other for 12 years.

My issue is this. I had a rough childhood; extremely lonely, isolated and I never fit in anywhere or with anyone. He was the first person to ever give me a chance, and my first sexual partner. He saw through my depression and anger and was always there for me

Now, after being married, he’s pulling away. He never wants to do anything with me, never takes me out (unless we go (halfsies) on a dinner out) and he basically pays for nothing except the mortgage.

I clean, cook, do the food shopping and pay all of the other bills. If he does happen to pick up something that I ask him to get, he comes home and asks me for half of whatever it cost. (It’s not like he’s struggling…he has a six figure in income).

But this isn’t what bothers me the most. Whenever I try to express my feelings, ask him to help around the house, or try to tell him how miserable I am, he snaps at me and screams at me to stop criticizing him and attacking his ways. If, God forbid, I ask him to please stop playing video games or watching TV, he screams that I want to change him and take away everything he takes pleasure in.

He plays video games constantly. More than eight hours a day. I tried to tell him how alone I’m feeling, and his reply was that he’s “happier when [I’m] not home.”

I love this man, but I’m miserable. What to do? I feel like we are headed for divorce because I feel like I shouldn’t have to cry and feel so alone every day.

Alone

Dear Alone,

Your husband sounds angry and depressed.

Pre-marriage, when you were depressed and isolated, your husband stepped up and made you feel loved. Now he is numbing himself with TV and video games and you are telling him “how miserable” you are. Perhaps he needs a little of the TLC he gave to you all those years ago.

You are both trapped in a dynamic of wanting to be heard so badly that you are unable to listen, and with very few exceptions, that requires therapy to sort out. Even with therapy, one of you has to take the first step—and if you don’t it sounds like no one will.

Tell your husband, not that you are miserable, but that you love him; simply, unconditionally. Acknowledge his anger and sadness without pointing out your own—you’ll have a chance to do that later. Explain that you think therapy would be a great way to get back on track. Say that you hate to see him so unhappy.

Then find a therapist, and if he won’t go with you, go on your own.

lonely grandma

Dear Erica,

I have an elderly neighbor who always wants to talk to me.

It’s not just idle chit chat, it’s long drawn out soliloquies about people I don’t even know—her grandchildren or friends of her friends, for example. She tells me in depth and at length about their marriages, affairs, medical problems and everything else under the sun.

There is no way to avoid her as I live right next door. I feel like she’s stalking me because every time I go outside, there she is.

I am not trying to be a bitch—she seems perfectly nice—but I am a busy woman! I don’t have time to hang around and listen to her all day every day.

How do I get my neighbor to stop bothering me all the time?

Neighbor

Dear Neighbor,

No doubt you realize this woman is profoundly lonely.

For whatever reason; proximity or because she sincerely likes you, she has taken a shine to you.

As you said, you cannot avoid her—nor should you—but you can be firm with boundaries while still being nice.

The next time she starts chattering away you say, “Beatrice, I am in a hurry now, can we catch up sometime later this week?” Then make a date and a time to spend at least fifteen minutes talking to her.

Make this a weekly routine. In between “dates,” if she tries to start gabbing, gently remind her of your upcoming “appointment” and tell her you have to run, but would love to talk then—and always be true to your word. This should ease her loneliness and empower you.

This may be the last thing in the world you want to do, but it’s good karma. When you’re old and grey perhaps your young, busy neighbor will be kind to you.

Love elephant and want to go steady?

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Author: Erica Leibrandt

Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photos: Casey Muir-Taylor/Flickr, Sonya Green/Flickr

 

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