Dear Carolyn: I haven't been married very long, but the initial stage of my marriage is worrying.
My husband seems to lack basic empathy for me. I don't think he's being malicious, but any time I have a need that encroaches on his comfort, he gets visibly upset and refuses to deal with the issue. For example, I have some allergies. When we got a dog, he swore the one he wanted was hypoallergenic and that with daily, over-the-counter medications I would be fine. That turned out not to be the case. And despite my seasonal allergies, he leaves all the windows open, meaning I end up getting more severe sinus infections. I tried to get him to keep the windows in the house and the car closed during the spring, but he says he enjoys the nice breeze and shouldn't have to stop.
I could go on about the ways he dictates my life — he doesn't like a specific restaurant so we can never hang out with friends there; he has a hobby and can't be interrupted to talk with me — but these are the most extreme.
Carolyn, I'm worried about how long this is sustainable and I don't know what to do. I don't think he thinks he's doing anything wrong, and when I try to talk to him, he says he can't talk to me when I'm upset. I knew when we got married he had quirks, but they've gotten so much worse since we said "I do." How do I even begin to tackle this attitude?
Lonely: I can't see why you'd want to stay married to him. 1. You're miserable and 2. He's
A-okay with that.
You don't have to stay, either.
But if you're just not to that point yet, then I urge you to get into therapy solo with a really good marriage and family therapist. That he's setting rigid parameters for himself and then expecting you to live within them, no matter how sick or unhappy they make you, suggests he's either abusive or showing symptoms of a condition awaiting diagnosis. Not that they're mutually exclusive. Please do talk to a pro as soon as possible; change is inevitable, but with controlling tendencies, the changes you get in the absence of therapeutic intervention are rarely good ones.
Dear Carolyn: My sister-in-law usually hosts parties and holidays, and she is very gifted at it. For a variety of reasons, I am tasked with hosting next weekend. I am really daunted by this task. Any way to break it down for me? Are there resources for the hosting-challenged?
Anonymous: Tons, so I'll stick to more emotional ones:
1. You're not your sister-in-law, so don't try to be. Be you. People respond better to warmth than wow anyway.
2. Prepare as much as you can ahead of time. It's stress-reducing.
3. Stick to the familiar — same reason. Something you make well is more appropriate to serve than even an expected, occasion-specific food, because plain food in a relaxed environment beats ambitious food from a stress casualty.
4. Even if it flops, Monday will come and life will go on.
5. Panache at No. 4 will make better stories than excellence at 1-3.