Dear Life Matters,
I am 27 years old and I’ve been married three years. I love my wife dearly, but I don’t know if I’m still in love with her? I find myself going out with my friends three to four times a week and I really need to do that — I need freedom. Of course, my wife is not happy at all.
She stays home most nights of the week and feels that we should be staying at home together and having dinner together almost every night, if not every night.
She didn’t used to be this way. When we were dating and early in our marriage, she was a lot of fun. We do not have children so I don’t know why we have to stay at home all the time, like an old married couple.
I am feeling like I want to run away. I simply cannot tell whether I am feeling smothered and tied down or have fallen out of love.
Torn & Confused
I have no direct answer for you. This is something that only you can discover yourself, or the two of you can discover together.
However, I can say that a lot of couples getting married so early in life are having problems.
It did not used to be this way, but the times have changed dramatically. Information changes daily and choices and options for us all seem to change almost daily as well. Before one settles down into a marriage, it’s imperative that we have a very clear sense of who we are and what we want out of life. If we are pursuing a career, it can be a little more difficult to know this so early on.
In the U.S., half of all marriages end in divorce and many young people are ending up in divorce because they just are not ready for marriage yet.
We all have an internalized image of what a family should be. Along with that image comes role expectations. Each partner has a set of role expectations and an internalized image of what a good family looks like.
We have ideas and expectations of what a good spouse is and our partner has expectations too, but they may not be the same. You both have a set of expectations about what a good wife is or good husband is.
We often talk about what we want out of life, but rarely do people stop to think about and explore our role expectations before marriage. If it hasn’t become obvious by now, you have a real problem if your expectations don’t match up. Some expectations can be compromised, but they better be pretty close and, more importantly, you should know what they are before you sign that certificate.
Also, people are of different types. A test, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), can help determine your type and how best to get along with others. If you are extraverted and prefer spontaneity and your partner is introverted and prefers structure, you are going to have some compromising to do.
In your case, this sounds like it may be part of your problem and it really sounds like the two of you have very different role expectations.
Premarital counseling is a really good idea to prevent this sort of thing, but marital counseling can help too. You may not come out of it married, but you should come out of it with a clear understanding of the problems and therefore have a separation that is more amicable.
Unfortunately, most couples wait too long to get counseling and it often does not work, but having said that, it can and does work for a fair number of people.
The key to success is truly understanding your partner, without judgment, and learning how to interact in a healthy, non-destructive way. Lots of people think they communicate well and when things are good they probably do. But the real question is can you communicate in an empathetic way when there is conflict. Many couples cannot and they turn to sarcasm or avoidance, which makes matters worse. And when fighting, most couples are not fighting over the real issues.
We have to be able to trust our partners and in so much be vulnerable and honest with them. Without that, you are not likely to have a happy marriage and/ or you may get a divorce.
There are actually skills that you can learn on how to interact in a healthy, productive way. You really should try some counseling and learn about each other, your expectations and how to communicate better. Then you will know what to do.
Dr. JoAnne Barge is a licensed psychologist and licensed marriage and family therapist with offices in Brentwood. Visit her at www.drbarge.com or e-mail your anonymous questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Got something on your mind? Let me help you with your life matters because it does!