Dear Stavroula: An Unhappy Husband

Dear Stavroula,

I am 30 years old and got married four years ago to a woman a year younger than me. We recently had a son. We both have our jobs and at least objectively, we do not have any particular problems in our lives. We have financial comfort and a life that many would dream of. But I am unhappy in my marriage. The reason is not a third person but my wife.

My wife is very beautiful, very smart, very dynamic, very social – generally a charismatic personality that draws the attention of men and women. She is easily the life of the party and monopolizes interest at our social gatherings. Even when we go out with my friends and their wives, they pay attention and talk to her more. I am always in her shadow, and I can sit at a dinner party for hours without talking and nobody notices. Generally, I’m low-key, what we call “a quiet and good kid,” but I never felt it was a problem in past relationships I had, but only now with my wife. Next to her, I seem so small, and it is breaking me down. The point is that I cannot explain to her how I feel it – she will not understand it – and the more I think about it, the more I close myself off. I’m often abrupt with her and then regret it. She does not understand my behavior, and she does not know how to react, so we often fight. I want to stop it, but I do not know how to manage it.

Thomas

Dear Thomas,

I read your letter very carefully and I would like to point out to you the following:

First of all, you are writing to me that the reason for your misery in your marriage is your wife. However, nothing that you tell me about your wife is unclear or problematic. You will therefore allow me to disagree with you and tell you that the reason for your misery is not your wife but the way you see things. I think you’ve fallen into the trap of comparing yourself with her, feeling inadequate and thinking that all the people in your social environment also see you as inadequate. This brings you down, so you turn against your wife, lashing out at her with anger or hostility, and she often cannot see what the problem is.

Therefore, the first thing I would advise is that you visit a specialist to talk about your problem. It will help you to see things from a different perspective and save your relationship.

The fact that your wife is more energetic, while you are not, does not in any way mean that your wife is superior and you are correspondingly inferior. Being energetic is a human characteristic, like being low-key. Each of these two characteristics may be positive or negative, depending on how each of us uses or treats them. You and your wife are just two different people who can learn a lot from each other, and each of you can be as effective as the other in different kinds of situations.

So your wife has this kind of personality and obviously you knew it before you married her. Did it bother you then or did you fall in love with the very characteristics that made her so different from you? And if so, what changed afterwards? Why can you not enjoy having a dazzling and dynamic person beside you?

I would say that if you really want to save your marriage, the only solution is to accept your wife as she is. Indeed, many men in your place would feel proud to have chosen such a woman for a wife.