A few years ago, Paul almost ruined multiple holidays in a row, including my birthday. He even managed to make me cry — a rare feat for him. Happily, he recovered from that major fumble with aplomb. Since I need not worry about a repeat performance, we sometimes joke about the most effective ways in which he might ruin an upcoming holiday. (He did have oral surgery this Valentine’s Day, but that was unavoidable. He did still give me my traditional gift of cheddar goldfish — a marital joke about those past botched holidays.) Yet no matter how much Paul might try, he couldn’t hold a candle to the husband described in this “Dear Abby” letter:
Please tell me if I’m being petty. We do pretty much whatever and go wherever my husband, “Al,” wants. When he lost four family members in two years, I was at his side night and day, being supportive in every way I could. We go only to sporting events because that’s what he likes. If I mention I’d like to go to a concert, a play or a movie, Al tells me to ask my sister or a girlfriend to go with me.
Recently, two things happened that cut me to the core. First, my mother died. Al provided me no support at all. As I was packing to leave — my parents live several hundred miles away — he announced that he wasn’t going with me. I made the long drive alone. Next was a major anniversary. Al told me he was planning a “big surprise” for me, a weekend at a hotel with dinner at a swanky restaurant — the whole works. When we arrived, so did several of his buddies. It “just so happened” a big game was going on in the same city and they had tickets — including one for Al. He canceled our dinner reservations and left with his friends. I spent our anniversary alone at the hotel.
Abby, I love my husband, but I no longer like him very much. He can’t seem to understand that there is anything wrong, no matter how much I try to explain it to him. I’m torn between keeping my mouth shut and staying, or leaving. We’re both in our 50s. I’d have a rough time, but sadly, I don’t think he’d miss me. — CRUSHED IN LEWISVILLE, TEXAS
And to think, she’s worried that her complaints might be “petty”!!!
I did like the way Abby took the woman to task for tolerating such beastly behavior, since it’s surely been happening for years. (Her point about “compromise” is utterly wrong though, since he’s behaving immorally.)
DEAR CRUSHED: You have my sympathy. That you were emotionally abandoned upon the death of a parent was unconscionable. And when your husband promised a big anniversary surprise, the cruel one he delivered was certainly not the kind of “surprise” anyone would normally expect.
However, perhaps you should examine your own role in creating this “monster” to whom you are now married. Was he this way during your courtship? If so, why did you marry him? If it happened only after the wedding, why did you tolerate it so passively that he never learned a happy marriage requires compromise?
Whether you decide to stay or go, it’s time you got some assertiveness training, because if you don’t, this pattern will only repeat itself. Would he miss you if you left? Sometimes people don’t realize they have a good thing until it’s gone. But more important, would you miss him? Ask yourself, “Am I better off with him or without him?” The solution to this problem lies in the answer to that question.
Yes, and the answer cannot but be “I am better off without him”!