April 20, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

My Wife Is So Different From the Woman I Dated

Dear Dr. Chani,

I wish I could say that my wife and I have a happy marriage, but unfortunately that is not the case. We have been married for about five years, but we are still struggling with the same issues that we faced in our early months of marriage. I am afraid that my wife only cares about my ability to make money and provide for her.

When we were dating I was so happy she was interested in me. I had never dated anyone like her. She was everything I could have ever wanted in a wife. She was beautiful, smart, and had a fun personality. I thought that she really admired me too by the way she spoke about me to her friends and family.

I was very surprised to find out her true personality once we were married. Almost overnight, I realized that although she had the qualities I enjoyed, she was also very lazy, selfish and manipulative. She does not seem to care about me at all. I work long hours at my job. But my wife expects me to do the shopping before or after work. When she goes shopping, it is usually to buy unnecessary things that make her happy. She only cooks for Shabbat when we have guests. Otherwise, she buys takeout. Whenever I am home, she tells me that I should watch our children because they are “too much for her.” I often take them with me shopping when I come home from work. I also do many other household jobs that she neglects.

My wife knows I will do all of the things she wants me to do because I am a very reliable and responsible person. I would never leave my house a mess or abandon our children when she is not in the mood to take care of them. She also knows that I would never consider divorce because I am committed to our marriage and I believe that staying married is best for our children.

When I try to reason with my wife and explain to her that I would like her to take care of more of our household responsibilities, she rolls her eyes and tells me that this is the way she grew up and I “just don’t understand.” I have tried to get her to accept more of the responsibilities at home, but I am very frustrated about her attitude.

How can I make things better?

Sincerely,
Jacob


Dear Jacob,

It sounds like you are deeply committed to your wife and children, and you are willing to put aside your own needs for them. You are investing a tremendous amount of effort into making sure that your home runs smoothly. It is very admirable that in addition to your job, you take care of your children and many household responsibilities. It is understandable that you are overwhelmed with the many things that you have to manage and you wish that your wife would take on more of an active role.

Yet there seems to be a much deeper issue than getting your wife to do more at home. You sound disillusioned about the way your wife is treating you. You mentioned that you feel that she “only cares about your ability to make money” and that she “does not seem to care” about you at all. What is giving you this impression? Is it only based on her asking you to work so hard at home after you put in long hours at your job? Or is there more that is leading you to feel this way?

If your impression is primarily based on your wife demanding too much of you then you can focus on addressing this issue. Before you can resolve this, you will need to understand each other better. It is important to continue having conversations with your wife to gain insight to the way that she sees things and the way she functions. When your wife mentioned that this is “the way she grew up,” what did she mean? Did she mean that as a daughter, she never had to help out at home and she finds it too difficult, overwhelming or stressful? It might also be possible that this is the division of roles and responsibilities that she saw in her own home growing up. Maybe her father took care of everything in her home, including childcare and shopping.

You might discover more about your wife’s expectations by asking her, “What was your mother like as a wife and mother growing up? To what extent do you see yourself being similar or different?” Likewise, “What was your father like as a husband and father growing up? To what extent would you like me to be similar or different?” Talking about your past experiences and how they shape your current expectations can pave the way for a meaningful conversation about the mismatch in expectations that you are experiencing.

At the same time, when you describe your wife as “very lazy, selfish and manipulative,” it sounds like your relationship is under tremendous stress overall. You are describing a relationship that you feel began one way and then turned out very differently. That alone is cause for pause and reflection. What happened to the wife you dated? What made her act differently once you got married? It is important to consider serious questions about yourself, your wife and your relationship.

Have you tried to discuss your thoughts or feelings with your wife about topics other than household responsibilities? If so, how did she react? To what extent is your wife generally able to hear your perspective on something? If she can, then she is more likely to be receptive to your feedback and able to accept your influence. However, if she has not been able to, it is advisable to find a therapist who can support you and help you facilitate these kinds of conversations.

On the other hand, if you do not tend to express your thoughts or feelings with your wife, there is no way to know if she is capable of responding positively. If that is the case, make an effort to share your perspective on something with her and see if she is able to appreciate your point of view. Start with small, innocuous discussions that are not related to your marriage. Does your wife take an interest in what you are saying? If you try several times and you are unsure, or if you feel that your wife does not care about your opinions, seek marital CPR for your relationship.

Going a step further, can you think of things that your wife does for you? Throughout the day, is there anything you can point to that shows that she is thinking of your needs or wants? If so, that might be a positive indicator about your relationship. If you cannot think of anything day after day, it is another indicator of the need for serious intervention.

The state of your marriage can give you a push to think seriously about who you and your wife are, what might be affecting your dynamic, and what the path in front of you looks like. I encourage you to reflect on your relationship and consider all of the aspects that are contributing to your negative feelings. Step by step, I hope you will begin to experience a calm, content and harmonious future.

Wishing you much success,

Chani


Dr. Chani Maybruch is a social psychologist who has specialized in helping people build and enhance their relationships for over two decades. If you would like to improve your relationship with yourself, your loved ones, or others in your life, reach out to her at chanimaybruch.com.

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