Q: I have been married to my husband for 10 years. I picked him because he was stable, genuine, and caring. Just being around him calmed me down. I have always been very rambunctious, ambitious, and a risk-taker. I also knew he would be a great father. Even with all the good in our marriage, I find myself bored and wanting more excitement. I wish that we could have really fun vacations together in places like Bali and Paris. He is more focused on the kids and home. I don’t quite know how to make our marriage more exciting and enjoyable.
A: You are in an interesting dilemma. Your husband fulfills the traditional needs in your marriage—stable provider, loyal husband, and a good, caring father. Ten years ago those were your primary needs. What did those qualities mean to you? Did they balance what you lacked in your personality? Was that the image you had of a good husband, father, and marriage? If so, where did it come from? Answering these questions will help you understand how you have grown and changed.
Marriage fulfills many different needs. Creating a family, home, and a secure base is the more traditional purpose. Some seek a companion to explore life and share passions. It sounds like you want both. This is a more unusual combination in marriage.
First, acknowledge to your husband the good qualities about him, your relationship, and how that has fulfilled you. Then open up about your growth and desire for more connection, interests, and passion together. Listen to his reactions—how he has changed and what he wants in the marriage. Often men with his qualities need the freedom and encouragement to pursue their own interests.
After creating a solid base together for 10 years, this next phase is a turning point and a new beginning. Find meaningful, mutual interests and projects. Be flexible and willing to participate with him and he will feel more connected and supported by you. Thus, he will be more open to your suggestions.
Q: I am angry and frustrated with my wife. We had an arranged marriage in India five years ago. She comes from a very responsible family. Now that we are out of India and away from any parents, she acts like a teenager. She never saves money, and wants to party and travel and spend a lot of time with her girlfriends. I know she is a good person and I want to be married to her, but she also has to learn a lot about marriage. How do I tell her all this?
A: Although you are angry, you seem thoughtful and caring. What is making you most angry: her personality; your expectations and losses; fear of her meeting someone else? Your wife may be breaking free from the confines of her family and culture. She is probably living out much of what she couldn’t in India. Or, is this what she is used to? Is it about her and her background or about you and the marriage? Begin exploring this question.
She needs to know how you are feeling about her lifestyle. Share with her your original impressions and your expectations of your marriage. Without being harsh and judgmental, communicate why her behavior bothers you. Find out what she wants in the marriage. This is the stage of being honest about where you each are in the marriage. This could be scary because you are acknowledging differences between the two of you, or that she is very unhappy being married to you.
It is time to be courageous, curious, and willing to hear and speak the truth. Make sure you have friends and family or a counselor you can talk with for support and clarity.
Alzak Amlani, Ph.D., is a counseling psychologist in Palo Alto and San Francisco. (650) 325-8393. www.wholenesstherapy.com