Grow some love

Joey laments new French novels lamenting the death of joie de vivre.

My husband was fired from a civil-service position after an investigation revealed his incompetence. It took over a year, but he found a new job; unfortunately, it pays substantially less. His firing and the aftermath was painful. I was distant, critical and angry. He was depressed, ashamed and clingy. We were not intimate and now have not been for almost two years. Now he is the only man working with a bunch of single women who are too friendly with him. I am scared that he will have an affair and leave me. I find myself being more distant because I’m convinced that he will leave. Please help.

Oh, honey! Grow some roots. It’s not your husband who abandons the marriage; it’s you. By complaining about him (he lost his job, he was weepy and needy, he fails to ward off friendly women) you distract yourself from taking responsibility. Your husband’s job loss struck you deeply. It’s understandable to be frightened, confused, disappointed, embarrassed or angry. But living in your own suffering and failing to selflessly mitigate his, reveals a startling absence of love—for your husband or for yourself. Emotional immaturity inspires individuals to believe that marriage is romantic. But marriage is not a fairy tale; it’s a lifestyle. It offers everything that any other lifestyle offers, including birth and death, love and hate, sorrow and joy, freedom and constraint. Believing otherwise is unkind.

You need a day away by the mountains or the sea to reflect on your behavior. If your mind tries to obsess about your husband on this retreat, by blaming him for anything, rein it back in. Focus on yourself. In a journal, jot down a list of your shortcomings. Then craft an apology. When you return home, schedule an appointment with your husband for a time when you can be the center of each other’s attention. At the appointment, read the apology to him. Afterward, ask for his forgiveness. Tell him you want his help, too, in learning how to love him as he is. The purpose of this work is to soften your hardness of heart. By admitting to your own weaknesses, you will develop the capacity to begin the practice of truly loving.

My in-laws are pressuring my husband and me to buy a house. While I realize that a home is a good investment and that property is really affordable right now, I worry that a house will tie us down. I want to keep enjoying the travel-centered lifestyle we love. Advice, please.

You are smart not to march toward the purchase of anything based on someone else’s insistence. My basic rule for buying a home is to remember that a loan agent is a businessperson. When he or she states the maximum price tag of the house you can qualify for, it’s information, not a directive. I always tell young couples to buy a home if the mortgage payment is about equal to the amount they are now paying in rent. Simple, right? Another sane approach for couples is to buy a home (and live a lifestyle) that allows them to live on one income and bank the other. Yeah, that means living easy on the earth but, in your case, it would allow access to the traveling lifestyle you desire. And, if you buy a home sensibly, you can afford to rent it out if you choose to trek Nepal for six months.

One last thing, the next time your in-laws chime in with their advice, simply smile and say: “Thank you. We will add that information to the mix we are considering. It’s so much fun to make our own decisions now that we are married.” Enough said!

Meditation of the Week

The most important thing in life is to learn how to give out love, and how to let it come in,” said Morrie Schwartz in the book, <i>Tuesdays With Morrie</i>. Do you try to control he inflow or the outgo?