My boyfriend’s mother is an alcoholic, but no one in the family, including him, admits it. After we began dating, his parents invited us to an early breakfast at their home. His mom wanted to know if I wanted champagne or wine. Wine with a 9 a.m. breakfast? And if he doesn’t do what she says, his mom binges and his dad calls and says, “Look what you have done to your mother.” My boyfriend becomes angry and, at times, starts picking a fight with me. I really love my boyfriend. We’ve been dating now for just over a year and have talked about marriage. But when I think about the reality of marriage and spending more time with his parents during holidays, it just doesn’t feel right. Am I being stupid? He’s a great guy in lots of other ways.
Oh, honey! Your boyfriend and his papacita are standing in the middle of a river in Egypt (yeah, it’s denial) and you are invited to wade into the murky, stagnant waters and stand with them as kin. But those two are so practiced at codependency they’ve grown roots. You’re at risk for denial’s emotional undertow. It can drag you down into the depths of frustration, sadness and, yes, despair as you wonder, post-wedding, why your husband never listens to you, why he can’t (or won’t) see the truth about his mamacita and whether you made a terrible mistake by marrying him. Any children you have will grow up believing that drinking is a viable solution to life’s inevitable problems. Is that what you want? I’ll tell you this: It’s not what I want for you.
If your boyfriend was awake to the reality of his family and attending Co-Dependents Anonymous meetings or in therapy, marital contentment would be possible. Of course, he’s not. But don’t try to school him. He’s not ready and will resent you. Instead, honor that red flag that says, “Something doesn’t feel right.” You may have been drawn into this relationship to learn what you don’t want in life or to dig into your psyche and uncover your own codependent tendencies. Either way, integrate the lesson and move on.
I’m in marriage hell. I’ve been married about six months, and my husband is totally boring. When he comes home from work, he asks me what we’re having for dinner and then sits in front of the television, channel-changing like a fool until dinner is ready. I’ve tried to get him to help me prepare dinner. I’ve tried to get him to talk to me about his day. He just zones me out. On the weekends, he spends the entire day watching whatever sports are on and then taking naps. I feel like I do everything. What is going on with him?
He may be depressed. After the excitement of dating, the flurry of engagement activities, a wedding and honeymoon, the actual experience of marriage can feel disappointing. Many people forget that one of the secrets of a good life is finding joy in, and being grateful for, the mundane aspects of life. An even bigger issue is the failure to properly mourn the death of one’s single self and independence before stepping into vows that demand growth in interdependence. A single man sits, remote in hand, flipping channels. A married man is a partner who helps run the household and fits TV into his life after scheduling his chores. So if you have a happily married family member who your husband admires, ask that person to talk to your husband. If not, get yourselves to marriage counseling, either with a member of the clergy (your husband’s spirituality is a key factor here) or with a good psychologist.