Saturday 10 December 2016

Dear Patricia: We've just wed but his unsociable ways mean I have more fun without him

Published 27/02/2011 | 05:00

Q - I GOT married a few months ago. I met my husband through a friend. He was always very quiet and never very sociable. That is now starting to become a real problem. He takes no part in organising any of our social life. Most parties or gatherings we attend are organised by me.

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What really bothers me, however, is that I have a better time without him. He doesn't normally initiate any conversations, leaving other people to talk first. Very often they then ask me what is wrong with him. This in turn means I enjoy myself less.

I have seen him being sociable, so he can do it, but mostly he withdraws. This is embarrassing and makes me feel uncomfortable. Each time it happens I dislike him more and more. I'm now starting to think that I can't live with his behaviour and therefore must leave. After all, surely my husband should be allowed to be himself, shouldn't he?

I am very unhappy and uncertain about what to do. If he doesn't change, how can I accept him? He also acts in a very distant manner around my parents. I'm at a loss to know what to do.

A: HOW on earth can you consider giving up on a marriage after only a few months? What are you, a woman or a mouse? And why on earth are you dodging like this?

I understand only too well the desire to avoid conflict, with all the difficulties that go with that, but this is of a different order entirely. Where are the conversations with your husband about what's going on? I mean, have you had even one discussion with him about how he feels, why he is the way he is, how he sees things, anything at all?

I have no idea what's going on in your husband's head. The problem is, neither do you. Worse, you don't seem to have even thought about possible scenarios. The closest you've come to any kind of reflection is when you mention that your husband can be sociable, because you've seen him interacting, the implication being that he simply withdraws out of choice. Equally worrying, you don't seem to do much thinking about your own behaviour either.

You married a man who was always very quiet and never very sociable. Why, then, does it come as a surprise now? Or said differently, why is it only becoming a problem now?

Had you absolutely no idea that his failure to be sociable might get you down with time? And how can you complain that he never organises any aspect of your social life? How could you not know what to expect? Where were you in your head when you were going out together?

Do you know if your husband is, perhaps, shy? Or does he lack basic social skills, perhaps because of his background? Is there a big difference between you in social terms, which could leave him feeling awkward when he's with your family and friends? Or is he, perhaps, sulky, or carrying a chip on his shoulder? What are the situations in which you've seen him being sociable? And what can you learn from observing them? What's he like when the two of you are together? Is he the strong silent type, or is he happy to chat?

Of course it's possible that your marriage was a big mistake. It happens. But you can't simply walk away uttering the trite little phrase that your husband should be allowed to be himself. That's a cop-out which is beneath any decent person's dignity. And surely you can't wish to walk away knowing so little about what's really going on? Marriage has to be worthy of a little more input than that. It is an important institution, deserving of respect. And respect in this context involves some hard emotional work.

Yes, I know you're suffering. But you are also sleepwalking. Wake up and start communicating. You married the man. You owe him at least a hearing on what is going on in his head, don't you think?

And you certainly owe yourself a shot at digging somewhat deeper into why things are the way they are.

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