I’m sick of my husband’s expectations that the two of us be fabulous gym bunnies. For gosh sakes, we are in our late 30s. I have no interest in working out two hours a day, six days a week.
I don’t care about having a six pack anymore. Or about having big muscles in all the right places, a V-shape or even being thin.
For that matter I hate hanging out with our friends drinking or going to clubs. So vapid. Ditto weekends sitting at the rooftop pool in a skimpy swimsuit that takes a lot of work to look hot in. Listening to everyone gossiping about everyone else is no longer my idea of fun.
When I don’t go to the gym, Will complains. When I eat as much as I want of whatever I want, he criticizes me. Somehow his excessive drinking is fine with him. Over the past year I’ve decided I want to enjoy life and to hell with body fat percentage. I’ve gained 15 pounds So what? I’m far from morbidly obese.
But Will is furious. He complains that he’s not attracted to me anymore and that he’s embarrassed to be out with me. I’m this close to not going out anymore anyway, so I couldn’t care less.
I feel like it’s time we grew up and stopped trying to meet a standard that is better suited to 22 year olds.
Will says he is thinking we should separate and says I’m not living up to his expectations.
And I’m starting to agree about splitting. Shouldn’t I be able to expect that my husband will accept me for who I am?
Expectations are a tricky thing in relationships.
Of course you want to be accepted by your spouse. And of course you want respect. But even the best of partners may struggle at times to be accepting and respectful, especially when under stress and when confronting differences that they perceive to be threatening.
Thoughtfulness? That gets complicated if your mate thinks that your being thoughtful involves doing whatever he wants you to do.
Exercise, food, activity choices? Even if two people agree about such issues at the start of a relationship, they’re both going to change in some way or another as time goes by.
And clearly, that’s what’s happened in your marriage. Your tastes — and far more importantly, your values — have changed, and now you want to lead a life that is different from the one you’ve been leading.
If you want a shot at being happily married going forward, drop your expectations and accept that your husband wants to keep living life the way he lives it. Gym, drinking, rooftop pool and all. Even if you think it’s way past time that he grew up. Even if he doesn’t extend the same courtesy to you. Expecting reciprocation is also an expectation. And it’s not going to get you anywhere.
However, if you stop telling Will that your way is the right way, you will be taking a big step to reduce the antagonism in your marriage.
If you take on this challenge, you’ll have to find a way to deal with your husband’s criticism that does not involve criticizing him in return, or acting morally superior. “Even though you’re criticizing me, I’m not going to tell you how ridiculous you act” is pouring gasoline on the fire. Instead, how about, “Even though you’re criticizing me, I’m committed to this relationship and I don’t think we should tell each other how to live.”
Regarding the two of you separating: You made a commitment and it’s worth asking yourselves why you got married in the first place. Was it just to have someone to sit by the pool and be skinny with or was it for something more?
From your letter, it doesn’t sound like the two of you have much common ground. But maybe all the hostility has gotten in the way of your seeing anything good in your marriage.
Here is one big positive that you do have: a spouse who is challenging you to grow. This is a blessing in disguise. You and your husband are both being pushed to figure out how to accept difference and collaborate with someone who sees things very differently from you.
The good news is, you have identified that it is time to redefine your life. Your challenge now is to see what happens if you stay committed to your principles and desires while avoiding unwinnable arguments about who is “right” and staying connected with your husband at the same time.
Commitment doesn’t only mean enjoying good times together. It also means rolling up your sleeves and doing your best to work through difficulties.