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Suspicious in St. Clair Shores

  • Posted on March 20, 2016 at 3:20 pm

Dear Christine,

My husband and I are very active in the LGBT community.  Our daughter came out years ago and we fully supported her and we have been involved in our local PFLAG, marched in parades and made many friends in the community. We are almost as involved as if we were members of the community.  Perhaps too involved.  Though we are close friends, we don’t feel like a married couple anymore. I’m actually worried that my husband is now leading a double life.  He’s become very close to one of our gay male friends and I’m suspicious.  We haven’t been intimate in over 3 years.

I  brought it up last night and it didn’t go well.  My intention was to plan a romantic dinner and try and get our intimacy back.  When I realized he was avoiding my attempts I confronted him about our friend and he just got angry and walked away.  We haven’t spoken since.  He won’t talk to me at all!! Should I have reason to worry? 

Signed, Suspicious in St. Clair Shores

Dear Suspicious,

I think it’s important to trust your gut feelings, but you need to check them with reality.  To assume means to make an ASS out of U and ME.  I wish that you had sat your husband down for an honest conversation about your marriage minus any romantic dinner first.  In that conversation, it’s helpful to make “I” statements rather than “you” statements.  It’s your safest ground, to speak of your feelings, your needs, what you’ve noticed you no longer get from your marriage.  Then, ask him what his experience of the marriage is, listening on many levels, not just to the words.

Stay away from the “we” statements, even if it seems silly.  A good start is to say what you did:  “I don’t feel married anymore.”  Try not to say “we haven’t had sex in 3 years” but rather “I miss being intimate with you.  I realized the other day that it’s been 3 years since I’ve felt that closeness with you.”  Yes, having sex takes two (well, not always) but each of you needs to speak for your own self, not for the couple, or he’s going to feel like you are speaking for him and that may trigger more resistance.

After you both have had a chance to express your observations, feelings and needs, then is the time to ask a question.  Which question depends on what was said by each of you.  Starting with an accusation, which BTW begins with that “you” statement, puts him on the defensive, cornering him into denial, no matter what is going on.

Try psychotherapy if he won’t talk to you again.  Perhaps a neutral party could help the two of you restore communication and figure out what is going on and what you both want moving forward.  If he won’t go to therapy with you, try going alone.  You need support in figuring out how to approach your marriage and some communication tools would be helpful as well.  Good luck to you.

Christine Cantrell, PhD

Psychologist

Worried in Washington

  • Posted on October 11, 2015 at 8:28 pm

Dear Christine, 

I am a 20 year old man dating a 45 year old man.  I am very independent and mature and have lived on my own since 17 supporting myself.  I grew up on the streets and in foster care and my friends just think I’m looking for a daddy and that I’m being used.  That’s not true. My man wants to make it legal and marry me.  The age difference doesn’t worry me like it does my friends but what worries me is his relationship with his ex.  They still communicate a lot and when I ask him about their relationship I don’t seem to get answers.  He just brushes it off.  I love him and can’t imagine not being with him but are my friends right to worry?

Worried in Washington

Dear Worried,

Good for you for your independence and supporting yourself at just 20 years old.  You know that you can always rely on yourself to survive, and these skills and experience will be resources from which you can draw in future trying times.

As far as marrying at 20, what’s the rush?  How long have you both been together?  How did you meet?  Do you share common values, goals and trust each other?  Do you communicate well with each other? (I see a red flag here regarding your man’s ex).   Have you discussed what sorts of things would be crossing a line for each of you that might end the relationship?  Do you know those about each other?  Everyone has a limit somewhere.  Before marrying, first you need to know those things about your own self, first of all, and secondly you need to make sure he knows what those non-negotiables are.  And he needs to be clear with you.  If those limits are not identified and discussed, there’s another red flag.  And if you don’t trust each other to be honest with each other about this and other topics, a third red flag.

There’s nothing wrong with his wanting to be friends, even close friends with his ex.  But there’s nothing wrong with you not accepting that friendship either.  What matters is that you each know yourselves as individuals well enough to communicate and negotiate these issues.  If you can’t agree on this issue, that red flag waves in the gale.

Right now you sound like a couple of lesbians, blurring the lines between friends and ex-lovers.  Even if the new girlfriend knows up front when she dates someone who is still “friends” with her ex, the new girlfriend may not find it comfortable.  So, your friends are right to worry, whether you are lesbian or not!  You are young and your friends are protective.

Remember, gay marriage is legal in Michigan and if this turns out to be a mistake, it can be costly to divorce.  I know a handful of couples that married in Canada on a whim over the past 10 years.  Marriage was romantic, but didn’t really mean anything, but now they are hiring divorce lawyers so they can legally marry their current (different) partner.  Good luck.

Christine Cantrell, PhD

christineccantrellphd@gmail.com