Dear Emuna,

My wife has been pressuring me lately to get her a very expensive designer handbag. I don’t even want to tell you how much it cost. I finally relented when I saw how much it meant to her. She was delighted with the gift but it didn’t bring about the change in other areas of our marriage that I imagined it would. She still complains that I don’t spend enough time with her and the children, that I don’t really take her needs into account etc. etc. I am a good provider and from the outside it looks to me that she has everything she needs and more than a few that she doesn’t, including the aforementioned bag. I don’t know what else to do. Please help.

Unhappy Husband

Dear Unhappy,

I’m not sure why you don’t know what else to do; it seems that your wife has clearly spelled it out! I don’t know if it was actually true or not but we all seem to have an image of the fifties where the man was the breadwinner coming home at 5 in a suit with briefcase in hand while his wife met him with sparkling floors, an apron that evidenced dinner was in the oven, a drink and a smile. In that scenario, we imagine, the man’s job was to go out and earn an income and the woman’s was to take care of the home. Each was, again according to our imagination, satisfied with those limited roles and found them not only materially satisfying but emotionally satisfying as well. I’m of course being tongue in cheek. If those roles had been so satisfying, Betty Friedan would not have found so many ready followers!

Your understanding of marriage seems to reflect those values (accurate or inaccurate) of another era. You seem to imagine that as long as you provide for your wife materially she should be satisfied. But your wife is telling you (very clearly it seems) that she has other needs – emotional ones, desire for time spent with you and so on – that you are not satisfying.

Whether it’s because she’s female and you’re male, whether it’s because you speak different love languages or whether it’s because you have different personality types, while your wife clearly enjoys nice material things, they are not enough to make her feel loved and connected to you. Whether you think they should be enough or not is completely irrelevant. The bottom line is it’s not working. And it seems that the onus is on you.

You need to recognize that marriage involves giving emotionally, not just materially, and making yourself receptive to your wife’s emotional needs and available to her. This will not be easy for you but I am confident that if you are able to make the switch, you will also find your relationship to be much more rewarding.

Luckily for you there are now many books and resources to help you – from John Grey’s oldie but goldie “Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus” to Gary Chapman ‘s “The 5 Love Languages” to David Keirsey and Marilyn Bates’ “Please Understand Me” based on the Myers-Briggs personality types. Happy reading!

My Husband Doesn’t Always Follow My Advice

Dear Emuna,

My husband frequently consults with me about important personal or business decisions. That’s the good thing. Then he frequently either ignores my advice or only finds it to be “good” advice when it is seconded by one of his colleagues or friends. I find this very annoying. I like being consulted but I also like being listened to!

Wife with an Ego

Dear Wife with an Ego,

I hear you. I understand how frustrating that must be. But there is an underlying assumption here that I would be remiss in not addressing. Your frustration seems to stem from the fact, to put it bluntly, that your husband doesn’t immediately acknowledge that you are correct and then proceed to act on your advice. This doesn’t leave room for either the possibility that, hard as it may be to believe, you may be mistaken in your advice or incorrect in your analysis or the situation and the options.

It also doesn’t give him the opportunity to weigh the advice against that of others and to achieve some kind of consensus or momentum before acting. I’m afraid that while I’m sympathetic to your frustration, I also see that it really stems from an inappropriate sense of your ability to always give correct advice. No one is always right (I hope you’ve seen that in other areas of your marriage).

Instead of focusing on the fact that your husband doesn’t always act immediately on what you say, take pleasure in the fact that he consults you at all. He clearly values your input and wants to share all aspects of his life with you. I can’t begin to tell you how rare that is. Instead of being annoyed, you actually have a lot to be grateful for. As long as you can keep your ego out of the way…