It’s not always easy to speak up about the little—or big—things that bother you about your marriage, but some of this stuff may be on his mind.
If one of you is more social than the other, you need to actively work to strike the right balance between your personalities. As newlywed Chad L. said, “I would enjoy spending less money on expensive dinners with friends, and more time for just the two of us.” Studiesshow that double dates are beneficial for relationships—but not when they come at the expense of alone time. “Make sure you’re not doing it as a distraction because you’re having trouble communicating with each other,” says Kara Thompson, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Lenexa, KS.
That said, if you’re merely desperate for a night out at the end of a long day with the kids and he’d rather not go anywhere after two hours of sitting in traffic, there’s no harm in grabbing dinner with a friend and letting him handle homework and dinner duty from time to time.
No, your husband doesn’t care about every coaster, but be careful not to assume he has no preferences at all. “When I do pipe up and express an opinion—like that I really do want the couch with the bigger ottoman—it means it really matters to me,” said Rob M., who’s been married for six years. And remember, saying that whatever wallpaper is fine isn’t a signal that he doesn’t care what you think. “It just means that issue isn’t a priority for him,” says Thompson.
Consider treating decorating like a money matter, and agreeing that under a certain amount—say, $200—you can each make decisions on your own. And if you really do want him to pipe up with an opinion, listen when he does. “It’s important that you consider it, even if it’s not what you wanted to hear,” says Thompson.
“My wife thinks two kids is enough, but I come from a large, tight-knit family, and it doesn’t feel right for my children not to have more siblings,” says Jeff S., who’s been married for eight years. Differences of opinion on when and if to start a family, not to mention the size of it, can create a huge rift in a relationship, especially since there’s no way to compromise between having one kid and two.
If one of you changed your mind about the matter—say, your first pregnancy was really tough and you’re not willing to go through it again—it’s worth scheduling an appointment with a counselor to explore whether there’s any way to get back on the same page.
Some guys really don’t notice your new haircut or bathing suit, but others do, and they secretly—or openly—hate it. “There’s a huge difference between complaints about your appearance and genuine criticism about who you are,” says Thompson. A complaint, such as preferring your hair blonde, is about a situation.
But a criticism is a personal attack—for example, your husband saying he won’t be attracted to you again until you lose 20 pounds. Complaints are okay. After all, everyone has opinions. But if your husband is picking you apart, that’s a red flag, and you should have an honest discussion with him about how it makes you feel, says Thompson.
When we get married, we often hold out hope that some of our partner’s habits and qualities will change. It’s fair to want to evolve together over the years, but you can’t always dictate the terms. “Trying to control everything I do just makes me want to dig in my heels and tune her out even more,” says John H., married three years.
Often, going into control-freak mode is a sign that you’re afraid, says Thompson. If you’re able to tap into what’s causing that fear, it will be easier to address the root issue, which probably isn’t how he organized the pantry. “Men want to feel confident in their relationship, and acting overly controlling may leave your husband feeling worthless,” says Thompson.
We’ve all heard a resounding “no” at the suggestion of a Saturday field trip to Home Depot—and your husband does have a point. Weekends shouldn’t be all about crossing everything off your shared to-do list, but that doesn’t mean they should be filled with 10 hours of World Cup games either. Just like everything else in a marriage, how you spend your days off needs to be a compromise. Consider piling all the errands into one day, then reserving the other for more relaxing activities.
And if you’re trying to start a family with a chronic sports-watcher, perhaps share this information: A study published in the British Journal of Medicine found that men who watched more than 20 hours of TV a week had about half the sperm count of those who didn’t watch any at all.
“My side of the bedroom has a couple of things on the nightstand,” says Lou A., married 13 years. “Her side is a trail of clothes, books, tissues, plastic shopping bags, old pieces of mail, and magazines. I think the stuff multiplies during the day while we are away. I’m not a nitpicky neat freak, but it drives me nuts.”
A slob is never going to morph into a butler, but if you tend toward messy, try to limit the piles to certain areas of the house. “If you have your own bathroom, keep it however you like,” says Thompson. “But if you strew 10 pairs of shoes across the living room right where your husband could trip over them, or leave food out on the counter for days, that’s a different story.”
It’s one thing to debate the latest Internet gossip with friends, but it’s a whole other to rip apart the people in your inner circle, which can leave your husband worried about what you say when he’s not around. “If you get into a pattern where you are constantly picking other people apart, ask yourself what you’re getting out of it,” says Thompson. “A lot of times what we criticize in others is what we don’t like about ourselves.”
Take the opportunity to consider what’s irking you and how you can make changes in your own life. If you feel out of shape, join a local running group where you can meet and train with like-minded women. Concerned that your professional skills are out of date? Sign up for a continuing education class at a local college.
There are two possible issues here: One is that you’re racking up debt and not paying attention. The other is that your husband may be oblivious to the expense of summer camp, violin lessons, and the ER visit required when your son fell out of a tree. In that case, he may think you’re being frivolous when you’re really trying hard to budget.
“In this day and age, both people need to be aware of their exact financial situation,” says Thompson. If your husband slips into “his money” terminology, it’s time to reframe—and modernize—the conversation. “The two of you agreed to your financial setup, so the household money is both of yours,” adds Thompson.
Wanting to sleep solo has absolutely nothing to do with how hot, wonderful, whatever he thinks you are. Sex and sleep are two entirely different biological functions. “I know it’s a terrible thing to say, but I sleep better when I’m in bed alone,” says William S., married eight years. “Also, my wife has complained from time to time about my snoring. It just seems that separate bedrooms would make us both happier, and even add a bit of the old dating mystery when we do get together.”
He’s definitely not alone. A recent anonymous Today.com surveyfound that 60 percent of people say they sleep better solo too. If your sleep situation no longer feels ideal, don’t hesitate to speak up. Robert and Cora do have separate bedrooms on Downton Abbey, after all.