Question Mark February 4, 2010
|Written by Mark Rutherford LCSW on February 02 2010|
My partner and I have been together for 12 years. We got married in San Francisco two years ago, so technically he’s my husband. My husband is 11 years older than me and I was very young when we met. He was the man of the house and made all the decisions. I guess I was okay with that because I never questioned him for all of the years we’ve been together.
But I think something inside me is changing. I just turned 30 years old. Recently we’ve been getting into not really arguments, but…disagreements. For example, he will say he wants Italian food. Before, I would just agree to go to our…well, his favorite restaurant. But last week, he suggested it and I said I really wanted to go for Thai food. He seemed really taken aback and said he thought it was better to go for Italian. I stood my ground and said the only place I really wanted to eat was my favorite Thai place. He went along with it but I could tell he was really angry.
At home later, he said he was frustrated with me. He said he felt like he didn’t know the person he was married to. He said I definitely wasn’t the same person he met 12 years ago. I guess I got mad because I told him, “This is who I am. You’re just going to have to get used to it.” He didn’t like that answer and just left room. We’ve spoken since but have been very cautious. Like we’re tip toeing around each other. What should I say to him to break the tension? I’m not sure where to begin.
He’s right about one thing…you are not the person he met 12 years ago. We are all changing and evolving every day. You have grown up since you were that 19 year old boy. You are finding that what was once okay with you is not okay anymore. The things that used to not matter seem to matter. You are growing and finding your voice. This is a good thing.
The hope for us all is that we continue to grow and learn about ourselves. But it can be confusing for our mates. The key is to communicate with them. Our partners are not mind readers. The only way for them to understand our growth is for us to explain it to them. This does not mean that they won’t be defensive. There’s a good chance our partner will react, often negatively, to our personal growth. This is because, on some level, they are scared - scared of losing the connection. Your job is to show them that, no matter how much you evolve, your love for them remains constant. This is what we all want in a relationship…to feel safe. As long as you can provide this for your partner, he will eventually sign on to the new you.
My suggestion would be to state the obvious. “I know we haven’t been getting along lately. Part of that is my fault. I’d like to talk to you about it if you’re willing because I don’t want us to be at odds. You’re my partner and I love you. Even though I’m changing I want you to know that my love for you remains constant”…something along those lines. Then get into the nitty gritty….bring up the restaurant. State how you know he has historically picked the place you eat. Tell him how it’s begun to be important for you to have some say in what happens in the relationship. Find what common ground you can come do in your day to day lives. A good couples counselor may be able to help you navigate this discussion.
Mark Rutherford LCSW
Mark Rutherford is a licensed psychotherapist in private practice in West Palm Beach. He can be reached at 561-835-6821 or at www.MDRutherford.com
Mark Rutherford LCSW