Build outside social network to balance lack at home?

jsbachMarch 13, 2008

I've posted before on this, so a brief recap:

DW's top priorities are her job, her hobbies, and her friends/relatives, in that order. Home life and a social life with her husband (that's me...) comes in at a poor 4th place. This could be tolerable, except that the last several years her job or friends/relatives are always having some crisis, so there's no time for any kind of normal social life. Trying to plan ahead to do something together is a joke, it always gets postponed or canceled due to the latest crisis. We will spend a few hours on the weekend watching the tube, and that's about it. But she will get annoyed if I go out and do things alone that "we" could have done (but of course we would never do them because she's too busy).

She's also made it clear that this is simply the way things are going to be, and if I want something different in a marriage I should find a new spouse.

No kids, and no desire to have them on either side, so that's not an issue one way or another.

Despite this, she is mostly a loving, intelligent, sweet person, and the few "quiet times" we spend together are quite nice. And I think if she ever gets her head straight she will be an amazing companion.

Because of this (and some other reasons I won't go into) I'm not really anxious to end the relationship at this point, and there are some long term things that may turn around her priorities.

But in the short term, the lack of social interaction is really starting to depress me. I'd like to go places and see things with people, create some relationships that are independent of my wife's crazy schedule, and frankly build up a support network that can help out if the you-know-what ever hits the fan. I'm NOT looking for outside sex, a "babe on the side", or any of that.

So am I off base here? How do folks build a social network outside their marriage? One thought is that my hobby has quarterly conventions and sightseeing trips, might be a way to meet people and socialize without DW feeling I'm usurping potential "us" activities.

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asolo

"She's also made it clear that this is simply the way things are going to be, and if I want something different in a marriage I should find a new spouse."

Seems like a pretty clear statement to me. Why are you clinging? She's not going to change. For whatever reason, she's done with you.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2008 at 10:16AM
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carla35

Well, you should be spending some time with her within her other priorites, no? I mean does her work, hobbies and friend/relative seeing never include you? Are you at home on Christmas alone?

Almost everybody needs some alone time or time away from their spouse. I'm just not sure how bad it is. Is she spending every weekend night away from you and with others? Or, is it more like you get mad if she has a work meeting late on Mondays and she can't watch Medium with you?

Social life... do married people really have social lives? I don't know. I admit, I jump at the chance to go to a movie with a friend, but not necessarily with my husband. But, I'm not gone all that much.

I would suggest you try finding some outside hobbies/friends yourself. Sometimes in these cases, it really is more about you not having a life outside of your wife and wanting her to bring you all the excitment and social life that you need. You may have a perfectly normal marriage but just no other outlets but her for your fun needs which isn't really healthy, IMHO.

Her priorities may just seem to put you fourth. I'm not sure what these emergencies are, but they may really legit. And, just because people put things before people doesn't mean they are more important. I may put cleaning the toilet before watching a show with my husband -- doesn't mean I want to, just that I feel I have to.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2008 at 10:55AM
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rivkadr

Focus on meeting friends through this hobby you mentioned. Not knowing what kind of hobby it is, I don't know if this will help, but check out meetup.com, and see if there are any local groups that have regular meetings devoted to it.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2008 at 11:04AM
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scarlett2001

I have come to about the same conclusion myself. Yes, if your spouse is not willing to be with you, don't sit home alone. But there are temptations out there...

Maybe if you start some outside activities on your own, your wife will see you as a more interesting person and become re-attracted to you. As for now, if she is right up front about telling you that you don't come first with her, well, the writing is on the wall, isn't it?

    Bookmark   March 13, 2008 at 11:45AM
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Jonesy

There probably nothing you can do to change her. Maybe having outside interests that you keep to yourself will make her wonder what you are doing for a change. Come home late, make excuses why you were gone even if you have just been to the library.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2008 at 4:33PM
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popi_gw

Seems like you might be growing apart.

Gee, why doesn't she want to do things with you ?

That's what I would be asking myself !

    Bookmark   March 14, 2008 at 2:42AM
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jsbach

First of all, thanks for your comments, I appreciate the outside viewpoint!

Carla35- She brings home a stack of work every evening and weekend, and even if she doesn't do it, it serves to block any spontaneous activity or plan that I might propose. But if a friend, relative, or co-worker calls she will spend hours on the phone with them, and if they are in a crisis (real or imagined) she will spend tons of time with them, explaning they "need her support". Yes, I'm groused about it, and yes, we've talked about it, and it always ends with "after this crisis is over, we will have lots of time together". And maybe there will be a couple of quiet weeks between crisis, but usually not, because the work and friend/relative/coworker crisis are usually overlapping.

Her friends are mostly of low moral character, or just hangers-on who use her time and money, and most of her relatives have "behavioral problems", so I don't want to spend time with them.

And frankly, I've grown tired of trying to fit our married life into the tiny free spaces in her schedule. I get tired of following her around like a lost puppy in order to actually hold a conversation.

popi and scarlett2001- You could be right that DW is bored with me, I'm not Mr. Excitement, but I am Mr. Dependable. I do about 90% of the housework, take care of the pets, take care of most of the financial matters, make sure her stuff is in her briefcase as she screams out the door in the morning, and support her 100% in these endless crisis she's involved in. And I have a full time high-level job of my own to go to everyday.

It's kind of funny and kind of sad, it seems like I'm simply experiencing what most career women with inattentive husbands go through. ;-)

We married late in life, so I knew we'd have our own friends and interests, but (I thought) we would both be giving up some "personal space" for "common ground" and companionability. I must have thought wrong! I've gained a huge load of work and grief for a small dose of companionship.

And I think I'm just running out of energy to cope with the endless "crisis mode" we seem to be in. As the years pile up, it gets harder to believe that she can't manage her schedule well enough to live a semi-normal home life with her husband.

So- rivkadr- thanks for the suggestion on meetup.com, looks interesting!

I think I'm just gonna have to start taking care of my social needs on my own, and not worry about the grief that DW gives me for it. As I mentioned, there are some reasons for not making a major status change at this time, but at least I can have some fun while I see how things shake out.

Thanks again!

    Bookmark   March 14, 2008 at 10:31AM
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scarlett2001

Is she a codependent? Are you? 'Cause it sounds like she is busy "rescuing" the lowlifes and behavioral problem bunch while you rescue her. BTW, don't be surprised if YOU come out to be the Bad Guy in this. Codependents travel in a kind of triangle: Rescuer, Victim, Persecuter. Do you see that pattern in her relatonships? Is she attracted to people with problems? Does she have any well adjusted friends or are they all "needing" her?

    Bookmark   March 14, 2008 at 11:32AM
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jsbach

scarlet2001-

Thanks for the comment, I did a little reading on codependency. She may have a little bit of it, it mostly seems like she's just deathly afraid of people being upset with her or disturbing the status quo in any relationship. So she'll say yes to just about anything folks ask, and then hope that that she doesn't really have to go through with it. I think it's why she's always overloaded with work assignments she's accepted, and hangers-on see her as an easy "mark".

As for me, I'm pretty sure I'm not codependent, I could care less what folks think about me. I've helped DW out of a sense of honor and duty (you know, the whole married thing....). But I think that's going to taper off as I start to look after my own mental health.

And I appreciate the heads-up about becoming the "bad-guy" in this, I have gotten a couple bad vibes on that front, and would not be suprised if it happened.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2008 at 2:15PM
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sweeby

How were things when you were dating? Was she more 'you-focused' then? Or was it still you pursuing her?

I was surprised to read that you married late in life. At first, it sounded like your wife might just be immature and still have some 'wild oats to sow'. But now, I'm picturing more of a professional workaholic who thought she'd never marry and built a whole full life around her also single (or unhappily married) work friends and girlfriends. That her frame of reference, her family so to speak, is them, not you.

If that's the case, I don't see how YOU can change it. Only SHE can. And she will only change it if she realizes it and wants to change it. She may just be so 'used to it' that she doesn't see it anymore. If that's the case, the LAST thing you want to do is be seen as needy, dependent, clingy, or in any way stifling her independence. But at the same time, it's not all about pleasing her -- there's your self-respect to consider as well.

Sounds to me like you're right on target about building a more meaningful and independent life for yourself.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2008 at 4:52PM
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marge727

You need to change a lot of things. You have a career==no doubt you would profit from taking college classes in management or something appropriate to your field. Most careers have network/professional groups that meet --go to those meetings. I don't know what it is you do--but there are certainly committee meetings for every organization -and they need board members, volunteers. Join Kiwanis, Rotary, the Chamber of Commerce in every city has mixers to meet other business people. Habitat for Humanity needs volunteers two days a month.
Join a gym even if you are 70, if you are younger, consider a goal like being in a 5K walk and start practicing every day--just 20 minutes walking at first.
Who could complain about you doing that stuff?
Try calling your wife while you are out and suggest dinner after your meeting. Repeat any joke you heard at the mixer.
Get some new and interesting clothes/ties/shoes. Take up golf/ join the Special Olympic Volunteers. Work on somebody's election campaign.
All of these activities will involve you--insist she go with because they need her too. If she can't make it, oh well, you asked her.
What happens is you then drop off her radar screen and you aren't going to be around the house so much--hire a cleaning lady once a week preferably Friday. Since you handle the financial stuff thats not a problem. why do it? Because you then have a pattern to regulate the clean up--and aren't constantly working at it and you have time. It also lends itself to going out to dinner on Friday nite.
What happens if you get tickets to a play/concert or game?
Does she go or would she let the tickets go to waste?
My husband and I are super busy professionals but we have season subscriptions to concerts & plays; that way we make sure to find time to go somewhere together. He is a volunteer on a program to help at risk kids also. It gives us lots to talk about. Everybody has to work at a marriage.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2008 at 7:21PM
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popi_gw

"popi and scarlett2001- You could be right that DW is bored with me, I'm not Mr. Excitement, but I am Mr. Dependable. I do about 90% of the housework, take care of the pets, take care of most of the financial matters, make sure her stuff is in her briefcase as she screams out the door in the morning, and support her 100% in these endless crisis she's involved in. And I have a full time high-level job of my own to go to everyday."

She sounds like the way my teen would behave. I think its a bit like having a tantrum....let her deal with crises herself. Let her grow up...might make your life more peaceful.

You know, I think a lot of people want other people to solve their problems. And they do manipulate people by having tantrums. Does your wife fit into that category, do you think ?

You sound like a nice guy, you deserve better !

    Bookmark   March 16, 2008 at 2:03AM
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analytical1

I'm not married, but I will add my .02. I agree with marge727 - get busy! Start focusing more on yourself than you focus on her. Let the dishes go undone (why should you do them the majority of the time?) and let her figure out what to put in her own dern briefcase. When dealing with an adult, it's not a good idea to bend over backward doing those things that go unappreciated, right? DW, obviously, doesn't appreciate what she has. And, maybe she just needs to be reminded of what it is like to go without. Sometimes a person just needs to be shaken up a bit. It's time for her to start wondering what she needs to do to get some of YOUR attention. Maybe she will soon realize that there are plenty of women out there who would, happily, take a nice guy like you . . . and she'll step it up a bit. If she doesn't - oh well - you cannot go wrong by investing in yourself. Whether she comes around or not, you will be a better person for your efforts.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2008 at 11:05PM
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marge727

I agree with analytical 1 --your efforts don't seem to be appreciated at home, so if its not working for you--don't do it. Any organization that you join will be thrilled with your ability to get things done, so work and volunteering will bring better results. Trying to get water from a rock is always unproductive, so is hammering at it. Do what works.
Altho--I have to say my experience is that you picked her for some reason that has to do with her personality so maybe you wouldn't be comfortable with somebody who has dinner on the table at 6:00, chats with you at breakfast and loves to go places with you. There are plenty of women like that who you didn't pick. You may want to think about that.
And by the way, most successful career women I know have pretty nice husbands, especially if they picked them late in life. Professional careers are important but unless you just came out of grad school, there is time and money for a personal life.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2008 at 7:57PM
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jsbach

As always, thanks for the observations and advice:

This past weekend, I went out and did things outside the house that I was interested in, rather than just hanging around the house waiting for DW to be available. Frankly, it was great! I hope to do more of the same this weekend. And I'll look into some area groups and their activities.

I'm also training myself to be sympathetic to her endless crisis without being drawn into them.

marge727- I did pick DW since she was intelligent, ambitious, and able to take care of herself. I don't think that I realized that "take care of herself" did not extend to taking care of a relationship with a home and partner. As sweeby said, she may have already had her "family" established with her friends and relatives, and the house and the pets and I are really just "accessories", and drop to the bottom of the attention list when anything else intrudes.

Oh well, as folks have said and I've now accepted, I'll never change her, and she seems unlikely to change herself any time soon (despite her statements to the contrary), so it's up to me to forge bonds outside the home. As I said, I have reasons not to bolt at this point, but I can make a good life for myself, even with a dsyfunctional partner.

Thanks again!

    Bookmark   March 20, 2008 at 10:46AM
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