My Husband and I Have Nothing in Common - finally I have penned some more thoughts and suggestions

 In another of my blog posts, I addressed this issue and said that it is very common for one or both partners to come to this conclusion.

Probably every married couple has felt this way at times. But when this conclusion lingers for weeks, months or years, it is not just a temporary upset after a squabble. It goes deeper.

(this is an excerpt from my new 350 page book Putting the Forever Back in Love: advanced relationship building concepts. Scroll down for a free preview)

It is generally not a statement that a newly wed or someone married a year or two will make. The realization that we have nothing in common is generally one made after many years of marriage, and even more frequently after the kids are raised and off to college.

Kids provide a joy, something to be busy with, and daily happiness and challenges. Kids also are a buffer. Although  two people may have little to talk about and little to share together, the kids are a distraction and a focus of attention. Alone the two might be a constant source of irritation to each other. But the kids are a diversion.

Presumably both partners are decent, but just on different pages or coming from different places--yet there is something in common to hold them together (the kids), and in the presence of which, they put aside their differences or mask their secret unhappiness - and put up a good front.

We all do this at work and out in public. We dress up a little, we put on a smile and for the sake of our coworkers, the client, the patient, or the customer, we put our personal unhappiness aside and focus on the work at hand.

Many do the same at home. 

Work is also a focal point of many people's lives for both men and women, whether it be work at home or work at the office.

Work is a great blessing. Useful work is actually something to be very grateful for. Many a senior citizen who has retired or who has no where to go, after having gone to work for 40 or 50 years, very quickly discovers there is an empty place without work.

Whether or not you have something in common with your spouse, if you have useful work to do, consider it a blessing. 

Parents also discover there is an empty place without kids around.

Of course, a childless couple can make the same discovery.

The early months or even years of marriage can be exciting. With youthful enthusiasm we throw ourselves into whatever is at hand. And there is much to yet discover together. Setting up the first apartment, going on the first vacation, learning a new sport, taking classes, starting a new job. There is more future and less past. Plus, the couple is likely to be escaping from an unhappy home, and so anything is an improvement.

But as the excitement wears off, and as reality dawns about one's limitations and possibilities,we begin to look at our mate realistically and also with the thought "do I want to spend the rest of my life with this person?"  If the other is not aging well, with youthful beauty fading, it is a sobering experience.

There is another factor that is rarely mentioned. Nowadays it is just so much easier to feel lonely, unfulfilled or even bored with another person. We have small families (one kid maybe) or no family. We live alone, not in a community of extended family.  A suburban wife can literally be home all alone and isolated all week. So she naturally looks to her husband to entertain her, be her friend, and fill her life. When he is distant, tired, or off to work or a ball game--she feels alone in a way that was unknown a hundred years ago.

So now let's look at the situation both practically and spiritually.

 First, let's consider arranged marriages, which are still popular in many parts of the world. Parents and/or a matchmaker will often look for a compatible person, and when the parents or also other older wise persons agree, then a date is arranged for the young couple. They may go out on a few dates, and if things are acceptable to the couple, and after the elders have carefully looked at compatibility issues and feel the two are compatible and suitable,  then the marriage is a go.  (What I have just given you is a hybrid form where parents/matchmaker and the couple are all involved).

What is interesting is that the divorce rate for such arranged marriages is lower than for the so called romance marriages that most of us know and have gotten married with.

I suspect that the divorce rate is lower because there is a third party, with a calm head on their shoulders, involved. Also the expectations are different. The couple is not looking for wild "you know what," getting their needs met, or for eternal romance. If the other person is reasonably decent looking, has a nice nature, and she can bear children and he can be a good provider, then they can look forward to some level of at least modest prosperity and a family.

When the parents and older wiser persons look for compatibility, they generally have in mind similar upbringing, similar backgrounds, the same religion or religious viewpoint, sufficient education and a trade for him, emotional stability and his or her family milieu.

Now let me ask you--when you married your partner, did you carefully look at these things or not? Probably not. Although you may have (ladies are much more calculating about income and such things then men are, but ladies still make mistakes and set aside their common sense).

If you did look at upbringing, similar backgrounds, the same religion or religious viewpoint, sufficient education and a trade for him, emotional stability and his or her family milieu, and there was indeed a good match in the categories above, you are now very surprised and disappointed to discover that you feel you two have nothing in common. In other words, two people can come from the same background, have the same religion (or outlook), and still she feels they have nothing in common.

So, although arranged marriage have lower divorce rates (because in my opinion, wiser and cooler heads are involved from the beginning, and also I believe because the two people have more down to earth expectations), just because the divorce rate is lower does not mean that the two are happier or even happy at all.

I have to say that most of us who got involved through romantic love, casual dating, and seeking to get our needs fulfilled, end up getting married for the wrong reasons. We marry our temptation.

Without cooler heads prevailing, we make an individual emotional decision and mostly it is the person who most excites us who we marry.

The man marries someone like his mother or someone he lusts after.

She marries someone like her father often after she has fallen in hate with him. His selfishness, oafishness or pitiful ego cry tempts her to respond--to want to help him, save him, or change him. His selfishness or wrongness already tempts her to judge him before they are married, but that is how she gets hooked. Hooked on judging him, trying to change him, and feeling guilty for her judgment.

However, regardless of how you two came to be married, we have to look at the current situation. I must also say that there is always hope for improvement and finding happiness, fulfillment and peace of mind. If the two of you grow to be less selfish and let go of resentment, then much good can come to pass.

But even if your partner never changes (presuming that he needs to change, which he may not), you can still find fulfillment and joy by letting go of resentment and judgment (perhaps with the help of the insights of someone like me). Your heart will then open for love to enter and wash away all the bitterness and secret unhappiness.

Part of the solution to your unhappiness is the realization, not just because I say so, but because you deeply see that it is so--that your happiness and fulfillment in life should not depend on another person. Besides, were you to stop applying subtle pressure to him to change according to your will, and were you to stop disapproving of everything he does, he might have the space to find himself.

Another fundamental realization is that you cannot make a man into a man. He has to find it himself. Even if he were to change because of you, then you would be his god and he would still be contemptible. So to repeat, don't try to change your husband.  

Now let's continue. Just what is it that you want in common?

Religion, politics? Work? Would you be happy with a clone of yourself?

If you were married to a physicist, would you be happy if he demanded that you learn advanced physics? If he ran a septic business, would you be happy if he demanded that you share all his septic experiences?

It used to be that after a big family meal--where many in laws gathered--the men would go into the living room and talk about their interests, and the women would congregate in the kitchen and talk about their interests. They lived in different worlds, had different interests, and gathered in different rooms. Yet it was satisfactory somehow.

Today there is much talk of diversity. Every agency, every business, and every university lauds diversity--honoring and celebrating each other's differences. So why not diversity in marriage--why not be happy to celebrate and honor your husband's differences from you?

I am guessing that when many people say "we have nothing in common," it means that they are resentful. Communication is poor, there is silence, there are hurt feelings, there is unforgiveness. There is secret or overt contempt.

In short, the person who says it is resentful. Understand--it may be a true statement, but it is the pinch of resentment that turns it from being discernment to resentful judgment or complaint.

It can also mean "I am lonely" or I feel empty. Loneliness is real, but it can be easily dealt with. Emptiness is something else. But what I want you to know is that emptiness is the result of resentment.

I will make a couple of suggestions that may be helpful. But I want to emphasize that the bottom line in my counseling experience always comes back to letting go of resentment. Your health, emotional and physical, your well being, emotional and spiritual, and your happiness all depend on letting go of resentment and judgment.

Resentment is very sneaky. You might be so busy helping others, or you might be so busy with dissecting his faults, that you cannot see your own resentment. All you see is his faults and yourself doing many nice things.

He may be a cad. But as long as you are resentful you cannot be sure, because resentment clouds your vision and distorts thinking. In fact, resentment and judgment often tie women to the most despicable users, alcoholics, drug addicts, abusers or adulterers, because she hates him and then feels a terrible guilt for her hatred. She then feels bad and then is nice to him to take away the guilt. Watch out for this trap.

But he may be just like many husbands are--basically decent, mostly easy going, a little weak perhaps but nevertheless a good guy. Careful that your resentment toward men in general does not project onto your husband who is not all that bad. Don't let your fixation on trying to change him cause you to start to resent every little thing he does.

Watch out for others--unseasoned counselors, experts with an agenda, meddlers, and the shallow but clever mass media--who cater to your unhappiness and tell you to throw away what you have for some Utopian freedom.    

I have written many articles and devoted chapters in my books to the subject of the harm of resentment and how to let it go. So right now, for the purposes of this article, I will discuss some other important, though frankly less important, issues. Just remember that letting go of resentment is the single most important thing you can do..

1. Watch out for thinking that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. At work, for example, people dress and act their best. They are very adept and clever at putting on a show of being wonderful. But the reality of living with that person is likely to be completely different.

If someone is flirting with you, they are attempting to break up and engender unhappiness in a marriage. A flirt is not the friend of your family, your children or your husband. So don't be flattered by seductive attention. If the person flirts with you, he or she would flirt with others were you to marry that person. 

2. People who support you in your upset or resentment toward your husband may not be sincere. They may be egging you on, and secretly enjoying you becoming miserable just like them. Many people are not sincere. Be careful about sharing marital secrets with others or disclosing secret unhappiness or misgiving to others, at work for example. Remember that these people are basically strangers.

If you need to talk, look for an older and wiser person, perhaps an aunt, grandma, grandpa, or a pastor's wife.

3. I am an author, spiritual care giver, speaker, and researcher. My wife has zero interest in what I do. She says I am wasting my time and money trying to help people. When I talk of things I love, she discounts them and argues, seeking to show that I am wrong.  

Does this affect my continuing to do my calling and the things I am interested in? Not in the slightest. I continue to do my calling and enjoy my interests. If she were to be super interested in what I do and if she were to support me in everything I do, her support would weaken me. Soon I would become dependent on her support and I would resent her for it. She would also resent me - for having failed to remain strong and not dependent on her.

Think about it.

4. Watch out for putting your life on hold because you are waiting for him to change so that you can change. Whatever your interests, friendships and activities are--with others or with family--as long as they are appropriate for a married women, then pursue them. Continue to grow. Watch out for the game of not being happy in order to show him that you are unhappy.

5.  Watch out for the pills. My mother was a little unhappy. She went to her pill happy doctor and before you know it her medicine cabinet was full of multiple bottles of pills. She began on a downhill slide from which she never recovered.

6. Watch out for the friends, experts, and counselors who are quick to encourage and not discourage divorce. It is easy for them to talk. They will not personally suffer the effects of divorce, but you will.

7. Some marriages thrive on separation. As long as there is no adultery, absence does make the heart grow fonder. When around another person all the time, you become very aware of their petty faults and shortcomings which we all have. It is easy to grow contemptuous. Familiarity breeds contempt.

If you are both busy with activities and interests you love, then respecting each other from the distance and having nice reunions--lunches, dinners, vacations, holidays--will be happy and welcome changes of pace. Frankly many people who are around each other all the time end up irritating each other.

8. Shape your life as you like and feel comfortable with. Let your hair down and be natural--eat, watch, and do what you like or feel comfortable doing. Don't try to imitate others. March to your own drummer. Dare to be different.

9. Don't compare yourself to others. Don't try to have a marriage like theirs. Have yours you way. Be an original, not an imitation.

9.  Be patient. Things change. Things can work out. You are changing and so is he. Don't leap to conclusions. Give him some space. Be patient with yourself too. The biggest happiness destroyer is resentment.

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Roland Trujillo, MS, D. Pastoral Psychology, is the author of 16 books. He is host of a radio advice program that currently airs in Southern California and around the country for 25 years.

In his new 350 page book Putting the Forever Back in Love Roland reveals little known secrets to marriage success.

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