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You Asked: Is this Happily Ever After?

Dear Sugar--
I'm so upset with my husband! We've been married only two months and I don't know what to do with him. He and I were best friends for several years prior to dating, so I thought I knew him pretty well. When we were friends and at first when we were initially dating, he was so kind and thoughtful; always listened and acknowledged my feelings. Then slowly he started listening less and now when I go to him with a problem or issue, he gets very angry and doesn't listen at all. Even worse, he gets angry with ME for even having a problem in the first place.

Then, of course I get upset, and he will ignore me for days. Nothing ever gets solved and I end up feeling like he doesn't listen or care! I'm just so flabbergasted. I knew this man for years, and he was always the kindest sweetest man around! Please help! --Confused Connie


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Dear Confused Connie --

It sounds, from your note, as if you feel you've lost your best friend, and that's a wrenching feeling, I know. I wish I knew if anything has changed recently in your husband's life. Finances, his job, or some other transition? And I don't know if you lived together before marrying. Some couples who date for years but don't live together before marriage can experience a basic but major transition period.

Still, it's very clear you're experiencing a serious communication problem. A lack of openness or willingness to listen, anger and resentment, and ignoring a partner in distress are all signals that new skills are required, and urgently. There's no way to know the root of the issue from your note or description, but getting closer again, feeling safer, and becoming more comfortable speaking about what's happening would be my first priorities for you both.

Since this is so fundamental, I'm tempted to recommend counseling. For you first, Connie, so you can begin to get some support around the problems and concerns you've unsuccessfully brought to your husband. If your husband can't be available, you still need help and should seek it. We all require guidance, reassurance and perspective, so I think it might be wise if you gave that to yourself for a little awhile.

When you feel more grounded and have some tools, I'd ask your husband to share the emotional work of this new marriage with you. The book Getting the Love You Want is a very practical, balanced, and approachable resource for couples. You can buy two copies and each do the exercises, some together, some separately. It's really very non-threatening and well-paced, but also rich and encouraging. Relationships take work, and tough times can require special dedication and effort.

If your husband is unwilling to try the book approach, I'd move to plan B, which is couples counseling. As ever, be gentle and clear, and be firm about its importance to you and the health of the relationship. Let him know that you miss him and love him, and that you need his participation. Besides, it's a safe place for you both, and from there you can make your way back to each other. I can feel that you love your husband and miss the ways you were close. Mutual care and understanding are possible again, Connie, and with a little time and effort, I believe your marriage can thrive.

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