July 29, 2011

Ask Dani: the good enough marriage

Remember that I told you I have a small but mighty advice column on Facebook?  Here's another Q & A from an anonymous querier.


Dear Dani,

I'm really struggling in my marriage. We have been married 22 years and I act like everything is fine, but it's really not. He is content with our marriage/life, but not me. Things are just alright. No excitement. No connection. We seem more like roommates than lovers.

I don't want to hurt him, but I'm miserable.

What should I do?

Unhappy Wife


Dear Unhappy Wife,

I think what you're going through is completely normal. I think we (Americans, women, white chicks with Cinderella complexes) have been sold a line that does nothing to help marriages last. We grow up thinking that happy, loving feelings are the most important factors in relationships, despite the fact that we fight with our frenemies, have mama drama, and alternately adore and hate our siblings—all while continuing to love them. In no other relationship in our lives do we expect to feel loving and happy all the time. And that's crap! I believe the core problem is that we have unrealistic expectations for intimate relationships.

There are so many facets to a healthy relationship: friendship, companionship, partnership, co-parenting, I-got-your-back-ing, mutual financial advising, co-dreaming, sex, affection, fun, learning together, laughing together. (Running toward each other in a field of wildflowers with arms outstretched is a cliché, not reality.) How are the other aspects of your marriage going? Do you have fun together? Have you talked about future plans you can both get excited about? Do you value your peaceful home, your stable marriage?

It sounds like you value passion and excitement. There's nothing wrong with that. They have their place. But they aren't enough by themselves to sustain a marriage for life. Instead of leaving, why not put your effort and energy toward revitalizing the 22 year commitment you're already in? You didn't mention telling your husband that you're unhappy, so I assume you've been keeping your suffering to yourself. I suggest you think about what you DO want and ask for it.

Have you considered the possibility that what you really want is more passion and excitement in your life in general, and not just your marriage? Do you think it's possible that you're putting too much pressure on the marriage to make you happy with your life? What else do you have going on? Is this lack of contentment just marriage-specific, or do you feel uninspired and directionless in general?

I think answering some of these questions for yourself will get you started on a plan for a more fulfilling life. Counseling might help you flesh all this out, as well as develop realistic expectations for your marriage. I wish you the best.



  1. Dani, some rockin' advice there.

  2. Excellent advice!!! Those crazy fairytale complexes! And, now, thanks to Disney, I'm passing that on to my daughters.

  3. Great answer. Marriages can grow stale over time if nothing is done to revive them. Just like a new car, after a while, the "new car smell" goes away. If you don't perform the proper maintenance to keep it going, it'll break down on you.