Doing Family Right

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Marriage: Q & A with Dr. Dave & Donalyn Currie—Out with the Boys…Again

My husband and I have been married just over a year. The problem I’m having is that my husband is spending too much time with his friends. Almost every night he’s going “out with the boys” and leaving me home by myself. I don’t want to be a controlling wife, but I feel very alone. What should I do?

Dave: Let’s start by getting some big picture perspective. First of all, it’s important that couples understand that some time apart from each other is not only permissible, but also necessary. Assuming that these particular friends are not a negative influence in your husband’s life, it is good for him to maintain the friendships, as it is for you with your girlfriends. But you’re not wrong in thinking that there needs to be some reasonable time parameters put in place if it’s getting to be as excessive as you say it is.

Donalyn: It sounds like you haven’t spent enough time talking about your expectations for your marriage. It’s critical to put these kinds of issues on the table early in your marriage so they can be resolved before they become too firmly entrenched. A good starting point would be to set aside some talk time to discuss your assumptions and expectations about what your marriage is going to look like. With regards to this specific issue, some of the questions you need to be asking are, How much time together do you need? How much does he need? How many nights out per week is reasonable? As you talk this through, remember that he does need time with his buddies. I know Dave does. He still plays ball and hockey regularly in season. Frankly, it helps him let off steam. The goal is not to eliminate these outside activities, but to come to an agreement on what’s reasonable.

Dave: As you said, you don’t want to come across as trying to control him. A good way to approach it is to start by understanding where he’s coming from, rather than just unloading your own feelings right off the bat. Ask questions that will help you grasp what’s going on in his world. Find out how he thinks your marriage going, not just in this area, but also in your communication, conflict resolution, finances and sexual relationship. Ask him what he needs more of from you as his wife. And how does he feel about spending more time with you?

Donalyn: And ask him specifically for his perspective on the amount of time he’s devoting to his friends. Give him the chance to explain why he feels the need to spend so much time with them. Is he having more fun with them? Is he avoiding you because there are issues between you that need to be addressed? Has your relationship gotten boring? The answer may be painful to hear, but it’s the first step to turning things around.

Dave: Once you get his take on it, share how you are feeling. Give him your heart. Don’t put him on the defensive by challenging him, but gently make him aware of your loneliness and your desire to spend more time with him. Explain that you feel like he is pulling away from you, but you really want to draw closer to him. Share that you are feeling less and less of a priority.

Donalyn: I know that when Dave and I haven’t spent time together for awhile and it feels like everything else is a priority over me, I tell him that I miss him and I miss us. You don’t have to be a nag, but you do have to find a sensitive and creative way to let him know that you are lonely.

Dave: When Donalyn started talking this way, it changed how we resolved things. When she would blame me for being too busy with my sports and that we weren’t getting enough time together, frankly, I would just get defensive. But when she says, “I miss US”, I melt and want to try to accommodate her. I don’t feel blamed.

Donalyn: And by doing that, I get more of Dave and a much happier Dave in the mean time.

Dave: You might also consider getting guidance from a trusted older woman who can guide you in your perceptions. Explain the situation and ask for her perspective. Are your expectations fair, or are they unreasonable? If your husband is open to it, you might even want to sit down with another couple you both respect to get their input. If you do this, make sure you choose a couple where your husband looks up to the other man and will really listen to what he says.

Donalyn: Once you and your husband get on the same page about your expectations, you can begin to implement some practical solutions. Perhaps instead of always getting together with just the guys, they could sometimes include their wives and girlfriends in the fun. You can spend time together as couples or as a larger inclusive group. That allows you to be together while he is still enjoying his friendships. Invite his friends over to your place. As the saying goes, “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.”

Dave: Another important step is to plan some meaningful times alone with your spouse. Too often we get caught up in the busyness of the daily routine, and we neglect to have special times as a couple. When you do have time together, is it a good time? Do you actually get away alone and have some fun together? There’s no substitute for it.

Donalyn: That’s right. Institute a regular date night and plan out what you are going to do. Dave and I alternate planning dates. The week that I plan, Dave’s responsibility is to be a “happy camper” and have a great time no matter what I plan. When he plans the night, I get to play along with it. We got this idea out of the book Intimacy by Doug Weiss. Not only does it give us something to look forward to, but also it keeps us in touch weekly doing something together (We’ll share more on Happy Camping in another article).

Dave: At times, when you are just not connecting and he feels you are expecting too much, you may want to pray and ask God for answers you need and for the right attitude as you work through this. Ask Him to help you to continue to love your husband in the meantime. Don’t brood and grow bitter: remember that your relationship is more important than any single issue. Finally, work to making the times you do have together the very best part of his week, so you can count on him coming back.

© Dr. Dave & Donalyn Currie, June 2010