Dear Emuna,

I find myself easily annoyed by my husband’s little idiosyncrasies. It's not that I learned drastic new things about him after we got married – I think we were well aware of our differences and habits while we dated. But now for some reason these little things are driving me crazy.

We've only been married 6 months. I love him and he is so good to me, but all the things I accepted about him while we were dating, for example, him being a computer geek or his quirky humor, are now bothering me. How do I see past those things that I was so easily able to get past while we were dating?

I was a very open minded dater and knew how to throw away all the unrealistic traits most girls have on their checklist, (like he has to be cool, fit, rich, etc). And I found someone who has all the important things a husband should have and we get along really well. He is an amazing person and I know this is 100 percent my problem. Why do I care about the little things all of a sudden?

Working on My Marriage

Dear Working on My Marriage,

Well I think you need to keep working! While I can’t give you the exact answer to your question (how could I really know why this bothers you now?), I do have a theory. It’s actually based on an experience I recently had with a friend who is going through a similar struggle. Only she has been married over 30 years! And all of the sudden, her husband’s idiosyncrasies are bothering her, including his quirky humor, but also some of his physical mannerisms and, in her case, his hair loss and a few other age-related manifestations.

In both your case and hers, I would suggest that the problem lies not with your husbands but with you. I know that you acknowledge it’s your problem but I think I’m using the phrase slightly differently. I’m guessing that, like many of us, you assumed that marriage would automatically make you happy, that once you found “someone who has all the important things a husband should have” and with whom you “get along really well”, everything else would just fall into place and life would be one long honeymoon. Reality is like a splash of cold water, or maybe like a whole bucketful!

First of all, you are newly married and “everyone” (whoever they are) says that the first year is rough. “Everyone” is right. With all the good will and good character in the world, you are still merging two individuals with individual experiences, individual expectations, individual personalities and individual genders. This is a monumental task. It’s going to be difficult, probably harder than expected. You’re going to feel frustrated and disappointed.

It’s not because of who he is; it’s because you thought it would be easier. Each aspect of those differences could be a whole essay. And, in addition, as I mentioned earlier, we frequently assume that the very act of getting married is some magical key into that really destructive line from fairy tales – living “happily ever after”. But no one else can make us happy, not even marriage or our husbands, and certainly not our children!

When our expectations are unmet, rather than turning inward and doing the work required, our instinct is to look outward for someone or something to blame. Your new husband is a convenient scapegoat. In my friend’s case, her “old” husband plays the same role. She is struggling with the classic mid-life crisis. Her children are leaving home, she has been a stay-at-home mom, she herself is aging, and she doesn’t know what she wants to do with the rest of her life. She is unhappy and confused and a little sluggish physically.

She can take charge and start exercising, getting involved in volunteer work, picking something meaningful to do outside the home (even if it’s not perfect) and filling her days with important and rewarding activities. Or she can sit home, muddle through her days (with the odd game of mah jong thrown in) and focus on her husband’s lacks. She can pick herself up and get going and she can sink into depression and blame him.

That’s really the choice that both of you have. Even though you are at different phases of your lives and your marriages, the dilemma is really the same. And it’s been a struggle for many women. Some women in these situations make really bad choices. Starting with the mistaken assumption that all their dissatisfaction is their husband’s fault, they blow up their marriages to go find themselves on a farm in Montana or an ashram in Nepal.

Other women, hopefully you and my friend, make wiser choices. They recognize that it’s their problem. It’s their issue. It’s their struggle. They take the focus off their husband and shine the light back where it belongs – on them. And then they do the work required to achieve pleasure and satisfaction in their lives and their marriages, work that has everything to do with the choices they make and almost nothing to do with the ones their husbands make.

Stop looking at your husband’s “little things” and start looking for ways to make your own daily life a source of meaning and joy.

When we are busy with meaningful activities, we have no time to notice our husband’s little tics. When we aren’t busy, every little move can be an irritation. When our lives are fulfilling, our relationships only enhance that and we enhance our relationships. When our lives are not fulfilling, then our relationships become yet another source of annoyance and blame.

So stop looking at your husband’s “little things” and start looking for ways to make your own daily life a source of meaning and joy. That’s my advice to my friend also; I hope you will listen better than she does!

One last point – and an opportunity to learn from my friend’s mistakes. If you haven’t already, don’t tell your husband about your struggles. It will only make him insecure and possibly defensive. It will damage the trust and good will. Since this is your issue, don’t hurt him by sharing your frustrations especially since they are in areas he can’t change.

Yes, this is a tall order. It means the work is all yours. But I assure you that the effort will be worth it. As always, ask the Almighty for His help. Don’t discount the power and the comfort of prayer. Ask for the strength and the wisdom and the clarity to carry out this project without damage to your husband or your marriage. With sincere effort and sincere thoughtfulness and sincere prayer, you can’t help but succeed.