Dear Dr. Yael:
I am struggling in my marriage after just five years. I am, by nature, a very outgoing person. I love to go out with friends and have people over for Shabbos meals. My husband, on the other hand, is quieter and would rather be home and stick to our routine. This causes a great deal of friction; between work and the kids, I do not have much of a social life and always want to invite people over or go out with other couples.
My husband likes to be alone and resents the fact that I want a fuller social life. I begrudge his not understanding my need to go out or have friends over. This has led to neither of us appreciating the other’s wants. When we were dating I knew that my husband was not as social as me, but I figured that opposites attract. I also didn’t want to be with someone who would always be running out of the house to be with his friends. I am happy that my husband wants to be home with me, but I wish that he would also enjoy going out – as a couple. I know I can’t force him to enjoy going out, but it bothers me when he doesn’t have a good time when I am able to convince him that we should share an evening out.
How can we solve this problem?
A Frustrated Social Butterfly
Dear Frustrated Social Butterfly:
Marriage is very challenging when spouses have different needs, but it is a positive sign that you are able to appreciate that your husband enjoys being a homebody. Since you cannot force your husband to have a good time going out with others, perhaps he would have more fun if the two of you go out alone and do something that is mutually enjoyable. It’s possible that your husband does not feel as comfortable as you in social situations and would feel less pressured and thus happier if it was just the two of you.
Here are some suggestions: consider asking your husband whether he and your friends’ husbands would be comfortable babysitting the children when you go out with your friends.
Another way to be more sociable is by inviting friends to join you for Shalosh Seudos or to you go visit a friend on Friday night after lighting the Shabbos candles. You should also ask your husband to meet you half way by sometimes having company over for meals.
If he agrees to any of these ideas, you will have more of the social life you desire.
It is important to understand that while your husband is your partner (and hopefully your best friend) he need not fulfill all of your needs. Instead, you can have some of them filled by friends (as I’ve described) in ways that will both meet your wishes and not make your husband unhappy.
As I said earlier, it can be difficult when each spouse has different wants. However, even you married someone with the same wants and needs, other issues would surface because no two people are exactly the same.
Hashem creates a match between two people in order for them to help each other grow and become better individuals. Perhaps you and your husband can learn from each other and try to make compromises, so that you both feel fulfilled and understood. Additionally, it might be a good idea for you to talk to your husband about his reason for not liking to go out or having company over. This might give you some insight into what makes him uncomfortable. And inquire as to whether he has a chavrusah or close friend that he would enjoy socializing with.
Use “I feel” messages when you speak with him so he does not feel defensive. While doing this, it is important that you approach him in a calm and gentle manner. Otherwise the conversation may lead to an argument.
It is essential that you and your husband understand that just because you have differences on the issue of socializing with others, doesn’t mean that you do not care about the other’s desires. And if you and your husband are expressing an “I don’t care” message, you need to strengthen your communication methods.
When you want to go out or have company, you can say something like this to your husband: “I know that it is hard for you when we have people over, but it would really mean a lot to me if we can have company this week.” Or “I know that you do not enjoy going out, but I had a very stressful week and it would make me so happy if we go out this Motzaei Shabbos.” This will help make your husband feel understood and, at the same time, appreciative for your efforts at showing sensitivity toward him. Also, he will likely feel less resentful toward you.
While employing this strategy, ask your husband to act and speak in a reciprocal manner toward you. It is only fair that you feel understood and appreciated as well. Hatzlachah!
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