Was your wife someone different before you got married? Has she changed for the worse over time?

It’s much more likely that you saw her through rose-coloured glasses while you were dating, and now the glasses are off.

Did I make a mistake?

Before the wedding, differences tend to seem intriguing, interesting and attractive. A few months or years into the marriage, however, what seemed so inviting in the semi-fantasy world of dating now seems considerably less than idyllic.

That beautiful angel you married turns out to be a real woman. She has flaws that weren’t previously apparent. She may handle things in ways that you find inefficient, and isn’t interested in your suggestions about how to do them differently – even though, from your viewpoint, your ways are obviously superior.

You discover to your shock that she has the capacity to express a range of emotions not plumbed in your dating days. You hadn’t felt that hot edge of her temper nor the cold, steely glare she now feels free to display.

Perhaps your wife has expectations you never guessed were there. You assumed hers would match yours – and they don’t.

How do these "mistakes" occur?

The illusion of perfection

Barbie and Carl were so in love. They wanted to be with each other constantly. Unable to endure the thought of a long, drawn-out courtship, they married within three months of their first meeting.

Barbie was a life-of-the-party sort of girl – a social butterfly. A former high school cheerleader, she was bubbly and happy-go-lucky.

Carl was an A student in college. He had serious career plans in accounting and business. He liked books and challenging discussions about theology and politics. Not having dated many girls, he was in a daze when Barbie was willing to go out with him.

Barbie saw Carl as a responsible, mature man who’d provide stability and security in her life. Carl saw Barbie as the perfect compliment to his otherwise rather pedestrian life.

They quickly decided they were perfect for each other. Surely they’d have no problems that couldn’t easily be resolved.

The reality of disappointment

Two years into their marriage, though, there was a deep rift in their relationship. Carl was coming home from the office just wanting to read a book or have some quiet space. He didn’t want to talk to Barbie about her day or her shopping plans for the next. At bedtime, he didn’t feel very amorous.

Barbie seemed frustrated and angry when Carl had no interest in dinner parties or going out dancing with her old friends. Going to church on Sunday mornings was more than enough social life for him.

Carl was angry and frustrated, too. Barbie was chronically late and seemed not to care how annoying this was to him. She was running up bills on the credit card and was irresponsible about paying them. She visited the hair salon frequently, apparently wanting to look very sexy when going out. In his view, she was a terrible housekeeper, leaving the place in a mess most of the time.

What had gone so terribly wrong with this relationship? Had Barbie really changed?

When opposites don’t attract

Carl and Barbie were opposites – and always had been. "Opposites attract" may be a common phenomenon but it doesn’t necessarily lead to a strong marriage.

Far too often what seemed irresistible in the swirl of hormones and emotional highs during a fast courtship turns out to be irritating in the 24/7, "up close and personal" daily life of husband and wife.

The mature and responsible guy seems to become a stiff, nit-picking perfectionist, boring and sexually uninteresting. The girl who appeared to be such a wonderful, bouncy, free spirit now looks like an irresponsible, immature twit with no depth at all.

The tools to move forward

Is that what’s happened with your wife? The truth is that she’s the same woman you fell so much in love with. But you have changed – stripped of your illusions about her. You’re disappointed.

So what should you do?

  • You might find it helpful to sit down and list the reasons why you chose this particular woman to be your wife. Think of all her attributes that you enjoy and value. Think of yourself as the author of the Song of Solomon, writing about your bride. Shift your focus from the negative and critical to the positive and appreciative. Then make a date to share these thoughts with her.
  • If this seems impossible, consider the very real possibility that your marriage is at a crossroads. Disappointment may be making you vulnerable to the attentions of others, who you might imagine would better meet your needs and expectations.
  • Or, you may just be resigning yourself to years of regret about your choice of a spouse, bitter that you’re obligated to stay in a marriage without any hope of realizing your dreams. If this describes you, it’s past time for you and your wife to seek marriage counselling. Find a Christian professional who won’t reinforce the lie that happiness lies just around the corner if only you escape from this mistake and move on to something new.

Your situation is not at all hopeless. But it does require a fresh perspective and some tools to employ in developing a more mature relationship.

While this article is written specifically for husbands facing this issue, this is a common experience for both husbands and wives. If you would like to speak to someone about this issue in your own marriage, we encourage you to call our counselling and care team at 1.800.661.9800. Our phone lines are open Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Excerpted from The Complete Guide to the First Five Years of Marriage, a Focus on the Family book published by Tyndale House Publishers. © 2006 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Used by permission. 

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