Was Our Marriage a Mistake: Pain of Adjustment

Was Our Marriage a Mistake: Pain of Adjustment
Dr. Phil speaks with newlyweds about their turbulent first year.
"The first year of marriage has been a roller coaster," says Johhna. "I've often thought I made a mistake." A few months after marrying Jeff, Johhna stopped working to take care of her son, and that's when the problems started. "He'd say little things like I'm lazy or I don't do anything," Johhna says. "I stay home with my son. He just doesn't understand how hard it is to take care of a child."

Johhna says Jeff makes her feel like less of a person. For example, on Mother's Day he gave her a gift of $200, but then took it away during a fight. "He told me I have nothing, like this house isn't mine, it's his." Johhna also says Jeff will make big purchases without consulting her.

"When we got married, everything changed," says Jeff, who works part time and goes to graduate school. He admits that he buys things without first discussing it with Johhna. "Sometimes I forget that there's two instead of just one," he says. "I do get irritated, I do get frustrated, and I do get grumpy. That's just my personality."

Jeff and Johhna have had sex twice in the last six months. "I have no desire to have sex with him," says Johhna. "I don't like the way he makes me feel," she says, asking Dr. Phil for help.

Dr. Phil looks at his notes and tells Jeff: "You say, 'Nothing is yours, you have nothing.' You spend money without asking. You say, 'I'm only here because of the child.' You've said that."

Jeff confirms, "Yes, sir."

"You said you've only had sex twice in the past six months? I don't know how you pulled that off," says Dr. Phil. "There's a pain of adjustment when you merge two lives together. It's give and take. But when you do it in such a way that is demeaning and humiliating to your partner, they don't feel real lovey-dovey."

Dr. Phil asks Jeff, "What do you predict if you continue — if this short list is twice as long the next time I see you — where do you think this will be a year from now?"

"Separated or divorced," says Jeff.

Dr. Phil asks Johhna what she wants. "I want him to have respect for me, and consult me in decisions he makes. I want to be a wife. I want to be there for him," replies Johhna.

"But you think the wheels came off when you quit working?" asks Dr. Phil.

Johhna does, but Jeff explains his side: "What if something happens to me? What is she going to fall back on if something happens to me? I worry about that every day," he says.

Dr. Phil asks Johhna, "What would you do if something happened to him? I guess you'd get a job, right?"

"You're going at this the wrong way," says Dr. Phil. "Relationships are negotiated. You guys need to sit down and negotiate. If you have a problem with her values or what she's doing, you need to say so and talk about those, but you don't handle that by insulting her character. And I have a question for you. How much fun do you think you are to live with?" he asks.

"Probably not that much fun," admits Jeff.

"Don't you all want to have fun and share some goals and some dreams and some things which you can both buy into?" asks Dr. Phil. "Marriage is a partnership. It's not an employer/employee relationship. You've got to figure out how you can do something to change that, and that means re-negotiate your deal for what you need in terms of respect and dignity, and what you need in terms of her active contribution to the partnership."

Jeff and Johhna both agree to give it a try.