"He's Out of Work -- and I'm Out of Patience"

Will hostility, a lack of communication, and career failure tear Marcy and Howard's marriage apart? Can this marriage be saved?


Her Turn

My Husband is Indifferent Towards Me

“My husband never listens to me,” said Marcy, 42, a marketing director and mother of two. “Howard hears the little things, like if I ask him to turn down the TV, but when it comes to major issues he tunes me out. His indifference is why we are constantly at odds. I’m angry that he doesn’t meet my emotional needs; he insists that my expectations are unrealistic.

“Howard’s parents and older sister have always ignored me. Believe it or not, in the 20-odd years I’ve known them, none of them has ever asked me a direct question about myself. Yet whenever I complain to Howard, he says I’m too sensitive.

“But my biggest disappointment is with Howard’s mismanagement of the three jewelry stores he owned. They began to fail two years ago, partly because of the weak economy, partly because of his own mistakes. It was clear then that the businesses were doomed, and I begged Howard to cut our financial losses. But he was convinced that things would turn around, and when they didn’t, he became distant and argumentative. I was so frustrated by his stubbornness and terrified that we’d lose our life’s savings. I didn’t earn much as a part-time marketing consultant, so I began looking for a full-time job. Luckily, I was hired by my main client, a computer software company.

“Howard has been unemployed for two months now. He mopes around the house, channel surfing and ‘polishing’ his resume. He seems oblivious to our expenses and debt, as well as to the fact that our daughter’s bat mitzvah, which will cost a fortune, is just nine months away. Sadly, our problems have affected the kids: Ellen has sleeping problems and is worried we’ll cancel her bat mitzvah; Steven avoids us by sulking in his room.

Their Background

“I’m the youngest of three kids from a troubled family. Dad was a dentist, Mom a school nurse. They divorced when I was 12 — Mom got sick of Dad’s drinking and womanizing — leaving Mom to raise us alone. Money was tight, and her stress was so high that she either screamed at us or ignored us. I was estranged from Dad for 20 years, but he resurfaced after I had children; now we see each other at family events.  

“Howard and I met at a college party. I was 19; he was 21. There were instant sparks — we discussed books, politics, movies — and I loved his shy smile and hazel eyes. Our personalities were different, but complementary: I’m outgoing, emotional, and blunt; he is reserved and laid-back. Both of us looked forward to pursuing challenging careers, living in the suburbs, and raising a family.

“We dated for five years while we each got an MBA. After our wedding, we moved to New York City, where I took a marketing job at an investment bank and Howard worked as a financial analyst. We played tennis, traveled, saw plays, and had great sex. Our life was conflict-free. Even now, when Howard is in a good mood, there’s no one I’d rather be with. He’s smart, funny, and a devoted father.



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