You used to put water on my bedside table every night...
April 19, 2010 7:33 AM   Subscribe

My husband used to be so nice and considerate with me, why is he suddenly so mean?

I'm in my early thirties and had a somewhat whirlwind romance (by today's standards) with my husband 7 years ago - 8 months of dating, then a proposal, and then a wedding another 8 months later. When we dated, he was a bastion of consideration - lots of little presents, always planning cute dates, always extending sweet and thoughtful gestures, listening to my hopes and dreams. I walked down the aisle thinking 'I am so excited to marry this man because I will never ever find someone this lovely or thoughtful, who will ever treat me so well.' (It wasn't the only reason I married him obviously, but I emphasize this as a huge reason why I felt secure in my decision to marry him.)

Fast-forward 7 years later. He doesn't plan any dates anymore. Gone are the flowers and sweet little presents. He doesn't take care of me when I am sick by offering to make tea or making sure I have soup. He doesn't even put a glass of water on my bedside table at night. He says things to me that are sarcastic and even kind of mean when I point out how these things are bothering me. He somehow manages to twist the knife with words at moments when I am most vulnerable, and revealing my feelings about things.

So I guess my question is, what happened? Where did the man I married go? Has anyone been through this experience? How did you cope?

Because I really need to learn how to stand on my own two feet about this, and figure out how to ask him to change in a way that elicits results. Or conversely, I need strategies on how to move past his new found lack of consideration, and not let it crush my personal sense of self-worth.
posted by jennyhead to Human Relations (42 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Not enough here for me (or anyone I imagine) to judge, but out of curiosity, how are you two getting along sexually? Often, men get mean when sex a problem and they are unable to express what they feel.
posted by Postroad at 7:37 AM on April 19, 2010

Response by poster: Sex is fine, strangely. You would expect it to be bad in this situation but it really isn't. His behaviour has been going on for approximately 4 months also - sorry, failed to clarify that in the question.
posted by jennyhead at 7:39 AM on April 19, 2010

Hope you don't mind, but I looked at your previous questions. You had said that he works during the day and that you were taking night classes. So I gather that you were spending less time together. Do you think his behavior coincides with that in any way?
posted by DeltaForce at 7:42 AM on April 19, 2010

Best answer: There is a natural life cycle to a relationship, and it should not come as a surprise to you that the gallantries that come with an exciting new romance fade. I'm sure there are things he could point to that you no longer do that you once did at the start of your relationship, as well.

But it seems you are not just talking about the end of limerance, but also an active antagonism on the part of your husband. I'm sorry to hear that. I think you should try to convey your feelings to him in a non-judgmental way, and, if he is unable or unwilling to change, you should explore marriage counseling. Others may have different views on this, but John Gottman has made a career of studying marriages; many marriage counselors have been trained in his analysis techniques at his Gottman Institute.

If you're more of a book person, Harville Hendrix's couples' workbook is quite good.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 7:44 AM on April 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

Is this a new thing, or did his sweetness end right after you were married? If it's new, I'd think that some sort of stress is going on that's making him contrary and he just doesn't realize it's hurting you so much. If it's not new, he sounds like my dad. Sweet as could be until the day after the wedding. My mom said if she knew the "real" him, she wouldn't have married him at all.
posted by cooker girl at 7:45 AM on April 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Everybody goes through rough patches occasionally. Your husband's behavior may or may not have anything to do with you. Have you talked to him directly about this? A bunch of friendly strangers on the internet can't really help you here, you need to talk to him. Calmly, non-confrontationally, without accusation or tears, just to find out what's changed in his life and if there's anything you can do to help.
posted by Quietgal at 7:46 AM on April 19, 2010

Response by poster: The work day/ night school thing might seem to logically coincide, but the first several years we were married I had a job where I worked nights and this kind of behaviour was not a problem then.
posted by jennyhead at 7:46 AM on April 19, 2010

This "taking care of" thing - was it mutual? Did you give him sweet little presents and take care of him when he was sick too? Could it be that after seven years of marriage, he was feeling like a parent and not an equal in a marriage?

I hate to sound so critical, especially since my husband "takes care of me" too, but at the end of the day it balances out that we both put the other person before ourselves.
posted by librarianamy at 7:47 AM on April 19, 2010 [5 favorites]

You only mention things he does (or doesn't do) for you. You don't mention anything you do for him. Do you do all the things you used to do?
posted by Jaltcoh at 7:47 AM on April 19, 2010 [7 favorites]

Best answer: It sounds like a lot of things could be happening. "No more little presents" sounds like a pretty typical description of what happens when relationships get a little older...but being sarcastic and mean when you ask for some consideration is not typical, and not acceptable.

You don't provide a whole lot of background, but is this part of a larger personality shift? Is he mean to others? Could he be suffering from depression or an addiction of some kind?

Regardless of whether he can or will change, or whatever is the cause of it, you need to realize it's not about you. No one deserves meanness from their partner.

I would 1) get yourself a support system such as a therapist, support group, church group, friends, or whatever works for you and makes you feel strong and whole. Touch base with them often.

2) Investigate couples counseling, though I would suggest going cautiously with this and speak to a counselor individually first. You don't describe it as such, but some kinds of verbal cruelty can be called abuse, and couple counseling can make things worse in that kind of situation.

It's hard to know what the reason and outcome here could be, but getting yourself the support you need while gathering information seems to be the best step.
posted by pantarei70 at 7:52 AM on April 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I've been talking to him about the changes I'm noticing over the past four months as things have come up. I try to do it calmly, and use lots of 'I' statements. He'll get upset I feel this way, sometimes acknowledge that I am justified in my feelings (but not always). When I try to talk to him about how he treats me differently now, he will not make eye contact me and often physically turns his back away. I ask him a lot if there's anything bothering him about me, or work, or other things in his life but he just says 'I don't know' and won't go further with the conversations. It's very odd.
posted by jennyhead at 7:52 AM on April 19, 2010

I ask him a lot if there's anything bothering him about me, or work, or other things in his life but he just says 'I don't know' and won't go further with the conversations. It's very odd.

Have you asked him if he's having an affair?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:55 AM on April 19, 2010 [10 favorites]

Response by poster: I would like to think that I do all of the little things that I used to do - send him cute emails, make dinner for him a lot, clean the parts of the house that he doesn't like to clean, plan fun dates for us and vacations, get him little presents and things that make me think of him as I go along in my day to day life.

I don't know whether he felt/feels like a parent in our marriage and is tiring of it, but I will ask him about this.
posted by jennyhead at 7:56 AM on April 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I have asked him if he's having affair. He said no but I worry because I don't know how else to explain his behaviour.
posted by jennyhead at 7:56 AM on April 19, 2010

Best answer: You mentioned asking him if something about [subject] was bothering you. He said no. You're running out of subjects to put in the blank.

Have you tried directly asking him what is bothering him? And if he says 'nothing', then reiterate that 'nothing' means that there's not even a reason (never mind excuse) for him to be treating you so poorly.

And turning his back away mid-discussion? That's pretty poor behaviour, right there. Call him out on it.
posted by Hakaisha at 8:07 AM on April 19, 2010 [4 favorites]

Have you sat down to talk to him about this? My husband and I have had conversations about things like this in the past, where one or both of us were taking each other for granted as we got into the routine of living. And I don't know about your husband, but sometimes mine has a hard time talking about things that are bothering him. Sometimes they're small things that he doesn't mention that just keep building up until he's really aggravated.

Regardless, it sounds like you two need to have a heart to heart talk and then be willing to make changes and adjustments in how you treat each other. Asking him if he's cheating on you before you had a conversation about why his attitude towards you has changed (if that is what happened) probably made it worse because it strongly implies you don't trust him. The goal here is to increase the emotional intimacy between you two, so spending more time together doing things you both enjoy is important too.

Good luck!
posted by Kimberly at 8:09 AM on April 19, 2010

Best answer: He needs a come to Jesus meeting. Something is clearly bothering him and he's not keeping you in the loop. It's one thing if he doesn't know and keeps talking as he tries to figure it out, but he's NOT talking, which probably means he knows exactly what it is.

Something is bothering him and he's allowing it to make him into an asshole and and hurt you. You deserve better and you have every right to demand better from your spouse.

I'd suggest going away for a few days, staying at friends. Tell him that you're going of course, that you're giving him time to think about what's bothering him, so that that two you can then face it. Emphasize that you're there for him, on his side, and want to help, but dammit, you're not a punching bag and you don't deserve to be treated in shitty manner by someone who supposedly loves you.

He's had his chance to come clean, to talk to you. Now you're taking the reigns, looking out for yourself because clearly he's not interested in doing so. Tell you expect some sort of explanation of his behavior and change in it when you get back. Remind him that you love him, then go and come back ready to work with him if you can or consider the thought of ending the marriage.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:10 AM on April 19, 2010 [23 favorites]

Best answer: I feel a little uncomfortable giving people I don't know personal advice, but I can maybe speak to this from my own point of view - that of being a husband that was guilty of acting in the same apparently inconsiderate way that your SO is now.

It might be just a case of him getting complacent in your relationship and feeling that as time goes by and you become an "old married couple" that it isn't necessary for him to act like someone that is dating or wooing a new love for the first time. The first blush of marriage does sometimes wear off after a while and maybe those little things that never bothered him at first now get under his skin. I was guilty of the same thing and for no reason at all started to act mean, unfeeling and quite unloving towards my wife after 7 or 8 years of married life. I'm still not sure why it happened, maybe it was the realization that this was how my life was going to be forever (we married in our 30's also), and I resented that it would never change.

A little self-analysis and a little counseling made me realize that it wasn't a case of "Crap, this is as good as its ever going to be and I hate it" but was actually "Hell this is great and I want it to be like this forever" . Once I figured that out I stopped being a butt-head and (hopefully) returned to being closer to the guy that she married.

Do I put water by the side of her bed every night or rub her feet while she's watching Dancing with the Stars? No, but I think I am now a considerate, loving and good husband (again). Maybe he needs the same kind of kick in the pants that it took to make me understand that what I had was a good thing. For you two that kick might be counseling, but I have no way of knowing that. I just wanted to let you know what may be going on on with him.

It seems that confession is good for the soul after all.
posted by 543DoublePlay at 8:15 AM on April 19, 2010 [7 favorites]

This is a great thread. You might want to print it out for him.
posted by caddis at 8:25 AM on April 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

...he will not make eye contact me and often physically turns his back away. I ask him a lot if there's anything bothering him about me, or work, or other things in his life but he just says 'I don't know' and won't go further with the conversations. It's very odd.
This is bad. It is not something you need to move past. In a way it's a cry for help, this behavior, as annoying as I find it when people say that about things like this.

I say this as someone who has exhibited behavior like this myself, from time to time -- without an affair or a deep relationship dissatisfaction being involved. For me the culprit has usually been work/money stress in one form or another: and the "are you having an affair? are you sick of me?" questions are so awful to hear when you're so stressed out about not meeting other commitments. "First I fail to {finish big project/please boss/get raise/pay mortgage} and now she says my marriage is falling apart? There's no way I can tell her XYZ." But whatever XYZ is, he might not want to face it himself and that'd be another reason why he doesn't know.

History/family history of depression? Big changes/problems? New stresses?

There's a problem here. The little things are a symptom. But in the face of a "little things" complaint, the kind of evasiveness that turns its back on you is just going to say "You're making a big deal out of a glass of water on your bedside? Fine, I'll get you water if you'll shut up." Maybe he feels you're not pulling your weight in some way, that you're sick too much, that your soup isn't cute anymore. But that could mean that, underneath that, he feels freaked out about the total amount of weight he feels he has to pull in all parts of his life, and that nothing's cute anymore.

I wish I could give you some advice on how to break past it without it being a huge annoying nagfest. Usually when my wife gets me out if it, it's by way of a huge fight. There's something he doesn't want to face, so it'll be hella hard for you to get him to talk about it if he won't even talk to himself about it.

Could be big, could be something small-in-the-scheme-of-things that he's too stressed/afraid to ask for help about.
posted by xueexueg at 8:39 AM on April 19, 2010 [12 favorites]

Best answer: Last week, I had a small problem with the new person I'm seeing. He picked up on my unhappy tone and asked me verbally a bunch of times what was wrong, what I wanted, etc. I knew I was unhappy but I couldn't seem to articulate why (we were on the phone; I suspect from past experiences it would have been the same thing in person). Later that afternoon we were both online at the same time and I found myself able to be totally clear and candid over gchat- I managed to clarify and explain exactly what was wrong and what I needed in order to fix it. I was really surprised by this; I consider myself to be quite self-aware, unafraid of face-to-face conflict, and a good verbal communicator. Nevertheless, in that case (and past situations), I realize that my voice didn't know the problem; my hands apparently did. I wasn't sure myself exactly what was wrong until I typed it out. What I'm suggesting is the possibility that face-to-face discussions may be making it hard for your guy to identify the problem (especially if he's a bit introverted). You might want to investigate whether a written format (or some other medium) might be helpful to your communication.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 8:41 AM on April 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

xueexueg and pseudostrabismus make excellent points. Many people, when they are feeling stressed by something, feel very exposed and closed off. It almost literally hurts to say out loud what they are stressed about. The only way to break through is for them to "give up" or "release" that block. Adding to the stress will not help that.

So, it depends on the individuals and the relationship. If I'm feeling that way and someone gives me an ultimatum, I am going to react defensively. On the other hand, if they say that they know something is wrong, and that they are ready to help, and then drop it, chances are that reduces the stress for me and in short order I can open up and figure out how to say what's on my mind. The key, however, is that I have to believe they mean it.
posted by gjc at 8:57 AM on April 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I have terrible wiring in my brain where I don't do a very good job of managing small stressors -- the little things that don't even seem worth the bother of engaging in a minor argument about, versus the relative ease of just "putting up with it". The "why am I always the one that takes out the recycling?" kind of things -- rather than be an adult and sit down with my wife and map out who is responsible for what, and whether it's fair, and why, I'll just take out the recycling and chafe a little inside about it.

Then, over time, I will accumulate a few dozen of these niggles, and the collective tiny voices of discontent will over time become a small chorus, but rather than deal with them (because they are so diverse and disconnected, ranging from "why am I the only one to take out the recycling" to "I wish she would put the cheese back in order of height" to other incredibly minor and irrational things) I just kind of become more jerky. This is compounded if I'm having a stressful time at work or feel overwhelmed by projects around the house or something -- my stiff-upper-lip carry-on mentality prevents me from dealing with minor irritations promptly and sanely.

With the invevitable result that I become grouchy, and withdrawn, and then flip the fuck out and stomp around the house wtih my boots on shouting at the cat.

Then I calm down and talk about what's bothering me. Which is often, at its base, very very little.

But there's always (I'm working on this, and I recognize the cycle, which makes it easier to deal with) an interval period where I'm basically being a big grouchy baby and any attempt to ask me what's wrong is met with "nothin' I guess" because I haven't processed what's wrong to the point that I'm capable of articulating it, or still don't think that what's bothering me is worth getting into.

This is obviously not a direct solution to the question, but a data point that I think I'm a decent guy, a good husband, and a relatively kind person, but one whose internal life can spool out in directions I don't realize it's going in, and sometimes it takes a good shove to get me to realize that I'm being a jackass. Recognizing this makes it a lot easier to give me the corrective shove, and for me to receive it, but I still need to be realigned every once in a while.
posted by Shepherd at 9:01 AM on April 19, 2010 [13 favorites]

Perhaps he thinks you have changed too. I wonder what his version of this thread would say.

Are you still doing all the little things you used to do?
posted by eas98 at 9:02 AM on April 19, 2010

I have behaved that way when I was depressed. And having it pointed out, or being asked what was wrong, was sort of awful because I didn't KNOW, I couldn't explain it, I just felt like an asshole and not sure how to not be that.

Which is not to say you shouldn't ask, but it might be that you just need to say, "hey, is it possible this is what's going on with you? If so, that's fine, you don't have to try to explain it, just let's try to figure out next steps." If it's situational (work, money, not sleeping well, allergies, whatever), it may just be something that has to be powered through rather than engaging in any kind of structured treatment, but maybe there's something you could be doing to help.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:06 AM on April 19, 2010

Best answer: I was that guy once.

Someone else mentioned the feeling of "it's going to be this way forever", which is pretty on-point. What happened with me is that lots of stuff went from "weather" to "climate". Here's what I mean:

- "weather": stuff that happens from time to time but doesn't materially reflect on the perceived "quality" of the relationship; it's entirely possible for a relationship to be "great" and for the wife to get sick for a week; the husband still thinks the relationship is great, it's just not the greatest week due to having to take care of his wife (more obligations | more stress | less fun).

- "climate": when something goes from "weather" to "climate" it gets factored into the quality of a relationship and is no longer seen as one-off, isolated incidents. EG: rather than "what misfortunate, my wife is sick this week and so I will take care of her" it becomes "oh great, here's one of the 'weeks my wife gets sick and I have to spend a ton of time taking care of her', I usually get 2-3 of these per year, grrrrrr".

The problem here is that say that the guy previously saw the relationship as balanced and "great"; in that case taking care of you for a week is no big deal. If "taking care of you" makes the jump from weather to climate, however, all of a sudden the guy sees the balance in the relationship as having shifted: if you picture a column of "good stuff about her" and "bad stuff about her" you've just gotten another entry in the "bad stuff about her" column, and if nothing else has changed then he's going to be less happy with the relationship than he was before he reclassified "being sick", b/c there's more "bad stuff" balanced against the same set of "good stuff".

This is completely unfair to you (and to women in general), as you're literally doing nothing differently than you were previously. It's also hard for a supportive guy to even articulate, b/c he knows just how jerky it sounds: "well, once I figured out that you were going to get sick so often I got a lot less happy, and so you ought to like do something extra to make up for that"....not a winning thing to say by any stretch of the imagination.

But, it happens. In my experience the weather->climate shift is triggered by external circumstances: getting older, death in the family, major career or financial shakeup (either good or bad), etc.; anything that'd prompt you to sit down and take serious stock of what you're doing with yourself can be the trigger here. Inevitably the relationship makes it into that taking-stock and the external circumstances are enough push some "weather" into "climate".

It can be extra unfair in that as part of the same re-evaluation stuff that used to be in the "good things" column gets removed, b/c his values have changed. Again this isn't about you, it's about him.

I certainly think it's possible for couples where the guy goes through this to work it out but it requires a lot of maturity on his part, which I didn't have. It's not really about you.

I had to wager a guess I'd suspect the likeliest candidate is the night school stuff being the trigger. A lot of supportive men will say "ok, go for it" when you ask if they'd support your doing X, even if they actually have some concerns or objections to it; the thinking is that since X is temporary they'll just tough it out, and it's a clearer, more-supportive message to say "ok, go for it" than "I guess it's ok if it's for a finite length of time, but I don't like A, B, and C aspects of it".

If he's gone from thinking the "away many nights" is "weather" to "climate" that'd be a big change in how he thought of your relationship.

Which brings to a general male dynamic at play here, which is that men tend to treat other people with the level of kindness + respect they feel that that specific other person will exhibit to them; eg, if a man thinks the other person has a habit of being a jerk, the man will be more jerky towards that person, and if the man thinks the other person is generally a swell dude, the man will try to be swell-er than usual to the other person. Usually there's an initial level of "charity" extended to strangers and so on, in that the man will act nice until he's sussed out how this stranger treats him.

This is a reasonable strategy in the world outside of marriage and other long-term intimate relationships. In the context of a marriage it works pretty poorly. The man can get locked into the following loop:

- the man goes around feeling disrespected or treated poorly; starts acting like a jerk

- the woman sees he's acting jerky, and initially may step up her efforts a bit to pacify him

- the man sees the stepped-up efforts and starts acting nice(r)

- the woman steps-down her efforts (to their "normal" level), b/c it seems like whatever has caused the jerkiness has blown over

- the man now feels he has to act like a jerk again, b/c as soon as he relents on the jerkiness the woman goes back to her previous, unsatisfactory ways

...and over enough time the level of jerkiness has to keep increasing, b/c the woman gets acclimated to a particular level of jerkiness as being the new normal.

So if he's just "promoted" your night activities to "climate", in his eyes a direct result of that is that the quality of the relationship in his eyes took a huge nosedive, and you're not doing anything different to compensate. This makes him feel mistreated, and then the downward spiral of jerkiness begins.

Again none of this is intended as criticism for you, as nothing you've written here indicates you deserve any. I'm only hoping to elucidate some of the mental processes that may be at play.
posted by hoople at 9:31 AM on April 19, 2010 [15 favorites]

If I was feeling depressed (note: I don't know why your husband is behaving this way, whether this is the reason) and my SO asked me if I was having an affair, it might upset me quite a bit. It's a reasonable question for you to ask, of course, but he may have picked up on how hurt you are and become more withdrawn. I think you need to discuss things properly as it may be something that's nothing to do with you - work stress, health, financial worries.

Which brings to a general male dynamic at play here, which is that men tend to treat other people with the level of kindness + respect they feel that that specific other person will exhibit to them; eg, if a man thinks the other person has a habit of being a jerk, the man will be more jerky towards that person, and if the man thinks the other person is generally a swell dude, the man will try to be swell-er than usual to the other person.

I think it's of limited use to say that there is a prescribed way that men behave and therefore if he is a man then X Y and Z may apply. Yes, men are socialised in a particular way in the West, and this might be a factor if the husband is suffering from depression or anything that's seen as taboo for men to talk about, but not all men conform to the accepted idea of Who Men Are. I'm not married, but I have a partner, and he's as much a human being as a man so analysing his behaviour by his gender seems somewhat reductive.
posted by mippy at 9:49 AM on April 19, 2010

Best answer: I haven't read through the answers to see if this article from the New York times was linked, but it might help you gain a different perspective of the situation.
posted by ajr at 10:53 AM on April 19, 2010

Best answer: Short courtships always worry me, because people can pretend to be very different from their actual selves quite easily for shorter time periods -- over years, it's much harder to hide such things. But from your comments, I'd guess he's just "had enough."

It's not that you did anything specifically wrong, but there's a thing that sometimes happens to people who like to give a lot, but think they give a lot more than they get back: the little whisper in the back of their head telling them so gets louder and louder over time, and one day, they just snap: it's not worth it anymore! They suddenly become cold, distant, depressed, even angry... and it catches everyone around them unprepared, because it bubbled quietly inside their head over years.

If this is what is going on, the man you married is actually still there... but he's buried in a lot of bad feelings, because he thinks he's doing far more than his share (and has thought so for a very long time). Worse, you've basically "confirmed" that nagging voice by being primarily concerned about him not doing things for you anymore.* You are right to be concerned, because he's not snapping out of it until he thinks what he gets out of life/your relationship is worth that previous level of effort again. Key concept there: settling for him giving less in order to restore relationship balance is not likely to work if this is his issue, because what he really wants is to get enough out of life that it's worth all that he wants to give. This can be a pretty tall order.

* - not saying that's necessarily true, but the way you worded the question came off that way, so it's easy to believe he'd get that impression.
posted by Pufferish at 11:02 AM on April 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

He may be stressed about something he feels ashamed of regarding work or money (big shocker in this economy), and is embarrassed to tell you about and unable to handle on his own, so he's freaking out. That's my only guess, aside from the standard "routine complacency" thing (which doesn't seem as likely a culprit as normal here, since you went so many years fine here and it's only the past few months something's different). How to get him to open up about that is beyond me, but it really sounds like private, scared kind of stress. One thing that's sort of confusing to me though is that sex is fine but other physical closeness isn't. I don't really know what to make of that, but that doesn't sound like affair stuff to me. But I am just a stranger, so take this with a grain of salt.
posted by ifjuly at 11:09 AM on April 19, 2010

He says things to me that are sarcastic and even kind of mean when I point out how these things are bothering me. He somehow manages to twist the knife with words at moments when I am most vulnerable, and revealing my feelings about things.

Please share the kinds of things that he says - I feel it's important to help answer your question.
posted by iconomy at 11:31 AM on April 19, 2010

Forgetting about flowers and sweet little presents is one thing; meanness and physically turning his back on you when you try to discuss what's bothering him is another. Even if depression, stress or objections to something you're doing are causing that, it's still not okay. (And honestly, I'm a little concerned by all the general tone of 'maybe you're doing something that bothers him' in the comments here - how on earth are you supposed to fix something if he refuses to tell you what it is?) Stuff like this:

He somehow manages to twist the knife with words at moments when I am most vulnerable, and revealing my feelings about things.

Is not okay. That's cruel. And maybe there are external stresses causing him to act that way, but whatever they are, they're not a free pass for cruelty.

Depression and stress can turn people into selfish, bad-tempered brats sometimes. But you can offer and encourage support for the underlying issues, while still making it clear that the bratty behaviour needs to stop.
posted by Catseye at 11:39 AM on April 19, 2010

You really should ask him. We can speculate until the cows come home, but only he knows for sure (and even he might not know; he might even not realize he's doing it -- even the cruel stuff.)
posted by davejay at 12:03 PM on April 19, 2010

Oh, and:

He doesn't even put a glass of water on my bedside table at night.

Something about this statement really struck me, because putting a glass of water on someone's bedside table seems like something a parent does for a child or a server does for a customer, not something a partner does for a partner. I have to wonder: have you spent the majority of your relationship being "served" in this way, and not doing the same for him in return? When's the last time you brought him a glass of water for his bedside table?

I absolutely still think talking to him is the best place to begin, but I have to wonder: is there a chance he's just starting to realize you've been taking his kindness and caring for granted for the last seven years, and not returning it in kind? I can see how that might make him cranky. If you have been doing those kindness to him all this time, then you can ignore me here, but if not -- why don't you start doing those things for him that you miss him doing for you, and see what happens?
posted by davejay at 12:07 PM on April 19, 2010 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I dont' have an answer because everyone situation of influence/reason is different. For me, the marriage is on the rocks--magnitude 7 since baby came. BUT he does still occassionally do sweet things--and thus I stick it out.

You could do what I do--mail a card to him. Yes to your house. I used to do this and he appreciated it.

Then when he says something you can talk to him about it. I'm guessing difference in schedule and it's a normal ebb cycle for marriage.

Sorry you're going through it. Uncertainty in relationships suck.
posted by stormpooper at 12:31 PM on April 19, 2010

Best answer: The first thing you should think about is how his health is. Honestly, it could just be some change in his hormones. Don't assume it's you or your marriage or anything. He might be starting to feel depressed or in a rut. I wouldn't take it personally just yet until you've established that his health is okay. Has he had a physical recently?

If his health checks out great, then you can start to question other stuff. There's no need to start feeling terrible just yet.
posted by anniecat at 12:36 PM on April 19, 2010

And I will say I agree with Davejay. Our relationship has been one sided (him 'serving' me) for a very long time. He's fed up with it and now I live with a selfish, immature, uncaring husband. Not always, but the majority of time. Why? He got tired of my unaffectionate, unapologetic, anxious/depressed ass.

It's a give an take. If you can't communicate properly though, you wind up in a circle of crap. Will you guys be open to a therapist? Maybe get you back on communication track?

I wish mine would go. So far, 3 sessions were a beat up session about me. He quit.
posted by stormpooper at 12:36 PM on April 19, 2010

Best answer: I would wait another 2-6 months (if you can stand it) and see what happens. Many relationships end at around the 7 year mark, usually ended by the man I think - maybe this coincides with a midlife crisis or doubt in themselves or doubt in their future. If you can get through this then you might be okay. A holiday on his own somewhere he always wanted to go could be a good way of him getting it out of his system, or a shiny new impractical vehicle, or a new hobby.
posted by meepmeow at 12:53 PM on April 19, 2010

Best answer: I agree with Admiral Haddock that you'd do well to consult experts like Gottman and Harville Hendrix.

Two others that come to Mind are Michelle Weiner-Davis and Stephen Stosny. Stephen Stosny's material might shed light on his behavior, especially his book "How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It." He explains the problem with men and eye contact, especially when discussing "the relationship," and deals with the problems that come with accumulated resentment. Michelle Wiener-Davis has books that focus on what one partner can do when the other partner is unwilling or not ready to change.

And I would go in big, if you can get him to participate, for a class in PREP by Howard Markman and Scott Stanley. Almost all problems in marriage can be solved by being able to handle communication during conflict more skillfully. PREP teaches those skills.

Best of luck to you, and stick to it! Research shows that marriages that persist through difficult times, whether they last months or years, tend to come out stronger and happier in the end. You have what it takes -- Love and the desire to learn how to love better.
posted by cross_impact at 1:10 PM on April 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Arg. Have you asked him?
posted by craven_morhead at 1:21 PM on April 19, 2010

Well, after 7 years and he's not doing the "butter her up" things any more...hell, I'm surprised that lasted seven years. Or a year after the start of marriage. People get habituated to things, he doesn't have to "woo" you any more, and I kind of think that to some degree, that can't be kept up forever.

What worries me, though, is that he kind of sounds like he's treating you with contempt if he literally turns away and refuses to answer. And he's being mean to you? As Gottman would point out, that's a bad sign. I can't tell what's wrong with the guy (bad mood, affair, lost his job and won't tell you, who the hell knows), but some kind of "come to Jesus" confrontation and/or counseling has got to go on. That's heading down a nasty and slippery slope if he's acting like that.

I wouldn't worry about him not automatically providing you with a glass of water on the nightstand at this point. That's nothing compared to him being downright mean and stonewalling all of a sudden.
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:42 PM on April 19, 2010

Everyone already answered the question, but for what it's worth, here's a related song about someone's sadness at their partner's behavior changing over time: Pissed Off 2 AM by Alejandro Escovedo (a tight version that's different from what's on the album).
posted by salvia at 7:43 PM on April 19, 2010

« Older Help me with my new audio setup.   |   Where can I find an old, old record? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.