What's the line between having needs and being needy?
January 22, 2014 9:46 AM   Subscribe

I recently married the love of my life after dating for a year. He's a good man, really kind, wonderful to my kids and sweet to me. I don't want to screw it up but I'm also getting tired of being on my best behavior.

I was in an incredibly dysfunctional marriage for over 20 years. My ex-husband constantly made me feel like he didn't love me and that he was going to leave me if I didn't improve in some way - generally related to being "thoughtless" as he called it - putting things where he could trip over it, not cleaning well enough, saying the wrong thing, etc. The problem with the "thoughtless" trap is that in one sense he was completely right - I would think things were fine and the next thing I would know, he would be upset about something I never, ever anticipated would upset anyone. My head knows that the problem was his - my inner self remains on high alert, still, to make sure I'm not upsetting anyone or doing something that seems ok to me, but is causing offense to someone else.

My new husband is nothing like that. In fact, where my first husband was all about talking a lot about how he felt in the relationship (always bad) and what he thought about me (not much), this guy isn't much of a talker. Which can make me nervous because at least I always knew where I stood with my ex. However it seems pretty clear that not talking is just his style. And while I've told him some things about my first marriage, I've minimized the damage that it caused because I want a normal, grown-up relationship - not a relationship built on my damage and his attempts to heal me. So, for the most part, when my issues rise up again, I deal with them alone.

Today, for example, my pants are too tight. I put on some weight over the holidays and haven't lost it yet, which is frustrating. So, my too small pants are reminding me of my failures and I feel very fragile and down. I don't have these days very often anymore, but they still happen and in the past, I've just cried in my office or the bathroom and waited for the feelings to pass. But what I really want to do today is to tell my husband that I'm down and to ask him to do something small or nice for me to show me that he loves me and that he thinks I'm special. But - scary! What if he does think I'm too fat and it's turning him off? He's said before that he could never be attracted to someone who's grossly overweight. I'm not grossly overweight, I just weigh a little more than I'd like. But I don't know where the cut off for him is - at one point would I stop being attractive to him?

I don't think I'll really feel comfortable in this relationship until I feel like I can tell him about days like this and have him be understanding. I need to know that his love is there for real and forever. But, I don't know how to tell him that. And I'm not sure he would be understanding - he's had some hard times, but nothing on the scale of what I went through. It can be hard for people who didn't go through something similar to understand how it affects you.

So, should I talk to him or should I just wait for these feelings to pass? I know they will, but they are painful while they are here. If I do talk to him, what do I say?
posted by Lizlemondrop to Human Relations (31 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
I think therapy could help you. You need to be able to talk to your husband more, but to get there, talking to a therapist could really help.

Given what you've said here, I think you will have a lot of trouble getting where you need to be on your own, because you have these strong conflicting feelings. There is no shame or failure in that.
posted by Good Brain at 10:10 AM on January 22, 2014 [13 favorites]

I've a feeling I might be the first in a chorus of folks telling you THERAPY NOW but.... therapy, now.

I've just cried in my office or the bathroom and waited for the feelings to pass

You don't have to have times like this, not over something like a pair of pants not fitting. Therapy can help you fight off those sad thoughts without having to cry in the bathroom every time.

what I really want to do today is to tell my husband that I'm down and to ask him to do something small or nice for me to show me that he loves me and that he thinks I'm special

If you start properly processing the emotional abuse from your last relationship, rebuild your confidence, and think more of yourself, you won't need this so much. Don't get me wrong, everyone likes people doing nice things for them, and it sure is ok to tell your partner when you're having a bad day, but it's very important to be able to deal with stuff like this without him, as well.

I need to know that his love is there for real and forever. But, I don't know how to tell him that.

The fact that he married you is a dead giveaway here! Seriously though, it's actually possible that until you seek more positive thought patterns, nothing he can say or do will satisfy this need that you have. You should be able to feel confident in his love, unless something in his behaviour is suggesting otherwise.

It can be hard for people who didn't go through something similar to understand how it affects you.

Communication will be the majority of your solution here, but once you get yourself into therapy (you are going to do that asap, right? ;) ) why not take him with you to a session or two once you've got started with it? That might help him to help you.

You can do this. It's great that you're tackling this now. Get yourself help to heal, it will give your marriage the best odds possible of staying this wonderful forever.
posted by greenish at 10:10 AM on January 22, 2014 [13 favorites]

He's a good man, really kind, wonderful to my kids and sweet to me.

This guy? He is not going to look at your holiday weight gain and say "wow, you've really packed it on!" He's going to say "you look great to me!" or "come here and let's get nekkid" or whatever. You're building up his (imaginary) reaction in your head, and that's not fair to either of you. You should tell him that you need to hear he loves you, that he's attracted to you, etc. If he's really the quiet type, tell him the exact words you need to hear. His actions will tell you whether they're sincere.

So, I'd say something like this: "Sometimes I feel insecure because when I was married to Ted, he made me feel like I wasn't any good and that he didn't love me. I know you love me and you aren't doing anything wrong*, but sometimes I really need to hear [exact words]. It's not always rational but it would make me feel great."

He's going to forget and he's going to need a little nudge. "Tell me you think I'm hot." Don't phrase it as "Do you think I'm hot?" because you're not testing him, you're not doubting him, you're trusting him because you love him and you already know what the answer's going to be, you just need to hear it out loud.

*This part is very important.
posted by desjardins at 10:13 AM on January 22, 2014 [32 favorites]

I think it's perfectly reasonable to want to share with your partner that you're feeling low or your skinny pants are a bit snug, and expect that they will be understanding provide some reassurance.

Are you and your husband able to talk about other intimate, important things?

Another vote for therapy here, to work through the residual issues from your first marriage and develop some positive communication strategies.

In the meantime: yes, tell him.

What to say: "Honey, I'm feeling blue today. Can you (give me a hug, rub my feet, hold me)."

Heck, I wish I could give you a hug, and I'm a total stranger. Surely the nice man you've described here would want to give you a hug and comfort you if he knew you were feeling sad.
posted by bunderful at 10:16 AM on January 22, 2014 [13 favorites]

If your husband thinks you're unacceptably fat (for example), that attitude will come out in one way or another. Maybe not verbally, but in his interactions with you.

Point being: would you rather know things now, when you might be able to talk them over and deal with them, or later, when everything you haven't discussed blows up into one big festering ball of resentment?

You do need therapy. It's not a bad thing. My husband and I were both in bad marriages before we got together, and even though we cling to each other desperately in the knowledge that things won't be that shitty again, it has taken a lot of time and thought to untangle some of the patterns we're used to. Still does, and we've been together for nearly six years and talk about EVERYTHING.

Being the best partner you can be means being the best person you can be for yourself. A calmer, stronger you means a calmer, stronger marriage. And chances are that he's got a lot of the same worries, too, and may be more forthcoming about his own thoughts and fears if you do the same.

Good luck! I know how hard it is, believe me. YOU CAN DO IT.

p.s. I married my husband because he went to therapy and was honest with and about himself. I tell everyone this because it's true.
posted by Madamina at 10:16 AM on January 22, 2014

I would just say something like, "Hey, I'm feeling vaguely crappy today. It's just emotional weather, but I could really use a treat. Can you help brighten my day somehow?" If he's got other stuff going on (work stress, appointments, or whatever), it might not work out, but it doesn't hurt to admit you have passing moods and would like help. Who doesn't?

The details about your weight and whatnot point to larger self-esteem and confidence issues, as well as a lack of communication with your partner, but you know, baby steps. For right now, you feel bad, and your partner can probably help without getting into the weeds of it. Just ask.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 10:17 AM on January 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

But what I really want to do today is to tell my husband that I'm down and to ask him to do something small or nice for me to show me that he loves me and that he thinks I'm special.

I do exactly that with my husband, and he does it with me. We say exactly how we feel and what we need. We can love our partners and they can love us, but humans are truly shit mind readers. If there is something you need/want, you need to speak up. Plus, your partner would probably like to do things to make you feel better, instead of having his partner suffer in silence. So yeah, when we're having a tough day we call it "having a sad". We tell the other person how they are feeling, what is bothering them or upsetting them, no matter how silly or irrational or ridiculous it is. We acknowledge if the other person did nothing at all to cause the sad so that they don't feel blamed, and then ask for a little extra lovin' that day. Sometimes we ask out right for what we know would help the most.

So for your situation I would say,
"Hey honey? I have a sad. My pants are too tight and it is making me feel frustrated for having gained weight over the holidays. I am also feeling a bit insecure about my appearance and attractiveness because of it and I'm feeling all "Oh noez my husband won't find me attractive!". Nothing you have done has led me to feel like you may not find me attractive, this is all internal brain stuff. Still, I could really use a little extra snuggles and reassurance today, just until my brain starts cooperating again."

If I sent this to my husband right now he would probably respond with something along the lines of, "Okay. Is there anything special you want to do this evening that will help you to feel better? Watch a movie?". He would respond this way because we have an established, previously discussed understanding of what "having a sad" means. Sometimes a message of only "I have a sad" without the explanation is enough. We discussed, way back when we first started dating, what would be meaningful for each of us when we are sad. For me it is snuggly, cuddle time while being distracted by a movie or something. For him it is me maybe doing some extra cleaning and kid taking care of stuff that he usually is responsible for so that he can have a bit of down time to himself.

Also, I suffer from depression and while my medication keeps me in check pretty well I still definitely have hard days. I have explained this to him, told him about the horrible thoughts that my brain creates when my mood tanks out. I've laid it all out for him, even though I know it upsets him to hear how my depressed brain tries really hard to convince me that he doesn't love me and how I am about the most useless person on the planet, etc. By knowing how bad it can be, and how fucked up my thought process can get, he is better able to give me what I need and have a bit of patience when I'm being super needy or emotional. If he didn't know how bad my bad days are he would have a much harder time I think, and he would spend a lot of time wondering what the fuck he did to make me so upset. So I really think that you should talk to your husband about everything that you suffered in your past relationship. Don't deny him the ability to really understand and help you. I am sure he would want to know, as hard as it might be to hear.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 10:18 AM on January 22, 2014 [15 favorites]

I'm going to start with a disclaimer that this is my opinion based on the way I think of marriages and relationships. This in turn is based on my education as a mental health clinician. However, not all relationships function the same, YMMV.

Being open with your significant other is very important to resolve many issues that come up during marriage. So of course being open is something to strive for, to challenge yourself about, to nourish. However, your spouse cannot be responsible for your state of happiness or your opinion of yourself. This sort of responsibility is too heavy and unreasonable to lay on a person and it can fracture relationships. Do not go down that road, the road where he is the only one that can help. When I read this: But what I really want to do today is to tell my husband that I'm down and to ask him to do something small or nice for me to show me that he loves me and that he thinks I'm special., the thought that comes up is not that you are needy, but that your needs currently cannot (or should not, for the health of your marriage) be met by your husband. Therapists are trained and paid to be good enough to meet your needs, and I would recommend you call one soon. You need to become stronger and the help is out there, I promise.
posted by Shusha at 10:19 AM on January 22, 2014 [14 favorites]

One other thing that may help with the communication - My husband and I have fairly regular state of the union talks, where we both sort of check in on how we feel the relationship is going. (Do you feel I say "I love you" enough? Could I be more affectionate? Is there anything you would like me to do more often?) We have a sort of unspoken agreement that we are 100% truthful and that the other person can't get all huffy and defensive. If I tell him that I haven't been hearing a lot of comments about how he finds me attractive, he hears that and acknowledges it and tries to say it more, even if he felt he had already been saying it plenty. If he tells me that the fact that I keep letting my dirty clothes pile up is starting to bother him, I hear that and acknowledge it and try to do my laundry more regularly. I don't make excuses for how I have been too busy to do laundry or whatever. State of the Union talks are really great at diffusing things that, if left to fester, could turn in to big fights down the road. It also ensures we each are getting what we need from the other person.

Could you do something like that with your husband?
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 10:31 AM on January 22, 2014 [30 favorites]

I know that the movie-in-your-head version says "Be straight with him! Talk to him! Share with him!". That answer feels knee-jerk right in all situations for our present culture. We live in a culture of over-sharers. And you're feeling that impulse yourself, but something's holding you back, and I think it's higher wisdom.

Once you treat your partner disrespectfully while you're angry or in a bad mood, something about the relationship goes down a peg. Once you fart openly around your partner, something about the relationship goes down a peg. Letting down one's hair is good and proper in a relationship when it forges intimacy, but some stuff is better held back. I suppose the determining factor is whether or not it will help your partner or the relationship. Sometimes, though, one's partner and relationship can suffer a bit in order to help you in a real crisis....but only if it would truly help you. If not, it doesn't make sense to do it just to do it.

This may be a fart that doesn't need to come out while he's in the room, even though it might leave you a bit more comfortable. Sorry to be crude, but I think the analogy works.

OTOH, if you ever decide it's useful/helpful for him or for the relationship for him to know, definitely don't hold back just to avoid friction!
posted by Quisp Lover at 10:33 AM on January 22, 2014 [7 favorites]

...I would think things were fine and the next thing I would know, he would be upset about something I never, ever anticipated would upset anyone. My head knows that the problem was his - my inner self remains on high alert, still, to make sure I'm not upsetting anyone or doing something that seems ok to me, but is causing offense to someone else.

...It can be hard for people who didn't go through something similar to understand how it affects you.

...I've minimized the damage that it caused because I want a normal, grown-up relationship… So, for the most part, when my issues rise up again, I deal with them alone.

Add in some violence and you’ve described my childhood and the lifelong aftermath of it. It took me a long time to accept the diagnosis of PTSD medical professionals kept gently suggesting to me. (In my mind, the only people who “deserved” that diagnosis were soldiers and kids who got beaten within an inch of their lives every night.)

Now, I’m not trying to armchair diagnose you; I’m just saying that it’s worth discussing this issue with a professional. My life is far from perfect now, but I’ve never felt more comfortable with myself as a person than I have since I found the right medication and started working to recognize when I’m experiencing a fear from the past.

Re: the sentence I bolded - it's bolded for truth. It's SO hard to explain to other people. Many hugs to you for having the guts to do it here.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:39 AM on January 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

You have a partner that you chose in a rational way after much experience. You need to talk to him about this.

Not talking to your partner when you're going through tough times is under-utilizing your resources. Go talk and figure out something together.

Good luck.
posted by hal_c_on at 10:46 AM on January 22, 2014

I'm sorry, I strongly disagree with Quisp Lover. Communicating to your partner your needs and difficulties is not going to make the relationship "go down a peg". Hiding the fact that you went through something properly traumatic and difficult that is directly affecting your perception and behaviour in the relationship is not going to make it "go down a peg". And I think comparing someone's traumatic past abusive relationship experiences to a fart is extremely disrespectful and dismissive of the abuse they experienced. Her past abuse is not something she should hide and be embarrassed of like passing gas.

I believe that withholding that information, especially important information that is affecting the relationship, is detrimental to the relationship. How can they strive to make the relationship better if they never address one of the most important issues,and if half of the relationship isn't even AWARE of the issue? It is like going out for dinner but not telling the chef that you have a severe fish allergy. If the chef doesn't know they may make you their super special pan fried haddock, thinking it will be a real treat for you when all the while you won't be able to eat it and you will leave the restaurant hungry. It is unfair to the chef, who is making a meal that they want the person to enjoy. It is unfair to the eater who is suck with frequently being given meals that they can't eat. Tell them about the allergy so that they can make a delicious meal that you can eat.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 10:48 AM on January 22, 2014 [19 favorites]

You say that your husband is not a big talker. Is he a good listener? Is your husband the type of person who "shows" his love by doing small things that make you feel special?

I guess what I'm asking is, are you expressing needs he isn't meeting... or needs he doesn't know exist?

You don't have to start this conversation about your needs with your husband by going into an "issue" you have/perceive you have. There are some great scripts above. Personally, I go with "I feel like crap today. Hug me please."

Story time: I had a shitty childhood and my adulthood wasn't peachy keen either. My SO can't "relate" to what I went through, because he has no appropriate frame of reference, but he can and does empathize.

My SO is also a taciturn man. Sometimes I'll fake needing a hug for myself just so I can return the favor.

posted by sm1tten at 11:06 AM on January 22, 2014 [4 favorites]

"I'm sorry, I strongly disagree with Quisp Lover. Communicating to your partner your needs and difficulties is not going to make the relationship "go down a peg". "

I said no such thing. I just noted that we need to choose thoughtfully rather than viscerally blurt. Because some open communication is undoubtedly harmful without being constructive. "I'm having trouble mustering sexual attraction for you since you started really aging". There's one better kept to oneself, or addressed with your psychologist, even though it's by no means a small "need or difficulty". I've chosen an extreme counterexample, because the example the OP's presenting strikes me, at least, as being a pretty good example.

Again, if honesty might genuinely HELP you (or him, or your relationship), DO it. Never ever hold back. I don't see that here, but it's for the OP, not us, to decide.

And the fact that she's waffling tells the tale. She doesn't strike me as a coward, or a bottle-upper. I see her indecision as an example of someone empathetically trying to do what's best for him and for the relationship, even if it'd make her feel a little more catharted to say something. That's not a bad inclination, it's compassionate.
posted by Quisp Lover at 11:09 AM on January 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

I had a tangential thought that may help you with the quandry about how to phrase this kind of asking-for-support, if you feel uncomfortable about coming out and asking for things right at this point still. It's actually something my Sunday school teacher told us about prayer when I was eight (I swear this will make sense, just go with this).

Our Sunday School teacher pointed out that in the Bible story about the Wedding At Cana, right before Jesus turned the water into wine, Mary actually came to him before and told him that this was a problem in the first place. But - she pointed out - Mary didn't come up to Jesus all "Yo, kid, the host ran out of wine, do something about it. Get with the magic presto-chango stuff." All she did was tell him that there was a problem ("they have no more wine"), and then she just shut up and let JESUS decide "ooh, hey, I think I can do something about that".

The teacher's ultimate point was that this is how we should ask for help of God, was by just telling him about the problem instead of making specific demands. But I am suggesting this as a possible way for you to ease into making requests yourself, if phrasing requests still feels really scary to you right now - you know? If actually asking "I am having problem [foo] and it is making me feel [baz] and so I need you to do [schmeh]," you may be more comfortable by saying only "I am having problem [foo] and it is making me feel [baz]". I suspect he'll go on to ask you if there's anything he can do to help, and that'd be a perfect opportunity for you to then say, "well, [schmeh] would be great".

That may be a good way to ease into asking things of people if the act of asking things of people feels awkward. Good luck.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:13 AM on January 22, 2014 [5 favorites]

I was in an abusive relationship for three years, and I struggle with a lot of the same things you're talking about.

I tend to keep most things to myself, or share them with my therapist, or with my best friend. A lot of the weird things that go on in my head are just that - weird things that go on in my head that have nothing to do with my partner. I personally believe that bringing them to my partner would not really help at all - for a few reasons.

First, I don't want my relationship with my boyfriend to be based on my abuse, which is something you mentioned, too. Mentioning my insecurities or fears or pains to him, talking about them with him at length... I just don't want him involved. Part of that is because I want to keep him out of my healing for his sake, but a big part of it is that I want to keep him out my healing for my sake. If I lean on him for this type of support, what happens if he turns out to be like my ex? He'll use these things against me, that's what. So I find it to be a bit self-protective to keep this stuff to myself. It's not that I think there is any chance of that happening, it's that I have learned to be guarded in this way and I like it better. It makes me feel secure.

Another reason I keep it to myself is that there is nothing that my partner can do, really. Sure, he can tell me I look beautiful or that I didn't deserve to be treated that way or that I look like I need a hug... but what does that really functionally get me? Is that worth the cost of sharing something that might not really need to be shared? He can't help me. He can't stop me from being abused in the past. So I'm not sure what I'd really gain from talking to him about it in any detail.

Finally, these things are mine. They are my issues. I can work through them on my own. When I am working through things and making progress and having breakthroughs I feel like I need my partner's reassurance much, much less. I feel secure and solid and don't need that little dopamine reinforcement I get from a hug from my partner as much. Also, when he does hug me, it's not because I asked for it - it's because he genuinely wanted to do it, because he cares for me.

I think a lot of what it boils down to is how much of a presence you want your partner to have in your life. Are they everything? Do they give you everything you could possibly need, and if they don't give something to you, do you go without? Or do you rely on a lot of people to meet different needs at different points in time?

I used to be more like the former, but after my abuse I've turned into a person who spreads my relationships out more. I can talk to my best friend about my abuser and it feels good. I can talk to my therapist about it. I do not want to talk about it with my partner but I do want to talk about it so I branch out and talk about it with people that I feel safe and comfortable sharing with.

So, enough about me: you say in your question that this is something you want in your relationship. My advice, then, is to start small. Say something like "Ugh, I felt a bit bloated today and it really bummed me out" and see how he responds. If it's negatively or makes you feel bad, you'll know that you can't share things like that and you can evaluate how you feel about all that after it happens. If he responds positively, you can start opening up a little bit more over time. That is how sharing and support work - it takes a bit of time. You may want to also share with other people in your life as a way of sort of "practicing" what you want to tell your partner and what kind of support you need and are asking for. A bit of mindfulness - "Why do I feel this way today? Why do I think a hug/discussion/nice comment from my husband would help right now?" never hurt, either.

Good luck.
posted by sockermom at 11:26 AM on January 22, 2014 [9 favorites]

What you didn't have in your first marriage (a healthy dialogue) may be possible in your present marriage. However, each has to be honest with the other. So, I would suggest talking to him about your feelings. Just because you have these feelings doesn't make you "needy." What makes one needy is the perception of the other person and the lack of dialogue that may result.

If you want a better and an honest relationship with your husband, you're going to have to take a chance.

I'm a guy and I understand the marriage you outlined with your former husband. As a husband myself, I tell my wife how I'm feeling so that we can work on it within our relationship. That's really the best part of a relationship. Not that you both agree on everything, but that you can talk to each other.
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 11:37 AM on January 22, 2014

So, for the most part, when my issues rise up again, I deal with them alone.

You deal with stuff alone when you can deal with stuff alone. I got cut off on my way to work, fuck that guy, calm down, life goes on.

But if you're upset and then hiding it, you are presenting a dual face to your husband. Who you really are vs how you are presenting. That's not fair to either of you.

Personally it has taken me a while to learn to lean on my partner, and I have found out that he wants to know when things are bothering me so he can support me. I don't expect him to change my life for me (that's my job) but I can tell him that I had a sad discussion with someone and he readily gives me a hug and tries to cheer me up.

We all need. But what is neediness? That's a really good question. I think neediness is when a regular need becomes a pit of need. When it's a deep deficit beyond the normal leg-up the average person requires. When the little hug still isn't enough. When you need more and more and more to get back to the same state. After a while it would be needy to go back to your husband: oh I still don't feel happy, praise me again. He's not an ice cream cone, just there to lick and make you happy. He's got needs of his own too. So the healthy response is like: hey I'm weak here, get a hug, then at that point you feel like hey my partner is here with me, I can do this! *I* can do this.

It's not terribly scientific but that's what I've learned so far.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 11:43 AM on January 22, 2014 [4 favorites]

Wow, such good, thoughtful answers. Thank you all so much. I will definitely reread each answer again and mull them over, as I found them all very helpful. I am currently not seeing a therapist, but I did for years and it took me much therapy to get to this point. When I first split from the ex-, I was really a mess. I probably do need to go back because I'm ready to learn how to take the next step, which is to be part of a real, grown-up relationship. I think today I'll just stick with a "I had a bad day" scenario and explore the larger issues of what I should or should not bring to the marriage with my therapist. Thank you guys so much for the respectful input. I am truly grateful.
posted by Lizlemondrop at 12:05 PM on January 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

Also, and this will be really hard: remember that you have spent your entire relationship in one mode. In this mode, you have expressed no needs and required no reassurance. When you do start expressing some (totally human, valid, worthy) needs, your husband might actually struggle a bit at first with how to respond. Things might get harder before they get easier. Please try not to interpret this as a sign that you have been too needy and he has ceased to love you!!!

It just means that when a dynamic shifts in a relationship, there will be adjustment on both sides.

A small-scale example in my own relationship: both by nature, and as a result of life crap, I am very self-reliant and even-keeled. But this month I've been ill, like housebound and bed-ridden ill. Plus, I've been on medication that messes with my head. We had a pretty bad week or two in there, where my boyfriend really did not know exactly how to care for me--in all the time he's known me, I've never needed that kind of care.

I took it pretty hard! But it turned out he took my sudden personality shift really hard too! And we had to have some rough talks where we explicitly spelled out these scary feelings. There were points where I wasn't sure we would stay together. But we did, and now we both know a lot more about each other than we did a month ago.

You are married, legally bound, to a good and kind man; you have the most secure foundation for this kind of change that you could possibly want. So go forth and be brave!
posted by like_a_friend at 12:27 PM on January 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

Hey, OP, I think it is good you've decided to tell your partner that you had a bad day! One thing that happens in a healthy, adult relationship is that, even when you try to hide it, your partner is usually affected by what's affecting you, too.

For instance, I can tell when my spouse has had something come up at work that's stressed him out, because he will start barking stuff at me instead of discussing stuff--it's really a tone of voice and a brusqueness--and a simple, "So, how was your day? Anything going on at work?" will often be enough for him to stop, realize what's going on, and share. Similarly, when something is bothering me that had nothing to do with my spouse (because that stuff needs to be communicated ASAP, of course), I tend to get quiet and introspective. So he will realize I am withdrawn and ask me if something's wrong.

But if he didn't share what was bothering him and vice versa, I would know something was up, just not what it was. And, being me, I might assume it was something I'd done, and feel bad about myself when of course it was completely unrelated.

So it is actually good for the marriage NOT to try to handle everything yourself sometimes. That's part of being in a partnership, being there for your spouse and trusting him enough to allow your spouse to be there for you when you need him, too.
posted by misha at 12:53 PM on January 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yay on therapy.

What you want is to get to the point where you can be yourself 100% of the time. A good, kind man will stay with you no matter what, because he loves you. Gaining weight won't factor into it, losing a limb in an accident won't factor into it, growing old won't factor into it. He'll love you unconditionally, through all sorts of weather.

You should be able to ask him for anything, tell him anything and fell 100% that he's in your corner.

"Sweetie, I've gained weight. I love the way it makes my butt look, isn't it great?"
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:05 PM on January 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

All the heavy issues aside, because I have no experience or expertise in that area, I wouldn't necessarily bring the pants issue to your husband. I would just walk up to him, say "I'm feeling a little blue. I need a hug." (In fact I do this, occasionally.) Husband doesn't need an explanation, and honestly, I don't want to give him one. I don't know what your husband is like, but many men see concerns that people voice as problems to be solved. He would probably respond, "Well, let's try to eat healthier meals. You should go running more, too, like you've been meaning to." I would save the "oh no, I gained 5 lbs" comments for my girlfriends.

However, "I'm a little blue, I need a hug," often prompts a slow and steady stream of kind gestures from him. Snack and glass of wine brought to me at my computer, taking the kids off my hands for the evening, maybe even a present over the next week. He loves you and cares for you--he married you, after all--it's OK to tell him you need affection. He should be happy to deliver it. But the pants thing... that's just TMI, IMO. Even for married couples.

Good luck with everything. You sound like you are in a much better relationship than before, so congratulations on that!
posted by tk at 1:18 PM on January 22, 2014 [6 favorites]

It's far better to say something simple about your mood than have your partner notice it, and be guessing as to what's wrong. And imagining all sorts of horrors.

When I need some sort of reassurance, I will simply say 'I need some accolades right about now, please' or whatever language you use.

Or I will snuggle up to him and say 'stroke my hair and tell me I'm pretty'. Usually it gets a laugh as well as cuddles and reassurance. It's not a big deal to tell your partner you need some TLC, and they don't need to know the details either.

On preview, what tk said.
posted by tatiana131 at 1:26 PM on January 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

What tk said. You don't want to train yourself to ask him to make it all better. You don't want to provide him with a list of things you are insecure about. What you want is for your husband to know that you are down and want warmth and affection.

Tell him you're having one of those days or are in a funk or whatever generic term you like, and then tell him want you want from him a hug, a walk, a neck message. .. but be fair. If you work up the nerve to talk to him five minutes after he received a fire-drill email from a difficult client, let him offer a rain check.

And take some time to reflect on things he's done to make you feel special and loved.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 1:28 PM on January 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Some great turn of phrases and points above as usual :). Just a quick share though.. that I picked something else up from your post it went something like this. Wow. This woman's been through all this shit and still feels the residue of it. She is daring to love again and committed to making it work. She's fucking brave. I hope I'm that brave one day.

Ok so maybe there's still a way to go with figuring some stuff out... but look how far YOU'VE come after adversity. Whats a few extra pounds on someone with the ovaries to take a leap like that?
posted by tanktop at 2:17 PM on January 22, 2014 [6 favorites]

I'm probably the last person on here to advise "therapy," but in this case - therapy.

What you need is a third party to help you sort out the things that are stuck in your head from your first marriage and no longer belong there. That person is not your new husband, who seems happy with the woman he married and would very likely be a bit overwhelmed if he met your entire gut-wrenching inner fear self all at once.

This is, indeed, what therapists are for. If he wonders why you need a therapist when you have a perfectly good husband to talk to, tell him it's "women stuff." Go ahead and play off that card - the feminists of the world will forgive you.

And I wish you success at shaking off your past and moving on with joy into a wonderful marriage.
posted by aryma at 7:27 PM on January 22, 2014

I want to start by honoring this well-written and thoughtful question. You've clearly done a lot of work to be deliberate about this relationship.

There are two pieces here, it seems to me -- (1) being known and seen for who you really are, the intimacy that continuing to strive toward this can impart to a relationship, and (2) the response you are seeking from him, the role you are hoping he will play in helping you overcome this issue.

In my opinion, you should share this entire story for him with a focus on #1, being careful to hold very low expectations and an open mind about #2. I agree, it doesn't make sense to continue hiding this from him. Then you can find out how he reacts and start experimenting with ways to support one another when you're feeling a bit down.
posted by salvia at 7:27 PM on January 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

Also, on a more personal note, after a not-so-great relationship, I had a pretty similar problem. Finding ways to check in with my partner was useful. My history was an ex- who would get angry out of nowhere. Every so often I would become anxious that my new partner was silently getting angry. It was a huge help to discover simple strategies for checking in. "Is it bothering you that I'm not ready to go yet?" "If I stay out with Friend for another hour, will that bother you?" A little "no" from him would immediately defuse the fear, and it didn't take too much reassurance to stop being so on edge. I don't know a good script for your situation, but maybe others have found one.
posted by salvia at 7:30 PM on January 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

But what I really want to do today is to tell my husband that I'm down and to ask him to do something small or nice for me to show me that he loves me and that he thinks I'm special.

That's having needs, and being able to express them clearly and concretely.

What's the line between having needs and being needy?

If you expected your husband, every single day, without your needing to say anything, to do something special for you in order to fix your self-condemnation, which of course it couldn't fix, because it's something you need to fix yourself.

Basically, the difference is, are you expecting him to fix the problem (needy and unrealistic), or to help support you while you fix the problem (having reasonable needs)? "I feel fat and it's his fault!" is needy; "I feel fat and I'd like some reassurance" is having reasonable needs.
posted by jaguar at 9:38 PM on January 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

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