All marriages are bound to face difficulty at one point or another, but when you stood at the altar and agreed to take the love of your life “for better or for worse,” you didn’t expect “for worse” to be so painful. Though not all marriages and issues are the same, there are steps you can take when you realize that yours is in trouble.
1. What’s wrong: He’s an alcoholic. What he says: “I’ll just have one more drink.”
How to tell: According to Melissa Pizaña-Cruz, certified life coach and co-head of the parenting cluster of the Center for Family Ministries (CEFAM), “If your husband has a drinking problem, he’d lie and try to hide it. If he needs a drink at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, or he keeps saying he’d have just one more, that’s already a red flag.”
How to deal: Herald Cruz, certified life coach, co-head of CEFAM’s parenting cluster, and Pizaña-Cruz’s husband, says that when it comes to addiction, it is very important for the person to realize that he has a problem. “The wife cannot change her husband,” he adds. But at the same time, if your husband has an addiction, then it’s time to take a look at yourself too because more often than not, you are a co-dependent and an enabler; you’ve been allowing the behavior to continue.
“If you realize you’re part of the problem, find out how you can change,” says Cruz. “Usually, low self-esteem is the drinking husband’s problem. You have to start thinking how you can improve and understand, so your husband will realize that he still has your unconditional love.”
Pizaña-Cruz adds, “The more you nag, the greater the possibility of your husband retreating and not listening to you. The only person you can change is yourself - and when you do, it’s the only time your husband will change.”
2. What’s wrong: He always has to upgrade to the latest gadget. What he says: “I really need it!”
How to tell: “It becomes a problem when you’re spending more than you can afford,” says Pizaña-Cruz. “That is, if he goes into debt and his family lacks basic necessities because he cannot pay the bills.”
How to deal: “People who have what we call ‘upgrade-it’s’ are trying to fill a deeper need, and they try to compensate with the acquisition of things. Maybe they were deprived as children or maybe they’re not happy with themselves, so they buy a lot of things to feel good,” says Pizaña-Cruz. She adds that you might have to see a professional counselor because if you are in debt, the problem is very urgent. At the same time, you must address what need your husband is trying to fill in himself.
3. What’s wrong: He’s a gambler. What he says: “But I thought I would win!”
How to tell: Bec Yao, Ph.D., a doctor in Child and Family Studies and currently completing her license in psychotherapy, says, “This becomes a problem when he feels the need to be secretive about his gambling, he does not have he money to gamble with, or does not care about how his family and friends worry about him.”
How to deal: Again, this is a sign that there are other problems beneath the surface. If this is a form of addiction, such as drinking, your husband has to first admit that he has a problem. And you must seek counseling before his debts spiral out of control. If he refuses to see that there is anything wrong, then seek your own counseling without him.
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4. What’s wrong: He dabbles in recreational drugs. What he says: “It’s just for fun!”
How to tell: Pizaña-Cruz says women have very strong intuition and gut feel. If you feel uncomfortable about his drug use, then it needs to be addressed. “Drug use can alter your mind permanently and can lead to other problems,” she adds. Recreational or not, they are still illegal and harmful substances.
How to deal: “If you already notice symptoms of a problem, the first thing you can do is see a counselor,” suggests Pizaña-Cruz. But like all addictions, your husband must come to terms with it himself. Forcing him to stop will only result in more lies.
5. What’s wrong: He’s a constant flirt. What he says: “It’s harmless!”
How to tell: Cruz says a constant flirt is usually an attention addict. He says that if kids are kulang sa pansin, “as adults they hide it well and it comes out in the form of flirting and always needing affirmation.” Pizaña-Cruz reminds you to rely on your gut feel. If you believe it’s not harmless, then it’s not.
How to deal: Cruz says not to wait until it’s too late. “It’s very important to confront your spouse at the onset. Some guys don’t think they’re flirting and think they’re just trying to be funny, but girls interpret it differently,” he says. This is why it’s important that you call his attention to it before it leads to emotional unfaithfulness.
6. What’s wrong: He’s gay. What he says: “I was born this way.”
How to tell: If he’s not telling you about it, then you can watch for signs of unfaithfulness, says Cruz. Some signs: if he used to leave his cell phone lying around the house but now closely guards it, or if he changes his e-mail or computer password.
Pizaña-Cruz adds, “I had a client who felt there was something different every time her husband talked about one particular guy. Now that they’re separated, the stories that emerged confirmed what she was afraid of. So, again, rely on your gut.”
How to deal: “It is very difficult to stay in this kind of relationship,” says Pizaña-Cruz. If he admits to being gay, then you will need to figure out whether you want to remain in the relationship or not. Cruz adds, “You need to make a discernment: Is this decision something you can live with, die for, and face God with? Ask yourself, ‘Is this the kind of life I want to have?’”
7. What’s wrong: He’s addicted to sex. What he says: “I can do anything to you in bed because we’re married.”
How to tell: If your husband is addicted to pornography, if you feel like you’re being used and treated like a prostitute, or if you’ve been a victim of marital rape, then your husband is addicted to sex.
Cruz adds, “If you cannot spice up the sexual relationship without pornographic material, then there’s a problem.” How to deal: Pizaña-Cruz says you probably have a communication problem as well. “A lot of women don’t say what they don’t like when it comes to sexual relations,” she says. You must be more vocal about what you like and don’t like.
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8. What’s wrong: He’s verbally and emotionally abusing you. What he says: “It’s your fault.”
How to tell: The problem is cyclical. There is the rain of abusive words eating up your self-esteem followed by the grand gestures of apology, and then there is a honeymoon period till the abuse happens again. The cycle begins once more. But the biggest clue is that you believe it is always your fault that you are being abused.
How to deal: If you feel you can’t leave the marriage yet, then let someone know what is going on for your own safety, says Cruz. This is not an easy move because according to Pizaña-Cruz, the abused usually tends to hide everything in order to protect her relationship. Plus, what makes it worse is that if you do not have a strong sense of self, it will be easy for you to become a target of abuse. This is why it is very important for you to work on your self-worth.
“A time should come when you say, ‘No one deserves this and I need to stand up for my own rights,’” says Cruz. Do not let it lead to a crisis situation where your life and your children’s lives will be in danger.
Marriage indeed has its many trials, but you can survive them if you work on them. “Marriage should not be taken for granted,” says Dr. Yao. “It needs work but its rewards are great. In this age of a ‘disposable’ mentality, marriage is in a different category altogether. It needs to be repaired and constantly renewed, remembering the reasons why both of you entered into the commitment.”
Talking tips Herald Cruz, shares the right way to approach your husband so he’d listen to what you have to say.
1. Care-front, not confront Come from a place of caring, not blame. See why the problem is happening. There is usually a bigger problem underneath. If you just confront, he only would start defending himself. Start with, “Are you okay? Is there anything bothering you?” If your husband feels he is not being judged and has your unconditional love, that is a very powerful force, and a lot of men will respond positively.
2. Use “I” messages Begin by bringing up how you feel. Don’t focus on the other party. Say, “I feel that…” “I don’t feel good about…” Don’t put the blame on the other person. Often, if you begin to focus on your own feelings, you allow the person to empathize with you. You welcome the person into your world, and you connect better.
3. See your own role in it. You need to realize that the problem is not just your husband’s. It takes two to create and undo the problem. Don’t look at who is more to blame and who has more offense. Own your faults as well.