Advice Goddess, 8/30/11

Guru, Interrupted
My husband is extremely analytical, to the point where he has a negative or argumentative response to almost anything I say—including positive or even insignificant things. Then, when he makes some remark, unless I respond with “I agree” or “uh-huh,” he debates me. I’ve repeatedly asked him to stop making everything an argument, but he insists that he’s just giving his “honest opinion.” I go for counseling, but he refuses to, saying he won’t talk to “some stranger” about us. He’s turning my happy self into a miserable, depressed self.
—Always Wrong

Nothing brings out the eighth-grade debate champion in a man like being asked to weigh in on life’s big philosophical questions: “What is death, and should we fear it?”, “Why is there something rather than nothing?” and “More orange juice, dear?”

How fun that you never know whether you’ll be enjoying breakfast with your husband or petitioning him for a new trial. Of course, he knows, as we all do, that there are remarks that aren’t meant to be responded to as if one were testifying before Congress. “Nice weather we’re having”? Just say “Yes, dear.” No need to counter with data on sunspots, cloud cover, and death rates of baby polar bears.

A man doesn’t make his wife’s every innocuous comment a springboard for an intellectual death match because he’s “analytical” and “honest” but because he feels like a skin tag among men. What your husband’s showing you isn’t love; it’s narcissism. The term “narcissist” comes from the story of Narcissus, who fell in love with his reflection in the water—how he appeared, not who he really was. Narcissists are self-absorbed, manipulative users. What they lack in empathy they make up for in a sucking need for admiration. To a narcissist, other people aren’t so much people as they are staging areas for the narcissist’s greatness.

A loving husband understands that there’s a right answer and a more-right answer—the one that doesn’t leave his wife feeling depressed and beaten down. You need to decide whether staying married is more important to you than being happy, because if he is a narcissist, he’s unlikely to change. Narcissists rarely agree to therapy, as they can’t take the challenge to their manufactured authority or let anyone expose them as the tiny little people they actually are.

You may be able to control your husband’s behavior by giving him boundaries for what you’ll put up with and being truly willing to walk if he keeps crossing them. But, if that’s what your marriage comes down to—a husband who acts like less of a bully so you won’t leave—is that enough? You could actually have love in your life…if you’re with a man capable of loving. That man will watch you as you sleep—because he can’t take his eyes off you, not because he’s waiting for you to talk in your sleep so he can shake you awake and correct you: “Honey!…Honey! You (SET ITAL) are (END ITAL) the weakest link.”

Wait Training
Use of technology in dating is leaving my single girlfriends bewildered and annoyed. For example, one went on a date with this guy. The date went well, then silence…for two weeks—until he texted her, inviting her over for dinner. She’s irritated that he didn’t even call, and that he waited so long, and is considering not accepting. Is texting instead of calling a valid reason to write a guy off?

Not every guy’s a talking-on-the-phone person, and that’s okay, but there’s much to be said for polite timing. Texting a girl the day after a date (even just “great time, call u soon”) says a guy’s interested. Texting two weeks later says he’s explored every other option, including hookers and suicide, and settled for her.
Unless this guy followed up his text by calling from a hospital bed and explaining “A dog ate my iPhone—and part of my arm,” he should no longer be in the running. Behavior predicts behavior. It also illustrates character (like an interest in others’ feelings). But, let’s say vanishing for two weeks without a word (or even a “wrd”) is out of character for this guy. He might’ve redeemed himself if he’d just manned up—called to express some remorse for disappearing and apologized. At least then he’d be telling your friend “I know I don’t get to do this to you” instead of “You seem like a woman who lets men walk all over her. My turn Tuesday at 7:30? And don’t worry, I promise—no hard-soled shoes or muddy hiking boots until the third date.”

(c)2011, Amy Alkon, all rights reserved. Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave, #280, Santa Monica, CA  90405, or e-mail ( Amy Alkon’s book: “I SEE RUDE PEOPLE: One woman’s battle to beat some manners into impolite society” (McGraw-Hill, $16.95).

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