Drinking, Pets, and Babies

by A Married Dude

My husband of one year (whom I’ve known for 10) is a caring, selfless person, and I feel lucky to have him. There’s no question I want to spend my life with him. But there is a recurring issue in our relationship. He needs to go out and party sometimes to blow off steam. It’s not that he’s hanging out with girls or anything, I fully trust him on that, but it used to be a problem when he’d stay out till five and keep me worrying, driving drunk and doing irresponsible shit. My concern would always appall him — his family aren’t worriers, and I admire that, but I can’t help but wait up until he gets home safe if he’s making bad decisions. He’d view my concern like it was a threat to his freedom, like I was killing his buzz.

Approaching 30, he’s become much more responsible. He still needs to blow off steam, but he gets home by one and doesn’t drive drunk, so I’m fine with that, and sometimes I even fall asleep before he gets home. But lately there have been strange patterns. He always does it on days when I’m sad or upset. It seems like he needs to get away from me and my feelings, but I end up getting angry because he’s not there when I need him most. He even suggested that my sadness was convenient, like I was trying to manipulate him into coming home. But just as an example, he stayed out really late and got really drunk yesterday, the day I quit my horrible job (and have no safety net). I don’t think I should have to defend my being shaken up on a day like that. I don’t have a manipulative bone in my body, and actually like working things out alone — but it was the fact that he couldn’t empathize with me that made me feel alone.

Either I’m bad at asking for support, or he’s bad at empathizing, or it could be that booze clouds his judgment, because he’s otherwise a really thoughtful guy.

Whatever it is, how do I bring it up to him? He gets really mad when I point out things that are hurting me, and it takes him about a day to think about it, and then if I’m lucky, he comes around. But it’s a slow process.

A “caring, selfless person” does not a) drive drunk, 2) prioritize boozing over his relationship with his spouse, 3) fail to recognize when his spouse needs emotional support, 4) blame his spouse for, you know, having real-life problems and emotions that interfere with his “need to blow off steam.”

Before I go too far in beating this guy up, I’m going to suggest that your husband has a very real problem with alcohol. His problematic use of and possible dependence on alcohol is causing palpable problems in your marriage. His emotional distance, irritability, and out-of-whack priorities seem to be huge red flags that have a common source: his need to go out and get shitfaced.

Now, I’m no therapist, but your continued support and defense of his actions also signals a pattern of co-dependency on your part. Your letter sugarcoats or minimizes his destructive behavior, masking it as “blowing off steam,” and rewarding him for not driving drunk and coming home at 1 a.m. In the same breath, you’re minimizing your own feelings, almost apologizing for being upset and hurt by his actions while you excuse them.

If you both can’t have an honest conversation about this without him getting defensive or escaping — and you let him — I can’t see this being resolved just among the two of you. I honestly think that you guys need to get some professional help or some counseling at the very least. If he’s got issues with alcohol, address it head-on and address it now, before it threatens your relationship further.

When did you and your spouse feel ready to have a baby? Did you have a ton of savings? Did you have a steady job? Did you feel like “a grown up” (and do you now)? How did you know you could take care of a human for at least two decades? How did you knowwww??

Like making the decision to get married, sometimes you just never really know. You just get a feeling, and you jump right in and start a family. That feeling usually occurs in the backseat of a car.

However, unlike getting married, hangovers are much more painful once you have a baby. Therefore, your assessment of “readiness” probably needs to be a bit more thorough.

I got married later in life (late bloomer!), and as a result, we didn’t have our first child until I was old enough to be most of your parents. So yeah, we had savings and steady jobs and a place to live and we were technically “all grown up.” But, more important, we’d experienced a ton of things in life as individuals and as a couple. We’d long since given up the need to go out every night, and having pets meant we couldn’t just grab our passports and head to JFK with overnight bags, anyway. We decided it was time to experience being parents.

Contrary to popular belief, life does not end at conception. Plenty of couples have gone on to lead normal, even satisfying, lives after having children. But realize that your life will fundamentally change — like forever — once you have a kid. As I said, simple things like hangovers become insurmountable obstacles when your child wakes up at 5:30 a.m. But maybe that’s a good thing? You can’t be as spontaneous with travel, or dinner plans. Your schedule is at the mercy of someone who drools and poops themselves, just like in college.

Basically, it’s like having a pet. So, yeah, the best way to prepare for having a kid is to have pets for a while. Gets you used to handling poop.

That doesn’t mean you don’t travel, or go out to dinner, or have sex on the couch. Your adventures are different, and just as rewarding, if not more so. Parenthood is amazing, and nothing prepares you for it. As sappy as it sounds, you will tap a deep well of a love you have never felt, and may not have realized existed. It is SO worth it, but you need to be ready. I mean, you won’t be READY. You’ll never be ready. But you need to be committed to the idea that you are irrevocably changing your life.

I am a 40-year-old woman who has been married to a wonderful man for nine years (together for 11). I have a cat who was one of a litter of kittens I “rescued” from their stray mother about 13 years ago. She was the runt, had trouble feeding herself, and was extremely hard to socialize. Since then, she has become very attached to me, but is skittish around other people.

When my husband and I met, he acknowledged that he wasn’t a “pet person,” and that his family had never had pets of any kind. When he moved in, I promised that he would never have to feed or care for the cat, that I would take care of her litter and her food and any vet issues.

Over the years, he has grown increasingly hostile to the cat. She’s no longer allowed on the bed or the furniture. She’s not even allowed on the mat in front of the sink in the bathroom. She’s only allowed on one blanket covered part of one of the couches.

I try to clean up after her daily, but it doesn’t seem to help. He can barely stand to be in the same room with her. If she meows, he claps his hands or yells at her — if she gets underfoot as he’s trying to walk through the room, he stomps and shouts at her. If she’s purring and he can hear it, he tells me to “make her stop.”

I know that not everyone loves animals. But I don’t think it’s fair to an elderly animal to have to live in fear. He’s never hit her, and he never would, but the level of hatred he exhibits towards her is shocking to me. We’ve talked about eventually getting a dog, and we both agreed that we need to wait until the cat is gone. We have a very small apartment, and it would be unfair to both animals to put them in a situation where they don’t have their own space.

I grew up in a household where arguments were loud and vicious and hurtful. Because of that, I have a hard time dealing with conflict. If someone gets angry or loud, I shut down. But it’s killing me to watch my cat have to put up with being yelled at and intimidated in her own home. I have considered giving up my cat to a friend or family member, but 1) I don’t WANT to give her up, and 2) I don’t think it’s fair to give a cat to someone when it’s at an age where she might develop serious health problems and die.

Other than this one issue, we really do have a great relationship. We love each other very much, enjoy many of the same things, and we never argue about money or family. We’ve navigated so many obstacles, and we are generally very appreciative of what we have together. But I feel like I need a little outside perspective on this. I’m so stressed out by the constant tension in our home, and I feel disrespected. Am I being unreasonable to expect him to just man up and deal with it?

I’m a little confused here, because the math just isn’t adding up. How long has your husband been exhibiting open hostility towards the cat? Because you’ve had the cat for, what, 13 years — longer than you’ve been a couple. It’s not like the cat is a new development, or was introduced into your relationship abruptly after years of petless bliss. Basically, for as long as this guy has known you, the cat has been around. He married you knowing the cat was a part of your life, without objection, eyes wide open.

Unless he recently started dropping the hammer on Mr. Bigglesworth, it sounds like this has been festering for years. Curious as to what has caused it to reach such a boiling point that you’re writing in to yours truly. Has his disposition changed or behavior escalated? Are you covering for him, and he’s being cruel? Is the cat’s advanced age or deteriorating health pushing him over the edge?

In any case, you need to confront him and discuss his problems with the cat out in the open. Under no circumstances should you contemplate getting a dog until you resolve the festering 11-year resentment your husband has towards the cat. If he’s paying lip-service to your love of pets, it’s unfair to everyone involved (including the animal) to introduce another pet to the mix until your sort this out. Or discover that the cat is just a proxy for other problems in your relationship that you’re not confronting.

So I’m with an awesome guy in an awesome relationship — we’re completely on the same page about money, children, careers, personal ethics, all of it — and he is absolutely for sure The One. We’re moving in together in May, and I’m super excited, with one little worry. Moving in means that his friends will be over, which means I will have to (gulp!) socialize with them. The backstory is: he’s seven years older than me, and a former academic, who is friends with a lot of current academics who he went to grad school with. When he couldn’t find a job in academia, he went to culinary school, where he met me: a two-time high school dropout who worked her way up from the dish-pit into nice kitchens, and, needless to say, we move in very different circles. I also have a wee bit of social anxiety, and with the two factors at work, I’ve never been able connect, or even really relax with his academia friends.

They all seem like very nice people, but, well, I’m 24 and they’re all in their 30s and married, and we honestly have nothing to talk about. They name their pets after Greek legends (all of them are history and classics PhDs), talk about when they did their masters at Cambridge, and I never, ever get their jokes and inevitably end up feeling very young and very stupid. My dude understands where I’m coming from (though not the class aspects of it) and has offered to slowly integrate me — less the big crowd, more going over to the friendliest friend’s for dinner — and I really appreciate his patience. But I know that I need to work at this myself, and I’m not sure how. So I guess I have two questions: how do I be less anxious around his friends, and how do I find something to actually talk to them about?

Food. You should talk to them about food. Geeks love food, and it seems like an area where you have the upper hand, having gone to culinary school. You’re probably very comfortable and confident in the kitchen, and that confidence can carry over into any social situation.

I like the idea of a smaller gathering over dinner, it’s more manageable. And honestly, what’s to be intimidated by? They’re academics, not NHL players. Perhaps you guys host, and make it a fun, low-pressure event on your home turf. Impress them with your culinary skills, serve something exotic from the classical era? Rather than bear the social burden yourself, mix things up by having some of your friends over as well. If the conversation-going gets rough, you can always turn to them to discuss tattoos and compare Kitchen Confidential war stories. Unless your husband’s friends are total snobs, they may actually be the ones intimidated by you. I mean, they name their pets after Alex Karras.

Worst case, talk about movies. Who doesn’t love movies? I’m sure there are plenty of movies where you could find common ground.

Previously: Fantasies, Expiration Dates, and the Vasectomy.

A Married Dude is one of several rotating married dudes who don’t claim to know everything about marriage. Do you have any questions for A Married Dude? (300-word max, please.)

Photo by Patsy Michaud, via Shutterstock