I Love You But I Can’t Stand This


Right before my first husband suddenly up and died, all I could think was, “I love you, but I can’t stand this. I cannot stand my life with you.”
I had no idea what to do. The therapist I had seen had no idea what to do. My husband certainly had no idea what to do. It wasn’t until my first morning as a widow that I suddenly knew what to do.
May I share it with you?
Here it is in a nutshell: Expect Love.
I expected that when I was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of work and home responsibilities, my husband would pitch in. When he was in the hospital, I would call on other people to help me. After he died, I served Health Choice dinners to buy back some time to spend with my son and moved my office to shorten my commute. But while he was alive, I expected him to do something about my problem. When he didn’t, I was filled with resentment.
It was the resentment that made my life intolerable.
I expected that he would not only join me in getting out of the house on weekends but suggest places to go and things to do. When he didn’t, I was filled with resentment and filled my time with TV and paperwork and reading magazines full of stuff I did not actually care about.
The resentment kept me from noticing his little gifts to me, his attempts to create or continue family traditions, his time loving our son, his cooking our dinners, his kind words.
After he died, it was doubly hard to get out and do things, but I stopped waiting for him to plan them and just started doing them. Without him. Just as I could have while he was alive. And yes, I felt a bit odd doing them alone or with our son and no father. But I so wished I could come home from one of our outings and share stories of the day with someone who loved me.
I expected more sex and hugs than I was getting. Instead of exploring different ways to enjoy physical contact when his illness was active, I just stewed in my own resentment. Word to the wise: resentment is not an aphrodisiac for either of you.
I expected him to take the offers of opportunities to bring in more money. I never lived in his skin, never had a chronic disease to cope with on top of work. He was right, it turns out; his body could not handle anything more, and it failed him. But I had never turned that expectation around on myself. After he died, I did the hard work of doubling my income so our son and I could stay in our new home and he could stay in the private school where he was flourishing.
I expected him to agree with my decisions, never to express his dismay at my choices. But this is reality. What’s nuts is choosing not to do something that will make your mate uncomfortable, then blaming him for your choice to deny part of yourself. Find a Third Alternative or live with the discomfort, but don’t expect approval of what you need to do to be healthy and happy. I don’t like counting calories, but I like the result. I am OK now with the fact that my husband may also dislike the steps I take as long as we agree on the value of the goal.
I would never give up an expectation of feeling safe in my own home, but every other expectation I give up improves my second marriage. The other night, we were short on cash when we went out, and I expected my husband to handle the situation the way I would. I found myself getting angry at his choices. I just knew doing things my way would be more sensible. I ruined my own good mood with the expectation we would think alike.
When I let go of the expectation and decided to accept him and all his differences (some of them truly wonderful), he once again seemed like a loving man I could trust and adore.
To Expect Love, you have to be willing to do some of the hard work of getting what you want or need. You have to be willing to give up total control of the assets and time you share and go with the flow. But it’s no more work to get what you need as part of a couple than on your own. It’s usually easier. And the control you give up is often control over what you would not even have on your own.
Each time you do it, it feels like throwing open the drapes and letting more sunlight into your life. Without the resentment, it’s so much easier to feel the love and respect your spouse offers.
If you can’t stand what’s going on in your life together, even though you still love your husband or wife, let go of a few expectations and start changing your life. It’s really easy to love someone who expects love and nothing more. In fact, it’s a lot like falling in love. You might really enjoy it.

About the author

Patty Newbold

I am a widow who got it right the second time. I have been sharing here since February 14, 2006 what I learned from that experience and from positive psychology, marriage research, and my training as a marriage educator.


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  • Patty, this is a great post. So many of our expectations are really petty, and yet it can be terribly hard to give them up. But by letting go of them, we also let go of so much disappointment and frustration.
    You mentioned the expectation of feeling safe in your own home as one you would not give up. Absolutely! To that I would add the expectation of trustworthiness (which includes basic honesty, marital fidelity, and financial trust).

  • Hi Patty,
    as I’m one of the german students of Barbara Sher that’s the way I got to know your Blog. I feel thankful for your post. Thank you very much for sharing your experience. It’s like a treasure to me.

  • Thanks for this blog. You are a very insightful writer. I would like advice on what to do about my husband’s controlling ways with the thermostat. I am freezing. I would like to turn the heat up. He is very frugal and that is a loving way of putting it. I can choose to be resentful or grateful that is disciplined approach has given us a decent safety net of savings. But right now I am just freezing, even with the extra layers.

  • Thank you, Jennifer. Sounds like you two need a Third Alternative. Turn up the heat doesn’t work for him. Sleep at this temperature doesn’t work for you.
    You are off to a great start being grateful for his disciplined approach and its benefits. Now you need the specs for a third option that will please you both. Once you have the specs, you brainstorm. Try to get as outrageous as possible, and censor nothing, so you have a good time finding it.
    Here are a few ideas to get you started:
    – Make a bed warmer to pre-warm the toe area of your side of the bed.
    – Check the local thrift stores for a dual control or twin size electric blanket.
    – Calculate the price of running a small quartz heater next to your side of the bed and cut that much out of some other part of your budget.
    – Move the bed closer to the ceiling, where it’s warmer.
    – Design a really sexy balaclava to keep your face warm in the cold room (and sell it to other wives in your position to pay for a heater).
    – Promise him you will drop the temperature even further when you hit perimenopause in return for a few extra degrees now.
    When you are done listing ideas, then and only then should you ask if they meet your combined specs and could make both of you happy without making either of you resentful.

  • I can not thank you enough for this. I found it while searching for something to help me deal with my several year old frustrations. My husband retired 2 years ago and his do nothing life, while I continue to work is really difficult. Thanks…if will reread this often.

  • thank you for the candidness of your article. I have been married 26 years and currently is very much a struggle. & a lot of that is because of unmet exptations and years of physical neglect

By Patty Newbold

Patty Newbold

I am a widow who got it right the second time. I have been sharing here since February 14, 2006 what I learned from that experience and from positive psychology, marriage research, and my training as a marriage educator.

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