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Whirlwind Marriage Lead to Regret

QUESTION: My husband and I have a unique situation. We met on a book lovers mailing list on the internet. We corresponded for 6 months on a daily basis, and after 3 months began to speak on the phone daily. He is from Australia and I am American. Last Feb he came to visit me and we got married. We were very deeply in love and I am still in love with him. We are both in our early thirties and I don't think we had any serious illusions about what a relationship in real life would be like. Since our marriage we have been plagued with difficulties.

1. We feel as though we are divided by a common language. Subtleties and gestures mean entirely different things. Hence we have extra communication problems.

2. He has a son in Australia. and an abysmal relationship with the mother.He misses his son terribly.

3. He is homesick for a culture with which he is familiar and is resisting assimilation.

4. We have a different moral code about money. And we are in debt.

I fear that as a result of all these stressors he and I have lost much of the romantic spark that so many newlywed couples share.I feel he still loves me and he says he does, but little things indoicate that he is no longer thinking of my needs on a regular basis, as I do him. He seems depressed and doesn't cheer up easily. If I try to come up with things for us to do I am told that it is not my repsonsibility, but he mopes if we just sit around ("wasted evenings"). I love this man so much and I want this to work. He has a dark personality, but I can't distinguish between his personality and moods. Sometimes when I ask him why he seems unhappy he says he isn't. I fear he just doesn't want to talk about his feelings.

Is marriage just this difficult? We are trying so hard.

ANSWER: There is no such thing as instant intimacy. Getting to know one another takes time in daily face to face interaction and there are no short cuts for establishing differences and creating avenues for appropriate compromise. Relationships that develop through correspondence leave much to the imagination and you are likely to fill in your "perfect partner" without even knowing it. Compromise is rarely romantic, and you obviously skirted your differences in the whirlwind of "falling in love". The truth is that the only thing you could be certain about when you decided to meet in person is that there would be illusions to shatter!

It took a little time, but indeed your romantic bubble has burst, and in your case, the fall from such a high emotional state was abrupt and unexpected. The effects of such a "fall " out of romance can be devastating to any marriage. Romance is illusion to some extent and there is plenty of room for fantasy! But in the spirit of being kind to yourself, it is fair to state that many a relationship has endured the same fate, even with face to face courtship. "Falling in love" has been teasingly defined by the late Carl Whitaker, father of family therapy, as "loss of self with hysterical dynamics in the forefront". So, perhaps many couples make the important choice for a life partner in the throes of a highly unstable emotional condition!

The real work in the marriage may indeed come with "falling out of love" and into reality. You do still feel love for your partner, so all is not lost. And he states his love for you. But you are right to be confused by what is his depression and what is his character. The good news is that he seems to know the problem is with himself and not your marriage. But his depression would be an impediment to intimacy in any relationship. Yet, it is so important that you be able to get to know the man you married! Treatment of his depression is of the essence. The sooner he treats his depression the better chance your marriage has to succeed.

Your situation holds many of the usual conflicts couples must resolve such as money and past emotional baggage. But there is also the additional difficulties inherent in blending two different cultural as well as personal backgrounds. All of these issues create stress on your relationship and will need to be addressed over time, for they are natural parts of the development of any marriage. But in your case, you are struggling to handle all of them at once. And your newly betrothed is depressed to boot! No wonder you feel overwhelmed by the difficulty in your marriage.

Slow down. Establish some part of the relationship that is kept stress free, so you can enjoy time together. Even if it is only a movie and dinner, make time to spend with each other. Develop your friendships to help you through this period of your husband's depression, for he will not be available for you to lean too heavily upon, until he resolves some of his past pain and present malaise.

Require that your husband get help to address his depression before attempting marital counseling, but consider couple's treatment at some point in the future to solidify your marriage. Let him know you love him and ask what you can do to support his recovery. Tell him you are "missing" him in the relationship. Be supportive of him, but do not accept his passivity towards his own despair.

Marriage is teamwork. Perhaps the two of you will need to fight the dragon of your husband's depression before getting on with a shared vision for the life you have before you. And if you are lucky, maybe you will find a clear destination to one another's hearts after the fog has lifted. It is too early to tell whether the pot at the end of the rainbow still holds gold. But you owe it to yourselves to do your best to find out.


Gayle Peterson, MSSW, LCSW, PhD is a family therapist specializing in prenatal and family development. She trains professionals in her prenatal counseling model and is the author of An Easier Childbirth, Birthing Normally and her latest book, Making Healthy Families. Her articles on family relationships appear in professional journals and she is an oft-quoted expert in popular magazines such as Woman's Day, Mothering and Parenting. . She also serves on the advisory board for Fit Pregnancy Magazine.

Dr. Gayle Peterson has written family columns for ParentsPlace.com, igrandparents.com, the Bay Area's Parents Press newspaper and the Sierra Foothill's Family Post. She has also hosted a live radio show, "Ask Dr. Gayle" on www.ivillage.com, answering questions on family relationships and parenting. Dr. Peterson has appeared on numerous radio and television interviews including Canadian broadcast as a family and communications expert in the twelve part documentary "Baby's Best Chance". She is former clinical director of the Holistic Health Program at John F. Kennedy University in Northern California and adjunct faculty at the California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco. A national public speaker on women's issues and family development, Gayle Peterson practices psychotherapy in Oakland, California and Nevada City, California. She also offers an online certification training program in Prenatal Counseling and Birth Hypnosis. Gayle and is a wife, mother of two adult children and a proud grandmother of three lively boys and one sparkling granddaughter.

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