Inside His Head: Wife frustrated by husband’s lack of friends, initiative

Dear Inside His Head,

My husband of 7 years looks to me when he’s home from work and weekends for all his companionship and company. He literally has no friends. His one and only boyhood friend lives 300 miles away and was his pot smoking buddy back in the day before he stopped.

He has no solo hobbies or buddy hobbies, likes no one at work and simply just has no life besides me and his video game addiction. His doting is annoying, and I’ve realized there’s nothing exciting about him. I feel like we never do anything unless I come up with an idea. Its like COME UP WITH YOUR OWN LIFE for crying out loud.

He wont initiate any ‘man’ chores around the house on his own unless I create a list. The kicker is our sex life is so erratic and I think he may have fallen back on porn again. Better stop before my iPad runs out of ink.

- so over it

GRAY: I’d have to begin by asking if he’s always been this way or if he ever had friends or hobbies (not including his solitary boyhood friend)?

If he hasn’t then he may be very comfortable leaning on you, which is obviously demanding. And if you criticize him for having no friends and no life he’s going to run back to another video game, because that’s a comfortable place.

People say they’re content with surfing the internet or reading fiction or watching movies or playing video games, but it’s entertainment and not substance. They fill time and give us the illusion of accomplishment, but they’re hollow pursuits. They leave us empty and waste our lives. None of these are bad in moderation, but when they become habit they can kill years of our lives.

He may be depressed because he has no passion in his life and fills his idle hours with porn or video games to take his mind off of feeling bad. Entertainment will never replace substance because substantial activities fuel our sense of self – become how we define who we are.

I know it’s the obvious pick, but I’ve seen people break out of this pattern most often when they join groups. It could be church activities, it could be volunteering at the city animal shelter, just something to get him out in the real world and where he has responsibility and interaction with others. There’s no shortage of agencies that would love volunteers. You’ll know when you find the right venue.

You said he doesn’t like a single person at his work, which seems odd unless he works with a tiny group of people. Could it be he actually hates what he does for a living? People get new degrees and reenter the workplace much happier all the time. Instead of video games, he could get online credit in the evenings and eventually land a career that could change his outlook.

Be encouraging and positive especially if he has anxiety about trying new things. Be persistent if he fails or isn’t a good match for a group. Fear of failing keeps lots of people from ever trying, but – like the saying goes – you fail at 100 percent of the chances you don’t take. Force him out of the house to do something worth doing and hopefully it’ll start turning his complacency around.

MAVERICK: Well, sounds like you have a whole mountain of problems that seem to circle back your  near total lack of respect for your husband. So, barring writing a book here, I’m going to focus on the first part of the problems — his lack of friends.

The lack of friends thing seems to be becoming a pretty common complaint with women these days. I often wonder why in the world a woman would choose a man as a husband who didn’t have some sort of friend network. Friendships help us learn about relationships. It’s where we learn about give-and-take, loyalty, and commitment.

In the end, if a man, or woman has no friends, well, run for it.

So, let’s assume your husband, the human load as you describe him, never had any friends and it strangely has never bothered you over the last seven years till now. Somehow, he’s apparently become super-needy and a general, unattractive, friendless, clingy, pain in your butt.

You probably won’t like this advice but you’re going to have to get involved. He won’t make friends on his own. Left alone he’ll get more clingy and just play more video games.  He doesn’t know how or has no interest in making friends so you’re going to have to help.

First, take up some sort of activity together and make it one that men like. Shopping and going to garage sales is generally out. Try fishing, or biking or hiking or poker or sports.

Use this activity to drag him out of the house, make him more active and hopefully less of a total drag to be around. Take your time on this step. Let him ease back into real-life.

Then try to introduce other people to the activity. Invite some folks you know over to watch the game, or to meet you for a hike or to play some poker.

This serves two purposes: introducing him to new people and getting you out of all the one-on-one time with your husband that you seem to dislike so much.

Once you air him out and get him out of this deep, deep, deep rut he seems to be in, he might just become good company and your problem is solved. If that doesn’t work, with luck he’ll eventually find some males in the group he might like. If so, suggest that your husband hang out with them solo – grab a beer, watch some TV, that sort of thing.

This is going to take time. Don’t expect him to change overnight. Male friendships tend to grow slowly and center around some common interests and often shared hardships, even minor ones.

If he’s around other guys enough, eventually they’ll take on some shared task, maybe moving a gigantic wall unit, or fixing a mower, or painting a garage. Hopefully the guys will bond over said activity and have great war stories about hernias or nearly chopped off fingers or the time they almost died from paint fumes.

You simply have to keep introducing new possible friends in a somewhat natural setting and see what happens. In any case doing this should help you feel less stifled.

Another option is to double-date with another couple you like. This can feel sorta forced but it could produce quicker results than the other method. It will also force your husband to shower and perhaps change out of sweats.

If your husband hits it off with any of the guys, keep hanging out with that particular couple and see what happens. It’s like the equivalent of a play-date for men.

In the end though, if you dislike your husband so much, it’s likely that others — who aren’t obligated to him though a little thing like marriage — won’t find him such great shakes either.

And that is the problem at the core: Somehow, your husband has become someone you don’t like. Someone you wish would go and play with someone else and give you some peace.

Instead of pushing him off on someone else, maybe you should think about who he was when you married him. What was appealing about him? What did you love? Why did you want to spend the rest of your life with him?

You remember that guy? Well, he’s now trapped on the couch with a video game controller stuck in his hand and Cheetos on his breath and he’s so deep in a rut he doesn’t know he’s even in one or how to get out.

Help him. It’s what any friend would do and you’re his wife for crying out loud. He does need a friend and you’re it. Go save him.

Inside His Head: Husband is not ‘romantic’ enough for wife

insidehishead, 500

Dear Inside His Head,

I’m married to a great man who’s also a great dad, but I feel frustrated by his lack of romance. He says he’s “not very romantic” but I remember that he was when we were first dating. I don’t expect roses every week or for him to cook me a candlelight dinner, but I would appreciate a little affectionate note every now and then or a special treat occasionally. I’ve dropped hints, but he doesn’t seem to be picking up on my bread crumbs. Should I just come right out and tell him some of the gestures I would like? Would it be annoying to you if your wife did that?

greg1.thumbnailGRAY: This shouldn’t come as too much of a shock, but men aren’t the best at picking up subtleties.

For that matter, most of us aren’t so good at delivering them either. It’s a good bet that the “affectionate note” or “special treat” are the furthest things from his mind. It’s not that he doesn’t care, but his way of caring doesn’t involve the little touches.

Sure, things were a lot different when you were dating. When I met my wife I didn’t have a fraction of the obligations I have now. To some extent, my life used to be able to revolve around hers. Now my attention goes to my daughter…who commands a good deal of it…and to some extent I feel like I show love to my wife by being a good dad.

And it’s true with so many other things: a love letter has become emptying the dishwasher, a bunch of flowers has become taking care of all those projects in the yard. Not very romantic? No, I suppose not, but there you have it.

Victorian VioletsWould it be annoying if my wife asked me to write her little notes? Yes it would and here’s why: it would be akin to saying what I do isn’t good enough, but somehow a “little note” is. I think it would trivialize my affection rather than make it stronger. These trivial little touches would suddenly be on equal footing with the really important stuff.

Everyone likes to be treated in a special manner every now and again, but at the end of the day you have to ask yourself if you’re blessed with what you have. I’m not saying to stop dropping the little hints, but try to appreciate what the two of you already give to each other.

Discovering he’s helped your child with all their homework so you can do things together during the weekend may not be the same as having a surprise bouquet delivered to you…it’s much better when you think about it.

john.thumbnailMAVERICK: The one problem with hinting is, if he’s paying attention it pretty much takes all the “romance” out of it, making the hint a demand he’s having to comply with to humor you.

And if he’s not paying attention, all the hints in the world won’t work.

First, when you say romance, I figure you mean a thoughtful or spontaneous display of affection. Something simple, like a love note or a more complex gesture, like dinner and a movie with him arranging child care. What we’re talking about here is pursuit – the guy making it clear he desires the object of his affection — namely you.

Lots of married women complain their husbands were really “romantic” while dating but it dried up after marriage. It’s pretty standard behavior. Typically this behavior is blamed on the guy. But if you think about it, the signals that triggered that pursuit behavior are likely missing as well. Men pursued their wives during courtship because they were both desirable and playful.

So, perhaps, if you like to be pursued and acknowledged, you might want to start the chase anew.

Do something surprising for him that he might enjoy — make him nachos while he’s watching a fight on TV or recommend you kick around that giant sporting goods warehouse store he loves on a slow Saturday afternoon. Offer a glass of iced tea after he comes in from mowing the yard and a back rub after he takes a shower. Arrange a dinner at his favorite place and surprise him afterward with a night that is worthy of a love note.

Actions like this make him feel valued, cherished, desired and are much more likely to get him to return the gesture, than nagging and guilt.

I’m not saying maintaining the energy and vigor in the relationship is all your responsibility, I’m just suggesting reminding the guy how lucky he is to have you with deeds not words. If you want to be chased, remind him how much fun it is to catch you.

To read more Inside His Head posts, click here.

Inside His Head: Husband and wife disagree on when daughter can wear make-up

insidehishead, 500

Dear Inside His Head,

My husband and I totally disagree about when our daughter can wear makeup or the types of events she can attend with her friends (NOT dating). He wants her to stay his “little girl” and thinks that we should make sure she’s not growing up too fast. The thing is, he’s just pushing her away.

She just turned 14 and I don’t think a little mascara and lip gloss will hurt, but I’m trying to maintain the “united front” with my husband. On the other hand, I think he’s being unreasonable. I don’t want her to grow up too fast either (believe me), but there are ways to negotiate some of her smaller requests. I don’t want her to rebel because we were too strict. Whew!

Any ideas about how I might handle this with my husband?

GRAY: The reality is that at 14 years old your daughter already isn’t anyone’s “little girl” anymore. She’s only two years shy of being able to drive on her own. I think you need to ask your husband how can she be expected to handle that kind of responsibility if he won’t let her learn how to handle lipstick.

And I get where he’s coming from. I don’t want my daughter to grow up faster than she has to, but there’s a point where that sentiment is harmful. And, really, if he stays that strict she’s going to do it anyway and then start lying about it to both of you.

makeup itemsThe other option is to show him that he can have a lot more control over her choices if he agrees to let her buy makeup. It puts him in a position to be involved, limit choices he considers too wild. Probably more important is you’re giving her the trust to wear it responsibly – not to mention simply learning how to use all that stuff. (We guys probably don’t know how easy we have it by just running a razor across our face before we face the public.)

Ask him what he would have done if the tables were turned – all his teen friends doing something and him being the odd man out. Being a teen can be hard enough without unrealistic limits being pushed on you.

A little makeup is probably a huge deal to her even though we have to recognize it’s pretty small potatoes in the grand scheme of things. Find more important battles to draw a line on, such as curfews and rules for those date nights that are sure to be around the corner.

MAVERICK: The thing here is at least you have a clear idea of his motivation – that he doesn’t want her to grow up too fast — which most dads can relate to.

Most guys also don’t have a whole lot of experience with makeup. Most of us know it exists, and we like it’s impact, but we don’t really know how it functions, like sunlight, or light beer.

Explain that makeup is a basic rite of passage for most girls. And let him know you can start slow, with a little bit there and a little bit there. If he’s resistant, give him some time to get used to the idea by saying she can start, say, next week, or next month.

And you can consult with him and set some basic guidelines on how much makeup and when and where your daughter can wear it and then allow those rules to be expanded as your she matures.

It sounds like his heart is in the right place. He just needs some education and some patience and I bet he’ll come around.

generichead-1MICHAEL: Men and women sometimes view makeup differently.

As guys, we think girls wear makeup to attract the attention of boys. The reason they want the attention of boys is so that they can date and they want to date because they want to have sex. Just how our mind works.

Nice logical steps. Makes perfect sense to us. Unfortunately life and especially teenage girls do not always function logically.

My guess is your daughter is more concerned about what other girls think about her looks than what the boys think about them. I think if you could talk to your daughter about the reasons behind why she wants to wear makeup or go places and frame it in logical arguments, you’ll have a better chance or making headway.

Remember, most males are rational creatures and when presented with good arguments eventually concede.

There’s so much estrogen here on nwaMotherlode, we love hearing what the guys have to say from time to time. We’re always wondering, “What was he thinking???” and our anonymous panel of husbands fills us in. If you have a question for the dads, email us and we’ll send it to them. Then look for your answer here. Email to:

Inside His Head: ‘Gym rat’ husband skips out on family too often

inside a guy's head

If you’ve ever wondered, “What was he THINKING?!” you’ll love this monthly feature.

Here we go where women fear to tread — Inside His Head. Find out what men are thinking, delivered straight from the “horse’s” mouth.

This month’s question for our anonymous panel of husbands:

Q: It drives me nuts when my husband gets home from work, grabs a snack and says he’s going to “run to the gym”. Meanwhile, there’s dinner to cook and kids to take care of — which I get to do by myself. I would be fine with it a couple of nights a week, but it’s more often than that. I haven’t put my foot down yet, but I know it has to be done. Any advice for getting my point across without it leading to a huge fight?

GRAY: Seems like he’s too busy pumping iron at the gym to recognize he’s not pulling his weight at home and it’s making you resent making a meal and spending time with your children. It appears to be making the situation divisive. And if something this innocent could lead to a “huge” fight then some time together might do you all some good.

To me the solution seems simple: find time to exercise as a family.

Exercise is a great habit to have, but carving out the time to do it regularly can be a real bugger. Making it a family affair can be a great way to teach your kids the importance of staying fit while giving you all an opportunity to share your day with each other. If they’re too young to go on a bike ride or run around the park, there’s a whole host of carriers and strollers perfectly suited for the situation.

Sure, you might be able to talk him into switching a workout or two to the weekend or a morning, but why not join him? Find ways to bring the family together. It’ll be the best exercise any of you can do.

john.thumbnailMAVERICK: Your complaint sounds pretty reasonable. You don’t mind him going to the gym, it’s just his timing that puts the whole family, except for him, in a bind.

The best way to get this across without leading to a huge fight is to address it when A) he’s not “driving you nuts” with his behavior and B) when he’s not focused on getting out the door and hitting the gym.

Assuming he’s not a total gym rat who has to be working out every day, bring the subject up on one of his off days and in the evening when dinner if finished and after the kids are in bed or doing something to keep them occupied. For goodness sake, whatever you do, don’t “put your foot down.” He’ll instantly react badly to that, you’re not his mom and best I can tell he’s not even been told his behavior is causing you grief.

Unless he’s just a jerk, and your question points more to oblivious rather than jerky, he simply doesn’t realize he’s jamming you up with the timing of his workouts. He likely is thinking that by timing his workout between the end of work and dinner he’s getting it done before he can be lured in to simply staying home and hanging out and it leaves his evening free to be with the family.

Let him know you think his gym time is important to his sanity and his health, but you really need him at home to help with his family in that all-important time before dinner. Tell him there’s just too much going on during his gym time and you need some help. Remember, you are both adults. This is a reasonable request, not an ultimatum or a chance for you to vent, bringing up all the times in the past he’s fallen short of your likely unvoiced expectations.

Offer some alternatives, maybe starting dinner earlier while he helps you with that or tends to the kids so he can still get out to the gym at a decent hour afterward.

If his going after dinner all the time isn’t the best solution maybe you two can compromise, with him going to the gym straight after work a few times a week and on those days he becomes responsible for evening duties, like baths or homework or the bedtime routine. Or maybe some of those things you need help with regarding the kids, say homework or household chores can shift till after dinner when he can be the one who tends to them.

You have every reason to expect help and likely a compromise can be arranged. Just don’t minimize his gym time. Don’t couch this like he’s out playing while you slave around the house. It’s important to him.

It’s become an issue, most likely, simply because he’s unaware. And don’t, I repeat don’t, come at him like your his mom. It’ll just make him defensive and make that huge fight you say you are dreading a near certainty.

generichead-1MICHAEL: It’s not a matter of “putting your foot down”.

It sounds like your husbands personal time has edged past an acceptable limit. You need to clearly communicate your annoyance to your husband in a constructive way. He may assume that dinner and kids is your “job”. Clearly it’s not.

We all want our spouse to be healthy, but not at the expense of the rest of the family. Tell him you appreciate him taking care of himself but you need him to cut back and expend some of that energy at home helping you in the evenings. He can always go later at night if necessary after things have settled down.

Summer-Remix4When you have kids, you have to shift your priorities a bit. That doesn’t mean that you never do anything for yourself, but you do have to compromise a bit to ensure that the entire family can win. It’s time for him to take one for them team.

Inside His Head: The perfect Father’s Day day?

insidehishead, 500

We really appreciate the dads who answer questions for us here on Inside His Head. Guys, you’ve helped us gain insight into how dudes think and have offered some great advice to women in Northwest Arkansas over the years.

Thanks, Inside His Head husbands! This question is from the mamas, because we’re curious:

Dear Dads,

Father’s Day is coming up and that usually means ties, cologne and cooked meat. What would your Ultimate Father’s Day day actually look like? (If ties, cologne and cooked meat factor into the day, there’s no shame.)

GRAY: I don’t often wear ties and never wear cologne, though the allure of some tasty cooked meat is difficult to turn down any time of year. And I’m sure many dads, such as myself, don’t need token gifts.

If my daughter was old enough to be away from home, a phone call would be nice. Not just a “Hi. Happy Father’s Day. Gotta run.” kind of call, but a genuine conversation about how they are and what they’re doing.

Since my daughter isn’t that old yet, I think letting her have a fun-filled day would be nice. I think it’s when we see our children having fun or achieving personal goals that we most feel like dads, whether it be pushing them on a swing, watching a movie on the couch or going out for a bike ride.

And just to go back to the meat thing for a minute, a good meal is always welcome, but not for the gluttony of gorging ones self. The real pleasure of any meal should be the company and conversation around the table.

I suspect it’s a lot like any other day in which we celebrate. As we get older the less presents matter and the more substance is important. I’d certainly skip everything to simply have a day to look back on with my daughter and remember it as what being a father is all about.

MICHAEL: Up early alone with coffee, NPR and the New York Times.

Follow that up with pancakes at home with the family. A walk around the square at the farmers market and then a trip to the library.

Lunch somewhere on Dickson.

A short hike somewhere close, then home for a quick shower followed by dinner at Greenhouse Grille with just my wife. Finish the night snuggled on the couch with all my girls while we watch a movie.


MAVERICK: Well, a perfect Father’s Day would of course involve sleeping in and waking up to some hot tea and my wife’s wonderful fluffy pancakes, some bacon, and maybe some eggs – over easy.

While I know a lot of dad’s would like some solitude on their day, and I understand that urge as well as most, I would of course want to spend the day in the company of my lovely daughter and spouse.

Because I’d have to be there to watch my lovely daughter and spouse mow the yard, do the weed-eating and clean up our small chicken coop.

After the showers and the griping had settled down, we’d all go to the movies.

I usually get to pick anyway because my wife tends to select films that are just terrible, but to be safe I’d invoke the Father’s Day rule and select an action-adventure film.  If the girls want to see something, well, girly, I’d send them along to watch something frilly and I’d sit by myself in the dark with a big tub of popcorn and not feel one bit guilty.

To prove I’m not a total load, I’d take care of cooking dinner.

Perhaps grilling some steaks and burgers, fresh corn would have to be there, and as a slight nod to my heath, a small salad. Afterward we’d all go out for ice cream to properly undue all the good stuff from the salad.

The evening would involve some TV watching, perhaps re-runs of Arrow, or The Flash or Gravity Falls. We’d laugh and joke and likely snack.

And while I’m sure, after all of this, I’d feel properly spoiled, I’d also feel grateful.

And while moms get a lot of the credit for child rearing and as Chris Rock said so famously, “Nobody every says, ‘Hey dad thanks for knocking out that rent’” I’m just happy to be my daughter’s dad and my wife’s husband.

But a little recognition, an the odd tie now and then, doesn’t hurt.