I am a newlywed who’s been married exactly one month. My husband and I are both in our 20s, have established careers, and dated a little over a year before tying the knot. For about two months leading up to the wedding, I noticed my husband’s personality changed pretty drastically. He was rude, critical and very mean. He has moderate anxiety, but refuses to see a counselor because he’s afraid it will affect his career in law enforcement. He has panic attacks less than once a month, but leading up to the wedding we were trying to wrestle his panic into submission at least twice a week. He kept saying the wedding was stressing him out and things would get better.
His attacks have subsided, but he has not returned to being the person who asked me to marry him last spring. He criticizes absolutely everything I do. He says I can’t manage money, even though I’m paying off my student debt and my car loan. He hates my job as an elementary teacher. He tells me he worries I will get fat now that we are married, even though I’m a size four and teach a fitness class. He opens my mail and reads through my Web history and text messages.
If I cry over any of this, he says I’m stressing him out. Neither one of us believes in divorce except in serious circumstances, like adultery or abuse. I love him more than anyone in the world, but it feels like a poison has seeped into a wonderful relationship. What should I do?
— Newlywed in Peril
If you’re like most brides a month after the wedding, you haven’t yet written all the thank you notes. That’s good for you, because you can just box up your gifts and return them to your loved ones with a note explaining that unfortunately the marriage just didn’t work out. I’m assuming your signature means it’s your relationship that you worry is in peril. But I think you genuinely are. You’ve married a nut with a gun who in the lead-up to the wedding day started making your life hell. Unless you’ve taken some steps to keep it from him, he’s probably already read your letter to me. Seeing such a letter tends to make people like your husband rather angry, which is another reason I think you need to get out. Yes, it’s surely possible that your husband has a treatable anxiety-related disorder. But so what, since he won’t seek help.
Beyond the panic attacks, you’ve hitched yourself to a really nasty person. This guy is so rotten that he hates that you’re an elementary school teacher. Does he also kick puppies and toss old ladies down manholes? You say the two of you don’t believe in divorce except in extreme cases, like abuse. Well, here you go! You have time to leave before the abuse turns physical, or you get pregnant. I find it alarming someone so out of control is in law enforcement. We need fewer crazy guys with unlimited access to guns. You probably think that ending a month-long marriage will seem like a humiliating failure. But there are far worse things than being a little embarrassed.
My friend “Michelle” lost her financial marketing job about a year ago. She has gone on a number of interviews over the last 12 months, but nothing has ever come of them. Not too long ago I ran into her when she was on her way to another interview and she was wearing black Capri pants, a fuchsia blazer, and ballet flats. Now I don’t work in finance but I have gone on my fair share of interviews and her outfit was clearly not appropriate, especially since finance is such a conservative industry. I’m worried that her appearance at these interviews is disqualifying her before she even opens her mouth. Is there a good way to approach this topic with her without offending her? To encourage her to get a new suit? Or should I simply stay quiet?
— A Concerned Friend
You’re right that no matter what Michelle’s qualifications are, her outfit is announcing: “I’m most comfortable in a wingchair at Starbucks, nursing a vanilla spice Frappuccino and watching ‘Real Housewives’ on my iPad.” You must speak up. Someone who’s going to be offended at crucial advice on snagging a job is not someone who’s really looking for a job, and certainly not someone cut out for the cutthroat world of finance. Just tell her straight what you told me. You can offer to “go shopping” in her closet with her and pull out appropriate outfits. Maybe with a trip to an upscale thrift shop she could update what she has with a new jacket or shoes. Sure when you’re broke and desperate, you aren’t focused on your wardrobe or spending money on it. But if she doesn’t project a look of success, no company is going to hire her to market theirs.
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