She Said, He Said: Partier Husband Promises He'll Slow Down, But How Long Do I Wait?
Dear Jeff and Lori,
When my husband and I met we both liked to party. Before we got married, we agreed we wanted to have kids and eventually buy a home. Over the last year, I’ve gotten serious about creating a healthier lifestyle, and about preparing to be a mom. He continues to go out almost every night and doesn’t seem to be planning much for our future. When I talk to him about it, he minimizes how much he goes out, and how much he drinks. He says he wants to enjoy the time he has now before being a dad, and will change when we get pregnant. Should I trust he’ll be able to change when that time comes?
-Ready For The Next Chapter
Lori and Jeff: Trust is fundamental in the health of every relationship, but it has to be earned. It may be safe to trust that those are his intentions, but whether he can convert intention into action is another question altogether. Before we delve in, we invite you to consider whether you and your husband discussed in detail your timelines for baby, house, etc. Often we think we had these conversations, but walk away with very different impressions than our partner. You may benefit from revisiting the topic and ensuring the agreed upon goals are explicit.
Your query has two layers. The first is whether humans have the ability to pivot the course of their lifestyle on a dime. To that we say--it depends. Some individuals are capable of making dramatic changes, particularly when significant need arises. However, this is often not the easier path, and can set one up for failure. We often don’t recognize the amount of loss that occurs when we create change, even in positive directions. Those losses, once they begin to be felt, can stunt progress and even compel us to revert to our old ways.
The second is the nature of your husband. If he has a history of pulling off major transformations, perhaps you can give him the benefit of the doubt. However, you mention he minimizes his behaviors. This first step in making any change is being aware and accepting of the current situation. If he’s not able or willing to reflect on his current patterns with clarity, the direction and progression of change will also likely be muddled.
Jeff: There are plenty of stereotypes about men maturing more slowly than women, men being afraid of commitment and men simply not wanting to grow up and take a responsible stance in their lives. Some of these portrayals may be even more prevalent in mountain towns with the seasonal lifestyles and the party, FOMO atmosphere. Whether or not your husband fits into any of these categories of behavior, it is likely that at least some of his resistance to changing his patterns comes from a place of fear. He may not want to feel as though he has lost his “say” in how his life is conducted or he may be dreading the new role of “provider” that is also included in the bucket of stereotypes for men. The concept of being a responsible husband and father can come with the terrifying possibility of being trapped in a perpetual all-work-and-no-play cycle that goes against every fiber in our fun-loving, adventure-seeking bodies. While these may be challenging ideas for him to contemplate and even more so to talk about, it might be helpful to try support that process rather than simply requesting change.
Lori: I encourage you to pause on any big steps until you have evidence of change, or more confidence in your spouse that change will occur. The question “should I trust” raises a flag about the current pulse of your bond. Women often have a strong intuition about these matters, and uncertainty is a powerful indication to slow down. How are you feeling overall about your connection with him? Does it seem his going out is a way to create distance or distraction? If the answer is maybe, you’ll benefit from doing some soul searching on what could be pushing him away.
Strong women can get caught up in wanting their partners to manifest their highest potential, quickly. We can push and pressure, and inadvertently work our relationship into a stalemate. To get beyond gridlock, explore reasonable compromises that meet both of your needs. The key is to focus those conversations on ways to strengthen your bond, not on how many nights out he can have.