What to do when your spouse is on a different page

A Reader Participation Post

I got this question from a reader, slightly edited by me.

“… One the reasons we have problems is because we are always on different pages.  When he’s having a great day and happy I’m not and vice versa.  When he’s in the “mood” I’m not because of the way he approaches it and vice versa.  He likes it in the morning, I like getting frisky at night.  When I’m feeling all lovey dovey, he’s not and so on. What on Earth can we do to get on the right page because it’s always hit and miss?” — Not On the Same Page

I have an unusual take on this, and I’ll be curious to read what others say in the comments. My take is this: most couples are not on the same page. Sure, there are those envious ones who seem to agree on everything and do everything together.

And then there are the rest of us. If you continually compare yourself to couples who are in sync, you will forever feel as if your relationship is lacking. I would suggest a different approach. Take a good hard look at your situation and ask yourself a few questions:

1. What parts about not being in sync seriously bother me vs. what parts do I worry about because I have an ideal in my head about what happy couples are like and this does not fit that ideal?

2. What can I do about the things that seriously bother me?

For instance, let’s say the mismatched sexual desire really bothers you. You could sit there and wish that your husband would just get in the mood at the same time as you and never make any progress. Or, you could try some compromises.

For instance, this past Sunday my husband was in the mood. I wasn’t. I was in the womanly way, if you know what I mean, and I feel dreadful, ugly, smelly and the opposite of sexy when all of that is going on. So I forced him to submit to a blowjob. He rather enjoyed being forced to submit to this.

That was a compromise, one that made me happy (because my pants stayed on) and him happy (because his pants came off).

I’m not saying that it’s the best compromise for you, but there are many other possible compromises you could make. For instance, the person who is not in the mood at any given moment could ask the person who is in the mood, “Please help me get in the mood.” Or, you might try sex in the morning every other time, and then in the evening every other time.

Is it a perfect world? No. But, as I said, I don’t believe in the perfect world. It’s my firm belief that the perfect world is an illusion. In an imperfect world, compromises and brainstorming are in order.

Readers: what advice do you have to share for Not On the Same Page?

28 comments… add one

  • Joanne & Ray July 1, 2010, 12:07 pm

    Alisa- You are so right. Ray and I are very different in sooooo many ways I have stopped look at the differences and have started to look at the compromises.
    Ray is an evening lover and I like it in the morning. This means Saturday and/or Sunday mornings are mine and once or twice a weeknight I accommodate him. I also don’t have an on/off switch I am always on, Ray’s switch is always off and it is up to me to turn it on. He always enjoys himself once we start but it just isn’t a thought process for him.

    I decided that 1) I actually like working at my marriage, it is a challenge, and I like challenges. 2) By learning to compromise I get to experience a twist on how I wanted things and often find out that I actually am better off that way. 3) I have really started to learn to communicate and to have patience. 4) Ray told me just recently that he knows I love him because I have never given up on him. (Little does he know how close I’ve truly come.)

    Reply
  • Cyndi July 1, 2010, 12:31 pm

    Perfect response! There is no right or wrong page and our own expectations of seemingly perfect couples (they are not perfect in reality only in public) make us feel as if we’re “doing it wrong”. Your compromise example is perfect too and has been exercised in my household for the exact same reasons.
    Cyndi´s last blog post ..ProFlowers Gift Basket Giveaway

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  • Frugal Kiwi July 1, 2010, 1:29 pm

    This post made me think of a hilarious cartoon I saw the other day about expectations… http://stuffnoonetoldme.blogspot.com/2010/06/blog-post.html
    Frugal Kiwi´s last blog post ..When Less Is More

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  • Sarah Liz July 1, 2010, 3:47 pm

    Did the reader who asked this question bug my house?

    This is so how it is in my own marriage, most of the time.

    I’m getting better at compromising, he wants to compromise, but rarely does. I’m very irritated with that today–not so much him as with the whole situation.

    The actual problem is an issue with broken promises. A LOT of talk, with no action (literally and figuratively). He says we’ll make a plan and do things differently, but it’s rare that that “differently” ever happens.

    Oy…..

    But, I know that we’re all human, no one is perfect–we ARE two different people and he probably means well…..

    I have to assume the best, if I go looking for reasons to be pissy with him and mad at him, I’ll find them. I know in his heart he DOES care and he DOES love me, this I know!

    I am curious, though, anyone else have an issue with broken promises?

    For me, I see them as a sign of disrespect and a lack of integrity–maybe I’m reading too much into it (you know, making mountains out of molehills, I’m good at that)…but, how often is a broken promise just an accident?

    I mean, he keeps most of his promises, I’d say 8 out of 10–but sometimes, I have a hard time trusting him because I don’t actually believe he’ll come through on something just because he “promises” to.

    I’ve told him not to make promises he can’t keep, which he has gotten better at, and then I get all frustrated when he WON’T promise something. Aren’t I just lovely today?! Hey, I’m entitled!

    Sincerely, though, I definitely see breaking promises as not being a person of integrity and showing great disrespect.

    I’m not saying my husband ALWAYS breaks his promises, and sometimes, stuff happens, life gets in the way, I’ve done it a time or two myself. But, it just irritates me that he seems to always have an excuse or a reason why he broke the promise-whatever it may be….

    ….input here would be QUITE helpful, folks–thank you!

    I have to say I’ve calmly explained to my husband how I see this situation and why it bothers me…he says he knows and understands but we end up having the same conversation.

    Should I break some promises to him and see how he likes it? That’s not my style and very un-spiritual of me too. Two wrongs don’t make a right, you know.

    Whew, again, I’d really appreciate y’alls input, thanks!

    In the meantime….I need to mellow out, be patient and realize it isn’t all about me–okay, I NEED to do all of that, but that doesn’t mean I WANT to! LOL!

    ANYWAY….great post, Alisa, thanks for sharing!

    Many Blessings,
    -Sarah Liz :)

    Reply
  • Sarah Liz July 1, 2010, 3:50 pm

    Oh and GREAT advice you gave, JoAnne & Ray…and of course, Alisa, this being your blog and all–you drove the point home–thanks!

    Reply
  • Natalie July 1, 2010, 5:49 pm

    Great post Alisa. And I totally am on the same page as you in the thought process that most couples are very different in many ways. My husband and I are, so maybe that’s why I feel that way. :)

    Sara Liz… reading your post made me think of something. Have you ever noticed that when something really bothers us to the core, it’s so easy to find ways to blame our spouses no matter what? If you husband kept a promise to you today, do you think it’d be possible that you’d still be annoyed because, “Well, this is one time out of how many?” I say this smiling because I do things like this all the time. I expect too much and often my expectations are unrealistic… and whether I say it aloud or not, my husband gets the brunt of my frustration (I’m really good and telling him off in my head for any scenario that might piss me off that moment).

    A couple things that I’ve heard and tried to implement: 1) Try turning the microscope on myself. This takes the focus off of everything I feel my husband is doing wrong and helps me think, “I bet there are some things in this situation he wishes I would handle differently.” 2) No body is able to read minds. There’s a difference between nagging and talking down to my husband and finding a calm way to explain my concerns after I’ve taken some time to realize if they’re realistic concerns or just “small stuff” due to lack of sleep or a tough day at work. But, if I’d like something, I try to ask. If I’m feeling like I need a date night, I often sit there and think, “Man, I wish he’d just plan something for once!” (See, there’s that negative voice when I’m feeling snarky.) Then I get pissy and nothing he does is right. So I say, “Hey, can we have a date night this weekend?” He most of the time says “sure” and we figure out what we want to do.

    I don’t know that this helps the original poster, but it kind of ties in with Alisa’s suggestion of compromise. Find out what are the “deal breakers” so to speak and see if 1) you can do anything yourself to improve the situation and, 2) find a kind, compassionate way to discuss your concerns with your husband (even if it’s in a letter to help you organize your thoughts for a particularly touchy subject).

    I needed this today. I’ve been exhausted all week due to work and have been a not so nice person at home. I needed this to remind myself to step back and try some different approaches. Thanks. :P

    Reply
  • Alexandra July 1, 2010, 8:36 pm

    My take: When you’re not on the same page with your spouse, and this seems to be the most frequent scenario, and no compromise is possible, and you try for years and years and years to solve this, and even reading Alisa’s blog does not help any more, then it’s time to consider divorce. But, if you have children together, think twice, because divorce is hardest on the children. (My kids are still getting over my divorce with their father 20 years ago.)

    My husband’s take: Sven suggests that if the man likes it in the morning and the woman likes it at night, they should meet at noon for a siesta. So, I guess he agrees with you, Alisa.

    Reply
  • Joanne & Ray July 1, 2010, 9:43 pm

    Sarah Liz- This is so my problem with Ray, He tries for all of about 2 or 3 days then goes right back to type. No real change just one attempt after another but you know what, he is still trying. I can call him on it and he will try all over again for another few days. I think that is a sign of hope because he has never just said f*** you, he just keeps trying.

    Natalie- Don’t feel to bad. I don’t know where it came from or why I did it but I actually smacked Ray last night and am so upset I can’t believe that I did that. I was hurt and he laughed and I just lost it. I raised three childrten and never ever resorted to violence before. Thank God he allowed me to apologize profusely and has been babying me ever since. I don’t know why I even did it!!

    Reply
  • Natalie July 1, 2010, 10:39 pm

    Joanne… I’m sorry you got to that point. I know that level of frustration. It’s not fun. I really am pulling for you and Ray, Joanne. :)

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  • Alisa Bowman July 2, 2010, 5:59 am

    Joanne–forgive yourself. You did it. It’s over. He’s already forgiven you. You didn’t put him in the hospital. You did not scar him for life. You didn’t even give him a bad dream. It was an accident. It will probably never happen again. Let it go. You are a good person. You were angry. You are human.
    Alisa Bowman´s last blog post ..The Project- Happily Ever After® Manifesto

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  • Joanne & Ray July 2, 2010, 7:37 am

    I smacked him so hard his teeth smashed together and it rocked his head back. I have never hit another human being out of anger before. God, I was raised with that. I never knew what I would say or do that would cause my dad to punch me so hard I would fly across a room and I swore to never do it myself. If we have degenerated to this point maybe our relationship is too unhealthy to go on.
    Ray allowed me to apologize and make it up to him but I am still shaken. I’m going to bring it up at our next counseling session on Tuesday. Until then Ray is acting like it was no big deal.

    Reply
  • sophia July 2, 2010, 10:39 am

    Sara Liz:

    Me and my man N used to struggle with broken promises alot in our newlywed days (hey we were 18!). However, we’ve totally fixed that issue. Here’s how:

    1) I realized that what I really wanted was action not promises.
    2) Therefore, I stopped allowing him to make promises. Whenever he started to promise a change, I told him instead that what I really wanted was for him to implement one SMALL aspect of the change for a short period of time. (For example, rather than him promise to initiate sex more, which is a vague promise bound to be broken if only from the fact that its so vague, I made him promise to kiss me at least once a week on his own. )

    This works better because my man likes action items that he can implement and often doesn’t really know what I mean by “more”, etc.

    3) Every time he made a promise, I made one back telling him: I promise that I won’t expect perfection from you and will forgive your mistakes as we try to change this behavior. Its going to take time to change. I don’t expect everything to change at once.

    This really helped me. It sounds like it could help you. Also, 80% is really good! Maybe your real job is not to force your husband to keep his promises (which you can’t ever do no matter how hard you try) but to practice forgiveness for the other 20% when he is in need of guidance and help. Remember, this is not about you getting what you want ALL the time. And I certainly wouldn’t get angry with a good man over his 20% imperfection in this case. After all, I’m sure that I have 20% imperfection too! Good luck!

    Reply
  • Maureen July 2, 2010, 10:53 am

    Ah… expectations… the biggest killer of ANY relationship. We make no promises in our marriage either. We just do.
    In this, our second marriage each, we told each other there would be no expectations or promises, only support and caring. It has been and exciting and breathtaking 10 years. Never one single dull moment. LOL

    Reply
  • Joanne & Ray July 2, 2010, 12:44 pm

    hey , can someone tell me why some of you have an image by your name and some don’t?

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  • Alisa July 2, 2010, 1:53 pm

    Joanne–the people with gravitars will have a little photo show up when they leave comments here or on any site that enables that feature. If you want one, type “gravitar” into google and the site will come up that walks you through how to create one.

    Reply
  • Joanne & Ray July 2, 2010, 2:23 pm

    It amazes me how much you guys know about computers. I work with accounting software all the time and am pretty well versed in Excel but facebook and internet stuff still boggles me.

    Reply
  • The Nice Girl July 2, 2010, 6:45 pm

    How about doing it in the morning and at night? Now that’s a compromise!

    On a serious note, you have to understand that most people want sex on their schedule. For me, I’d rather have sex in the morning before going to work than have sex at night when I’m exhausted from teaching teenagers all day. My husband would rather have sex at night since he’s a night owl.

    But if you see your spouse as a place of solitude and pleasure, and not another task to do during the day, sex will become a place to connect each day and not a place to argue.

    Sincerely,
    The Nice Girl
    alwaysthenicegirl.blogspot.com
    The Nice Girl´s last blog post ..I Am Planning A Nothing Day Today

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  • Joanne & Ray July 2, 2010, 7:37 pm

    As the partner with the over active libido( Until July 6th when I visit the doctor and get the “libido killer but marriage saver” medicine) I like The Nice Girls first comment – once in the morning, once at night makes a relationship both naughty and nice.

    Reply
  • Kathy July 2, 2010, 8:24 pm

    What if you’re not on the same page about life in general? Hubby and I are going thru this currently. Maybe it’s the quitting smoking thing. I’ve quit (3 weeks now). He’s still trying to quit.

    Hubby and I are rarely in the mood for sex at the same time. I’m in the mood in the middle of the day when he’s at work. He seems to be in the mood after I’m in bed ready to fall asleep. We did manage to get in the mood at the same time while on vacation – middle of the day!

    Reply
  • Joanne & Ray July 3, 2010, 8:32 pm

    Kathy- This is so the same for Ray and I and I try to keep him on vacation as much as I can afford to because he is completely different then. When we have gone through a particularly long dry spell I will wisk him away for even a three day vacation because he is completely different when a hotel room is involved.

    Reply
  • Kathy July 3, 2010, 8:48 pm

    Joanne, I think all men are different in hotel rooms. It used to be a joke, not getting any from your man, take him to a hotel room. Truly, somehow a hotel room is like an aphrodisiac or something. Just go spend the night in a hotel room and forget the three day vacation.

    Reply
  • Alisa Bowman July 4, 2010, 8:50 pm

    Yes, a hotel room is the best aphrodisiac there is!
    Alisa Bowman´s last blog post ..He’s Always Late She’s Always Punctual Can They Get Along

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  • Alisa Bowman July 4, 2010, 8:51 pm

    Oh, and Joanne–love your pix!
    Alisa Bowman´s last blog post ..He’s Always Late She’s Always Punctual Can They Get Along

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  • Bern July 6, 2010, 11:17 pm

    Personally I celebrate the differences between people – I think the world would be a very boring place if we were all the same! However, that means that you have to take the good with the bad, and accept that your own view is probably no more ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ than the other persons, just different. I read in lots of the posts in many of the blogs where people are saying their husband or wife did something ‘wrong’ that upset them – what makes the other person wrong, just because they have a different view? Again, we need to get back to the key which is communication, and validating the other persons point-of-view (but don’t necessarily need to agree with it).

    In my own case, with my former wife we were quite different, and I believe I generally celebrated those differences (although I’m sure I didn’t do that all the time, and would’ve said some disagreeable things over the years), whereas for her once the infatuation or romance stage wore off she could only see the things she didn’t like about me, and not any of the positives. Often us men joke about earning ‘brownie points’ with our wives for doing something they like – for many years (until she ended the marriage) I felt I could only lose ‘brownie points’ and never gain them. That should’ve been a huge red flag to me, but I naively thought it was probably just a phase we’d get through, and never addressed it head on, as I should have. We could have figured it out I’m sure, but I’m sure that she felt that because we were different our relationship was doomed.

    With my new partner of two years we are very similar in views, attitudes, values, and believe me, it has been much easier! I joke with her that I’m going to get us t-shirts made that say “Mutual Admiration Society” or something like that, as we seem to agree on most things! I’m sure as time goes on we’ll find difference, but with my new knowledge on relationships and our love and respect for each other we’ll handle them much better.

    Reply
  • Katie July 7, 2010, 11:29 am

    Alisa,

    Just wanted to say how much I enjoyed your post. I personally find it really tough, both emotionally and logistically, when I’m on a different page than my boyfriend. I particularly like your first comment about thinking about “what seriously bothers me.” I currently work at a company that is developing a website for learning relationship skills (http://www.poweroftwomarriage.com/). Your advice really reminds me of suggestions I have heard around my workplace. I have recently learned about exploring underlying concerns when I am facing a tough decision with my boyfriend. Having put it into practice, I’ve found that discussing my underlying concerns helps me to figure out what is “really bothering me.” This then helps me to make lots of suggestions that might help address my underlying concerns. I’ve found this sort of “brainstorming” together leads to great co-decisions. It helps us to avoid talking in circles!

    Thanks for the advice,
    Katie

    Reply
  • OneHotTamale25 August 15, 2010, 7:27 pm

    My first thought when I read this post was, “Where’s the compromise?” My ideas are not unlike yours. I suppose the only thing I would add is discussion. It seems “Not on the Same Page” really wants to be, so maybe it would be helpful to sit with her husband and see if either of them can identify the barriers that prevent them from compromising — or even agreeing.

    Reply
  • confused1 August 15, 2012, 7:58 pm

    My husband cheated a few years ago.It took me forgiving him,but also doing alot of internet research to help MYSELF deal with his indescretion.In doing this,I found my husband was passive aggressive,a term I had never been familiar with.All the traits fit him,I was dumbfounded,I

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  • confused1 August 15, 2012, 8:09 pm

    I had spent years feeling like i was crazy,his behavior had been so confusing,frustrating.Passive/aggressive people break promises alot.They tell you what you want to hear to get you off their back,but never follow through.The purposely forget things/put things off.They are masters at shifting blame.This knowledge has saved me emotionally,I now know it is not my fault my husband cannot express anger in a healthy way and chooses to thwart me,get back at me in silence,sometimes while smiling and acting friendly.We do nothing to bring this on,it is all in the miswired mind of the passive aggressive.My suggestion is look up passive /aggressive traits and see if they apply to your husbands/boyfriends.If they do,you can choose to leave,or research ways to coexist with this type of frustrating personality,and make peace with the fact they are wounded children living in an adult body.

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