My Wife Wants Luxury, I Want a Simple Life

My Wife Wants Luxury, I Want a Simple Life

Jack leaned forward in his chair holding his head in his hands, “I don’t think I can be the person she wants me to be. That person is just not me. I’m tired of feeling inadequate when I’m not.”

Jack had been telling me about the demands of  his wife of 10 years that he get more ambitious in his career and how he wasn’t motivated to climb the corporate ladder to acquire material possessions. He didn’t want to live in a McMansion or buy expensive jewelry and designer clothes for his wife. It all made him feel like a sucker–being herded by Madison Avenue to chase the American dream.  From Jack’s perspective, the whole shebang was a well-designed, insidious trap.

“The problem is Amanda came from a wealthy family. She’s all about materiality and getting rich-and- she expects me to buy these things for her just like her Daddy did for her Mom. She won’t be happy unless I do. We’ve struggled with this issue for the last five years.”

Jack was in a tough spot. What do you do if the woman you love wants a radically different life than you want? Does one change his core being or deeply held beliefs  to stay in a relationship? Was he blind when he married her?

The problem is that in relationships a positive correlation exists between expectation fulfillment and the couple’s level of satisfaction/contentment. This axiom presents an inherent conflict for Jack. When a person’s general life expectations are met,  a solid foundation for contentment in his/her relationship is built. Conversely, unfulfilled expectations sow the seeds of dissatisfaction and resentment. Jack and Amanda’s relationship was being poisoned by her dissatisfaction with him. Sadly, her vision of life conflicted with Jack’s vision and she was pressuring him to concede to hers.

Couples often commit in the luscious bloom of infatuation and without full focus on {or awareness of} what they need and want in contexts outside their relationship. Down the road, if needs and wants clash, this inevitably leads to confusion and conflict in both self and relationship  Also, as a couple matures a disparity between each partner’s  expectations sometimes emerges. For some the idealism of youth and new love gives way to the pragmatism and reality of life. Others may hang on to unfulfilled expectations and carry them to their grave. What an individual wants at 21 or 25 may be very different that what they want at 35 or 40.  People stay stuck or grow, change, evolve. There is no guarantee partners will do so in tandem.

After a couple of sessions, Jack made a hard choice. Although he loved Amanda, he was unwilling to be someone he was not to please her. Painful as it was, he needed to be true to himself. He wasn’t going to be a ladder-climbing, Gucci wearing provider for his acquisitive wife. Nor would he live with her criticism, anger, and resentment. He planned to share these feelings with Amanda. He needed her to accept his relative lack of ambition and provide for her own luxuries, or find a husband whose material goals were better aligned with hers.  Jack felt compelled to choose himself and muster the courage to put his marriage on the line and risk losing it to preserve his integrity as a person.

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Jerry is a patient, warm-hearted therapist dedicated to guiding couples to breakthroughs. He has counseled individuals and couples for over 40 years, in a variety of settings. He received his Ph.D. in Psychology at Saybrook Institute in San Francisco and a Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology at Antioch New England University. Jerry co-authored Relationship Transformation: How to Have Your Cake and Eat It Too with Mary Ellen Goggin — and they were married by chapter 3. Jerry brings a great depth and breadth of expertise to his work, and distills nuanced theories into actionable simplicity. He loves The New Yorker, dew-laden fairways, and dusty delta blues. His revolution: changing the world, one couple at a time. Read more about the retreats