What to do when your new spouse rebels against you

Stunner_boss123 asks:

I’ve been married for a month now.  My wife is a wonderful person & a very generous human being (at least face to face). However unfortunately, we have had too little time together after marriage (it was an arranged marriage & we did not meet before). I wanted to spend some time with her, but due to her exams and classes, she left for the hostel on the 5th day of our wedding. During the 5 days we spent together, she was very formal and reserved (which happens). I did not mind and took things along. I gave my everything to make the transition phase a comfort for her, via calls, messages, travelling for 84KMs and meeting her up occasionally in her university and things like that.  Things got a bit smoother and I was happy. But suddenly one day when she was with me, she left her phone open and went to the restroom. I checked her phone (casually) and I was surprised with so many things I saw: 

  1. She was a regular smoker. 
  2. Almost 10+ Guys continuously messaging her & she is in chat with all of them (maybe friends or I don’t know). The chat was very informal and frank as it was being done for years. 
  3. Her language with her friends (Girls + Guys) was so abusive and dirty that it shocked me.

Well I did not overreact, and just told her in a calm way that this shall not continue as all this has hurt me and is taken bad in our society. You are a wife now and we both represent our respect. What’s done is done and I have no concern about the past, but from now on I request you to cut off the smoking and bad company, as they are good for neither you nor our relationship. Further, I also clarified that I have no further requirements from you for whole life; I will manage everything. But what’s bad is bad and it’s my right to keep you away from bad. She promised me to stop smoking, quit the bad friends, and not be involved in any bad company in future. 

Things got smooth again for a week, but suddenly one day, intentionally on our phone call, she again mentioned that one of her old friends (male) connected with her and invited her to a dinner party. I asked “Only you?”  She said “Yes – only me and I wanna go.” I said, “OK, but let’s conclude the dinner timely and I will pick you up.”  She said, “No need, he will give pick and drop.”  My mood changed again. Then the dinner happened and I felt bad about it  (I did not react but felt hurt as it started around 7pm and ended at 1am). 

Three days later, I took her to dinner in a restaurant. It was going smooth. But suddenly I realized that she was staring at the guy sitting across our table, and the same guy was looking at her too. This happened for 5 to 6 minutes. I stayed positive but my wife suddenly said “Look how cute this boy is!” Dinner ruined, and we left the place in bad mood. 

While on our way back to home, I expressed, “You disrespected my presence there and I felt insulted. It hurt my self-respect that I was in front of you and you were flirting with someone else and throwing me that sentence.”

She started crying. Later she said that she is like this and I have to compromise, and blah blah blah. The tone made it sound like I hurt her instead, like everything is my mistake and I am disturbing the balance of her life. 

I Said “OK, enjoy and continue. If you feel like problem is at my end, I will be careful next time.”

Shirelle, with all this, I am not settled, and my mind is not relaxed in her presence or absence as well. When we are together, she is always on Insta and Snapchat. She is not willing to go back on one single thing which is bad for her and is not putting a single effort to even address me or give me quality time for a night. She is hurting my self-respect continuously and I am feeling down since the 5th day of our marriage. While she has no change in her life. Yes I accepted her for who she is, but smoking is bad in our Asian culture, sitting with boys alone is taken as bad in our culture, not giving me proper time makes me more insecure, and my unaddressed emotional needs are becoming heavy now. Please advise me here. 

Hi Stunner_boss123 –

There are many issues in your letter, too many for me to get to specifically.  About cultural differences, about arranged marriages, about smoking (I am not a fan of it!), about what constitutes loyalty and fidelity, all sorts of stuff.

What I want to talk about instead is marriage.  Marriage in general.

Whether a couple has dated for years before, or meets on their wedding day, marriage is a huge step.  It’s a promise to change oneself and devote yourself to this other person forever.  That’s terrifying!

When Handsome brought me home from the pound, I experienced something like that.  But we dogs are programmed to pack loyalty; while I had to learn some rules (and I was a BRAT as a puppy!), I still adjusted fairly quickly, and Handsome did to me too.

But for you guys, with your larger brains and longer lifespan, it’s much harder.  I don’t know your and your wife’s ages, but I’m assuming you’ve been alive for around twenty years at least, without giving a single thought to this other individual.  Now suddenly everything’s supposed to be about that person. 

Well no matter how willing and eager you two are for marriage and family, parts of your brains are going to rebel against this.  It happens to everyone.  And what I see in your letter is that she’s rebelling by behaving independently, and you’re rebelling by demanding control over her.  And it’s pretty easy to see that the more one of you continues doing what you’re doing, the other one will just do what they’re doing more strongly!  You make her stay home, she starts smoking in your bedroom, and so on!

The fact is that, in the law and in the eyes of whatever deity or deities you believe in, you’re married.  But between you and her and me, you aren’t yet.  Marriage takes work, and your work is just barely beginning.

The main job for you two is to start to talk.  A lot.  About what you want, about what matters to you, about what you believe and fear and hate and… all that.

It sounds to me like she is a good woman.  She didn’t spend the night with that male friend, and she didn’t give the guy at the restaurant her phone number, right?!  She’s just, to use a canine metaphor I relate to a lot, straining at the leash.

And you’re a good guy.  You’re trying not to overreact.  But how can you when she keeps pushing your boundaries?

Again, this isn’t a sign that you two are wrong for each other or that you’re failing at marriage.  It’s a sign that YOU ARE JUST STARTING.

After he brought me home, Handsome had to learn what I wanted and feared and hated and loved.  And I had to learn all the same things about him.  You married this woman without even knowing she smoked, or that she had male friends, or that she uses bad language with her best girlfriends.  It’s time, before you try to make or enforce rules, to find out what else you don’t know.  And what are your faults?  What might she want to change in you? 

And then once those are all out in the open, what are you each willing to live with, and what not?  If she goes out with her girlfriends every few weeks and they talk dirty amongst themselves and have a cigarette or two, but with you she’s ladylike and healthy, is that okay? 

Do you know each other’s political beliefs?  You are part of the same religious community, but do you know what each other believes and doesn’t?  Do you know how each of you feels about children?!  Have you gotten to know each other’s families enough to know which members each of you, perhaps, finds it harder to love or be around?!

The greatest adventure of my life has been my relationship with Handsome.  The greatest adventure of your life is going to be this marriage.  Don’t worry too much yet about rules.  Find out who she is first.  And let her know who you are.

And if things work as I hope they do, what you two will really discover is love.  And then, truly, your whole worlds will change.

Wishing you all the very very best,


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