Ask Natalie by Natalie Bencivenga

In the “doghouse” but refusing to go to therapy with your wife? Wife hangs out with single men and it is starting to become a problem in your marriage?

DEAR NATALIE: My wife’s birthday is coming up and I’ve been in the “doghouse” lately so I really want to do something to make up for some of the things that she’s been upset about. She really wants to go to therapy together. She’s says I take advantage of her and don’t show her any appreciation. I was thinking for her birthday, I’ll hire a cleaning service to come out the house a couple of times a month to help her out. I have no interest in therapy. When I brought up this idea in place of therapy, she became really upset. But I thought this would be a great help to her. What is her problem? --CAN’T DO ANYTHING RIGHT

DEAR CAN’T DO ANYTHING RIGHT: You are missing the big picture here. Instead of gifting her a cleaning service, which isn’t a bad idea, I think what she really wants is for you to make an effort in the relationship. I say get her the cleaning service and make the effort to go to therapy with her. Therapy is her way of trying to bridge the gaps in your relationship. Meet her where she is and recognize your role in the communication breakdown. The fact that you are self-aware enough to realize that you are “in the doghouse” lends me to believe that this is a question of you being lazy, not ignorant to whatever is going on. Even if you don’t believe in therapy, this is something that she wants to do, so just go along for the ride. Who knows? Maybe you will find out some things that can help you strengthen your marriage. Sometimes, having an impartial third party there can really assist in seeing where your blind spots are. Perhaps one of your blind spots is that you aren’t much of a help around the house? Women often do more than their fair share of the labor inside the home, so try and be more cognizant of how you interact in your domestic life together. If you want your marriage to improve, don’t just say it. Do it. Commit to therapy, recommit to her, and give yourself the opportunity to evolve into a better husband.

DEAR NATALIE: My wife has a lot of male friends. She says that she just isn’t a “girl’s girl” but having a lot of straight male friends is concerning for me. When I told her I was uncomfortable with her getting drinks by herself with some of her (single) male friends one-on-one, she called me insecure and jealous. I know if I tried to do the same thing with women, she would flip out. How do I get her to see the double standard? These guys are just trying to get her into bed. It’s really frustrating. --ANNOYED HUSBAND

DEAR ANNOYED HUSBAND: Perhaps your wife is insecure and using the attention of men to validate herself. It isn’t healthy, but it could be what’s going on. Then again, she really just may be friends with these men and sees no harm in hanging out with them. I guess the question is, does she mind when you tag along? If she invites you and you decline, that’s one thing. But if she lies about where she is going and then says it’s because you get jealous, I would take a second look. You should be the priority here, not these friends. I’m not saying that maybe you aren’t a little insecure and jealous. I probably would be, too, in this scenario. I do think that you have to walk a fine line because you don’t want be controlling. However, you do have the right to speak your mind about how this makes you feel. If you tell her it really does bother you and you don’t think she would like it if you did the same, see how she reacts. Maybe she doesn’t realize how much it hurts you. But if she does realize it and doesn’t seem to care, I would start to question why I’m with someone who is okay with hurting me. I’m not saying to leave her or anything drastic, but if she’s selfish about this, what other things is she doing in the relationship that prioritizes you last? You won’t win every battle, but this one seems worth fighting for. Your marriage could be on the line. I wouldn’t take that lightly.

Natalie's Networking Tip of the Week: Not “good” at networking? Take the pressure off! Networking is merely making new friends. Next time there is an event you want to attend, invite one of your outgoing friends to help you break the ice with people you meet.

Please send your questions to Natalie Bencivenga to her email, nbencivenga@post-gazette.com; or through postal mail to Natalie Bencivenga, 358 North Shore Dr., Pittsburgh, PA 15212. Follow her on Twitter at @NBSeen and on Instagram @NatalieBenci

(This column was originally published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)