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Twelve-Year Itch by Dinna Alexanyan, MFT

Ask Miss Dinna Dear Miss Dinna, I am a 42 year old woman who has been married to my 54 year old husband for 12 years and we have 2 elementary school age children. Recently, we fell into a financial crisis and were forced to move in with my parents.
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Ask Miss Dinna

Dear Miss Dinna,

I am a 42 year old woman who has been married to my 54 year old husband for 12 years and we have 2 elementary school age children.  Recently, we fell into a financial crisis and were forced to move in with my parents.  During our latest argument, we had a revelation of sorts where it appeared that we were truly seeing each other for the first time….and it wasn't pretty.

I had finally finished my dissertation and obtained my PhD and my husband was eagerly waiting for me to become employed and support the family.  I, on the other hand, was wondering when the hell he was going to finally get that "big deal" he had been talking about and get us back on our feet.  In my mind, I had always seen him as not a dreamer, but as ambitious and able to achieve beyond what others would ever even conceive of (like my father).

In his mind, apparently (new to me), he had seen me as a superwoman of sorts who upon receiving her PhD was going to land the big job and carry us all (like his mother).  This argument has left both of us whirling a bit in the reality of who each other really is, the possibly conflicting future visions we have, and where we go from here.

I do want to say, that although we feel truly lost at this time, neither of us is the type to entertain divorce, separating and/or giving up on our union.  We are both very committed and naturally monogamous individuals that just need to understand how to readjust appropriately. But for right now we're looking at each other sideways and can't seem to move from this stuck place.  Where do we go from here?

Signed Lost and Confused

Dear Lost and Confused —

Firstly, I want to compliment the both of you on your committed foundation to each other and in your understanding that this too shall pass, and is just an opportunity to "readjust appropriately" in order to move forward in a positive way.  Believing in your union and your ability to move forward together with the proper guidance is 90% of the battle.

Often times, in relationships, we project an image of who we want our partner to be.  This image is, as well, often times based on a parent or somebody in our lives that we viewed as reliable who might of had a positive influence (usually a primary caretaker) in our lives.  Many times these projections are what leads our arguments or hurt feelings….it's not that we are really mad, for example, that he/she didn't put the cup away in its proper place….it's more that we are upset in accepting that we chose a partner that does "these" types of things/doesn't fit into the projected image of what we want them to be. 

You made your husband, in your mind, a man that is "ambitious and able to achieve beyond what others would ever even conceive of" — similar to how you view(ed) your father.  Your husband, in turn, made you into a "superwoman of sorts" who was going to acquire a successful job that was going to support the entire family — similar to how he view(ed) his mother. 

Unfortunately, it sounds like in both of you waiting for the other to fulfill each other's projections, real time kept moving forward and suddenly you found yourselves broke waiting for the other to jump in and save the day.  In that moment of crisis, when everything comes to a head, there is nowhere else to look but directly into your partner's eyes, where reality has no where to hide.  This of course, can be a very disconcerting moment where you see each other very clearly with all your fallible human qualities and you can no longer fantasize of who you wished your partner to be. 

However, don't fret — as the goal is not to see your partner as a one dimensional person, but conversely to see him/her as a multi-dimensional person with a bit of those wonderful projected qualities and a bit of those other qualities that you maybe don't like as much.  Meaning, it doesn't have to be one or the other — superwoman or completely deficient and incapable — but instead some good days, some bad days, some powerful and ambitious days, some lazy days….basically human.  In addition, the goal is to integrate some of the projected qualities into yourself. 

You, Lost and Confused, for example, do not have to be your mother, and your partner your father….how about you take a bit of your father's qualities that you like so much and integrate them with some of your mother's qualities that you like and become whole with in yourself.  The same goes for your partner and his projections.  What will then follow is two integrated, whole people, who can look at one another with a lesser need for projections to fill the emptiness or incapabilities that they feel within themselves. 

In your case, you will find a great job, but maybe it will be part time, and your husband can accept that and still see you as a powerful, capable woman.  Your husband, in turn, will land a deal or two here and there, which will sustain the family at a comfortable level, and you will be able to still see him as a driven, achieving individual.  The veil has lifted, but what you see is only less then if what you are measuring against was larger then life.  If you can bring your perception down to scale, then the measurements will be more accurate and positively moving forward will be acquired with much more ease.

Best of Luck,

Miss Dinna

Ask Miss Dinna a question -- any question--  regarding relationships, sex and sexuality by emailing her at:, Subject: "Ask Miss Dinna." She may answer your question personally or in a future column (your name will be kept anonymous).