Dear Rabbi Shmuley,
I am married for 18 years, and I think my husband is terribly selfish and acts like a spoiled child. I no longer want to deal with his every problem and make everything work so he can have what he wants. I have explained to him exactly how I feel and exactly what I would like to be different, yet nothing changes. I feel like I get no respect, unless I want the same things that he does. I cannot depend on him. I cannot question him or ask anything of him. I only get what he wants to give, when he wants to give it.

If he does not get his way--when he wants it--he gets angry and nasty and acts like a 2-year-old child. I do not know what to do. I am a stay at home mom with two children, ages 17 and 15. I have to say if there is anything I did right it is my children--my son will be graduating in June with high honors and will be going to college to play lacrosse. I have 2 more years until my daughter graduates high school. I feel that these 2 years are still very important for me to be home for her. How do I stay in my marriage, yet not compromise myself anymore?
--Sick and Tired

Dear Sick and Tired,
Marriage is not servitude, nor is it a process whereby you morph into your spouse either. Maintaining your integrity and individuality within any marriage is paramount.

Unfortunately, many men today are selfish. The culture subtly conditions them to feel like women are created for their pleasure and will do anything for their happiness. This is not, of course, conducive to the creation of gentlemen. So I hear this complaint more and more from wives who feel that they're husbands just aren't giving.

Here's what you must do. Tell your husband you have a very important subject to discuss with him. Set aside a time and place for this serious discussion. Then, tell him the following. "Look, honey, I want five uninterrupted minutes please, after which you can say whatever you want.

"I feel like I do everything for you. I give of myself fully to you. But we've been married 18 years now, and rather than my efforts engendering a reciprocal response from you, I feel that the opposite is true. I feel like you're becoming less responsive to me, more set in your ways. I feel like you take me for granted, and I don't always feel loved and appreciated. My fear is that if you continue to act in a manner that I perceive as selfish, I will stop doing as much for you. I will stop extending myself. And then, we'll slowly grow apart.

"I want to be loving toward you, not resentful. I want to have a soft heart to you without bitterness. That's why I need you to take what I'm saying seriously. I know that I might be wrong, that it might just be my perception of what's going on between us. And that's why I want to discuss this. But I feel pretty strongly that I'm no longer in an equitable marriage. I feel there is a real imbalance. I want to respect you as much as I love you, so I'm asking you to please try and be more loving, more gentle, and less adamant in your ways."

And then, give him three examples of things he is doing that need to change. Of course, then let him respond.

This conversation is not a magic bullet that will fix your marriage. You should plan on having conversations like this every single week without fail. But if you speak to him gently and sincerely, you will slowly get through to him. Honestly.

Please tell me how it goes, and G-d bless you.,
Rabbi Shmuley
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