Reader Question: Why Did My Husband Change After We Got Married?

Reader Question of the WeekEvery Monday I like to post a Reader Question and take a stab at answering it. I get a ton of questions, and I don’t have time to answer anything personally. But when something comes along that looks like it would apply to a lot of people, I like trying to answer it on the blog.

Today we’re going to deal with what to do if your husband changed after marriage.

A reader writes:

What do you do when your husband changes who he is after you are married? I’ve been married for 3 years and prior to saying “I do” my husband was a fun guy, he liked to go out on dates etc. Now he’s not into anything, I try to get him to do stuff with me and he just say’s he’s not into it anymore. He’s even recently decided that he doesn’t need to get me presents anymore. He doesn’t see why he has to get me a Christmas present which he didn’t until 4 day’s later when he felt guilty. On Valentines day, he worked extra duty and went to get his hair cut. I saw him for and hour that day. Then we have a big fight on why it would have been nice to just get out of the house with him and do something together. I didn’t need gifts. He told me I was high maintenance expecting him to do something nice for me on Valentines. I don’t know what to do.

That certainly would be frustrating, and I can understand feeling so lonely and rather taken for granted.

I want to give a few very quick thoughts with some links to longer posts I’ve written which may prove helpful, and then I’ve got a broader point to make–so read on!

What happened to that romantic guy I dated? If your husband changed after marriage, some thoughts to bring romance back!

1. Do You Know Your Husband’s Love Language?

From what I can see in this very brief letter (which obviously is missing a lot of key information), her love language is likely quality time or gifts. She doesn’t feel loved because in her experience, he isn’t thinking of her and caring for her in the way that she needs.

We tend to like to give love in the same way we like to receive love, so she’s probably wanting to spend time with him to show him that she loves him, and she’s not able to. But what if his love language is words of affirmation? Or service? Or physical touch? It could be that he is feeling just as lonely.

So I’d encourage you to look at love languages and talk to your husband and see if you can figure each other out. Lots of people like taking personality tests on the internet, so this may be something he’d join you in.

2. Are You Meeting His Needs?

She’s really upset because he’s not meeting her genuine needs for connection, and that definitely is lonely. But rarely have I seen a marriage where only one person is lonely. Often what happens is one person becomes upset, so they lash out in hurt, which makes the other spouse defensive and hurt so they withdraw. The other spouse is now hurt, too.

I know this is hard to ask yourself when you’re definitely hurting, but are you meeting your husband’s needs? Let’s take a look at ourselves first before we point the finger at him.

Why He Won’t Meet Your Needs

Why am I The One Who Has to Change? (if you’re uncomfortable with my suggestion here, read this post, too!)

3. Can You Find Things to Do Together?

She has a big need to spend time with her husband–and that is a legitimate need. Sometimes, though, we need to take the initiative and find things that will work for both of us.

Here are some posts that might help:

Finding Things to do Together

Benefits of Walking Together

Reviving Your Friendship

4. Marriage is a Big Adjustment–and It’s all About Expectations

Is the problem that your husband changed after marriage? Or is it more that he just didn’t change the way that you expected him to?

Marriage is a HUGE adjustment for most couples, and while some enjoy a “honeymoon” period where everything is wonderful, I think far more find those first two years the hardest of their lives. We had ideas that once we were married we’d eat dinner together every night, and we’d do stuff together, but maybe he didn’t share those ideas. Maybe he thought he’d just continue to have fun–but with you along for the ride. It’s not that either of you is wrong; it’s just that you had different ideas of what life was going to be like. Most of us didn’t really know about marriage before we got married.

Dreaming togetherMaybe what you need to do, then, is to talk about your expectations and your dreams and your visions for  you as a couple and as a family. If we can actually talk about our expectations, then we can start to understand our spouse better and figure out how to adjust. But if you never talk about the expectations, we tend to make a lot of assumptions–including assuming that the other person doesn’t really love us the way we love them.

This post may help you inspire some conversation:

Dream Together as a Couple

Do All Men Change After Marriage?

Everybody changes after they get married, as Dayna Bickham wrote about so well last week in our Wifey Wednesday.

But I’m not sure the problems we encounter in marriage are as much about people changing as they are about the fact that once we’re married we learn people’s true selves.

And what worries me is that many people get married without really knowing the person they are marrying.

What I see in this letter, for instance, is that before marriage they went on dates, but after marriage they don’t. Now, I think dating is fun, and should certainly continue after marriage. In fact, I’ve got a post on cheap date night ideas for married couples, too!

But here’s the thing:

Doing “dating things” is not preparation for marriage. Going out on dates tells you almost nothing about what that person will be like once you’re married.

You don’t need to know whether or not someone is capable of taking you to movie and a dinner. What you need to know is what they do on a day-to-day basis, when they’re at home. It’s the home life that counts, not the dating, because dating isn’t real.

I know a young couple who has started seeing each other in the last few months, and they’ve fallen quite hard, too. But while they see each other constantly, they’ve only been on three real “dates”. They simply don’t have the money. So instead they hang out with friends, or go on walks, or just spend time talking and cooking together. They go to church together. That’s a better preparation for marriage if you ask me, because that’s sharing real life.

Too often when we date we don’t share real life, and so you truly don’t know what this person is really like. It could be that this guy hasn’t changed at all–it’s just that she never really knew him.

Is your friend marrying the wrong person? Top 10 questions to ask her to help her make a good decision (because that's what friends do!)That’s why I’m very adamant that we need to ask our friends those hard questions before they get married.

Sit them down and drill them, even if they’re uncomfortable, because it’s better to do that than to have a friend marry badly. And as I said in my post last week, one of the key questions is: What do you DO together? If the only things you really “do” together are dating things, then you don’t know how you will act when you actually marry.

And the other key question? How does he treat his mom? I know some men treat their moms like queens and treat their wives horribly, but that really is the exception. Most men who treat their moms well also treat their wives well. If he doesn’t send his mom a Mother’s Day card, and doesn’t remember her birthday, and doesn’t care about Christmas, it’s unlikely he will for you, either.

We don’t know enough about this letter writer, and so I’m not trying to say that all of this was necessarily visible before she got married. But I do think for many people it is. You meet someone; you get infatuated; and you spend time together being all romantic. But that’s not the basis for a life together. You have to have shared purpose, and shared values, and a shared vision. That’s what’s really important in a future spouse.

What if you don’t share anything important with your husband?

Then it’s time to start building the relationship from the ground up. Work at being his friend. Find things to do together–even things you never thought you’d enjoy. Figure out what his love language is and really love on him.

You made this vow, and the vow matters. Bailing on the marriage is unlikely to bring you a lot of happiness, but working on the marriage you have likely will. So ask God for grace and patience and focus on what you can do to make things better, not on what he can do. You just may find that you enjoy being with him after all.

What about you? Were you surprised that your husband changed after marriage? Did he go from a romantic guy to someone who missed birthdays? How did you deal with it? Let me know in the comments!

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  1. Hi Sheila,

    Praying for you – hoping that you’re still feeling good after your surgery last week!
    Leanne recently posted…Options for the dreaded tax returnMy Profile

    • Sheila says:

      Thanks, Leanne! I am doing pretty well this morning. Still a little tired, but excited that they think there’s a good chance they’ve fixed the problem!

  2. My husband and I took 3 years of spending time together before we were married. We were broke college kids so most of it was spent just living life together. We both knew after 2 months of knowing each other we were going to marry, but we wanted a healthy relationship with God, and a strong friendship and foundation before we married. We have been together 6 years and date more now than we did while “dating.” Maybe it’s backwards, but we have the happiest and healthiest friendship and marriage of anyone we know. I am so thankful I came across your blog while we were dating. I was able to work on me, give my now husband grace and patience, and had a really healthy idea of what marriage would be like before we ever said I do. We’ve been through the hard times like everyone, a year long deployment (without Skype), surgeries, family and friend deaths, lost jobs, a move, etc., but we let those things being us closer. I didn’t expect my husband to change after we married, and I didn’t mind that at all. Over the years he actually has grown and become an even better husband, but I think part of that is I have become a more accepting wife. We also work to improve our marriage using the tools from yours and other Christian blogs, 5 Love Languages Military Edition book, and Pinterest is full of ideas!

  3. I totally agree and could add my thoughts to so many points made in this post.

    From the standpoint of one who has been married forty years and seen a lot of marriages thrive and others struggle, let me throw this thought into the discussion. It is important at any point in the marriage to share adventures together. That can take many different forms but does not include raising kids (at least is not limited to raising kids) and doing home improvements. Adventure is the fresh water coming into a pool, something that bonds the two of you and makes memories. Adventures are something to look forward to and to remember with fondness as something the two of you shared.

    My husband and I are now in our 60s. Fifteen years ago we moved to this community and have found two new “adventures.” We bought a couple of cheap kayaks and paddle a local river every chance we get in the summer. The adventure is in the wildlife and scenery that we have not seen before, and even how we pack food, etc., for ourselves for the day. In the winter, we have taken up snowshoeing and seen incredible natural beauty as we tromp up hill and down on trails through local wooded areas. This summer we are going on a bus tour to the Grand Canyon, something we have never done before, to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary.

    If you are young in marriage, don’t wait until the kids are grown. You will miss way too much fun!

  4. Possible things going on inside a husband who has “changed”.

    “Now he’s not into anything, I try to get him to do stuff with me and he just says he’s not into it anymore.”
    1. He may feel she rarely wants to do things he would like, only what she would like. Example – wife upset man won’t go to mall with her on weekend but she shows no interest in learning golf or tennis.
    2. He may feel she wants what amounts to a platonic best friend. Marriage and sex are supposed to go together. The bible even mentions “burning” as a reason to get married. If he feels deprived of this important area, or even tricked by her actions or innuendos before marriage, that can really poison things. He may think “She wants to spend 3 hours being friends outside of the home but views 30 minutes in the bedroom as a chore?! Forget that!”

    “He’s even recently decided that he doesn’t need to get me presents anymore.”
    – He may feel she’s requiring him to earn her love. A man will usually give the woman he loves gifts/service/romance and make an effort when he believes she loves him. Most men will hate feeling like they have to buy their wife’s love. If a woman says “I do” that means a commitment to him for real. Not only if he buys her stuff or does romance. A man can feel like his wife has lied to him – “I really didn’t love you. I mostly loved the extra romance and gifts. You weren’t enough for me on your own.” And yes, if she doesn’t desire him sexually, he will usually not believe she loves him. Words will rarely change this.

    Love Languages
    There is some good stuff regarding love languages. However, the author explicitly ruled out sex as being related to “love”. That was rather dismissive of most men’s feelings regarding the topic. In addition, it seems quite common for women to have gifts and acts of service as high on their love language list. It can be extremely difficult for many men to view this as genuine instead of a sense of superiority or entitlement. As mentioned above, the conclusion of having to buy a wife’s love or that she doesn’t think he is enough for her without ‘sweetening the pot’ is often reached.

    Finally, there are some men that are just too selfish or uncaring. Most men are not in this category. Always start with the assumption he feels slighted in some way first. Then go from there.

  5. Annonymous says:

    On behalf of “changed” husband, it may be fit to remind the ladies to do some sousearching – did they marry the REAL guy or did they marry an ideal of him which just was not real? I mean, did this lady’s man really change or did she just not see his faults because of the passion? Passion blinds people.

  6. I often feel like I wish my husband would be more romantic, but the real truth is that he is the SAME, not that he is different. My expectations aren’t reasonable. He’s a wonderful husband who works hard to provide for our family, makes me laugh, is a great father, is an amazing man of God and spiritual leader – so the truth I remind myself when I’m having a pity party (usually when I have PMS!) is that God never promised us that our husbands would be romantic.
    Megan G. recently posted…Austin Bound!My Profile

  7. Did my husband go from romantic guy to forgetting birthdays? Yes! The valentines day we were engaged he bought me a bible and wrote in it that he prays that I would continue to love God more than him. My first birthday married, I came home from work and found a pooper scooper on the table with a post it that read ‘happy birthday’. It turns out he got it free earlier that day- how thoughtful of him! ( yes, we did have a dog). Our 3rd wedding anniversary, he forgot and since then he has forgotten a birthday. When we were dating we were both students. We did not have a lot of money so we did more life together than ‘dates’. The first few years of marriage he was a student and I worked full time. Now he works and I am blessed to stay home with our children. I have accepted that he is not one to make a big deal of things. I love my husband for who he is, not for what I want him or wish him to be. Sure things aren’t the same as they were when we met, but our life has changed. One of the most meaningful things he has done was openly love and accept my parents when they needed to live with us. He might forget a birthday or anniversary and not shower me with gifts or take me on romantic getaways, but he does love me and our children and shows it in other ways.

  8. I understand that people change. Life’s circumstances make it that way. I know I have changed and I try to remember that when expecting things from my husband. People that have known me for years say that I have not changed that much. My husband has changed. He went from a husband that wanted to go on walks with me, watching the same movies, helping with meals to the husband that only washes his clothes, dishes that he dirties and wants to be by himself. When we were dating I said I wanted a career. If I had children they would be in daycare. He was alright with that. Five years later he wanted me to stay home. He also said that his job was only the one that brought the paycheck home. Mine was the kids and the house. For ten years our marriage was horrible. He then had open heart surgery and supposedly wanted to make it better. That lasted for about two years. Once the real world problems came back and persisted, he was back to his after married, pre-surgery self. Oh, but to him it is all my fault. Some, but not all. At least our last child is heading off to college this fall.

  9. My husband has definitely changed. We’ve been married for 4 yrs. We met in 2006 but 2007 was hard because my mother died and his family moved to Texas from where we lived (CA). I told him at the time I really wanted to date him exclusively and asked if he’d stay in CA with me and not move with his family. He agreed. But in ALL the years that followed he would always use the fact that his family is in a different state as an excuse to anything: infidelity, being angry, staying out late, hanging out all the time, the list goes on. So I asked him if he blames me for still being out in CA and if he really wanted to be in TX? He says, “no, because I wasn’t ready to leave CA anyway because of my job and the things I had going on at the time.” But fast forward to now (we have 2 toddler kids) we’ve hit hard times and it caused us to move to San Antonio, TX to live with his family. Now that he is back with his family, he tells me how I can get up and go back to CA if I don’t like it but that he’ll fight for the kids. And all this because I told him I spoke with my brother in CA and he said he misses me???? I had a fear that my husband would change but I tried not to think negatively of him but his response to my conversation with my brother is disturbing. He also said “so you and you’re family are finally feeling the way I’ve been feeling all these years?” And he said it as if he got pleasure from the idea of me not being around my family. It was so childish I don’t recognize this person. It seems like he’s out for revenge or something to make me feel like I have no one because now my family is out of state. He used to be so kind and respectful. Now he’s saying he has always blamed me for not being with his family and that I’m gonna feel the pain he felt of missing his family. Who the hell says that to someone they claim to love? What should I do? He’s done a complete 180.

  10. Ah the last two posts break my heart. I am also seeking help for a man that went from sensitivity and safety to someone who will not engage in a conversation unless it’s about hunting or himself. he struggles with my career success and that his is in a steady cruise control – which is most likely because he is not able to relate to people or work in a team environment. This is our home status as well. It is challenging to live with someone who is selfish and cannot see outside of themself. There is no room for emotion in our house – which is actually a habit he picked up from his mother. And it breaks my heart to watch him shut my toddler’s feelings down. Marriage is hard. When do you call it quits?

  11. SunflowerGirl9 says:

    I am married one month short of a year. And yes, my husband changed, too. Or it seems that way. I have searched everything I can find to try to find out what I can do about this whole thing. When we dated my husband was a guy who took care of things. I felt safe and very loved. When we moved in together, this all stopped. I thought it was an adjustment period and dealt with it the best I could. We married nearly a year later after moving in together. And nothing has changed. I am expected to take care of everything or remind him that something needs attention. I have never owned a home. He owned this home before we met. It is now up to me to do all the care and maintenance. And if I can’t do it and have to ask for help or hire someone, I’m the bad guy, causing disruption to his day. I do the laundry (his child’s too), I cook most meals or plan what we will eat, I go to the store to get food/cleaning supplies and take care of animal appointments and care, things with his child’s school (I have no kids of my own) and pretty much everything else imaginable. Also, he’s stopped being romantic. He used to take me on actual dates, he planned a great trip for a birthday of mine and used to give me little gifts here and there. Now? He gave me a mirrored compact and a keychain for our wedding gift. I gave him a really nice watch. I have to come up with all the ideas for my birthday or other gift giving occasions – no surprises. No dates. The movies are the extent of it – which I love but I would like for him to create something. He flat out refuses.

    In addition to this, I work FT and I’m in school! I have a therapist and I am on depression meds to deal with all of this.
    I’m also on anti-anxiety meds but I am trying to stay off them because I feel like there has to be something else to deal with all of this.

    I’m too tired and frustrated and angry to want to do anything in the bedroom. I just don’t know how to deal with the extreme level of disappointment. I knew marriage would be work. But this? No. This is insanity. Most days I think about leaving. I just don’t know HOW. I am in my mid 30’s. First marriage. I have no one to talk to. No one else has these problems that I can tell.

    No matter how much I try to talk to him, I’m met with resistance and deaf ears. Or anger. I just don’t know what else to do.

    • Hi SunflowerGirl,

      I’m sorry you’re going through this! It does sound exhausting, and it sounds as if you both had very different expectations of what marriage would look like. You thought it would be a partnership; he thought that many of the things that he was doing he wouldn’t have to do anymore.

      I have written quite a bit about how to change the dynamic in your marriage, but my whole book To Love, Honor and Vacuum has to do with exactly what you’re dealing with: when you feel like you’re a maid rather than a wife and a mom. I hope that helps you!

      • SunflowerGirl9 says:

        Thanks so much. You are spot on with your suggestion. I speak a lot about wanting an “equal partnership”! I will look at your other post and look into your book. :)

  12. SunflowerGirl9 says:

    I should also add that I provided a list to him 2-3 months before our wedding of things under $200 that I would have loved for a wedding gift, with web links. He never referred to the list. I was so hurt.

    • 2-3 months was too long in advance. He is the type of guy that would need a little more frequent hints, as time was getting near. Don’t be hurt – he will catch on in future events with extra coaching!! Trust me 32 years of coaching!!

  13. My husband and I have been married for 32 years and yes my husband has changed. I also changed. When we were first married, we didnot have any money to do anything or buy very much, but we went to different places that didn’t cost money. We still go places together, we go out I guess you can call it date night, movies, dinner, show sporting events, etc. I go to places with him I know he likes that it is not my favourite place to go and see movies he likes, so in turn he does things I like. I’m not a lover of hockey on TV, but i’m there with him doing a hobby and watching some of the game. After 32 years he still buys me birthday, anniversary, valentine, Christmas gifts. But i always buy things for him and do nice things for him or surprise him with a favourite dessert,etc. Yes at times I might plant the seed and say, I know something that i would love to have. Over the years he as caught on to it. I only suggest things that I know we can afford and sometimes the things were really cheap, but it was the thought and he remembered it with a little help (ha ha). At Christmas I would say I can’t wait for you to open tithe present I got you, before Christmas. A week or two before Christmas I would say I going in the other room to wrap you gifts so don’t peek in (ha ha). I remembered one year, i put a present under the tree for myself, wrapped it and indicated it was from my husband. When i opened it and he asked who it was from i said it was from you. he laughed and smiled but our children didn’t know the difference. It took a while for everything to fall in place, but it worked.

  14. Wow this post came in perfect timing! We have been married for 3 yrs and my husband has changed also. However it’s misty little things. For example when we were dating/engaged he would send me a text in the morning saying good morning or something like that. Last night he was out of town for work and of course I was expecting a text and…nothing. I’m thankful it’s only little things like that but it’s hard not to feel forgotten about.

  15. Inner strength says:

    My husband and I have been married about 10 months now.We are young. Before we were married, he treated me like gold. He always complimented me. He would give me little things and surprise me just to make me happy. We laughed and had fun a lot. Things changed when we got married. We don’t make much money, but we make enough to get by. We talked about finances before we got married and that we wouldn’t be able to afford to buy things as much… I guess he didn’t get it. I take care of the finances now because he is constantly trying to spend money that we don’t have. Then he gets angry at me when I tell him we can’t afford something. I almost always end up giving in and letting him get whatever it is. Then he gets angry when we don’t have enough money to get home cooked meals all the time. I would tell him how his spending affect our budget but he still finds a way to be angry and blame things on me… The finances aren’t the only issue though. He doesn’t do anything around the house and gets angry at me when certain chores such as the laundry are not done to his standards. We have one tv with cable and entertainment. He is a gamer. He sits home on his videogame and asks me to do everything. One time he got angry at me because I went and got myself some water and didn’t get him any and when he commented about it I said he could get up and get his own. I am constantly doing things for him and treating him well. I don’t fight for the tv, instead I watch things on my phone. I constantly give him back rubs and things like that but meet resistance when I ask him to do the same for me. There are a lot of times where he is really sweet and loving and fun. But lately there has been too much of this hurtful behavior and I don’t know what to do. When I tell him he is hurting my feelings or not treating me right, he just rolls his eyes.

  16. Glad I’m not alone. My husband changed & I didn’t see it coming. We lived together 3 years & had a child together before marriage. I was afraid of remarriage but he insisted it was “only a piece of paper”. He went from a man who never complained & was clearly crazy about me to a man who shows no affection & complains & nags about every tiny thing. When I try to talk about it he gets very defensive & refuses to talk. My family & friends have both noticed a difference. I honestly can’t think of anything I did to bring this on.

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