Q: I enjoy going to the beach every summer. The problem is, my wife won't go with me. She doesn't like the sun, is afraid to swim in the ocean, says it's too hot and doesn't like to be seen in a bathing suit.
If she does go she is irritable and makes my life miserable because she wants to leave as soon as we have set up the chairs, umbrella and carried down the cooler.
I can go myself, but I look at all the couples together laughing and talking and I feel lonely and sorry for myself. This is strange also, considering that when we were dating, we used to go to the beach all the time, but she says she just did that so I would marry her. What should I do?
A: Certainly in an ideal world your wife would go to the beach with you and pretend to have a good time for your sake. This situation is what we call "accepting influence" in a marriage.
This means, that even if something isn't your cup of tea, you sacrifice and make the best of it for your partner's sake. When you make an effort for your partner, you build up emotional goodwill. When you consistently fail to compromise, you build up resentment and frustration, which ultimately, if added up over time, can erode the foundation of a marriage.
So, ideally, she should say to herself, "I hate going to the beach. How can I make going to the beach less awful so my husband can enjoy himself?
"I could go early in the evening when it is not so hot and there are fewer people. I can sit under the umbrella and read a book, and I can go where there are protected areas so the water is calm. In doing so, I am making my husband happy and content, and he will repay me by being grateful for my efforts."
She obviously is capable of doing this, because she was able to act as though she enjoyed the beach while you were courting.
So, it would be nice if this happened. However, usually in real life, people are reluctant to accept influence. Perhaps it is the "me generation" that only thinks of themselves and what's in it for them. Who knows?
Anyway, if she refuses to accept your influence and go to the beach with you, accept this as best you can. The battle over getting her to go may not be worth the damage it does to both of you, especially if she is determined to be miserable if she goes and cannot gracefully make the most of the experience.
You can do some things to keep from being lonely at the beach, such as inviting other friends or family to go with you, joining a beach clean up crew, volunteering at an ocean wildlife park or joining up with a snorkeling class.
There is no need for you to be denied the experience of the beach because she does not enjoy it. It would be unfortunate if she did not want to compromise with you on this. Perhaps if you offer to join with her on an activity that she has been asking you to do with her will make a difference. Try this, as best you can.
Janet Hibel has a diplomate in counseling psychology from the American Board of Professional Psychology. E-mail your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.