I'm getting married this summer, but I'm starting to have second thoughts. It turns out that my fiancé can't swim, or even ride a bike. He doesn't know how to change a plug, and when I asked him to bleed the radiators he didn't know what I was talking about. True, he can always fix my computer, but I'm starting to get irritated by his inability to do anything practical. My father was always fixing gates, repairing machines etc. It's preying on my mind and I'm starting to feel he's not a man. Do you think it's just pre-wedding nerves, as my mother says?
Yours sincerely, Carla
Virginia says... It's not "just" pre-wedding nerves. It is pre-wedding nerves. You ought to listen to them. It's usually after a few years of marriage that little things start to irritate us in our partners. Suddenly, we just can't bear the way he runs his fingers through his hair, or we get goosebumps of rage and horror when he says "penny for your thoughts" yet again. Those irritations are always an omen that something's deeply wrong and nine times out of ten signify the beginning of the end.
Because our rational minds won't accept that everything's over, it's our subconscious that has to shove through all our resistance and come up with childish and rather primitive reactions, to get the message home to us. We find ourselves suddenly recoiling at failings – or sometimes just habits – in the other person that previously we haven't thought twice about. But you're getting the heebie-jeebies before you're even married! Think about it! The moment you get to the honeymoon hotel and find your hapless husband can't understand how to put the key card in your bedroom door, your marriage will, effectively, be over before it's begun.
You're not marrying your father, you're marrying, I hope, a nice, sweet, kind guy who loves you and who has the added bonus of being able to sort out computers – something I bet your father could never do. He's a head man, not a hands man. Perhaps you're the one with the practical skills, not him? I always remember my exasperated husband (no genius at changing lightbulbs), giving me an electric drill for Christmas, and I was totally thrilled. Lots of women are far more practical around the house than men – there's no law that says women must lie lounging in the bath pampering themselves before cooking the supper while their husbands stomp around looking for gates to fix. You seem to be living in the stone age.
And if you're not that practical, get your dad round to mend the sink and unstick the doors. Or get a handyman – or woman – in. There is more to life than fixing shelves, and perhaps you ought to make a list of all the other qualities your fiancé has – on top of the computer wizardry – to make certain you're not making a mistake before calling it a day.
But frankly, the strength of your feeling about all this makes me certain that what your "nerves" are telling you is that this man just isn't right for you. And bleeding radiators has nothing to do with it.
Love matters more
I was married to a man who could fix things (not very well) and he turned out to be useless at love and commitment. During the six years after my divorce, I learned the rudiments of DIY. My second husband can't fix a plug, put up a shelf or bleed a radiator. He loves me unconditionally, has a brilliant mind and can wash, iron, clean, cook and shop for us because he was an independent bachelor before we met. If we need a handyman, we pay one.
Janet Berridge By email
He's not for you
Oh, for heaven's sake, Carla! If you define true masculinity by a man's ability to mend things, this man is not for you.
If you want to marry your father, tough – you can't. You could, of course, learn to mend things for yourself but then, with your outlook, you might fear you were turning into a man.
Or you could learn to value a person for what he or she is and pay someone to mend things for you – but that would mean growing up.
Sara Neill By email
Next week's dilemma
Dear Virginia, My 15-year-old son watches porn on the internet all the time (I know this because I've looked at the browsing history on his computer). My friends tell me that this is normal now for teenagers in the internet age, but I find it deeply disturbing that he is exposed to films and images that give him such a distorted view of women and sexual relationships. I've raised it with him and done my best to explain that real life and real women aren't like that, but I doubt it has any effect. Am I right to worry? What can I do? Yours sincerely, Laurie
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