Dear Father Tony,
"Barry" and I were legally married last year. We had been boyfriends and partners for ten years before that.
Last night we went to a party where I told a funny story that fell flat. Oh they laughed but it was polite.
When we got home I asked "Barry" if I am funny and he said "Sometimes" and that was it. Now I have to add that to the list of what's not good enough in me. Not cute enough. Not smart enough. Not sexy enough. Not successful enough. Not rich enough. Not young enough. Not thin enough. And now I have to add not funny enough. Here's my question. When can I say I am good enough? Will it ever happen?
"Barry" loves me and says everything is fine and our friends seem to like me OK but it's like I don't really exist except just as "Barry's" husband. This is how I feel all the time. I have this fantasy about a man who will love everything about me and say "I adore you" but when I imagine his face, I see "Barry". This feeling is eating at me.
One day, an armless man walked into a village in southern Italy....
All that laughter that you missed getting when you told your funny story? I've been delivering it while reading your letter. Not because I mean to be derisive, but because I feel sympathy for you and think that you need just one simple wake-up call that will set you on the right track to solving a problem that is exclusively yours (Not your husband's. Not your friends'.)
Sweetheart, the bad news is that you will never be good enough. The good news is that nobody is ever good enough. The even better news is that you can now stop worrying about this.
You need to reframe the question that has been gnawing at you. Instead of wondering if you are good enough, you need to ask yourself if you are doing everything you can do to be the best "Harry" possible. Only one person can answer that question: "Harry" himself.
Many readers will scream "He's got bad insecurity! He's got poor self-image! No one will love him because he doesn't love himself! Doormat!" I suspect you've been told those things before, but, like water off a duck's back....
What is interesting is that when you say you are not funny enough, what you are really saying is that you fear that your husband imagines someone funnier, and yet you yourself have no problem imagining someone whose love might be more unconditional.
Your letter made me wonder if women who get their breasts augmented for their husbands are not making a bad mistake. I am quite sure that if I had my butt lifted and my dick pumped full of silly putty and if I bought chest implants and hair plugs and a face lift, my husband would recoil in horror and never touch me again.
Love and attraction are not directed to plastic parts and artifice, they are directed to something that you emit uncontrollably: the real you. If you have let your husband know the real you intimately and completely, and if he loves you, there is very little you can do to elevate that love or snuff it out. I guess that is the essence of the "for better or worse" clause - boredom with our spouses' old jokes landing squarely in the latter half of that equation.
Maybe you just need some stronger demonstration of his love. If so, tell him so. There is nothing wrong with telling a spouse when you need stroking. They don't always see it. If he says "Oh you are so needful!", just smile and shrug and soak it up. Give yourself permission to be confident in his love.
PS: For years, I was famous for telling a long and convoluted joke at parties. There was always a moment when the revelers would scream for me to tell the "Armless Man" joke. When they did, my husband would roll his eyes, but I don't think he loved me any less for the telling. (The last time I told that joke was in 1992, at a dinner party, seated next to the host who, during the joke, passed out drunk after opening, next to my plate, a small ornate metal box containing the ashes of her last cat, to which I added some salad dressing before snapping shut the lid and leaving the table with the joke unfinished.)