My husband has been laid off and is going to school for five weeks,
taking an intense course on computer repair. I'm concerned because he
spends at least five days a week sun-up to sun-down on the computer.
I miss him. He says "oh honey you know your the most important person
in my life, and if you need me, I'll stop." Well, I've never asked for
any man's attention. I feel if he wants to spend time with me, he will.
I feel so alone and get so angry that sometimes I think of taking a
sledge hammer to his computer. Am I being selfish?
ANSWER: Take your feelings seriously.
Your "sledge hammer" metaphor is a displacement of your anger at your
husband. Do not destroy his computer. Instead consider asking for
what you want!
It is possible that your husband is suffering from
intense anxiety about his performance as a provider. Losing his employment
may have catapulted him into a frenzy to succeed at his new endeavor.
Though his feelings are understandable, his actions may prove self
destructive. Obsessive study with no relief in sight not only starves
the marriage but contributes to exhaustion resulting in less than
average performance. Still, he appears to take weekends off and sundown
is only about 6 p.m. in the wintertime. This seems to be within fairly
standard work hours for full-time employment. Is it possible that
you are overreacting?
It is likely that you need some form of connecting
at pivotal times during the day. Transitions like homecoming or leave-taking
can be eased if you ritualistically carve out time to relate over
chores and duties that must get done. A few minutes can go a long
way in meeting your needs if you ask for it! Perhaps you are overly
shy in asking to come first in ways that still allow him to meet his
need to complete this "crash" course. Ask that he punctuate his studies
by greeting you or relating to you for a short period of time when
you get home and consider saving at least 20 minutes for relating
at the end of the evening. Make agreements that meet your need to
"come first" while allowing him the right to be temporarily engrossed
through this period of intense learning.
What makes you susceptible to playing the "martyr"
in order to prove you are loved? Did you grow up believing that if
you had to ask for something it was not worth having? Was communication
direct or were people required to "mind read" the needs of others
in your family? For some reason you are guilt tripping yourself. Is
your self esteem based on what your husband will do without asking?
If so, you need to take your self esteem into your own hands rather
than rest on your spouse's "mind reading" abilities.
The cost of "waiting for your husband's affection"
is mounting anger and pain. Is the juxtaposition of pain and love
a familiar one to you? If it is, you may be recreating deprivation
that repeats a childhood pattern of neglect. By not working out a
realistic agreement between the two of you to meet your needs and
his, you may be recreating a cycle of emotional abandonment.
Consider yourself the "canary" for the relationship.
Canaries were carried down into mine shafts by coal miners to alert
them to the dangerous thinning of oxygen that occurred at certain
depths. By truthfully expressing your needs to your husband you are
warning him of the potential danger of not saving time for the relationship.
Your feelings are an indication that the marriage is in some trouble.
Yet you have been unwilling to express this to him.
Your spouse agreed to marry. Marriage requires effort.
If he did not want to invest time and effort, he should not have married.
This first year of marriage is an important one as it serves as the
foundation for the years ahead. It is clear that your life is full
of other things besides your relationship. Consider that noncommunication
results in an "all or nothing" test of your relationship which can
only inevitably fail to meet the realistic needs of both partners.
Accept the reality of his commitment and express your needs clearly
Tell your husband that "knowing" he loves you and
"feeling" it are two different things. Many couples who are considering
separation still express love for their partner. And it is possible
to "love" someone from afar. Marriage is not just about love. It is
also about sustaining a relationship by hammering out ways to meet
your partner's needs without overcompromising yourself!
The good news is that your very passionate anger
shows that your feelings for your husband are still quite alive. But
ongoing frustration of your needs will deaden your passion. Without
change it is likely that you will become less angry over time, but
increasingly withdrawn and disconnected.
Befriend your anger. Listen to the passion present
in your fury. Use it to communicate instead of repress who you are.
Not communicating your needs will ensure your continued disappointment.
It is your job to express to your husband the "way" you want to be
loved. It is his to respond within means that allow for a balance
of his needs, too.
Perhaps he can learn to resist being overwhelmingly
absorbed by his studies, and carve out appropriate time to connect
to you during the day. And maybe you will find ways to get the attention
you need by coming first at specific times that you can count upon.
Consider that noncommunication results in an "all
or nothing" test of your relationship which can only inevitably fail
to meet the realistic needs of both partners. This is your marriage
too. Do not shy away from your responsibility to define it!
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