QUESTION: My relationship with my
husband has gone terribly wrong since the birth of our daughter two
years ago. We have been married five years, together for seven.
Before our daughter, our relationship was not
perfect, but since, it has become stressful and unfulfilling for me.
While I was pregnant, I imagined us both taking that next step into
parenting. He had wanted us to have a baby for quite some time. But
somehow, I feel I took that step but he did not.
I work full-time, take care of a large house
and manage all household affairs. On average, I have less than an
hour to myself alone daily, usually driving in my car. My husband
comes home around 8:30 p.m. from work. Our daughter is one to stay
up late, sometimes until 11:00 p.m. My husband seems irritated at
me that she is not asleep. I have since concluded that it has nothing
to do with her late bedtime hour, but rather that he is not able to
get my undivided attention. He has reverted into childhood! He has
literally jumped up and down yelling at me, "I need attention!" And
he means attention without our daughter present. In addition, on his
two weekdays off, he finds it impossible to return home from his ritual
recreational activities to join the two of us for dinner. I believe
that he doesn't bother because my attention is not focused 100% on
I am spread thin emotionally and physically.
I guess I could somehow find a way to pay more attention to him. The
point is that I don't want to anymore. It is a major turn-off to me
that he won't spend time with his family. I feel like a mother to
a toddler and to an adult. He was adopted as a baby by a couple who
were abusive to him. He has been on his own since he was a teenager.
I don't understand what he is looking for in our relationship. Sexually
we have suffered because I am so hurt and confused. I feel like I'm
betraying my soul if I have sex with him. I hate him for making me
feel like that. He whines and pesters me constantly for sex. I get
We have been to couples counseling, and that
was useless because he views everyone in the world as trying to change
him and he doesn't see anything wrong with the way he is.
Perhaps you can shed new light on this for me.
If my daughter were not here, I would have packed it in by now. I
want him to be a partner in raising our daughter, and not my kid!
ANSWER: Without change, you and your
husband are quickly becoming emotionally (if not legally) divorced.
Share your feelings with your husband. Let him know what you need
in order to continue in the relationship. If he continues to believe
that there is nothing he is willing to change, consider what your
options are. You may want your own therapy to look at what you need
at this point. Your husband clearly needs to explore his own childhood
experience and how it is affecting his relationship with you and his
daughter, and to take into account his contribution towards recreating
family breakdown instead of family cohesion.
You are at the crux of a crisis in the development
of family. First, your husband may be expecting you to make up for
his childhood neglect. This situation may have compounded his ability
to give attention to his own child, and so he has placed his share
of that responsibility in your hands, giving up on developing his
role as father in the family. This has brought up a second difficulty--overloading
your role as wife and mother, leaving you tired and resentful. At
this point you are both suffering from feelings of abandonment, which
threaten the marriage. The central breakdown here is that your husband
has not met the challenge required of him in creating a satisfying
and fulfilling role for himself as a father in his own family.
Your husband's unavailability to you and your daughter
on his days off indicates that he is separating himself from the family,
leaving him lonely and cut off from the nurturance that being a part
of a family unit can bring. He feels left out and blames you for these
feelings, but he can't see his own contribution to his loneliness,
that separating himself from the family is causing his pain. Creating
this distance may be the way he survived as a child in an abusive
family. It's a common protection that children learn in order to survive
toxic family situations.
If things are to get better between the two of you,
you're going to have to communicate your feelings. Ask your husband
if he wants to be a part of a family. Explain to him that you are
losing respect and affection for him based on his lack of time and
attention to his family. Tell him you are lonely for him! And invite
him to take his proper and rightful place beside you as a co-parent.
Often, people recreate their own childhood environments.
This is the work of the unconscious trying to break through to seek
healing in a new situation. Your husband experienced abandonment at
birth. He may now be recreating that abandonment with his own daughter.
He needs to recognize his non-involvement in fatherhood and what this
means not only for him, but for his daughter and wife as well. Taking
an adult place in a functioning healthy family can bring profound
healing to a ravaged childhood. But it is neither easily nor automatically
Fathers' groups as well as individual therapy would
provide a framework for him to change, if he can see that change is
not only necessary, but in his best interests.
His time to contribute to the family is here, and
the window of opportunity is closing fast. It is not too late to catch
the train, but he must be willing to buy his ticket!