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Splitting up with a nice but a bit useless DH - is it easier alone?!

(67 Posts)
stubborncow Mon 14-Jan-13 14:55:29

My DH is mostly lovely and I love him but he's a bit useless with pitching in and helping no matter how good his intentions and how many different ways we try to work things out (lists, schedules, reminders, designated jobs, shouting...).

He loves the kids but seems like being an Victorian style father where he gets them on his terms is better.
I sometimes feel like it would just be easier if he moved out and only came along to see me and them every so often so we wouldn't be constantly trying to have him involved in family life. Just remove that expectation and get on with life.
Now, I know this is Mumsnet and I am going to have people telling me that he shoud just man up and muck in. I know he should but we are both exhausted trying to get that to work so I just wondered has anyone been in a similar situation, separated out the household and found it easier?

Sheila Mon 14-Jan-13 16:57:51

I really hope you can work it out stubborn, it's worth trying. I was just addressing your question 'would it be easier on my own' and my answer is 'no, it wouldn't '.

Pootles2010 Mon 14-Jan-13 17:06:17

I would also say that whilst he should be doing more- and you can hopefully work on that together - they aren't going to be this young forever, are they? A lot of dads seem to find being with their kids easier as they get older, and they can 'do' more and not be so governed by meal times etc. You might find things will start to improve?

CheeseStrawWars Mon 14-Jan-13 17:13:04

I feel your pain, I really do. If your DH feels the weekends are 'his time to relax' then I can see how that is difficult. Where's your "me-time" in all this? It sounds like you are caught between the competing needs for you to have your own space and identity apart from being a mother (which you sound guilty about, and resent your DH as he seems to have his space sorted just fine) and the need for you to do the absolute best you can for your kids at all times?

It's easier to change yourself than it is to change other people - I suspect your DH has always had the same attitudes to time-keeping etc... Can you just accept that's who he is? Would you stay with him if you accept that's him? What would happen if you just "gave up" and relaxed about the way he interacts with the kids?

Does he know how it makes you feel - and I don't mean in terms of "when you're late it means the children get grumpy" but directly "I feel I have to balance everyone's happiness and that puts me under pressure, and when you run late it makes me feel even more pressured and it feels to me like you don't care or understand". So you take the kids out of the equation of how you feel and bring the focus back to you as a couple and how you impact each other?

You don't have to be a perfect parent, and it is okay to not want to spend all your time with your kids. You sound like you need a break, to be honest. Why not tell him that you want to go shopping/go out for a coffee on your own on Saturday morning for a couple of hours. If he sticks them in front of the TV, so be it. At least you get a breather and some headspace.

ladyWordy Mon 14-Jan-13 17:16:47

You sound like you need a break, to be honest.

^^ this, very much.

Branleuse Mon 14-Jan-13 17:21:45

I dont live with my partner. Not for the same reasons as you, but it works for us. We lived together for 6 years but have lived apart for about a year and are actually closer than ever. Best of both worlds

Mouseface Mon 14-Jan-13 17:28:26

Following on from what CheeseStraw says re going out for a coffee, having some time off....

What would he do if you did just that? I mean this weekend, say to him that you're going out for an hour or two. Go and get a coffee, buy a magazine full of mind numbing Sleb trash, take a good book, or just sit and people watch, but do it for YOU.

Don't go shopping for the children, or him. No food shopping, just go and have some down time and enjoy it. And don't feel guilty.

Would that cause more/problems? And, could you actually go through with it? IYSWIM? As in it would be more trouble than it's worth?

stubborncow Mon 14-Jan-13 18:20:27

Cheesestraw - you speak a lot of sense. I think I need to let go of what I think he should be doing and accept who he is with regards to time-keeping and stuff and I think I have been working on that but every now and then I get snapped back to "why the hell is it so hard for him to grasp the concept of lunchtime and naptime when we've been doing it for nearly 5 years!"

I think taking the focus away from the things that need doing and back to how I feel is a good idea too.

Those of you saying I need a break, I think I do - for myself and to jerk him into taking care of the two of them. I think I might go to the cinema this weekend on Saturday afternoon. It'll be fine, I know it will and I think if I am in the cinema, I can just get absorbed and not be wondering how they are getting on. THey'll probably play with the next door neighbours and have a great time. as for husband - he is actually fine with that. Like when me and my daughter have gone to the cinema or to a party in the afternoon, he's perfectly happy at home with our boy and isn't bothered what time we come home. I guess he might be slightly more frazzled with both but fine.

This is a great sounding board, I am really clarifying what I need and what I can do about it!

buildingmycorestrength Mon 14-Jan-13 18:41:51

This is so interesting as I struggle with this dilemma myself. I would say that fundamentally changing my expectations of my husband has been absolutely critical to save my sanity, as has recognising that working all week is genuinely stressful (as is juggling house, childcare, and pt work, of course).

BUT... and this is a big but...accepting that I am going to do pretty much everything has probably meant treating him as a roommate / coworker. Not my best friend or what I would have considered a partner. Something seems to have died. But I would rather have a coparent than not...on balance. I think.

Oh, a practical tip is to have a discussion on Friday night about expectations of the weekend. I tried this and it helped...you just have to override their protest that it will somehow all be lovely and relaxing without any effort on their part. And force him to go out and see friends/relax during the week so they aren't relying on the family unit for downtime.

Mouseface Mon 14-Jan-13 18:49:09

Stub - the thing is, you get stuck sometimes and forget that you need YOU space, your own head space too. Yes, getting out and about is great but on your own completely is totally different.

I hope you do go to the cinema and by yourself and it needs to be on a regular basis.....

Why not make a date with friends too, even if it's only once every couple of weeks/months, just a ladies afternoon or night out. Start getting YOUR LIFE back, step away from the wife, mother, skivvy role. It's easy to forget that once upon a time you were YOU.

Have a nice weekend smile

stubborncow Mon 14-Jan-13 18:55:29

Thanks mouseface - I do go swimming and to Pilates on my lunchbreaks to get some "me" time and that has helped me relax a bit!
Meeting with friends is tricky as we haven't lived here that long so I am a bit shy about considering people to be my "friends" as opposed to people I know but there is one girl who I might ask along to the cinema...but not this week!

buildingmycorestrength - the roommate things is a bit how I feel. I mean, we do have sex and stuff but I think if we could move to roommate rather than him being a hotel guest, that would be a start!!

Discussing the weekend on Friday night is a very sensible and simple tip that, I can imagine, makes a big difference.

And, in good news - although he is going home early with headache, when I asked if he could pick up milk on the way, he's volunteered to pick up anything else too...reminding me that he does have his uses!

buildingmycorestrength Mon 14-Jan-13 19:00:06

I also remind myself sometimes that although being 'professional' in our relationship is boring and somewhat of a passionkiller, if the alternative is being 'unprofessional' then that causes a lot of problems. I wouldn't want an 'unprofessional' person on the team... does that make sense?

ll31 Mon 14-Jan-13 19:17:44

You do sound quite controlling in terms of it being your way only tbh. I'd imagine it might be difficult to always being told your way is the only way, He is their parent too and he's clearly diff expectations /ideas to you on parenting but that doesn't't make them wrong.

SorryMyLollipop Mon 14-Jan-13 19:51:54

It is fine to leave a marriage if you feel unsupported/ let down etc, especially if you have explained this to him and he has not changed.

I left my H for similar reasons, he was not child centred etc, had very high expectations of children's behaviour etc. He never did anything with them alone. Our local shop is about 300yds away- in three years he only took DCs with him twice (but expected me to take them with me at weekends). Our local park is a similar distance, he took them about 4 times but only with his mate and his DCs.

Now we are separated he has them every other weekend and he has had to step up and become a dad to them . They now have a much better relationship, he is more confident etc.

If that had been the only issue in our marriage then I am sure that a temporary separation could have "cured" us and made him realise what it means to be a dad. Sadly we had too much other stuff (and are getting divorced) but this was a major problem for me, I couldn't respect him and resented him hugely.

BranchingOut Mon 14-Jan-13 20:36:48

Intriguing thread - I am especially intrigued by what you say Owllady about not getting up one day. What happened?

OP - I think that what you have is not unsalvageable, as there seems to be some love there.

But it is bizarre that he has still not grasped the whole thing about messing up mealtimes being more trouble than it is worth, after two children.

Your options might be:

accept him as he is and adjust your expectations of his involvement

carefully examine any other factors in the dynamic eg. his upbringing, expectations of raising a family

Seeing if things improve as the children get older

Trip away - who cares if you don't have a great reason, fabricate one - this is more important.

Pressing for a trial separation

Have you tried some careful use of language? eg. the 'If...then' technique

Just saying in a calm, practical voice:

'If we leave by 11.45, then we should be in time for X and Y to have lunch and enjoy the meal. If we leave later than 12 then they will be quite hungry and irritable'

There is also a book called 'Too good to leave, too bad to stay'. Might be helpful.

Mouseface Mon 14-Jan-13 20:48:39

Stub - ask her when you're ready but ask...... I was solo with a disabled baby for over a year before someone said "Hey, you live in the village don't you" smile

It's tough, especially with small children. I think that if you plan your weekends, as suggested, tell/ask DH to commit to plans, talk to each other, share the chores, the children etc.... and make sure that YOU get YOUR free time (and equally he does too) then life will improve is there are no underlying issues.....

I second what BranchingOut has posted.

Zavi Mon 14-Jan-13 21:12:01

Personally, I would find being you intolerable. I wouldn't put up with that.

If you can bear to be apart from your kids for a couple of days and nights a week - whilst your OH has care of them, then I would definitely ditch the deadwood!

It will give you a chance to relax and re-group, or catch up on domestics, so that when your kids are with you you can spend proper quality time with them.

It will also remove your (justified) resentment at having to do so much whilst your useless OH does so little.

Branleuse Mon 14-Jan-13 22:39:52

it is a bit of a shit reason to leave an actual marriage really .

LesserOfTwoWeevils Tue 15-Jan-13 01:32:00

He doesn't sound very nice at all, sorry.
He's very easygoing and laidback...once things are going his way—ewho wouldn't be?
And if they're not he throws a strop, even at two tiny little children.
In fact he's so far from being nice that he's actually notoriously bad-tempered.
His attitude to your poor DCs is heartbreakingly nasty.
He sounds as if he's bordering on being emotionally abusive, and if it weren't for you frantically scurrying about shushing the DCs and doing all the childcare singlehanded, he would be downright EA.
Why exactly would you want to stay?

OwlLady Tue 15-Jan-13 08:22:54

I am glad you are intrigued BranchingOut grin I just didn't get up. I told him and talked to him about how I felt for granted and how i was running around like a blue arsed fly in the morning whilst he made a coffee and did his own thing and then buggered off to work. So the one morning, ona school morning I just refuse to get up. I think though at this point I was at the end of my tether. He kept coming up and saying 'but I need you to get up, i can't do this on my own etc' anyway i ignored him and stayed there and he did manage to get everyone to school and out of the house and all the rest of it and since then things have been so much better. He even irons the uniform in a morning, waits with them for the bus etc.

My friend said my children will be scarred for life by 'the day mummy stayed in bed' but I think it proved a point blush

BertieBotts Tue 15-Jan-13 08:36:56

So you basically want him to move out but still be together? I don't think it's sustainable. I think you will end up splitting up (although I don't think there's anything wrong with that.) I just wonder if you actually want the relationship to end but you're drawing it out.

Hi OP! I have read the whole thread & know exactly how you feel because my DH was exactly the same, even down to the temper. The only difference is that by the time our DC1 was 4, DC2 was 3 (& had been diagnosed with ASD), DC3 was 2 & I was pregnant with DC4. It was tough and, looking back, I did lose sense of myself. Friends were a definite help, especially those I could take the kids out with at the weekend - mostly they had kids too, but somehow it was easier with 2 Mums. I did lower my expectations and it helped. I went away on a hen weekend and DCs survived. As I remember it, no washing was done & DCs were absolutely starving when I walked through the door at about 3pm. DC1 said "Oooh Mummy you're back, can we eat now?" Things gradually improved as DCs got older. He would take them to do things he's interested in: test driving cars, going to the driving range or playing golf, looking at nice watches in jewellers, occasionally going to watch a football match. They now share these interests with him, or at least the 3 DSs that don't have SN do. It might help that they are all DSs. On balance, I'm glad we didn't split up as they love their Dad and we laugh now about such things as the time he expected to drive us 6 hours to see ILs in Glasgow without stopping, because that's how he did it when on his own.

Dahlen Tue 15-Jan-13 10:44:58

I think he's abdicating responsibility. We all have the right to put up with less-than-desirable behaviour if we feel the benefits of staying with that person are worth it, and we are all individuals, so in some cases, it will be the right decision. Personally, however, I think it stinks.

Why does a full-time job absolve anyone from domestic chores and childcare? Many single people have to work full time and still come home to laundry/vacuuming/cooking/shopping, etc. Many single parents have to work and come home to do reading/bathing/bag-packing etc, before then tackling housework.

It is every adult's responsibility to look after their own needs (food, clothing, living space maintenance) unless they have negotiated a fair exchange. A fair exchange means that life should be easier for both parties in a relationship. The best way to ensure that is to check on the amount of leisure time each partner has, without children in tow and without any mental energy being spent planning/dealing with domestic matters.

Anyone capable of holding down a job is capable of retaining information that they've been told and acting on it appropriately. If they can't, it's because they've decided it's not a priority for them. Anyone who feels like that about their own child does not deserve the title of parent IMO, let alone partner to the person who is constantly having to run around making up for the fact that their 'partner' feels domestic essentials are somehow beneath him.

BranchingOut Tue 15-Jan-13 10:51:49

*I just didn't get up. I told him and talked to him about how I felt for granted and how i was running around like a blue arsed fly in the morning whilst he made a coffee and did his own thing and then buggered off to work. So the one morning, ona school morning I just refuse to get up. I think though at this point I was at the end of my tether. He kept coming up and saying 'but I need you to get up, i can't do this on my own etc' anyway i ignored him and stayed there and he did manage to get everyone to school and out of the house and all the rest of it and since then things have been so much better. He even irons the uniform in a morning, waits with them for the bus etc.

My friend said my children will be scarred for life by 'the day mummy stayed in bed' but I think it proved a point*

That is bluddy brilliant! Owl Lady

It just goes to show that ultimately no one can make us do something - unless they are abusive of course sad

THat is it - one half of the equation is what we do. Sometimes just stopping doing it might be the solution.

OwlLady Tue 15-Jan-13 11:45:12

well no he wasn't and isn't abusive so that helped but I think we had got into a rut whereby the childrens stuff was seen as 'my stuff' and my job. He had worked abroad for years when they were younger and I think he got out of the habit and in all fairness I most probably let him as it was easier and he was tired etc. But at the end of the day he isn't doing me a favour by looking after them and helping, he is doing it for them - which is something we have discussed since. They are not just my children, they are ours and it's only fair he does parenting too otherwise we have not been together.

Anyway several years on i am not taken for granted and I think he feels better for being more involved anyway and so he should.

Moanranger Tue 15-Jan-13 16:15:12

OP, I would agree with the other posters that you need to change your expectations of his behaviour. He does need to do more, and that needs to be worked on, but a 2 & a 4 year old are more work than fun, especially for a dad who doesn't sound all that child focused. I think he will relate better to DCs when they are older.
You need to be realistic about what he chooses to do with them. It would be delightful if he took them out on educational trips, petting zoos, etc, but that is not likely to happen. Even if he just sits with them and watches TV, the DCs will be very aware that they are spending time with daddy and that is what counts at the end of the day. When mine were that age and my husband took over, I would grit my teeth sometimes with what he chose to do with them and how he behaved with them, but I also realised he had to develop his relationship with his children his way, not in a way that I was dictating.

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