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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?

CailinDana Mon 14-Jan-13 14:58:05

What's his explanation for being "useless"?

stubborncow Mon 14-Jan-13 15:01:43

I would say it's being used to not having to look after anyone else apart from himself (in practical ways. He's great at being the provider but day to day stuff, not so much).
He has no real excuse, he's just a procrastinator and a napper and works later than me and isn't as natural with childcare as me. Nothing he can't learn, you would think!

This isn't about him being useless though, I want to know if my fantasies of him moving out and becoming an official part-timer in the household woudl be easier and whether anyone has done that.

Pootles2010 Mon 14-Jan-13 15:06:28

Um I don't know as never split up with anyone like that, but are you suggesting having seperate households but being a couple still? Or splitting properly?

Either way I can't see it being a walk in the park tbh. I'd say a calm, non-accusatory chat is in order. Give him a few things that are his job, that aren't mega-urgent at first, iyswim? He does sound frustrating, but not sure it warrants a split tbh.

PostBellumBugsy Mon 14-Jan-13 15:06:37

It is seriously tough on your own. You have less money, less time & it is even easier for "useless" non-resident parent to opt out.
I left my marriage because I was really miserable & my DH was having an affair - he was also fairly useless. I've been on my own now with two DCs for just approaching 10 years & it has been seriously hard going. I don't regret it for a minute & I am happier without my ex-H - BUT and it really is a huge BUT, I would never have done it or do it, just because he was a bit useless.

CailinDana Mon 14-Jan-13 15:06:52

Ah, I see. I haven't done that so I can't advise on that front. So would your plan be to remain married but for him to essentially live his own life and just visit now and again?

stubborncow Mon 14-Jan-13 15:14:04

CD - yes, I guess something like that. I feel like that's how we're living now so if it were made official, at least we'd all know where we stand. He just seems to find it so easy to opt out of weekend activities etc. that I would feel really guilty not taking part in and that I enjoy anyway so wouldn't want to opt out of (ok, well, maybe sometimes!). He loves us all but doesn't seem to participate in family life very willingly.

Pootles - I haven't fully thought out the practicalities but he could possibly still live right by us - we have a basement flat that he could even live in. I dunno, the thought makes me really sad but it's so frustating that we can't seem to sort it out so that I am left taking them out on my own (which I actually love but just feel that he "should" be there. I figure if we were separate somehow, I wouldn't feel that "should" anymore and could just get on with things.)

Or maybe I should just take off for a few days to let him get on with things and realise that, although it is hard work, it can be terribly rewarding looking after our kids.

He was away for a few months due to work a couple of years back and, yes it was hard but I was fine and they were younger then...

mistlethrush Mon 14-Jan-13 15:17:19

I would just give up on the expectation of 'family' days out - make your plans, present your plans to DH and let him choose whether to join in or not, don't expect him to.

CogitoErgoSometimes Mon 14-Jan-13 15:19:35

Have you ever just gone away for a week/fortnight and left him to it? What would happen if you did?

Lovingfreedom Mon 14-Jan-13 15:23:05

I find it much easier now that my DH has moved out. I don't miss him being around at all and once he left was surprised how little he actually did. I thought that I would find it hard going...but it's much much easier. You can't have it all your own way though...if you ask him to move out, he might stop being so 'nice' never know.

stubborncow Mon 14-Jan-13 15:33:26

mistlethrush I think this is what I have to do, and, to be fair, I do that quite a lot but then he will suggest something that we all will do together. This is great but then infuriating as he doesn't take kid's mealtimes etc into account. i try to go with the flow but, as you can imagine, messing with naptimes and mealtimes with a 2 year old doesn't always make for a relaxing day out.
I tell him - nicely mostly - that if we are going for a day out we should really leave by X to avoid the crankiness or otherwise get them fed and then leave but his concept of time and ability to stick to someone else's schedule is just lacking completely.

lovingfreedom - see, I think I would find it easier that way too. I'd be doing most of the same stuff but with one less person in the house meaning a bit less mess and also, and this is the big one really, without expecting anything more from anyone else. I feel at the moment that weekly sleepovers or something would suit me fine.

Cogito - I was away for a few days and left him to it (though that was before number 2 came along) and, of course, they survived. She may have had funny mealtimes and outfits but that's about it. If I did the same again, I think the house would be a dump and they'd probably live off odd food but, again, yes, they would survive. I do think that me just taking off for a weekend or so might be helpful to him but I have nowhere to go!! (we are living abroad atm). And I think I'd feel horribly guilty. I think the ideal would be if there was a wedding or something so I would want to go away and he'd just have to suck it up!
I have pointed out to him that he's never taken the 2 of them out on his own at all and it doesn't seem to mean anything to him - he doesn't seem embarrassed that he's never done that or like he's missed out on anything or the like.

Lovingfreedom Mon 14-Jan-13 15:41:20

What about outside of the children? Do you want to continue the relationship? Or is it 'over' in your mind? How would you feel about him being free to make alternative arrangements for his life including possibly having relationships with other people?

stubborncow Mon 14-Jan-13 15:51:01

No, lovingfreedom, I don't consider the relationship over. I think we both just feel we are banging our heads against a brick wall about parenting and childcare.

I know he feels as frustrated as I do about some points (though, of course, I think he's wrong ;)...which is where the brick wall enters the equation!).

I feel we should be able to work it out by talking, and practicing and getting on with things together but it doesn't seem to happen. Most of the time it's fine but then he'll throw a strop about something he feels that I've done wrong and I just think it's not worth it, trying to keep this family thing going.

I think he would say that I make it difficult for him to participate because I am critical of his parenting. In some ways I am but I have worked on that and I definitely don't undermine him (which I will admit that I used to do sometimes and I know that is NOT ON as parents need to present a united front) which he will still accuse me of doing.
He'll expect them to sit quietly and not whinge in a restaurant which is a) not the kind of food they love b)past their lunchtime so they are hungry c) toddler will have woken up as he fell asleep in the car. He doesn't seem to get that if we just arrange life a bit around them for this sort of practical stuff, we'll all have a nicer time. And also to remember that 4 year olds and 2year olds don't tend to sit still and being angry about it is often not the best way to get them to do so.

Lovingfreedom Mon 14-Jan-13 16:05:21

Well then, try to appreciate his good points, pick your battles and even think about lowering your expectations....good enough is good enough even with child-rearing. Let him do things his way some of the time...and let him make what you consider to be mistakes.

How about backing off a bit and putting him in situations more often where he has to be the responsible adult? I can see the attraction of the idea, but I really don't think that booting him out to live in the basement is going to work in practice. Good luck!

stubborncow Mon 14-Jan-13 16:15:07

lovingfreedom, I think you're right and I think this is part of the "marriage/parenting is hard work" stuff.


This has stemmed from him having a strop on Sunday and basically flouncing off and leaving me and them to it. I thought he was just going to go and calm down and then come back to us but no!
He has a temper (as do I) and I think that, in his family, it's always been sort of laughed off as the OH'sSurname badtemper so, rather than learn to control and adapt and be mature about it, they just accept it.
(he'd never hurt us, not that kind of temper, just not good at managing his anger)

Ragwort Mon 14-Jan-13 16:15:30

I think it sounds as though you are both going through the perfectly 'normal' stage of having a 4 year old and a 2 year old.

There can't be many dads (or mums for that matter) who really enjoy going to restaurants with young children, I know there are some parents who have lovely, happy family days out with young children but surely most of us just battle through those early years?

Personally I hate 'family time* and I'm lucky in that I only have one child, it is much, much easier if we divide our time so that our DS goes out with either me or DH, (and he is much older than your children grin).

Are you seriously going to deprive your DC of their DF just because 'he's a bit useless some of the time' - are you perfect all of the time? I know I am not a perfect mother by any means, but we are a family unit.

OwlLady Mon 14-Jan-13 16:22:52

this happened to us a bit over the years. I got so angry and despondant that the one day I just didn't get up and refused to

it honestly has been so much different since that happened

My friends were a bit aghast I did it but I had tried to talk to him and got to the end of my tether and he has been like a different man since

Lovingfreedom Mon 14-Jan-13 16:24:43

The temper is a worry. I was married to a man whose family put up with his temper/anger as part of who he was. He only used it with people he was close to and was perfectly controlled and lovely with strangers though. Eventually I realised that his personality quirk that we all laughed at too (Mr Angry) etc was a good cover for being manipulative, abusive, shirking work and responsibility and for being incredibly selfish (cheating, lying etc). But I don't want to project that same personality on your DH.

I am swaying here between thinking that your DH sounds like a bit of a passenger in your marriage/family life, to thinking that you might be a perfectionist yourself who is not giving him a chance, to thinking 'hang on...everyone is treading on egg-shells around this immature over-grown teenager'...

stubborncow Mon 14-Jan-13 16:29:51

Ragwort - I am definitely not perfect but I do, 9 times out of 10, enjoy being in a cafe or a restaurant with my small children. I often have days out with them where the abiding feelings are happy ones with, of course, moments of "behave" and "stop that". I love having just one of them at a time too, so I can concentrate my attention and not have to stop arguments, take it in turns to press the button etc. but being out with both of them makes me smile more than not. I guess that gulf - OH is more like you, I guess and finds it tough - is what make this difficult for us.
Also, I wasn't going talking about depriving the children of their father, more of making it more predictable for them when he would be around and when he would not.

OwlLady - I think this is what i need to do. Just bugger off someday and leave him to it. I think he'd be surprised that it can actually be fun at times and that it's actually not as hard as he might think it is either.

stubborncow Mon 14-Jan-13 16:32:51

I am swaying here between thinking that your DH sounds like a bit of a passenger in your marriage/family life, to thinking that you might be a perfectionist yourself who is not giving him a chance, to thinking 'hang on...everyone is treading on egg-shells around this immature over-grown teenager'...

me too!
I am not a perfectionist about things but I think I can be a bit uptight about their routines. I am better about this now and I do let it go sometimes but Sunday's strop would have been avoided if he had paid attention to the time and needs of the little ones, I think!

As for the temper - of course he could control it more than he does at times if he would become aware of it as something within his control rather than considering it a personality trait. I have told him that. He knows I have a temper too but I don't use it as an excuse.

Sheila Mon 14-Jan-13 16:34:13

I felt much like you 10 years ago when I left CPU - that he contributed nothing so I could survive easily without him. I was wrong - I have survived but had no idea how hard it would be to do absolutely everything on my own. The loneliness of the situation for one thing is very tough, plus the effect on DS has been profound.

It was different for me in that I hated XP so I don't regret it, but if you still love your DP I think you'd be mad to split up.

Sheila Mon 14-Jan-13 16:35:04


I meant XP - damned autocorrect!

CheeseStrawWars Mon 14-Jan-13 16:36:05

Saying you want him to essentially "butt out" of parenting by separating seems to be more about you proving you do such a great job of parenting your kids you don't need him? Which perhaps he's picking up on, and feeling edged out, making the situation worse?

You say you think he "should" be there for family time - you clearly have a strong idea about what you think a good father "should" be. Have you asked him what, in his mind, being a good father involves? If you can get to the root of his and your assumptions about what being a good father "should" be, then perhaps you can try and bring your expectations more in line?

"He'll expect them to sit quietly and not whinge in a restaurant" - a 4 year old and a 2 year old should be able to manage that, if you go armed with pens, paper, other small distraction activities? If they get hungry as they're past their lunchtime, feed them a small snack to keep them going? You seem a little inflexible...

Do you not do any 1 on 1 time with your kids? He takes one out for the day, while you do something fun with the other? The 4 year old should be capable of choosing an activity - swimming, cinema, park etc? DH takes our 4yo to the cinema, which I personally think is a cop-out as he just gets to sit there and not doing anything for 90 mins, but DD enjoys it. Then they go for pizza. Again, not my ideal, but fun for them and it's "their thing" they do...

stubborncow Mon 14-Jan-13 16:49:15

Cheesestrawwars - you raise some good points here. I think maybe he does feel that I am very capable (and possibly controlling) on my own and that makes him take a backseat at times. It's hard to remedy this but I have suggested he take the 4 year old shopping when he's going, for example, rather than go on his own. THat worked quite well.

With regards to he "should" be there for family time. I just feel that he sees very little of them during the week - like a lot of parents - so the time he has with them at the weekend is something he should hold dear. I know I do but I think he doesn't feel the same. He finds it a hassle. I think he needs to see that it isn't (always!) a hassle but then I htink maybe I should just let him be. HOwever, that means that the kids miss him and I am exhausted taking them both out on their own while he naps which makes me a bit resentful.

They are pretty good in restaurants but he's intolerant of the sligthest whinge at times. Rather than seeing what the matter is and distracting with the crayons or whatever, he'll just want htem to sit down and be quiet. That attitude tends to prolong any minor whinges. Of course, I feed them snacks to keep them going if I know we are going to be late but he's so unpredictable in how long he will take to get ready and what he means by "we're going now" that sometimes we end up arriving somewhere really hungry when I thought we were going to be leaving just on time.

We do one on one time too -like if I take the older one to a birthday party. However, he will tend to just stay at home with the younger one and stick the telly on, I don't think he would ever take him out, even just to the park down the street without being prompted. Which then gets called nagging.

I do see it's all stuff that can be worked on with talking and action and so on but it just feels very tiresome today!

And Sheila - it does seem mad to consider leaving someone I love but this is all wearing away and making me resentful. I think the concensus (me included) is that we need to work at it and I htink, for us, actions are going to work better so I need to let him take the reins whether by choice or by me forcing him to by buggering off!

ladyWordy Mon 14-Jan-13 16:53:58

It's not just that he won't take part or help out, is it, stubbornc?

I'm not trying to say anything terrible is going on, but you're dealing with this

- his concept of time and ability to stick to someone else's schedule is just lacking completely. - and you give a few examples of that.

It's interesting that he hasn't grasped some basic parenting facts, such as needing to account for children's mealtimes, and that very small children have short attention spans. It seems almost alien to him, as you describe it confused

The fact that he is unconcerned that he has never taken his own children out is also a bit unusual.

There can be many reasons for this type of attitude/behaviour, and whilst it doesn't sound awful written down, it can be very, very wearing to deal with day to day.

You also said
- He loves the kids but seems like being an Victorian style father where he gets them on his terms is better
- he'd never hurt us, not that kind of temper, just not good at managing his anger you're also dealing with someone who struggles to control his temper.

None of this makes for happy family life, and I can't blame you for wondering about living apart. If you don't achieve your fantasy of a wedding or something which calls you away, it sounds as if you should at least try a holiday away - or a trial separation if it feels desperate. It would at least clarify your thoughts.

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