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In a rut - where do I start?(9 Posts)
Apologies in advance for long post, but any help appreciated. Background - I'm in my 40's, been with husband (same age) 20+ years, married 16 yrs. Two primary school age children. He works long hours in a demanding career (out of house Mon to Fri before 7am, back after 7pm, often works evenings/weekends). It's not the kind of career which encourages part time working, especially for men. I work part time (but also in a demanding role, and including some weekend work), and I have 100% responsibility for school pick ups/childcare etc, plus do all food planning/shopping/cooking, all laundry, almost all card/present buying and sending, organising holidays, most of tidying up/cleaning (we don't have a cleaner). The one role he has in the house is to pay bills/take responsibility for our finances, which he manages pretty well.
Problem is, we have become entrenched in 1950's style roles which make me feel more like a housekeeper, or even his Mum, than his wife. There is an expectation that three meals a day will appear, which he has had no part in organising (even when he's on annual leave, or at weekends when I've been working and he's off). The usual routine on weekdays is that I'll cook the evening meal, and eat with the kids around 6.30pm, then he'll arrive home at 7.15pm or later to eat his portion, might help me get the kids in bed if he has time, then disappears for a shave/shower etc. which takes him over an hour (I appreciate he needs some wind-down time). He then starts doing more work on the laptop and often doesn't come to bed until midnight or later, falling asleep within minutes. He has little interest in sex and it has dwindled to every 6 weeks or so, but there have always been issues with a lot of performance anxiety and sex isn't always successful, so there's some avoidance going on I think.
There's an unspoken rule that he can have a lie-in both days of the weekend while I get up with our youngest, then work whenever he feels like it without informing me in advance, and the implication is that the kids will either have to entertain themselves or I'll spend time with them. He loves them and is a great Dad when he is with them, but doesn't prioritise quality time with us or plan anything fun, and if it was left up to him we'd spend every day off just pottering round the house aimlessly. He does do things at weekends but only if they're pre-arranged, eg. kids' parties. We went on holiday in the summer and on the first day he had to find an internet cafe and spend a couple of hours doing urgent work he'd not had chance to do before leaving.
I don't get much time or opportunity to speak to him without the kids around, but if I've tried to raise any of this he tends to shrug and say that work is very busy or promise to help me out more in the house (which might happen for a day or two). I completely accept that I've had a part in letting these roles evolve, but I feel as if we're just existing at the moment with very little fun in life, and I also feel as if we've grown apart and lost the closeness we used to have. I am lonely a lot of the time when the kids are at school and I'm off work, but wouldn't share this with any of my friends in real life because they know him and I think he would be mortified at me discussing marital problems with people he knows. He is never unkind to me, but conversation is usually limited to asking how my day/the kids' day was.
Anyone else been in a similar situation and managed to turn things round? I know his career will always mean long hours, but the main thing I want to achieve is to maximise the time and fun we have together as a family/a couple and try to feel closer to him, without me always being the one to make the effort to plan and organise things.
If you're being taken for granted, not listened to and not taken seriously at the same time you're going to have to do something pretty drastic to get through to such a selfish man that things have to change. Do you have any nicely distant friends or relations that you can visit for a week by yourself? Book some time off work and just go? Leave DH in charge of house and home and he might just start to appreciate what you actually do and maybe take it more seriously when you come back ready to talk.
I could've written what you did, almost word-for-word. I'll be watching the replies with interest.
Could you make it a rule that certain times at the weekend are family time? You could alternate who has to plan whatever you are going to do.
Also, I know it's not all together time but could you go out and leave him to sort the kids out on his own. If he hasn't got any option he may grow to like it. I would also knock letting him have a lie-in both days - there's no reason you can't alternate that. If he complains that he's too tired well he should be going to bed earlier. I don't believe that he's working solidly till midnight.
I think that if you both do not make changes this marriage could utlimately break up because you will have had enough; you could well end up thinking there is more to life than this. He needs to be told that just being a good provider is not enough.
What do you get out of this relationship now?.
He does not sound like a great Dad (you probably like to think that he is for the childrens sakes) and he is certainly making for being a lousy husband. You would not call him a great H would you?.
Is he really a great Dad seeing that you have also written that he does not prioritise family time with them?. He's hardly ever there in your home and when he is at home he is either on his own (his downtime, what about your downtime?) or on the computer working. What do you think your children think of their Dad?. Bet they would not call him a great Dad would they?.
I would discuss with him exactly why is he so driven?. Was this something he learnt from childhood; was he so poor that he does not want to face poverty ever again?. Was he only judged on his achievements as a child?.
Put forward some positive suggestions e.g Friday night is just for the two of you and time to talk together, he leaves his work at work on the weekends, he stops hogging all the lie-in times on the weekend and starts to share that with you, you plan to do somethings together. If he does not agree to any of that then I would suggest you talk to a counsellor on your own.
Is he happy with the way thing are? Don't assume. I thought that helping my OH be the best he could at work and play (shouldering the burden of child care, fun activities, cleaning and other domestic stuff) and working to give us a good joint income (goodies that come with that) was a way of showing love but after a crisis - "Where does the love go ?-"I see that he wanted more emotional engagement too and was not able to ask for it and got it somewhere else. Relate are promoting men's relationship health at the moment - asking men to take stock. Why not send him the link?
Thanks for all your replies - lots of food for thought.
Cogito - I've often wondered how he would manage if I was suddenly admitted to hospital or something leaving him to run the household! Tempting to go away, and I think it would be a wake up call for him, but unless he took annual leave to cover it, all the work would fall on my Mum, and ideally I want to save his annual leave for family stuff.
Juneau, will PM you in a minute.
What's that - good idea to designate protected time eg on a Sunday, I will definitely suggest that, although want to avoid it becoming yet another thing for me to organise (he has lots of form for saying he'll take ownership of something, then not getting round to it such that I have to step in at the last minute and get it done - like birthday pressies for his rellies).
Atilla - interesting question re why he is so "driven". His Dad had the same career, but in his Mum's eyes never brought home enough money for the lifestyle to which she aspired, leading to many huge tantrums (lasting hours, things getting thrown etc) from her when he was growing up. His Dad buried his head in the sand about it, which is a personality trait my DH has inherited. I hasten to add that I have never made any financial demands on him and in fact as a couple we're both naturally frugal - he is very much a pessimist and believes in squirrelling savings away.
Deb - sorry about the crisis you have faced - I think asking him if he's happy would be a great way to lead into a calm discussion and hopefully get him to open up a bit. It makes it less about me nagging and more about us both working together as adults to improve things.
Hear what you're saying about him offloading the responsibility to your Mum but currently he seems to reserve his annual leave for himself... not the family. Nothing you're doing or saying at the moment is making the slightest impact on his life. So you need something big to shock him out of his complacency. Short of gathering up the kids and walking into the nearest solicitor's office to start a divorce I just don't think you've got a chance of him listening to a word you'll say.
I had to tackle this same issue.
I did it by timetabling slots into the weekends that were family time around around everyones commitments.
Yes, initially it was yet another thing for me to organise but as dh got used to spending time with the kids and taking them out without me he learnt to enjoy it and now does stuff without prompting.
I'd also just book day trips/weekends/holidays even if he didn't sound enthusiastic about it.
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