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Dh is not 'engaged' with our life - how to live like this?

(96 Posts)
fattyfattybumbum Thu 02-Jan-14 23:26:15

I'm at a bit of a loss at what to do next in my relationship. My dh and I have been married for 11 years, together for just over 13 in total. We have three children under 6. It's quite difficult to describe what I'm finding annoying, but I'll try & explain it.

He is, can be, a loving, caring husband, although most of this side of him is shown to our kids these days, which I know is a bit inevitable when they are so small & demanding. Our sex life is virtually non existent, probably 2-3 times a year, which I find increasingly upsetting & frustrating.

For at least 3, maybe a lot more years he has gradually become more and more detached from me, our life.... It's both emotionally and practically. I feel like I do all of the work in the relationship and our lives, all of the 'thinking'. I do probably 80% of the housework, budgeting, planning holidays, sorting out school stuff etc etc. He will do things I ask him, but not consistently, and will forget to do basic stuff like put kids clothes in the washing basket. He does generally do the kids bath / bed routine & will often give them breakfast. I asked him everyday for about 2 weeks to give the kids a drink with their breakfast, and everyday he just said "oh, I forgot"...

We both have quite demanding jobs, although I work 3 days a week and he is part time, so I accept that I take a larger share of the housework.

To put it bluntly, it feels like he just passively participates in our life. It would never occur to him that there are things that need doing outside of the day to day routine, for example making sure the kids have shoes that fit, or organising a birthday party. Everything we do I have thought of, every holiday, every day activity, everything that happens for Christmas etc.

I have talked to him lots of times about this, I've been upset, angry, I've decided to try & not say anything & just support him & see if he becomes more engaged. I've been so cross with him today because I've been trying to get organised with decorating one of the children's bedrooms (we bought a falling down wreck because he promised he would be engaged with working on it, but has done virtually nothing in the 4 years we've had it), and he decided he didn't like the colour I had chosen, despite the fact that he's not been involved with planning it, nor will he do any of the work in the task.

Don't get me wrong, he can be an amazing person, but I feel like I am on my own in a relationship.

Does anyone know what I mean? What can I do to try & make things better?

DrNick Fri 03-Jan-14 17:55:11

where IS the op?

CerealMom Fri 03-Jan-14 18:11:10

Cleaning/making dinner/bath & bed routine for kids etc... (probably)

Freedom2014 Fri 03-Jan-14 19:52:02

Hi fattyfattybumbum - I could have written your post myself! I have been with my husband for 15 years, married for 13 with an 11 year old daughter. He is the laziest person I have EVER met. He does virtually nothing around the house, and is totally incompetent at any gardening/DIY . He refuses to take any responsibility for our money, and makes no effort at all in terms of our social life. Every single thing we do (from holidays, to going for a walk, from going to the cinema to what to eat) is all down to me. It has permeated our life so much that he is unable to make a decision, makes no effort with his family, and has no friends. We don't have sex anymore as he is unable to......(I'm up for it), and I'm not surprised as I feel like the man, woman and mother in the relationship. He has never bought our daughter a present, and I decided it was the last christmas I could sit there watching her open a load of christmas presents that he didn't buy, and had no interest in even looking at!
Sadly although we do "get on", fifteen years of never having a birthday present, never having a nice meal cooked for me, never taking me out anywhere has taken its toll. It seems there are three layers to our marriage- the functioning household chores dynamics, us as husband and wife and our family life together, and an intimate relationship. As he has made no effort in any of those three spheres of our lives, the whole thing has finally crumbled and I ended it in December.
Each relationship is different but I have come to the conclusion that my life will be so much happier and easier without him around.

That is all doom and gloom but before reaching this (very positive) decision I tried the following (all of which were unsuccessful - clearly!)
1. Went on strike and did no chores/cooking (house became filthy, and he ate takeaways/crisps)
2. Refused to do the money - he didn't bother either (in the end I had to pick it up or we would have not paid bills or gone overdrawn)
3. Sold the house and moved to a smaller one and went part time- his 5% contribution then became 0% even thought I was still working 30 hours per week
4. Begged, pleaded, cried, and warned we would end up splitting up (had a minor effect for a few days/weeks but never more than that)

As such I can walk away with my head held high that I explained to him exactly what contribution I needed (would have been happy with an 80/20 split even thought I work longer hours than him), and sex less than the national average.....but this was still too much to ask apparently. Given that 2014 is going to be the start of a new life. No matter what anyone says, it will simply be down to your own personal threshold of what you are prepared to accept as a marriage.

Hope he pulls his finger out unlike mine! (Ps am impressed with the bookcase.....that's more than I ever could have dreamed of!)

fattyfattybumbum Fri 03-Jan-14 20:01:57

Thank you for all of the messages on this thread - Ive not done a bunk, but Ive been with the kids all day; we're both not back at work until next week so there hasnt been a good time to reply. I wanted to consider all of the advice and viewpoints that have been given - thank you all for such a good range of perspective. Ive been reading everything you have been saying and thinking about what fits with me / us, and what doesnt seem to just now.

There are lots of factors, but I do agree that I let him not do things, or not do things well. Life is busy with 3 small kids, and its even more difficult having to give clear instructions to someone who will follow them s-l-o-w-l-y or not at all. Its not a case of me having high standards either, our house is a mess more often than not. I am not a house -proud person, and generally it doesnt bother me. Im not after him putting on a pinny and dusting.... I just want him to be engaged with the situation. Someone who says to me "you've done all the work over the last little while, thank you, Ill take the slack about x y z now" is infinately better than someone who just has no idea.

And its not unreasonable to ask for simple things like 'give the kids a drink at breakfast time'. The kids were asking and saying they were thirsty, but to me! Putting out water or milk or whatever for the kids while they have their cereal is not me being a perfectionist or control freak. But if Ive already asked 10 times, and its not happened, I cant take that little thing out of my mind - I know, along with a million other things, that I will also have to get the kids a drink in the morning as DH cant!

I also totally agree with the posters who question why the housework is seen as the woman's job. I recently got a cleaner, and both my DM and DMIL were really happy because "it really helps you out" = me, not us.... I guess it makes it easier for us all to go along with the idea that its not his problem if it doesnt get done.

Anyway, trying not to turn this into another rant blush. We have talked today. He is genuinely sorry, and I do think he loves me. I think the idea of mindfulness is a good one actually, because I think part of the problem is that he is so caught up in his own internal world, he doesnt notice, or be part of the world around him. I think mindfullness would be a good idea to help him tune in a little bit more to what is around him. he has agreed to find out more and learn how to use this.

I think we will sit down and look at all of the jobs again and try and share some out, with things that are routine based for him. We did this early on in our relationship, before we had kids and when we were both full time, and it did help actually. I think this might be a helpful tactic again.

Also, I did feel that the point someone made (sorry I cant go up for some reason!) about noticing what he does do was a good one. He does little things for me like bringing me a glass of water at bedtime, and I take that for grnted, so Ill try noticing when he is doing somehting with love for me.

Lastly, I dont think the ideas of going on strike would work for me, as Ive done it before! He is so unaware of whats going on around him that he wouldnt notice that things were not getting done. I dont just mean the dishes or the washing, but the big things like car insurance, getting the kids signed up for school etc etc..

We will see what happens. I really do want to work it out. In spite of it all, we share a lot of similar views / enjoy the same stuff, and we are on the same wavelength with lots of things.

Thank you all again

Tonandfeather Fri 03-Jan-14 20:07:01

Not sure what generation anyone else is but to be honest, what ever age our parents are I don't blame the women/mothers/mothersinlaw. I blame the men/fathers/fathersinlaw for doing so little. Women get so browbeaten by the message that complaints about housework are trivial and "not worth breaking a family up for" and even more so are forcefed crap about sex not being important to them, that to survive in that world it looks to me like they grit their teeth and get on with it, despite their exhaustion, sexual frustration and resentment. One way to cope with it is to deceive themselves that "all men are like that" and so they are perpetually surprised and probably a bit uncomfortable when they see one who isn't.

Tonandfeather Fri 03-Jan-14 20:09:24

Oh dear...why doesn't he want sex then?

DrNick Fri 03-Jan-14 20:10:45

can i suggest shared calendar too.
we give each other TOTAL control over activities as well - H does all cricket, I do rugby, I do swimming lessons, he does garden.

this means that if it fails ( including lifts, subs, kit) its yours OR his fault and one person controls better than the other
the flipside of this is that you have to let him do things his own way, not yours.

Plus do go away for a day with a mate or a weekend.

DrNick Fri 03-Jan-14 20:11:42

if the kids say " can you get me a drink" tell them to ask him
I rememebr mine walking UPSTAIRS past H to ask me something - i soon put paid to that! grin

DoesBuggerAll Sat 04-Jan-14 00:58:14

Dr Nick - giving the task 100% to either DH or the OP is a good one. If one person is solely responsible for it then the task can't fall down the gap so to speak.
I do loads at home but I have to admit I am not good if the task is a shared one. E.g. give me the task of doing all the clothes washing and I will sort it. I'll plan when to put the washing on, setting the timer so that the wash will finish just before I come home from work so I can chuck the lot in the tumble dryer and kick off another wash straight away and dry that aftwards and so on. Interfere in my schedule in any way though and it will confuse me and I'll be out of sync, I'll be unable to do that second wash or even get the first wash in the dryer in time as I'll be doing something else like going to the pub or sleeping or whatever.
Divide the tasks and agree with your OH who will do each. This doesn't mean you tell him which ones he will be doing but that you will come to an agreement over which tasks each will do.
Why not list all the tasks and each rank the task on order from favourite to least favourite. Then take it in turns to choose a task to assign to yourself (or even the other person). Work your way down the list till all tasks are assigned.

MrsTwgtwf Sat 04-Jan-14 01:02:27

Interesting thread, fattyfattybumbum. I've sent you a PM, hope that's OK. smile

Yogii Sat 04-Jan-14 01:51:52

"Wanting your children to have a drink with breakfast and shoes that fit = control freak?"

Try a little experiment. Don't give your kids a drink, wait until they ask. I guarantee you they won't die of thirst.

Tonandfeather Sat 04-Jan-14 02:01:11

But they WERE asking for a drink. They asked their mum when their dad didn't get them one. They are all under 6 so probably can't get their own.

confuddledDOTcom Sat 04-Jan-14 02:14:23

Posting off the OP here but it sounds so scarily familiar! My husband has just been put on ADs and been given a few weeks off work and he has changed so much! I've never seen this man before and I'm not sure what to do with him. He was (probably still is as not everything is fixed) exactly how you describe, I could have written that post. His hygiene was terrible, which had an impact on everything. That's changed a lot now too and I can smell the difference in the house now.

For us I'm not sure it's not too late because after 9 years of trying to do this I had given up (there's far more than I've written) and I am not sure where I can go from here, but if it's fairly recently for you then maybe it's not too late to do something.

redmapleleaves Sat 04-Jan-14 08:22:00

OP ^ In spite of it all, we share a lot of similar views / enjoy the same stuff, and we are on the same wavelength with lots of things.

I would have said this about my H too. Its taken me time after separation to realise that for me, in my relationship, shared views on the war in Iraq are less important than whether he can tune into my perspective, whether or not he thinks its valid, and respond - by acting - to my concerns. For me it felt like a relationship lived on his terms alone, quite apart from the fact that these chores weren't figments of my imagination. Shared views on childrearing are one thing, but how does he act? Who makes the views concrete?

Good luck.

DoesBuggerAll Sat 04-Jan-14 09:08:05

Confuddleddotcom - for better or for worse eh? DH finally gets the medical treatment he needs which allows him to be himself again and you want to LTB? What if it was the other way round?

maparole Sat 04-Jan-14 10:03:42

DH finally gets the medical treatment he needs which allows him to be himself again and you want to LTB?

That is outrageously unfair; you have no idea of her circumstances or what she has been through. What on Earth is the point of a post like that? angry

LividofLondon Sat 04-Jan-14 10:53:14

Great links nameequality! I particularly love the "6 Tools For Sharing Chores and Childcare with Your Partner" one as I can really see it helping.

MinkBernardLundy Sat 04-Jan-14 15:05:06

That link is really good. I like the idea of having someone the responsibility not just the task.

no opportunity to try this out with p as I am now an lp (and I doubt it would have worked as he was EA anyway but I might have realised what the problem.was sooner. he was a master a seeming to take something on but actually making duress he dragged me into it e.g. he would get shopping but I had to tell him what to get and put it away)

But I will start trying this approach with the dcs as they get bigger. i give them.orders not responsibility and it isn't working.

Stillcomingtoterms Sat 04-Jan-14 16:18:06

When I went back to work after having ds I wrote a list of every task that needed doing and who did it. Don't get me wrong it wasn't perfect and some things I ended up taking over and doing myself but it made him responsible for his tasks and he could see how big my list was. Unless they got done he had to deal with the consequences ie dc crying.

I can't remember what they were when the dc were little but this is what he was responsible for until recently. (A tip is not to give him something that would need to be done before your task needs doing. Ie getting him to wash/sterilise baby bottles. No good , as if he doesn't do them you would have to In order to feed the baby and then you can guarantee he would conveniently forget to do them ever again)

Make kids lunch boxes-week days
Put bins out- weekly
Take ds rugby training-weekly
From the clean washing put all extras away in draws ie socks, pants-fortnightly
Clean all of downstairs, inc wash floors-weekly.

I found dh wasn't happy if things had to get done on a certain day, so for the cleaning or washing I just said do it once a week, not bothered about when as long as it's done. That seemed to work.

confuddledDOTcom Sat 04-Jan-14 16:23:22

To be himself? We've been together 9 years and "himself" has always been the same. My mum was chatting to his XW the other day and said she could have been talking to me. His mum says that nothing is different to him as a teenager. If the man I am leaving was the man on medication then I wouldn't be leaving.

This is the man who's put me in incredible financial dire straights, who spends his time gaming in one form or another leaving me to care for four children (because he wouldn't have the snip until I'd suffered as much as he had, you know, me disabled mum who has irritable uterus, delivers every baby earlier and a thrombophilac so can't make permanent measures or take hormones myself) two of which are disabled themselves, then there's the constant working away. I have carried a baby and a toddler four miles a day on crutches myself to do the school run. I'm honestly only telling the small clip of it. So he's clean now and has his sense of smell back which is helping him be a bit tidier in the house. He's still a gamer and still a bachelor at heart.

At the end of the day we are best friends, we live in the same house and are getting on better than we ever have but it took splitting up to do that. I'd rather my children live with parents who get on as best friends than parents who are at each other's throats and a mum being crippled to keep up.

For better or worse, eh?

confuddledDOTcom Sat 04-Jan-14 23:52:22

I forgot to say, thank you maparole thanks

if it was the other way around? I've worked hard despite my own health to keep us together,it wouldn't be the other way because I've made sure of it.

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