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How to improve a marriage with a reluctant DH?

(27 Posts)
naturalbaby Sun 02-Apr-17 09:44:58

We've been married over 10yrs and had children almost as long. Relationship issues are now so bad that we are planning to separate temporarily. Neither of us want this - we still both love each other but cannot parent together very well.
The children can be hard work but I have been a full time parent since day 1 so feel like I have it under control. Due to a change in circumstances DH has been around and involved a lot more recently and this has lead to things falling apart - he really struggles to manage the children's behaviour, I get stressed and upset seeing this and he can't cope with my stress either.

Moving on - we want to stay married and are trying everything we can to work on our marriage (study at home course, regular dates, individual counselling and starting couple counselling soon), however, DH basically only wants the good parts of being a parent. He believes that he works full time and earns a good salary so he provides more than enough. I am going back to work soon and yet he expects me to deal with everything else alone - all the housework and basically all the parenting. He just wants the days out, holidays, treats and positive side of me and the kids. He can't be around me or the kids when we're sad, grumpy, angry, tired.

How can we work on our marriage and parent together if he's not prepared to put in any effort? I just have to come to terms with his reluctance to parent his kids? I'm feeling very resentful that he just wants to appear when we're all well behaved and leave when things turn sour - a bit like a relative we have that always arrives with gifts and sweets/chocolates but leaves when the kids start acting up. We are determined to avoid permanent separation or divorce.

InfiniteSheldon Sun 02-Apr-17 09:46:40

Sadly you keep using 'we' when you need to use 'I' flowers

Universitychallenging Sun 02-Apr-17 09:47:41

You can't make him engage. He has to want to. He doesn't.

Unless you can change that it will never work.

BIWI Sun 02-Apr-17 09:47:48

Well it sounds like you are determined but he isn't!

Sounds like it's a good idea that you're going for couples counselling - hopefully your counsellor will be able to get him to understand that his perspective is both unrealistic and also unfair.

In the short term, however, seeing as you are so unhappy, why don't you arrange for some paid-for childcare, and get yourself a cleaner? Then you can enjoy some time for yourself?

Hassled Sun 02-Apr-17 09:48:08

Does he understand that if he doesn't change his attitude then your relationship is doomed to failure no matter how hard you work at it? In fact does he see that "working on it" means changing his attitude? If no, I think you're fighting a losing battle here.

AddToBasket Sun 02-Apr-17 09:48:37

Well, you sound self aware so you already know that it isn't going to work as it is. But counselling will help and this sounds like a classic case where you could find common ground.

One thing is: you are letting him behave like this. You must go away for weekends etc so he has no choice but to parent. Does he have selfish hobbies?

Longdistance Sun 02-Apr-17 09:54:00

Omg, this sounds so stressful for you sad

He's sounds a tad selfish and unhelpful. He's as much use as a chocolate teapot.

Go back to work, and get rid of the dead weight which is your h. I think you dc will behave better, and the stress will lessen for you.

He's holding you back like a millstone around your neck.

tribpot Sun 02-Apr-17 09:54:42

But he's not determined to avoid permanent separation or divorce. He has no interest in participating in family life. He doesn't just turn up for his job for the good bits, does he? This is no different.

reallybadidea Sun 02-Apr-17 10:02:28

Do you think he would benefit from a parenting course so that he has some strategies to manage the kids' behaviour? Perhaps he would find it easier to be involved more if he felt that he could positively influence things when it's not all smiles and happiness? And you might find it easier to work as a parental team - this is important if you do decide to separate permanently too.

What do you plan to do regarding contact with the children while you're living apart? Does he understand he will be on his own with them then?

Funnyonion17 Sun 02-Apr-17 10:43:01

Hang on a minute. How on earth can he think it's acceptable just to pop up for the 'Disney' moments?

What are his reasons for opting out?

Isetan Sun 02-Apr-17 10:48:53

Hmm, can you see the pattern, 'working on your marriage' is another one of your responsibilities. Of course he's not prepared to do the work because the problem is yours, if you just let him carry on prioritising his selfish needs there wouldn't be a problem.

Considering his attitude, I'm not getting the impression that a) hebelieves that separation/ divorce is really something that you'd follow through on or b) that separation/ divorce is something all that terrible because he could legitimately check out of the drudge then.

When Ex and I split up (I thought he was to much of a coward to do it, so I did it) but there was a look of astonishment and annoyance that breaking up wasn't just him getting his 'freedom' it also meant that we wouldn't be sleeping together again and that I was no longer on hand to pick up his parenting slack.

I don't think you are at all ready to accept that the man you love and the father to your children, isn't prepared to prioritise you or his children's needs above his wants. You're still placing more value on what he says over what he does. Continue counselling because there will come a time when you'll realise that not only can't you fix this on your own, you no longer want to. I would make it very clear to him that the time is now because when you reach the point when you can't be bothered, it will be too late and it wasn't your responsibility that he didn't capitalise on the opportunity currently before him.

naturalbaby Sun 02-Apr-17 13:04:20

I know I can't make him change - I've been working on myself for a long while but slowly realising that our marriage issues are holding me back. I'm struggling to let go of the dream I thought we had of being together, parenting together, being happy together - I don't think either of us is anywhere near accepting that we can't/won't get there.
Finances are too tight for any additional support - he'll need to start paying rent on a room/flat soon when he moves out.

He is depressed and at the moment stuck in the mindset that I need to be calmer and more supportive to allow things to move on. Basically everything is my fault. I know there will be no progress until his depression is under control. He has done parenting courses - plural! and we've read loads of books together. I've mentioned that splitting up means he's on his own with the kids but he has no response for that scenario.

His parent who earned the biggest salary popped up for the 'Disney' moments. I've made it clear I won't live in a marriage like theirs and that's where we're heading.

His reasons for opting out - I said I can't live like this any more and want to split up temporarily to allow us both time and space to sort ourselves out. He doesn't see the point in making an effort since I said I want us to split up. He's also angry that this is the situation we are now in.

TheElephantofSurprise Sun 02-Apr-17 13:07:27

Temporary splitting is a poor choice. Do the job properly, get it over with, get on with your life.

tribpot Sun 02-Apr-17 16:10:57

He doesn't see the point in making an effort since I said I want us to split up

Correction. He just doesn't see the point in making an effort.

naturalbaby Sun 02-Apr-17 16:54:31

Do the job properly... you mean divorce? We don't want that and are looking for ways to repair our marriage and move on together. We've had several changes in circumstances to deal with, his mental health issue, it's tough at the moment but his is not permanent, and I don't believe this is the end of our marriage. If we have to put things on hold for a few months till he's got his depression under control then we're prepared to do that. Something needs to change but I don't believe that means divorce.

TheElephantofSurprise Sun 02-Apr-17 17:13:40

You say 'we' but he is reluctant - your own description. I'm a depressive, it might not be months to control, it might be decades before it lifts. He blames you for the problems in the marriage. They do that when they want out. Be sure it is 'we' who want to improve the marriage, and not just 'I'.

HeavenlyEyes Sun 02-Apr-17 17:20:42

how can it not be the end of your marriage - he does not want to make the effort. That is enough surely. You need to take the scales from your eyes and actually look at his behaviour. Either you put up and shut up and let him walk all over you in your marriage or you find your self esteem and get rid. His depression is no excuse. Wonder who he has his eye on.

AttilaTheMeerkat Sun 02-Apr-17 17:35:04


re your comment:-

"Do the job properly... you mean divorce? We don't want that and are looking for ways to repair our marriage and move on together"

Correction; you do not want that i.e. divorce.

He really does feel that your marriage is your sole responsibility doesn't he?. What he says and what he does are two very different animals. He does not want to engage at all but wants you to keep pandering to him as you have done to date, he is really that selfish and self absorbed.

What do you get out of this relationship now, what needs of yours is he still meeting within you here?.

Is this really what you want to teach your children about relationships; this frankly awful sounding model of one where he wants to turn up to only the nice parenting moments and play Disney Dad?. Just what are they learning here from you both?. He clearly learnt a lot of damaging stuff on relationships from his parents and both of you are now imparting not too dissimilar damaging relationship lessons to your children.

P1nkP0ppy Sun 02-Apr-17 18:00:58

He's a fair weather father, and as such is highly unlikely to change imo because you carry the slack.
He's in for a huge shock when he moves out and has the DCs on his own, perhaps then he'll buck up his ideas but I wouldn't bank on it. He's already disengaged.

junebirthdaygirl Sun 02-Apr-17 19:09:32

Men dont understand talk as much as consequences. So hand things over to him more. Walk away and leave him with stuff to do . With the children to are for. Stop talking about it as it makes no difference . Take small steps to gradually pass responsibility to him..Hopefully in couple counselling he will be challenged in this but meantime stop using your energy. Plan regular opportunities to leave him in charge. Do t describe it as such just say lm off and go. He is like a guy who is all talk about giving up drink but never does until the consequences hit.

naturalbaby Sun 02-Apr-17 21:11:47

I don't think either of us has really come to terms with what's about to happen.
I have walked away and left him with stuff to do a lot over the years but now he's saying he can't do it any more and wants me to take back all the control and responsibility.
I wish I could stop talking about it - I've been advised to several times but am finding that really, really hard.

What am I getting out of the relationship - against my better judgement I allowed myself to become totally and utterly dependent on him in every way of life. Due to changes in circumstances I now have nothing but my kids and marriage. Leaving the marriage and starting over with my kids is beyond scary, which is why I'm desperate to avoid it.
I am also dealing with a huge amount of guilt that I've treated him worse in the past when I was overwhelmed and struggling, but I got help and came out the other side a stronger and happier person, but now he's overwhelmed and struggling and doesn't seem to be able to move forward.

This is absolutely not the model of relationships I want my children to have which is why I've reached the decision to separate. However I can't give up on the hope that he will get better, things can change and we can be better, happier people together. I don't want to look back on a divorce that potentially only happened because of his depression. What kind of person would that make me?

RandomMess Sun 02-Apr-17 21:21:02

I think you need to put a time limit on your DH trying to deal with his depression. I would assume he isn't coming back and live/build your life accordingly.

If he does it's a bonus.

Sorry that's a bit bleak but I think the truth? flowers

SeaEagleFeather Sun 02-Apr-17 22:47:26

Sounds like he has been something of a rock in the past, but is now a fair weather friend.

Learning to cope with depression and/or growing up is hard. very hard. I think that small steps are needed for him - but indeed you need to see some progress. He needs to say the right things and then, crucially, to follow through. I do think it is incredibly hard to parent when you have depression, your tolerance is lower and your expectations higher somehow. But you need to engage with treatment and work out why you're depressed and what to do to improve. Sounds easy; it's not'; but it's what's needed.

Unfortunately if he does not engage with treatment, or carries on being a disney dad, then you need to look at the next, saddest steps.

No relationship can survive healthily if one person has all the responsibility and all the control. it isn't possible.

Also no matter how much money he provides, that does NOT get him out of the responsibility of being a -parent-. Being there for his children. Ok he might be grumpier than you, and you might have to accept that to some degree. But you can't pay for the material things for your children and expect your wife to do everything else if you want to be a Daddy as well as some sort of father.

Isetan Mon 03-Apr-17 03:30:29

It sounds like you need a break from being responsible for your relationship. He's basically telling you to put up and shut up and if you want the status quo to change, he isn't going to help change it. You keep saying 'we' in your posts, when the reality is you're on your own in wanting and trying to save your relationship

I've been there and it can be exhausting and soul destroying being the responsibile one/ the one to blame. In the end the only way I could prioritise my mh and DD's wellbeing, was by walking away. Of course, I hoped that he would come running after me but when he didn't, it gave me peace because it confirmed something deep down that I already knew, that we had fundamentally different attitudes on what a partnership should look like. The price of being in a relationship with my Ex was too high and I had too much self respect to sacrifice my mh and DD's wellbeing on the alter of our relationship.

Letting go is hard (it took years for me to do it) but it has been extremely rewarding because I'd hate to think of who I would have become if I had stayed. The truth is when DD was born, I became a mother and he became someone who lived with a mother and that dynamic was depressingly suffocating. There's nothing worse than being effectively a single parent but in a relationship and living with the other parent.

At present, you're just not ready to walk away, there's no shame in that but you do need acknowledge that you can not fix your marriage on your own.

daisychain01 Mon 03-Apr-17 03:55:36

Gosh you are burdening yourself with everything aren't you. The marriage, the DC, home, worrying about your DHs health.

Meanwhile he only has one big thing o worry himself about. That big thing is him, and it's taking up all his time.

Maybe he's the one who should shoulder some of the worry for how things are turning out,

If I were you I would note down your concerns, and voice them when you go to counselling so he can hear what you've told us on this thread.

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