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Torn between what I want to do as a wife and as a mother.

(34 Posts)
secretskillrelationships Tue 23-Jun-09 16:05:15

As a wife/partner, my DH has done something that I am finding impossible to reconcile with my personal values about relationships. As a bare minimum, I want space to consider my position.

As a mother, I want my children to grow up in a home with two loving parents. We get on well and I think the family works well together, certainly better than I think it would work if we separated.

Have considered him moving out but this raises two issues: with 3 DCs (12, 9 & 5) if he leaves, I’m not sure I would get the space I desperately crave as a wife to sort out how I feel. As a mother, I get left to cope with everything, particularly the DC’s distress etc, which will impact on my needs as a wife.

I was going to suggest that he ‘works abroad’ for a while but he’s now given up his job so, on top of everything, he’s around the whole time.

I have been going round this loop for some years now including 18 months with a Relate counsellor, 4 months with individual counselling etc. While there are enormous issues around his behaviour and lack of engagement during this time, the reason I keep going round in circles is about this internal conflict between my two roles.

Do I put my needs as a mother above my needs as a wife or the other way around. I have tried looking at it from both perspectives but neither seems to work. I need to find another way to look at it that is less either/or but can't seem to do that. Any suggestions would be most welcome.

stillstanding Tue 23-Jun-09 16:11:05

It is hard to respond without knowing the facts but it seems to me that you are overanalysing this wife/mother distinction. If DH's behaviour is such that you are having to compromise your values to a large extent by staying with him then I wouldn't think that would be a very good example to your children. Similarly if your needs as a wife are not being met then I suspect that it is difficult for you to fulfill your role as a mother.

It sounds like you need some space to work out what you need to do - would it be possible for you to get away for a week or two to get some thinking done?

secretskillrelationships Tue 23-Jun-09 16:20:30

The reason I have not posted the details, apart from them being long and boring, is that having seen what happens here I think the responses would relate to his behaviour. Whereas this is about my response and how I feel not about what he's done/not done iyswim.

I do understand what you mean but the distinction is real. If we did not have children together I would go for as long as I needed to get some clarity about whether to continue with the relationship. However, because I have children that doesn't feel like a real option.

I have considered getting away but I work, albeit very part-time so difficult to get away for more than a few days. At present, I feel like I need months rather than weeks to get my head straight. And really would not feel comfortable leaving my children for more than a week or so.

stillstanding Tue 23-Jun-09 16:29:20

I'm sorry that you are going through this, secrets - I hope that you manage to find some space to sort your head out. Best of luck.

morningpaper Tue 23-Jun-09 16:34:30

You post sounds VERY odd and clinical.

What about just plain old YOU?

You can't have everything you want perfect, I'm afraid. You are going to have to compromise somewhere. This sounds like you are massively prolonging the agony by pondering everything at length.

Why not ask your DH to move out for a while?

(Do you have things outside the family/home that you pursue for yourself btw? If not, perhaps you could?)

OptimistS Tue 23-Jun-09 17:11:27

Impossible to give a meaningful reply without knowing more, tbh. I take your point about this being about what YOU do, rather than about your DH's behaviour, but I can't help feeling that as soon as you feel that there is a distinction between wife and mother it's a sure-fire sign that things are wrong and that you either need a clear plan for fixing things or you have to accept that the relationship is over and you need to move on for everyone's sake.

No relationship is perfect and there are highs and lows even in the best of them. However, in a healthy relationship you should not feel that there is a choice between being wife and mother. I'm actually a single parent but I don't separate my role as mother from my role as me/employee/friend, etc. I used to compartmentalise into roles but as I've got older and more self-aware I've come to know myself and I am that person whoever I am now with (while also trying to recognise my faults and work on them).

Although this is just my opinion and may not be right, I feel that if you have a wife/mother conflict then you either don't know yourself well enough to be true to yourself, or you're in the wrong relationship. If it's the latter, give yourself a clear time-frame to try to work things out and start working on a solution. If you still feel the same at the end of this time frame, you probably need to leave the relationship for your own sake.

Again, a personal opinion, but I truly believe that children do best with two parents who love them and are true to themselves, regardless of whether or not those two parents remain together. By sacrificing your wife side to your mother side you run the very real risk of becoming resentful about the whole thing, which could be misread by your DC as resentment towards them. I'm sure that's the last thing you want as you sound as though you love your children very much.

Hope you find a way forward. smile

OptimistS Tue 23-Jun-09 17:15:33

Just re-read that and realised it sounds rather biased in favour of you leaving your DH, which wasn't the point I was trying to make. Personally, I hope you and DH find a solution that involves you staying together. I just feel that it's wrong to look at things in terms of roles. You are one person, not three (you/mother/wife) and I think you need to start thinking about it in terms of what's best for you first and foremost. Unless you are generally a selfish person, making the best choice for you is usually the best choice for your children. smile

dittany Tue 23-Jun-09 17:21:55

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Hassled Tue 23-Jun-09 17:25:34

I think you're over-thinking this. All you really need to be asking yourself is: Are you happy? Do you want to grow old with your DH? And I mean as he is NOW, not how you hope he will be in the future. Can you imagine life without seeing him every day?

Ultimately children are happy when their parents are happy. And if you are unhappy with your DH (irrespective of "roles") then that will impact your children.

If you and your DH can maintain at least a pretence of civility, and can be fair to each other re access and money, then your role as a mother will continue to thrive, whether with your DH or without.

SolidGoldBrass Tue 23-Jun-09 17:25:58

You do not help your children by regarding yourself as so much less important than everyone else in the family. It's fine to be a single parent.
Depending on what your H has done, it ought to be possible to have a working and even friendly co-parent relationship with him that suits the whole family without you needing to be a martyr. (If what your DH has done is something illegal or profoundly unethical or something which makes him a danger to the children, sod keeping up appearances, get him out.)

ElfOnTheTopShelf Tue 23-Jun-09 17:36:01

I think there is always a danger when a women starts to think about the mother / wife roles, becuase they tend to oversee the person iyswim.
Last year, I was working myself into the ground trying to be a perfect mother, a perfect wife, a perfect employee, a perfect student, a perfect sibling, a perfect friend. It took a while for me to step back and remember that actually at the end of the day, I'm still a person in my own rights. Sometimes we tend to lose sight of that.

In terms of your OP, I think that your kids will survive your DH not being there for a while, is there a relative he could stop with and give a reason to your DC as to why he is there (eg looking after uncle x because of y), it may give you space to work out what you want

SolidGoldBrass Tue 23-Jun-09 19:04:23

If your H is going to move out, tell the children as diplomatic a version of the truth as possible rather than making up stories: children will detect there is something going on that is being kept from them, and worry.

secretskillrelationships Tue 23-Jun-09 19:11:15

Thanks for all the messages. Difficult to reply with 3 DCs and DH hovering. Also this is an issue on which I lack clarity which makes it difficult to write in ways that express what is looping round in my head.

It's not really about roles its much more about my own needs. I need something from the relationship which is no longer (or maybe never) there in terms of openness and honesty. I also need to parent my children in a way that supports their needs. For me, this means in a family with both parents. It is those two needs of mine that feel in conflict.

And please, please do not see this as a judgment about single/co-parenting. I know that many of you do a fantastic job. Unfortunately my experience was dreadful.
So, as I said before, it's complex but it is about me.

Ivykaty44 Tue 23-Jun-09 19:15:36

If in your role as a wife your person is disturbed then you be lacking in your role as a mother. Although you do two roles you are one person that can't be split.

dittany Tue 23-Jun-09 20:22:51

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

morningpaper Tue 23-Jun-09 20:50:41

Lots of people have relationships that are perhaps not as open and honest ever-after as Disney would like us to believe.

But it DOES make a difference whether this is because he has a separate family or whether he just likes wearing your knickers. Some things you can brush under the rug of privacy and some impact upon the very fabric of your feelings about what family means.

DivaSkyChick Tue 23-Jun-09 21:00:03

Does this boil down to "Do I stay for the sake of the kids?"

I would say no. I would follow up with, but keep the relationship as amicable as humanly possible and NEVER let your children be used as pawns.

A good divorce is better than a crap marriage. So says I.

ljhooray Tue 23-Jun-09 21:15:18

Looking at the age of your dc's I would thought that it would not be long before they will pick up on the dysfunction in your marriage. Your drive to do the best for your children is very admirable but I'm not sure that staying in a marriage that from what you have indicated cannot work is the best for them.

Sorry if I'm making assumptions but as you've not been able to give too much away I'm filling in gaps!

I have parents that should frankly have split many many years ago and I was aware of that from a young age. They are still together and now at the ripe old age of mid thirties, it is still a drain on mine and my sisters emotions.

Overmydeadbody Tue 23-Jun-09 21:19:56

Why not just make a decision based upon what you want to do as a person, rather than a wife or a mother?

There is no point staying with someone who you don't have a proper relaionship with. Your children won't thank you for it, you will regret it and be bitter and resentful in old age, and what a waste of a life that would be.

Overmydeadbody Tue 23-Jun-09 21:22:24

Children can be parented by two loving parents without those parents actually living together you know.

ljhooray Tue 23-Jun-09 21:31:07

Here here overmydeadbody, could not agree more.

SolidGoldBrass Tue 23-Jun-09 22:00:11

Yes, the nature of the issue between you and your H is important, because knowing (roughly) what it is can make it easier for strangers to suggest possible solutions or working compromises.
Your posts rather imply that it is either
a) One of you is not monogamous and does not wish to be monogamous
b) One of you has no libido and is not prepared to address the lack of libido.

But I suppose it could be c) Your H is involved in a criminal or at least unethical enterprise of some description. Has he decided to join the BNP?

secretskillrelationships Wed 24-Jun-09 10:57:43

Thanks for all the messages. Have been trying to keep it about me because that is where the issue lies, ultimately. Also, because explaining it all may take some time.

Given where this thread is going, I will say a bit more. I'm sorry if my postings have sounded overly cautious but I am very aware that this is a public forum. I am generally a private person and I also feel quite stupid that I have allowed the situation to continue for as long as I have without coming to any decision.

My DH made a stupid mistake a long time ago but, from my POV, made a much bigger one in keeping it secret. I have massive issues with secrecy which he knew about at the time but I also understand why he said nothing (it's what many, many people would do in the same situation, and there is another thread on this topic where many people advocate the same thing).

Our relationship had been in trouble before I found out (he had been gradually withdrawing emotionally) but since I found out a lot of the problems between us began to make sense. We went to Relate to work on these issues but it didn't really change anything for me. In many ways the counselling has made things more difficult because it has made me recognise the degree to which he has withdrawn.

I believe that he is having enormous difficulty coming to terms with what he did and the impact it has had. He is now on ADs and seeing a counsellor on his own. He appears to be working through things but when I reflect on how things are nothing seems to have changed. It feels as if he 'gets stuff' just as I reach the end of my patience.

Prior to the stupid mistake we had an incredible relationship based on enormous mutual trust, respect and openness, where no topic was off limits. It was very important to me having come from a family which did not value these things. I knew something changed but failed to get anywhere talking to DH about it and put it down to the arrival of children.

Day to day we get on well, we are friends etc. We parent well together and agree on lots of things. We have common interests. He is generally kind and is working on his aversion to housework! But something is missing. I want what we had back. I need to know that I am important to him, that I am valued and loved. And I don't.

If it was just us, I would have taken off and done my own thing until I had clarity about what to do in relation to us. But I don't have that luxury. I feel so angry and hurt and upset about what has happened but also his response.

I have enormous issues around divorce as my parents separated when I was small. Quite frankly, they could have written the book on how not to do it. And Dittany, you are absolutely right. I had to divide myself up in lots of ways. I guess what I hadn't recognised was that it's a coping strategy for a situation that I feel powerless in.

And I do feel powerless. My DH says all the right things but this doesn't seem to be reflected in his behaviour. Or is, but only when push comes to shove. Any decision will have to be mine and mine alone as he will not engage. Any discussions about us are either good, engaged but nothing changes or he turns into someone I simply don't recognise who blames me for everything which alienates me further.

I am scared of being on my own with the children as I am aware of my own failings and the ways in which I am like my mother. Also I feel very angry about the situation and am concerned that I will be trying to support distressed children while I am grieving myself.

And of course the children are aware of what is going on and it's breaking my heart. But it also breaks my heart to think of separating them from their father.

Nahui Wed 24-Jun-09 11:21:18

Message withdrawn

secretskillrelationships Wed 24-Jun-09 11:52:31

The problem is that I don't know anything of the sort in relation to my parents. Things got very much worse for me when my parents separated, didn't improve and I don't think it made either parent happy. I spent a large part of my childhood hoping they would get back together fuelled by my father suggesting that they might. Quite frankly I didn't see that it could be worse than it was and at least there would be another adult around who might look after me.

Unfortunately there is just so much baggage there to get past. Not helped by the fact that I'm being the mad angry one while my DH does his passive aggressive ostrich impression.

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