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Don't know what to do about DH (warning - long)

(29 Posts)
Howdoyouknowwhattodo Mon 28-Sep-09 14:30:22

I'm in need of some robust MN advice here please...

Back story, been with DH for years and years, have DC who are teens/nearly teens. He works quite long hours, and has work related committee meetings in the evenings. I'm a SAHM/WAHM, so do the majority of the house and DC stuff, which now includes taking them ot stuff in the evenigns (because they're older, and their activities are later).

We've not been getting on that well for a while now (few years), have periodic bust-ups, I get upset, then pretend it enver happened (not healthy I know). Biggest on-going problem from my point of view is that DH either won't listen to me, avoids spending time with me, or when he does listen to how i'm feelign, tells me he doesn't mean I should feel like that. he won't tell me how he feels, and sits up till all hours drinking and brooding. And the more upset he gets, the later he sits up and more he broods. And the more he broods, the less he interacts with me. It's got to the point where I can't remember tha last time we had sex, or the last time we went to bed at the same time. He's not seeing anyone else AFAIK btw.

So anyway, he's been drinking pretty heavily (bottle of wine plus a night), but mainly after I've gone to bed (around 10.30/11ish). Last week he went out to a work thing, meanign ot be home around 8.30. Didn't get back till 1, after having goen ot the pub with some people and "forgotten" the time, missing the last train, and having to get a cab the last bit of the way. he was so driunk he only just made it upstairs, couldn't get undressed properly, and obviously didn't make it ouf of bed into work the next day.

This kind of thing doesn't happen very often, but it does happen every six months or so, and each time (once he's sobered up) he promises it won't happen again. I've heard this over and over again for the past 15 years.

So last week I told hi that I'd had enough, and i wanted him ot think about how much he was drinking, and how he was behaving (DC had woken up to him throwing up in the bathroom, so not nice), he said, OK I'll get my stuff together this afternoon, and went.

He's been staying at his dad and step-mums, and so far has been coming and going pretty much as he pleases. I don't know how long he's planning on staying there, nor will he tell me, he wants to take things "a week at a time" and we "need to start talking to each oher again" (as friends) before we can talk about our issues. The drinking is apparently a symptom of the problem and not the problem itself hmm. I want to know where we currently stand,, and have some kind of time frame for where we go from here.

I don't know if I want him back or not - it's been quite nice here without him as i haven't been gettign all stressed about him ignoring me in favour of Sky Sports, computer games and committee meetings, nor telling me he's just coming up to bed, when he fully intends to spend another couple of hours playing on the computer. But, if we do properly split up, it will affect the DC quite badly. Eldest is quite matter of fact about it (as she doesn't see that much of him anyway - I was shocked when she said yesterday that in the previous week, she'd only seen him four times), but the other two are much closer to him. Also, if I am bringing them up myself, then naturally our standard of living goes down, and they will have to give up some or all of the things they do. I do work, but only part time from home, but I can't earn the kind of money DH does.

Am I being selfish thinking that me being happier is more important than the DCs being able to do the things they enjoy and are good at, and which will look good on their university application forms/CVs in the future? Or does the fact that I'm a mother mean that I should put myself second?

I don't know if I love DH, certainly I don't particularly like him at the moment, and I don't knwo what he feels about me. I know what he says to other people (his mum reckons that yes he does love me, and yes he does want to be here, but thinks I don't want him, and is staying away because he thinks it's what I want), but he doesn't let me see that, and certainly doesn't do anything to make me feel special or wanted in any way (other than to do the laundry, cook the meals and bring up his children). And when I try to explain all this, he doesn't seem to get it, or even think it's particularly important, that because he doesn't intend it, I shouldn't feel liek that.

So wise women of MN, where do I go from here? How do I talk ot him so that he hears what I'm saying without descending into a nagging shrew (I fully hold my hands up to that) or going off to the bathroom to cry?

Sorry about the essay, also, because I've spent so long plucking up the courage to actually post this, I have to go out now, and won't be back on the computer till later this evening.

mamas12 Mon 28-Sep-09 16:24:37

Well howto.
No you are not selfish or wrong to think of yourself.
It's quite revealing for you to hear what your dc said.
I also hear between the lines that his coming and going 'pretty much as he please' is pissing you off no end as it would me. I take it that you are still holding the fort re: shopping cooking washing bill paying/household admin etc. and he is 'coming and going'
Could you go and get some counselling or a mediator to sit down together and get him to see your point of view and maybe there is a point of view from him that you can't see (hmm you never know)
While he is at his parents what are the arrangements re: seeing the dcs.
Would he go to relate or somewhere with you?

ADifferentMe Mon 28-Sep-09 16:30:19

Oh dear - we have the same husband.

Would you be able to get to an AlAnon meeting? I only went once but found it helpful though emotionally draining.

I entirely understand what you mean about it all flaring up then dying down again. It's exhausting being pissed off with DH all the time. I'm also trying to decide what at the moment but can't see the wood for the trees.

Best of luck.

Seabright Mon 28-Sep-09 19:16:08

It reads to me as if you're already seperated - it's just that you've been living in the same house.

He's not going to make a choice, so it's either going to drift along, or you're going to make the choice.

Book an appointment with a consellor/Relate, tell him when & where it is and go. With or without him, go.

If he goes & tries, maybe there's something worth saving. If he doesn't, you've got your answer.

mathanxiety Mon 28-Sep-09 19:21:33

If you were to split wouldn't he have to pay you some child support? You wouldn't lose it all, in other words. You don't have to choose between living in a nice house with a disengaged man who drinks too much and living in a cardboard box under a bridge without him.

Howdoyouknowwhattodo Tue 29-Sep-09 10:48:10

Oh god, you all made me cry sad. I was expecting a bit more of a "pull yourself together and stop being so pathetic" response - maybe I've spent too much time on AIBU wink.

Anyway, mamas12 yes I am pissed off that I'm doing all the parenting and household stuff, and he's having his meals cooked and clothes washed and ironed, and then coming back here when he feels like (although I'm not cooking or washing for him, but did make him cups of tea at the weekend). According to his mum he would go to relate if that's what I wanted, but he hasn't told me that, which is my biggest issue I think, that he won't tell me this kind of stuff.

ADifferentMe - it's been quite peaceful these past few days, as I haven't been wasting emotional energy wondering what he actually means, and getting all cross because he's there but not there. I've thought about Al-anon, but have been too scared to even google it, as that means admitting that there actually is a problem, and i haven't been ready for that up till now. I have a whole heap of stuff i need to get done this week, but that's definately on my list for next week - not sure I could face an actual real live meeting as I don't "do" group sharing in public, but maybe that's what's needed. Hope you can sort things out for yourself.

Howdoyouknowwhattodo Tue 29-Sep-09 11:03:05

Seabright - I know, that's exactly how he is, and I've spent the past 20 years being the one to say "OK, we haven't been gettign on much lately, let's do x, y or z to improve things" or simply backing off and pretending that it doesn't bother me. I've been telling him for the past year how much it does actually bother and upset me, but it doesn't seem to have sunk in.

I'm being a bit passive-agressive myself though (which probably isn't helping), but I thinkhe should be making some kind of an effort to sort things out, rather than me putting it all on a plate for him. Am seriously considerign relate, but I wonder if I need a little more time away from him to stop crying everytime I talk about it in RL to someone (I can't do nice crying, it's nose-fulls of snot crying I do, and I'm vain enough to want to be looking my best (to let him see what he's in danger fo chucking away wink)

mathanxiety - yes, I've had a look at what benefits and maintenance I could expect, but I know what total income there is, and if it has to stretch to a flat or something as well, there's not that much left over, so some/most of the extra curricular stuff will have to stop. I know there's a lot of people who are in that situation, and are coping perfectly well, but I worry about the effects on the DC for them going from them having a nice life doing the stuff they enjoy, to having to stop clubs/activities because of a decision I've made. I know we're very lucky that at the moment we can afford the fairly expensive stuff they do, and I know that they know they are very lucky as well, but it's not their fault that DH and I are having problems, and it seems awful that they would have to suffer even more.

[big sigh]

ineedalifelaundry Tue 29-Sep-09 12:41:02

Howto - with regards to your dc missing out on expensive activities, I can understand that being a concern, but you also need to consider how much damage you might do to them staying in an unhappy marriage. They will pick up on things far more deeply than you realise. They need their mum (and their dad) to be happy and relaxed, otherwise they will be constantly living with an unaturally tense atmosphere. A loving and happy home is soooo much more important than expensive outings.

I think you have 2 choices. Either the two of you start again with your relationship, throw everything at it: relate, romantic evenings, second honeymoon etc. (goes without saying that he needs to make as much effort as you if this is the road you're gonna take) OR split now, and build a new life for yourselves. He will still be a father to your dc, and share responsibilty with you for their welfare. It will be painful and messy in the short term for the dc but in the long term that would be better than having unhappy parents and an unhappy home.

Don't compromise. Don't accept a relationship that isn't working because that's the easiest option / what you're already used to. Make a big change, one way or the other.

Good luck. Keep posting.

ineedalifelaundry Tue 29-Sep-09 12:44:21

By the way, your own happiness is essential to that of your dc's. So no, you are NOT being selfish.

becstarlitsea Tue 29-Sep-09 12:51:16

howto - I understand feeling scared at the thought of approaching AlAnon and taking seriously that alcohol might be the problem.

I got sober in AA 14 years ago, and felt the same way before I went. Before I went to the first meeting I phoned the helpline and the AA member said 'Well, if it's not for you, you haven't lost anything, no-one will know you came to a meeting and you don't have to give your surname or say where you're from' and he also gave me the old AA saying "you're always better off NOT being an alcoholic but pretending you are and coming to meetings than REALLY being an alcoholic, pretending you're not and not coming to meetings.' Worked for me whenever I had a moment of doubt about whether I really needed to stay sober. I'd go along thinking 'Of course I'm not really an alcoholic, not a proper one but I'll go anyway' Then during the meeting I'd hear so much that I identified with it would become crystal clear that I was in the right place.

It says a lot to me that when you confronted your DH about his drinking, his first response was to leave you rather than try to stop.

I'd recommend AlAnon. Go to a couple of meetings (you could drive to a different town if you're worried about being recognised by someone you know), and just see if it helps. If it isn't right for you, it's just two evenings and at least you got a free cup of tea and a biscuit!

ADifferentMe Tue 29-Sep-09 22:35:27

I understand what you mean about not doing the group sharing - I felt uncomfortable (particularly as I sobbed through a lot of it, not my style at all) but they were so lovely - the majority of them had come through the other side of where I am, IYSWIM, which was encouraging.

I feel that with my DH the drinking has covered up a lot of the cracks that were already there - I can blame the drink but there's a lot more to it than that.

It's so hard to pull the plug on a long relationship, especially if it sometimes feel that there's something worth salvaging.

Howdoyouknowwhattodo Tue 29-Sep-09 23:30:51

well, he's been being a bit more supportive these past two days (lots of ringing me and "how are you?" then silence when I say "a bit shit actually", but I know that's me being mean and petty).

But, I think he genuinely thinks he's making lots of effort - he suggested that we get together to talk on Saturday evening (although that's a rubbish time because of other committments, which he knew about, but didn't really think through) so he feels he's been doing his bit to sort things out, and now it's me being difficult by saying that actually Sat evening isn't great because of x (when x is related to one of the activities the DC do, which then ties into "you spend all your time doing stuff for/with the DC, can't you just say no to them sometimes" business he's currently getting (I assume) from his dad.

Looked up al-anon meetings, and there is one I could get to pretty easily during the day; but I don't know if that is actually a problem, as he doesn't seem to be drinking much/at all at the moment - he's been here till 10.30 yesterday and today, and as he needs to be up for work by 6.30, I doubt he's going back to his dads and starting drinking. But maybe I'm trying to convince myself that he doesn't have a problem, as he can stop when he decides to. But on the other hand (must be up to about seven hands by now LOL), just because he can not drink (much) for a period of time, doesn't mean that the problem isn't there. Think I need to read some of the alcohol threads on here to keep me focused and not wavering.

In other news, I opened a savings account in my own name, and got the child benefit transferred to that account (rather than our joint current account). Would rather not delve into what that's me telling myself quite at the moment.

Thanks for your cyber-support everyone, just the fact that there are people out there who are bothered to reply to my ramblings is making me well up.

Howdoyouknowwhattodo Tue 29-Sep-09 23:36:40

God lifelaundry that's such a scary concept - "make a big change" - we've been together since I was 19, he helped me through some really messy emotional stuff to do with my relationship with my mum, thankfully all sorted now, I can't really imagine us not being together. But at the same time, I know I can't carry on like I have been for the past few years.

Maybe I need to make a pros and cons list, and see what I'm actually getting from the relationship, as opposed to what is being carried over from years ago. Needs some thought, that one.

MIFLAW Wed 30-Sep-09 00:20:20

Fully endorse becstarlitsea.

I am a man. I am a (recovering) alcoholic.

If your husband is an alcoholic too I am afraid he is almost definitely not going to change for you; he's certainly not going to change when it is right for you; and you would be a fool to yourself to wait for either of those things to happen, especially as he may well get worse before getting better.

Start thinking about what is right for you and start making yourself happy. I hear AlAnon is excellent although - probably for that reason - the thought of partners attending it terrfies most alcoholics!

Good luck - I know how horrible we can be.

ineedalifelaundry Thu 01-Oct-09 22:00:30

Some of my thoughts on things you've said.

You say you can't imagine life without him. You're living that life right now and have said that you're quite enjoying it.

You're grateful for how much he helped you out ... when you were 19! Apart from financially, how much of a support is he to you now?

You haven't yet said you love him. Has he told you he loves you since this separation? Have you told him?

Why is it being mean and petty to tell the truth about how you are? Why does he go silent when you tell him you're 'a bit shit'? Surely someone who was making a big effort to save their marriage would try to find out why you feel that way.

Sorry to sound so negative. You might be better off ignoring what I say today... Having an ongoing row with my dh right now (who in his drinking habits is very much like yours). Also, like you we've been together since we were teenagers - almost 18 years now- and it's VERY scary imagining starting again on my own. I totally sympathise with that.

ineedalifelaundry Thu 01-Oct-09 22:07:20

Just reread my last post and it's a load of rambling twaddle blush Sorry! Very tired today, and very pissed off with my own DH. Anyway, please excuse my shitty confusing advice, and just know that you're in my thoughts and that I believe you deserve to be treated like a queen by your dh.

geekdad Fri 02-Oct-09 09:53:25

So, firstly, as other posters have commented, there is nothing selfish about wanting to have a happy and fulfilling relationship. I think the "staying together for the sake of the children" concept is fundamentally flawed, and essentially can lead to significant problems if your children ever find out (even when they are adults) that the happy family they thought they grew up in was a lie.

Secondly, it is scary contemplating separation and going it alone, but that's probably more a fear of change than an indication that you should stay together. If you've been with someone for so long (I'm in an 18 year marriage which started to come apart this time last year when I discovered my DW's four year affair) then you get used to having the person around. There's also the issue of being single for the first time in ages, and whether you'll find someone else. Both of these have been considerations for me, but on balance I think being in a stagnant relationship, assuming that you have tried counselling and other measures to try and recover your relationship, is just not something that anyone should be expected to tolerate.

SueMunch Fri 02-Oct-09 12:51:03

Hi Howdoyouknowwhattodo

This is sounds almost exactly like a scenario I had with my DH earlier this year.

The brooding, spending time alone and especially the drinking. It can be so hard to deal with.

My DH finally admitted to feelings of depression and anxiety and took a typical male route in terms of dealing with it - he bottled it up, dwelled on it and turned to drink.

Although he didn't hurt me physically, I began to dread the condition he came home in - he specialised in drinking and trying to hide it from me - but I know him and one look at his face would tell me he had been drinking. He also stopped up late and drank alone.

He finally admitted that he had issues his mental state and went to his GP. This can be quite drawn out but eventually he saw a counsellor and a lot of his issues seemed to clear up.

Unfortunalely the drinking has continued off and on until about a month ago when I confronted him with it as a problem. He has since stopped drinking and he can see that the anxiety was a side effect of his drinking.

Personally, I am still quite worried as I never know what will happen with his drinking. But he seems so determined and has taken the step of going to AA.

I'm not sure if this is a step too far for him because I didn't see him as bing an alcoholic - I felt he was self medicating in a difficult time.

But things are so much calmer and his thinking is clearer now - show this message to him if he feels he doesn't need to change.

Howdoyouknowwhattodo Mon 05-Oct-09 22:51:57

thansk everyone for your thoughts and comments. I've had quite a nice few days (night away with a work related thing, lunch with my oldest friend who I don't see often enough) with plenty of me time.

A lot of what you've all said rings true, particularly lifelaundry's "ramble", and I need to think hard about it all.

DH spent a lot of time with the DCs over the weekend, but from what I can work out, not a great deal of time actually interacting with them. He was supposed to come round one eveing last week, but didn't turn up (with a fairly pathetic excuse), and replied to an email I sent him today listing the various child-related stuff going on over the next two weeks (where I need some help with logistics/childcare) with ".. although I'd like to resolve our situation so that I don't have to be up at 7am at the weekend" (he needed to be here on Sunday by 7.20, and I need childcare from a similar time this Sunday). I've had no response to my reply which was "Hmm, I'd like to think you were interested in sorting things out for reasons other than just that you wanted a lie in at the weekend".

We have agreed to meet on Thursday to talk about stuff, but I cna see that being quite difficult, as the impression I get is that he thinks I've had long enough by myself, and it's now time for him to move back in. And I'm not prepared to let that happen until/unless he properly listens to what I'm saying about how I feel. And that's going to take a third party to make that happen I think, as he's not managed to actualy listen to me so far. I've looked up where our nearest Relate is, that does sessions at a time I can make, but havebn't got as far as ringing them to set soemthign up.

But I've had his mum on the phone (she's lovely but a total loon wink) who, because she's done counselling in the past, reckons she knows how to sort this out - apparently I'm not appreciative enough of how hard he works, and how he needs downtime when he gets back from work. And what I should be doing is offering to help with him the work-relate dstuff he does of an evening (bearing in mind a large part of his job involves manipulating complicted spreadsheets, I doubt that an offer from me to "help check the figures" is going to go down well), or copying her - she gets up at 5am to make her DH's packed lunch, then wonders why she's falling asleep at 9pm every night..... Now I knwo she's of a different generation, but I doubt that the surrendered housewife thing is going to make much postive difference in the long run smile. But apparently it's "down to us women" to put in the hard work to make a relationship work as "the men are too focused on other things" and as I don't WOH, I obviously have no idea what it's like to not be able to switch off (despite the fact that my (admittedly small) business has to fit into the five minute gaps and spare evenings I can get, so I never properly switch off as I always have a mental to-do list to slot in whenever I spot a bit of space.)[and breathe]wink

Again, sorry for the length, but it's quite cathartic actually setting all this out. I haven't forgotton about the alcohol issues (he stayed here on Friday night as I was away, and drank a bottle of wine - empty was left on the draining board, so he's not really cutting down much/at all), but I'll raise it on Thursday and see what he says when we're face to face.

picmaestress Mon 05-Oct-09 23:30:59

Ring relate tomorrow morning, it will really change things.

Please be very wary about diagnosing someone as an alcoholic, sometimes I wonder if it's easier to blame huge problems on a simple addiction. There's a massive difference between uncontrollable addiction and just drinking too much and behaving like an arse because you're unhappy.

Everyone deserves to have their emotional and physical needs met, and nurtured. He's not doing that for you, so you're totally justified in questioning it. A pros and cons list is AMAZING. I can thoroughly recommend doing one. But don't let him see it grin

I would recommend you try and be a bit more...erm, 'dictatorial' in your dealings with him. Maybe assertive is a better word.

(If he really won't listen to you properly, even in a counselling session, consider writing him a letter. Don't make it whingy or harsh, just write in very simple terms how you feel and what you'd like from life and from him. Or at least tell him why you don't want to be together.)

I know it's hard, but try and feel positive about the future. You have to make sure that it will be, and that means being more assertive about your own needs.

MIFLAW Tue 06-Oct-09 22:24:58


Fair point about misdiagnosing heavy drinking as alcoholism - but I think that "This kind of thing doesn't happen very often, but it does happen every six months or so, and each time (once he's sobered up) he promises it won't happen again. I've heard this over and over again for the past 15 years" is about as classic a definition of the binge-drinking alcoholic (not to be confused with Govt nonsense on what constitutes binge-drinking) as you will find.

Howdoyouknowwhattodo Wed 07-Oct-09 21:20:11

So MIFLAW, in your experience, how might I go about raising the issue of his drinking in a way that might get him to actually address it, or is that not going to happen? I'm guessing ultimatums (ultimata?) aren't the way forward wink. I really think we need to deal with this as almost a seperate issue, as we're not going to be able to spend time together of an evening if he's in another room drinking, or waiting till I've gone to bed to have more than the two glasses of wine he thinks I think he's having each night (he buys wine boxes ratehr than bottles, which I've come to realise is (probably) because it's not so obvious how much has been drunk at the time).

Don't mean to drip feed here btw, I'm only just putting stuff together and looking at the whole situation from a bit of a distance.

I've started a pros and cons list, and tbh there's not an awful lot on the pros side, apart from money, whcih is quite shameful really. There woudl have been a lot more in the past, as he was my best friend, and really did make me laugh, and we did used to have great sex, and I did feel that he really fancied me etc etc, but there's not much/any of that any more.

MIFLAW Thu 08-Oct-09 00:05:35

I don't know, is the honest answer. For me, it took a steady descent down the job ladder, a car crash (my fault but no one was hurt, thankfully) and my girlfriend leaving me before I even thought of stopping drinking. And, for me, the only way to stop and stay stopped was through AA. I realise that you might not like the sound of the former and he might not like the sound of the latter ...

That said, a few things brought me to the point where I was ready to think about it when the time came, and a few others might have helped too. People firmly but lovingly, without being drawn into an argument (I was very manipulative), pointing out to me exactly how my drinking got in the way of fun, directly and indirectly, and also how it had changed me in the time they had known me (it was a shock to learn, for example, that I no longer came across as a winner and an achiever.)

In fact, I would say in general that, while I had an inkling of the damage it was doing to me, I could rationalise a lot of that and pretend I didn't care about the rest. What I honestly didn't realise (though it amazes me now that I was so blind) was the serious, persistent adverse effects it was having on my loved ones and on perfect strangers.

That, in turn, led me to wonder why I kept on doing this if it was so upsetting for all concerned, especially since it had stopped working like it used to ... And thus I was almost ready to admit that I might, just might, have the tiniest of problems with the stuff ...

From your husband's side, he may baulk at the idea of AA, though he may also surprise you. It may help "tip him" if you tell him that there are what are known as "open" meetings. "Open" means they are open to non-alcoholics. This means he could go along "just to observe" - or, he could go along to participate, but you (or another friend or loved one) could go in with him for moral support.

Sorry if I've painted a bleak picture, but hope it's of some use.

Remember the AA saying, too - "the definition of insanity is repeating the same behaviour and expecting a different outcome."

veryconfusedandupset Thu 08-Oct-09 08:04:21

Speaking as someone who has had a few downs in my marriage from DH being uncommunicative and putting me last in line behind all other activities and interests I can say that I think you will need some couples counselling to sort this out.
I'm sure he is feeling very sorry for himself living back at his mother's - even if she is doing everything for him it is not like being at home.I can't help but think that if you try to have a sort out without outside guidance he might very well promise the earth and then would soon be on the slide again when he gets back into your good books. The suggestion to book a counselling appointment seems to be the best way forward, then you can both sort out what you really feel.

No you are not being selfish thinking about the children's activities etc. because when a marriage end the whole home is split up ( which I thought about a lot) the thing that really galvanised me was thinking about my children packing up the stuff from their bedrooms and having to move ( I was the one in the wrong at this point)

vezzie Thu 08-Oct-09 09:14:54

howdoyouknow - sorry if this repeats things that other posters have said, am posting quickly before going out.

You said you don't want the children to suffer materially because of a choice you have made. It is not because of a choice you have made if your marriage ends. You did not choose that your husband does not communicate, drinks rather than engages with you, etc etc. None of these things are your choice.

Might I suggest that this division of labour - implicitly accepted by you both, now, however it started - that the family and everyone's emotional and practical wellbeing is your responsibility alone, is part of the problem. If you both felt honestly responsible for all aspects of the family then you wouldn't be in this situation. You can't make him see this, or take responsibility overnight, but you can take steps towards a more measured view of your own responsibility.

Also your dcs at this age have some responsibility to the family too - to have some consideration for other people's feelings. I would hate to think that my mother was suffering horribly so that I could have riding lessons (or whatever) - wouldn't you? What makes you think they are so different? Yes, they are young, but not babies.

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