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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?

Toecheese Thu 02-Jan-14 23:38:49

Can you start by letting him do his side if the families gifts for Xmas and birthdays? Explain the usual gift budget to him

Toecheese Thu 02-Jan-14 23:40:50

How old are the kids?

fattyfattybumbum Thu 02-Jan-14 23:43:05

That's partly the thing though, in a way. If I did what you're suggesting, he would do it, and would probably not complain or be stressed by it. But he wouldn't remember the next year, I'd have to ask him to do it again. It's not like he's avoiding things, he's just oblivious, and getting worse...

Maybe it's just me though, maybe I should just accept that this is how he is, and just get on with it.... I dunno...

Tommy Thu 02-Jan-14 23:43:26

that sounds quite familiar and probably not unusual I should think.
Have you tried going away for the weekend and leaving him to it?!
Three children under 6 is hard work and while I'm not excusing him, I think sometimes men just don't realise what it entails.
It's taken my DH 12 years.... hmm

DrNick Thu 02-Jan-14 23:44:10


fattyfattybumbum Thu 02-Jan-14 23:44:15

Kids are 5, 3 and nearly 2. And loud. smile

Tommy Thu 02-Jan-14 23:44:24

and it's taken me that long to accept that there are some things that I do hand some that he does.

fattyfattybumbum Thu 02-Jan-14 23:47:28

I don't think he's having an affair. He's either at work or at home, or with mutual friends if we're not together.

Maybe it is just part of having young kids. I'm just so sick of always being 'on duty'.

kateecass Thu 02-Jan-14 23:58:23

My DH is exactly the same!! Did yours have a control freak mother who did everything for him too?! And he does that annoying thing when you've chosen the paint (or holiday, cinema trip or restaurant!!) and suddenly starts investigating new paints and suggests a new one! I totally understand your frustration. I'm afraid though in 20 years he has only got slightly better and it has impacted our relationship. If you can learn to accept to an extent that this is his personality type it might make things easier and definitely leave the kids with him so he can see for himself what it entails.

isitnormal Fri 03-Jan-14 00:02:02

I completely know what you mean re. the share of household chores. In every way except domestic compatibility DP is my the perfect partner - shared sense of humour, affectionate,loyal, chemistry, etc, but in the day to day logistics of living, I often feel like I'm on my own.

I'm the one who organisies the finances, plans and books the holidays, notices when things need replacing, chooses new furniture, decorates the house, does the food shop, hoovers, does laundry, cleans the bathroom, organises our social calendar, etc. He does about 40% of the cooking and washing up, but that's it.

On one hand, this works because I'm a naturally better at planning and organising than him and it gives me freedom to do things my way, but on the other hand it grates at me because I don't think he has any idea how much of my time this takes up.

At present although we both work full time, but I work from home so can fit in the chores around my work somewhat better. However come May I'll be working outside the home and it's been worrying me greatly how I'm going to stay on top of things when I do.

It's not like he intentionally opts out - he genuinely doesn't seem to notice mess / recognise things that need sorting. He's perfectly willing do to anything when I ask, ie: take the bins out, mow the lawn, fetch milk, but but I would love for him to just do things without being asked - I'm not the bloody foreman!

I KNEW he was absent minded before I moved in with him as prior to this he shared a house with some of my friends and they used to get equally as exasperated, so I know it's not me having unrealistic expectations. It frustrates me that no matter how many times I show him how to use the washing machine he forgets and does it wrong, whereas he's so intelligent and capable academically, it's not like he's too stupid to use it!

The other day things came to a head and I had a long talk to him. I said to him that I don't think he has any idea how much I do around the house. He responded then why not stop doing it and then he might appreciate it - I told him that the house would get so filthy that I'd probably end up killing him way before we got to the stage where he noticed things needed cleaning! I stressed that I think the world of him, but having to pick up his dirty pants every day is seriously eroding my respect for him and our relationship is worth so much more than that. I think that I FINALLY got through to him, and he apologised profusely for making me feel like this and has since then he has been making more of an effort to help me, although it's only been 5 days, so time will tell...

This worries me because we are hoping to start a family at some point and although I know he will be great dad in terms of stimulating the children and showing them affection, I really don't want to be stuck picking up all of the slack, so I'm glad I got my feelings off my chest.

If you've explained to him how you feel and things haven't improved then I'm not sure what else I can advise, but I just wanted to let you know that I empathise with you and that you're not alone.

nameequality Fri 03-Jan-14 00:07:41

What you are talking about has a name .... "wifework" I've linked to the book of that name.

See also the essay "The Politics of Housework".

Men who do this do it because they can. sad

How much time does he have with the DC on his own at the w/e?

Can you write out some routines (NB this is also wifework but is a pragmatic suggestion).

I also really really recommend the exhaustive list mentioned in this link.

DrNick Fri 03-Jan-14 00:09:26

I loved the book wifework. Agree you're letting him get away with if.

joanofarchitrave Fri 03-Jan-14 00:12:35

It's been quite interesting becoming the FT breadwinner OTH while dh stays at home full time. He does parenting, cleaning, pretty much everything differently from me.

This is where I am supposed to say 'and it's OK that he does it differently' except that it's not. I just typed a long list of stuff - the basic premise is that dh doesn't seem to put his back into home life at all - he will do the minimum and stop there. E.g. his version of parenting involves ds having a 30 hours screen time a week (no that's not a typo) because he will not expend the energy it takes to think, plan, sort out and hoosh ds into doing stuff with him - you know, PARENTING. It never seems to occur to him that there is more to parenting than providing something that ds can watch and assuring him that if he wants to talk, he is there for him (and then putting in headphones and watching Holby).

I don't believe that men are a different species. I know men who don't parent like this at all. But I don't know any women for whom it would even cross their minds to be so fundamentally absent for one of the most important roles of any adult's life.

DrNick Fri 03-Jan-14 00:14:20

Holby?! A man ?!

joanofarchitrave Fri 03-Jan-14 00:16:35

Dh watches Casualty and Holby religiously. He also watches all the science, history and philosophy stuff that I should watch but am too busy MNing.

Stillcomingtoterms Fri 03-Jan-14 00:17:30

My dh was the same. If I didn't do it it never got done.
I used to joke that one day I would just not come home from work and go away just so he could see what I actually did. But to be honest Im Sure I would either come home to a tip and washing(because he was looking after the kids) or his mother would be down every day looking after him.
It used to annoy me that I did everything. He didn't know when homework was due, parties etc. like you if I told him to do it he would do it with no complaints but my issue was that I shouldn't have to ask him to take part in our life.
As it is we've now seperated(not connected to this) and hes still the same. I think they've just been used to being led and aren't bothered about decision making.

DrNick Fri 03-Jan-14 00:21:02

You need a shared icalendar

nameequality Fri 03-Jan-14 00:21:38

Some "favourites" of minemine slightly adapted from the exhaustive listlist - just to give a flavour:

Evaluate and register DC for extra curricular activities.

Teach practical lessons at home.

Schedule dentist/optician/injections

Sort out clothes which are too small/plan new purchases/make new purchases

Diagnose and solve DC behavioural and physical and emotional issues

Maintain household paperwork

Arrange age appropriate toys in suitable locations and storage in househouse

A lot of planning and "constructive" worrying is being done by DWs and not being recognised by DHs IMO.

nameequality Fri 03-Jan-14 00:24:15

<sorry for strange double words in the above - cut and paste fail>

DoesBuggerAll Fri 03-Jan-14 00:30:23

Stop micromanaging. Stop criticising.

You'll be amazed.

Look how annoyed you were when he criticised your choice of paint. If he is responsible for a task then let him do it, let him manage it totally, to his timescale and standards, not yours.

Let go. You are the problem. Let go.

Tonandfeather Fri 03-Jan-14 00:38:42

He just doesn't see you as his intimate partner. He sees you as co-director of the enterprise that is family life at best - and junior worker who does all the legwork, at worst.

The big clue is your lack of sex life and his lack of affection.

He sounds like one of those men who subs out the sex and affection to other people, without wanting to lose his family, his house or the domestic work you provide. He gets all his needs met, without having to put in much effort or promise anything in return.

Of course he's got time for an affair. Cheaters aren't always where they say they are. I don't suppose you check up on him because that would be another chore on the list.

I'd check that out first and then talk to him. No point in confronting the state of your relationship or the inequality in it if he's playing around. Better to know what's going on and then tackle it.

But tackle it you must. I'm amazed you've put up with it for so long!!

fattyfattybumbum Fri 03-Jan-14 00:50:24

Thank you for all of these responses. I think I need to do some thinking over, and some reading. I do think I am part of the problem in that what I am doing is contributing to the problem keeping going.

And I also need to change, but I think doesbuggerall (good username!) that letting go would only really work if he actually took responsibility for anything. He was supposedly going to fix up our house, without me 'project managing' it, but has only managed to screw a bookcase to the wall & replace a small patch of tiles in the kitchen so far...

DoesBuggerAll Fri 03-Jan-14 00:50:42

Tonandfeather - his lack of affection etc. What about her? Is she not capable of giving or initiating affection?

DoesBuggerAll Fri 03-Jan-14 00:52:06

Oh, and he is not having an affair. I guarantee he wants you. Try easing off with the control freakery and stop pushing him away.

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