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Feminism: Sex & gender discussions

How can I stop my son becoming like my husband?

14 replies

OnlyOneLife · 07/12/2010 10:36

I haven't posted in this topic before. I wasn't sure if perhaps I should post in Relationships but then decided to post here because I don't really need any advice on what do do, but more some input on why my H has behaved in the way he has and how this might have affected my son.

I have been married for 20 years, and together with H for 25. We have 2 DC, the youngest has autism. The past 5 years have been very difficult, and I have reached a point where I feel that the marriage is over. I have tried personal counselling, sessions with Relate and I remain convinced that I don't want to carry on.

We relocated to the UK just over 5 years ago, and then my H was made redundant within the first year. I got a full-time job and he found free-lance work after a few months. He didn't take the redundancy well at all, and was very unpleasant to me and in general.

During the more than 2 years that I worked FT, he made almost no contribution towards helping with the housework, running the household, childcare arrangements etc. I would spend hours on the weekends doing chores. This obviously led to a growing feeling of resentment on my part. I tried discussing it with him, even drawing up rotas to divide the work equally. These discussions usually ended in nasty arguments.

Then I was given the opportunity to work PT, whilst my H took a FT position again. He works very long hours but is also very well paid now. Now he does even less around the house than before. He has told me that he works hard to support us all, and doesn't feel that he should be doing anything else. He resents my "nagging" when I ask him to pick up his stuff, for instance. He refers to money he has in savings as his money and doesn't feel the need to discuss with me how to spend it.

We have other major problems in our marriage - complete lack of affection and intimacy, we don't sleep together in the same room. My H is unable to maintain an erection when having sex with me, so we don't have sex anymore and this has made me feel very rejected and undesirable.

I am completely self-reliant and can cope with everything on my own. He takes very little interest in the day-to-day running of our family life and just counts on me to do everything. I feel like the unpaid housekeeper and childminder. I know I am partly to blame for letting him get away with all this, but I'm not a very confident person and dealing with my DD with autism takes up a lot of emotional energy. I have tried on numbers of occassions to get through to him that I want things to change but he is very resistant to this. He won't go to marriage counselling and sees it as a waste of time.

Sorry about the long post. I know that I need to leave him. I can't understand why he is like this. He realises that I'm terribly unhappy and must know what the consequences are, but still can't seem to bring himself to help me. The obvious conclusion is that he loves himself more than he loves me. He is now in his mid-40s so I suppose he is unlikely to change even if he wanted to. I don't feel like an equal partner in this relationship as he always puts his own needs first.

I am very concerned about the effect this has had on my DS who is 15. Advice please and book recommendations - I hope it's not too late to prevent my DS turning into a lazy, selfish man like his dad. Maybe if my son reads a book he might take it more seriously.

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TheButterflyEffect · 07/12/2010 11:06

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TheButterflyEffect · 07/12/2010 11:11

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OnlyOneLife · 07/12/2010 11:32

My son is a thoughful young man who reacts very strongly to what he perceives are injustices, so I am hopeful that it isn't too late for him. I will look out for the "F word" book.

My DS doesn't do very much to help around the house. I get him to tidy up his own room. I suppose we have cut him quite a lot of slack because his sister is quite difficult and our family life is hardly ideal. I must also try to encourage him and show my appreciation rather than just nagging and shouting. A list would probably work for him. He's a typical teenager though and I don't want to have unrealistic expectations.

But you're right when you say it's all about the behaviour one models. The old "do as I say and not do as I do" trap. I feel that I have let myself down. My H has got away with it and I let him. I'm quite a strong person in other ways, but I really don't deal well with confrontation. My H equally isn't a "bad" person, at least in his own opinion. He just has this huge sense of entitlement that I'm sure originates from his childhood. I don't think even once in his life he's had to take care of himself and doesn't appreciate how much work is involved. He even said during one of our arguments that he doesn't think that doing the housework takes very long. He also doesn't appreciate the contribution I make financially, and although I'm "only" in a PT job it still pays well. In fact, I am more highly qualified than H, and work in a technically demanding profession.

I know I should leave the things that aren't important to me, but don't have the energy for his nasty, overbearing manner when we argue. I have left the bedding on his bed, and it's been 3 weeks now. So if he wants to sleep in filthy sheets, that's his problem. He has to be right even when he's not and does not hesitate to belittle me. My Relate therapist pointed out to me that he is borderline emotionally abusive towards me, and I was quite shocked to realise that this is correct.

I'm not headed for a breakdown - although that was not the case a year ago. 6 months of therapy has really helped and I am strong enough now to ask for a separation. I'm an organised person (because I have to be) and I have my routines running very smoothly. I've read that any relationship should add to one's life and this marriage is the opposite.

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TheButterflyEffect · 07/12/2010 12:22

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OnlyOneLife · 07/12/2010 12:43

Some very good ideas Butterfly I think a lot of the problem is me. I have let myself get beaten down and now have quite low self-esteem. For a long time I was very fearful of being on my own as we have no family in this country. But I have worked quite hard at this aspect of myself and have renewed a friendship with a woman I was very close to a few years back. My son is doing GCSEs this year so I will probably wait until he is finished with those before getting separated. I would like to stay in the family home with the children, for a while after that until we can get a reasonable price for it. My son knows that it isn't fair expecting one person to do everything but he is lazy, and he sees his dad treating me in this way.

My daughter is not high-functioning, and is quite messy. She will pick up her mess but I have to guide her, and I do this because she needs to do these things as part of learning about life skills. My son enjoys cooking and I hate it so that is a good place to start. He learnt to follow recipes at school when they were doing home ec or whatever it's called these days! He can also start putting his laundry away as from now. I still iron for everyone, but don't put my H's clothes away. So they stay in a pile in "his" room. It's really like having a lodger for whom I have to do housekeeping isn't it?

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ElephantsAndMiasmas · 07/12/2010 12:52

I agree. Lovely that he cares about injustice - he sounds a bit like my DB. You should start giving him some responsibilities - if it's just him, you and a younger sister with ASD then he might be a bit lonely and welcome a chance to be more part of a team with you. Does he know how to cook? If not, you should teach him. Start him off with easy stuff and then make e.g. Tuesday nights the night when he cooks. If your DD is capable of helping then rope her in too if possible. Washing veg or peeling/chopping? Why not get him an easy recipe book for Christmas? I've got one of this guy's books (the veggie one) and he is only about 20 and the recipes are really yummy and appetising.

Expect him to tidy up his own things, and also divide tasks with you. "Do you want to wash up or hoover the stairs? Then we'll make popcorn (another good lifeskill :)) and stick a DVD on." I think teenagers sometimes need more time with their parents than people think.

Also just keep talking to him. If you read an article or har something on the news that interests you about gender politics (sounds so uch more boring than it is) or you see some sexist shit in a TV programme or film - comment on it. Start a discussion.

I also told my DB that since he's far too nice to want someone knackering themselves out for him as if he were a big baby, it was important that he learnt to cook/clean so he would be in a lovely equal relationship with future girlfriends Xmas Grin

Also, just talk to him - I

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TheButterflyEffect · 07/12/2010 12:54

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ElephantsAndMiasmas · 07/12/2010 12:57

spare phrase at the end there! x-post re: cooking. Well if he likes it, how about one weekday night and one weekend night? Sunday? Then he can do quick stuff during the week and something to get his teeth into at the weekend.

Make a list of all the things you do for your DS. Think about which of those he could do for himself.

He needs to know how to put a wash on, and how to clean a bathroom. I actually quite liked cleaning the bathroom Blush once I was taught - it's the one room you can get really shiny. Doing the washing is really easy too, and he will want to have clean clothes to wear out with his friends.

And ironing. It's not cruel to teach kids to do these things and expect them to do them - what's cruel is not teaching them and leaving them helpless/a PITA for future partners IMO.

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OnlyOneLife · 07/12/2010 14:21

Thanks for the replies Elephants and Butterfly

You are both quite right - my son does need to learn how to do for himself. At 15, he should be able to do almost everything around the house. Getting him involved will not only teach him how to look after himself but also teach him that he can't expect someone else to do everything for him. I don't want some poor woman cursing me in years to come. And it's not in his interests anyway - I'm sure I've read that men who help out more have better marriages (and more sex!)

I will negotiate a list with him. He is often asking for money to buy games so that can be part of the New Deal. Anything over and above the agreed tasks can be on a pay-for basis perhaps.

I have just ordered "Reclaiming the F Word" and "The Lazy Husband". So hopefully onwards and upwards..

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TheButterflyEffect · 07/12/2010 19:51

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blackcurrants · 07/12/2010 23:06

Not much to add to your excellent suggestions, onlyonelife but I do want to say how incredibly sorted you sound, and how impressed I am by the way you're thinking through this stuff. I have a baby son and I am already wondering how to bring him up to be a strong feminist man like his father (am lucky he has that role model) - and so I'm noting down your ideas and plans, and generally thinking they're really ace.
Onwards and upwards indeed! Let us know how it goes!

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Sakura · 08/12/2010 08:41

It might help you to read some feminist books; some women describe reading them as "waking up from a long sleep". You can really find some solace in them.


I don't think your H is abusive per se but I think he has been influenced by culture and is excercising his male privilege basically.

You could try, "Why Does He Do That?" by LUndy Bancroft ( a man, BTW)

Then "Wifework"

ANd definitely "Sexual Politics/ The WHole WOman"

The biggest value in reading these type of books is that they give you the confidence to realise that it's not you .
And your DD has autism so that means the pressure on you-as a mother- is considerable, even without the additional problems of your husband's behaviour towards you

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OnlyOneLife · 08/12/2010 17:53

What a coincidence - I have just looked up WifeWork on Amazon. I will be buying it for DH for Christmas [hehe] "Why Does He Do That" also looks like a good choice. My H is very into self-help books, so these will be ideal gifts (particularly if you like irony!)

I have also tracked down "The Politics of Housework" which is as pertinent now as it was in 1970 - how sad is that. These lines were particularly striking to me:
"Housework is garbage work. It's the worst crap I've ever done. It's degrading and humiliating for someone of my intelligence to do it. But for someone of your intelligence....
"Housework is too trivial to even talk about." MEANING: It's even more trivial to do. Housework is beneath my status. My purpose in life is to deal with matters of significance. Yours is to deal with matters of insignificance. You should do the housework."

I have created a Word document containing this article and a number of quotes from witty, wise and wonderful Mumsnet posters, so that my H can see it's not just me having a whinge, but that many many women feel the way that I do and that it is NOT acceptable to treat your wife as a servant.

Maybe this all sounds terribly OTT, but I lose my train of thought when I get into arguments discussions with my H.

I honestly don't know why I've let this situation persist for so long. I do feel as if I'm waking up. I can't take all the credit though - seeing a very patient, sympathetic male therapist who also has a child with ASD was the key to my awakening really. And Mumsnet - bloody amazing place that this is!

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BigTillyMincepie · 08/12/2010 18:08

FWIW, I think loads of men tend to be something like your DH in terms of doing next-to-nothing in the house. I know this from many conversations with my RL friends.

The ones whose DH's do help without being asked are pretty few and far between, most men seem to need a rocket up their backside before they do anything useful Grin

My DH works 5 days a week in a pretty stressful and very responsible job. I work 3 days a week in a job which can also be stressful. I do 90% of the jobs around the house because I am here more and if I waited for him to do stuff, it would never get done. He has a much higher tolerance than me for dirt and mess, and I'm far from the house-proud cleaning freak his mother is. Actually, that's probably one of the reasons he doesn't think to do it - his mother did it all.

It gets on my nerves sometimes, but because we generally have a good relationship, I just tell him to do stuff when I get really fed up (or his parents are coming Wink)

I guess that if your relationship is not working, then you will feel more and more resentful.

I try to get my DC (including a DS!) to do jobs around the house at times, and they are both responsible for their own rooms - keeping them tidy and hoovering fairly regularly. Does your DS do that?

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