Sasha Answers: My husband is absent
I’ve been married for seven years, and we have three young children. From the outside, everything looks perfect, but the truth is that my husband is mentally and emotionally absent. When we are together alone or as a family, he is checked out. Sometimes I want to wave my hands in front of his face, and yell HELLO??!! I’m in charge of all recreational time (or anything related to the family, pets, kids, or house), whether it’s date night or family fun. While he goes along with us, it’s more like he’s following us around, looking at his watch, playing with his phone (I want to smash it!), counting the minutes until it’s over. He never makes suggestions or takes charge even though I've asked him to, particularly with date nights. I plan all the dates and it feels more perfunctory than romantic despite my best efforts. The one time that I forced him to be in charge of the date, he forgot, asked what I wanted to do, then took me to our same old boring place where we had to wait for a half hour for a table. I wanted to cry from the thoughtlessness of it. To mix it up, one time I planned a night out to a club with live music, but I had to drag him to dance and he kept looking at his watch. It's awkward.
It seems like he’d rather be left alone, on his computer, working, watching sports, or hanging with his friends and that family/date time is chore he goes through the motions to appease me and the kids. I don’t feel like he’s a life partner. I feel like he’s a teenager who tolerates family time and tolerates me. I see my friends’ husbands enthusiastically plan camping/fishing trips with the kids or teach them how to ride bikes or coach sports, but I’m the one in my family doing all of this. I see these husbands plan romantic birthday surprises for their wives or organize weekend getaways, but my husband would never do that. We’ve been to counseling and when I bring this up, he says exasperatedly, “What more do you want from me?! I’m there with you!” It’s an insidious problem because it’s easy to pretend it’s not happening as compared to something dramatic like infidelity, gambling, or drug addiction. I love him but I don’t want to be both mom and dad and husband and wife anymore. I’m at a loss about what to do. – HB
I've started watching Breaking Bad –it’s such a good show, have you seen it yet? There are so many reasons for why I’m hooked, but what has me most interested is the crumbling relationship between Walt and his wife Skylar. The reason behind their demise - besides the fact that he cooks meth as his day job - is that they flat out stopped communicating. And I don’t mean 'how was your day' kind of sh-t, I'm talking about really communicating…about their feelings, their goals, their dreams, and their future. In my opinion, once you stop discussing those things, you might as well call it a day because how can you fully contribute to a relationship when all there is is silence?
So how do you get the fight back in your husband?
Most importantly, as I mentioned above, I think you need to assess if you two even have the same vision for the future anymore. HB, it can be something as simple as the places you want to travel to, to your career goals. So are you guys even on the same page with any of those things, like, at all?
Next, you need to do some work on yourself, by yourself. Obviously I think it’s great that you’re trying to work this out in couples counseling, but instead of being steadfast in changing him, it might be time to see if YOU need to make some changes. And having said that I have a few questions for you: Are you asking him to do things that only interest you? Are you constantly getting on him for stuff he does or doesn’t do? Do you unknowingly demean him? Do you let him make ANY family decisions? When and why did you take over all the planning? I HB, I’m not trying to blame you, I just want to make sure you’re not unknowingly chipping away at him and the relationship.
Now, if you can tell me that you have explored every avenue and idea to get through to him, and that it just boils down to HIS unwillingness to change, well, then I think it’s time to ask yourself if this is the life you want to sign up for, and more importantly is this the life you want to sign your kids up for.
Keep me posted xx