My family can be a mess. I work very hard to not be one, mostly successfully, I guess. His family is not a mess – high school sweethearts and picket fences all the way – and it drives him a bit nuts when he sees my family’s issues upsetting me. For that reason, I try to keep him away from their drama, but in the last few years, it has spilled over onto us. I wrote you earlier about my father and some of the sister stuff I alluded to has reared it’s head again recently. I’ve been worried about it, but trying not to bring it into my home. They can take care of themselves – and have thus far. But it weighs on me still. I also bore the burden of taking care of my mother during an illness a few months ago, alone. It didn’t go all that smoothly with my husband, and I have some real resentment and anger about it.
Also, in the last few months, my husband has admittedly been taking his stress about our business out on me, in fairly nasty personal attacks he later says he does not mean. I’ve tried to get him to delegate, hire someone else or let me help to ease the stress. I’ve encouraged him to exercise, do his hobbies, etc. to relax. He acknowledges the problem, but refuses all offers of help or suggestions on how to relieve his stress in a healthy manner. Instead, he explodes, then “buys” me things out of guilt, with money I helped earn, as a way to “make up” for it.
These issues have infected our marriage in all respects, including physically. We are intimate, but my heart isn’t in it and I don’t often get anything out of it. Sex is an emotional thing for me. When I’m being yelled at and nitpicked all day, it’s hard to get in the mood. We have recently been to two counselors to discuss these issues. He repeatedly says he doesn’t want a divorce, yet, he doesn’t change regardless of the advice given to him. I’m tired of being the stress target, of feeling disrespected and of feeling alone in my marriage. (I do have friends and a social life; I don’t expect him to be my everything). I also feel like I’m failing somehow because we can’t get past this. Marriages have ups and downs, and this is definitely a “down” period. But, I am not sure what to do. Wait it out? MOA? Try something new? You and your readers were excellent help the last time I wrote in. I value and advice or insight you have. — Lonely in Marriage
In your whole letter, I didn’t read one sentence about how you are helping your husband. You say he’s stressed out and you have suggested a bunch of stuff, and you say your marriage is a mess and that counseling hasn’t helped and that your husband hasn’t done anything to make things better. But what are YOU doing (beyond giving your husband suggestions and encouraging him to relax)? How are you trying to make his life easier/better? Have you asked him what his needs are and what you can do to help meet them? I’d start there first.
The simple fact is that you cannot control other people’s actions or behavior or the way they interpret things. The only thing you can control is your own behavior. So focus on what you can do to change your situation. You know that your current set-up isn’t working, so what steps can you take to change the set-up? (“Waiting it out” doesn’t count as a step!!).
Without knowing the details of your marriage or your business, my inclination is to suggest finding additional help with work. You say you’ve tried to get your husband to delegate or to hire someone else, which he hasn’t done, but you also say you are a partner in the business, so… can YOU delegate or hire someone else (with your husband’s OK, of course)? And what can you do at home to ease your husband’s stress or workload? Is there work your husband does at home that you could either help with or hire someone else to do (I’m thinking along the lines of lawn work, household repairs, cleaning, cooking, and accounting)?
You’ve invested a LOT of time and energy in your family — your parents and sister — and I wonder if your husband simply resents that you haven’t invested as much time and energy into him or your marriage lately. I’m not excusing his nasty behavior to you, but if he feels less like a husband to you and more like a business partner and/or roommate, I can understand why your marriage is suffering. Your heart may not be in it, but if you want to save your marriage, you HAVE to make your husband and his happiness your top priority. If that means saying no to your family or to your friends more often, do it. If it means being nice to your husband when you think he’s being a jerk, do it. If it means doing more work than you feel like doing, do it. If it means taking on more responsibility than you have in the past, do it. If it means putting your husband’s needs before your own, do it.
I am not suggesting you become a martyr for life, but if you give 100% to your husband for 3-6 months and nothing improves, then you can leave your marriage knowing you tried really hard. But try hard first. Don’t just passively wait around for things to get better, and don’t just MOA from a 15-year relationship without making some effort to get over the hump. Try really hard and, if it’s still not working out or if your husband is doing all the taking and none of the giving, THEN think about cutting your losses and moving on. But from where I sit, it seems to me like moving on now would be super premature. I say change your behavior — since your behavior is all you can control — and see what impact that has on your husband and your marriage.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.