I swallow the things I want to say about my husband not helping me with household chores, about his not helping a bit in the raising of our wonderful offspring (he has never changed a diaper or given a bath or been alone with said child for more than 30 minutes). As a for instance, one night, I was extremely exhausted and trying to do the dishes, he said, “Honey, you’re tired, go to bed. You can finish this tomorrow.”
Other things include some verbal abuse (he has called me names and yelled at me in anger). Never anything physical though. I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. The thing is, I want so badly to go, but if you were to ask him, our marriage couldn’t be stronger! Seriously, I deserve some kind of award (or flogging) for being such a great actress. I’ve worked up a budget, and could be okay just me and our child on our own in an apartment (rent, insurance, car payment, daycare, etc.; I’ve looked into it all). I could even do it without any child support. It would be REALLY tight without that, but I wonder if I would be happier and a better parent. I’ve even found an apartment complex that I like (haven’t taken the step of actually looking at an apartment yet). I’m just seriously stuck on how to tell him I’m unhappy. Part of me is afraid of the explosion; part of me is afraid of no reaction; part of me worries about what a hermit he’ll become without me there (he’s very overweight, works mostly from home, and is very down on himself as it is).
I have a history of not standing up for myself, have tried a few sessions of counseling, but can’t get past whatever block is inside my mouth, throat or head. I’ve read somewhere about cognitive therapy for assertiveness and have been researching therapists in my area (hey, it’s a step in the right direction), but I’d really like to hear from you and your readers about how they may have extracted themselves from similar situations. I know I can’t be alone in this. Wendy, Dear Readers, can you offer me some advice, suggestions, stories about how you may have handled something like this? Please? — Muted Voice
I can offer advice, but not about how I handled a similar situation. I’ve never been in a similar situation. I mean, I’ve never been married 20 years or parented a small child, but beyond that, I’ve never had the problem of not being able to speak my mind. If anything, the opposite problem has gotten me into trouble a time or two, so it’s hard for me to relate to where you’re coming from. It’s hard for me to understand how you’d consider walking away from a 20-year marriage and the father of your child for a life of single parenthood and financial instability before even making the smallest effort to address the issues in your relationship. If confrontation poses that much of a challenge to you — if you are that unable to find your voice — then therapy probably is your best bet here. But I wouldn’t stop at individual therapy; I’d make an appointment with a marriage counselor who can help you and your husband learn how to effectively communicate, finally, after all these years together.
I suspect the temptation from many readers will be to blame your husband for the state of your marriage. He’s never changed a diaper?! Or given your child a bath?? Or helped with any household chores? Scandalous! But, then, you’ve never asked those things of him, have you? You’ve never expressed that you need help with those tasks. For all we know, he works 60 or 70 or 80 hours a week, makes a great living, and doesn’t see his role as a husband or father stretching beyond that. That doesn’t make his lack of support right, but if he has one understanding of what his role is and you have another understanding of what it should be and you two have never discussed the dichotomy — if you’ve enabled him to continue being less than what you think he should be as a partner and father — the blame most certainly cannot fall 100% on his shoulders.
What I would do if I were you is to think about your small child. Presumably, you’d do anything for him or her, right? Isn’t that a mother’s instinct? To protect her child and make him as happy and comfortable as possible? And doesn’t that include doing everything in her power to provide a solid, stable home? To give him two parents who, even if they’ve fallen out of love with each other or no longer work together as romantic partners, can effectively co-parent despite whatever differences and personal limitations they may have? Because we all have personal limitations. You can’t find your voice. You don’t know how to express yourself. Those are your limitations, but you have to figure out a way to push them if not for your own benefit, than for your child’s. Quit using fear as an excuse. Just suck it up, sit your husband down, and tell him you aren’t happy — that you haven’t been happy in years — and that if your marriage has any chance to survive you need him to go to therapy with you and learn how to communicate. It’s your job as a mother. If you want your husband to stand up and be a better father, you need to be a better mother and this is the first step.
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