Dear Dr. Chani,
My resentment towards my husband has been snowballing for a long time. In many ways, I see him as an overgrown child. I feel so lonely in my marriage. I am not sure what to do at this point.
My husband often wakes up very late in the morning. He eventually goes to work around 10:00 am and comes home very late at night. We barely see each other during the week. When it comes to Shabbos, he has no stamina to stay at the Friday night meal, so we keep it short. Then he sleeps late on Shabbos morning and often does not make it to shul. My children are very young so they do not realize that this is unusual behavior. This cycle keeps repeating itself week after week.
I have spoken to my husband about his schedule and he tells me that this is how he is. Initially, I was very surprised to hear this because he used to spend much more time with me before we got married. We went out on dates several times a week and we called each other throughout the day. I knew that he was more of a night person, but I did not realize that he slept until late in the morning on a regular basis. Now, I see that this is his normal routine. He is not moody or depressed. He is just used to operating on his own schedule that works well for him.
When it comes to taking care of our children and managing the house, I bear almost all of the burden. My husband almost never takes care of the children or helps out with cleaning, shopping, or errands. It bothers me that he ignores how much I do to keep our house going. Another aspect that annoys me is when he laughs and plays with the children when he sees them, as if he plays a central role in their lives when really he is almost never present.
Over the past few years, I have been working on resigning myself to my situation. I try to be a hero and do it all without expecting anything. But, at this point, I feel so lonely that I am getting depressed. I would love to hear your advice on what I can do to pick myself up again.
It sounds like you feel that your husband is, for the most part, focusing on his own needs. He is not taking your needs into account. He acts as if he is unaware of what he can do to nurture your marriage and take care of your home.
You are bearing a burden that is increasingly difficult to hold. One of the reasons that it is so hard is because you are keeping your feelings inside you. When you hold yourself back from expressing your feelings to your husband, it widens the emotional distance between you. This gap reinforces your feelings of loneliness.
When you spoke to your husband about his schedule and he exclaimed that “this is how he is,” it must have been a difficult pill for you to swallow. I am wondering if you expressed your reaction to your husband. You say that you have been working on resigning yourself to your situation. When did that start? Did you choose this approach instead of discussing your feelings with him, or was this a result of such a conversation?
It sounds like you processed what your husband said inside your own mind. You concluded that you need to accept his reality and resign yourself to your fate. Yet, deep down, you are unhappy with being a martyr and accepting his perspective. You have your own vision of what your marriage and home could look like. Keeping your thoughts and feelings about something this significant inside you is holding you back from feeling close to your husband and even possibly creating the reality you hope for. It is no wonder that you feel so lonely and on the verge of depression.
Imagine what could happen if you shared with him what is going on inside your inner world. It is true that, in the worst-case scenario, he might be unwilling to change. He might become defensive. In many ways, you would be no worse off than you are right now. Except for one thing – your husband would understand how you truly feel. Ironically, in this way, you would no longer be as lonely. You and your husband would both feel the weight of the issues in your home.
When you express your feelings to your husband, you create an opportunity to improve your reality. You give your husband a chance to understand you and support you. You allow him to recognize what he can do to make you both happier.
When you initially discuss your feelings with your husband, you may be able to preempt him from taking a defensive stance by telling him outright, “I want you to know what I have been thinking about for a while. What I am about to say might make you feel defensive. I hope that you will focus on my feelings and try to understand why I am feeling this way. ”
When you share your feelings, try to use “I” statements, rather than pointing out to him what he should do differently. For example, you might say, “I have been feeling very lonely. I feel like our schedules are so different that we are leading two parallel lives. I wish that we could talk more about how things are going and what we could do to make things better. I would love for us to be able to share how we feel with each other. We need to make time for ourselves and be willing to work through any issues that come up.” Since there are many issues you want to work on, it can be tempting to share all of them at once. Yet this can be overwhelming, so try to focus on one issue at a time.
Think about having a conversation with your husband as the first step in a process. Expect it to take multiple conversations to go from the emotional distance you feel right now to the point that you and your husband really understand each other. Initially, it may be very challenging. You may find it hard to discuss your thoughts and feelings with each other. You may feel disappointed, frustrated, or angry. It is kind of like cleaning out a messy closet. At first, the thought of going through it is so daunting that you avoid it. Eventually, you decide to clean it. As you remove items from your closet, you create what looks like a bigger mess than you had to start with. But you eventually sort through all of your stuff. You get rid of some items, and you decide how to organize your closet so that you know what is there and where to find it when you need it.
So too, as you go through the process of communicating with your husband about what is bothering you, your relationship might initially look messier and more complicated. Yet, with patience and persistence, you can work through the issues together and brainstorm how to improve your marriage.
Wishing you much success,