Credit: Trish Murphy, Irish Times
Q I know I shouldn’t complain, but it i s my anger and frustration I’m worried about. We all have busy lives, but I do resent the fact that I am the one constantly with the three kids while my husband is off playing his favourite sport . He doesn’t bother even checking with me anymore about whether it suits me or not, he just takes it for granted that he’s free to go. He still behaves like a single man with no responsibilities.
All the jobs I have chosen since I became a parent have been about what is best for the kids ; every decision I make is based on that. I love them and I am so grateful for them, but I just wish it was a bit more balanced instead of me constantly dealing with all the issues: the upset at school, the positive parenting, the discipline, the saying no. I work full-time and it is just full-on and I sometimes wish I could come and go as freely as my husband does.
I got very sick last year, out of the blue, and had an “emotional breakdown ”. Thankfully with drugs and support it blew over after three months and normality was fully restored, but I do dread it ever happening again. I get quite negative and try to raise it with my husband. He can be fantastic with all that he does, as long as I give him instructions, but I so desperately need him to be present.
I wonder sometimes what difference it would make if we were separated – I’d have some time to myself on occasion. I sn’t it awful to think like that? I kiss the kids goodnight when they are asleep and apologise for being so cross with them during the day . It’s very wearing: go home, do the dinner, I have to work again in a few hours after they go to bed and it’s always busy, busy, busy.
I resent my husband for my mental and emotional load and, of course, he wants to be out playing sports. Why would he want to come home to me ?
A This is a very serious issue for you and it probably had a large part to play in your breakdown last year – yet you find yourself again in exactly the same situation that may have precipitated the last incident.
We “break down” when all our resources are depleted and it is imperative that this does not happen again as there is so much riding on your wellbeing. Your kids have a very dedicated mother, but one who is over-stretched, negative and on the point of collapse and this does not serve anyone well.
It seems that the illness crisis of last year did not produce any useful reflection or effect. Did your husband take over the family care-taking role when you were ill? Did your support team point out to him that you had completely run out and needed ongoing support?
The danger now is that an even more serious crisis might be on the cards as you try to raise the flag of your imminent floundering. There are two aspects to dealing with this: the first is getting your husband’s attention and involvement; and the second is dealing with your own anger, frustration and resentment.
If you approach the topic with your husband from a position of exhaustion and anger, it is unlikely he will listen with any sense of openness. It might be useful to consider who he does listen to and try to recruit them on your behalf. If that fails, you may have to think about what gets his attention: your serious illness did not work so you may have to reach for something that matters to him.
He seems to respond to instructions from you and yet if you still resent him, he will continue to do these things without grace and only when asked. My guess is that you both will need outside help to tackle the issue of fairness in your relationship as the habits seem deeply embedded and resistant to change.
If he were to choose a couple or family therapist for you both to attend, it might offer him more faith in the process and allow for some optimism in this situation. You will need to have a serious conversation with him to initiate change and, in order for this to have some success, you will need to be in a calm and good place yourself.
Sometimes self-care gets a bad press, but for you this is vital to the survival of your family so it needs to be prioritised immediately. Your anger and frustration is taking up all your energy and it is then followed by self-recrimination and this leads to a never-ending cycle of exhaustion and negativity.
The anger is due to a feeling of gross injustice so firstly you need to acknowledge this and then fully accept that this is the situation you are in and that change needs to happen. Secondly, you need a break so that your reactions are more in your control. Can you recruit family and friends to facilitate this for you? You can then have a conversation with your husband that might initiate a pathway to health, fairness and happiness for everyone.
If this fails, your husband is culpable and you may need to put your own wellbeing first and consider a trial separation.