Friday, August 03, 2007

Gray: How Do You Love (The Same Person) Again?

Posted by Anonymous.

As it is with many other bloggers, I’m depressed. Not suicidal, but I’m in a funk. I blog as part of my therapy, which also consists of antidepressants and behavior modification. I don’t deal well with ambivalence and gray areas. Right now I’m in that murky zone, and would appreciate any well thought out insight/advice/ food for thought, especially from you readers who have had experience.

Oh and by the way, I searched all through the Basement and couldn’t find a query exactly like mine. That’s why I’m here.

OK, here’s the gist: I don’t love my husband. I haven’t for awhile. There is no one else in the picture for either of us, that is not the problem. I have a five month old, my first child. I am an older new mom, closer to 40. I work full time outside of the home. My child is teething and not sleeping, so I realize my current mood is affected by sleep deprivation. I know better than to make big decisions on no sleep. But this “problem,” my query, exists even when I’ve got a good night’s sleep.

Here’s why I don’t love my husband: He’s basically a lazy coward. The cowardice is partly due to his innate introversion and shyness. The laziness I chalk up to the fact that his mother did everything for him as a child and expected nothing. Simultaneously, he was just kind of ignored. His dad was in the throes of his career when he was a kid and he was the third, so his dad never really noticed him. It’s like he just sort of floated through childhood almost as an accessory, like part of a backdrop. He was incredibly bright and into books and reading, so he spent the most of his childhood, teen years and adult years living in the top two inches of his head (his brain). His mom, being painfully shy too, never forced him to learn social skills or get a hobby that used his body or forced him to get out of his own head. He did not have to have a part-time job in high school; his parents gave him a used car. You get the idea.

When I met my husband, I was in graduate school, completing my thesis and working part time. He was a college drop out, who had failed several classes and quit his junior year in an accounting track degree. His dad was an accountant. My husband doesn’t love numbers or accounting, he’s into literature and history, but he chose that major for lack of imagination. Or laziness. Also his parents paid for all of his college, so I don’t think he ever had to seriously consider his choice of degrees. Or quitting school.

When we first started dating, his lack of ambition was tolerable. He worked full time at blue collar jobs (a mail courier, clerk, etc.) and never complained about his work. I thought to myself, he’ll get it together. Plus, accounting is lame, I thought, and here is this brilliant guy who is a history and literature whiz, why would he need it? Meanwhile, I completed my degree (which I paid for completely), interviewed in several cities, and took a job in the country’s largest city about 700 miles away. He moved there with me. He worked blue collar jobs while I did the career track and worked my ass off.

At some point along the way, I started wanting children. I was already in my mid 30s by then and we had moved back to the southeast where we are from (I wanted to be near my Mom who I am very close to). We were still unmarried. So I pressured him to get married. He said OK and we got married. That was four years ago. I went off birth control and we didn’t get pregnant. I forced him to return to school and finish his undergraduate accounting degree. It was ugly. As I mentioned numbers aren’t his thing, and he barely passed and got his degree by the skin of his teeth. Since his parents never showed him how to write a resume, or interview, or doing anything remotely related to getting a job, I had to show him all of this. I created his resume, I wrote his cover letters, I checked out the How to Interview for Dummies books at the library.

Two years ago, he got his first office job in the real world as an entry-level accountant. It pays $12 per hour. He’s still there. Yep, sad but true. We are in the southeast where wages are notoriously low, and he didn’t really advocate for himself when he interviewed. It’s a national company that is in a tight industry and barely ever makes a profit margin of more than 10 percent, so raises are far and few between. And there’s no room for moving up, it’s very hierarchical. You get the idea.

He’s always been ambivalent about having children. This didn’t change as my desire to be a parent increased. I guess he didn’t want all the work and hassle involved. Last year I got successfully pregnant after a miscarriage. He had nine months to find something that paid more. I didn’t expect a huge leap in salary, especially in this economy, but still, anything more than what he makes. He never applied or looked during that time, but I would occasionally check his job search engine web sites and apply for him when I wasn’t puking my brains out. The baby was born this February. He had eight weeks of paternity leave. He didn’t interview for anything during that time. Because I am the primary breadwinner (we could live off of my salary alone, it would be tight but doable), I had to return to work when my son was three months old. And here I am now. I’d prefer to stay at home with him.

So every day I go on the job search engines and apply for jobs for him while I’m at my job. He can’t do that at his job, they don’t allow Internet access. He does go to the interviews. But he’s shy and doesn’t take them too seriously, I surmise. When I ask how they go, he says, “We had a good conversation. Or,” it’s an interesting building.” Never does he say, “I really sold myself,” or “they seem interested,” or “the job is interesting.” I honestly think the interviews are his time for adult interaction (as a side note, I have tried to force him to get adult male friends of his own, and he doesn’t).

He is such a nice guy; you’d never suspect that he’s what I’d now call a loser. When his coworkers (all female) threw him a baby shower at his job, they all said to me that he is such a sweetie, so easy to get along with. And I agree. Yes he is. He is very, very sweet and nice and affable and well-mannered and can be very funny. He’s not physically or verbally abusive. He is loving and affectionate with our son. He changes poopy diapers. He reads to him. He plays with him. He loves him and appreciates him more than he thought he ever would. He is no longer ambivalent about his child, he is very attached. But that being said, he hasn’t demonstrated this great love by going out there and being a good provider. He pays lip service to the fact that he doesn’t like it that our kid is in daycare either, but he hasn’t done anything to change the situation.

So. I’m angry. And as an outgoing, expressive person, I express it. I’ve been verbally abusive, which I know doesn’t help, but I’m losing my mind. I’m angry at him. I’m angry at myself for thinking he would change for me, and when he didn’t, then later for our child. I feel like a fool. I feel like I’m one of those asshole idiots who “settled.” I have no physical attraction to him whatsoever. My heart is getting colder to him with each passing day. I fantasize about leaving, and it just being me and my son. I think it would be so much easier to just be responsible for the two of us. I’ve told my husband everything, every detail. He says that no way would he ever grant a divorce (his parents fought terribly but stuck it out, so that’s his model). He also says he still cares about me. He says he’s trying and I should just be patient. But people, I’ve been the primary breadwinner for almost 10 years now.

And I’m torn, in this gray area. I don’t want our son to see a loveless marriage (even if it’s one sided). I don’t want that modeled for him. I want him to see two parents that are relatively happy (content and confident), whether they are married or dating or single or what ever. I realize I could support my son and me by myself. I could leave. But would it be the right thing to do? I want to add that I am not seeking a new relationship for myself, it’s not about cheating or desire at all. In fact, the idea of dating again exhausts me, makes me recoil.

I need insight people because I can’t see the forest for the trees.

Has anyone out there ever stayed AND learned to appreciate, like, and perhaps love the father of their children? If so, how did you achieve it? Part of me wants to like him again, part of me doesn’t have the energy or momentum to try anymore. I don’t think ambivalence is good for children. It’s certainly not good for me.


Anonymous said...

Your title says, "How do you love (the same person) again", but I fear that you never did love him. You mention how he's lazy and cowardice several times and only once mentioning that "he's a nice guy". You said you pressured him to get married b/c your bio clock was ticking.

Is it really fair to your child to stay in a loveless marriage? Is it fair to him when he is probably just as miserable, if not more so, than you? Is it fair to you?

Obviously you are a driven and engergetic person. You like people to see you as successful business woman, which you probably deserve, but is this maybe why you are afraid to disolve the marriage? That it might appear to others that you failed at something? It takes more strength to get out of a marriage that brings you no joy than to stay in one that sucks the life out of all of you. Your real friends and family will appreciate your honesty and see that strength.

It's time to stop hiding behind what you see as your husband's faults and lay things out in black and white.

Anonymous said...

Original anonymous poster of this query:

Thank you for your comments.

At one time, in the beginning, he did make my heart go pitty-pat very fast. I was smitten. Haven't felt that in years.

I don't think it's ideal for our son to see a loveless marriage, that's why I'm reaching out for help. I either want to learn to at least like my husband again, or as you say, get out.

I haven't held the successful businesswoman role in the last two years as I took an easier job in order to get pregnant. So I'm no longer the corporate wank I was. I make a decent living at a boring state job. I will admit that I do see our marriage as a sham, and it's embarrassing, but I care most about the fact that my husband doesn't want to divorce more than what other people would think if we did.

Stutzwoman said...

I feel for you. It sounds as if you have been battling this for some time, and I just want to point out something you most likely already know. YOU cannot CHANGE him. It will never happen. If your husband has no need or pull to change himself or his behavior, then it really is a lost cause. You are exhausting yourself by putting all your anger and anxiety into trying to move and mold something that ISN'T going to change. There is no way to keep going like that.

As for staying in a loveless marriage. DON"T. I left my first husband three years ago, and I can honestly say that the day I moved out was the first day I had breathed easily in five years. I was in the drivers seat of my LIFE again. Today, I have a wonderful marriage and a 18 month old. I wouldn't change it for the world. You child, in my opinion has more chance of being happy and fulfilled if MOM is happy and fulfilled. Your husband can still have a relationship with his child if HE decides to do that. Being married is not a requirement for him to father his child.

I hope you hear this with the sympathy and understanding of which it was intended. Stick to your path and believe in yourself.

Anonymous said...

As the commenter above me said, you need to accept the fact that you will NEVER change him. He won't change no matter what you do or regardless of what is best for your son -- unless he makes up his own mind as to what he wants.

It sounds like he is really a great dad, and I understand that you'd like to stay home with your son -- but since (in your own words) you took an easier job in order to get pregnant, why couldn't you go back to being the successful businesswoman and letting him stay home? Raising your son is obviously important, and it's something your husband seems capable of doing (and he doesn't seem to have more ambition for another type of job). I think now the issue is not so much how you can change *him* (because you can't) but whether you can either 1) change your perception of him or 2) decide to accept things as they are and either leave the relationship or continue to live without happiness. Maybe if he's successful at running the household while you work you might look at things differently?

The fact that you've been verbally abusive is a sign that things are very bad and need to change. You need this for your own well-being, and certainly for your son -- especially because if he witnesses the verbally abusive behavior that's much worse than just realizing his parents are unhappy with one another.

Good luck in whatever you decide to do.

Anonymous said...

I want to second the comments of the anon poster directly above... can you cahgen your perception of his contribution to the marriage and family.

If he is dedicated to his son, shows a keen interest in spending time with him, and a decided lack of interest or passion for the "work" that he is doing... could he not stay at home and allow you to again pursue your career? No more daycare, and he may find fufillment that may bring him out of shell. No guarantees, but in my experience hating how you spend your days, not feeling particualrly challenged or passionate is a sure way to drain the life out of everything else.

It sounds as though he has always been constant, the same person for many years... if your needs have changed, if your desires are different, that is comepletely acceptable, it happens all the time in relationships. But I am not sure if it is fair to be angry with him for being the same person you dated, married, etc.

You are right, your son will be better in the long run, if BOTH parents are happy, even if they aren't under the same roof.

Consider thinking about your family in a different way, including separated, before making the big decision...

Best of luck.

canape said...

Oh, Sweetie. You could be married to my ex-husband.

Yes, EX.

We didn't have children because we couldn't, so I can't offer advice there.

What I can say is that I married him because he was completely non-threatening to me (following an abusive relationship). He was a good guy, funny, and sweet. And I married him because I saw so much potential.

Huge mistake. I made what I thought would be a lifetime commitment based on someone's potential. Bad.

I am now divorced and remarried, and I cannot put into words how happy I am.

Paying for his schooling, getting him interviews, and all the other work you are doing won't change him. I am so sorry.

Good luck.

Anonymous said...

You are not going to want to hear what I have to say, but here goes:

Did it occur to you that you may be responsible in part for your loss of respect for him? It sounds like you have enabled him to become so dependent by doing so much for him. It's hard to respect a man when we become his mother. It sounds like over the years you have established a pattern for his dependency in which you have been an active participant.

Truthfully not everyone shows their great love by being a "great provider". It sounds like you have taken on that role, and that he has taken on the role of primary caregiver. Is it possible that you resent that non-traditional arrangement? Why? Are you threatened by his attachment to your child - some mothers who are the primary caregivers feel exactly that - some resentment because they want to be the "mommy" and they feel their husbands are taking over that role. It's something you need to examine.

Maintaining love over the course of a long-term marriage commitment doesn't just come. It takes work, and we have to learn not to undermine our spouse in the process. While I wouldn't advocate staying in a loveless marriage, I would definitely advise you to seek marriage counseling first. Throwing away a marriage before you even try to work on it is a bit of a disservice to your marriage. You need to provide an example of a loving marriage to your child, but I think you should try to do that within the context of your marriage first, and the only way to do that is to break this cycle you are in with him so that you can rediscover your relationship. Counseling can help with that.

Even if it does not help save the marriage, it can show you what your role in creating this situation is. We tend to recreate the same dynamics in later relationships, and this may help you recognize that and avoid it again in the future.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous writer of Gray again,

I do realize I can't change him. I think I emotionally accept that now. Intellectually I've known you can't change a person my entire life. But as canape put it, I saw potential, and led to hope. Dumb, dumb me.

However, now I get it, I do. Therefore, I want to either be able to appreciate who he is, or find the strength to leave.

I like the suggestions that I try to view him differently. How does one do that? That's what I'm getting at. Love is a verb. Do I just act even more loving and accepting and compassionate and tolerant? Do I stop pushing and see what happens? Do I squint when I look at him to get that soft glow? In other words, how do I change ME?

And ideally, I want to stay home with my son. I was a corporate wank and totally burned out on it. I couldn't get pregnant till I took an easier job. I don't miss being a businesswoman and the 50 hour work week, I miss my son. I crave his presence. I want to hang out with him, good days and bad. I waited a long, long time to have him. That being said, if I left my husband, then I REALLY couldn't ever stay at home with him. I'd have to work no matter what.

That being said, I'm not adverse to my husband being a stay at home dad, but I don't want to have to return to the intense, competitive day job in order to achieve it.

And to the last anonymous, yes, I get that I am my husband's "mommy," and I enabled that. My foot is sore from kicking my own ass over that. And I do not want to repeat that. The only children I want to raise are the ones that are truly children.

So going back to what I was saying, do I push less? I might as well, because pushing has gotten minimal results for the amount of effort put into it. It hasn't been a completely Sysiphean effort--he did get his degree, but the ROI was low.

I'm open to therapy for us, and I'm in no rush to throw this marriage away. I've been with him a decade. But am I beating a dead horse? That's what's gray.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the previous commenters who have said that there's a lot of room here to alter your own behaviour and hopefully defuse some of the resentment you're feeling. You've poured so much energy into trying to mould and change him into the person you want him to be - in some ways, I wonder if you're angry because his personality feels like a failure to you - your failure to succeed in your project to recreate him.

From what you've said here, it sounds to me like your husband will bring some really valuable qualities to your son's life - that he can be a restful anchor, a good counterpoint to your own energy and drive. I only have your description to go by, but he sounds like a good person to me, someone you'd like a lot more if you could find a way to take him on his own terms instead of measuring him against what you want him to be for the sake of your goals.

Anonymous said...

I second the votes for marriage counselling. My DH and I are in it right now and it's working wonders for us. Our situation was different in some respects but similar in that it hinged on expectations. It's been so much easier to love each other since we started discussing our expectations of each other, with the context of a knowledgeable professional so that we'd have some objective feedback.
You have mentioned some of your own expectations of/for your husband. What does he expect of himself? What would "success" in his life look like if he were the one painting the picture? I know I was surprised by my own husband's answer to that question.

Anonymous said...

I had a comment all prepared, but 12:30 pm covered everything I had planned to say.

Good luck in whatever you decide! Personally, I'd love to read a post from you in another few months, just so see how things are going...

Anonymous said...

Well.... you're working full-time outside of the home AND you're the mother of a five-month-old. I've been there and it's exhausting to the degree of torture at times. Even if you get a full night's sleep here and there you're probably still sleep-deprived overall. Also, you've still got some serious hormones adjusting in your body. And the later we wait to have kids, the more accustomed we get to having life be OUR way, and the more difficult the adjustment to giving everything to a baby can be, even if we're in love with the baby and things feel good on the surface - there are several levels of this type of adjustment.

While I never think parents should stay together for the sake of the kids, I don't think any parents should split up for the first year after they have a child (unless abuse, neglect or an extreme breach of trust comes into effect). The first year of parenting a child is no indication of the status quo of a romantic (or parental) relationship, and can easily be the opposite. It's such a monumentally stressful time.

My husband and I have been together for ten years. We'd been together for six when our daughter was born, and although I've loved him for most of our years together we've had ups and downs. Our lowest lows were before the baby came and through the first year of her life. I contemplated divorce several times during that year. Our story is very similar to yours, especially my being primary breadwinner and having to go back to work too soon after our child was born - I was so resentful. Our relationship did warm up again when sleep really became more of a regular part of our lives. Also, as our daughter grew, it was easier for him to parent her (even though he loved her and was very involved from the start, often dads can't equal moms in caregiving until the child grows some and the imbalance is sooo hard). Now I believe I adore him more than ever, but he's easier to adore because his self-esteem is growing as he engages in work that is fulfilling for him. (And most husbands aren't sexy at all in the first year after a child is born, especially for couples who've had their honeymoon looong before the baby comes along - you've been there, done that, and who has the time or energy right now?)

You've got to do what you feel is right, but if it was me I'd:
1. Wait until the child is 13-14 months old before getting too serious about the idea of splitting up.

2. In the meantime try to keep the angry fantasies to a minimum - they lead to a downward emotional spiral, ie. you'll never try to like him if you're having too much fun thinking about him negatively.

3. Don't try to adore him - it will just lead to frustration, then anger.

4. Either adjust your lifestyle to live on his income and become a stay at home mom (lots of families live on less than $12/hr take home pay in this country - not in a fancy way, but it can be done) OR, postpone the SAHM dream while your husband changes gears dramatically and help him find a way to pursue what he's really good at. It will be HARD at first, but once he's doing what he's on fire about he will become much sexier and he won't have to "sell himself" to something he can barely tolerate. He still may never make lots of money in the fields of history and literature, but if you really need a lot of money coming into your family for it to work.... why? Does a lot of money coming in equate to love and caretaking? It does seem that way for some, but not for everyone. In a few very short years your child will be in school and you'll be able to make more money again.

I had to give up my SAHM dream and it was sad, but life has since balanced out. I hope you find your balance. Good luck!

Lisa b said...

I'll just agree with anonymous above about not getting divorced in the first year.
I hated HATED my husband bitterly most of the first year after my daughter was born. Every time I got up I would swear at him in my head. I decided if I still hated him that much when she was older and I could manage without the little help he was giving I was going to leave him.
Right now he's downstairs with screaming baby #2. We've come a long way. Becoming a parent is the hardest thing I have ever done
I hope you are able to work things out. The way you describe him he sounds like a loving father.

Anonymous said...

You are in a tough situation, no doubt. One suggestion earlier about helping him find the job he wants is a good one... there are plenty of career counseling books available that might help him. Perhaps if he was more fulfilled, he might blossom into the man you envisioned (or saw potential in).

My husband didn't marry me until I moved halfway across the country and said "have a nice life". He followed 3 weeks later and we've been together 12 years, and have a 3 year old.

Not that I'm suggesting you move out, but you need to make yourself happy before you can serve other people.....

The City Gal said...

I probably don't have a lot of advice to offer, but what about looking at it differently:
- he can stay home with the child to give all the love
- you save on daycare cost ($1000 a month?)
- you pay lot less taxes because he is not working.

I am assuming when you met him and when you decided to marry him, you did have the suspecion that you were the "man" in the relationship and he was the "woman".

I don't think much has changed. He is still there for you and the baby and doesn't enjoy work outside the house.

Anonymous said...

Gray here:
Son didn't sleep well again last night. Took car to get oil changed this morning while husband watched baby. Thought some more.

I appreciate 5:39 p.m. anonymous and Lisa B's comments. I'm not going to make any decision quickly or lightly. I have heard of other women who through exhaustion and hormonal changes, have resented their husbands. I know I'm not the only one. Thanks for reminding me. Believe me, I'm not going to do anything sudden because I don't work that way and I'm too tired.

Last, I wanted to add that I have nurtured his artistic/intellectual/non-accountant side. For years, before I made him finish his degree in accounting, I suggested chef school (he likes to bcook and bake) and because he is a history and literature whiz, to get his degree in those and teach. He rejected all of those for different reasons. He also writes some. I recently edited one of his short stories (I have a degree in journalism), and I sent it to one o fmy professor contacts at a local college for a professional critique. I've suggested he join local writers groups to get more socialization. I've put What Color is Your Parachute-type books under his nose, ad nauseum. He wanted to finish his accounting degree after I suggested it, but his heart was never in it.

So folks, I am definitely in tune and appreciate the non-business world. I have a creative streak too. And the motivations for my being so ambitious and "energetic" as one person described me here is my own fear of poverty. I grew up ni it, and I have done everything I can in life to make sure I can take care of myself financially. I'm not money hungry and we are not rich by any means. I make 40K, he makes 26K, if that's an indication. The city we live in is not cheap.

Part of me would be willing to live in the woods in a tent in order to stay home with my son. We drive very used cars. We don't go on vacation. We have one emergency pay-as-you-go cell phone between us. We don't subscribe to cable. I'm not into jewelry or clothes. We are mostly vegetarian and eat a lot of beans and rice. I don't get manicures or pedicures. So you see, despite all my efforts to improve my quality of life, I've not achieved a more comfortable living because I've been holding my husband up for all this time. Or at least that's what it feels like. Sorry to go on so, this is difficult.

Anonymous said...

Reading your post was like rewinding my own life story - yikes!

I too have been the breadwinner (to the tune of 5x my spouse's income) all of my adult life. I am definitely a make-it-happen type of person. I see something I want, I go after it, end of story.

This particular aspect of my personality has nearly been my undoing where relationships with men are concerned.

I am no longer with my husband, as he was both verbally and eventually physically abusive. But I can tell you he didn't start out that way - maybe had a predisposition to deal with problems that way, but did not display any of it when we were first together.

Like you, I saw such potential in this man. He was fun, he made me laugh, made me feel smart, funny, beautiful - all things I believe about myself now, but not so much when we met, though I put up a good front.

Looking back, I see clearly what I did to contribute to the Jerry-Springer-like ending of our relationship: I took all the things I loved about him (which, if you notice, had more to do with ME than him) and decided to mold him, no demand he become, a responsible, ambitious, results-driven person like me. Didn't work.

In the beginning, he had zero problem with the fact that I out-earned him. But once I started expecting him to "catch up to me", he became (rightly so) extremely resentful. He kept telling me that he hadn't changed, that he was still the same laid-back guy I had met and fallen so madly for, and where did I get off telling him what to do and lording over his head that I made so much more money than he did?

Unlike your spouse, mine was a the stereotypical "jock". Though intelligent, his brain muscle is the last that is ever used. All the rest are buff and well cared for, the brain is just along for the ride and only trotted out when absolutely required (which when he was with me, that was hardly ever, because I, miss know-it-all had all the answers, of course.)

His response to all my prodding to better himself and take a more ambitious stance toward life, in general, was always, "I go to work everyday. What more do you want from me?" (My thought, "Grow up, be the man of this household, realize high school was 20+ years ago and start living an adult life with me!") Eventually, that thought answer started coming out my mouth, each time at a higher decibel level. Talk about undermining a man's ego - call him a child and tell him you're tired of taking care of him and watch what happens. In my case, he got increasingly belligerent, but he's not the quiet, reserved type, anyway, so I guess that was no surprise.

All this to say, if I had caught myself in time, I might have been able to avoid the disastrous end we came to by accepting him for what and who he is, instead of treating him like this lump of clay that was mine to mold and shape to my liking. Ironically, and not surprisingly, the things I did love about him started disappearing as I pushed harder and harder.

So, now we're divorced, but we are still parents of an 8 yr old girl together, and I still had to find a way to like him again, because I certainly wasn't going to let my daughter spend weekends with the asshole he'd become (with a large dose of my help, I now see.)

If you're not to the place where you'd just as soon shoot him as look at him, there may be hope for you to do what I am doing now, and I'm happy to tell you it's working.

I had to wake up and realize he is who he is and I can't change that. Then, I started doing 2 things everyday that, at first made me want to puke to even consider, but now come easily to me:

1. Pray for him to get all the things I want in life: happiness, someone to love, work that means something to me - all the good stuff I want for me, I began to pray he got. (Admittedly, I first had to pray for the willingness to truly want that for him, because I DID want to shoot him. I no longer want to shoot him, except for the odd occasion where he lets his mouth overload his ass. Hey - he's human, it happens.)

2. Write down all the things about him for which I am (or in the beginning, could be) grateful for. In the beginning, the list was pitifully short, but now it's growing.

I sitting here typing this, having just hung up the phone from talking to both him and my daughter. She's over there spending the night with Daddy and having a great time. He and I actually had a mutually respectful conversation without any barbs or negative innuendo.

I know the only thing that has made this possible from my end is finally pounding into my own head that he is not within my "control", therefore I have to live and let live. I don't have to like everything, but I do have to accept him where he's at, even if he could be somewhere so much better with all that potential I STILL can see in him.

Yes, we do not live together, so we're not sharing the same space, but we have come a LONG way in less than a year of being separated. And I know it's in the best interest of my daughter to see Mommy smiling and walking away saying, "I love you sweetie - have fun with Daddy. I'll see you tomorrow," when I drop her off. And the best part is, I actually mean it. :)

At the end of the day, all you have any shot at controlling is you, and THAT, I have found, is a fulltime job in and of itself. So, concentrate your efforts in changing your own attitudes, either using the two things I did, or some others that appeal to you and who you are. And maybe, in your case, if you're the praying sort, it'd be best to pray for the willingness to like him again. Because no matter what else happens, you two are parents to that sweet child of yours, and he deserves the best from both of you, not only toward him, but toward each other, living together or apart.

And through it all, be kind and gentle to yourself. If you turn your attention inward, you're likely going to find some things you're not real proud of. Take active responsibility for your contributions to this mess you find yourself in now. Then, forgive yourself, first. Adopt the attitude of "that was then, this is now." Let go of focusing on everything your husband is NOT, and begin to focus on everything he IS.

And remember, it may be cliche, but it's true: happiness is both a choice AND an inside job.

Anonymous said...

I'm not very religious but I have been praying about this. I have given up trying to change him, now I'm focused on me.

What I'd really like now is to hear from some men. I feel as if that perspective is missing. What would your average guy think when he read this? Because men and women are so different. But I can't solicit the male perspective without outing myself. Any male readers out there?

Anonymous said...

I haven't time to read the long set of comments above, but, with all due respect --seriously-- I feel sorry for your husband.

If a man wrote this complaining about his wife, he will be pilloried by the blogging community: they would rightfully point out that she's a wonderful mother to the baby and she does bring in some income, so why are you complaining and trying to change her into someone else? Times have changed. You chose this man to be your husband and you knew exactly who you were getting. Then you chose to have a child with him, knowing he was ambivalent about having children. (Luckily for you, he turned out to be a wonderful daddy.)

Please please please reevaluate your situation. Times have changed. Maybe if you stopped expecting him to be the traditional husband so you could start being the traditional wife -- which neither of you have been in all your years of marriage as far as I can tell -- you could then focus on the rest of it and take it from there.

Anonymous said...

you said you wanted to hear from men, so i had my husband read it and i asked him....his first question is: have you talked to your husband about ANY of this?

Anonymous said...

Gray: Yes. I've told him my feelings all along the way. The resentment, frustration, etc.

His current response is, "I (meaning him) just need to make more money. Then you'll be quiet and everything will be fine."

He's said that for about the past four years now.

Anonymous said...

Another Man's Perspective

In reading your post and the comments, I struggled with the fact that while I think many of the actions that you have taken may have contributed to the situation, until verbal abuse has come into the picture I have trouble second-guessing any of those actions. I believe that both of you are currently trapped because each of your frustration with the current situation is causing you to act (or in-act) in a fashion that puts more pressure on the other, which no doubt makes each of you feel guiltier about your actions and thoughts, in turn creating more pressure to act in a fashion that adds fuel to the fire. I definitely think marriage counseling or individual therapy for each of you is critical. Even if it does not save the marriage, it may be vital to ensuring that each of you and your little one have a chance at happiness.

The biggest question on my part is what does he want, not because it will change what you want or need but because it will help determine if there is a chance to make it work. I can practically guarantee that some of what he wants conflicts. For example, you make it seem like he currently wants you to be happy but doesn't want to take on what he would need to in order for you to be happy. If that is the case, then he may be paralyzed by indecision if he feels that he will either be unhappy because he is miserable with what he does or unhappy because you are miserable with what you are doing. If that is the case, the only happy way out that I can imagine for both of you is for him to find a path with your support but not your handholding that will be more financially rewarding but in line with something that he would enjoy.

Alternately, he may want to be more financially successful but so used to not taking responsibility for his actions that he feels safer doing "half-assed" job interviews where he can always believe that the rejection is not a reflection on his ability but his level of effort. Effectively, he may be paralyzed by fear, and that paralysis may cause him not to really pursue the opportunities that are out there. I think therapy is key to addressing this, if it is the problem, because as you imply in your post, he has no chance of changing his career direction without putting himself out there far more agressively.

He may also be paralyzed by shame and guilt, if he believes that he is a failure as a man because he is not "bringing home the bacon." Men often feel a social pressure to be the breadwinner, and to some it is embarrassing if they aren't the able to financially support their families on their own. This may be exacerbated by the fact that you want to stay at home and the fact that he has attained all of his academic and professional accomplishments to date under pressure from you. I always feel cornered when I only do the right thing under pressure from my wife. I hate to suggest backing off on pushing him, because then you merely replace pressure on him with pressure on yourself. Perhaps it may be possible to have a conversation about what actions he could take when he acknowledges that the solution is for him to find a way to make more money. If he can choose a path on his own (or at least feel that he can execute it under his own volition), then it may take pressure off both of you. Unfortunately it sounds like history is against his ability to do that.

If he wants to be more financially successful or even if he is at least willing to explore the possibility that there may be better-paying opportunities that may also be fulfilling to him, then career counseling may be as important as marriage counseling. If you still live near where he got his degree, then he would probably be well-served by meeting with the career services office, and he can do it by phone if distance is involved. Some schools give alumni unlimited career counseling, others may require some kind of alumni dues. Either way, he can hopefully at least get some kind of consultation to help steer him.

Hope these thoughts help.

Anonymous said...

despite all the 'happy i've got an ex' stories here, most of the people i know who have children and an ex, really struggle. one way or another, because of your child, you will deal with this man for the rest of your life.

starting over with another who may be more ambitious might be tempting, but driven-ness and success also come with a high price to pay.

we've been married 15 years now and there have been long stretches where i've daydreamed we never took up together, but we are in a really happy stretch now, have two content and well adjusted kids and a decent income.

we've switched back and forth, i've been the breadwinner when he was 'finding himself.' now he is so that i can.

i'm a pretty ambitious person myself, sometimes i need to back off and let his more laid back, methodical approach win the day because sometimes that's the one that's right.

and, we would have NEVER stayed together without counselling. lots of it, for both of us.

finally, when i look around, i see a lot of men who use porn, drink too much, spend too much of the household income on crappy electronic gadgets they don't need, are unkind or abusive to their spouse....

if you've got a guy who isn't, i'd hold on to him because chances are the next one will have a few vices, as well, and they may be worse.

finally, if you've become abusive, that is your (big) problem. get help. no one can thrive with a bully around, including your son.

Anonymous said...

If you want to make your marriage work, I think you need to accept your husband as he is and find a way to not be resentful. You may always be the breadwinner. He may never aspire to be more than an accountant.

You can't force him into a higher paying job. He may not care to earn more, or be scared of the responsibility of another job. He may not know what he wants to do, so he stays in a safe job. He may stay in his current job as a passive aggressive response to you pushing him. Or it may be for another reason.

Marriage counselling sounds like the way to go, along with individual counselling for yourself - to stop the verbal abuse and help you figure out what you want. Your husband would probably benefit from individual counselling, too, but I'm not sure you should push it. You've been in the driver's seat for the duration of your relationship and maybe it's time to let go of control.

I agree that now isn't the time to make a decision whether to stay or go. The first year with a new baby is beyond difficult.

If you end up getting divorced, there's no shame in that. You, your husband, and child all deserve to be happy, regardless of your marital status.

braiding mommy said...

Wow - I really, really feel for you. Your husband sounds much like my child's father/ex-fiancee. I just ended the engagement with him for many of the same reasons you mentioned. I realized that his parents had enabled him for his whole life and I stepped in and took over where they stopped. I looked for jobs for him too - all of that. He told me the same things that you mentioned your husband telling you. When I finally did end it, he said that I had not been patient enough. 5 years was not patient enough apparently.

Again, similarly, he is a very nice, sweet guy who really loved me. But in the end I didn't love him anymore. And that wasn't fair to me, my daughter or him. Now, we are apart... and I don't miss him.

I agree with the one male commenter who asked what your husband wants. I also don't really think you have to sit around for years on end to see if he'll figure out what he wants. As a married couple, I would say that this is about what both of you want - not just you, not just him. Some sort of collaborative effort where both partners can be satisfied. If you don't want to be the breadwinner, you shouldn't have to be just because your husband has a ho-hum-oh-well perspective to the whole thing. Just because we're in modern times doesn't mean that you can't want to stay home with your baby - I think its more that neither husband or wife is forced into a role they can't stand/don't want. There should be some sort of middle ground to that situation.

I also agree with the commenters who mentioned couples therapy. You married him and had a child together - I think its right to make the proper effort to try to make it work (and it seems like you are interested in doing that from your post - not that you already have your bags packed). Maybe counseling will help, maybe it won't. If it doesn't, I think you will have maybe a tiny more peace knowing you really tried as best you could.

Anonymous said...

Last post by Gray:

I've been reading and re-reading the comments.

I'm struck a couple of things: by how many people more or less condemned me or shamed me for my self-reliance, independence and ambition. These qualities I have were born out of survival, not greed or desire to be "a man," what ever that means. Necessity is the mother of invention in my case. Not everyone had that judgemental tone, but many did. As a feminist, I'm really surprised to still get that from people. Instead of being lauded for trying to pull myself up by my bootstraps, for using my energy and modest brainpower, for being a hard worker, etc., instead I'm dinged for it. Wow. And God forbid I want things, like the occasional vacation, a little bit of financial stability, and love.

I'm also surprised by how some readers couldn't understand how I could be a "hard" business person and have a desire to be a stay at home mom. To me, these things aren't necessarily mutually exclusive characteristics. My definition of "maternal" is doing what it takes to take care of business, getting things done for the good of someone other than myself. I realize not everyone shares that perspective. I also get it that I need to be less maternal with my husband, and save that characteristic for our son.

I do realize that verbal abuse is very serious. I posted it here not to solicit "shame on you" but to demonstrate the level of my frustration. I'm an educated person, I fully understand how harmful verbal abuse is. And I like to think I have a lot of discipline and self control (maybe not?). I shared this aspect of my behavior with the public to show how frustrated I've become, I've resorted to yelling and verbal abuse. I also posted this to ask for advice on remedying the situation. I know I need help, and I am seeking it. As a side note, I've been trying to improve myself my entire life, trying to learn new ways of doing things and looking at things and new ways of acting (or not). This process doesn't end now, and I suspect I have a long journey ahead. I'm up for it. I've still got a lot to learn. But I need to approach this in the spirit of finding personal peace and contentment instead of looking at myself as "broken" or "bad."

I'm grateful for those of you who have walked in my shoes and can understand my experience. I feel less alone in my struggle. I also appreciate those of you who cannot relate to this experience but weighed in with some thoughtful and helpful comments. You provided fresh perspective that helps me see things a bit differently.

I think the next steps are marriage counseling and me focusing less on him and more on me. I can't guarantee that I'll ever love him again and that we will remain married, but I'll probably be able to appreciate him more and communicate with him better. That will be a huge improvement.

A.M. said...

I am not sure how I found myself here, links of links of links. But I am here and I am dumbstruck.
Are you me? You could be describing my life.

I have a great guy, excellent father, loving husband. The problem is his ability (lack of desire) to provide for the family. I make more money and he is okay with it. I'm not.

He works as a general laborer and is ok with it. I'm not.

He dropped out of university (was asked to leave after failing everything). He is ok with it. I am not.

Before marriage he PROMISED to finish school. He does not plan to go back -ever.

It's not just about the money. It's about the desire to want to better yourself and be responsible for your family. Doesn't he want these things for himself? Doesn't he want to give his child a better future?

I'm afraid that I've lost all respect for my partner. That being said, I am making an effort not to be so judgemental or overbearing. I am not ready to walk away from this. I agree with the poster(s) above, the grass MAY NOT BE greener on the other side. Don't give up on something good in search of something better, it may not exist.

Take your time, sort out your feelings. These may only be YOUR hangups and NOT his.

What made you fall in love with him in the first place? Concentrate on those feelings. I wish you luck and you will be in my thoughts. If you want to talk about it further, I'd love to give you my email.

Anonymous said...

Please send your e-mail to the owner of this site (herbadmother at and she can send it to me.

Omaha Mama said...

So many long comments here and I haven't read all the way down.

I just feel like I want to tell you not to quit yet. Don't give up on your marriage yet.

If you could back off for a while. Give it six months. Stop applying for jobs for him. Stop making him do anything. Back off and really see him for who he is.

If he used to give you the butterflies in your stomach, they could still be in there. They are just squashed by real life. Live your life. Do your job. Parent your child. Try to love you husband. If after another period of time where you have backed off and tried to play nice, then maybe you will have to consider ending your marriage.

My mom once told me that the first 10 years of marriage pretty much suck. And that while you are raising kids it's hard to like your spouse sometimes. My parents have been married for almost 40 years and my dad is still hot for mom. They bicker and they've had their moments, but they stuck it out and we are all glad for that.

It's a journey - maybe you could try to give it some time.

Good luck.

dkaz said...

First of all - I think you are laying an awful lot of the blame on his parents for him being the way he is. Once your own child is older, you will realize that while you can do a lot to shape a child, their personalities are very strong from birth. And no matter how hard you work at being a good parent, I guarantee you that your own grown child will do things that you swore he wouldn't. So give your in-laws a little break. Maybe they did screw up, but parenting is really, really hard, as you are now learning and they probably tried to do a good job. At some point, your husband has to take responsibility for himself.
As everyone above mentioned, he will NEVER CHANGE. You can not make him change.
I also agree that the first year after you have a child is the hardest year of marriage. Give your new family a chance and don't make any giant decisions right now - get some counseling either together or alone. It sounds as though you and your husband have very different goals, but maybe you can work out a compromise. I wish you luck.

Anonymous said...

I don't know you, so take this with a grain of salt. But the impression I got from reading your post is that you have a lot of anger and resentment towards your husband. Yes, you know, that's the whole point! But to this naive reader it seemed like there has to be another source for all that anger besides his failure to get a job. It sounds like maybe your expectations for what a husband's role are, or what defines success, may be different from his. I think you're right that marriage counseling is the next step for this. I hope you are able to communicate, and make some compromise on what consistutes a "good enough" job. At the very least, the counseling might provide you with an outlet to get some of this rage off your chest and ease some of the frustration so you aren't stuck yelling.

Good luck.

Mary, Guitar Widow said...

My Friend,

You asked me to read through this, so I did, and you have some good comments here (I particularly agreed with 12:44). Knowing you personally for 20-odd years gives me a little insight into your brain, though never having met him murks that up a bit.

No one was more surprised than me when I found out your were expecting, and no one was more thrilled. You had the greatest, strongest, most vibrant mother for a role model, so I knew you'd be great at it. And you are. But falling in love with your child is nothing like falling in and out of love with a peer. And, yeah – just like there were days, weeks, months that we didn’t like our parents, there are the same where we don’t like our significant others.

Marriage (or any long-term relationship) is a marathon sport. I’ve got over 18 years into mine now, and there are months, even YEARS, that I just don’t remember. Especially right after the birth of a child. I had issues a few years ago that gave him every right to leave me, but he didn’t. And he had issues just a few weeks ago that gave me that same opportunity. These were BIG issues, many would consider them ‘deal-breakers,’ but you have to decide what works for you, what you are willing to accept or forgive.

You are a very strong personality, always have been. You are bright and opinionated and self-sufficient. Reading your comments, it sounds to me like this is why you fell for a softer personality – two of ‘you’ could not possibly live together without killing each other (LOL!) You pushed to get what you wanted, and there’s some guilt there. But you’ve owned up to it, so now it’s time to apologize and forgive yourself. You recognize that you met a man, fell in love, and tried to ‘change’ him, which NEVER works. You can love, support, encourage… but who he is, is up to him and him alone.

I never like to see a couple break up, but I understand that sometimes it’s a necessary thing. I’m not sure that’s the case here. I don’t think there’s any magic ‘time’ to determine whether or not you should call it quits – I agree that when children are small there is considerably less sleep and a fair amount of stress that can muddle up your thinking, but I don’t see how shelving the discussion until after their first birthday helps anything. You’re unhappy NOW, and so NOW is the time to do some work and determine whether this is for keeps. And that beautiful child of yours will be OK either way.

I know you’re concerned about making a snap decision, but it really isn’t one – you’ve been confronting these issues for years now, right? The only thing is, your approach hasn’t been successful, so I think it’s probably time to bring in a mediator/counselor. At the very least you can find peace with yourself and your ultimate decision, and the very most you get the life you dreamed of (or one even better, since it will be built on realities rather than fantasies). Letting this stuff stew about in your brain does nothing but make you nuts – you have been sharing your life with this man for over a decade, he should be closest to you (even more than Mom), and should know where he stands. Trying to force his hand (searching for jobs, forcing the school issue, etc) only builds resentment. If you guys were in your 20s, I’d say he just hasn’t found his way yet, give him time. But you’re not, and he’s not, and maybe he needs someone other than you to point this out to him. He has to be willing to go to counseling and really listen in order for it to work, dragging him will only build more resentment. Juvenile, I know, but there it is.

Dude, do not put this off any longer. It does not get any easier, and just faking it through your child’s early years only puts off the inevitable (whatever that may be). We woke up just a few years ago, and realized how old our kids are (they are 9 and 12!), how long we have left with them under our roof, and then how many years we have to spend together, just the two of us. That’s a lot of years. If we didn’t learn to communicate now, we’d never make it for the long haul.

Anonymous said...

I don't know you but you sound like me during my son's first year of life. I too resented my husband because I had to go back to work.

My son is now 2 and I am in love with my husband again.

The only thing different I want to say is that although we adults like to think that our children would like to see us happy even if that means getting a divorce, perhaps that's wrong. What kid wants to get shuffled back and forth between parents and schools? Have different holidays and birthday parties? What kid wants to think that he or she wasn't "worth it" for his/her parents to try to salvage a relationship. You chose to bring a child into the world with this man. You admit that he is a great dad. I think you need to appreciate that and work on adjusting your view, cause as someone said before you... can't change him. But I can tell you from experience when you stop resenting him for everything he fails to achieve (in your eyes) he may actually feel confident enough to start achieving things.

But to answer your actual question, I did stay and learn to love my husband again. Part of the problem was me and my lack of sleep/abundance of hormones. But underlying there were other issues. I know this is completely corny but we do go on a weekly date night. We have a chance to just laugh and enjoy one another's company. Some people say don't talk about kids while out on date night but our rule is that we don't talk (argue) about money.

I still see the same faults in my husband that existed before but now I see the greatness in him also.