I’m a woman in my late 30s, married, the mother of two young sons, 11 and nine, but unhappy. My husband’s response to my feelings is always the same: “What is it that you want?”
I try to explain that I love our children, and am happy in my full-time job, but that I feel empty inside. His response is to feel insulted, throw up his hands, and ask, “What exactly do you want???”
I want to be happy. But I feel like an outsider in my own life, with no idea how to improve things. I do what’s needed: help the boys with their homework, drive them to sports and watch their games on weekends, shop and cook meals, remember to do laundry, see friends only occasionally at their house or ours, or eat out when possible.
It’s about being busy, not happy. My husband plays tennis every Saturday morning. He gets up early so there are no sleep-ins. And little sex. He also works late some evenings, has his supper watching TV with the boys, so there’s hardly time to chat.
We’ve been married for 12 years and the cycle of routines is wearing me down. We don’t say the “love” word anymore, only to the kids.
So, what DO I want? I know the words but not how to make them happen: Companionship with a partner... emotional love and intimacy.
Do I have to break up my marriage and my children’s lives to achieve these goals? Or will insisting on changes just have me more miserable on my own?
Miserable and Stuck
You’re only “stuck” if you give up on yourself. Your husband may not be the “problem” as you see it, but instead, it’s your own concept of the “must-do’s” of raising children, work life, household chores, socializing.
You’re not alone. Many people in the thick of work/family life find endless lists of “must-do’s” bear too much weight in their daily lives.
No time for an outdoor walk in the sunshine when weather permits. No spontaneity of hiring a babysitter and getting out with other couples, nor the benefits of sharing common gripes and laughing at your own foibles.
You’ve allowed this phase of adult responsibilities to wear you down. But there’s more to family life than soaking dirty clothes in stain remover.
Sit down with your husband and discuss some alternatives: You both drive the boys to sports and watch their games together, cheering them on, bringing sandwiches.
Join your husband at tennis sometimes, or sign on for a ZOOM fitness class while he’s gone (the kids can watch with you).
Plan positive changes. Teach the kids to make their own simple breakfasts so you can sleep a bit longer. Do only essential laundry and visit with friends instead.
As for intimacy, tell your husband what you want to share with him - feelings, desires, sexual excitement. He can’t be the partner you want if you don’t inform and include him.
Go to marital counselling together - unrelated to any discussion of someone’s faults. It’s an important step in being proactive about making your life happier and easier to manage.
Hopefully, you’ll be on a new track together. If not, you’ll each know it’s time to consider your own options.
FEEDBACK Regarding the teenage girl who returned from camp with a changed personality (October 18):
Reader – “It’s obvious to anyone with any experience in any capacity in this area that she’s been sexually abused. To think otherwise is naive. Ignoring this possibility will cause this girl a lifetime of grief.”
Ellie - My own experience as an early-teen at camp exposed me to the sudden attentions of 15-year-old and older boys.
Yet, I caution against being initially specific with the girl about her having experienced sexual abuse. First, hear her out as to what was said to her about her body, whether she was mocked, or touched inappropriately, or forced into a sexual encounter, which is a criminal offence.
I say this because, in agreement with the letter-writer, I never forgot what was said to me, and what actually happened.
I was not sexually assaulted or abused. Instead, I was made ashamed of my budding teenage body, and uncomfortable with boys who paid too much attention to it. Worse, it wasn’t always boys of my same age who were teasing me. It was the counsellors, age 16 and older.
Tip of the day:
Unhappy? Change what bogs you down. Look at “why” before “who.”