Patricia Redlich

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Absent Husband

22nd November, 2009


I feel my life with my husband is so empty, I don't know where to turn. He is home, but not present in my life. We've been married 33 years and have four lovely children who are all doing well. But I long for a relationship and for friendship. When I look around me, I see couples talking and laughing and having general chit-chat.

My husband and I both work full-time. Up until now, I kept myself busy rearing the children and even though I often felt annoyed at my husband's lack of attention, I just got on with things. We never had a social life. We only went to family weddings, special birthdays, or general occasions which did not have to be organised by my husband. That is still the case. No dinners for two, no trips to the cinema, no weekends away together. Such things never enter his thoughts.

I've attended some of his staff functions over the years, and he invariably takes off as soon as we get there, leaving me alone to talk with anyone I can find. He has never introduced me to any of his staff. I have no problem mixing, but always feel hurt that I do not see my husband again until it's time to go home. I have had to leave early once or twice, but he stays on, not even walking me to my car. And he recently invited me so late that it was impossible for me to attend. I know staff had time to invite their partners and when I expressed my annoyance, he said he forgot. He often contradicts me when I speak in company, and to keep the peace I now just stay quiet when he is around.

My husband spends long hours at work and when he gets home he has his meal, and then retires to the lounge with the TV. He also watches unsavoury films later on. I know this because he switches channels when I enter the room. He also watches soft porn movies when staying in hotels - he did it on several occasions when I was with him. We do have sex, but no romance or real communication. I would love to plan events with him like holidays, Christmas shopping, a night out, but he never gets involved.

I am at the time of life when I need companionship. But I also feel happier when I'm on my own, without my husband. On the other hand, he is a good person, works hard, goes to church, pays all the bills and we have no money worries. I often think that maybe he didn't want to marry me in the first place. I organised the wedding, planned all the details, even booked the honeymoon, while he stayed with his parents at the other end of the country. He has never got up one night with the children when they were small, and I always took full responsibility for rearing them and managing the house. To me it's as though he does not enjoy my company, does not enjoy being with me.

On the outside nobody would guess how I feel. But on the inside I am screaming.

You feel very wounded. I can hear that. The scream isn't just one of frustration. It is one of despair. Rather than trying to come up with some kind of recipe - which I haven't got anyway - let me just say a few things to you. And forgive me if they sound very down-beat in the face of your distress.

Basic courtesy covers a multitude of situations which pain us. That's old-fashioned good manners, or simple civility, or being properly respectful. It is a failure of good manners on your husband's part when he doesn't introduce you to people at his work functions. You are there as his guest. He is letting himself down, as well as being disrespectful to you, if he fails to be properly polite. And since you came as his guest, of course he should at least escort you to your car. If you could find the strength to say this to him, without the angry heartache of believing you're not loved, you would feel much better. It's about putting down a marker that you expect respect.

You are clearly not a confrontationist, maybe damagingly so. Confrontation, however, is not about having rows. It's about nailing down what's actually going on. If your husband tries to turn it into an angry exchange, you can simply walk away. If your husband contradicts you, you may stay quiet once, or even twice, depending on the social situation. You do not choose permanent silence as an option. You are not a mouse. You work out some smiling, courteous but firm way of over-riding his bad manners, and continue to participate in the conversation. It's not you with the egg on your face. It's him.

Couples accommodate each other. They work out the terms of engagement, if you like. And yours are clear. You did the home, the children and the full-time job. Your husband did the long hours at work. In many ways you lived quite separate lives. You didn't like all of it. But you found solace in being busy, particularly with the kids. I don't know how your husband felt. But he, too, made a life for himself, albeit largely outside the home. Now the status-quo has changed. The solace of the kids has slowly faded. Your husband's life has remained intact. I don't think it's entirely fair to blame him for that.

There's a hole in your life now. You want companionship. Is your husband really the only candidate? Is he the only solution? Women friends are wonderful, particularly when combined with a mutual interest, be it lace-making, golf, or shopping trips. You'd be in a much better place emotionally if you took the focus off your husband, and your painful sense of not being loved, and turned your attention to creating a new and vibrant social life - one where you'd be just too busy to bother about that careless last-minute invite to his stupid staff knees-up.

No, I'm not suggesting you give up on your husband. I'm saying that changing things is down to you. Instead of blaming him, or feeling hurt at his failure to initiate say a nice night out once a week, take charge. Arrange a dinner date, be bright and entertaining, ask for small courtesies like passing the water jug or filling your wine glass. All you're doing is taking responsibility for your own happiness by attempting to change the compromise you both made, as the basis for your marriage. Only if you want to. Like I said, he's certainly not the only swinger in town. And no, I'm not talking lovers, I'm talking friends.
Irish based professional therapist and journalist. Website By : Deise Design