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Selfish or not?

Published on August 10, 2012 by stjackso

My husband and I have been together for 7 years, married for 1 year. We have 2 children together and he has 2 other children outside of our marriage. we have really hit a difficult place in our relationship, primarily steming from finances. I have been the financial provider our entire relationship. In the beginning working was not a priority for my husband, however he has changed. His past mistakes are currently affecting him being able to get and keep a job. We are struggling a great deal the little money that I make is not enough for us to survive comfortably. We're just barely getting by. Now my husband is to the point that he is desperate to make money so he can take care of all of the things that he has to resolve, both in and out of our household. He constantly tells me I don't understand how he feels because I'm not in his shoes, and I have a job so I have something while he has nothing. He's not concerned with my feelings on our relationship and to me he's not concerned about the distance his issues are putting between us. He just says he'll do what he has to do and if I don't like it so be it. It's like he doesn't understand the concept of MARRIAGE. He thinks he's dealing with his issues on his own, and there's no chance to come together and deal with them together. I'm feeling neglected, but if I tell him that, then he thinks I'm selfish and says it's not about me, it's about him because HE'S the one with all the problems, but he fails to realize it's affecting the both of us. Then he tries to blame me for everything that goes wrong and says I speak negativity into his life. If I keep catering to his needs and his feelings, what do I have for myself and my kids?

ANSWERS

Sit down and ask your husband what he really wants you to understand that he doesn't think that you do. Ask him to explain everything he is struggling with. Your job is to LISTEN without ANY judgement or response - just to reflect back to him what he is saying. For example "so it sounds like you don't think I understand how stressful this is for you...". Continue doing that until he feels like you understand everything that he is struggling with. Let him know that you want to understand what it is like for him and you want to hear the challenges he is experiencing so that you DO understand and so that he believes you really get it. THEN and ONLY then, ask him if he is willing to hear from you what you are feeling and how things are affecting you - ask him if he can listen with an open heart and know that you are not wanting to attack him, but wanting to find a way that the two of you can join together as a team to work through this, rather then feeling isolated and apart. Explain to him that what he does affects everyone in the family - just as what you do affects everyone as well and that your desire is to create a team spirit so that you can both support one another through the challenging and good times.

I hope this helps!!!

Warmest regards,

Leslie Petruk, MA, LPC, NCC, BCC Child & Family Therapist & Board Certified Coach

First of all, you are not alone with this struggle. The two biggest minefields for couples involve finances and kids. It sounds like your husband is really struggling with his role in the marriage. While early on it seemed that he wasn't concerned about working, something has shifted. It is not unusual for men, once they become husbands, to feel a very real pressure to provide for their families When they feel unable to provide, they can feel powerless, frustrated, and angry. Their self-esteem takes a bit hit, and they may withdraw or get defensive. Your husband may feel that he needs to "fix" this himself in order to feel like the man, the father, and the husband he needs to be.

Often, changing the way you communicate with each other can make a big difference. When he says you don't understand, use that as an opportunity to encourage him tell you how he is really feeling. Part of marriage is working on problems together, but it is also about trying to hear each other clearly. Possibly he's not hearing your concerns as concerns but as criticism. Try some "I" statements. For example, "I have a hard time watching you struggle with this because it seems like you feel alone in it. I want to help and support you. I would really like it if you could let me know how to help."

That being said, it sounds as if you feel obligated to "cater to his needs and feelings." I would question where that obligation is coming from. You are a person, a parent, and a partner. It is ok to set some boundaries to make sure you are tending to all of those parts of you.

If you find you aren't able to communicate well on your own, you may want to consider finding a couples counselor who can help you with developing some communication strategies that will work for you.

Good Luck! Erika Myers, MS, EdM, LPC, NCC Therapist and Wellness Coach

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