Frank Discussion With Dr. Kaye
Cheryl from Evansville, Indiana
Q: My husband is a production supervisor at a major manufacturing plant (makes really good money) and works many odd hour shifts….sometimes 32 hours on a 48 hour weekend!! (after a 40 hour week) When he is on this shift (2nd) he tends to ignore me and the girls…my daughters…has “other” things to do…like “start a new business so he won’t have to work all of these hours!” My problem is…he is trying sooo hard to start this new business, that he is forgetting what is, or should be, important in his life. I will go for several days without even talking to him…and he will tell me he didn’t have time…although he has a 45 minute drive to work and a cell phone! But when I tell him how I feel, he just tells me…”thanks for being so supportive!” Now…after a confrontation…he refuses to even answer my phone calls or pages…I am at wit’s end!!! His way of getting even is to not call me…answer the pages/cell…and not come home when he is supposed to! Somebody….please help me!!!!
A: Cheryl. Your plight is unfortunately all too common. It sounds as if your husband is emotionally compressed into a responsibility mode that leaves him too depleted for loving. This may or may not be necessary. Families often do go through periods when, for the sake of survival or big opportunities, they suppress emotional needs and focus on the bottom line priorities. However, it really needs to be mutually negotiated and it is especially important that both parties know when the emotional sacrifices will end. Unfortunately, your husband is not managing this very well and it raises the question of whether he perceives his role as paternal protector.. In other words, if he’s paternalistic and you’re viewed as being more child-like, the he will not feel obligated to share the decision-making regarding finances. Ask yourself if this is the case. If so, you may want to use a family counselor as mediator to renegotiate roles of more equal authority. In short, Cheryl, you may have a more general problem than whether or not your husband returns your calls. I would suggest that you stop focusing on the latter and address the former. The main goal is to get to the point that you and your husband are mutually strategizing and negotiating when your family will make these emotional sacrifices for financial gain. In the meantime, you can print out the section on Emotional Starvation Syndrome elsewhere in the First Aid Kit. See if you can get him to read it and discuss it with you.- Bryce Kaye
Brenda from Salt Lake, Utah
Q: MY SPOUSE HAS BEEN GETTING INCREASINGLY ANGRY/ANXIOUS DUE TO WORKING TWO JOBS. I WORK 2 AS WELL, BUT I AM CONTENT WITH THEM–I ENJOY MY WORK. FOR THE PAST 2 WEEKS, HE’S BEEN SO MISERABLE–PROBLEMS SLEEPING/IRRITABLE/ AGITATED ALWAYS. HE DON’T EVEN HAVE FUN GOLFING. HE SAYS HE CAN’T CALM DOWN. IS IT A PROBLEM TO EXPECT YOUR SPOUSE TO DO SOMETHING FOR HIMSELF (MAKE A CHANGE) WHEN HIS ANGER/ANXIOUSNESS IS NOT ONLY AFFECTING HIM BUT YOU AS WELL? PEOPLE SAY YOU CAN’T EXPECT HIM TO CHANGE, BUT IS IT WRONG FOR ME TO MAKE MY OWN CHOICES ON HOW I WANT TO LIVE? I’VE ASKED HIM TO RE-EVALUATE HIS LIFE/JOBS AND HOW HE’S MANAGING COPING WITH THE STRESS. I ENCOURAGED HIM TO SHAKE UP HIS LIFE IN ORDER TO CHANGE SOMETHING–BECAUSE THE WAY HE IS NOW IS NOT WORKING FOR HIM AND CAUSING HIM PHYSICAL AS WELL AS PSYCHOLOGICAL PAIN? HE’S DECIDED TO QUIT HIS PART-TIME JOB AT NIGHT IN ORDER TO REGULATE SLEEP AND HOPEFULLY BE LESS ANXIOUS. I THINK WE CAN DEAL WITH THIS AND MAKE FINANCIAL CHANGES AS NEEDED. BUT, WAS IT WRONG FOR ME TO ASK HIM TO CHANGE?
A: Absolutely not, Brenda. The reason is because you “asked” him to change a SITUATION that was affecting both of you. It sounds like you confronted him but also respected that he had a choice. You were not telling him to change his personality, change his friends, change his values, etc. – Bryce Kaye
Marie from Toledo, Ohio
Q: My husband and I have been married 25 years…We have been having some problems on and off thru most of the marriage…a year ago I suggested we assess our relationship before we have our 25th anniversary…it was a big mile-stone for me (since this is my second marriage) and I didn’t want to take it lightly…I truly wanted to renew our vows and celebrate with all our friends and family and enter the next 25 years eyes open, honest and caring on BOTH our parts…my husband is a workaholic….saying he is too spent for intimacy with me during the week and not much goes on during the weekends….we have sex maybe once a month. Sometimes it’s longer….very little conversation between us, too…I am very lonely….I have talked to him but he seems like he just can’t make a move to improve the relationship or leave it….I am all for improving the relationship, I love him very much….and at 52 I don’t have the courage to leave….My husband loves his job and I am happy he is doing something he loves…but the money to me isn’t worth the loneliness…I have told him I need very little material things…I need some attention….I am an alcoholic beginning my 7th year of sobriety and feel he sort of resents that I’m getting my act together…He has shared with me he masturbates on a regular basis. This is okay if we were experiencing some sort of regular sex…how do I compete with that relationship…and how can I stop allowing myself to feel so inadequate…He did start some therapy but it ended in how he could improve his performance at work and somehow got off the marital problems…and I got angry….I did go one time to let the counselor understand where I was coming from but chose not to continue….this is the second time…15 yrs ago the therapist basically said he had a problem why he didn’t make love to his lovely wife and our therapy ended…don’t get me wrong…I am not perfect, maybe I am too demanding….hopefully you can sort out what I wrote. I seem to be rambling….I feel I need a little direction…it seems I have tried everything. I am sure I haven’t…maybe you have some suggestions…thanx for your time.
A: Marie. It sounds like your husband is living on a different plane of values than you. Unfortunately, many men become so invested in achievement that they miss out on many other dimensions of human experience. A good way to try to build a common foundation would be to participate in the PAIRS program. It would cost a lot but it might be the only way to help your husband get beyond his limitation of being so achievement/pride focused. The advantage of PAIRS is that it creates a community of couples that help each other to reach deeper emotional intimacy in their relationships. The power of modeling and the involvement of others in your relationship may be what’s needed for your husband to do the kind of values reassessment that he really needs. Check it out at www.pairs.com. – Bryce Kaye