My husband and I are having a hard time. We are married 5 years and I’m expecting our 3rd baby soon. Everything is wonderful and I’m blessed beyond belief but my husband and I have not been getting along. We are both tired and busy. I’m personally having a hard time with this pregnancy. It’s hard to keep my nerves in check with two young kids and one in the tummy. I get very tired. I never have enough time. I’m always doing something for someone and never really doing anything for myself. My husband is also very busy, working hard to provide for us all. He doesn’t really ask for too much either. Lately, we don’t connect at all. We don’t smile at each other. We get annoyed over little things. We blow things up into fights when they aren’t really worth it. I get hurt by his looks, his thoughtlessness. He gets upset with my remarks, my questions about what he’s doing or why he’s late. We go back and forth explaining our positions and get no where. Where did I go wrong? How do I make it better? I really just want to feel that he still loves me, still sees the me he married but all I feel is judgment and dislike.
Stuck in a Marriage Rut
Firstly, b’shaah tovah! Secondly, I read your email several times. I think that depending on one’s own life story and bias, yours will be interpreted differently. And without the benefit of speaking with you or your husband or having more information, it’s hard to know exactly what is going on. There will be some readers who will think that your husband isn’t being very nice to you. They will come to that conclusion based on your account of feeling his judgment and dislike, as well as his looks, his thoughtlessness and his feelings of being interrogated by you. There will be others who will think that perhaps because you are tired from raising two toddlers and pregnancy that perhaps you are feeling harried or anxious or simply unable to meet your husband’s needs right now. Some will empathize with your husband, some will empathize with you, and others may empathize with both of you as a couple. They will understand that in five short years, you and your husband transitioned from single people, to a married a couple, to parents with two toddlers and one on the way; a family. They will empathize with all the responsibilities the two of you are carrying and understand how entirely normal it is to struggle during these early years. The truth is that no one can understand anyone else’s marriage; only the two people involved. And it is those two people that will have to do the work if they want to invite renewed intimacy and connection into their relationship. Now, there are three exceptions to this rule. The exceptions are if there is any form of current abuse (physical, psychological or emotional), an active addiction or an active affair. I am continuing my response, assuming none of these three exceptions are present. If they are present, my suggestion is to see individual counseling as soon as possible.
Let’s talk about you for a moment. Just you. You are a mother of two and have one on the way. You must think of yourself as a Royal Queen who needs as much TLC and pampering as she can possibly get. And this Queen is allergic to stress! She runs from stress. This Queen understands that in order to take care of her two toddlers and the little one she is carrying inside of her, she needs to be in her zen zone. Anyone who can’t speak with the Queen calmly, will be kindly but royally dismissed…. And yes, even if it is the King himself. She says, “Kingy dear, you know I love and adore you. I would love to speak with you about whatever is ailing you, but only if we can both commit to being calm. After all, I’m carrying our royal Prince or Princess. And if I’m stressed, it’s not very good for the baby.” I think I got a little carried away there! But you know what I mean. Whenever you can grab some time for yourself, take it. And if you can’t grab it, try to make it. What is your support system like? Is there someone you can leave the kids with to go do something (or nothing at all) that will nourish you? I hope you can figure out a way to make some time for yourself to unwind and destress. And by the way, if your husband wrote in to Jewish Men Talk Anything (maybe one day??) I would give him the same advice. My guess is that he is under oodles of stress too, supporting his family, having two little ones, one on the way and a pregnant wife. First order on the agenda…. Each of you needs to take better of themselves. You both may be so depleted, that there’s not much left to give to each other. (I could be wrong, and if I am, disregard).
There is no doubt that you and your husband have been circling the drain. Something in your relationship isn’t working. Is it you? Is it him? Is someone resentful? Is someone unhappy? Does someone have something they aren’t sharing with the other? Is someone offended? Is someone projecting their childhood “stuff” onto their spouse? Is someone scared? Is someone angry? Is someone dealing with something outside of the marriage that is taking a tremendous toll on him/her? I don’t know. Approach him during a quiet moment once the kids are sleeping and say something like What’s happening to us? I’m scared. Or, I really miss us. The “us” part is important because it conveys that you still see the two of you as a team; not the combatants you have become as of late. See where the conversation takes you. Both of you need to really hear what the other one is telling you, while squashing that knee jerk reaction to defend. Listen and validate. Btw, validation is not synonymous with agreement. Say he says something horrible like “When I come home, I don’t want to be interrogated. You know where I am. What, you don’t trust me?” Oh boy, just writing that triggered me. It is so understandable to want to retaliate with a little something like, “INTEROGATE?!?!?!?!? Do you realize that I have been home with the kids worried about you, and I’m pregnant by the way? It’s called being courteous you jerk!” (Ah, I feel better now). If you want to get somewhere (and stop circling the drain), try saying something like I’m really trying to understand your feeling interrogated. Can you help me understand where you’re coming from?
If you’ve tried it all, read every marriage and self help book under the sun (I highly recommend Hold Me Tight by Dr. Sue Johnson) and can’t seem to stop this unhappy cycle, then I really do urge you to see an excellent marriage therapist. Make sure the person has training in couples’ therapy, as it truly does differ from individual therapy. Individual therapists help the individual in the room. Couples therapists don’t help the two individuals in the room, they try to help repair the one relationship in the room. Therapists and those who have been to marital counseling, understand what I am talking about.
I’d like to leave you with a little hope, if that’s OK. Marriages can go through very challenging periods. There are couples who have been to the brink of divorce who have been able to successfully turn things around. I hope that the two of you get to the bottom of whatever is going on and become closer because of it. And you know what the key to all of it is? Two willing and motivated partners. All the best!
Jennifer Mann, LCSW