Just Ask Joyce: Disconnected Husband
Q:“I stay angry with my husband most of the time. He works late almost every day. He promises the kids to attend events such as ball games and movies but seldom gets there on time (if at all). Saturdays he says he has to catch up on projects around the house and is exhausted by the afternoon, so we all sit home while he naps in his chair. Sunday is our only family day, and he plays golf with his friends in the mornings and even into mid-afternoon. The kids adore him and put up with his disconnection. I’ve become less patient, highly frustrated, and am having doubts about my devotion to him these days. When I address the issue of his time, he tells me I don’t appreciate his provision for the family. I’m at my wits’ end but willing to listen to a way out. Is there one short of divorce?
Joyce’s FIX: Regret collides with the point of no return, and without change, both will come to pass.
I believe you still love him. Your doubts of devotion should not be misconstrued with falling out of love, or else you would not be looking for changes while still keeping the marriage intact. When frustration sets in to this degree, it’s easy to overlook redeeming qualities. So, let’s first consider those of your husband before we jump into the middle of his shortfalls.
One redeeming quality I see is the heart of a hard-working man. That’s an honorable virtue given there are those who don’t provide for their families. I perceive a man who envisions doing things with his kids, although I believe he is short-sighted regarding how quickly they grow up. I observe your husband as someone who takes care of projects that are on his to-do list for the home, but he’d be better served if they were a “family affair.” I take note of a man who understands the value of friendship, but his priorities are a bit askew. These are a few great traits to work with, but he’s a bit lacking in reaching his full potential. So, let’s ask him some pointed questions.
Who is he really working for? Not being privy to his career path, it’s hard to say whether his many hours are by choice or are necessary to keep his job. Regardless of his profession, the reality is that life is passing before him. He’s all work and no play (except for golf). It’s time to talk about how you can simplify your world so he can work less. Look at ways you can trim your budget, from downsizing your home to getting a less expensive car, cutting back on cable and other luxuries. You initiate the discussion again, but this time have a plan designed to lighten his load. Impress upon him that his idea of providing material benefits could be his dream alone, not the dream of you or the kids. You all dream of having more of his time and companionship, not less.
What good will all of his hard work do anyone if his kids no longer believe in his promises, nor care if he breaks another? The point of no return will arrive for the kids. Their social life will become more important than spending time with their dad. It’s the natural course of life. He can work away from or at home every waking hour, but this will only teach the children how to get along without him. When it comes time for him to need them, he will regret not having established a bond with them.
Where does he see the two of you in 10 years? You’re practically strangers now. I’m assuming there’s some intimate contact, but your interest is already beginning to wane. When you’re developing a new financial structure, construct one involving his time that includes the kids as well as a time for the two of you each week. One golf outing a month is perfectly acceptable, but his current priorities are out of line.
Should you meet resistance, and you likely will, it’s ultimatum time. Pull out the plan you have for making a change for you and the kids. Am I telling you to divorce? Absolutely not. I am, however, encouraging you to let him know it’s time for him to choose — job, projects, and friends or his family. Working as an expression of love is one thing. Working your way out of love is quite another. His job is not his shortfall, or even putting his friends above his family. However, his selfishness will cost him everything he’s worked hard to achieve.
Struggling with a relationship issue? Write Joyce Oglesby, Family Life FIX-IT Pro at firstname.lastname@example.org and find a solution for life.