Out of love, want back in
July 31, 2013 8:40 AM   Subscribe

I have fallen out of love with my husband. I want to be back in love with him, but I don't know what to do. Help? Very extended details within.

Background next, questions at the end, you can skip ahead to the questions.

We have been married 15 years and have three kids. I stay at home with the kids; he works a very demanding job - frequent 80-hour weeks, travel, that kind of thing. We've had bumps in our marriage before, but the last two years have been terrible. I suffered really unrelenting post-partum depression that is only just starting to lift. One of our children started kindergarten and was diagnosed with a serious developmental disability. We had a couple of larger, specific trust problems that we've dealt with in counseling and resolved. They were shitty and stressful, but we worked hard on them over the last two years and we seem to be able to trust each other on those issues again. I have been overwhelmed by the demands of our children, my depression, and the disability stuff.

So this has been growing for a while, but last week we had a fight , normal petty stuff, nothing big, resolved to everyone's satisfaction, and I realized I just don't love him any more. I don't even like him very much. I have spent a lot of the last couple of years feeling like the only adult in the house (which, really, is often true, since he's gone at work so much). He has ADD and while he has it well-managed at work, he is totally unable to follow through on chores, notice that dishes need washing, etc. At a certain point when we were under a ton of stress I decided I would just do it all and not nag, because I couldn't take the fighting that came from the nagging, and while I am happier overall with a clean house and no nagging, I also resent that I have to do it all and he doesn't have to think about it. This used to be kind-of an annoyance, but now it looms large as this huge fault that makes me love him less. He tends to externalize his stress so whenever he is stressed or unhappy (which is frequently, at work), it's like I have to cope with his emotions in addition to my own, in addition to managing one very small child, one disabled child, and one child getting left out in the cold by everyone else having so many needs, who all ALSO need me to help them manage their emotions and lives. I'm just tired of doing it. I guess basically I feel like the only adult in this family, and I resent that he creates another child's worth of hassle for me instead of being a partner in caring for them. I don't even remember what it's like to have a conversation with him that isn't about our kids, television, or his emotional state. (never mine) Nobody is taking care of me. Even sex is just one more chore I have to deal with. He's blind to the emotional weather of people around him. (including me) He can tell I'm not happy but doesn't seem to have any idea why. (When I tell him, he doesn't really understand, he just hears it as being about how he isn't good enough.)

My husband works very hard to earn good money for us. He is an excellent father and the children adore him. He loves me, finds me attractive, wants to make me happy. He doesn't drink, use drugs, gamble, drive too fast. I think he is depressed but after years of dealing with ADD its hard to get him to see a doctor for mental things. I love him, but right now it's in an unromantic, family way, and whenever I think about romantic love I start to feel resentful and stressed. He's also been through a lot these past couple years with our kids and my depression, and trying to cope with those things on top of incredibly demanding work. It seems a little petty to complain about how he never takes out the trash when he is our sole income and has been helping me through depression. This all feels one-sided to me but I'm sure if he told you this story it would involve a lot of him working insane weeks and then coming home and coping with a depressed wife and three demanding kids and not getting the help and support he needs. I understand that.

Practical solutions we have already undertaken: We have a cleaning service twice a month, so I'm really only dealing with laundry, dishes, trash, day-to-day stuff. He cannot switch to a less-demanding job in the short term (money, health insurance). I cannot start work in the short term (our disabled child currently needs full-time parent care, which will reduce as he gets a little older). We are getting all the medical and disability support we can. I am in counseling and we have done a little couples counseling, but it's difficult because of his work schedule (also he doesn't really like the couples counseling because he feels like he's just "being blamed".) We can only get babysitters rarely (because of the disability and because my sitters keep moving) tho I'm trying to work on that.

There are no third parties involved romantically and neither of us wants to get divorced. There seem to be a lot of resources for deciding about divorce, or recovering from affairs, but neither of those things apply to me.

If you have been through this, or seen someone else go through it, and fall back in love with their spouse, how? What do I do to fall back in love with him? I would like answers that are focused on ME and what *I* can do, either practically or emotionally, steps I can take, thoughts I can change. (I have accepted that I cannot change him, and spending all my energy on hauling him around emotionally to get him to act differently is exactly what I do NOT want to deal with right now.) I feel like I have hit a roadblock. I have taken all the "right" steps, getting help with the house, finding sitters, starting counseling. But I'm miserable and lonely and miss having fun with and being in love with my husband and I'm not sure what to do next.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (41 answers total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
Do you two have a "date night" i.e. a night once a week where it's just you and your husband without the children where you can spend time reconnecting?

I know it's a very simple idea and you have some complex issues, but sometimes you have to start small and work your way from there.

You have to start re-building those lines of communication with your husband in order to feel emotionally connected to him again.

Good luck, I wish you well!
posted by JenThePro at 8:46 AM on July 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

When was the last time you were on vacation with just him? No kids? Go do that, now.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:49 AM on July 31, 2013 [7 favorites]

I am so sorry about all this. I have three suggestions, and hope one or all are helpful.

1. You are already good at spotting his good qualities. Can you consciously focus on seeing more of them and calling them out? A great deal of the strength of marriage and connection seems to revolve around a very high ratio of warm and supportive comments/thoughts in proportion to the negative ones. Also, the more positively you think of him the more likely you'll connnect with your love for him -- which I think is dormant, not gone.

2. It is often tough for partners to hear about negative or sad emotions because they don't know what to do with that information, feel helpless, and then feel bad that they don't know what to do. Can you phrase your emotional needs as a problem on which you'd like his advice instead? You did that beautifully here in this AskMeFi and that is a much more manageable way to be sure your needs are heard.

3. You two need regularly scheduled date days or nights. It just needs to be part of your extremely busy lives. And you need to go do something you both enjoy, not just a movie neither of you minds seeing. I'd suggest you collaborate with him on getting that going, and then tend it like a beloved flower.

Good luck to you. You are managing a very difficult life and lots of challenges but I admire your attention to it.
posted by bearwife at 8:50 AM on July 31, 2013 [22 favorites]

In addition to having a regular date night (and seriously, you need to do that), I strongly suggest that you take up something that's just for you. It can be whatever you want: a sculpture class, painting, boot camp, whatever. But it needs to be your thing, your escape.

In stressful times, it's important to remember to take care of yourself. I'm not a fan of the saying, put your own air mask first before you can help others, but from your description you have a lot on your plate and you're trying to accommodate the needs of everyone else.

Don't let your own needs suffer. You may find that having your own non-wife/mommy thing to do will make you feel better about yourself, your current situation and to some extent, your husband.
posted by kinetic at 9:00 AM on July 31, 2013 [9 favorites]

It's not that you don't love your husband, it's that you are so overwhelmed with everything else that love is not a luxury you have psychic energy for in your life. He's probably overwhelmed too, with all that work and travel.

You are both VERY tired and VERY used up right now.

Three kids is hard. Post partum depression is hard. ADD is hard. A kid with a disability is hard. All of it is damn near close to being in nervous-breakdown territory.

Jesus, neither of you can catch a break!

Get more help. If you have to Frankenstein it together from friends, family, church, pre-school, day-care, whatever it is, do it. Get the cleaning lady to come weekly. Send the laundry out to fluff and fold. Whatever you have to do to get some time for yourself, do it.

Get a part-time job, so you can get the fuck out of the house and have your own life. Join a gym that has child care so you can do something for yourself that is good for your health and self esteem.

Put the kids in day-care, even the baby. It will be better than burning out in front of them.

Sweetie, both you and your husband are running on fumes. The sooner you correct THAT aspect of your lives, the sooner you can have the time and energy to love each other again.

You two need a vacation ASAP. Even if all you do is sit in a hotel room and read books and watch dumb TV, you need to get away from the demands of your regular life.

You can't reconnect and fall back in love until you refill your empty gas tank.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:06 AM on July 31, 2013 [58 favorites]

Have you looked into any of the resources/information available for spouses of people with ADD? I have not personally read this book, but based on the blurb and (excellent) reviews, it appears to describe, and to offer solid practical suggestions for coping with, marriage dynamics very similar to the ones you've got going on.

In particular, while people with ADD can be perfectly functional contributors around the house, they do often need some level of external structure to help enforce things. An ADD-specific approach might help you and your husband figure out what kind of structure he needs to be an active participant in household work (set a phone alert for when the dishes need doing? Give him all the very regular, repetitive tasks while you take the more ad-hoc ones? and so forth), so that you could stop nagging but also not feel resentful of his failure to hold up his end.
posted by Bardolph at 9:08 AM on July 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

I suffered really unrelenting post-partum depression that is only just starting to lift.

Maybe look at part of how you are feeling right now as a function of this. Coming out of depression, in my experience, can actually feel worse for a while. And then if you're in a relationship, sometimes there's a fear that your depression was actually covering problems in the relationship, and you start to feel like you have to fix those. Better, in my opinion, to really deal with the depression and the aftermath and trust that the passionate part of your relationship will gradually come back. (As I think you recognize, depression is very hard on your partner, too.)
posted by BibiRose at 9:08 AM on July 31, 2013 [3 favorites]

The good news: you sound very, very self-aware and reasonable. The BETTER news: your husband sounds like a mensch - seriously, read through the last dozen or so relationship AskMe-s... your guy sounds pretty damned excellent! The BEST news: this ain't gonna be too tough to fix. You're suffering from a lack of intimate connection with your partner. This is super-duper common, especially among parents of young kids. Here's what you do:

1. Date night: you need at least two nights each month during which you have at least two hours at a go alone with your husband. You need to ACTIVELY nurture your connection with him... you can't just hope it takes care of itself. If money is an issue, may I humbly suggest getting a membership to the local YMCA and utilizing their kid-care service?

2. Try NOT to focus on your frustrations while you're still feeling disconnected - it's easy to blow them all the hell out of proportion when you're not feeling close. A sense of closeness is like the ozone layer and your partner's flaws are like UV rays: the less of the former, the more likely the latter is to sear the shit out of you. Tell yourself, "JUST FOR THE TIME BEING, I'm going to let EVERYTHING slide". And then do it, no matter how hard it is. There will be time to analyze and discuss your/his various flaws once you've strengthened your bond - now is not that time.

Do both of those things for a few months and I guarantee you will feel at least a LITTLE warmer towards him.
posted by julthumbscrew at 9:09 AM on July 31, 2013 [6 favorites]

Date night and just the two of you vacations are great, but from what you wrote that isn't a practical suggestion bc of baby sitter issues and work time commitments. Also, forced date nights can bring there own pressures and urealistic expectations.

In the short run, I have no great suggestions, but I can tell you as the father/husband of three kids who also worked a demanding job while the wife worked her ass off at home with the kids while suffering her own post partum depression, I think if you both truly want to stay together that the best practical solution is time. I found that when our kids got older and were more self sufficient, we were able to spend more time with each other alone reconnecting.

I also found that to the extent possible, family time should include activities that are geared to the parents like. For example, we enjoyed going to live music shows and when we had kids, we found things like Wednesday night in the park that have live cover bands with families running around and parents sipping wine listening to has beens trying to play covers of old rockers. It was fun.

Even small things will help. My kids to this day actually listen to and like (?) the Grateful Dead because I had a rule that when in Daddy's car it was Daddy's music. It was just a small thing I did for myself.

I think the best thing is to take some pressure off and spend your precious free family time doing things that you and your husband can appreciate that the kids will too.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:22 AM on July 31, 2013 [5 favorites]

Your life is really difficult right now and you are carrying a lot of weight: multiple young children at home, a child's developmental disability, your own depression, the grind of daily housekeeping, an imperfect husband with a lot of needs. There is too much pressure on you, too much for you to carry. Of all of those burdens, the husband is the only one you have the power to rid yourself of. You can't divorce your depression, or your house, or god forbid, your children, but you are desperate for a change, and you can divorce your husband. No wonder you sometimes dream of setting him down!

That said, leaving your husband, on the one hand, or revitalizing your attraction to him, on the other, seem to me like cosmetic fixes: the problem is this whole unsustainable structure, all balanced on you at the center as the weight-bearing load. Say you don't get any good advice here, and you leave him, will that make things better? From what you've said, I don't really think so: you might have this temporary relief as a little bit of responsibility lifts, but then the whole damned edifice will resettle, back on you, and you'll be a single mom, shouldering even more of the burden.

I think you will fall back in love with your husband when your life itself improves. Partly that will just take time: your depression is still lifting, you're still figuring out your child's disability, your kids are still very young. Other people have started giving good advice about how to make bigger changes; follow that. I truly believe that things will get better for you. Take care of yourself, and good luck!
posted by pretentious illiterate at 9:23 AM on July 31, 2013 [5 favorites]

make sure you are exercising and eating right. Cliche, but so very important. Are you on any meds? Meds can often torpedo desire.

What is your love languages? What do you need to feel loved? What do you give to feel love? Some love languages are: Gifts, quality time, physical touch, words of encouragement, services (like dishes and such)

One thing I often see if people trying to give THEIR love language to the partner, but NOT PARTNERS love language. If both people are giving and receiving the wrong love language, everybody feels like they are pouring out lots of love but getting none in return.

I suspect yours might be quality time or services. This can be causing friction if he is never around to help with things.

Also, can you hire a nanny? Professional babysitting service? Reduce the cooking load? Have the cleaning people come in more frequently? Anything you (and your husbands $, provided with love) can do to help your survive is awesome and worth it.
posted by Jacen at 9:42 AM on July 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've read that doing exciting things together can increase those feelings of love. Falling in love happens when we're just on the other side of our comfort zone - it's exciting and calls on us to trust and take a chance and jump. A recent study showed doing scary things together (rock climbing?) can bring that sense of love back. When you bond together over a shared difficulty it feels like a partnership again.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 9:56 AM on July 31, 2013 [2 favorites]

So I found that "date nights" weren't a panacea in themselves, when the problem was that we were both terribly tired, and didn't have anything to talk about (him not wanting to talk about work, which was the only thing he had to think about; and me not wanting to talk about the kids, which was the only thing I had to think about.) Here are two things that worked for making date nights fun and reconnecting:

1. hot tub place -- a soak together was inherently relaxing and had a pleasant "differentness" and physicality to it, even when we weren't sexy about it. (One time the idiot setting it up dumped soap bubbles in. Gross and unusable. Tell them no bubbles!)

2. local comedy club -- something about live entertainment brings a different energy than just going out to a movie -- you feel like you've interacted with more people, even if it's just you and your partner at a table watching the show. Laughing at someone else's gripes feels great after a day dealing with your own. And in case the show bombs, well, that's awkward, but it gives you plenty to talk about with your partner, which is a big part of feeling connected.
posted by fingersandtoes at 10:00 AM on July 31, 2013 [6 favorites]

If you have extra money, I agree with the idea others have expressed about having more help, whether it's a nanny, an au pair (your kids can learn another language), more babysitting, more housing-cleaning visits, someone to cook, etc.
posted by Dansaman at 10:02 AM on July 31, 2013

There's a lot of good advice above, in particular about finding time to reconnect with your husband and doing something for yourself. But without child care none of that can happen, so I think you should focus on finding a babysitter. Perhaps you find someone that can meet the specialized needs of your disabled child, and a second babysitter for the other two?

You've got way too much on your plate, but your husband sounds like he has a lot of positive characteristics. If you could depend on him for just one household task I think that could go a lot way towards reducing your resentment of him.
posted by nowmorethannever at 10:04 AM on July 31, 2013 [3 favorites]

I'm going to focus on one part of the conflict here that you may be missing, especially because it's the first thing you mentioned and talked a lot about. I'm going to pull some quotes here to help you understand what your husband is thinking.

I stay at home with the kids

he works a very demanding job - frequent 80-hour weeks, travel, that kind of thing.

We have a cleaning service twice a month, so I'm really only dealing with laundry, dishes, trash, day-to-day stuff.

he is totally unable to follow through on chores, notice that dishes need washing, etc.

What seems missing here is that your husband probably has the expectation that his job is to work 80 hours per week, travel, etc. and your job is to take care of the kids and the house.

Some people may see that as sexist on his part, but it kind of sounds like the bargain the two of you made. You may not agree with this, and that's fine, but you need to talk to your husband about it. He's almost certainly thinking he has a job and a half, or two jobs at times, you're paying for a cleaning service and he has to come home and do part of your job too. This is going to create conflict until there is an agreement on expectations.

If you want him to do chores, specifically tell him what you expect and when. If it's his job to empty trash every night, tell him. If you're expecting him to wash the dishes every night because you cook, tell him that. If you think he should do half of all the chores, tell him that.

A lot of the rest of the problem sounds like his work schedule. Neither of you is getting much of a break from your jobs. You're both at work 80 or more hours per week. He's stuck, but I'd really encourage you to find someone to come in one day per week or every other week so you can take a day off. That doesn't mean being called with a crisis every 30 minutes. It means a day where you have time to yourself, off work, to go do what you want. If that means sitting in the park/beach/spa doing absolutely NOTHING, all the better.

As others have said, you also need some time together away from your kids and away from both of your jobs.

That's certainly not all of it, but you've got to talk about your expectations and relieve some of the stress on yourself before you can get any further with this.
posted by cnc at 10:07 AM on July 31, 2013 [13 favorites]

First, congratulations for thinking about your situation and (hopefully) trying to fix it rather than just bailing. I suggest you read Divorce Remedy and Divorce Busting by Michele Weiner-Davis; even though the word "divorce" figures prominently in the title, they are really about fixing relationships and learning new skills to improve situations like yours.
posted by entropicamericana at 10:36 AM on July 31, 2013

Hi, I have ADD and am sometimes a terrible partner and don't notice things need to be done.

I decided I would just do it all and not nag, because I couldn't take the fighting that came from the nagging, and while I am happier overall with a clean house and no nagging, I also resent that I have to do it all and he doesn't have to think about it.

I've been your husband, and when my boyfriend told me that he was starting to resent me for not pulling my own weight, I felt terrible, but most importantly I wanted to make sure I changed, because I love my boyfriend like crazy and don't want him to be frustrated or feel like I don't care about him. I think you should address this with him, talk specifics. Don't say "I need you to take care of more household chores or childcare" but "I need you to take the trash out and then help junior with his/her homework."

In addition to the awesome suggestions of everyone above me, I think you two need to be discussing long term plans in terms of working and childcare, because what you're doing right now isn't sustainable for either of you. Having a shared goal might also help you two feel more like a team and less like you are alone in this.
posted by inertia at 10:39 AM on July 31, 2013

I want to back up what JohnnyGunn said, it's hard to force something like a date night when you're both so spent already. I really found when my kids were the ages of your kids, it was draining on our marriage. My husband was a lot like yours plus we had no real support from family. We really connected through simple stuff. Going to the U-6 soccer game and hanging out with other parents, driving around in the car with the kids eating ice cream (making a huge freaking mess) and just talking about the sights, etc. Also it does get better as they get older and go to school. Again, find a family activity that you and your husband enjoy and bring the kids. They'll learn by watching you. My biggest thing is marriage changes too. The love I have for my husband is not the same crazy thing I had when we first dated/married. It's more mellow now. I am more realistic about his personality and mine. Your husband wants to do the right thing but his ADD probably limits him to a certain amount. There's a website about the ADHD marriage and that has some helpful tips. Also try the ADDitude magazine website about insight to his personality. Best to you, I really think your experience is far more common then most realize.
posted by lasamana at 10:43 AM on July 31, 2013

Your life is unsustainable; your husband's life is unsustainable. Your kids' life (with two worn-out, depressed parents) is unsustainable. Something has to break, and right now you're leaning toward that thing being your relationship. It's not that you're not in love anymore, it's that you don't have time for love. This is one of those situations where you need to sit down with your husband - I mean really sit down - and have a proper discussion about your lives. Schedule the meeting, get the kids out of the house for the day (or have them at home and rent a hotel room). Talk about how it's not working (your lives, big picture), something needs to change and soon. This does not mean he has to take the trash out more often, this means a Big Thing, like job change, city change, country change, kinds of things. Will there be an adjustment period? Sure - but that is when you work together, as partners, to chart a new path for yourselves. Health insurance is important, but this is not the only job that offers it. Extra income is great, but not at the expense of family well-being. Maybe it means moving to an alpaca farm in New Hampshire, maybe it means moving close to other family, maybe it means you get a full-time nanny/behavioral aide and go back to work. This recent Offbeat Families article comes to mind. Be clear with what is wrong and how you think it can be fixed (write this down ahead of time), request and listen to your husbands thoughts. You have a crappy situation. Trying to convince yourself it isn't crappy is not going to work. Trying to unilaterally fix a family problem is only going to breed more resentment. The only thing you can do is change your circumstances. It's ok to have an objectively "great" life and not be happy with it, it's ok to want more, it's ok to have your own hopes and desires that have nothing to do with your kids. This is going to sound wrong, but put your kids on the backburner; put yourself and your husband (and he should do the same) as your #1 priority and figure out between the two of you what needs to happen (remember: Big Things) to have a loving marriage again. You have to put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others.
posted by melissasaurus at 10:46 AM on July 31, 2013 [10 favorites]

I just want to say again what Ruthless Bunny pointed out so eloquently up there. You are both exhausted. Any single one of the things the two of you are dealing with would put a huge strain on any marriage, and you both need some extra love and care right now. I think you are wise to recognize that you can't necessarily change everything around you and to put the focus on the things you have the most power to change, but I'd also be willing to bet that your husband WANTS to help fix this situation. I think others have thrown out some good suggestions for ways for you to take care of yourself and to take care of your relationship with your husband. I wanted to throw out a couple more ideas that might make that more feasable for your family.

1) Have you looked into local support groups for your child's particular developmental disability, or for developmental disabilities in general? They are an AMAZING resource for support as you wade through the process of supporting your child through therapies, school, etc. but many also have more or less formal ways for families to offer some respite care for one another. Basically you can trade time watching someone else's children in exchange for them watching yours.

2) If you are near a university, have you tried advertising for child care through their employment office, or better still through a department that is focused on teaching a field focused on providing care for folks with developmental disability? Speech Langauge Pathology, Early Childhood Development, Social Work and other similar departments have lots of folks who love children, who are working toward pursuing a career that focuses on caring for kids with special needs, and who would love to have a chance to put those skills in action by babysitting, being a mother's helper while you tend to other things, etc.
posted by goggie at 10:49 AM on July 31, 2013 [4 favorites]

I never feel romantic when I'm tired or depressed or overworked, or any combination of the above. I think that falling out of love with your husband is a symptom of a bigger issue.

I agree with everyone who has said that you need to take care of yourself first. You're a well that everyone is drinking from, but they're drinking at a rate that is too fast to give you time to refill yourself.

I also feel like you've written your background in a way that makes me feel trapped just reading it. I wonder whether, with your therapist, you can figure out ways to find relief, if only for a few hours but ideally for a few days, like maybe a long weekend every few months, just to regroup and refuel. Time when you don't have the responsibility of everyone's happiness and future riding exclusively on you. For me, it would be a meditation retreat. For you, it might be a spa weekend or a nature weekend.

Goggie's ideas for help and support seem like a really great place to start. Please do feel free to memail me if you'd like to vent. I think that helps a lot, too.
posted by janey47 at 11:04 AM on July 31, 2013

As women we are socialized to put the care of others before our own self-care. It's a struggle to not feel responsible. I understand how frustrating it is to feel as if there is no room for your own emotions. To feel like you are the emotionally strong one, so you have to put your own needs aside for the other person who struggles more obviously. It's just not sustainable. And it leads to resentment on both sides.

Have you talked about this with a therapist? As in, made it a goal in therapy? It's something so ingrained that it can take a lot of work to unlearn.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 11:19 AM on July 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

Magic has a shelf life.

Relationships age. The unknown man of infatuation, engaged primarily in you-worship, is now the known man of post-family slavery, engaged primarily in buying kibble and keeping the power on.

It's not surprising at all that you would not be "in love" with a guy if he had advertised his current self-description online you would likely never respond to in the first place.

I applaud your perception that you don't love or like him. I do hope it's not a surprise, on reflection.

The question is can you get back to status quo ante?

Call me jaded, but I don't personally think so. You are asking how to generate the kind of responses to earlier circumstances that don't apply to the present ones.

Again, pure opinion here, but most of us wake up to being married to our siblings, after a while. Love is not infatuation. It's commitment and caring. This is what they mean when then say love is work. Exactly.

Sad, IMO, but I think it's the human condition, to a large degree. So many, many things have to go right to preserve the spark, and so few need to go wrong to dim it.

I'm not sure where you can find magic. You are at mile 15 of a marathon, wondering why you are running, how long you can keep up, sore, thirsty and uncomfortable. Nature got what it wanted... babies. All those hormones got you into the race and now, those damned thoughts are interfering.

I'm a little jaded here, and sorry for the tone. I really wish there was some potion. So many peeps here on mefi are fighting different versions of your battle, and I for one am just sad on your behalf and wish you luck in solving it.
posted by FauxScot at 11:36 AM on July 31, 2013 [8 favorites]

Read "His Needs Her Needs" by Willard Harley. This is a great book that reminds married couples of the basics that we forget but are so important in keeping the love alive. Harley has a couple other books that are good: one on romantic love and one on "love busters". There's good info on his website as well: marriagebusters.com.

If it were me I would try to relax a bit on the household chores. Try not to take it personally.
posted by Fairchild at 12:00 PM on July 31, 2013

I can SO relate to this. People who do not have disabled kids cannot fathom how much stress that adds to the already stressful, draining situation of having young kids.

I agree with others that your life is not sustainable, in a big picture way. Many other jobs will pay well and have health insurance. Your husband needs to investigate his options. No amount of material goods can make up for the relief that comes from having less stress and more time in your life, so if you have to sell your house and get a cheaper one, or cut way back on expenses, if your husband could find a less-demanding job, it would be so worth it.

Him in an 80-hour work week and you at home depressed with three young kids is NOT sustainable. My advice to you, as someone who has been through a similar experience:

-- As mentioned, he needs to change jobs; come up with a plan together and start making the changes needed to make the plan feasible

-- If you have not already done so, I'd recommend you get involved in a support group for parents of special needs kids. It is so helpful to have someone to vent to who understands what it's like to be in your shoes. Parents and friends who have not gone through that cannot provide the same kinds of support. If no group is available (ask your county's board of developmental disabilities), perhaps you could start your own. A few parents could take turns watching the kids so the rest can talk.

-- From that group, look into a childcare swap with another parent of a kid with a similar disability. Or, you could do coffee dates at your houses. Either of these will help with the child care.

-- Also, is there a local university? Many universities have lists of college students and grad students available to babysit. Students training to work with disabled kids often prefer to babysit a disabled kid, so they can get the experience.

Hang in there. It will never be easy, but it will get easier as your kids get older. I realize I have not directly addressed your question about your husband -- perhaps as others have suggested the date nights will help. Do whatever you can to overlook his faults and to recognize that you are both going through a really hellish time right now.

As someone else mentioned above, you can't vent your frustration on your kids, or a disability, or an abstract situation, so we direct it where it's safe -- on the only other adult in the vicinity. I know. This is exactly what happened to me, and to so many other parents I know dealing with the same struggles. I don't mean at all to imply that your husband is blame-free. Not in the slightest, only that the stress of raising young kids and the stress of raising a disabled kid and the stress of being home with three young kids when you are suffering from post-partum depression can be contributing a lot. The situation just sucks. Take care of yourself, get more help, and insist that your husband make big changes in the job arena, because this cannot go on.
posted by ravioli at 12:49 PM on July 31, 2013

also he doesn't really like the couples counseling because he feels like he's just "being blamed"

In other words, he would rather see you take on the blame and the problem-solving work and responsibility. I think you need to schedule the couples counselling despite how he feels. My husband also kept "firing" counsellors because they would tell him he needed to take responsibility. It seriously took the sixth or seventh counsellor to make him realise that yeah, it wasn't all my fault, he was part of the problem too and thus part of the solution. So get back into counselling together to solve this problem together.

But first, get some child care, anything. You need a solid break from everyone.
posted by saucysault at 12:52 PM on July 31, 2013 [3 favorites]

Nobody is taking care of me. Even sex is just one more chore I have to deal with. He's blind to the emotional weather of people around him. (including me) He can tell I'm not happy but doesn't seem to have any idea why. (When I tell him, he doesn't really understand, he just hears it as being about how he isn't good enough.)


he doesn't really like the couples counseling because he feels like he's just "being blamed".

Of course you don't love your husband, because he has repeatedly proven to you that he doesn't give a shit about how you feel.

You don't want to have sex, and his "emotional blindness" means he doesn't pick up on that, right? And you've presumably talked about this but he still expects sex, right?

He knows you're unhappy, but he doesn't get why, and it doesn't bother him enough to start learning. The venue that stands the best chance to teach him is rejected because its too uncomfortable for him to think about the fact that he's being hurtful to you.

Yes, the two of you are spread far too thin. But the point of being a loving team is to help each other through the hard times, to shore each other up. He's not doing that for you despite you asking for it explicitly.

I've been in a similar situation. The only thing that really worked was to wake my husband up to the fact that how I felt really mattered and if it didn't get addressed we needed to divorce. As in your situation, trying to talk about the issue like grown ups didn't work and things got really angry and ugly before the situation began to move. That change was a long time in coming and has involved a lot of painful personal growth that's still ongoing, on both sides.

So--sure, date nights and all, but you really need to level with your husband about the severity of the situation. I know your question is about what you can do to make it more tolerable to you, but frankly I think that approach is just going to dig you into a deeper hole. I wish the both of you luck.
posted by Sublimity at 1:08 PM on July 31, 2013 [7 favorites]

You ask about love. Personally, my sense of romantic closeness is almost entirely a function of (a) time together, (b) a sense of working side by side toward something that matters, and (c) my own well-being (this one to a lesser degree, and at times having an inverse impact). When my partner's work preoccupation and working hours rise above a certain level, I start to question the relationship. It's like clockwork and took me quite awhile to notice.

My hypothesis is that this is less about magic and more about the harsh zero sum budget of time and attention, especially his. I'm not trying to discourage you. Maybe this will help you feel less alone and less angst-ridden during the time period when all you can do is hang in there together, knowing that it may entirely be due to a lack of time together and not lost juju or anyone's individual failings. Maybe it will help you better devise solutions.
posted by salvia at 2:45 PM on July 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

Look, this is situational. You are in the childrearing trenches, and he is in the heavyworkload trenches. This isn't about falling out of love with your husband, this is about life's demands draining your connect time together.

My recommendation (full disclosure, about to celebrate our 30th anniversary) is this:

First, make the choice to accept his flaws. Look, we all have them, and yes, our spouse's flaws can get under our skin like nobody's business, but if you can come to a place of acceptance you can then:

second: Focus on what you DO have that is positive and most important BUILD ON IT.

I have glanced at what others have written. Look, I get that his job is way long hours and stressful and I know what that is like with three kids. But please hear me here-at least he has a job and it is well paying. Can you at least look at that and know that is an area of stress you aren't having?

third: As kids get older life WILL get easier. Now you do have a child with special needs thrown into the mix. But know it will not be this hard forever!

fourth: make a way, whether church or play group or whatever, where you are connecting with others. This is not a luxury, it is a NEED.

fifth: If it is at all possible to make a date night, do it. If husband is too tired to go out, do you have family who can keep your kids and you do date night at home? or have special connection time after they are in bed? Look, even hiring a teen to keep em occipied while you and hubby have a glass of wine and fancy nibbles is worth doing.

Hang in there. It gets better.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 3:00 PM on July 31, 2013 [2 favorites]

I have a book recommendation.
posted by hellameangirl at 3:30 PM on July 31, 2013

You don't need to fall back in love with your husband! You need a regular babysitter - at least ten hours a week. Sounds like your older two are in school at least half the day now? So 3 or 4 mornings a week you drop the older ones at school and the baby at the sitter's, and you go do whatever you need to recharge. Everything else will follow.
posted by yarly at 5:02 PM on July 31, 2013

You don't need a babysitter, you need a nanny or some sort of home health care aide.
posted by Sphinx at 5:54 PM on July 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

It might be worth talking to your insurance people to see what they can do to in terms of providing the extra care your family really does need. The support groups mentioned several times above can probably help :)
posted by Jacen at 6:24 AM on August 1, 2013

I agree that you need a nanny rather than a babysitter. Have you tried looking on Sittercity or Care.com? They are websites that make finding the right person to care for your children (or other loved ones) MUCH easier. Word of mouth or posters on the wall are nowhere near as effective as these sites in most cases, I promise you. You can do background checks, check their driver's license, and most of the experienced folks come with a raft of great references, so it is not like internet dating or anything.

The biggest mistake I made when I was finding a nanny (which was really recently) is that I discounted my needs for help. I felt that I should only create a schedule for her that would be when I was out of the house at work. I was so wrong. After trying to do a few weeks, I found that I was burning the candle at both ends because while I was at work, I was "on" all the time, and when I was at home, I was "on" all the time. I didn't give myself downtime because I didn't realize that it wasn't even that I just deserved it (although I did), I *needed* it. The first time that I almost crashed my car on the drive home because I was falling asleep at the wheel after being up with the baby and having to do other things that kept me working late, I realized my huge error. I started scheduling my nanny to come over just so I could sleep, or just so I could go out with friends, or other stuff I didn't perceive as "needs" before. They are emotional needs, they are even physical needs, and you don't need to suffer without having these needs met.

The way I see it, stay at home moms feel like it is their "job" to "do it all" at home, and therefore if they get help with this stuff, they are failing. This does not make sense to me because doing everything at home is not an 80 hour week, it is a 24/7/365 job. If you can afford it, why should you not have the breaks and down time that every other working person has??

You say your husband makes good money for the family. Mine does too. And I used to have the same problem you did about getting frustrated he wasn't "doing his share". This was happening more when I was on maternity leave or working much less than full time, because I was basically obligated to do all this household stuff and always be asking him to fulfill what I felt was his part of it. Of course, his side of it was that he was working 12 hour days and when he came home, getting asked to take out the trash or unload the dishwasher was eating into our time that we could have spent together, just cuddling on the couch or watching a movie or otherwise doing something to connect with each other.

He kept suggesting we get more help around the house, and I kept rebuffing him because we had a cleaning person who came every 2 weeks and "we don't need it." Because of what I mistakenly perceived as our needs - meaning, did we have the physical ability and the time to do these tasks. We did. But us doing these tasks was creating an atmosphere of stress and unhappiness in the household that meant our emotional needs weren't being met.

Our culture tells us that the husband and wife are supposed to be splitting the housework and childcare and all this jazz, but when one or more of the spouses are working 80 hour weeks, that is just unrealistic if you want to keep harmony in the relationship and not develop resentfulness or foster depression/feelings of being a failure. I bet if you asked him if he was willing to get someone, like a nanny, who could not only help out with the kids but also help you get those daily chores done, as "his share", he'd be totally willing to do that instead of doing the things himself. The old me saw this as a cop out - "he could do it but he just wants to pay someone to do his share!" The new me sees how much happier we are now and cheerfully makes up a little list of chores for the nanny to do during nap time each day. Best of luck and hope you get your groove back.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 11:09 AM on August 1, 2013 [5 favorites]

My youngest brother has Downs Syndrome. My parents belonged to the local support group, and I made my spending money in high school babysitting special needs kids - the parents were glad to know that I had a special needs sibling and understood how they can be different. This can be a source of respite care for you.

I also babysat for a woman who had MS and a young child. She was home while I was there, but I was able to give her a few hours of relief when she was having a flare up. So if you're not comfortable with leaving your children alone with someone, you could have someone come in and keep an eye on them for a few hours a week while you get stuff done around the house, or lock yourself in your room, or whatever you need to do to feel less stressed out.

Also, you may be eligible for free or reduced cost respite care through your county or state human services department. My parents qualify for my brother. He gets a few hours a week out of the house (seeing a movie or sporting event) and they get a small break. For a young child, the care would most likely be in house. You can call social services to see what is available.

Ruthless Bunny is right; you're just really freaking exhausted (for good reason!) You're in survival mode, and it's hard for love to thrive when you're running on empty. I think if you get a bit more space in your life, you can care for yourself more, which will in turn make it easier to care for others.

And finally, when I'm really frustrated with my husband, I make a conscious effort to remind myself of his good qualities, and to openly thank him when he does something around the house. You might think, "For cripes sake, no one thanks ME when I take out the garbage, why the hell should I thank HIM for doing what needs doing?!?", but - I've found that openly thanking my husband for one thing motivates him to do more, and honestly, that's a cheap price to not have to do everything myself. It requires a certain level of generosity you may not be feeling (which is also understandable), but I find if I (mentally) grit my teeth and get the thank you out there (and mean it), it helps a lot in motivating him to keep helping out.
posted by RogueTech at 11:34 AM on August 1, 2013

I don't have much to offer, but this Melissa Orlov book on ADHD and marriages was the very best thing I read about ADD. It was a huge help for me. I recommend it -- you'll learn a ton about how to better deal with nagging versus feeling like you have another kid.
posted by bluedaisy at 9:29 PM on August 1, 2013

He is an excellent father

No. A man who does no chores is not an excellent father.

He is a man generally setting the example that you can treat a woman you are married to like she is your mother/slave and there are no consequences. That is what he is teaching your children, that is not good parenting.

You need to radically re-calibrate your living situation. Divorce is the obvious and likely most helpful solution, but short of that a nanny, a Special Education Tutor, tons of babysitting, A laundry service are all places to start.

If he wants to use his money as an excuse to be a fourth child than he better be willing to pay for it.
posted by French Fry at 7:00 AM on August 3, 2013

French Fry, considering that this man is working an 80 hour a week job (hey, that is like two regular full time jobs in a week!) I think your statements are unfair. Yes, being the fulltime parent of children is a tough job, but unlike many people she is not obligated to work outside the home on top of it, plus it looks like there is enough money to hire some help. That is NOT treating the mother of his children like a slave. If he were working fewer hours or she was also working outside the home, I might agree with you.

There are all kind of ways to divide up the responsibilities of providing for and caring for a family. There are only so many hours in a week, and only so much energy one can expend. By the terms of your argument, you could be slamming her for not bringing money into the home and treating HIM like a sugar daddy. That would also be a judgy mcjudgerson argument and let's not make it.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 8:02 AM on August 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh, and I forgot to add-a divorce because he is not doing chores? Great! That means on top of still not getting any household help, she will need to get a job, plus becoming a single parent which is the toughest job in the world. Really?
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 8:04 AM on August 3, 2013 [4 favorites]

Ask yourself whether your expectations are realistic. Your husband works a stressful, *80* hour-per-week job. You are home all day. Read that again.

That, it seems to me, is his share of the work, period. If that were my job situation, I would seriously resent any nagging about -- indeed, any responsibility for--chores whatsoever.
My time at home would be for spending time with my children, not cleaning up.

Also: you have three young children. Guess what? Your house is not going to be clean much of the time. Accept it and chill out.

You already have a cleaning service. Go to Wal-Mart, stock up on paper plates and bowls, and use them for half your meals. That will solve a good part of your household issues. Good luck. You guys sound like you're in a tough spot.
posted by Philemon at 7:43 AM on August 25, 2013

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