what to do when husband refuses to go to counseling?
March 20, 2015 6:54 AM   Subscribe

I'm at my wits end with my husband and not sure how much longer I can take it, but he refuses to go to counseling. Is there any way I can save our relationship without counseling?

I think we have garden-variety issues for a two-career couple with a young child -- work pressures, less time for ourselves and each other, the regular challenges of parenting. But objectively none of this is that bad: our jobs are flexible and interesting, we don't have any serious money issues, our kid is delightful with nothing more than the regular challenges.

But my husband is, for lack of a better word, a dick. I do the vast bulk of the work for the kid and running the household. If I ever need him to do something, it's like pulling teeth in the worst kind of way - even something as simple as direct depositing his paycheck so I don't have to stress about managing our accounts. He just will.not.do.it unless I make huge scene. He has untreated ADD and is forever in a panic about work. He regularly just doesn't come home until well after bedtime, meaning that not only does the kid not see him, but I have an extra 2-3 hours of work tacked on to my day and no personal time. If I ever have to ask him to change his schedule to help, like to help care for a sick kid when I have pressing deadline, I have to literally beg and plead, and he still might just not do it and might insist that I just send sick kid to daycare. When I try to insist on him pitching in, he chides me for "being obsessed with justice."

The tipping point may have happened this month. I was facing serious health issue that required heavy duty medication and rest, and he fought me on it every step of the way. Was rude when I said I needed to go to the ER. Did not get up with the kid so I could rest. Came home late at night and slammed the door and started slamming dishes around (which I hadn't done because I was sick) and then refused to stop when I told him it was keeping me awake. Said not a word to me when I was in tears over my potential prognosis.

Luckily the health issue has resolved, but I'm not sure I can get over this, not without help.

On the positive side, he adores our kid. We go through phases of getting along. I am committed to giving our kid a shot at a happy, intact family, and I do think it's possible. I acknowledge that my own communication issues play a role. I think counseling could really help.

But, he is refusing counseling.

Can this marriage be saved?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (76 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Why would you *want* to save it? For your kid? Divorce him for your kid's sake - show the kid that mom's not a doormat.
posted by notsnot at 6:57 AM on March 20, 2015 [145 favorites]

Can this marriage be saved?

He refuses to change his behavior, he refuses to consider counseling, I don't see how it can be. It sounds like you have two children rather than a husband and a child. You deserve far better than this.
posted by Enchanting Grasshopper at 6:58 AM on March 20, 2015 [39 favorites]

It takes two to save a relationship (or three, or however many are in it). You can't save it yourself, and if he's not interested in changing or working on it, I think you have your answer.
posted by xingcat at 7:01 AM on March 20, 2015 [17 favorites]

I am committed to giving our kid a shot at a happy, intact family, and I do think it's possible

Why do you think it's possible? What do you think will change to get to there from where you are now? Obviously counseling for yourself is a useful part of any difficult relationship. However, realistically if the only way you can save this relationship is to do even more work with a partner who refuses to budge on any of the difficult parts, you're not actually setting a good example for your child of how to be in a happy family. Intactness for intactness' sake is not necessarily a virtue. This behavior would be a dealbreaker for me, I'm a little surprised it's not for you.
posted by jessamyn at 7:06 AM on March 20, 2015 [38 favorites]

You can go to marriage counselling on your own, you know. Might be beneficial in this case.
posted by Leon at 7:07 AM on March 20, 2015 [14 favorites]

Agree with notsnot that there there doesn't seem to be anything worth saving. It sounds like life would be easier as a single parent with a good friend or grandma on speed dial for medical emergencies. I think you need to start considering the specifics of a divorce. I'm sorry.
posted by Kalmya at 7:08 AM on March 20, 2015 [5 favorites]

It is very telling how he treated you with a health crisis. You just had a test run of how he is going to be going forward with something as crucial as your health. This is a warning.
posted by jadepearl at 7:09 AM on March 20, 2015 [137 favorites]

Came home late at night and slammed the door ...

Is he having an affair? I am not at all saying your account positively suggests this, just that he seems very checked out. And also the level of resentment with him is apparently through the roof and he is clearly signaling to you that something is wrong. I don't know that you want to go full steam ahead with questions or even accusations but you might want to check some of the telltale signs.

Get some of your money under your sole control too.
posted by BibiRose at 7:10 AM on March 20, 2015 [22 favorites]

I am committed to giving our kid a shot at a happy, intact family, and I do think it's possible. I acknowledge that my own communication issues play a role. I think counseling could really help.

These are very nice sentiments but worthless if he's not participating. It's not possible to have a happy family for your kid when both partners are this unhappy. Your kid will be much better off without this guy's bad example.
posted by bleep at 7:13 AM on March 20, 2015 [22 favorites]

Wow, that's actually some of the worst bad-marriage stuff I've ever heard. I'm actually pissed off on your behalf reading that.

As others have said, I don't think you should be trying to save this marriage; I think you should be talking to a lawyer to figure out how to best get out of it. I don't say that lightly, and I don't think I've ever said that to anyone else (at all, not just on Metafilter), but yep, your husband sounds like a dick and a bad father to boot. He was rude to you when you needed to go to the ER? He won't help take care of his own son without a lot of pleading? Nuh-uh. Just no. If you want to give your son a shot at a happy and intact family, get rid of this guy and remarry someone who's decent and loving to both you and your son.
posted by holborne at 7:17 AM on March 20, 2015 [44 favorites]

You're doing the bulk of the childcare/making-the-family-run work anyway - if you were doing that as a single parent/someone with shared custody, you'd at least have control over your schedule and how and when you do that work rather than half-expecting someone else to come home on time/help you out with it. Losing the additional burden of frustration, lack of control and having to parent your husband too which your current situation entails could be a huge stress-reducer for you, and might create a better environment for your kid, too.
posted by terretu at 7:20 AM on March 20, 2015 [35 favorites]

He sounds like he wants a divorce but wants you to initiate it. There's no way he is happy with the status quo.
posted by Dragonness at 7:21 AM on March 20, 2015 [22 favorites]

On the positive side....We go through phases of getting along.

That's not a positive. That's like saying having a feral cat in the house is good because he doesn't piss on the carpet or steal your food every day.

You said it yourself: he's a dick. He's proven repeatedly that he's unwilling to work with you. Your family is unhappy, and it is intact only in the legal and physical sense. You know what you have to do, for your sake and for your kid's.

This is probably not the answer you wanted to hear, and I'm sorry. Stay strong and be kind to yourself; you deserve better.
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:23 AM on March 20, 2015 [11 favorites]

You don't want your child to see this as what grown-up relationships are meant to be like. You don't want your child to see this as normal, as the way things should be. You don't want your child taking the hell you're living through as a model. You don't want your child to someday put up with the shit you're putting up with, out of the mistaken idea that this is the sort of sacrifice adults have to put up with for love and companionship. And you don't want your child to someday act as selfishly and cruelly as your husband is, out of the mistaken idea that that sort of behavior is acceptable.

Now, I have been focused on your child, as many other people in this thread have been, because I suspect that it is a way to get you to see how awful it is for you to stay in this relationship. I think many of us are concerned with poking holes in the notion that your child will be better off with an intact family, rather than divorced parents. But there's something else I think you should focus on: would you want your child to stay in the sort of relationship you're in? Would you want your child, someday, to put up with what you're putting up with, or to treat their partner the way your husband is treating you?

No. Hell no. You wouldn't want that. I hope you feel deep anger at the suggestion. I hope you can feel a boiling resolve to never let your child end up in such an awful situation. Now: take that boiling resolve, and apply it to yourself. Your child would deserve better than to be in the sort of relationship you're in. Same applies to you: you deserve better than to be in the sort of relationship you're in.

Your child deserves to see you stand up for yourself, to see you flourish rather than suffer, to see you model what adults should do when they are being abused, neglected, emotionally torn apart. And you deserve to stand up for yourself, to say enough is enough, to do what you must in order to flourish. You and your child both deserve you getting out of a bad situation.

I'm so sorry you're in this situation. I'm so sorry that this thread isn't providing the sort of help you wanted. But you can do what you have to do: you have the strength and the power and the worth to live the life you deserve to live, surrounded by caring and kind people rather than the callous, selfish, and cruel.
posted by meese at 7:28 AM on March 20, 2015 [56 favorites]

Hah, wow. Life with this guy sounds miserable. Lots of kids have divorced parents and are fine, especially if the divorce happens when the child is young. Too many women stay in bad marriages because of kids. And frankly, I think they play martyr-for-the-children to avoid their own fear of change. Get this guy out of your life. If your kiddo grows up and wonders why mommy left daddy, show him this question.
posted by BusyBusyBusy at 7:31 AM on March 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

Make two appointments for one week from now: one for counseling, one for a divorce attorney. Assure him that either he goes to the former with you and gives it his absolute best or you'll go to the latter, even if you go alone. Do not negotiate or discuss this ultimatum, just follow through.

I'm not sure there's anything worth saving, frankly. But you seem to be asking if there is anything else, some sort of a Hail Mary, that can be done. This is your last remaining move. Your husband sounds too far gone and this will almost certainly not work. But if you are looking to throw him one last life preserver, this is the way to do it.

(And FWIW, he constantly comes home after bedtime but adores his kids? A big part of loving your kids is seeing them. I'd look serious askance to anyone who claims to adore their kids but doesn't bother to you know: ever see them)
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:34 AM on March 20, 2015 [71 favorites]

Wow, this is giving me flashbacks to my own failed engagement. Get a divorce, move, seek emotional abuse counseling immediately. Also, let others that love and care about you help you during the transition.
posted by Young Kullervo at 7:36 AM on March 20, 2015 [7 favorites]

You can't unilaterally save a relationship. If he won't work on anything: himself or your marriage, then what really do you have left to save? Memories of the good times will become way less pleasant if you stay with him much longer without any change. So if he won't change, you have to control what you can control and move on.
posted by inturnaround at 7:40 AM on March 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

You're married to an uncaring, selfish, hateful asshole. Sorry. I can't help but wonder if he was like this before you married him, or if this is recent-ish behavior. But honestly, it doesn't matter. His attitude is beyond the pale, and he is emotionally abusive. Please take your son and get away from him. Note that I have never advised anyone to DTMFA on here, or in real life. Become "obsessed with justice kicking his ass to the curb."
posted by the webmistress at 7:40 AM on March 20, 2015 [11 favorites]

He sounds like a garden variety male chauvinist swine from the 1950s. Dishes? Women's work. Child care? Women's work. No woman is going to tell me how I should deposit my check, because I'm the man and I'm in control. Whaddya mean you're sick, your job is to keep my household running! You're supposed to support me, that's what wives do. Regardless of whether I'm having an affair.

Since he's resisting any form of change it's probably a lost cause, but pointing out to him that his behavior is 50 years out of date may help him think of things in a different way. Show him web sites that say "real men don't do X" perhaps? I dunno. I think everyone here is right in that you'll have to leave. (And yeah, you don't want your child to learn that this is ok behavior.)
posted by Melismata at 7:40 AM on March 20, 2015 [5 favorites]

Three years ago, after I spent three or four days just miserable, with a very high fever, after mocking me for not "toughing up" (despite the fact that I had made all his meals and adhered to his intense and labor intensive chore schedule) my (now ex-) boyfriend finally relented and let me take my own car to the ER. I had a very serious case of pneumonia. He didn't care. He left town for two months when I was still in the hospital. I had no support from him during my month-long recovery. On the flip side, I knew that he would not have allowed me to remain on bedrest for so long, so I felt blessed to be able to recover without him.

I was better off alone than I would have been with him. He would have pulled the same shit your husband did - banging around while you were resting. I would say that is something a child would do, but no, not even a child would do that.

A spouse needs to be there "in sickness and in health." It says it right on the tin. So my wheels were turning when I was on bedrest. What if something more serious happened and he treated me this way? What if I had to deal with him during a recovery for a major surgery, say? He had to change. Had to. This wasn't going to happen again.

So I begged him to go to couples counseling when he got back. And after walking out on him during an argument about it because he threatened to hit me, he agreed to go. And we went. And it was a disaster. Because he didn't want to be there - he didn't think he needed to be there. If I just shut my mouth and behaved, we wouldn't be there, he said.

He had no insight and no interest in change. And this is how I learned a very important lesson in a very difficult way: you can't change other people. A counselor can't change your husband. You can't change him. He has to see himself and want to change himself. And no one can make that happen but him. Counseling will not work with your husband. Not right now and maybe not ever.

So I suggest that you do a few things for you. These are things I did after I realized that my now-ex was, as you put it, a dick. Start saving some money away without telling him. Start going to therapy yourself, alone. Take care of yourself. Try to cultivate a support network outside of your marriage. And think about what might need to happen before you'd consider separation from your husband.

I wish you all the best.
posted by sockermom at 7:40 AM on March 20, 2015 [71 favorites]

Can this marriage be saved?

Well, you could decide to accept a marriage in which your husband does as he pleases while you do 100% of the work. Your family might remain intact, but I predict it'd never be happy, and you'd be setting an awful example for your child. Don't do that.

Your husband doesn't deserve you. You deserve better.
posted by Gelatin at 7:41 AM on March 20, 2015 [5 favorites]

i wish my parents had divorced at least 10 years before they did. our family would have been much, much happier if if our parents lived their own lives apart. instead they stayed together and broke up in a giant fireball that left me feeling like i couldn't figure out what love actually looked like because they had playacted it for so many years. this led to me dating people who treated me not so great because i thought that's just the sort of thing you accept for "love." do you want your child to mimic this relationship when they grow up? if not, you need to make changes.

once when i was on my way out of a relationship my ex begged me to go to counseling - i refused. you know why? because i didn't care enough about the relationship to save it.

your husband has it pretty good - he has a housekeeper, child caretaker, mess cleaner-upper, financial adviser, etc etc etc. what do you have? a dude who won't even watch his own child so you can rest when you're ill. he is not standing up to "in sickness and in health." he is not being a good partner. i honestly fear counseling will only give him more ammo to make your life even more miserable.

i think you should get in counseling for yourself to help you remove yourself from this awful situation.
posted by nadawi at 7:46 AM on March 20, 2015 [56 favorites]

I want to expand on my answer slightly. Ask.MeFi has many fine points, but it does have a habit of telling people to upend their lives based on three short paragraphs.

Go to a relationship counsellor alone, don't even bother telling your husband you're going. That's not unusual, they do lots of solo sessions. He or she will help you decide your best path forward. You are the only one in possession of all the facts here.
posted by Leon at 7:47 AM on March 20, 2015 [51 favorites]

Well, about a year ago I started counseling on my own and am still going. Not marriage counseling, just personal. It has improved my marriage because it's given me perspective and self-awareness. In many ways I did not understand, I was creating and feeding into our relationship problems. As I've changed my own behavior, my husband's behavior/treatment of me has improved. I haven't been trying to change him, just working on me.

When I started I thought divorce was probably inevitable, even though I didn't want it. I thought my therapist would tell me DTMFA. She didn't. She kept the focus on me. There's still plenty of room for growth, but things are a lot better now.

I don't know if your marriage can be saved or is worth saving, but I think counseling even for you alone is worth it. If you end up choosing divorce, counseling through that process will also be invaluable.
posted by probably not that Karen Blair at 7:53 AM on March 20, 2015 [14 favorites]

This: he adores our kid

Does not match with this: He regularly just doesn't come home until well after bedtime, meaning that not only does the kid not see him . .

Or this: If I ever have to ask him to change his schedule to help, like to help care for a sick kid when I have pressing deadline, I have to literally beg and plead, and he still might just not do it and might insist that I just send sick kid to daycare.

Or this: Did not get up with the kid so I could rest.

You seem to realize he's an asshole to you, but not that he's an asshole to your child. Your husband won't spend time with his own child and won't take care of his his child when ill. This is a pretty basic failure of parenting. Your kid is going to pick up on the fact that dad doesn't care. I don't see an intact happy family happening when husband/dad won't participate in family life.
posted by Mavri at 7:54 AM on March 20, 2015 [83 favorites]

I couldn't get over it if someone was that cruel to me while I was sick enough to require an ER visit.

I would not ever trust that they loved me after such an incident. I'm sorry.
posted by jbenben at 7:58 AM on March 20, 2015 [35 favorites]

I'm with the 'he wants out but wants you to pull the plug' crowd. This is abysmal behavior. He doesn't want to be the guy that leaves his wife and young kid, but that is what he wants. So he'd rather be an asshole. I'm not saying this is a thought out plan, but this is what he's doing. Maybe he's in love with/crushing on someone else? Maybe he's resentful that he has to be responsible for someone besides himself? In any event, that's where he's at.

Life doesn't end at divorce. Your child is young and will adjust. This kind of dynamic between parents will really fuck with a tween or teen. I suggest getting out now.
posted by readery at 8:00 AM on March 20, 2015 [6 favorites]

My mum always said that you never really know someone until you see how they react in a crisis. You've been in a crisis situation where you needed to rely on your husband to pick up the slack... he didn't.

You're basically "alone" in this relationship - which begs the question, why be in it?

I wish you so much luck, your question made me feel for you
posted by JenThePro at 8:07 AM on March 20, 2015 [12 favorites]

I'll just leave this here for you to read.

TL;DR Pulling the bandaid off & divorcing is better for your child, than living with parents that continually fight, as they can have a chance to "bounce back" & recover afterwards when the stress is over, the ongoing stress of an unhappy marriage does not give them that chance.
posted by wwax at 8:13 AM on March 20, 2015 [5 favorites]

You're worse than alone in this marriage - you're taking care of yourself, two kids, and whatever else your husband doesn't take care of for himself. Paycheck issues: your work became his work. Cleaning dishes? His mess became your mess. You don't have a happy, intact family now. Without something changing on his part, the only thing you have to look forward to is your children slowly doing more for themselves, and the household, which means there are three people to take care of things your husband doesn't do, not just one.

Have you talked about divorce with your husband? If not, that talk might be something to push him to realize you won't necessarily always be there for him.

As for medication for him - some people find comfort in realizing how many people they know are already on medication. I saw this first-hand when my wife started taking anti-anxiety medication. While some people close to her came down heavy on the "it's all in your head" side,* she talked about her new medication with some friends and suddenly found out that a bunch of well-balanced people are only well-balanced because of medication, in most cases more than what she was taking.

*Of COURSE it's all in your head, but that doesn't mean you can control it all. There's a lot of baggage and fear with mental health discussions, even for people who otherwise consider themselves smart, critical thinkers. You can't think your way out of ADD, depression, anxiety, or a host of other mental issues.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:22 AM on March 20, 2015 [6 favorites]

Well, you said so yourself: he's a dick. I'm an internet stranger, but I don't like hearing the pleading I hear in your question can this marriage be saved?

A better question is probably why you think you want to, and some counseling for yourself is a good place to ask it...you seem to be alone in this marriage as it is. I would not trust that your partner has any intention of changing a thing. You will need to put on your own oxygen mask here.
posted by Otter_Handler at 8:46 AM on March 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

You say you're not sure if you can get over how poorly he treated you during a serious illness - and I don't think you will. I don't think you should. His behavior was so beyond the pale and neglectful that I don't think you can trust him with your own safety or that of your child. You absolutely deserve better. You and your kid can both have a shot at a happy life, but not with this guy. I agree with suggestions above to go to counseling on your own, so you can work through this with support and make the best decision for yourself and your kid. I wish you the best of luck.
posted by treachery, faith, and the great river at 8:48 AM on March 20, 2015 [7 favorites]

OP, this is a tough situation, and must be even more difficult to live through than the necessarily-compressed version you've provided here. I'm sorry that this is your life right now.

You've suggested counseling, so presumably your husband is aware that you think there's a problem. Have you asked him, point blank, how much effort he is willing to put into being a husband and a parent? "Given your work commitments, and your ADD, what percentage of the work of parenting would be fair for you to do? Percentage of the work of sustaining this marriage?" He's framing this as obsession with justice; you can present it as a question of fairness. If he says "half," then be prepared to give him a written list of what half looks like. If less than that -- and it sounds like he doesn't mind acting out in order to preserve his preferred level of comfort -- how much less than half is acceptable to you? How much of this load can you sustain, and over what kind of period? Can he outsource some of his comfort (drycleaners, takeout food) to take a little bit of the load off of you? Are you willing to suck it up and take a considerable chunk of time to automate some of the finances? These might be short-term fixes for some of the struggles you're having.

But they don't really touch the central issue that in this partnership you should be able to expect basic fairness, and extra help in difficult situations. Because he's getting that deal and you aren't. I don't know how to make an adult be fair. I don't know how to encourage a partner grow into a respect for fairness in a relationship. Especially when that partner is, yup, I agree, acting like a dick. Renegotiating the parameters of a relationship is tough stuff, even in a good situation, which yours isn't.

He has shown you through his actions that he is not interested in fairness or the quality of your partnership. He has refused outside intervention. He has actively refused to take up the slack when you were physically incapacitated. That leaves you.

I really want to encourage you to think about your own boundaries: what they are, how they manifest in the daily logistics of your household, what kind of support you need and how often, and be really clear and honest with yourself about them. Maybe this means you should go talk to a counselor of some sort (and I'd strongly advise you to do that). You can only control what you do and are willing to accept. But over here, from the sidelines, and only from the brief description you've given, I want to reassure you that your husband's current behavior is bullshit. How you progress from the point of that realization is going to be up to you, and you deserve help figuring it out.

Find somebody to talk to. Clarify your boundaries to yourself. Implement those boundaries, knowing that there's going to be resistance. Get a support system in place, and believe that you are not a justice-obsessed bitch for asserting that you're not going to put up with certain specific behavior. Call your support system when you doubt this. None of us here can predict what's going to happen to your marriage, and whether it can be saved or not, but I really hope you will focus on creating and defending the boundaries of your physical and emotional well-being within the contexts of each day.

I am rooting for you.
posted by MonkeyToes at 8:48 AM on March 20, 2015 [7 favorites]

My ex was not as bad as yours (although I didn't have a health crisis to test him), but I had similar struggles with childcare, depositing cheques, just generally taking responsibility and feeling like I was part of a team. I did get him to come home most evenings but he wasn't really present anyway and made it clear that he resented me/having to be home.

I am on the other side of the breakup and while it was a stressful transition I am so much happier, and my preschool age child has adjusted and is back to his happy self, he gets to see both of his parents and there's no more stress and conflict in his homes. Single parenting (we have shared custody) is hard but I don't regret breaking up (and it's really not that different from before, the difference is if I need someone to watch my child I call a babysitter instead of negotiate with my ex). In taking on my ex's problems/covering for him I lost myself, and I enabled him. I didn't realize how much stress my ex added to my life until I was out. Now I actually get some time to myself and I wonder if I could have had that in the relationship how different things would have been. My relationship with my ex may not have improved but my health would have been a lot better.

Oh and I pushed for counselling for a good couple of years, I read books, I worked on myself, I went to counselling alone, I tried to expect/ask less of him. It wasn't until I broke up with him that he got his butt into a counsellor's office and he did it only under the condition that I not break up with him, he had no interest in it otherwise and it was too late for me, not to mention he was still intent on painting me as the problem instead of owning his part in things.

Stop enabling your husband (no more nagging him about cheques if you can manage that, just cut him out of your finances), take care of yourself (tell him you're taking an evening off and have him pick up your child, or arrange a babysitter to do so), find a good counsellor, and see how your husband reacts. If he continues to act like a child that's your answer. My ex would list all the reasons he couldn't do the simple things that I asked for (I was asking wrong, I was too demanding, he was too busy) and when I tried to respect what he was saying (so I stopped nagging/complaining, I did things myself, I did nice things for him) it led nowhere, his behaviour never changed.
posted by lafemma at 8:50 AM on March 20, 2015 [7 favorites]

"He adores our kid" is the parenting equivalent of "but I know he loves me."

Like, I know this is hard to really take on board, but it is irrelevant. I can really love a puppy, but if I am not willing to walk it, feed it, take it to the vet, and look after all of its needs, I'm still a shitty dog owner. Love is an action verb. When you are a parent, this involves providing for your child, taking care of your child, making time with your child a priority, and nurturing your parenting partners who also nurture you so that you can be the best parenting team you can be.

Your husband is doing none of this. he is actively thwarting many of those things.

You cannot change him. I realise you have a dream of giving your kid a loving two parent family, but you are not going to get that with this guy. And what you have now is toxic to model for your child.

Please seek support for yourself. And please see a divorce attorney in your jurisdiction to find out how legal separation (and divorce) work where you live. You need information about staying in your home vs leaving, statutory support, assets, etc to be able to even think about what your options might be.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:52 AM on March 20, 2015 [42 favorites]

My ex was a lot like yours, especially when my 2nd kid was a tiny baby. He got a bit better but by the time he did, the damage was done and I realized that he would never be "better enough" to have a fulfilling relationship with.

We also tried counseling but he just got mad at me for "making him look bad in front of the therapist" and never did any of the internal work required to change himself. If someone doesn't think that anything is their fault then it's damn near impossible for them to change.

He also loves his daughters. He doesn't pay a dime for their food, clothing or shelter and sometimes goes a week without seeing them. But he says he adores them.

This book was an eye-opener for me: Why Does He Do That by Lundy Bancroft. It's worth a read before you put any more effort into trying to get him to counseling.

Also, this site really helped me understand the codependent aspect in our relationship and how I contributed to that by trying to manage his reactions all the time. "You can't change him" is something that everyone says but it takes a lot of work to realize what that really means.

Feel free to memail me any time if you want to talk. Hang in there.
posted by dawkins_7 at 8:54 AM on March 20, 2015 [13 favorites]

Also, this old comment has stuck with me over the years. The ending part, where she says she can no longer be his mommy and he says "you're dumping me over stupid shit?" really illustrates how genuinely clueless and unwilling to change some people can be.
posted by Melismata at 8:59 AM on March 20, 2015 [18 favorites]

Hey, I agree with most of these folks, I don't know if there will be any helping this guy. But what if the thing you need to do to help him is leave him? Would that help to give you the courage to do it?

I was thinking about this and remembered this episode of This American Life where (SPOILER ALERT) a woman divorces her husband basically because of his horrible temper and lack of care or compassion for her. Two years later, and he's basically read all the relationship self-help books, and after dating again for a while, they get back together.

I mean, it can't be that often that this happens. But what have you got to lose? If you leave him, either he will use it as a turning point and earn you back, OR he won't and you'll know he was never going to change whatever happened and that you made the right decision.

Here's another data point - I begged my ex for around four years to get counseling for issues he was carrying around that were damaging our relationship. He actually went and did it, the week we broke up. It didn't mean we got back together! We actually realized that we really weren't right together. But our break-up got him to finally do it, and I believe he is now happier for it.
posted by greenish at 9:01 AM on March 20, 2015 [5 favorites]

he adores our kid

He does?

he still might just not do it and might insist that I just send sick kid to daycare

not only does the kid not see him

He doesn't openly hate your kid, that's the best you can say. (But he doesn't care, and if your kid doesn't know yet, they will figure it out eventually.)

Just a question for you to answer to yourself: what answer did you think that you would get here that would allow you to save your marriage when he doesn't care about your marriage? Give him a head injury and hope his personality changes for the better? Magic spell? Court order? Blackmail?

You have a frightening amount of fantasy invested in convincing yourself that things aren't all that bad, and where that becomes worrisome is what you're not saying. If you are in danger, or your child is in danger, you can't make him un-dangerous no matter how compliant or forgiving you are. If you are even a little worried that maybe he might hurt you or your child if you show any signs of leaving, the national (US) domestic violence hotline is 1-800-799-7233, or you can use a chat feature on their website. They can help you make a plan and get you in touch with legal resources.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:16 AM on March 20, 2015 [11 favorites]

I said it in a recent askme: marriage is a team effort. He's abdicated his part of the teamwork, and nothing you can do will make him. Time to find a lawyer, sort everything out, and in the fullness of time find a man who actually wants to work with you.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:29 AM on March 20, 2015 [4 favorites]

This is what's called dealing with two kids, not just one. My god. I feel for you. I was in a relationship where my bf could care two winks about me when I needed to go to ER. But it wasn't this bad. This is bad. Please get out. Any time you are having to devote to shouting until your blue in the face to get your basic needs heard you could be devoting to your kid, to enjoying time with a partner who genuinely cares about you, to you caring about YOU. Dump this cretin and don't look back. He doesn't deserve you. I haven't been this worked up reading about someone's situation in a while. This one really strikes home I guess. Be glad you have a wonderful kid! Be glad he seems to care about your kid! And get thee to greener pastures! Your kid will be much happier in the long run. I'll be rooting for you.
posted by lillian.elmtree at 9:57 AM on March 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

Oh and: I had a boyfriend who wouldn't come to the ER. Turned out I had appendicitis. He showed up to visit, eventually.. but was a few hours late because he and a friend of his had to go have brunch. Took me a few months more to pull the trigger, but that was the exact moment I decided to break up with him.

Fundamentally, your partner has zero interest in your needs, let alone putting them before his.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:13 AM on March 20, 2015 [8 favorites]

I agree with the posts above. If you're not ready for the Bancroft book, Harriet Lerner's Dance of Connection (not to be confused with Dance of Intimacy, which is a much earlier book) talks about the benefit of setting "bottom lines" and how to reinforce them.

Reading your post, what comes to mind is that if he does want a healthy partnership with you, he clearly does not understand the impact his behaviour has on you. Having been down the road of some habits and patterns that were, ultimately, potential dealbreakers for me within our marriage, I will share that I thought I had made them clear but it wasn't until I said either this changes, or we go to counselling and then it changes, or I will be moving out in 6 months that things changed. For the way way better (although I have to say they weren't quite as extensive as your problems...the health thing in particular is really, really, really concerning.)

So that is the one thing you could try, but you have to really, really mean it.

I don't think he does want a healthy partnership, because not showing up when you are in a health crisis is horrific. I am so sorry.
posted by warriorqueen at 10:16 AM on March 20, 2015 [5 favorites]

Oh my gosh, just leave, you will be so much happier when you don't have to deal with that kind of stress. And your kid will be happy since you are happier. If your husband doesn't see a problem, he won't do anything to fix it. Neglecting you and slamming things around is abuse and marriage counseling is contraindicated when one partner is abusive (because they will use what their partner says against them).

My situation wasn't exactly analogous to yours, but it is SO much better on the other side of a divorce.
posted by desjardins at 10:24 AM on March 20, 2015 [5 favorites]

I spent 2 years trying to get my ex-husband to change and he only gave in to counselling when I packed my bags and left. He was telling me he was changing and it was helping only to find out he'd already met someone before we separated. They're now engaged. He didn't change, he just found someone else willing to look past it/put up with it. Now I'm with someone I deserve. You deserve better.
posted by shesbenevolent at 10:26 AM on March 20, 2015 [3 favorites]

This reads like your husband is the very definition of avoidant, checked-out dad here, and yet you're trying to convince yourself he "adores" your kid? The same kid he avoids most weeknights and won't care for when the child is ill? His actions do not equal 'adoration' of any kind. Nope. Not ok. DTMFA. Sorry.
posted by hush at 10:26 AM on March 20, 2015 [7 favorites]

I was all set to come in here and talk about how you can go to counseling on your own until he is ready to join you, but reading what you wrote, I think I have to agree with others. He sounds like he really doesn't want to save the marriage and you can't do it on your own. I'm really sorry.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 10:51 AM on March 20, 2015

The AskMe Synchronicity strikes my life again... I just decided today that I'm leaving -- and my girl is only 5 months old. But yesterday he proved to me that this is never, ever going to change.

Listen to these people, OP... I know I am.
posted by polly_dactyl at 10:52 AM on March 20, 2015 [40 favorites]

I will Nth that THIS:
On the positive side, he adores our kid.
and THIS:
He regularly just doesn't come home until well after bedtime, meaning that not only does the kid not see him
do not add up.

He doesn't give a crap about the kid. If he "adores" the kid while treating the kid that badly, to me that suggests he is getting something emotionally out of it in a bloodsucking way and I would want to get my kid away from him, if possible. He may not be, say, a pedophile, but he sure as hell is not a good father.

I will also suggest you do not have "garden variety issues." I will suggest you seek counseling for yourself promptly. Just because he won't go doesn't mean you can't.

You probably aren't ready to DTMFA. My best guess: You come from such a horrible background that you just can't see how awful and outright abusive he is to you. So you probably aren't ready to leave yet ,and, if you did, you would probably quickly find someone else to shit on you in much the way he is shitting on you.

So go work on getting your head together. This is NOT an okay relationship with some minor time stress because you both work.

I am usually the lone voice standing against the chorus of DTMFA. I agree with the observation above that AskMe is kind of quick on the trigger to tell people to upend their lives based on a few paragraphs, often hastily written during a particularly stressful time. However, I can't bring myself to really echo the sentiment that you shouldn't go. But I will say, yeah, you don't need to pack your bags today and walk out, but you sure as hell need to go talk to a counselor yourself. Either the counselor will help you stand up to this man and work things out or will convince you he's a douchebag and it's time to go. Either outcome is better than begging and pleading and hoping he will finally do something.

Last, I will note this: If your real reason for staying is that you need sex, please get over whatever hang-ups you have about finding some way to take care of that outside of (this) marriage (or whatever the issue might be). If that is the real hold-up here, a woman can get sex if she wants it. It's hard to find a good relationship, but, seriously, sexual gratification can be had. And I will bet money that almost any other man would be better to you in bed than this guy. Decent human beings make better lovers. Assholes who literally do not care whether you live or die and find your health crisis a personal inconvenience that they object to are NOT attentive, good lovers. They just aren't.
posted by Michele in California at 10:52 AM on March 20, 2015 [6 favorites]

You - and most definitely your child - will be better off without this in your life.
posted by stormyteal at 10:54 AM on March 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

If I ever need him to do something, it's like pulling teeth in the worst kind of way - even something as simple as direct depositing his paycheck

A complete stranger would probably do a small favor for you, especially if it would benefit them as well.

If I ever have to ask him to change his schedule to help, like to help care for a sick kid when I have pressing deadline, I have to literally beg and plead

Any decent person in your workplace would probably switch schedules with you if they could, knowing your kid was sick.

Was rude when I said I needed to go to the ER.

A random passerby on the street would probably help you out or AT LEAST feign concern if you told them you needed to go to the ER.

Did not get up with the kid so I could rest....Said not a word to me when I was in tears over my potential prognosis.

A neighbor you barely know would probably watch your kid for a bit if you were on bed rest, and nod sympathetically if you told them you might be really sick.

I'm just pointing that out because it's really easy to forget the big picture and what is normal when you're used to a crappy situation. Can you make your husband treat you better than a stranger/neighbor/co-worker would? Do you think it's crazy that you even have to ask whether you can?
posted by DestinationUnknown at 11:21 AM on March 20, 2015 [60 favorites]

It sounds like two people on a tandem bike going up hill and one of them has stopped pedaling. If he legitimately works 10 or 20 more hours every week than you do, then I wouldn't expect a perfect split on housework. (The exactly perfect split on housework is rare.)

I agree with the suggestion to get individual counseling. Power struggles and different communication styles are areas that can be improved a little bit. (I have a pretty terrific husband who still doesn't appreciate anything that sounds like a "do this right now" order, unless I can show him an actual in-progress catastrophe like an overflowing toilet.) I have the tendency to Tell my husband to do things, rather than Asking him. (I phrase it so it sounds like a question, but in my heart, "no" isn't an acceptable answer.) There may be no right way to ask in your situation, but the current dialog between you doesn't sound like it's working. So maybe there is a different approach worth trying. Or maybe you've tried them all and truly are done.

"Dick" is not the only possible word. "Selfish" could be a good fit. Is he selfish or is does he really have no free time and no energy to share? (I didn't see a significant amount of sharing in your post, but I considered the possibility that you might have overstated.)

Since he isn't helping, I think you should line up some paid helpers to shift some of the burden off or your shoulders. Cleaning service, pre-made meals even if frozen, that kind of stuff. You need a more rational work load.

There's a scene in the movie The Breakup where Jennifer Anniston tells Seth Rogen "I want you to want to do the dishes." I like the scene and it really makes me think. In that movie, he wants to goof off and have fun and doesn't seem to care that this means she does the dishes and doesn't get to goof off. The illustration is pretty telling, even though fictional.
posted by puddledork at 11:29 AM on March 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

He sounds like a garden variety male chauvinist swine from the 1950s. Dishes? Women's work. Child care? Women's work. No woman is going to tell me how I should deposit my check, because I'm the man and I'm in control. Whaddya mean you're sick, your job is to keep my household running! You're supposed to support me, that's what wives do. Regardless of whether I'm having an affair.

This really rang true for me. What was the household like where he grew up? What are the households of his friends like? You mention that he works late and often is angry when he comes home, and that you have money trouble. Does he feel like this is what men do - work late to provide for the family, and that women make the home nice while they're gone? Is he resentful because he feels like he's holding up his end and you're not holding up yours?

I mention this not because his behavior is justifiable at all - because it's not - but because it's possible that you both are working with different definitions of "what marriage is." And if you haven't talked about that, maybe talking about what you both think marriage is supposed to be will get him realizing that you're not on the same page, and that maybe counseling might be a good idea.
posted by corb at 11:43 AM on March 20, 2015 [3 favorites]

I will add, somewhat more sympathetically to the possibility of working it out, that, instead of asking him to seek counseling, you might try asking him to deal with his untreated ADD. That could be a root cause of a lot of this crap and willpower alone doesn't fix something like that.

If he will get that treated, some of these issues might improve, even without counseling. In the long run, the odds are poor that the marriage can be worked out. But, in practical terms, asking him to deal with his ADD might be a good first step.

My ex likely qualifies for some kind of diagnosis on the ASD spectrum. He doesn't have a diagnosis and he had a lot of problems getting his act together at home. He seemed to save it all for work -- I mean, it took all he had to give to keep his act together at work and then he would come home and just dump issues on me and let me scramble to cope. But he was damn good at his job and it allowed me to be a full time mom, so I told the kids "just avoid him -- I know he's a jerk, but he isn't abusive and it lets me be home with you." And my ex was a very stand-up guy about taking me to the ER anytime I was sick and then going to work the next morning on very little sleep and he never once was blamey about that. He would talk about how it sucked to go to work on very little sleep, but he never acted like "and it's ALL YOUR FAULT."

I have chronic health problems. I was in the ER a whole lot. It would have been easy for him to become grudging about the very real burden that represented. (His willingness to make sure I lived when I was sick and the fact that his military career provided mostly FREE medical care for my condition was part of why I stayed -- I would not stay with a man who did not care at all when I am sick.)

So, I was married to a man who likely was struggling with some untreated diagnosis similar to ADD and I did put up with a lot of crap because of it, but my ex is a prince compared to what you describe. So, while asking him to at least deal with his untreated ADD may make things more bearable, I don't give the marriage much hope even if he will at least do that much.
posted by Michele in California at 11:43 AM on March 20, 2015 [5 favorites]

It sounds like you're already essentially a single parent but dealing with a shithead husband to boot. Honestly, if your husband isn't willing to even so much as sit down with a counselor and work on this, I don't see the light at the end of the tunnel.

I will also add:

I am committed to giving our kid a shot at a happy, intact family, and I do think it's possible. Sure, it's possible. If your husband were willing to step up and really work on these issues, it would be totally possible! But, sounds like he's not. You can't unilaterally turn him into a good person when he's actually a bad person who neglects his wife and kid.
posted by rainbowbrite at 12:34 PM on March 20, 2015 [5 favorites]


Your question shows how you feel about him. I'm not going to give you the typical Reddit/Metafilter comment of divorce him.

Show him this thread. Give him an ultimatum. Say this can't go on. If nothing changes (give it a year if he shows serious effort in changing), then divorce him.
posted by GiveUpNed at 12:42 PM on March 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

Maybe having your lawyer + divorce paperwork ready to file might shock him into not being a dick? Maybe possibly? But..... do you want him to? DU made some good points about him being worse than a stranger off the street to you. You deserve better than this! If I was a jerk, I'd be upset about you complaining about the situation, too... why should I change? This works just fine for jerk-me (aka, your husband...)

You can survive on your own if need be.

How abusive do you think he'd be if you said you were considering divorce? If the answer is: any, get as prepared as you can to protect yourself FIRST.
posted by Jacen at 12:43 PM on March 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

I get it. You don't want to get divorced, you want your husband to start acting like a husband, you fear for your own future and the future of your kid. You may think you're older and you don't have any better romantic options. You may like your life on a practical level and want to maintain it. Maybe you don't see why should why have to sacrifice and go without when you're the one who's been working your ass off to make your marriage work. Maybe you love and are still sexually attracted to your husband. There are many maybes here, but there is one certainty - your husband is getting his needs met and you and your kid aren't. That's a definite, not a maybe.

Personally? I think you should divorce this man. That being said, you probably won't for a long time because you're still partially living in denial about how bad the situation really is. He doesn't prioritize his marriage or his job as a parent, he shows you that routinely by giving his entire focus to his work and none to you and your child, he actively disrespects you and treats you like hired help, and you still think you can make this work.

However. If you want to try one last thing, here's what you can do. Or, rather, stop doing. Stop doing the laundry - send it out. Stop cooking - make yours and your kid's meals but no more. He can feed himself. Stop having sex. Stop making room in your social schedule for your husband - you want to do something, make a plan and inform him of the plan. If he's shitty and goes on about who's going to look after your child or what about me?! or any other nonsense, hire a sitter. Open a separate account for your own money. If he's working late, have bed/bathtime with your child and then have a sitter come over so you can go out with a friend, go to the gym, go get a massage, go have dinner by yourself with a book. Don't ask permission to do what you want to do. Just do it. He does, doesn't he?

When he starts noticing that you're your own person, he'll start making noises about what's going on. That's when you can tell him, as dispassionately as possible, that you're not satisfied with the marriage and that you're going to start focusing on yourself and your child. Tell him you want therapy and that is your demand - that he go to couples therapy. He'll be a dick about it, give you a hard time, and try to pick fights. Keep your head down, go about your business, and do not engage. He'll probably then move on from berating you to making some grand gesture - flowers, let's go have a fancy dinner/take a vacation/some other extravagant thing - which you'll need to decline. You will then tell him again that you want is simple - you want couples therapy. If he won't go, then tell him this is the new normal unless and until he will. And then, when he won't go, you will have no choice but to start planning how to get out of this dead end marriage for your own and your child's sake.

You can't make for him a good example of how a good spouse behaves. That's not how it works. He has to be internally motivated to treat you and your child well. This is much deeper than an incapability to learn on his part. This is about his ability to be intimate with another person, his ability to respect a woman as his equal, his ideas about men and women's roles in relationships, his capacity to open himself up to being an equal part of a family, not just a a guy without any responsibilities other than himself. You need to treat yourself with respect and protect your child, and he needs to observe that change in you. Because, as it stands, he sees you tripping all over yourself to be all things to all people at your own personal expense, and that, for whatever reason, makes him respect you less. A person like that? Well, they're contemptuous, and contemptuousness is a pretty hard issue to work out between married people, I'm sorry to say.

That said, if you start behaving with self-respect, integrity and strength, he'll notice, believe me. You might not get what you want from him but I promise you you will see things differently. Start telling him no. Start not depending on him; hire help where you need it. Get your own counselor. Throw money at the things that can be solved by money and focus all your other energy on making yourself and your child happy and well-cared for. Him? Let him fend for himself the way he's left you and your kid to do for some time now. Maybe you'll start finding life with him less attractive than you do right now, and then maybe you'll start envisioning life on your own terms rather than waiting around for him to grow up and accept responsibility and stop being a complete asshole.

I hope you find yourself free in heart and mind at the end of all of this. I really, really do. You deserve it and so does your kid.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 1:15 PM on March 20, 2015 [20 favorites]

I would implore you not to do this. Telling him that you asked other people for advice? I tried this with my ex. It did NOT go over well, and that's an understatement. This, quite simply, is terrible advice.

Your question shows how you feel about him.
Yeah, it also shows how he feels about her, which is pretty damn important. What kind of a person treats their wife like this? What kind of a person is rude when someone they supposedly love is having a medical crisis? What kind of a person tells their wife that they are "obsessed with justice" when they ask for help around the house? What kind of person ignores their own sick kid and their own sick wife? A person like my abusive ex-boyfriend, that's who. A person who is selfish, mean, and controlling. A "dick." A bad guy. I don't like to throw around the phrase "bad guy," but I don't think this description leaves much room for anything else.

Give him an ultimatum. Say this can't go on. If nothing changes (give it a year if he shows serious effort in changing), then divorce him.
Sure, stick around for another year. Let him keep treating you like garbage to "see if he shows effort." Nice. He doesn't even have to change - he just has to try to change, all the while treating you and your son like crud. You know what you can do? You can separate. People separate. You can separate and see if he changes. You separate and you decide whether or not you want him in your life. That, ultimately, is what I decided to do: I decided to leave my ex and I told him, "If you improve, I'll come back." He did absolutely nothing to improve himself. You know what he did? He found someone else to control and he just started up on his abusive routine with her. An ultimatum to treat your spouse with respect and kindness is ridiculous, by the way. "You better treat me better than you'd treat a stranger or I'll leave - in a year!" is basically what that ultimatum boils down to. That will not be super-effective. So don't give him an ultimatum. Just take care of yourself.

More realistic than separation, right now, probably, is: put all this stuff in your head and think about it the next time he treats you poorly. And you can let it churn around in your head. You can keep collecting data. You can always decide to stay or to leave later. I also did this - I asked my first question here on AskMe about my relationship two years before I left my ex. I didn't leave until he started physical violence, and it wasn't the first time that he violated me physically that I decided to leave - it took a few whacks against the mirror that drew blood and doors broken down on me for me to figure it out. But in an early conversation with my therapist, she said to me, "What is your dealbreaker? What would he have to do to make you decide to leave?" (She asked this when I was talking about leaving - she was INCREDIBLY supportive of me and did not judge me at all for being with an abusive man; she never even said the word "abusive" until I asked about it, and didn't push me to leave one bit.) I responded: "He'd have to hit me," and I kept that in my back pocket. So: What would your husband have to do for you to decide to leave? Keep that in your back pocket.

I'm sorry you're in this situation. Take care.
posted by sockermom at 2:44 PM on March 20, 2015 [34 favorites]

Your child sees this. And your child internalises it. Not just how you're treated, but the fact their 'adoring father' refuses to spend time or energy on them. No amount of lip service makes up for that.
posted by geek anachronism at 3:13 PM on March 20, 2015 [10 favorites]

It sounds like maybe he's kind of worn you down with the little things--leaving the domestic chores to you, expecting you to do the heavy lifting in terms of childcare, dragging his feet on things you ask him to do. Certainly none of those things is extremely far outside the norm of a lot of relationships. But then this illness came up, and he was actively cruel toward you and negligent toward his child (and I wonder whether there have been similar, if smaller, spikes of cruel behavior in the past).

You mentioned that you have communication issues that you could stand to address, but I wonder how you imagine that would improve this relationship. He doesn't leave you with the domestic and childcare tasks because you haven't asked for help correctly, and he didn't treat you with contempt when you were ill because you didn't tell him about your illness in exactly the right words and tone.
posted by Meg_Murry at 3:18 PM on March 20, 2015 [10 favorites]

An ultimatum to treat your spouse with respect and kindness is ridiculous, by the way. "You better treat me better than you'd treat a stranger or I'll leave - in a year!" is basically what that ultimatum boils down to. That will not be super-effective. So don't give him an ultimatum. Just take care of yourself.

Just take care of yourself. Yes! Very well said, sockermom. Nthing the advice for you to seek counseling -- individual counseling, just for taking care of yourself, NOT couples counseling, because I agree with nadawi: couples counseling "will only give him more ammo to make your life even more miserable." I know your question is framed as "what to do when husband refuses to go to counseling?" And the answer is: You go by yourself.
posted by hush at 4:03 PM on March 20, 2015 [8 favorites]

I'm so sorry you're in this situation. I've been in (and am still in, for the time being) in a marriage with similar dynamics and I know exactly how soul killing it is.

I second the recommendation up thread for Lundy Bancroft's book. I also recommend Steven Stosny's books Love Without Hurt (for both partners) and Living and Loving After Betrayal (for you). Love Without Hurt has probably been the most positively impactful book out of many--many--as my husband and I have struggled. I'll bet it could help you too, and maybe your husband as well.

Best of luck.
posted by Sublimity at 5:06 PM on March 20, 2015

Nthing the point that this sort of relationship dynamic and home life will fuck up your kid.

I'm in my mid 20s, and quite a few of my friends are still fucked up and working out the utter mess of how they react to certain situations, or what types of relationships they look for/end up in. Fuck, i am too.

You have the power to end this, and prevent your kid from having an utterly fucked up view of what a relationship is, how to react to things, etc. Staying isn't working towards harmony in the home, it's frontloading all this garbage on to them.

Plenty of people have already given reasons why you'd be ahead if you were single from what is essentially a below zero out of ten situation, but your kid would be too.
posted by emptythought at 5:09 PM on March 20, 2015 [7 favorites]

Can this marriage stay intact? Yes. You can lower your expectations, live with his contempt, and slowly find yourself growing bitter and resentful. Your children will sense it, and have problems forming healthy relationships. You will find yourself in your golden years afraid and diminished, wondering why your children don't visit you more often.

Can this marriage be happy? With a man who doesn't meet the minimum requirements for being a partner and helpmate? If my experience with my parents is anything to go by, no.
posted by snickerdoodle at 4:14 AM on March 21, 2015 [8 favorites]

I think in this instance he needs to know now exactly how unhappy you are and that you are considering leaving. I think an ultimatum is exactly what's needed and you need to be serious about leaving if he doesn't change his behaviour towards you, particularly when you're sick!

I think he does adore his kid but he's also being extremely lazy and self-absorbed.

He'll either be snapped back into the reality that relationship takes work from all parties involved and start taking you seriously, or he won't change a damned thing and he'll lose you and the relationship. You need to tell him how serious this is and that it can't continue on the way it's going. The conversation has to be had and you have to be able to follow through.

I'm really sorry you're going through this.
posted by h00py at 6:19 AM on March 21, 2015

He has untreated ADD.

There's so much I could write, but you should probably just read Is It You Me or Adult ADD? by Gina Pera. Gina also ran an email support group for ADD spouses through CHADD. Maybe it still exists. Google her for lots more information. It may help you understand why he is such a dick and why it is intractable.

ADD (or ADHD, proper terminology) does not go away and treatment is imperfect. You cannot fix this. That said, he would probably be able to manage his job better if he were treated.

He isn't going to change. I'm sorry, but you need to save yourself and your child.
posted by islandeady at 7:40 AM on March 21, 2015

Honestly I wouldn't spend money on counseling, I'd spend it on household help. Your husband is never going to step up, so you need to pay someone who will: nanny/housekeeper etc. Find someone independent of whether you stay with your husband, sounds like you need it.
posted by Toddles at 1:08 PM on March 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm sorry that you're going through this, no one deserves to be treated this way.

I'm also sorry to tell you this, but your problems are far bigger than "garden variety". Your husband is abusive, full stop. He's emotionally abusing you and your child. It doesn't really matter why at this point - you can spend your entire life trying to figure out why he's behaving this way and trying to fix it on your own and it won't make a bit of difference. He's the only one who can change his behavior and he refuses to do that. He won't get treatment for his ADD, he won't help you around the house, he won't help you with or pay attention to your kid. I really doubt that he would go to counseling if you aksed. The only thing you will ever be able to count on him doing from this point forward is make your life (and your child's life) miserable.

Your husband has turned you into a servant who meets all of his needs while meeting none of your own. You are no longer his partner, he doesn't respect you or really even care about you, as demonstrated by him getting angry with you when you had a serious illness. Who does that? Like DestinationUnknown said, strangers on the street would probably treat you better than your own husband has been has been treating you. That is 100% screwed up and wrong.

Honestly, it's time to consult a divorce attorney. It's doesn't mean you have to divorce your husband right away, but they can tell you what your options are and if necessary they can help make plans to ensure sure that you're financially and legally secure and that your husband doesn't make your life even harder than it is now if he gets vindictive because you do decide to divorce him. (Based on what you said about him slamming doors and dishes because he was upset that you were sick, I'd say he's the type to get vindictive.)

You may also want to look into counseling for yourself and your child if they're old enough to benefit from it. I wouldn't even consider asking your husband to go to couple's counseling because emotionally manipulative and/or abusive people often lie during couple's therapy, try to get the therapist on their side or use what's discussed in sessions as ammunition to further abuse you.

You may have to work up to leaving him, you may have to go through the stages of grief as you come to terms with what you have to do, but it's the only thing you can do now to save yourself and your child years and year of heartache and misery. You can't get blood from a stone. You can't get love, affection and partnership from an abusive spouse who's checked out of your marriage. You can't force or nag or entice or wheedle your husband to change his behavior. The hard truth is that you alone can't save your marriage. You can only save yourself and your child.
posted by i feel possessed at 5:55 PM on March 21, 2015 [11 favorites]

I'm not sure I've ever read a question that has made me as sad as this one. OP, he doesn't want a partner. He wants a servant. You deserve so much better, and so does your child. You deserve to be with someone who actually loves you, and who SHOWS it. He's not that person, and he's not going to be.
posted by sarcasticah at 8:01 PM on March 21, 2015 [4 favorites]

Be prepared for him to shape up briefly and make gestures like expensive gifts, love letters and being a doting father for a while. It has helped me to set straightforward goals like that he would give me access to XYZ finances, turn up for agreed appointments with the kids etc, things that helped me directly and didn't benefit him. When he couldn't do them and would offer excuses rapidly followed by criticism for my 'crazily high expectations' of being able to do things like buy groceries for the children, it helped me to see through the grandiose gestures he made that weren't motivated by genuine change or affection, but as ways to manipulate a return to his preferred status quo.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 5:24 AM on March 22, 2015 [10 favorites]

I've been thinking about your question some more. I had a Russian colleague, a developer, who started staying at the office very late after his wife had a baby, typically till 10 pm. He said his wife and child were asleep by the time he got home and he'd leave so early in the morning that he wouldn't see them except on weekends.

He didn't seem to think there was anything odd about this situation.

Which makes me wonder if your husband comes from a culture where the man traditionally excludes himself from home and family. It might be worthwhile, for your sanity, to explore what your husband's father did when he was growing up.

Alternatively, I wonder if your husband is depressed and this is his way of escaping a home life that makes him unhappy. I wonder if he doesn't like taking second place to your child, if he's as self-centered as you describe.

Some food for thought, not an attempt at justifying his behaviour, which I find completely unacceptable.
posted by Dragonness at 7:02 PM on March 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

I don't have a kid, but when my ex 1) refused to go to counseling and 2) refused to take me to the doctor after a car accident which totaled my car (and I couldn't drive myself), I divorced him within a month.
posted by getawaysticks at 8:13 AM on March 24, 2015 [3 favorites]

I really don't think it matters if your partner is from a culture where women do most of the work etc, because although those things are bad enough from a simple disconnect/you doing everything perspective, the part where he is rude to you when you're very ill jumps out. I can't think of any cultural difference that makes that acceptable, or that would make being indifferent to illness at all acceptable.

I have a friend who was in a similar situation, culture about women's work doesn't apply, and I was shocked that my friend could come back from that at all (I'm not sure they have or will, but they're keeping at the relationship). Personally that would be a massive dealbreaker for me.
posted by zutalors! at 8:42 AM on March 24, 2015 [5 favorites]

I wish there was an update on this one.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 4:10 PM on September 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

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