Seeking to be more mature and less insecure in my marriage
June 5, 2016 5:57 PM   Subscribe

We have been married for 2 years, and had a crazy amount of stressful things come our way at once. I don't have the best upbringing or modeling for the healthy relationship I strive for, but I do try. I need examples of healthy ways to think about these situations, healthy self-talk mantras I can use, and tools I can use to determine when I am being unreasonable and when I am being appropriate in my expectations.

Within the last year there have been financial, medical and other types of crises. Being ambitious and driven, and not wanting to deal with a lifestyle change from his loss of income, I went from one job to three. I gave him time to adjust to the unexpected job status change. I was understanding and supportive because he couldn't help it. Then after some time processing (a couple of months), I was ready to see effort to create a better situation. I don't mean "you have to find a job in a month" but just, you know, active effort to find one. In the time I've been out of work, I have crammed all the grief and fear and feelings of failure into one day, and then put myself out there ruthlessly until I found something. I'm told that I'm the exception, not the rule, in the world of unemployment.

For hubby's response to the unemployment situation, typical story from what I have read - slow to apply, slow to research and apply ways to be more marketable, slow to branch out into non-industry applications, slow to hear back, slow to contribute at home due to gender role socialization issues - and in his case, pretty severe depression. I grew resentful over the imbalance, even more resentful of time spent on hobbies as practical things went undone. I was getting more and more agitated and communicating in less and less productive ways, because I just felt invisible and totally taken for granted that he would be content to watch me work that much. As his depression has been treated, and after several months of couples therapy, this part is getting better. At least, there is more of an effort to do things happening now, and he is helping more with the domestic stuff. Which is really great and I'm making an effort to show my appreciation.

So add unplanned pregnancy to the list of things we've had to manage.

Now there's additional pressure for him to find work because I can't sustain 3 jobs on maternity leave.

My problem is because of the nature of the crises, and the fact that there were so many within a year, and the fact that some of them have still left lingering strings that are not fully resolved - my sense of stability with him was shaken on an emotional level, and then the many months of his depressed inaction further left me feeling insecure. He was not reassuring, because he didn't have the capacity to be, but on a deeper level I really really needed that from him.

So now I tend to overreact at things that might be an unreliable action - not doing something he said he would, for example, or doing something he said he wouldn't do. Like I honestly wonder if all those crises at once left a trauma type of impact. And after the months of him not doing things, if I get home and everything is a mess, I get really upset. I have learned that I need to just leave his presence, or I will probably behave inappropriately, because I have anxiety issues and impulse control issues and those are a bad combination. Even though NOW the reason things aren't addressed cleaning wise is often more appropriate than it used to be, I still struggle, because each time that happens it reminds me of all those days coming home with moments between jobs, to see that nothing had been handled, leaving me feeling like it was all on my shoulders with no appreciation for my efforts.

I also struggle with getting into this "manager mode" where I am looking around for things that need to be done as his contribution for all the working I am doing (because if the roles were reversed, I would feel so guilty about depending on him financially that I would be using the whole day to make the house better, or find other ways to make his life easier). I hate this "manager mode" about myself. I don't feel good in that space.

Another consideration for this manager mode issue, is he is very "go with the flow." So I think some of it, is just that for there to be forward movement, someone has to bring that energy. I would rather we split that role evenly or I feel pushy, but it doesn't occur to him to look for ways to do that. I'm not sure if I am making sense. If you read up on the meaning of Yin and Yang in Chinese philosophy, what I am basically saying is he prefers to be the YIN energy, which makes me have to be the YANG by default, and results in this manager mode. I'd like to see him in his yang energy more so I can relax too. When I relax, he doesn't step up to be yang person. He just relaxes with me. So I can't relax often, for fear that things won't happen. We have talked about this but I'm not sure how to get the point across.

I was raised by a control freak, and try hard not to be one, but I think his go with the flow nature was drawn to me because of it. I was also not raised with healthy relational behaviors, unconditional love, healthy coping skill training, etc. I am in therapy and will continue it for some time. I have pretty significant attachment issues that may or may not be relevant here.

The biggest issue for me, however, is the anxiety. And the fact that several of the crisis situations, while the major part of it is over, there are still unresolved aspects, so little things come up about those situations, which stresses me considerably, because I can't breathe until there's no chance those issues will resurface.

I'm sitting here like, I just want to feel safe, and I don't, and I don't know what to do about it. So I do my meditation and nature time etc., and my escapism activities to calm myself down, but sometimes it's not enough. Is this normal in a marriage to have this type of anxiety? The thing is, those crises all had a significant impact in my life, even though they were technically a matter of his responsibility and life. I don't know how to emotionally separate myself from those things that happen to him, that had fallout for me. My therapist tries to help me do that, but how can his totaling of the car that I loved so much not impact me? How can the chance of long term consequences from that not impact me, even if they will technically be directed at him? (If you are wondering, this was not a DUI issue. There isn't a substance abuse problem. Yes I'm sure. I would rather not get into more of the specifics.)

Additional comments. He's loving. Very loving, patient and kind. We both struggle with mental health issues. We both get treatment separately and were getting it together but I said we have to find a different couples therapist. I'm not sure what else is relevant. I've been really nasty to him at times because I just didn't know how to cope with all the crisis and unknown and inaction on his part, and nice didn't get me anywhere and I ran out of options.

I want to learn how to think about these types of things in a better way, while not putting blinders on to signs that I'm really being taken advantage of. I don't think it's in his nature to knowingly do that. Marriage is a give and take but for a long time I felt like he was taking and taking and not giving back, and it messed with me a bit. I want to improve how I respond to these issues, because we have a child coming and I need to manage the stress better before that is also a factor.

Thank you in advance, MeFi.
posted by crunchy potato to Human Relations (40 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
On his end, what has changed since you took on 3 jobs and then got pregnant?

Please update.

I will say that your hormones are making this so much worse for very very good reason. I think I finally started feeling safe and normal again about the time my son turned 4 years old? If your spouse is underperforming as a partner and parent, no amount of meditation will fix how unstable you feel. So if there was some good news in that wall of text and he's 1000% stepping back up and has it together, please update and let us know.
posted by jbenben at 6:21 PM on June 5, 2016 [7 favorites]

Response by poster: I want to add that I also have history of depression but my locus of control is internal so I think the process of getting out of that was different for me, and I projected that onto him with my expectations. Which looked selfish and unsupportive. I honestly don't know how to manage the mental space of "I am solely responsible for everything that is productive in this relationship right now - I have to keep the practical stuff going and also be emotionally available for my partner." Like, how do people find the stamina for that? I feel like there's something wrong with me that I wasn't able to do that consistently. He has a history of depression but I never felt everything on my shoulders like that. It's terrifying. How can I get it not to be? Done threadsitting now.
posted by crunchy potato at 6:23 PM on June 5, 2016

Can I ask for a little more clarification about the nature of the financial and medical crises you're talking about and how they resulted in your husband's unemployment? Did your husband lose his job and then suffer a major depressive episode, or lose his job because of a depressive episode, or have a completely different medical crisis like a serious physical illness or injury? I don't want to pry but I think your question looks very different based on the particulars. :/
posted by moonlight on vermont at 6:29 PM on June 5, 2016

Response by poster: Update for jbenben:

He is cleaning more, and is more receptive to my requests for the domestic stuff.
He is making more of an effort to find a job, and has stretched into non-industry or otherwise not the first string type of applying.
He is acting less resentful to me. (He resented my efforts to create movement. I was totally a nag, because other less directive methods weren't working.)
He is more responsive which is HUGE. He has ADHD too, and I'm finally getting him to understand that if he doesn't either do the thing now, or create a reminder now to do it later, it disappears from his reality, and that's hard on me.
Generally he is acting like more of a helpmate, so it is easier for us to have good times not just hard ones.

His overall behavior has improved but I'm still feeling really anxious over the lingering crisis situations, and generally not feeling like I have a handle on how to be a healthy adult in a relationship. Some of it might be hormonal, but I felt this way before the pregnancy too. So I don't think this is hormones. The hormones in my case have actually left me feeling MORE balanced than I did pre-pregnancy.
posted by crunchy potato at 6:31 PM on June 5, 2016

You... sound pretty healthy to me?

When I read posts on here about "I work my ass off and my spouse is too depressed to work so I do everything and that's fine and oh by the way it's been that way for twelve years", that's when I'm baffled. You sound more like I would sound, in terms of your expectations (and fears.) Unemployment IS terribly hard and discouraging and sometimes there are deficits in the skill set that are damn near impossible to overcome, but in that case, if someone really can't find a job despite maximal trying, they can and should do everything else they can to contribute to the household.

You asked about stamina. Only thing I can suggest is to take huge pride in how well you are doing and how strong you are. And stop beating yourself up for having high expectations of your partner. Also, with the baby coming, the amount and type of work in your household is going to change, so there will be an opportunity for him to contribute significantly more.
posted by fingersandtoes at 6:31 PM on June 5, 2016 [23 favorites]

Best answer: You're being so, so hard on yourself. You're absolutely bending over backward blaming yourself and outside circumstances for your problems, when to an outside observer your husband's behavior is very, very problematic. Okay, he's depressed. But you have anxiety issues yourself, and have managed to hold down three jobs and manage your household and your lives while he does..... what? Of course you'd feel guilty if your spouse was working three jobs and you didn't take responsibility for household tasks. Anyone should. He's your partner, and you're accepting things from him which don't really have to be acceptable. It's okay to be mad and frustrated. You're working three freaking jobs and holding your lives together pretty much singlehandedly. I wonder if part of your anxiety is a result of suppressing the frustration, or from guilt over being secretly angry.

You can't be the only responsible adult in your marriage and retain your sanity, especially with an infant. He needs to step up, like right now - to seek treatment for his depression, to do what it takes to figure out how to get a job and contribute equally to your household, not just financially and chore-wise but also emotionally. It sounds like you feel like you're dealing with everything alone, like you can't rely on him for support, and that's a problem that isn't going to be fixed without major changes on his part. I honestly think the way you feel is not your fault. It doesn't mean something is wrong with you - It's a natural, direct response to the reality of your life.
posted by something something at 6:36 PM on June 5, 2016 [47 favorites]

Honestly, you sound pretty healthy to me. I was in a similar situation with my ex for a while and ended up breaking up with him because he only said pretty words and did the bare minimum but never actually did the hard (grungy) work. (He wanted only a glamorous job he can brag about, even though he had no money and a ton of debt.)

With my now husband, I knew he was a keeper because when he lost his job, he was able to immediately jump into taking care of all the house/yard work. He had several plans and found a job within several months. This is what a mature adult would do.

For me, the only thing that would make me secure in a situation like yours would be if I had enough savings to not have to worry about money. Otherwise, yes, I'll worry. I would and did cut the budget down to bare bones (zero eating out, no movies, no cable, no new shirts unless for interview, nothing).

So I think the best thing you can do is to communicate to your husband how he can help you and help him understand how important it is that he contributes to the household even if it is not in traditional gender roles.

If he's depressed, make sure that he's getting the medical treatment he needs.
posted by ethidda at 6:44 PM on June 5, 2016 [7 favorites]

I kind of feel like you're pathologizing your expectations around how proactive your husband is. That doesn't seem healthy. As fingersandtoes said, you're supposed to have reasonable expectations for your partner stepping up to the plate. Setting the bar low isn't virtuous and doesn't make you a better wife or something. Have you addressed this in therapy?
posted by blerghamot at 6:45 PM on June 5, 2016 [25 favorites]

So your husband is too depressed to apply for jobs or take care of the house but not depressed enough that he has plenty of time to do the things he enjoys like, hobbies. Meanwhile his pregnant wife is working three jobs and coming home to clean the house. Damn straight you're anxious, I'll bet and stressed, and worried and angry. And I've just read your update that he's pulling his weight a bit more (yay!) which is great. I'm not unsympathetic to his depression at all but he needs to be taking steps to deal with it.

I think it is absolutely natural to feel how you're feeling, even after the crisis is over, because when you needed him most, you felt abandoned. You won't necessarily get over that all at once, even if things do get better for him. Your partner the other hand, knows that you'll keep on taking more and more of the burden on (three jobs, and I bet they're not all in your field of work, either!) so he doesn't feel that pressure to step up because you'll do it. I don't think these things are either loving or kind.

I read somewhere that marriage isn't both of you giving 50/50, sometimes it's one of you giving 100% and the other giving nothing. I think most marriages go through crises where one of you falls down and the other has to pick them up, and maybe this is your turn. But there are many things he can and should be doing to support you whilst you support him.

I think the way you're handling this is admirable. I also think maybe your partner is the type to need a concrete action plan every day, just because too much time on his hands leads to nothing getting done. From what you say, his days need to consist of looking for work, looking after the house and getting his depression under control. A set schedule may help. For example, he needs to apply for xx amount of jobs every day, in any field he's qualified for, then he needs to do xx and xx chores around the house, then go see his therapist and whatever time is left is his to do what he likes with.

Now this may seem like too much micromanaging but after many months left to his own devices and achieving not much, this might get him more on track. It's worth having a chat about. Either way, you need to see light at the end of the tunnel because your life right now is unsustainable. If he really is as loving and kind as you say he is, he needs to get on board. Best of luck, you're doing an AMAZING job.
posted by Jubey at 6:50 PM on June 5, 2016 [13 favorites]

I'm so so sorry to hear your update that he's in therapy, you're both in couples counseling, you work 3 jobs + you are pregnant and he's just starting to act less resentful towards you + look more seriously for employment.

Do you guys have a large financial cushion or some other major support in place that explains this person's behavior?

I think a different marriage counselor is a good idea. You need a professional evaluation regarding your partner's capabilities and situation from an IRL source...
posted by jbenben at 6:50 PM on June 5, 2016 [4 favorites]

Best answer: You might get a lot from reading last summer's epic discussion on emotional labor."

What you are describing as "manager mode" sounds to me like you are doing all the emotional labor in your relationship.

You might also read about being the "default parent."
posted by mcduff at 7:08 PM on June 5, 2016 [18 favorites]

I don't think you need a counsellor as much as you need a lawyer. A year is too long for this to have dragged on. Get the information you need, get your ducks in a row, and give him the ultimatum - either he steps up immediately or you step out. Having been in your shoes exactly, I can tell you caring for two helpless babies at once will destroy you. I'm sorry he has let you down; I now know that being reliable is the number one most important quality in a partner.
posted by saucysault at 7:11 PM on June 5, 2016 [25 favorites]

I personally would suggest that this is not the time for an accidental baby? IDK if that's an option for you or not.

Having been in a similar situation, I agree that it's lawyer time -- although, god forbid, there's a chance that you'll end up working three jobs to pay him child support.

Also, frankly, he needs to do more than work on his resentment -- a little gratitude towards you for completely carrying your household would perhaps be in order. I know he is depressed, but has a lot of nerve, frankly.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 7:15 PM on June 5, 2016 [25 favorites]

If I were you, I would move back in with my parents for at least a month. You can either quit working, keep one or two of your jobs, or find a new job/s. The main thing is separating your living situation, at least temporarily.

You will be happier when you're not thinking about cleaning the house and seeing him mope and laze around. Out of sight, out of mind. You will be able to focus on yourself and have your parents take care of you, as well.

Once you're gone, he will be embarrassed, lonely, stop getting sex and emotional support, and be FORCED to keep the house clean or wallow in his own filth forever.

I have no doubt he will absolutely start taking things more seriously. If you divorce him, he'll have to get a job anyway. Maybe if he realizes that, he'll start trying harder, faster.

Being nicer, more understanding, and spending more time together is exactly the wrong approach. Your husband needs to shape up and he needs your tough love to do it. You'll be doing him a favor. Seriously. "Understanding his problems" and working harder to compensate for them is not going to help him improve himself at this point.
posted by quincunx at 7:19 PM on June 5, 2016 [9 favorites]

I have been in that mode like your husband might be of having everything seem to be an effort, which has made it hard to stay on top of job-hunting and housework. I was depressed and anxious along with ADHD. The least little thing was a struggle. I could work on hobbies that involved minimal effort and sometimes that was the only thing that got me through the day. During that time I was unemployed for a few months. I forced myself to find a full-time job, and unfortunately, I just couldn't function with its demands and was fired. I don't know you and your husband so it's not clear to me whether he has this severe a depression or whether he is just being a manchild and taking advantage of you. But it took another two years of continuing to struggle and only being able to hold down part-time, undemanding jobs for me to finally give in and get on medication. And it has made a HUGE difference in my energy level and ability to accomplish things. It doesn't seem like an enormous effort just to wash the dishes anymore. I'm not afraid of taking on work in my field anymore and I have a pretty high-on-the-masthead editing job now rather than retail cashiering. If your husband hasn't considered medication, maybe now is the time to do so.
posted by Beethoven's Sith at 7:26 PM on June 5, 2016 [9 favorites]

On preview, I wanted to add that quincunx's suggestion is a good one, whether he is severely depressed or just coasting. Either way something like that might wake him up to the fact that he needs to get this shit handled, whatever its cause.
posted by Beethoven's Sith at 7:30 PM on June 5, 2016

Also, I just want to say that maybe you're just too capable. Maybe he really thinks you're so strong and he's so weak that this is all easy for you, or something. There is huge power in telling him, "I can't handle this. I am not strong enough. I need your help. I am breaking down." Lay it on thick, talk about your needs, your exhaustion. Take the focus off of his problems only. This may help him "get it."
posted by quincunx at 7:39 PM on June 5, 2016 [16 favorites]

I am currently on a medical leave for mental health issues. Cleaning the house, for as much as I can during the day, is hugely helpful for me, and by extension, my family. It gives me a feeling of purpose, and it's good for me to DO something instead of staying in bed all day. I'm kinda in his shoes right now, and even I think his behavior is appalling (and really, some days all I can handle is a load of dishes and cooking dinner).
posted by Ruki at 7:55 PM on June 5, 2016 [3 favorites]

Your expectation that he take a day to grieve his sudden unemployment and then get one with looking for a job (as opposed to taking a year off at your expense) being hand-waved away by someone in your life as unrealistic expectations makes me wonder who is gas-lighting you and how fast you can get them out of your life. Because it is completely normal to expect an adult to support themselves, especially with a pregnant spouse. I'm sorry you are getting such terrible advice from RL people; after a year you have to accept that this may be who he is for the rest of his life with you. Are you okay with that?
posted by saucysault at 8:02 PM on June 5, 2016 [13 favorites]

Best answer: I have been the partner carrying the load for my spouse who was in a very major depressive episode. It is stressful, but there's more going on for you than just that. Even while deep in the throes of depression and severe anxiety, my partner mustered all available resources to do housework and care for the dog. He also remained as emotionally connected to me as possible, thanking me and being loving and nurturing toward me. He understood the nature of my sacrifice and tried his hardest to contribute to the household as well as be a good partner and emotional support to me. I know it was very, very difficult for him to even do that much while largely incapacitated, but he made it a priority out of sheer will and commitment to being a partner.

Your partner sounds like he's suffering from some serious mental challenges and I don't want to dismiss that. However, his lack of emotional maturity and feeling like he doesn't have to be responsible for a minimum of effort, even if it's outside of his comfort zone, is quite troubling. And, he's been openly resenting you? That's unacceptable. Has he convinced you that you are also equally responsible for you current marriage difficulties? From where I'm standing, you're kicking major ass and taking on way too much blame for not being cheerful and accepting enough of your role and his inaction. It's absolutely normal and healthy to feel unsafe, insecure, overly taxed, and resentful in this situation. Your partner isn't pulling even the most basic expected weight and you're right to be panicky.

Get a new couples counselor and make sure you're getting enough support in therapy. Read the emotional labor thread and consider where your line may be. Your husband needs to understand how close to the edge this marriage is. I've seen this dynamic play out in the marriages of good girlfriends and they're now left single parenting with a parasitic ex. His progress in a positive direction is good, but it's not nearly enough. He has to find a way to do much, much better. Pushing you into being a manager/nag is not OK at all. And, all of this will get much worse with a child in the mix if he doesn't turn things around radically. Unfortunately, you can't do much more. He needs to start doing his part in a major way if this marriage has a chance of surviving this.
posted by quince at 8:09 PM on June 5, 2016 [11 favorites]

Best answer: No, it is not normal to have this much anxiety in a good relationship. The relationship I was in that had that much anxiety was very, very bad for me.

You say you want to emotionally separate yourself from these "things that happen to him" but you do not know how. One way to do this might be to really look at what that phrase means - what are you saying about his situations, his life, by phrasing it that way? These are not things that are happening to him. He is very much making choices which naturally result in things of this nature occurring in his life. He is an agent. Things do not just keep happening to him; he does things which have consequence. No matter how much of a supposed "yin" he is. There are certainly things that are beyond our control that do occur in life, but not like this.

I would also caution you against emotionally separating yourself from what this means. It would be normal for anyone to feel very angry at someone for making choices that have rested on their back, that have used their labor - physical, emotional - and their time, their joy, their feeling of safety in their own lives. It is ok to get angry about that.

When I did not get angry about something similar in my life, it had very damaging consequences. It was very hard to climb out of that hole; most days, I am still climbing. It's been nearly four years since I was in it, since I was consciously making the choice every single day to put myself aside, to work, to toil, to give time and energy and my youth and my joy and my own feeling of safety to a black hole.

You say he is loving and kind. What he has done to you is not loving or kind, depression or no.

Take care of yourself.
posted by sockermom at 8:15 PM on June 5, 2016 [13 favorites]

Best answer: It sounds to me like you have done a LOT of personal work, both on overcoming your self-described dysfunctional upbringing and on not letting your yang tendencies control you or become destructive. You talk here and in other comments about working on mindfulness to make sure your anxiety doesn't manifest as yelling or rage, trying to understand that a single day turnaround after unemployment really is an exceptionally high level of functioning, working to shed the bad patterns of your own family, really understanding that depression is real and has a real impact on people, etc. But I think that in all the self-work you've done, you might have ended up self-examining to the point of pathologizing yourself a little, or like saucysalt suggested, that maybe you are *being* pathologized by whoever your couples counselor is. Like you are trying SO hard to be understanding of people who don't have as high an executive function level as you, that you've lost sight of what is an acceptable baseline level of functioning and contributing to a relationship.

A single day of being incapacitated by losing your job is on one extreme of the bell curve, yes, but a year of no significant effort (seriously can he get a job at Starbucks or something, ANY job at this point?) is at the opposite end-- it's also an extreme reaction.

Like other commenters here are saying, you are being so hard on yourself here, and in such insanely trying circumstances. I wish I could hug you and make you tea and let you relax for an evening. I don't have answers about what to do, but I just want to say, you are not being unreasonable; you are dealing with a lot, and have been carrying a lot, and you deserve a partner who will carry some of that with you. Hugs.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 10:51 PM on June 5, 2016 [11 favorites]

What happens when you stop fixing everything? I know this would be hard for you, but what would happen?

Also, be kind to yourself because right now it sounds like nobody else is really looking out for you. Be kind to yourself: do your own laundry, make yourself a nice meal and go out for a long walk by yourself.
posted by kariebookish at 4:31 AM on June 6, 2016 [4 favorites]

fingersandtoes said pretty much what I wanted to say; I'll just add that we can't really tell what's going on (and thus give you useful advice), not only because we're only getting your side of it but because both your marriage and this difficult spell are relatively new (though I know it seems like they've both been going on forever). It is perfectly possible that he's genuinely been hit too hard to recover quickly, but now, with therapy plus time, he'll pick up the pieces and start doing his share, and eventually you'll both look back on this as "that bad time that almost destroyed us but really cemented our relationship." It is also perfectly possible that he's one of the (all too common) guys who really can't get their minds around the concept of doing things they don't enjoy, of working hard to support you both (and soon a kid) and doing their share of the housework, and prefer to just make excuses and let you work yourself to death, and you'll wind up having to DTMFA. We have no way of knowing. All we can do is tell you to be proud of yourself (seriously, you've been amazing) and not to go too easy on him; it isn't a matter of being a control freak but just of not letting him get away with shit, or (to put it more nicely) of helping him be the good, supportive husband he wants to be. Good luck, and please update us!
posted by languagehat at 6:43 AM on June 6, 2016 [3 favorites]

Best answer: You are anxious because he is failing to be an adult. That's an anxiety provoking quality for a partner to have.

Is this what you want in a partner? If not what is it that you want and need? Write that down and then take that piece of paper and him to a couples councilor and read it.
posted by French Fry at 7:18 AM on June 6, 2016 [7 favorites]

The only thing I can see that you're doing wrong is making things too easy on your husband and driving yourself crazy. I'm gathering that you've snapped at him and reacted in anger and you don't want to do that anymore. I agree with the suggestion that your husband is suffering, in addition to ADHD and depression, from learned helplessness. It's great that you're in therapy, both together and separately. Keep it up! Let him REALLY know how it's affecting you. If you are, stop putting on a brave face. You're supporting your family with three jobs and you're pregnant. You're not getting enough help at home, and you're not getting the emotional support and reassurance you need to feel safe. It's not being broke and living in a dirty house that's the problem- it's that there is someone there that could help and prevent this and won't. He's basically just watching you flounder. You're suffering.

Tell him how tired you are. Show him. Tell him you're anxious and feeling unsupported. You're the manager NOW, but you want to share the responsibilities. The idea of marriage is that each person is the "manager" for different things, or (what it sounds like you want) a co-manager. He's not your employee or a lazy kid. You're in it together, and he needs to help. Your ship is going down unless both you work on bailing it out. It seems like he's started, and that's great. He needs encouragement or a good, stiff kick in the ass in order to keep it up until he's pulling his weight. You're helping him up when he's down, and that's admirable, but in a successful marriage, you should be able to rely on him to pick you up at the times when YOU'RE down. You need that help, and you're not getting it.

One practical concern: the way things are going now, I don't think you should count on your husband getting a job by the time you start maternity leave. It doesn't seem realistic. It also doesn't sound like he could be relied on to take care of a child. I think you should make serious childcare plans and work out how they'll be feasible, logistically and financially, and see your husband only as a backup in the direst cases. He doesn't sound like he's doing a good job taking care of himself and I don't think you should trust him to be responsible for a helpless baby.

Also, just...listen to yourself. You have reasons to be anxious and reasons to want to change things. It's not irrational. It's great that you're being so compassionate and understanding and patient with your husband. One thing I recommend is perhaps letting go of the unimportant things, because you have a lot of big things going on. It makes sense to want your husband to help out around the house and find a job, but maybe you can give up certain things, like you don't mind if the dishes and vacuuming aren't done, but the laundry is really important to you. You've gotten results with your husband scheduling things to prevent him from forgetting. Maybe he can come up with a list or schedule for himself and you can double-check it and edit for things you really need done, and you can purposefully let the rest not bother you.
posted by serenity_now at 9:26 AM on June 6, 2016 [3 favorites]

I want to add one more thing, because I missed that you have a bad relationship with your parents in the original post:

You simply can't be a pregnant woman with a bad relationship with your parents and your husband and be working three jobs and not be mentally and physically unwell. It is really so very marginally possible I am going to go ahead and call it impossible.

I do not know you, and I do not know how bad or abusive your parents are. But I do know that even in imperfect families, blood is thick. Parents who learn they are becoming grandparents can surprise you with their renewed loyalty and ability to change.

I get the sense you are huddling with your husband in your new family, away from the world, as your refuge from your family of origin. This has put you in a weak and vulnerable position wherein he understands you have few people to turn to, and are therefore trying more desperately than a woman with a healthy family of origin would to keep him and your unit intact.

Your parents really may surprise you.

Also, if the idea of moving out makes you think, "But what if I really like it and then I lose the will to compromise and we really do get divorced because I don't want to go back?" Then that's actually just more reason to do it.
posted by quincunx at 9:40 AM on June 6, 2016 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Like I honestly wonder if all those crises at once left a trauma type of impact.

This is actually entirely possible. Without getting into details you don't need--I came out of a three-year period of pretty much constant crisis with a hair-trigger trauma response. If you are in treatment for your anxiety, please bring this up with your therapist. It is a legit thing and there are strategies you can put in place to deal with it more effectively.

The biggest issue for me, however, is the anxiety. And the fact that several of the crisis situations, while the major part of it is over, there are still unresolved aspects, so little things come up about those situations, which stresses me considerably, because I can't breathe until there's no chance those issues will resurface.

Is your therapist working actively with you on this? From your brief statements about it, it doesn't necessarily seem like you're getting super-great tools from your therapy, which should be helping you to identify and deal with stressors that you cannot control vs those which you can. There are anti-anxiety meds that are safe in some doses during pregnancy--not tons, but they exist. Maybe one thing to consider.

I have to say: your husband deserves a lot of the beatdown he's getting here, but I do feel for him. Like him I have a long history of depression, usually well-managed. Currently, though, I have been without work for about a month, due to scheduling inefficiencies and delays and just general shit luck. I've also been dealing with some family and pet medical crises.

It has been incredibly hard, so much harder than I thought, to keep myself afloat during this time. It really caught me off-guard how quickly I have slid into a pretty bad funk, and how difficult it's been to crawl back out. You mention that in his shoes, you would feel so guilty; well, I feel paralyzingly guilty. So guilty sometimes I can barely breathe. It isn't particularly motivating - it just makes me freeze up.

I say this in the spirit of recognizing that your husband may not be unloving or uncaring. He may feel every bit as guilty as you would, but he is wired differently from you in how that makes him act. But it absolutely doesn't excuse your husband from making himself an equal partner. He can be a good person and still need to step the hell up. (As do I; time to stop puttering on AskMe and start writing more emails.)
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 10:07 AM on June 6, 2016 [4 favorites]

Instead of focusing on a 50/50 distribution, try to reframe it as "everyone contributes 100% of what they can". It sounds like you are contributing way over 100% (hence your exhaustion) and you feel that your partner is contributing less than 100% (hence your resentment).

You might need to have a conversation that consists of "Partner, I can't do this, I can't work 3 jobs AND be pregnant AND be your mom-manager and something's gotta give and right now you're the most optional part". He might respond with "Partner, I am at 100% right now, I am fighting tooth and nail against my shit, but I hear your concerns and we need to figure out something together to rebalance because your concerns are valid". Just because one person is struggling with chronic whatever does not mean the other person's needs disappear. Ideally, your partner would be offering support, but it sounds like your partner is a bit low on the emotional labour so you might need to be like "hey!! I need help!! from you!! right now!!". (I also suggest that you read the emotional labour thread.)

I'm autistic and can't work for a variety of reasons but you bet that I'd be busting my butt to take care of my pregnant partner who is working 3 jobs and I'd make taking care of the house my job because someone needs to do it and you're clearly tapped out right now. I would also be taking the bulk of the childcare once the baby shows up. There are plenty of ways for him to contribute that do not involve him finding a job, if that's a major sticking point, but he needs to figure that out instead of relying on you like he's a Sim with autonomy turned off.

Also, if you feel like you are having trauma responses then yes tell your therapist because there are trauma-responsive coping mechanisms that you might find more helpful. That said, it is perfectly normal to be stressed out when life is stressful and your emotions are not the major problem here. You are trying to figure out an internal solution instead of facing the really scary idea that your partner is not the kind of person that you can rely on especially with a baby in the picture.

It does sound like you two have dealt with a lot in a short period of time. It sounds like you're dealing with a lot of disappointment and re-adjusting of your life goals/life image. It sounds like he's trying to bounce back and he's making some changes. You two might pull through this, but it won't be through your sheer force of will alone. It's OK if you choose to wait and see if he can become the person you need him to be. It's also OK if you decide that it's not enough.
posted by buteo at 4:24 PM on June 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

He resented my efforts to create movement.

1. Read the emotional labor thread. (As suggested above.)

2. Call a lawyer.

I'm so sorry for your situation. I've been there, believe me.

But the only person you may want to think about being nicer to here is you. And I'm pretty sure future you would thank current you for saving herself.
posted by susiswimmer at 4:25 PM on June 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

Nobody has explicitly said this yet, so I will.

Many women in similarly tough situations have chosen to have abortions. Having an abortion is a safe, common medical procedure. A very common emotional response post-abortion is relief. Having an abortion doesn't mean you don't love babies, or that you don't love your partner or that you don't want children later in life. Abortion does not increase risks of other health issues, and about a third of women in the US end up having abortions in their lifetime. Abortion is safer than pregnancy is.

There's no shame in terminating a pregnancy that you are unable to handle. (Well, other people might shame you, but you need not feel ashamed). If you are early enough in your pregnancy for an abortion, it's something to consider revisiting.

Pardon me greatly if it seems like I am second guessing you--that's not what I'm going for. Sometimes people want/need permission to even consider abortion. So in case you immediately eliminated abortion as an option, I* wanted to give you express permission to think about it.
posted by Stewriffic at 6:34 PM on June 6, 2016 [11 favorites]

Response by poster: I need to offer an update to address some things. His inaction has made me lash out in anger a lot. My anxiety has made me lash out. Signs of his unreliability have been deeply triggering for me and in the beginning I was overly honest about that. My anxiety can sometimes lead to meltdowns especially if something happens related to these original crisis situations. I practice healthy coping skills the best I can but there are plenty of times I am not successful at using them in spite of my best efforts. I am better with ALL of this overall, but that period of 5-6 months where he was not being proactive was really.hard.

I am not without faults here. My anxiety over the instability in the relationship has made me go from 0 to 60 pretty quickly in how likely a small thing will become a BIG thing. I have had a hard time managing my emotions but that was the case before I ever became pregnant and if anything it's gotten better since. The primary problem with my managing emotions was his inaction due to the depression. Yes it was a severe depression.

Oh and generally I manage my emotions in other realms of my life perfectly fine. It's specifically this relationship and the messages of unreliability and environmental risk that have built an anxiety-provoking picture in my head. There is a book about the effect of having a partner with ADHD that explains this pretty well. The nervous system just gets activated all the time.

He thinks I am emotionally abusive. I think I am very, very anxious, and doing my very best to manage my feelings as smoothly as I can but I am also human. I have always had issues with anxiety but they were never this bad, and I think he has some responsibility for the multiple crises he's created and the lack of swift resolution - or at least effort at swift resolution. And he is not contributing to a sense of safety in the relationship. SOME of my feeling of safety has to come from me, but if my partner is creating mostly chaos in my life, I don't think it's right to expect me to never have any trouble with that. He will acknowledge that he has created chaos but kind of shrugs his shoulders about it rather than recognizing that it has had a very real impact on my ability to cope with him.

I tried to get an abortion but couldn't go through with it and now I'm way too far along to be able to even think of that.

I don't want to DTMFA. I would love to just leave for a while but I love my job, and love some of my side gigs locally that remind me there's more to life than these relationship problems. We have one car right now so making him leave for a while is logistically difficult but not impossible.

I do appreciate everyone's responses. It is hugely helpful to hear that my anxiety in this situation is understandable.
posted by crunchy potato at 7:28 AM on June 7, 2016 [6 favorites]

He thinks I am emotionally abusive.

Wow. If you're really this terrible monster who is so mean that you snap at him when he's been unemployed and doing no housework for a year, why hasn't he left you?

It is actually a common tactic of abusers to label their victims as "abusive," FYI. I don't think your husband actually is an abuser but I am going to be totally balls out honest, I think calling you "emotionally abusive" is like 90% likely to be an inauthentic (maybe he's convincing himself of it, but still), petulant, manipulative and cowardly tactic to throw shade off of himself (where it belongs) and onto you. It's childish and he's probably gaslighting you. I really doubt he himself deep down believes his pregnant wife nagging him to get a job and do dishes is emotionally abusive. But he knows, because you're a good person, you'll consider it if he labels you the problem.

I mean, sure, I could be wrong. But you really don't sound emotionally abusive to me, for what it's worth. You sound like a completely overwhelmed pregnant woman with a deadbeat husband.

If he's willing to call you that but not willing to do anything about it, I think you need to call it. Tell him, "Look, we're bringing out the worst in each other. I really wanted to this to work, so I tried really hard to push through it. But you're right- we're bad for each other. Let's get divorced."

Have you even brought up separation or divorce at all? Does he know how serious you are? I think you need to be willing to leave him.
posted by quincunx at 8:58 AM on June 7, 2016 [6 favorites]

He thinks I am emotionally abusive.

My initial reaction to this is: Wow, he has the gall to say that?

But to give him the benefit of the doubt, what has your therapist said?

Look, he's not pulling his weight (whether or not he's able to is a separate issue). When you point that out at him, it makes him feel bad. But just because you say things that makes someone feel bad does NOT mean you're being emotionally abusive. Especially if you're saying true things and he's in a situation that most people would feel bad in, whether the badness is self-evident or clarified by other people.

Your partner does not get to live in a bubble of only happy feelings, even when he's in a bad situation. That's not how life works. That's not how being an adult works. And sometimes feeling bad is necessary to get our butts in gear.

Please focus on taking care of yourself, because it seems like he's not going to.
posted by ethidda at 9:48 AM on June 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

I think you are mistaking "anxiety" for a normal response to your husband's financial and practical instability and immaturity.

If all of the negative consequences he has experienced (job loss, totaling a car, health concerns and ongoing legal consequences) have not gotten through to him yet... your arguing will also not get through to him.

For whatever reason, this person is unreachable and has ZERO interest in being mature, proactive, or reasonable.

You need a legal separation so that his legal and financial troubles will not impact you or your child.

Gently... Are you sure he doesn't have secret substance abuse or addiction issues? Because he sounds like maybe he's into something you don't know about and can't see while busy with 3 jobs. I think the totaling the car and health issues might actually be due to substance abuse or similar. You seem overly willing to take on burdens that are not yours, generally, and I think you are missing something specific to this situation. Honestly, the things you detail (job loss, totaling a car, legal issues) are the kinds of downward spiral addicts go through. It's pretty textbook, you can hear this narrative at any AA meeting.

The proper reaction whatever the cause of these issues is getting a lawyer and (safely!) moving out and away from this unstable situation.

I think this is the crisis moment where you rally any supportive folks in your network and figure out how to separate from this guy short and long term. You have options beyond staying with this man.

You are pregnant. You can't afford whatever this situation is about. He is contributing zero emotionally, financially, or practically. Get out.
posted by jbenben at 10:08 AM on June 7, 2016 [6 favorites]

I don't have the ability to know exactly what's been going on (nor does anyone else here). There's certainly a common vicious cycle couples can get into, where Partner A gets frustrated, Partner B withdraws, Partner A gets more aggressively frustrated, Partner B shuts down, Partner A gets angry and aggressive and anxious out of fear that Partner B will not do anything, Partner B gets depressed and unable to do anything out of fear that Partner A will get angry and aggressive about everything. In such a situation, if both people want to stay in the relationship, it may be helpful for them to realize that both partners need to take time to heal from the negative effects of that dynamic, learn new ways of interacting, and begin to trust that the other partner is also interacting in new ways. The yelled-at partner needs to be able to trust they won't get yelled at. The ignored partner needs to be able to trust they won't get ignored. Both partners are likely to be tentative and screw up a bit in that process, especially at the beginning.

But it's important for one partner not to basically let themselves off the hook for their own early missteps while catastrophizing their partners' (e.g., "Well, yeah, I yelled two days ago, but I've been being much better in general! I'm getting better! And maybe he did take out the trash yesterday, but he didn't the day before, so he's being just the same and he'll never change!"). That can just push everyone back into their old patterns and destroy any motivation the other person has to change their own behavior.

It's hard work. It may not be worth it in this situation, but that's for you to decide.
posted by lazuli at 10:38 AM on June 7, 2016 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Not to threadsit, but part of posting here was to try and get unbiased or neutral feedback, so answering the question about what the therapist says about emotional abuse is important. Therapist thinks I overfunction and get too far into my feelings and overtalk things. She says I pursue too much. Therapist acted in sessions like he was the normal one and I needed fixing. I've had couples therapy before where that wasn't the case. She confronted him too, but she pathologized me and I did not feel safe with her, but continued to see her for months after that. (I've had a lot of therapy for trauma, and I've had plenty of meh therapists, including those that I felt were not assessing me clearly, but this is the first one that created a lack of safety for me.) She put me in the same category as a label that I have talked to previous therapists about, and no one has ever said I meet the criteria for it. I have some pretty serious attachment problems, and asked her to help with that, but that's not really her style so she didn't do much with it. Therapist also says I need to back out and watch him fumble around figuring out how to manage his life instead of stepping in. (Problem is Therapist is not an expert in the area of adult ADHD, and according to an expert I know this is bad advice.) Honestly, he might be right about me, I can be difficult, I can be a control freak (but as a self-aware control freak I strive not to be one). Until he is creating more practical world stability it's hard to tell whose crap is whose.

In other news, he found this thread, and he might be responding with his side. Which I just read, and it has some details wrong but overall might help MeFi be truly neutral. We'll see if he posts.
posted by crunchy potato at 4:16 PM on June 7, 2016

therapist also says I need to back out and watch him fumble around figuring out how to manage his life instead of stepping in.

When I made the mistake of listening to this advice it was literally a multi million dollar mistake. Just as a data point.

Also, the high functioning/low functioning dynamic is a self-reinforcing cycle. But it doesn't necessarily mean that either the high functioning or low functioning partner is wrong or bad.

It might be helpful to check out some of the previous postings in MeFi on DARVO and on FLEAS for some self-insight. (It was for me.)
posted by susiswimmer at 5:05 PM on June 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

I don't know how to emotionally separate myself from those things that happen to him, that had fallout for me. My therapist tries to help me do that, but how can his totaling of the car that I loved so much not impact me?

Yeah, exactly, you pretty much can't, unless you always have a contingency plan in case he drops the ball. If your partner is unreliable, then there will always be anxiety there.

I don't think this thread has focused enough on your pregnancy. Of course you're anxious. You're probably fatigued* and nervous about the physical limitations you are starting to have now and / or that you can sense coming. You won't be able to function for you both during those times. You know that there will come a day when you'll be giving birth and in need of help from the people around you. The reality is that you're about to have a third person in your family, a helpless one, whom you two have joint responsibility for -- for everything from daily care to a college fund. And there will be times when you won't be able to do much more than nurse the baby around the clock (if you choose to breastfeed). If you were single parenting, the situation would be tough but clear -- you could plan to get the help you need. Here, the situation is unclear: can you depend on him? You really need your husband standing beside you as an equal partner here.

* (Note to the husband, pregnancy can mean fatigue like, "come home from her first job and fall asleep immediately on the sofa, barely waking up enough to microwave a bowl of soup" kind of fatigue.)

Regarding the counselor, it sounds pretty clear you need a new one. Your updates make it sound like you two need help getting out of a cycle and untangling who is responsible for what, so getting a good one is a high priority. If you find yourself wanting to veto multiple therapists in succession, then it'll be time to look at why (e.g., are they all calling you on something you don't want to face?), but if it's just one, or a few for very different reasons, I'd audition counselors until you really click with someone.

The accusations of emotional abuse suggest that things have gone far beyond your partner's comfort level and perhaps beyond where they objectively should have. It says the same thing as you're saying in the post, that you're really not comfortable with the situation and not sure how to deal. For starters, I'd make sure you're following good rules for your own behavior (e.g., no namecalling). But beyond that, I don't know what to tell you. I wouldn't be okay and relaxed in this situation either. It sounds very hard on both of you. I think it's less about blame and who's right and wrong, and more about finding additional support to figure out how to be good partners to one another at this difficult time, or to decide that you simply can't and would be better off apart. (I'd say that if he refuses to get treatment, that would eventually become a dealbreaker for me.) Hopefully you guys can get treatment for his depression, lots of support and compassion for the anxiety you've felt, and help building new ways of caring for one another.
posted by salvia at 9:40 AM on June 8, 2016 [4 favorites]

One other thought: in one of the Dance of... (Anger / Compassion / Communication) books, Harriet Lerner talks about the overfunctioning / underfunctioning dynamic. Her advice for the overfunctioning person is to reveal vulnerability and a need for help. You might take a look. Those books also have a lot about how to clearly (and non-abusively) define and assert one's boundaries.
posted by salvia at 9:45 AM on June 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

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