"What issue would you like me to address first?”
April 10, 2019 12:09 PM   Subscribe

Hello, Hivers. I (45F) could really use your help to organize my thoughts today. I'm the same person who posted this. And since then, things have improved on that front; hubby (47 M) got off of Facebook and hasn't been back since. We've also been through one other major evolution since then, where he read through the entire emotional labor thread that someone was kind enough to PDF, and he's vastly improved with regards to claiming more ownership of general household domesticky things. Long story short, he's willing to put concerted effort into making things better, and things do subtly improve. However, I’ve still been finding myself really unhappy and sometimes at a loss at how to express myself…

...to the point where I seemingly explode over little things. The most recent example of this is him coming home while I was working in the front yard trying to hurriedly finish things up as it started to rain. He pulled his car into the garage and shut it - it was my only entrance … effectively locking me out of the house wet. This happens frequently – he’s from New York and constantly locks doors behind him. He complains I never lock anything. I believe I eventually do lock things up 95% of the time, once I’m done working. It’s just that I’m constantly busy with projects around the house and deliberately leave doors ajar if I know I’ll be coming through soon with my hands full. Anyway, when he found me trying to get in through a different door – wet and exasperated, he laughed. He tried to immediately start up with light banter, and I literally told him I was upset and needed 5 minutes to calm down. I felt he continued smirking, and told him so, which caused him to blow up at me with a “Screw this. I didn’t do anything wrong here. Conversation closed.” And then he tried to turn the subject to something light and I told him I was done interacting with him for the night.

We’ve had a couple text/chat exchanges since then… taken a couple nights away from each other – me sleeping in another room while I process. I sort of promised him I would talk to him about our issues tonight. Only problem is … I don’t really know where to begin – or how to formulate my frustrations into a concrete set of “asks” or recommendations.

So in no particular order, here are the things that have been bugging me:

We haven't had sex since ... January? And before that ... October? And I've been telling him for at least 2 years how important it is that we have sex more frequently, and how it would also be nice if he'd initiate once in awhile, and how it would be especially nicer still if I weren't the one doing all the physical work when we're doing the deed. Most of the time, when we have sex, I’m on top and he doesn't allow me to move around very much because he's afraid of ejaculating too soon, so I end up only reaching orgasm about 50% of the few times we actually have intercourse. And when he’s done, *we’re* done. He’s never said, “let’s tackle this systematically and work towards a solution”.

And he's always exhausted, which makes him moody and that is what he claims is the reason for his low interest in having sex. He had gone from having a very low-energy job to a demanding one that makes him feel more way more rewarded, but stressed out about work all the time. He used to work from home 25 hrs a week and could sleep from 3 am to noon. Now he wakes at 6 or 7am (if not woken by insomnia) and commutes daily up to 3 hours a day.

He has real and imagined health issues - a history of ending up in the ER with kidney stones. Knee pains. Too much exertion can wipe him out for a prolonged period of time. But again, when he’s physically uncomfortable, it feels like a cloud of suffering descends on the both of us. He hasn’t slept well since moving in with me – first because of my child’s behavioral problems, then because of his job, then because of his obsession with the Trump news cycle. He knows he needs to sleep better – yet he wakes in the middle of the night and starts reading the news – never falling back asleep. He never tries to make a doctor’s appointment to talk about his constant fatigue, even though he always says he plans to. He spends whole weekends feeling headachy and tired, and when he chooses to come out with me and my little boy, it feels like I’ve dragged him away from his rest.

He’s anxious about his cars and money. He doesn’t have a lot of nice things – not a materialist - but he is selfishly attached to his cars. He has never let my son ride in his best car, claiming he’ll ruin the upholstery or something. If I’m moving things around the garage, I’m terrified I’ll scratch the paint on his car. He has a sizable savings, which he keeps in cash because he’s too scared to lose ANY of it in the market. He doesn’t do this quietly; he often reads news on the markets and tells me about all the money he could have made or lost. He’s anxious about finding the right time to *sell* his best car, to maximize the amount he’ll get for it. Not too long ago, he parked next to a handicap spot and let his car go over the line into the painted area that’s supposed to be reserved for wheelchairs. He shrugged and said there was little likelihood someone would come with a wheelchair, and he didn’t want someone banging their car door into his paint job.

I have a son from a previous marriage who lives with us half the time. He’s very rarely demonstrably warm and affectionate with him. In his defense, he has been my son’s champion in all matters related to his psychological well-being (Co-parenting between two houses can bring up differences in opinion, and when an ADHD diagnosis came into the picture my husband was my best advocate when I was pushing for my child to get all the care and accomodations he needed.) In private he sometimes shares that he wishes he could have said something really cutting to my boy when my child did something to annoy him, but he never actually says the awful thing to him. I just get an earful of all the negative thoughts he’s having about my child. It wears on me to hear how hostile his feelings can be towards my child. I’ve told him as much. And yet, he’s never yelled or harmed my child. He just never seems to balance his “shit talking” about my kid’s bad behavior with anything positive. And when I do praise my child, he always seems to say something to try to deflate my pride or enthusiasm for the kiddo.

In keeping with that, he’s very critical of other people. When someone recommends a song or article to him, he seems to make a straight line for all the things wrong with it. It’s rare to see him upbeat and enthusiastic about things. If anything, his “best moods” are when he’s smirky and sarcastically goofy about things – like something is always the butt of a joke with him. His favorite type of humor is what he dubbed “misfortune humor”, where someone always is on the receiving end of bad luck in one way or another (e.g. me getting stuck out in the rain because he closed the garage door on me.)

Low drive to do … anything. Getting out the door with him takes forever. He’s pensive and slow. When we go out somewhere in nature, there are long moments of him staring off deep in thought, while I quietly wait for him to be done thinking whatever thoughts he has that he rarely shares with me.

When we first started our relationship he said he’s not very independent. I didn’t understand the implication at first, but he doesn’t like to be without me. He dislikes it when I do things independent of him. He doesn’t like it when my hobbies or friendships take me away from our (sexless) cocoon of togetherness. Almost 10 years before we started dating, we met on an internet dating site and saw each other a few times. He dumped me early on because he claims he was afraid I would dump him first, which would be devastating to him. I never completely bought that explanation. He was also already seeing the woman he ended up married to, while I met my to-be ex-husband.

Years later, as both our marriages were unraveling, while he was still married and fully committed to ending his relationship, he started writing letters to me confessing how he felt about me. Frankly, I found that distasteful – almost a dealbreaker – and I’ve never completely gotten over it. I saw myself as sort of this manic pixie fantasy for him while he was still married - an escape from what his homelife had become. That always made me suspect he would do the same with me one day: that he’d decide that working to improve our relationship is too much trouble for him, and it would be far easier for him to jump ship into the arms of the next woman who wouldn’t put demands on him.

He’s shown no indication that he’s cheating on me, but our history has always made me afraid to ask him to put too much effort into making things better for us. He’s handsome and can be charismatic. I can see how easy it is to develop a crush on him and for him to be drawn to some new woman fawning over him. He expects me to listen to every little detail about his day with the casual expectation that I’d find it fascinating. He rarely remembers the things I ask him to remember that are important to me. When he wants to complain and I offer him practical solutions, he gets frustrated that I won’t just listen to him without trying to fix things. Whenever we try to talk out our relationship issues, it always seems to end up in the framework of "tell me what you find wrong with me, because I can't seem to find a reason why you're so mad". And he never opens up about himself, which is really weird to me, in that when he was trying to woo me back into a relationship with him 6 years ago, he said he wanted to feel "close". And yet he almost never opens up to me about his fears, goals, areas he wishes for self-improvement - and when I share my personal goals with him, he looks like he's just indulging some form of new agey psychobabble that he thinks is, at best, adorable. Is it unreasonable for me to want him to tackle himself with the same kind of growth mindset that I try to cultivate in myself? The whole wanting to be "close" thing feels so hollow after 6 years of the relationship going the way that it has.

I guess if I tried to summarize my list of grievances: he’s petty, needy, demanding of my time and attention, lazy, resentful, self-absorbed, sexually selfish, obnoxious about locking doors and maybe untrustworthy. I’ve made very little headway into communicating with him how I really feel because I don’t know how to be diplomatic and constructive in how to phrase things. And now he wants to talk things out tonight, and I feel nervous and angry and don’t want to blow it, don’t want to hurt his feelings, don’t want to have my needs by unmet any longer. He knows I’m frustrated beyond words, and he literally said “Let's boil it down and go one at a time, if that's ok. What issue would you like me to address first?”

I don’t know where to begin.
posted by Libelula y colibri to Human Relations (36 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
This guy sounds like a terrible, selfish partner, and you sound so frustrated in your relationship that it's hard to see where you're actually compatible, or even where you were once compatible, long ago. I'd strongly urge you to consider divorce. "Subtle" improvement is great, but he isn't your child, he's an adult who isn't interested in maintaining and nourishing a meaningful, functioning relationship with you; it sounds like you've been swimming in the soup of this dysfunction for so long that you've forgotten what it's like to be in love -- in actual, giddy, butterflies-after-seven-years love -- with a partner you admire and respect, who isn't just ephemerally charming and handsome, but who'll shoulder half the burden of creating a loving relationship and family with you. I really want to encourage you not to put up with this, because after all the emotional and logistical turmoil, the fights that come with a breakup, after the six or eight months of your own newly-single psychic upheaval, you'll have your life back again. What a gift that might be. At least think about it for a while, and imagine what it might be like.
posted by tapir-whorf at 12:27 PM on April 10, 2019 [68 favorites]


Many of the things you describe sound like a variation of selfish. The sex, the car, the lack of independence, not sharing thoughts. In terms of his attitude to your son, it seems as if he isn’t taking any account of your feelings, and is choosing to be oblivious of your role as a mother independent of your role as his partner. And here you are worried about being diplomatic and phrasing things well. Does he ever give you an indication that he worries about saying things diplomatically to you?

I don’t know whether that’s helpful but it might be a place to start.

I know you’ve said he’s read the emotional labour thread, but that’s at least partly about cloaking account of other people’s needs and if he gets that he’s supposed to do that, then what is he doing about it with respect to you?
posted by plonkee at 12:32 PM on April 10, 2019 [2 favorites]


You can’t save or fundamentally change a relationship by yourself. He has shown you time and time again that he’s not interested in changing anything about himself. It sounds like he’s never going to be happy and he’s never going to be the person you need him to be. Let him go so that you can at least have the opportunity to have some happiness in your life.
posted by dawkins_7 at 12:33 PM on April 10, 2019 [12 favorites]


I think, given that there are a lot of issues, and he's asking for "first things first," I'd look into couples counseling. If only because a qualified therapist/counselor could probably help you both sort out what the issues are in terms of how to help them and to prioritize what to tackle, what might be too hot to deal with constructively, and what small steps each of you could make in order to make some "quick wins" repairs.

Plus, it sounds like you two communicate in very different ways, and having a third party there can help bridge the conversational gaps you may have, giving you each the space and opportunity to address the things that have been bubbling up over time.
posted by xingcat at 12:41 PM on April 10, 2019 [7 favorites]


I read your other post too. This man is NOT NICE TO YOU OR TO OTHERS. And he is a terrible influence on your child.

Whenever we try to talk out our relationship issues, it always seems to end up in the framework of "tell me what you find wrong with me, because I can't seem to find a reason why you're so mad".

You've had conversations with him before. What will make this one different?

You're 45, and you'll probably live another 40, 50 years. Can you live the rest of your life like this?
posted by yawper at 12:43 PM on April 10, 2019 [43 favorites]


I'm sorry that your relationship has come to this. Thank you for sharing your truths with us-sometimes it is hard to say them out loud to anyone, and you are being brave. I am sure that the chorus will agree that the things that are happening are not ok. It's brave and hard to admit these things to anyone.

Now it is time to go to couples therapy, a safe space where you can say to him these truths that you have said to us, and watch him respond, both in the session and after. The road from where you are to a satisfying relationship is long and hard but not impossible; this situation will not get better without directed, thoughtful effort and emotional openness on the part of both of you. It's fine to conclude, soon, that travelling that hard road isn't worth it, or is impossible, and you can begin imagining a life without him. (If he refuses to go to couples therapy, then you can begin imagining a life without him immediately). But first you should say your truths to him and see what changes. You don't owe it to him to say your truths to him; you owe it to yourself. Ask for what you need, firmly and directly, and watch for improvement, and know what you will do if you don't see it. You are brave and powerful and you are going to do great!
posted by Kwine at 12:43 PM on April 10, 2019 [12 favorites]


I mean, you don't like him. Do you? It sounds like you don't. Even if he wanted to better himself - which it sounds like he isn't interested in - I don't know if someone can invent a whole new personality for themselves to suit their partner. This relationship with this person is never going to be what you want.
posted by something something at 12:44 PM on April 10, 2019 [26 favorites]


I don’t want to be reductive. I know your situation is complicated. I could write a lot more, but it amounts to: He is an **asshole**. You deserve so much better, and so does your son.
posted by cotton dress sock at 1:06 PM on April 10, 2019 [16 favorites]


Libelula y colibri: "Now he wakes at 6 or 7am (if not woken by insomnia) and commutes daily up to 3 hours a day."

This stands out to me. Commuting 3 hours a day takes a lot out of you, and I'm not surprised that on the weekends he doesn't have the energy to do anything except sit around the house. Were you happier before he started this new job?
posted by crazy with stars at 1:09 PM on April 10, 2019 [21 favorites]


And now he wants to talk things out tonight, and I feel nervous and angry and don’t want to blow it, don’t want to hurt his feelings, don’t want to have my needs by unmet any longer. He knows I’m frustrated beyond words, and he literally said “Let's boil it down and go one at a time, if that's ok. What issue would you like me to address first?”

"Don’t want to hurt his feelings, don’t want to have my needs by unmet any longer" are at this point mutually exclusive at this point. Just say what you have to say as factually as possible. I dislike it when you... and I need you to... statement are fine, even if it's I need you to not be done with sex because you've come, and here's how that could work.

But in general I can't imagine two people who should go to therapy more than you two.

Having said that, take your keys out into the garden on a lanyard or put a red sock on a door to tell him not to lock it. Problem solved.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:11 PM on April 10, 2019 [9 favorites]


My spouse is like yours in many ways. Self-absorbed, lazy, laughs at the misfortune of others/"fail compilations"), has pride issues and shame issues under that. In his case he also has poorly managed ADHD. Closing the door to the garage without thinking hey, she's in the garden, is something he would do from inattention and being self-absorbed. Maybe your guy has some of that too. His trump obsession could be hyperfocusing.

I don't have answers. I can tell you things are easy as long as I have needs he understands and my expectations stay low. It's really no way to live and I understand why Metafilter has basically said to me, don't you dare write another post about this relationship, because we will always say DTMFA. Personally, I think this community is a bit too quick to say that, because leaving is in many ways easy, and we always risk having the same variation of baggage come up in our next relationship. So it's easy to say.

My guy won't work on himself. I mean yeah tries, but is too passive in orientation to get very far. You have to decide can you accept the person that he is, and will you be giving up on yourself if you do. If you want to talk to him then rank your concerns by level of acuity for yourself, then go through and ask yourself is there a way I can bring this up mindfully.

Your guy sounds really unhappy. Unhappy people need to laugh at others. If you haven't done counseling that might be a place to start, if you don't want to DTMFA.
posted by crunchy potato at 1:32 PM on April 10, 2019 [10 favorites]


A common thread seems to be his anxiety, not just over money and cars, but about losing you (he claims he was afraid I would dump him first), sex (he's afraid of ejaculating too soon), home security (he’s from New York and constantly locks doors behind him), work (stressed out about work all the time), world news (he wakes in the middle of the night and starts reading the news), and perhaps worst of all, intellectual and social status ( he always seems to say something to try to deflate my pride or enthusiasm for the kiddo ... “misfortune humor”, where someone always is on the receiving end). No wonder he's never listening or supporting you: It sounds like his anxiety is so consuming that he feels he needs to devote all of his energy to supporting himself, often at the expense of others, or else his entire world will come crashing down.

But that's an observation, definitely not an excuse. There are plenty of anxious people who 1) don't take it out on others, and 2) work to address their problems.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 1:42 PM on April 10, 2019 [15 favorites]


when I do praise my child, he always seems to say something to try to deflate my pride or enthusiasm

I could forgive or explain away much of the rest of what you wrote but this right here is a DEAL. BREAKER. This is a bad egg you've married. DTMFA!
posted by fingersandtoes at 1:42 PM on April 10, 2019 [46 favorites]


He has a problem with selfishness. It is normal to put yourself first and think of yourself first, but not to think only of yourself. I read once that self-absorption is not about how highly you think of yourself, but rather how often you think of yourself. If he comes first in bed, he can’t just abandon the effort and let you stew. If he’s parking the car, he can’t just deny a space to a person who needs it way, way more than he does. (If his car is too delicate to survive a public parking lot, he shouldn’t take it there.) If you’re outside and he comes into the house first, he needs to pause and think “how will my darling wife get inside if I lock this door?”

If for emotional reasons, he feels he needs to shit-talk your kid, ask him to dump that emotion out of the family circle and onto someone else (like a friend). He may not want to do that if he worries it will make him look bad to that person—then you can say, “so why do you think I would feel differently than your friend? It makes me think badly of you too!”

These are concrete and relatively actionable things to fix. In contrast,

Getting out the door with him takes forever. He’s pensive and slow. When we go out somewhere in nature, there are long moments of him staring off deep in thought, while I quietly wait for him to be done thinking whatever thoughts he has that he rarely shares with me.

as a pensive introvert myself, I don’t think you should push him to change in this area. Part of being a person is having some space for private thought and reflection. You can ask why he doesn’t want to share, but he has the right not to.
posted by sallybrown at 1:45 PM on April 10, 2019 [3 favorites]


I think it's not about the details like locking door or even sex. It's about the connection - wondering if he is thinking about you and taking your needs into consideration. I think a good couples therapist could help you see if there is a way to talk about what is really going on for you in a way he can hear and also help both of you understand what might be blocking him. If he still can't hear you, then you know that there is not enough to work with to make it salvageable.
posted by metahawk at 1:49 PM on April 10, 2019 [2 favorites]


One thing that stuck out at me between the two posts is that it feels like both of you have issues around emotional dysregulation.

You're continually minimizing your anger, while his only filter for emotion is anger.

I'm not sure if he can get better, because he has to sit with his anger long enough to learn what the underlying emotion is that's fueling that anger. And he needs to do that with a disinterested third party who doesn't have a horse in this race. Someone who can tolerate the fact that he's going to have to learn all the developmental phases that women learn as children, and it's going to be an ugly long process.

But it's not great for you that you consider getting mad "giving people free rent in your head". That your first impulse when confronted with angry feelings is to figure out practical fixes to his complaints to make them go away. That you spend so much time and energy justifying that these aren't feelings, these are undeniable facts. Forget whether or not your husband deserves that compassion, I have a strong feeling you resent offering that emotional labor to him because you never give yourself permission to be mad.

You've created a dysfunctional system. He has the emotions and you process them. And you've taken a half step forward in asking him to process them. But you've also taken a bit of a step back in expecting that processing emotion looks like minimizing them. That's just the unhealthy coping mechanism women took on for survival. So it's not going to work, because it barely worked in the dysfunctional system.

I don't know that you can walk back all the rage and contempt that you've built up inside to get to a point where you feel entitled to act. So don't think I'm defending him or thinking this relationship is salvageable. But if you walk away from this relationship thinking that you're right for considering negative emotions toxic, you're going to set yourself up for failure. Because you're reinforcing the blinders that let you get to this breaking point.
posted by politikitty at 1:54 PM on April 10, 2019 [9 favorites]


I just get an earful of all the negative thoughts he’s having about my child. It wears on me to hear how hostile his feelings can be towards my child. I’ve told him as much. And yet, he’s never yelled or harmed my child. He just never seems to balance his “shit talking” about my kid’s bad behavior with anything positive. And when I do praise my child, he always seems to say something to try to deflate my pride or enthusiasm for the kiddo.

Wow. This would make anyone fall out of love (or even like) with someone. No wonder you're pissed at this guy. "Don't talk shit about someone's kid" is being-a-friend 101.

It sounds like you really do have a lot of concrete complaints but also like these concrete complaints have led you to just not like this guy anymore. That is how it is sometimes.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 1:56 PM on April 10, 2019 [29 favorites]


He’s shown no indication that he’s cheating on me,

Well, except the lack of sex and the new/different work hours. But I don't think that's the issue here, I think the issue is that you're not in love with him and don't want to live with him or be with him anymore.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 1:59 PM on April 10, 2019 [5 favorites]


Honestly, I find it hard to give you any advice that isn't in the realm of separate, divorce, and move on. You really didn't share anything remotely redeeming about this man that would make any effort to repair the relationship seem worth it.

But since you asked about how to approach the conversation without just exploding in rage and resentment I will try to address this.

First, I think you should tell your husband what you told us. Something like, "I find it hard to know where to even begin because so much in our relationship feels broken to me and you seem to have put all the burden of fixing these things on me."

Then I think you have to come up with a summary statement like, "I feel like you have no interest in trying to understand my needs and meet them. You show no interest in sex, show no curiosity about my emotional life, demonstrate no willingness to support my goals, and communicate in a very negative way about almost anything."

Then I think you need to put things on him. You should NOT come with recommendations or asks. Say something like, "I need to hear you acknowledge these feelings as valid. I need to know if you think there are problems in our relationship. I need you to tell me what you are prepared to do to help us work through these problems." Then shut up and see what he has to say.

If he is not prepared to validate you, show empathy and concern for you, or demonstrate a willingness to take concrete actions himself, then truly you should start the process of separation and divorce.
posted by brookeb at 2:03 PM on April 10, 2019 [67 favorites]


"What issue would you like me to address first?”

This is classic shunting of emotional labor onto you. You are not his manager.

brookeb's comment above is a great way to express that to him. Observe carefully how he responds.
posted by homodachi at 2:09 PM on April 10, 2019 [16 favorites]


It sounds like it goes beyond mere indifference or tolerance... he’s talking to *you* about the shit he *wishes* he could say to your *child*! Won’t even let him sit in his precious car! Undermines any positive statements about your boy! This is vile... there’s no way your son doesn’t feel the resentment (and probably jealousy)... It can’t be good for him. Ok Look I don’t want to make you feel guilty for the situation but the word “toxic” wouldn’t be inappropriate...

Selfish in bed, essentially using you instead of supporting mutual pleasure... Controlling the ways and outcome of every argument... therapy isn’t going to help because this person needs years on his own before he could be useful in a couple and from what you write the odds of this happening are infinitesimal.

Again I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, but as I read, all I could think was “asshole, asshole, asshole”...

I don’t know what to suggest for this conversation tonight. Really, I think you should have a last-minute visit with family for some time and talk to a lawyer.
posted by cotton dress sock at 2:10 PM on April 10, 2019 [12 favorites]


Metafilter has basically said to me, don't you dare write another post about this relationship, because we will always say DTMFA. Personally, I think this community is a bit too quick to say that, because leaving is in many ways easy, and we always risk having the same variation of baggage come up in our next relationship.

Whatever admixture of the OP's baggage and their husband's that have created this toxic relationship stew is something the OP should work out in therapy (and -- said respectfully and with generosity and kindness, crunchy potato, you should too). Staying in a terrible relationship with a selfish partner who actively works to quash your own moments of happiness and pride just because your next relationship might be bad, too is absolutely fucking nuts. Of course no relationship is perfect, and the OP could probably spend some time focused on introspective self-improvement; fucked-up dynamics aren't solely one person's fault. But arguing that it's better to stay until/unless you've solved all your own personal problems overlooks a lot of serious things. For one, the OP's happiness! And their son's! For two, they'd have so much more space for their own growth, & outgrowing the baggage they brought to the relationship, if they weren't fighting against the dead weight of a shitty husband. It's so much harder to change for the better when you're still stuck in a situation that invites and reinforces the bad.
posted by tapir-whorf at 2:13 PM on April 10, 2019 [38 favorites]


Thanks to everyone for taking the time to respond so thoughtfully. I feel better prepared to articulate myself this evening, and will even come to the table with some of these notes as cheatsheet.

As an aside, here is the correct link to the emotional labor PDF. It's too valuable a resource for me to have messed that link up as I did above.
posted by Libelula y colibri at 3:03 PM on April 10, 2019 [3 favorites]


I should clarify that I wasn't telling OP to stay. I was just pointing out this community is very quick to say leave (often for good reasons). But not everyone is ready to do that. I probably should, as stated, especially since my partner failed the "will they hold some of this work to problem solve" test suggested by brookeb last night, actually.

Life is short. Personal happiness is important. Resentment is hard to unravel once it's there, and it's hard to get your needs met with a selfish or otherwise disconnected/distancing person. OP you deserve to feel happy with your life, whether you stay with this person or not. That level of constant negativity can really wear on others. I hope you're taking care of yourself.
posted by crunchy potato at 3:08 PM on April 10, 2019 [3 favorites]


Then I think you have to come up with a summary statement like, "I feel like you have no interest in trying to understand my needs and meet them. You show no interest in sex, show no curiosity about my emotional life, demonstrate no willingness to support my goals, and communicate in a very negative way about almost anything."

I would NOT say this. This is a terrible statement.

The sentence starts with "I feel", but has nothing to do with feelings. The sentence is a series of evaluations, assumptions about the other person, pushed onto them. This is just a recipe for an argument, because the other person will feel judged and say "that's not true, what about X", etc, etc.

--

Instead, taking a page from NVC (non-violent communication), I would recommend starting very very small, having a specific conversation, and make plans for the next one.

Here's an approach I would consider, trying as hard as possible not to make any assumptions/evaluations:

"The other day, I was working and you locked the door. I was locked out until you let me in, and I noticed that you were joking and laughing after you let me in." (neutral observations)
"This made me sad and angry because I wanted to feel helped & sympathized about." (feelings)
"I want to know what you think and feel about this." (needs/request)

and to sit back and see what he says.
posted by suedehead at 3:15 PM on April 10, 2019 [8 favorites]


I would just start telling him to stop doing whatever asshole thing at the time he does the asshole thing. So he criticizes your kid, you say "don't criticize my kid" and you use a tone of voice that indicates that you mean it.

You can tie yourself into knots to say the right thing but he is either interested in respecting your boundaries or preferences or he isn't. Your job is to make them reasonably ascertainable, not to be perfect.

(In many situations I think NVC and similar approaches are great and I'm not trying to knock them, but sometimes just saying "no" clearly and directly is the healthiest way to set basic boundaries.)
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 3:20 PM on April 10, 2019 [16 favorites]


I don't think NVC is going to change how this guy behaves or change how you feel about him.

You're at the point, due to his bigger issues, where even small shit like his being slow to leave the house has you hating him.

Suedehead's right that -if- you were going into this with the baseline expectation that you love and respect each other and just need to understand each other better in order to be happier, you'd use NVC. In your case, I don't think it matters.
posted by fingersandtoes at 3:33 PM on April 10, 2019 [3 favorites]


As a person who deals with depression and anxiety, I see signs of both in your husband. The fatigue, the obsessiveness over Trump, the worry about money, and low sex drive. It just really sounds like mixed anxiety and depression to me. The way he takes forever to leave the house? I’ve had that, it’s psychomotor retardation.

There is very good, very effective medication available for these disorders. Plus of course therapy & lifestyle interventions. He’s gotten off Facebook, but has he seen a professional for a mental health assessment?
posted by ElisaOS at 3:35 PM on April 10, 2019 [4 favorites]


a point by point list of grievances is useful when they're concrete things a person can fix just by choosing to. like, "stop locking the door when you know I'm working outside." but half of the things you don't like about him are pieces of his personality. I can't imagine what reason you could have to stay with someone you dislike this much, but I believe you do have reasons. but do you think you could easily produce a list of all the reasons he's wonderful and you love him that's as long as this list of things that are terrible about him? like if you had to? because it's hard to imagine.

anyway so it sounds like you dislike his tastes and his personality very much, above and apart from his actions. can a person change most of his personality? yes. should he do so because his spouse doesn't like the one he's got right now? maybe. will he? no.

and: you are angry that he never opens up, while also being angry that he expects you to listen to his thoughts all the time and being angry about how he is when he relaxes and is most himself. what if he is already open? what if his open self is the one you don't like?

The sensitivity and protectiveness with which he approached your child's mental health needs is probably very indicative of how he would like to have his own mental health issues considered by his spouse. whether you feel like giving a fairly selfish adult husband the same delicate care and gentle kindness you both owe a child is, of course, up to you.
posted by queenofbithynia at 4:59 PM on April 10, 2019 [7 favorites]


I was ruminating on his symptoms again, and wanted to add that he sounds like my relative who had a parathyroid tumor. This is an often benign overgrowth of the parathyroid gland that causes excessive calcium in the blood. It can be treated through surgery. Common symptoms include kidney stones, aches & pains, depression, and fatigue. The excessive calcium could be detected in a routine blood test, and then a parathyroid scan would confirm the problem.

Regardless of what you decide with respect to this marriage, I hope you can kick his butt to the doctor’s office. I understand though that you can’t force him to get a checkup. Maybe show him these symptoms?
posted by ElisaOS at 6:26 PM on April 10, 2019


There is a lot going on here, and many great responses - I'm grateful for them too. I'll briefly mention that my family's ADHD (both diagnosed in my kid, and likely, but undiagnosed in my husband and I); plus a cocktail of depression, anxiety, Executive Function and Processing Speed delays and Auditory Processing Disorders and learned behaviour from our parents - well, that's is all part and parcel of our similar family dysfunction issues. What I haven't seen mentioned yet is something my husband and I are both learning through some CBT courses we're taking as part of family therapy: Active Listening. It turns out it's really hard for our family to listen to each other, and who knew it was a process? Sheesh. So, there are exercises, and they help. It's not intuitive, especially not for neurodiverse people like us.

The course is also helping us with structured problem solving, so we don't get into circular arguments. But all of this comes along with a therapist who makes sure we're all heard, and it helps to say the really scary stuff out loud with professional help.

But, in the nicest way possible - he sounds terrible for both you and your son. You must be so exhausted. I remember your first post, and think that after reading this one, that you would have so much more breathing room for you and your son without him. Even in asking for this conversation, he's asking you to educate him.

(For the record, my husband's thyroid problem also mimics a lot of the symptoms you describe here, and I have to nudge him to do similar maintenance, especially for the insomnia part - your husband really does need to see a doctor.)
posted by peagood at 7:21 PM on April 10, 2019 [2 favorites]


The smirking at your pain, the charm, being so creepily two-faced in various ways about your minor son... yikes. My antennae are up. I’d be wary about attending couples counseling with anyone this covert. A carefully-selected individual counselor for you could be helpful.

The boundary strategies that would work for anyone choosing to remain married to an unrepentantly selfish individual, such as to a narcissist, or an addict, or particularly a secret addict, would also be quite helpful for you as you figure out what level of emotional engagement might be safe for you to have. Resources like “Stop Caretaking the Borderline or Narcissist: How to Stop the Drama and Get On With Your Life” by Margalis Fjelstad, and “The Covert Passive-Aggressive Narcissist” by Debbie Mirza, or Al-Anon, or Chump Lady. I see how he is unable to sustain any meaningful behavior changes. And nobody can change an entire personality.

I agree with all who’ve said the ways he is passive aggressive with your child/his stepson, and tries to undermine your expressions of love for the child, is a total dealbreaker. Quietly see a family lawyer immediately and figure out your options.
posted by edithkeeler at 6:57 AM on April 11, 2019 [6 favorites]


What are you expecting from him as a result if this conversation? What would he have to do to make you fall back in love with him and make this relationship worthwhile? Because looking at this exhaustive list, it sounds like nothing short of a complete personality overhaul would do. I mean, he would literally have to change his entire personhood to become worth sticking around for.

This is man who you seem to want to give a cookie to because he’s managed to with hold himself from abusing your son (what a hero!) and instead tells you every horrible thing that he thinks.

Ask yourself what you’re getting by staying in this (it must be something, even if it’s just that it keeps you from fear of the unknown) and what you’ll gain by leaving. Most of all, think of your poor child who is not an idiot and knows he’s being forced to live with someone who hates him. If you don’t love yourself enough to want better, at least love your child enough to want it for him - show this man the door.
posted by Jubey at 2:21 PM on April 11, 2019 [4 favorites]


it always seems to end up in the framework of "tell me what you find wrong with me, because I can't seem to find a reason why you're so mad".

This is him not believing that you're a rational person who has reasonable reactions to situations. He's not starting from, "she's upset; I wonder why?" He's starting from, "there is no reason for her to be upset--what has she misunderstood that got her angry?"

He's assuming that if he can't understand your reason for being mad, it must be wrong, and you should not be mad. And if reading the EL thread hasn't convinced him that's a bad approach, odds of him changing his mind on that because of therapy are low.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 4:28 PM on April 11, 2019 [5 favorites]


"His favorite type of humor is what he dubbed “misfortune humor”, where someone always is on the receiving end of bad luck in one way or another (e.g. me getting stuck out in the rain because he closed the garage door on me.)"

I have NEVER met a person who felt this way about this kind of humor and also turned out to be a good partner or good friend. YMMV.
posted by zdravo at 7:03 PM on April 11, 2019 [12 favorites]


he literally said “Let's boil it down and go one at a time, if that's ok. What issue would you like me to address first?”

Answer: "I want you to stop thinking it's funny when I'm hurt."
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 11:09 PM on April 11, 2019 [1 favorite]


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