Talkspace is pleased to introduce Ask Anna, a new Question & Answer column featuring Anna Akbari, sociologist and author of “Startup Your Life: Hustle and Hack Your Way To Happiness.” Send your mental health questions for Anna to [email protected].
I’m not sure how this is going to work or if you are legit or not.
I would like to start off by saying that I have always been ambitious, always looking to conquer the world. However, I haven’t finished college yet due to some body and health issues. As of now, I’m not working because I recently gave birth to my son. But let’s get to the point.
My husband works overnight at a parking lot Tuesday through Sunday. He has his days off on Mondays and every Monday he goes out without telling me where he is and gets home the next day. He has been doing this ever since the baby was born seven months ago.
He claims that he isn’t doing anything wrong, but that’s just it. I feel strongly that not being home at night and coming home still drunk the next day is definitely not right. I don’t know what to do any more. I just want to end the marriage because of how unimportant and neglected I feel.
I ask him over and over why he doesn’t want me to go out with him and he gives me excuses. Then he tells to my face all of my flaws and how I haven’t finished school. I understand that on his days off he wants to go out, but he goes overboard and it affects our family when he comes home so late.
What should I do? Should I end my marriage because of this? I tried talking to him over and over about this situation, but he doesn’t see it as a problem.
In need of advice…
Thanks so much for your question and for sharing your story. This is a challenging situation for any relationship, but particularly a marriage where there is a baby involved. I don’t envy you, but I definitely sympathize! And while there’s no magic pill to resolve this situation, let’s break it down and simplify it.
We all want and need relationships, but sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of why. Here are two important reminders about relationships:
- Human connection is vital to human happiness and flourishing, but only if it’s a healthy relationship
- Relationships take work — even the good ones
From what you’ve described, you recognize the value of relationships and are willing to put in the work, but your partner hasn’t fully bought into either of these key truths. You’re feeling angry and disrespected, which is a 100% legit feeling. But anger won’t help you or the situation. So what do you do?
For a successful relationship, it’s important to know and honor a) what you value and b) what your boundaries are. Let’s start there.
You’ve made it clear that you value transparency, responsibility, and support (or “having each other’s back”). Your partner is challenging each of those values with his behavior by not sharing his whereabouts — skirting both his parenting and spousal responsibilities — tearing you down when he could be supporting and encouraging you. Your frustration makes a lot of sense. I’m sure you feel like running — or screaming. Or both.
But let’s address the second part of that equation: your boundaries. You’ve asked your partner to discuss what’s bothering you (and remember: if one partner thinks there’s a problem, then there’s a problem) and he hasn’t been receptive. That doesn’t mean it’s time for you to compromise your values and acquiesce — that may pacify the situation for a while, but ultimately you’ll get fed-up and be unhappy, which isn’t beneficial for him, you, the relationship, or your son. Everyone loses in that scenario.
So what’s the answer?
Because there is a child involved, the stakes are higher. You are calculating not only what’s best for you, but for your son. Studies show that children who have a relationship with their fathers fare better (assuming they are not abusive). Dads matter! But, that does NOT mean that you must stay with him in a committed romantic relationship for your son to maintain a father/son relationship. You can’t be a good mother if you aren’t also taking care of yourself.
Take a moment and do some reflection. Be clear about your values — articulate them to yourself so you can clearly communicate them to your husband. And then let him know you are serious about addressing the disconnect between his behavior and your values. If he still isn’t receptive, you’ll want to determine when enough is enough. Once you’ve been clear about who you are and what you need, give yourself permission to set your boundaries and stick to them, even if that means splitting up. Sometimes our partners aren’t willing or capable to be the kind of partners we need, and it’s OK to step away. We can’t force someone to grow or change if they aren’t willing participants.
This is a challenging situation all around, but taking the time to identify and accept what you need and aren’t willing to compromise will create much-needed clarity and comfort as you move forward, regardless of the outcome. I’m pulling for you, whatever you decide to do!
– Anna Akbari, PhD, Sociologist and Author of “Startup Your Life: Hustle and Hack Your Way To Happiness”
Got a question for Anna? Email [email protected].
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