The Butterfly Button
I have nothing to appreciate in my husband

Question from category:

Hi,

What happened is that I simply don’t respect my husband. To me he seems so insignificant, so unsuccessful, with no ambitions no talents and no achievements.

Even when we got married our couple relationship was difficult for him, and he doesn’t like the whole commitment thing. He wants freedom and constantly wants to return to that freedom, of people who have no aspirations to feel that they are worth something, that they are somebody.

At first I flowed with him, but as time went by, because he didn’t take any responsibility at all for the house and the children, or our livelihood, I turned into a ninja. Somehow, with superhuman energies, I built a home for us and raised the children alone, with all their challenges, and he became smaller and smaller in my eyes. Now I simply have no appreciation for him at all, and he did nothing and is doing nothing with his life. Each day flows into the next and has no motivation to do anything, and I feel that the protective wall I have built between the children and him his crumbling and they see how I think nothing of him. Also, he is always so edgy. All day on Shabbat he criticizes and shouts like a crazy man and we all just ignore him and wait for him to calm down. I understand that this is because I show that he is worthless in my eyes, so his response is to try to take charge forcefully, and that only repulses me and makes me and the children think even less of him.

Please don’t tell me to appreciate him as a person because this is not only about material achievements, it’s also about his mentality and about him as a human being. He is simply not nice and doesn’t listen or sympathize. He’s just angry and doesn’t care and criticizes everything all the time.

And of course the problem is not with him, and there is no reason for him or us to go for counseling.

So the truth is that there is really no solution. I’m just pouring out my heart here because I really don’t have anyone else I can tell, and I probably deserve this, for all my less-than-righteous past and the present, and my present isn’t great either. I should have gotten divorced at the beginning of our marriage. I probably wouldn’t have gotten married again, but at least I would not be suffering from his feelings of inadequacy.

Answer:

Respondent:shira|

My dear,

First, I apologize for taking a while to answer, but your story has been on my mind since the first day I saw your letter.

Your pain, loneliness and suffering cry out from every word you wrote. I imagine what your day looks like, and wonder where you get your amazing strength to go on like that day after day.

You are truly made of really strong stuff, and are goal-oriented, faithful and a fighter.

I applaud you from here for your incredible strength to continue maintaining a home for you and your children, despite your reality of being so alone in your couple relationship, parenting and homemaking.

You wrote that you have no real solution, and are writing only to pour out your heart. You didn’t note whether you are sharing your feelings with anyone else – a close friend or relative, or maybe a neighbor.

So first, I hope that writing your letter made you feel better, and I imagine that it did, but realize that in the long run, not really.

Sharing always lightens our burden, releases our inner torment, gives a sense that someone is listening, and somehow, the very act of sharing helps us organize our thoughts and feelings, among the inner turmoil. This means that sharing can even have a very important effect, but unfortunately it does not alleviate the hardship or the challenges. It only creates more space for bearing the burden again and again.

This might be your choice, because, as you noted, you believe there is no solution, and in your situation, if nothing changes, from your point of view there is nothing left for you to do except to learn how to share, to air out your soul and learn to live with your “battlefront” more tolerably.

Sometimes, as a therapist, I teach tools for coping with dire news in irreversible situations, and help clients to live alongside their pain.

Is that how you see your situation? Do you not see any way to move beyond your “less-than-righteous past”? Revival? Change? Growth or a way to rise above it?

As Jews, we know, understand and breathe what I see as the most beautiful gift Hashem has given us, that he created even before Creation – he gave us tshuva, the possibility to repent, to change our path and turn our lives around. All we have to do is choose the path of tshuva, to learn it and do it, and gain the ability to move forward, as a person whose past allowed him to build a staircase that brings him closer to Hashem, and from there, we march forward, to a life of choice, awareness and conciliation.

The decision is in your hands.

If you want to make a change, on your own, in your couple relationship, by personal example, you can ask for professional help, and can try an internal, personal process, because there is definitely something that can be done – with your perception of reward and punishment, with your strength and faith in the ability to change, to see differently, even if your husband ostensibly stays the same. Because some things are up to you, and others are not.

Perhaps, in order to help you examine your options in your couple relationship, you could and should take a close look at the way you interact, at the components that make up your relationship. 

My dear, you are so sensitive and wise that one of the statements in your letter touched me and strengthened by belief in you, that you are capable of looking inward at the parts of you that could be creating and contributing to your feeling of being so distanced from your husband.

I’m referring, of course, to your statement, “I understand that this is because I show that he is worthless in my eyes.”

In a couple relationship, reactions are interconnected and affect one another. Each action is a reaction, and each reaction is an action that affects the next. Thus, the goal is not to look for someone to blame, but rather to examine your behavior patterns in your unwillingness to accept your husband’s behavior, and his behavior patterns, in his unwillingness to participate in the partnership to which you agreed at your wedding.

You describe a partner who does not feel equal, who feels suffocated and criticized, and whose behavior indicates his unwillingness to connect with your shared mission of building a home together, as equal partners.

Was it like this from the beginning? How were your dates? What made you choose him?

Did the man whom you perceived as being suitable to be your partner and the father of your children change so much? And if he wasn’t suitable from the beginning, what motivated you to choose him to be your husband anyway?

How was your first year? What was the turning point that you experienced with him?

Can you tell me how he feels about his reality with you? What are his difficulties with you?

Does the option of going to couples therapy not exist because he is not interested? Does he feel good about your relationship? I doubt it…but still, the two of you do not see a way out of your situation that is so painful. Why?

Can you go on in this relationship for another ten years together? 

I figure that many of the questions I have raised are not easy and/or simple to answer immediately.

If you answered quickly, think again, because these questions require deep thought and introspection, and to expose yourself until it hurts, in the face of the complicated truth that each person contributes equally to the condition of their couple relationship.

From the bottom of my heart, I wish you the strength to look inward and to want to change.

Faith is the power that pushes us to change,

and I dare say that change does not mean accepting one’s partner with all his various behaviors, while sidelining your wants and needs.

This is something that must be said, because for now, in the place where you are, quite a few of your needs are not being met, but the continuation of the current situation, with all its pain, still serves you somehow.

Just as you fought to maintain the current situation, fight for yourself.

You deserve to love and be loved, and to raise the next generation happy and healthy, in body and soul.

I believe in you,

Shira

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