Photo Credit: Courtesy Dr. Yael Respler

Dear Dr. Yael,

I am writing to you about my marriage and my relationship with my husband. Baruch Hashem, we have a good marriage and, I believe, a lovely family. However, there is one issue that drives me crazy.

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We got married when we were young and neither one of us went to college. My husband started out learning and, when he was ready to go to work, my parents set him up in a business. Baruch Hashem, the business has been successful and we are financially well-off.   We own a house, as well as a vacation home and an apartment in Israel.  We host many guests and I am involved in a number of chesed organizations. We have wonderful children, Baruch Hashem. We have many friends in our community, and are particularly close with one couple. They are both professionals and work hard, but are not as financially successful as we are.

What’s my problem? My husband is constantly comparing me to my friend and, I think, does not respect me because I don’t work. He will say things like, “Why do we need full-time help? You don’t work like your friend does?”  Or he will try to control the way I spend money, saying that I don’t know what it means to have to work at earning it.

Baruch Hashem, I do not need to work. As I said, I do a lot of chesed and I believe that much of our success is in the zechus of the chasadim I am able to do.

Dr. Yael, my husband is a good man. He doesn’t help out much around the house, though he does learn with our sons. My friend also has full-time help at home, and yet, her husband is much more involved in the childcare, shopping and many things that my husband takes for granted.

I so wish my husband respected and appreciated me for what I do and would not compare me to anyone else. I could never do all that I do if I worked.

A Hardworking Mother and Housewife

Dear Hardworking Mother and Housewife,

It is very true that the work done on a daily basis by stay-at-home mothers often goes unnoticed. Many husbands (and other family members) do not appreciate it. The fact that your husband doesn’t notice how hard you work is probably a tribute to you – it means you make things look so easy. Yes, having full-time help when you’re home is a luxury, but, as you said, it allows you to do chesed and volunteer work.

Perhaps you can talk to your husband about how he makes you feel when he compares you to others.  I am sure that he does not mean to make you feel disrespected. It’s important to discuss this in the right way and at the right time.  Make sure he is not distracted or stressed and that you use a calm and loving tone of voice.

You can say something like, “I love you and really appreciate all that you do for me and for the family.  I’m sure you don’t mean it, but when you compare me to others, I feel like you don’t respect me or what I do. I try hard to be a good mother and wife and to do things for others as well.  It would mean so much to me if you would compliment me sometimes or make me feel as if you appreciate all that I do for the family.”

Hopefully, your husband will be able to hear you and work on this. If he belittles your feelings or doesn’t seem to think this is an issue, then you need to help him understand how much his comments hurt you. If it still continues to be an issue, perhaps it would be prudent to seek some professional help with this matter. Hatzlocha!

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Dr. Yael Respler is a psychotherapist in private practice who provides marital, dating and family counseling. Dr. Respler also deals with problems relating to marital intimacy. Letters may be emailed to deardryael@aol.com. To schedule an appointment, please call 917-751-4887. Dr. Orit Respler-Herman, a child psychologist, co-authors this column and is now in private practice providing complete pychological evaluations as well as child and adolescent therapy. She can be reached at 917-679-1612. Previous columns can be viewed at www.jewishpress.com and archives of Dr. Respler’s radio shows can be found at www.dryaelrespler.com.