Dear Dr. Yael:
After 30 years of marriage, some things that bothered me before are now magnified. While my husband was trying to make a living I stayed home, doing the shopping and taking care of the kids. I never demanded – and still don’t require – vacations, fancy clothing and going out to eat.
I feel as if I am not my husband’s friend or equal partner. At times I feel like I just work in my home – unappreciated, unloved and lonely. We probably should have worked more on our marriage, but instead we just let things proceed as they were. There were blowups, both of us said things that were not nice, and then things improved for a short time. I always felt that he was a little selfish, always worrying how tired he was and never really caring whether I had a hard day and needed help with the kids or in the house. While I appreciate all of his positive efforts, I also want to feel appreciated.
As we are now getting older, I feel that he asks the kids for their opinions more than he asks me for mine. Much of what he ends up doing is okay, but it is his way of going about things that bothers me. I should be his partner in making decisions, but I feel like my opinion is not wanted. If I disagree with him, either my view is criticized or it is said about me in private that I am difficult and going through a crisis.
Do women in their 50s, my age bracket, regularly experience what I’m going through? I thought that as we got older we would have a warmer and more loving relationship; instead I feel lonely and that I’m always taking a back seat to everyone. I feel that my husband does not value and support me.
How do I channel my feelings for the better, and have us become true life partners?
P.S. My children think that I am undergoing a crisis. I assure you that that is not the case; I am simply realizing that things need to change in order for me to be happier. I no longer wish to brush everything under the rug.
Dear Saddened Wife:
I sympathize with your plight.
The roles of mother and wife are of paramount importance and, unfortunately, often not appreciated. I am sure that your family’s successes are due largely to your efforts. However, it seems that you feel that your husband doesn’t appreciate you and doesn’t value your opinion.
Based on your letter, it is unclear how your husband actually feels and what his perspective is on the situation. You seem to feel that you’ve sacrificed a great deal during your marriage and that you clearly feel unappreciated and unloved despite your efforts. (I will suggest ways to help you improve your situation but, to be fair, as I am only hearing your side of the story I will refrain from commenting about your husband.)
It is imperative that you discuss your feelings with your husband. It is very possible that he doesn’t even realize how he is making you feel. It is also possible that your husband may not feel this way about you, but you think he feels this way because of certain actions of his. This may lead you to conclude that his actions are meant to be negative.
It is very important for a woman to have self-esteem. As your children are grown, you might consider doing something outside the home. Maybe it is time for you to start loving and caring for yourself. Perhaps you should do some kind of creative and energetic work – either to earn money or for chesed – that will make you feel happier. Since no spouse can actually fulfill all of the other’s emotional needs, being involved in other activities might very well increase your level of happiness.
Ponder these questions: Do you spend time with friends? Do you have a regular exercise routine? Do you sleep enough and eat well? By making self-enhancement in these areas, you will be taking care of your needs. This does not mean you are selfish; rather, you are feeding yourself emotionally and physically.
On the exercise front, think about walking. It is obviously inexpensive, and a great way to upgrade yourself physically. Try to get a walking partner (you might even become close friends with this person), and begin this exercise now – with the spring/early summer weather upon us. And adhere to a strict walking schedule, so as to gain its full benefits.
To boost your marriage, take a vacation with your husband – it does not have to be an inexpensive one. Take a day or two to do some fun things together. Hopefully, focusing on each other will give you the opportunity to rebuild your relationship.
You may also want to seek professional help from someone with a reputation for saving marriages. If your husband refuses to join you, you should attend alone and learn “countermoves.” Hopefully, these countermoves will ultimately lead him to go for therapy with you or to change for the better.
Hatzlachah in dealing with your challenging situation!Dr. Yael Respler
About the Author: 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 email@example.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.
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