I used to be crazy about my husband. We were the sickening lovebirds guilty of gross PDA. But ever since we had our babies (18 months and 3 years old – the loves of my life), I can’t stand him. He doesn’t help enough with the kids or the house and generally can’t do anything right. On top of it, he always wants sex! I’m exhausted. I’m fat. And I’m pissed off because he only seems to care about himself. Nothing sexy about any of it. I don’t want to hate him, but it’s hard not to. I’ll admit that I’ve Googled “I hate my husband” more than once. What can I do to feel loving towards him again? Or even just like him a little?
– Husband Hater
Dear Potential Husband Liker,
You said it! Your children are the loves of your life and your husband isn’t. He feels like he’s been replaced and has become all needy to try to get some attention. Meanwhile you’re thinking,“Never mind his needs, what about mine?!” You’re stamping your feet and now there are four children in the house.
You say you remember loving him once and your Googling activities suggest that hating your husband is not a normal state of affairs but a recent and worrying phenomenon that requires investigation. Has he always been lazy around the house? Is this a rebellion or something you used to let go and now you just can’t?
It sounds to me like the connection that was once there is lost and two much-loved children have filled the gap. The thing about connection is that guys often feel it through having sex, while girls need to feel it on order to have sex. He is feeling your distance and wants sex to reconnect. You need to feel understood, seen and heard before sex is even on the agenda. Those are some crossed wires but there are ways to work with it.
Think about this question: “Do I really matter to you?”
My bet is that you are both asking yourselves this and are perhaps a little afraid of the answer. Fear is a powerful, primal response to feeling threatened. In relationships, when a connection is threatened it can take us to fault-finding, then anger, negotiation, sadness and finally, resignation.
Try to notice when this is happening and see if you can express what is really going on — your feelings — because they are more important than dirty laundry on the floor. For example, “I feel. . . when. . .” then see if you can ask, “I would like. . .” (Don’t be surprised if asking is much more difficult than you might think.)
A disconnecting conversation (while emptying the dishwasher):
Her: “You never help around the house and when was the last time you arranged to take me out to dinner without me having to ask?”
Him: “That’s not true, I did the grocery shopping last weekend, I took the kids to the park, and whenever I suggest we do something you say you are too tired. You don’t even want to go out to dinner with me.”
A connecting conversation (while being with only each other and doing nothing else):
Her: “I feel like all I ever do is housework and take care of the children; I feel tired, unsexy and a bit sad. It makes me worry that something is wrong with us. Can we talk? I would like us to be better.”
Him: “I would like us to be better too. How can I help with that?”
This is just a beginning and there is often some hard work to follow, but being open to the possibility that something is wrong — and to the possibility that it can be relatively easy to put right — is often all it takes to get you back on track.