Dear Yaw

How Can I make Him Understand?

Question

Dear Yaw

I’m a mother of 2 children under the age of 4. I quit my job to properly take care of my kids but my sacrifice has become a nightmare as my husband barely appreciates what I do. He thinks I spend most of my time in the house so I should be able to manage a spotless house, do the laundry on time, clean, wash the dishes and have his food on time before he gets home.

I have a 3 month old who doesn’t care what my schedule is, she sleeps whenever she want and sometimes she takes most of my time. He will get home later in the evening and complains of how the house is messy and won’t lift a finger to help with the children so I’ll be able to clean up.

I’m tired all the time and he gets angry when I resist his sexual advances. This has put a strain on our marriage with him coming home late. He’s no longer the nice man I was dating. How can I make him understand that taking care of two young children is a lot of work?

-Akua S

Answer

Hi Akua

Yes, well you describe a problem that is far too common, unfortunately. And while you will definitely need to deal with this problem as you obviously realize, the fact is that the problem is really your husband’s. There are important reasons arising from his childhood that are making him behave in the way that you describe but, unless you can encourage him to address the origins of this behaviour (without or, preferably, with help from someone else), then you will be dealing with this conflict indefinitely and you will eventually find this tedious, if you have not already.

So, to deal most effectively with this conflict, I would start by listening carefully to his complaints and reflecting them accurately. For example: ‘You sound frustrated when you get home that the house is messy’ and ‘You sound angry when I do not want to have sex with you.’ If you are then able to listen to him while he talks more and flushes out more of how he is feeling, including by expressing his anger fully (but not by being violent to you or the children in any way) then you give him the best chance of flushing out the deeper reason why he is blaming you for circumstances that are not your fault: it is simply not always possible to look after the children, keep the house tidy and be rested and in the mood for sex is it?

If he is able to feel and express the feelings behind his blaming of you, he might soon discover that he is really angry with his boss at work about something or perhaps his mother or father for something that happened a long time ago. The simply reality is that when people are scared to say what they feel about something in a particular context (such as to their parent, teacher or boss), they end up suppressing it and then projecting it onto someone else (who feels safe to them) later in life. It is no fun for you but the odds are very high that he will need your help to deal with the problem, at least in identifying it to begin with.

The point I am making here is that it is your awareness of this conflict and your desire to deal with it more effectively that makes you the powerful agent to resolve it. This doesn’t mean that it will be easy, of course, nor does it mean that you want yet another job to do! But your husband is trapped in a pattern of blaming others for things not being the way he wants and that, no doubt, stems from his childhood. Perhaps he was always blamed; perhaps he has copied his father blaming his mother but there could be any number of reasons.

I am well aware that you might not always be in the mood to listen to your husband on top of everything else you are trying to do but he is clearly powerless to listen to himself or to talk to someone else about his fear, frustration and anger. So, whenever you can, reflect to him and listen. Sometimes, you might sense that there is an opportunity to ask for his understanding and support for what you are doing with the children and housework. If that occasion arises, use it by asking him for what you need, whether it is understanding, help with the children and/or housework or your hope that he will seek listening from a friend or therapist to lighten your own burden.

The fundamental point, however, is this. At the moment, you are the only one with the power to change the dynamic and move the conflict in the direction of resolution. Your husband is trapped in a situation (that developed during his childhood) in which his suppressed feelings about something are being projected as blame onto you. It is very unpleasant for you, I know. But there is no point pretending that your husband is likely to find his way out of his mess without help. If he was going to do so, he would have done it already. And strange though it may seem, if you listen to your husband in the way I have described, he will be grateful because, obviously, no one has ever listened to him properly before.

If you want information about how to listen deeply to your husband (and anyone else for that matter) you can find it in the article ‘Nisteling: The Art of Deep Listening’. If you want information about how your husband can express his anger safely, without harming you or your children, you can read it in this article: ‘The Importance of Being Angry’.

Yaw

 

Robert J Burrowes

Biodata: Robert J. Burrowes (Yaw) has a lifetime commitment to understanding and ending human violence. He has done extensive research since 1966 in an effort to understand why human beings are violent and has been a nonviolent activist since 1981. He is the author of ‘Why Violence?’ His email address is flametree@riseup.net and his website is here.

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