Ask Andrew – How my husband won me back but destroyed my respect for him
Having had your book ‘How can I ever trust you again?’ fall out of my husbands car glove box onto my knee whilst putting his satnav away I am hurt and upset and ache so much inside. After having the ILYB conversation a year ago my husband had a mental breakdown, for which he still takes antidepressants, but i am finding the situation increasingly difficult to cope with. I would have left long ago, but having 4 children am compelled to keep family life together for them and the fear that my husband will make things extremely difficult for us all if we were to separate/divorce: (when i applied for divorce after the ILYB he turned the elder 2 against me so I withdrew the application). Since then the children and family members have seen instances that could be regarded as ‘mental abuse’. He does love me and insists on doing shopping, housework etc. and he has been the best father to our children but I feel completely numb and just ‘want a proper man who will look after and care for me’. I have never been allowed to go out with friends or do my own things when he and the children are at home-some changes have been made and I go on occasional evenings out and odd fitness classes but too much has happened and really do not want to continue the rest of my life like this….but what do I do? ILYB!!!
I hope your letter will be an important lesson for men whose wife has said ‘I don’t love you any more.’ Their goal might be to get their wife back but at what cost! You have lost all respect for your husband, your problems have gone from bad to worse and at this rate you WILL LEAVE not tomorrow or the day after but some day – unless there are some major changes.
To be honest, I wish it was your husband writing to me because he has turned a difficult situation into an almost impossible one. At the risk of getting you to communicate through my books, I would be tempted to suggest leaving my new book (out Nov 2012) ‘My Wife Doesn’t Love Me Any More’ in the glove compartment for him to find! As it would explain what he’s doing wrong and provide some of the skills necessary to dig himself out of this dark hole.
However, it’s not him that’s written but you. I hope you understand that you truly have my utmost sympathy – to feel trapped and manipulated is horrible – but you need to understand your role in this. One line in your letter particularly struck me: ‘I want a proper man who will look after and care for me’. How old does that make you sound? To me, it sounds like a little girl who wants a daddy to kiss and make it better. I hate to be sound brutal but we need to look after and care for ourselves (our partner should be someone to journey through life with, who will pick us up when we fall, but not carry us). I say this for two reasons – and sorry if I’ve upset you – but you’ve taken this role for your husband. You’ve been his ‘all caring’ mummy. He throws a tantrum (about you leaving him) and you’ve come running back. (When my younger sister had similar fears of being abandoned, my mother left the spare car keys under her pillow but she went out anyway). It gets exhausting parenting our partner, so I’m not surprised you want a bit of parenting yourself. But you’re setting up your husband for a task that he will never be able to achieve (and making yourself angrier and more trapped too).
So what can you do? You need to approach him adult to adult. (See ‘Help your partner say yes’ and the chapter on TA). Don’t bury your needs – to keep the peace – as they will burst out angry, domineering and scare the living daylights out of him (so he becomes a pathetic heap of jelly that just makes you angrier). Be calm, report your feelings: ‘I’m annoyed because…. ‘ (See three part statement in ILYB) rather than acting them out with sighs, pointed comments and rolling eyes. Deal with one issue at a time. ‘I am thinking of going out on x day….’ in an assertive manner. (See ‘Resolve your differences’). Be polite but firm and don’t back down (as this will just train him to wheedle for longer).
When he does things that are close to mental abuse, don’t push it under the carpet but explain why it’s not acceptable. The same with involving the kids in your stuff. Keep it to one topic at a time, don’t threaten but explain how he is pushing you further away. My hope is that if treated like an adult, he will start to behave like one. Who knows the situation might improve, you might even start to like him again!