Advice: Why won't he listen to me?

Last updated 05:00 17/01/2013

They love each other and have a young daughter, but she can't get him to listen to her or help out without it turning into a huge fight. What can she do?

I have been with my partner for five years and we have one child together. We love each other, but we have massive arguments. They tend to start because I'm frustrated with his behaviour. He doesn't help much around the house, I tend to do all the house work, washing, cooking, etc. This is pretty hard on me as I work full time and take care of our daughter who is only 15 months old. We have recently done our house up but he still hasn't finished little jobs that need to be done (he is a builder). If he gets rained off work he thinks that is his ticket to sit at home, do nothing and more often than not drink - instead of doing the jobs at home.

If he has sat at home all day and I've worked he refuses to get our daughter from daycare or cook her meal or anything to help make my life a bit easier. I want us to work as a team. For my part I do his washing, make his lunch for work and do as much as I can so he doesn't have to.

But when I ask him to do anything he thinks I'm nagging and won't do it. He doesn't seem to understand that the dishes need to be done that night, not in three days' time.

I have tried talking to him but he switches off. This makes me even more frustrated which comes out as anger. We then have huge screaming matches I'm sure the neighbours can hear, then we talk about breaking up. Often in front of our daughter. I want this arguing to stop, I want us to work as a team, I need him to help me out when he's got the time. I've asked him to go to therapy with me but he refuses. I've written him letters in the past but he won't read them. I just don't know whatelse I can do. There is a pattern to all of this - after a couple of days of arguing things will be calm for a few weeks. He will pick up his game and help out more...  then he will find a reason to stop and the arguments will happen again.

Desperately Lonely

It is sad that so many couples who do love each other, find themselves unable to deal with conflict and differing ideas about lifestyle, parenting and chores in a safe constructive way. To get a car license we need to have lessons and show someone else we can safely drive, but we don't need to do that to live together and have children! My point is that you can both learn how to manage things differently, but it does take willingness and at this stage there is only one of you willing to seek outside help.

Something needs to change soon for all of you.  I can understand why you would be feeling lonely and desperate - this situation is not working for any of you and over time the damage will just get worse if nothing changes. The pattern you are describing is very destructive and even though you describe some periods of calm the longterm future is not good unless there is change. It is very concerning that the arguments are in front of your daughter - I am sure you want the best for her and are probably aware that it is terrifying and damaging for children to see their parents arguing in this way. You are sure your neighbours can hear, and if the fights are as fierce as you describe it is likely to be only a matter of time before the police or Child Youth and Family are called.

You have some hard choices to make if you are to protect your daughter and make changes in the relationship.  Choose a time when you are both calm and your daughter is not in the house and say you are worried about your relationship and the fighting and want it to stop.  Let him know you are willing to change, but you need him to be willing to also work with you to make changes so you can all be happier.   If he isn't willing to make changes then I recommend you find a skilled couple counsellor and work with them to figure out what to do next.  You will also find useful tips and ideas on our website about dealing with conflict and how to make changes in relationships.

For more advice and information on counselling, visit Relationships Aotearoa online or join them on Facebook.

We'd love to hear your take on this week's issue. Before you comment below, though, remember that this is a real-life situation. This reader has bravely shared their personal life with you; please show them respect by refraining from hurtful or abusive comments.

- Stuff

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