Advice: I don't love him anymore

Last updated 12:16 18/07/2013

He loves her and her daughter, but refuses to help out around the house or do fun things with them. Too much of this behaviour has meant she's no longer feels attracted to or even in love with him... what should she do? 

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Help - I have a dilemma, I don't think I am in love with my partner anymore.

Every time we have an argument or disagreement I secretly hope it will be the last and that he will break up with me.

We have an 18-month-old together and I feel the need to stay with him because of her. He is a very loving guy who is very affectionate towards me and bubs, but he doesn't shower or take care of himself, even though he has a very physical job. For the past three years, I have tried and am still trying to get him to help more around the house. I do all the cooking and the dishes as well as cleaning of the house - he doesn't help.

Even though I also work full-time and am the main breadwinner I do all the cooking, cleaning, feeding, and clothing of our daughter (he vacuums when he feels like it and occassionally bathes her) - this is a partnership and the responsibility needs to be shared. You may be thinking - tell him this - but I have. Many times since she was born. I struggled having to go back to work so soon after she was born but still had to maintain the house and cook, because overall he is lazy.

Lately I have found I am fantasising about other guys and looking closer at other families and seeing how I wish we were, but will never be. I feel I would be a better mum if he wasn't around because I get so mad at having to do everything - I know I would have to if he wasn't around but it would be for just us two and not him as well.

He is a different, sensitive soul who takes things quite seriously, he also doesn't like planning so if I say what I want to do in the weekend, he says - "we'll see". I like to do things in the weekend and, with a child, planning is necessary. Lately it's been just me and the baby going to for a walk, to the park or beach, museum, visiting friends etc. He says a lot that he is just going through stuff - but to be honest, he has been like this since we met. I don't even know if he has ever made me happy.

I am borderline feeling resentment for him. He does nothing for me for Mother's Day or my birthday even though for his I go all out - even when 9 months pregnant.

I know he loves us and he has said many times he is in this relationship for the long-haul but I don't think I have it in me anymore. I think I am scared of being single again, looking after the mortgage alone and being a single mum. Growing up with both parents, I feel I am also staying in the relationship now because I want my girl to grow up with her Mum and Dad.

I feel also that this would come out of the blue to him and what if I leave him and it turns out I do really love him and miss him but he moves on?I am in a real dilemma and it's beginning to flow through to my work which is suffering as well as making me a bit depressed.

Help - I am in serious need of some advice!

Stressed

Dear Stressed,

You certainly have a lot on your plate with an 18-month-old baby, working full time, financial pressures and doing most of the housework and all of the cooking. This is one of the most demanding times for any couple and you really do need to have all hands on deck to get through it. Your situation has come to a crisis point and your partner needs to know this.

Your needs are not getting met in the current arrangement, and it is not surprising that you are starting to fantasise about other options. You would be superwoman to keep all of this together. You certainly need support, and most importantly from your man. Orienting to being a parent is a huge transition and requires new approaches from you both, this is a challenge that you have picked up but your partner is still drifting on. For example, you do need to be much more planned in how you do things and be well co-ordinated to both be working and looking after a child. Although he is doing some things it is not yet enough, and he does need to wake up and get on with the job.

On the bright side he is loving to both you and to your baby, and does do some things like vaccuming, and the occasional bathing of your daughter, so there is something to work with. While this is not yet enough, it is important to recognise what he is doing (which you are) and to build on that.

It seems he has adopted an approach to a relationship that when he is under stress he tends to withdraw into his own world, right at the time when you are under stress and need him to engage more fully. This dynamic needs to be addressed between you. You are now getting burned out trying to get him to be responsive to you and are you starting to give up. This is a real danger-sign for the relationship, and a sure sign that things cannot remain the same. The situation will either get more rocky and painful between you as your resentment and disillusionment builds, or you both can take it as a sign to do what needs to be done to really address the dynamic between you. Getting some good professional relationship support is strongly advised to help you both with this. A few sessions could make a big difference, and while finances might be tight, they will certainly cost less than a total breakdown in your relationship.

You say that he would be surprised if you left, which means he doesn't know how bad it has become for you and how much you are suffering. It's time to let him know this, to put your cards on the table and say that you are not able to manage everything without more real support from him anymore. Try to do this in a non-blaming way, and let him know how much you need him in this. The harsher you approach him with your pain then less he will be likely to hear you, and the more he will withdraw. If he feels needed by you (and therefore valued) he is more likely to open up or be more responsive to you. Are you able to show your vulnerability to him, and let him see how hard it has become and how much you need his help? Are you able to invite him into something new? If you can assist him to understand how hard it is becoming for you in a way that he can engage emotionally with you, it will help to motivate you both to start doing things differently. There are probably areas that he is struggling with too, and you will need to be open to hearing these as well. You then will have a place to work from to reorganise things.

I would suggest that you both agree to review together the total work of the house, including earning income, cooking, cleaning, looking after the bills, parenting tasks and being with your child, as well as time each to relax or have a break or some time out, and importantly that you get some regular quality time together. Together write up a list of everything that needs to be done, and then share them out evenly between you. Put the list up on the fridge with your names against what needs to be done and ensure things get completed. With a baby and you both working, you will have to be organised to get everyone's needs met, and this may be a bit of a gear shift for your partner.

Also think about what other resources you can draw from around you. Do you have family or friends close by? Local play groups? A library, café or park to go to? Whatever these resources are think about how you can use them to support your family.

Review this list every week for the first month to ensure things are getting done, address areas where things haven't got done and tweak your plans. Celebrate your successes with each other and make each other accountable for any lapses. Also realise that it may take a bit of time to put in place, so the first few weeks will be the hardest as behaviours and patterns change.

If you don't have the energy for this, give it a go and after three months or so and find it's not working, then it may be time to start thinking about how to access more support from a professional therapist if you haven't already, or how to exit the relationship. Research does clearly indicate that significant conflict between parents or parents withdrawing from one another, is not good for children. Ultimately if it's not good for you, and not good for your child it will be time to move on. However you have a lot to work with and a good possibility that things could be worked out between you.

Best wishes with it all, 

Cary

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.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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