Advice: I resent my partner

Last updated 05:00 29/08/2013

She feels like she's holding the household together by herself - can she get over her feelings of resentment for her partner, or should she move on? 

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Hi, 

I need some advice.  I'm in a relationship that feels very empty.  I've been with my partner for almost 20 years and we have two children.  

He has been medically unable to work for the last 15 years.  The same deteriorating condition means lifting or twisting is almost impossible also, so he's been unable to help with most household chores for the last 10 to 12 years.  This is not his fault, and I do my hardest not to increase his guilt. My problem is that my resentment levels are getting out of control.   He sleeps on the sofa frequently (he can't sleep more than a couple of hours at a time anyway), and in the last 10 days has only been in the bedroom to get clean clothes.  He doesn't like the same movies, TV shows or music I do, though I enjoy most of what he likes to watch and listen to.

I am feeling incredibly taken for granted, and feel that my life would be so much easier without him, which I know is horribly selfish.  How do I get my resentment under control again?  With him not able to work, and the minimal payments made by WINZ (I earn slightly too much for him to get any kind of benefit, but we get an accommodation supplement of sod all) & IRD ($14 per child), we are constantly struggling to make ends meet; even though I earn a really good wage.  I look at my life and feel like it's completely meaningless, I work to keep our heads above water, and I feel like I get nothing in return.  

The positive in the situation - Dad's at home all the time.  He's not able to DO anything with the kids, but he's physically present, I don't have to worry about taking time off work in school holidays or if the children are sick. 

The dreadful thing is that I'm finding it so very hard to even like him I resent the situation so much.  

I feel that it would be so very cruel to end the relationship, although I almost managed it a couple of years ago. He convinced me he would help to make things work.  I've seen no effort from him since I came home again (I moved out for three weeks), and I don't know how to fix it on my own.

Should I even keep trying, or should I just write off the last 20 years of my life?

Regards,

Resentful

Dear Resentful,

Only you can truly answer the last question you posed: should I stay or should I go, however I hope the following suggestions may help your situation and make that decision-making process clearer for you.

Regardless of the fact that your partner's condition is not one of his own making, you are not being unreasonable about feeling resentful.  When you have the pressure of being the family's breadwinner, as well as managing the household, feelings of resentment are natural, especially if you feel you are not being supported in other ways. 

You mention support from WINZ, and without knowing what condition your partner has, I am wondering whether there are any home supports that would be available that would help with the day-to-day chores, or support groups that either of you could attend.  It would be worth discussing this with your GP.  If there is something available this will relieve some of the burden.

Even if this is not available, you and your partner still have options - if you are both prepared to accept things need to change if you are to stay together.  Not all household management need be about putting out the washing and doing the shopping.  Lots of people who have a physical disability live satisfying and full lives; for example, helping the children with their homework or reading to them or playing board games, and managing the household finances all contribute to a shared family life.  Working to each other's strengths may be a better way of dividing the household chores and activities.

It is sounding like you have both become emotionally isolated from one another, and this needs to be addressed for things to improve. Talking with each other about how you are feeling and what it is that you are each needing on a regular basis will be important.  

Managing a happy household is more than just a series of chores, it is about how you relate to one another and work as a partnership and how you each contribute. Collaboration as a team around the issues, and emotional connection and responsiveness are key to finding relationship satisfaction. This means regular conversations about how things are going, what needs to be addressed, and how you are both feeling, and being responsive to one another. 

It is sounding like you are needing more responsiveness from your partner to feel like you are in a partnership and not carrying it all on your own. A decision to stay or go will be influenced by how responsive you find your partner can be to your needs. The relationship needs to be about both of your needs, not only your partner's, or it is not really a relationship. You are both struggling with a difficult situation and it may be worth considering getting some professional relationship counselling to help you map a way through. You might also want to think about where you can find more support for yourself. Family and friends will be important, as well as time out.

My heart goes out to you as you find your way through this challenging situation.

Kind regards,

Chris

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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