I am a thirty-nine-year-old woman married to a wonderful man. My husband is a sweet-tempered, delightful, funny person with whom I felt comfortable from the moment we met, two years ago.
We love each other and enjoy spending time together. But one problem that keeps coming up is that he isn’t responsive when I need help with something. If I ask him for assistance carrying a heavy piece of furniture (I have back problems), he pretends he didn’t hear me. If I ask again, he says he’ll get to it in his own time. (In my experience, this means he won’t.) He’s very generous when I don’t ask for anything, but, if I get food poisoning and want him to bring me a cup of tea, he’ll suspiciously ask, “Why?,” and we’ll wind up having a long discussion about it, in which I’ll have to explain that, no, I’m not trying to shame him, I just feel sick and could use some love and care. Once he dropped a yogurt on my toe by mistake and ended up storming out when I asked him for an ice pack.
I’m an independent and capable person, for better or for worse, so it isn’t often that I need help. But, each time something like this happens, my stomach twists in a knot. I realize that the person I think of as my life partner is more of a fair-weather companion—someone who’s fun to talk to but whom I can’t rely on. What will I do when life gets harder, as it inevitably will, and I need to rely on him more? Is this something I can prepare for? Should I leave?
I should mention that I’d very much like to have a biological child if I still can. My husband would also like to have a baby. I think he’d be a good, loving, fun dad. I wish I could have more time to sort out whether I’ll be able to stay with him long term before we have the baby. I also think I’d prefer to have a baby with this person I love and like and who is willing to have a child with me, even if we have problems, than to go it alone.
Strong but Not Wise Woman
Dear Strong One,
I would advise you to find a good therapist, build a durable support system of friends and/or family, have your baby, and keep a close eye on how things stand in your marriage and in your heart.
The issue you describe doesn’t seem like an easy one to fix, and it does sound like something that will become more dire over time. It also might be just the tip of the iceberg of other larger issues with your husband involving communication, consideration, and basic mutual understanding.
On the other hand, I don’t get the feeling that you’ve reached the sort of crisis point yet where you’re so unhappy with your husband that you want to leave. Your fear is more that the marriage won’t work forever. It would be very painful, of course, if you decided to leave the marriage after having a baby together, but not the end of the world for the child, or for you, or for him. Many marriages don’t last, and it seems to me that you’ve gone into this one with your eyes open about your husband’s good and bad qualities. The future is largely unknowable, and most people don’t enter marriages with such clear vision as yours; they find out later. You’re clear that you are happy right now, and also clear that you want a baby soon, and with him.
If that weren’t the case, I’d tell you not to—there are many ways to have children that don’t involve staying in a loveless or toxic marriage. If it does ever get to that point, you will know what to do.