Not all advice needs to be professional. Sometimes your problems deserve a little unvarnished honesty from a guy with nothing more than a computer and a conscience. Lucky for you, I’m that guy. Welcome to Tough Love. (If you want to ask me for advice, email me at [email protected])
Today we are addressing the issue of a partnership where one half works hard to provide a large majority of the family income, while the other half apparently does very, very little. Where do you draw the line to make sure you’re not abused?
Note: I am a columnist, not a therapist or certified healthcare professional. My advice should be interpreted with this in mind. If you have a problem with anything I’m saying, file a complaint here. Now let’s get started.
I have been in a relationship for 5 years I think (IDRK because I have not really followed). We have two children, a 2 year old boy and a 4 year old girl. But there’s tons of stress on our relationship that I often think about leaving and dealing with the fallout of being a separated parent and all that goes with it. It makes less than $ 400 per month while I am making about $ 4.5,000 to $ 5,000 per month. She rarely works, maybe two evenings a week at most. But I’m tired of being the only one making money.
She refuses to find another job, even at night, so that I can watch the children. She does not want to work on weekends and it is mainly for this reason that she does this job which she currently occupies. We rent a house that costs around $ 1200 a month and she never cleans it. Most of the day is spent on God knows what. I came home to see the kids still in their pajamas and her on TV. She is not going to school as I requested and which we have discussed. She literally does nothing other than make sure the kids stay alive. She’s mean to kids and it’s just a constant power struggle; she must be in control of every situation. I really have no idea what to do. I have become distant with her and I don’t really want to be with her anymore. She wants to snuggle up and watch TV and I’d rather go do something on my own. I really don’t know what to do, and it doesn’t help that I have borderline personality disorder, which means I can totally turn my back on it and not feel bad at all.
Dear HELP PLEASE,
You are in a difficult position and force yourself to sit down with your partner and explain exactly why this situation feels unfair to you. But before you do that, you need to take the time to understand why your partner might be living the way you described.
I’m not saying what you described to me is incorrect, but someone who spends most of their day on the couch may be depressed or suffering from another kind of emotional struggle. Have you asked your partner how she’s been feeling lately? Lethargy and a lack of motivation, which is kind of what you detailed, are common symptoms of depression.
Here’s what to do, if you haven’t already: Start with a sincere desire to understand. Does she have reservations about failure or another nagging hang-up? Does she have a mental health problem? Is she depressed? Approach the situation with curiosity, because if there is something out there – and it probably is – you want to be a support partner, not a critical asshole.
The refusal to work is one thing, but she’s home all day with a two-year-old and a four-year-old. “Keeping them alive” is not limited to put food in their mouths—it extends far beyond that—and spend the whole day with children can in fact be a full time job. You also noticed that she spends all day doing “God knows what,“but huh everyday will always be a mystery if you don’t learn better communicate together. Not to suggest that you don’t already have try– of course I have a very limited scope of what your relationship is like – but in order to get a feel for how your partner is feeling and how she is spending her time you have to ask.
Then, depending on what you learn, be the type of support partner you want. Looks like you are dealing with your own mental health issues, so you can empathize. You can also tell him how this situation Feel-but first, ask yourself how you really feel and find the right words to describe your emotions. Try to be delicate about how you express your feelings, but express what you really feel. If you think she is “mean to children,” ask her why she is acting this way, but do so without being judgmental.. You won’t make any progress if you don’t communicate.
So that you understand your situation, you have to understand your partner. First of all, your children stay in their pajamas is not the end of the world. Of course, you might expect your partner to have plans with them every now and then, but there are many times staying in pajamas for a day at home is fine and normal. I have worked from home for the past two years and have had a parcel time not to dress completely. Do I feel less productive as a result on time? Maybe, but my priorities are markedly different from those of a two-year-old.
Something else Note that even if you are upfront and honest about your borderline personality disorder, you cannot just walk away from it and not consider the consequences. Divorce sucks, and even if you are not married, parental separation is a difficult thing for children to go through (I know this from experience). Think long and hard about this aspect of your situation and know that to leave it and not think about the consequences, because you noted, is never an option. The will always have consequences and you shouldn’t ignore them.
I really hope you can make some progress with it before it comes to this. Try to remember why you got together in the first place and be direct and honest about how the situation makes you feel. If it is conveyed from the point of view of honest emotion – it makes you feel unappreciated etc. – you have a better chance that the message will stay true. Just know that her emotions and personal situation matter as much as yours. Good luck.
That’s it for this week, but there are still plenty of more Tough Love to discover. If you would like to be introduced, please contact us describing your dilemmas in a E-mail tome (please include “TIP” or “TOUGH LOVE” in the subject line). Or, tweet me with the hashtag #ToughLove. Serious requests only: Don’t email or message me if you don’t want to appear in the column. Warning: I can’t answer everyone, so be sure to describe a specific problem in your note. I will not respond to generalizations, such as someone who “is mean” or vague descriptions of “relationship issues” without any concrete examples of what is bothering you. Until next time, take care of yourself!