Relationship Blog

Reflections on Relationships

Someone recently wrote to Cosmopolitan Magazine with the following concern:

Me and my husband have been married for four years and have three wonderful kids. He bought the X-Box 360 [a video game system] about 2 years ago and all he does is play it all day and most of the night, sometimes all day and night. I’ve tried sitting down with him and explaining that I need help around the house, not to mention with our little ones, and he says he understands, yet it is still the same thing every day with no signs of changing. I am also sure you can understand what type of effect this has on our sex life. We do have sex at least twice a week but it doesn’t last that long. Most of the time it is a quickie, so not very enjoyable for me. And when he does try to make it last longer and maybe tries to put more passion into it, I try but about 75 percent of the time have too much resentment and can’t relax or get over the fact that it is the only attention I get. So it is very upsetting to me. No hugs, only kisses when we are in the act, no cuddling…nothing. As soon as he is done he sleeps or jumps back on the game. What is wrong with me? How come he doesn’t want to be part of the family unit anymore? I also need suggestions on how to get over all the resentment I hold.
Signed: Is it Me?

Here is my response to her letter.

Dear “Is it Me?”
The answer to your question is both “No it is not you” and “Yes it is you.” Let me explain. Your husband is doing what he is doing because of who he is, not because of who you are. We can become much more personal in a relationship if we stop taking our partner’s behavior personally.

While that is true it is also true that all behavior in a relationship is communication. Sometimes we are unable to decode what our partner’s behavior is saying and sometimes the person himself doesn’t even realize what his behavior is communicating. So here are some possibilities of what your husband might he be saying with this behavior:

First possibility: “I am ignoring you and involved in this game because I am angry with you and showing you how it feels to be ignored.” (I state this as a possibility because many men feel abandoned when their wives are attentive to their children’s needs. You have been married four years and have three children and I am certain raising three children requires a lot of you attention and energy. He seems to be acting like a child and maybe this is his way of saying he misses you and wants your attention.)

Second possibility: “I don’t know how to be a father nor do I know where I fit into this family, I am lost.” (He may not know how to be a husband and a father. Some men have an idea of how to be a husband but are clueless when it comes to knowing how to participate in childrearing. If this is the case you need to invite him to disclose this to you. He will likely be very embarrassed and ashamed if this is the case which may be what makes it is so hard for him to share this with you.)

There are other possibilities too but let’s shift focus to what you are doing that is part of the problems in order for you to become a part of the solution. The first think I pick up is that you are criticizing him. Most men become defensive when they are criticized by their wives. When you tell him “I need you help around the house, not to mention with our little ones…” you are criticizing him for what he is not doing. Try this instead, Tell him you miss him. That he is important to you and that you are concerned that something you have done has pushed him away. Invite him to tell you how he feels about you and if he does listen carefully because he will be telling you what he needs from you that he is not getting.

Your criticism is likely to come from your resentment. To get over your resentment I suggest a three step process: First identify your resentment. In your case it might be something like: “I resent you for playing Xbox all the time and abandoning me and our children.” Step two involves stating the demand that underlies your resentment. This doesn’t mean that your demand is unreasonable, sometimes our demands are reasonable, sometimes they aren’t. But it really doesn’t matter because you need to state what you demand regardless of its degree of reasonableness. You might say something like, “I demand that you become more involved in this family and that you never abandon me or our children.” I imagine that this might reflect your demand but it might not. So identify your demand and say it out loud to yourself. Finally, the third step is to find something you can appreciate in his behavior that your resent. So in this case you might say, “I appreciate that you are home when you are playing your Xbox instead of going out and drinking etc.” There is always something to appreciate in a resentment. This process will help you understand and resolve your resentment.

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