Tired fathers & self-centered spouses

Hi Mary Jo,

How does a mom deal when her husband works hard all day long, but when he gets home he doesn’t want to help with the children or responsibilities?

Thank you,

Sherry

Dear Sherry,

This is a battle for many couples because the person who stays home feels as though they have to do everything. Telling your partner they need to be responsible and help can backfire; no one likes being told what to do. I advise moms or dads who are doing most of the household work to tell their partner how they feel about doing everything instead of accusing their partner. Saying phrases like, “It hurts me when you don’t pitch in,” or, “I don’t think you notice how resentful I get when it feels like I’m in this marriage alone,” have a much deeper impact.

Often, the partner doing most of the household work grows resentful and seethes silently. This ruins intimacy and hurts the marriage. Be direct and brain storm ideas together that will help. For example, have a chore list on a whiteboard and have both partners sign up Sunday night for what they plan to take care that week. This helps restore teamwork in the relationship. Children will behave better and communication will improve between the couple.

Hi Mary Jo,

Is there any hope for a marriage with a self-centered spouse?

Thank you,

Tina

Tina,

There is always hope for a relationship to improve if both people in the relationship want it to work. It isn’t that he can’t change, it’s that he isn’t motivated to change, or he doesn’t fear the consequences. You cannot force him to change, but you can change you and that may change everything. This is what I think you should do to help:

  1. Begin working with a therapist. This is going to help in two ways. First of all, someone objective will validate your feelings which will help you gain clarity into the situation. Secondly, they will help you make changes to your response which is the key in turning relationships around.
  2. Set firm boundaries for yourself. Talk directly, and don’t give him an opportunity to manipulate or control your feelings.
  3. Don’t provide excuses for him with your friends. Protecting self-centered people enables them to continue their self-centered behaviors.
  4. If you feel emotionally abused or taken advantage of, respect yourself enough to leave.

Self-centered behavior is not to be confused with diagnosed narcissism. The society we’ve created has empowered people to become more egocentric in their thinking. You can cure self-centeredness by becoming more empathetic and compassionate. However, narcissism is a real mental illness and must be diagnosed and treated by mental health professionals.

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