Q&A with Geoff: How do I get my husband out of his sedentary lifestyle?Jan 19, 2022
My husband gets off work and decides to make an easy but unhealthy dinner and then immediately goes to the chair or couch. He gets mad at me if I do the same. However, he will just watch TV and be on his phone. He has little interest in going to social events. He complains about money but spends it frivolously. I do not know what to do.
We have two beautiful little children who are dying to play, but he won’t get on the floor and do that. He has struggled through finding the right job. He has been through several lately, and the last one wouldn’t keep him because they said he was too lazy. He won’t listen to me, nor will his family see the problem. Several of them struggle with self-image issues and weight gain.
I know I’m not perfect, but I truly do love him. I just don’t know how to go about this. I do plan to talk to a counselor soon. I’m already on antidepressants. His behaviors have my depression and anxiety spiraling out of control. I am a nurse working the frontline in this pandemic.
I have stress of my own to deal with that doesn’t get easy when mixing his issues in with it. What do I do?
Living in a relationship without true partnership can often feel worse than being alone. You didn’t get married to be alone, raise your children alone and manage all the stressors of life for two adults. Even though there are times you might tolerate imbalance during different seasons of marriage, failure to return to reciprocity corrodes the very foundation of respect and trust in marriage.
It can feel unfair to be the one seeking additional help when it’s clear that your husband is under-functioning in his roles as husband and father. However, I’m glad to hear you’re seeking help for yourself through counseling and medication. You’re more likely to make healthier decisions with this type of support.
Your children need stability, and your sacrifices to provide them with your presence will be a blessing to them as they grow up.
I’ve been married long enough to know that some issues aren’t going to be completely understood with one or even dozens of conversations.
When you have two people with different understandings about what’s “normal,” there will be ongoing struggles aligning your vision of a healthy marriage and family. His way of living may seem perfectly normal to him, and he may not understand why you’re so upset. The biggest issue here isn’t that you have different expectations for marriage and family life.
The biggest issue is that he’s not working with you on creating a mutually agreeable plan.
When you have a spouse who refuses to collaborate and chooses to live like an unaffected bachelor, you have some important decisions to make. Most people will get pushed to the extremes of either raising the volume on their complaints or going completely silent and collapsing into a parallel existence. I totally understand how both approaches make sense when we’re pushed to our limits.
In fact, they are both protests for connection. They’re attempts to get our partner to wake up and see our pain. Again, the suffering isn’t because you have different styles. Your suffering is because your husband simply doesn’t appear to care that you’re hurting. You can approach him from a place of respect and clarity. Sometimes we believe that being clear is the same as being mean.
Brene Brown teaches that being clear is the kindest thing we can do. You love your husband and your children. You want the best for your marriage and family. You also respect your own limits and want to be in partnership. Your motives are pure and good. Make sure your communication and actions stay aligned with this goodness.
For example, if you start using insulting and abusive language to get his attention, you’re not only hurting him, but you’re also betraying your own heart. On the other hand, if you say nothing (believing this is more loving), but secretly harbor resentment and bitterness toward him, your love will get choked out. The Bible teaches us that “charity suffereth long,” but that doesn’t mean it has to be quiet.
Love is powerful, especially when it’s clear and aligned with loving actions.
You might have to take drastic actions, such as setting up a separate bank account to protect your finances. You might have to ask him to leave until he can engage as a husband and father. You may have a direct and difficult conversation about what this is doing to your mental and physical health.
You might have to do things you never dreamed would be necessary to protect the integrity of your home and family. If you’re truly on your own in this marriage, you may have to arrange things in a way that disrupt his comfortable routines. However, you can do all of this with love.
You can use kind and respectful language. You can take care of your own physical and emotional health. You can advocate for the children’s need to have an involved father. You can express an intolerance for the disrespect he’s showing toward your feelings. You can recognize and appreciate any movement toward healthy living that he demonstrates.
You can extend grace as he confronts his own unhealthy patterns. You can take care of yourself, extend grace, suffer long, be respectful, and expect movement all at the same time.
We often mistake love for silence and inaction. Instead, I’m inviting you to see love as clarity and action.
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