Dear Nancy: I’ve been married for 20 years, but I am literally starved for love, attention, and affection from my husband. I tolerate our life the way it is for the sake of our two teenage boys. My husband has a demanding job in the health-care profession and is always too tired to talk to me or pay attention to me. I’ve tried to be loving, kind, and gracious and wouldn’t think of confronting him about this because he is so stressed out on his job. And I don’t feel like I can talk about this with anyone else because it might jepardize my husband’s career.
I’m suffering so inside and sometimes I even want to die. At other times I get so angry at some stupid little thing my husband does that I have a terrible temper tantrum, which drives him even further away. I don’t want a divorce but what about a trial separation to wake up my negligent husband? I’m at the end of my rope.
Dear Starved: In trying to be so loving to your husband–so gracious and kind and such a good wife–you are actually shielding him from the consequences of his actions. You have tolerated his behavior and failed to confront him with loving toughness. Just as rebellious preschoolers can profit from a well-timed spanking, so guilty adults should experience the consequences of uncaring behavior. There’s nothing quite like a dose of reality to awaken dreamers from their fantasies.
The secrecy you’ve maintained prevents you from getting the emotional support you need to keep yourself together. It is almost masochistic of you to refrain from telling anyone about the agony you are so bravely suffering in silence. This martyrlike approach can take people to the brink of suicide–that’s why I’m urging you to see a counselor immediately, whether or not your husband will.
You indicated you felt you must tolerate the relationship for the sake of the boys. I admire your tenacity, but your perspective is shortsighted. In the process of giving your boys a home, you are also giving them a severly depressed, emotionally starved mother.
Becoming angry and throwing a temper tantrum is no more effective in dealing with emotional rejection than it would be in dealing with a rebellious teenager. Screaming, angry outbursts and berating are rarely successful in changing behavior. What is required is a course of action that demands a specific response and results in a consequence.
A separation might be in order, but don’t use it to end your marriage. Do it to rescue your marriage–to awaken your husband to the responsibilities that he carries as your husband and as the father of his children. you might find a temporary separation the only method of forcing your husband to recognize that you need professional help to salvage your marriage. This crisis of loneliness may be the last step in jarring him to his senses; you could be doing the most loving thing by temporarily making him more miserable. If this would be your motive in separating from him, then I could find no scriptural condemnation against your decision.
Before you attempt a separation, however, I recommend you attend a tough-love or assertiveness training class while while tempering it with biblical principles. Then tie a knot and hang on.
Give me a call if you have any questions. Let me know when you have this up.