I've been married to my husband for 9 years now and we have two beautiful young children aged 5 and 7.
My husband and I have hit a wall in our marriage. I don’t know whether it is to do with life being so busy with the children and not being able to connect with each other. We’re always tired and find that there is no quality time when we get the kids to bed at night. We each just want to zone out in front of the TV or I fall asleep in the kids beds and he ends up waking me to go to bed.
He told me today that he is really unhappy and feels worthless and that nothing he can do is right in my eyes. He's been suffering from panic attacks (which he did not tell me about until today). I just don’t know what to do or say to him that will help him/us or make him feel any better.
I admit that sometimes I can be abrupt with him, and I know that I don’t tell him enough that I love him (but I do feel like I show him, through the kids/cooking etc). I take anti-depressants as I suffer a bit with my mental health. I’m wondering is he depressed also? I just don’t know. I would love us to talk to someone to see if we could work things out in our marriage.
Believe it or not, the falling out today started over something SO small. It was about me doing chores around the house when he would’ve preferred to go out and do something together as it was our only day off today! It isn’t the first time this has happened when I’ve been trying to get on top of stuff around the home and we have ended up having a shouting match (for whatever reason, I don’t know)!
There must be something deep seeded that needs to be addressed and days like these are some sort of a trigger. I hope that maybe you could reply to me and point me in a direction/reassure me that this is normal/or do we walk away from each other and our marriage of only 9 years.
Everything you've said will be instantly recognised by so many people who are or have been struggling to balance their relationship with everything else – including the impact of Covid.
You ask for reassurance that what you’re experiencing is ‘normal’ and it is, but despite being normal, its clearly something that isn’t helping you or your husband. The yearning for things to be different really jumps off the screen.
No one of can deny the impact of Covid on just about everything. Relationships that might have already been struggling have now also had to cope with limited opportunities for time apart because everyone was locked down together. Some of the tried and trusted strategies for managing conflict or general disagreement and unhappiness simply weren’t available.
Like many arguments, yours start over small things. In counselling, when people look back at how they’ve been trying and failing to resolve problems together, they often realise that it’s the small things they argue about. These 'small things' enable them to avoid the bigger issues which sometimes feel too big or destructive to say out loud.
Sometimes, it’s just easier to tell someone how upset, despondent, angry or sad they are about the relationship via arguments about who forgot to put the washing on. Counselling often helps clients to create a more productive and healthy way of communicating that allows each of them to have a voice and still hear the other. Without a shadow of a doubt, I would recommend couple counselling for you.
Without wishing to minimise the distress you feel, there are some positives in all this. The main one is that you’ve actually started to tell each other what’s wrong and how you each feel. He’s told you about the panic attacks and your natural response is wanting to ‘do’ something. Well – we’ve all been there I think. It’s natural to want to find a solution. Often though the solution starts with doing nothing other than ’listening’. That might seem rather passive and it's understandable that you might feel it’s not proactive enough but I can tell you that one of the most powerful ’tools’ any of us have when responding to someone’s pain and distress is just to be present and let them share how they feel. He’s made a good start on that with you and I found myself wondering what might have started that process off. Perhaps right now is just the right time.
I think that it’s not so much a wall you’ve hit, rather, it’s just life. Every parent in the country will know what you mean about the days ‘lost’ to trying to keep all the plates spinning. It seems like there’s no time left for that elusive ‘quality’ time together that therapists are fond of referring to. When you feel exhausted, under pressure, worried and generally stressed, having meaningful conversations with a partner can seem a bit like the last thing you feel like doing. Finding that 'me' time can come at the cost of couple time because basically, everyone is so short of time.
So, what to do now? Talk with your husband about getting some couple counselling, see your GP to check out any possible depression and recognise that there is very likely a way forward together.
Counselling should hopefully give you some time to talk about your relationship, find out what’s really going on, what you need from each other plus the tools to get started on making some changes. Walking away from all this is certainly an option but I don’t think that’s what either of you wants to happen.