Ask the Expert: Our girls blame me for our marital problems
Teenagers can get drawn into their parents’ conflicts. It can often feel like they are taking sides or blaming one parent more for the problems. Photograph: Getty Images
Q I h ave been married for 20 years and have two teenage girls. Although my husband is there for the girls, we have not had a happy marriage for years. All he seems to want me to be is a housewife and a cook; he has no interest in being a real companion to me. He spends all his free time away from me. I feel so angry and fed up with him.
When I try to talk to him about how unhappy I am, he cuts me off or we end up having a row. The last time this happened, I threatened him with an ultimatum and he said he was looking forward to leaving as soon as the girls were settled.
I have tried many times to get him to go to marriage counselling and, under duress, he did attend one session last year but this did not go well. He accused me of usi ng the meeting to “have a go at him” , but I was trying to be honest about all our problems.
There is great tension in the house and the girls are often angry and seem to despise me. I think they sense the problems between me and my husband, and blame me for them. This is despite the fact that I do all the rearing and housework. I try to defend myself but I just can’t win.
Friends say I should end the marriage, but that is easier said than done. I am just so angry and upset. Things seem to be getting worse. I feel so disappointed that 20 years of marriage have come to this.
Is there anything I can do to change things or to save my marriage?
A I’m sorry to hear that you are so unhappy in your marriage at the moment. It is extremely difficult to be in a marriage that is unsatisfactory for an extended period and even harder when you are putting lots of effort into trying to change things, to no avail.
Sadly, as you have discovered, stressed marriages can have a negative effect on children and can drag down the quality of family life.
In addition, children and teenagers can get drawn into their parents’ conflicts, if only subconsciously. It can often feel like they are taking sides or blaming one parent more for the problems. This can add to the upset and distress.
Focus on what you can control, particularly your own happiness
The first thing I would suggest is that you take a step back from trying to change your husband, or anyone else, and instead focus on what you can control. Instead of trying to care for everyone, redirect some of that energy into caring for yourself.
Don’t wait for your husband to pay attention to you. Instead, focus on what you can do to make things happier for yourself.
Think about what things could bring more joy into your daily life. These can be simple things such as going for a walk, eating well and making contact with friends; or bigger things such as taking up new activities or interests.