Is Marriage Worth the Stress?

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

I have been with my current husband for almost 15 years. I have a son (20 yrs old) from my first marriage. He has 4 children from past relationships. We have one daughter (6) together. He has never been able to get along with my son. My husband is uncomfortable around him, leaves the room or leaves the house when ever my son is around. This has always angered me and we have had a lot of fights and discussions about his in ability to deal with their relationship. Now my son is at college and comes home to visit. My husband takes our daughter with him so she will not be spending time with her either. I am ready to leave him over this. We have financial struggles – I end up paying for his past child support responsabilities and medical bills. I also pay 3/4 of our house payment and he continually tells me he wants to move into a smaller less expensive home. We struggle with parenting and sex, it just doesn’t seem worth it. Do you have any suggestions?

A: Your husband has been in your son’s life since he was only 5 and he never embraced him as one of his own. How very sad for everyone. This boy has grown up never feeling valued by the man in the house. Your husband has missed the opportunity to mentor and love a boy who was ready to love him. You’ve been torn between the two for the whole time.

It’s as if your husband would like to erase your son and pretend that you didn’t have a life and a relationship before him. It’s ironic since he clearly has had past lovers and there are 4 children to show for it. He doesn’t seem to understand that your son is part of you and that he isn’t going to go away. In fact, your relationship with your son is longer and deeper than it ever will be with him. That’s just fact and isn’t something to be apologetic about. Mother love is just like that. He should never, ever, have put you in this bind.

Lately, your husband seems to have upped the ante. Now he doesn’t want your mutual daughter to have a relationship with her brother either. Unless there is indication that your son will hurt your daughter, there is no justifiable reason for his behavior. She’s your daughter too. He doesn’t get to decide what her relationship with her brother will be on his own.

I can’t help but wonder why you allow this man to have so much power. Your relationship is seriously out of balance, with you doing more of the work and him having more of the say. You certainly aren’t acting as a team. There are both positive reasons (sweetness, companionship, practical help, etc) and negative reasons (fear of being alone, fear of the guy, financial stress, etc.) that someone would stay in a relationship like this. I suspect you have a list of both. As long as the positive outweighs the negative, folks stay. But your husband’s treatment of his children’s relationship may be tipping the balance. You may be more able to be angry on your kids’ behalf than on your own.

I don’t see much hope for your marriage unless you two make some major changes. I strongly urge you to seek out a couples and family counselor to see if there is enough love, motivation, and caring to rebuild your team (or maybe even build it for the first time). After 15 years and with a child between you, it’s at least worth a try. If you two could have done it yourselves, you would have by now. If your husband won’t go, go yourself and invite him in later. You need to find out how all this is affecting your daughter and you may need to take some steps to make sure she isn’t being overly stressed by the situation. You personally deserve to have someone who will listen to you and who will help you sort out what you want to do.

Ask your doctor for a referral or go to the “Find Help” tab on our home page to find therapists in your area.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

Photo

 

 

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 15 Apr 2010

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2010). Is Marriage Worth the Stress?. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 19, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2010/04/15/she-wonders-if-the-marriage-is-worth-the-stress/