Marriage vs. Sanity

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

My husband and I are raising our first baby together; she is 10 months old. We got pregnant on our honeymoon and have only been together for about 2.5 years now. We also picked up and moved from Arizona to Pennsylvania to be closer to my family and planned to take over my family business. Well when we arrived here, my father decided he’s not ready to retire, so we’re both struggling to get by with part-time lower paying jobs (lower than what we made in Arizona.) We spent a fortune to move here and don’t have it to turn around and go back (nor do I want to. Ever.) Husband and I are fighting almost every day. Over money. Over him wanting to move back to be near his family. Over him calling me fat. Over him teasing me in front of my family. Over him having a negative attitude about this town, this house, this job market. Over me freaking out about cleaning up after him. Over me needing to get a car so I can have my own life and get away with the baby for a few hours and cool off. Over me thinking he’s lazy for not spending more time and energy looking for a better paying job. I accuse him of not trying because I believe he wants to fail and move back to Arizona. He admits he feels that way sometimes, but then we make up and he cries and tells me he loves me and wants to stay and make it work. He sometimes yells at me that since I’m better educated I should be the one to leave the house and get the better job with benefits so he can stay home with the baby. I feel that’s unfair, since I waited my whole life and saved up to have a baby and I want to stay home with her and breastfeed while I work part-time from home. I can pay my bills and I’m doing okay; but I’m tired of making up for the bills he can’t afford to pay for us. He also offers no help paying utilities or mortgage, insisting it’s fair because he pays for groceries, car insurance, and the car payment. (I did not want a new car and resent him for buying something we couldn’t afford.) We are in over our heads, and honestly, I feel like a single mom with an annoying roommate who makes messes and stresses me out and doesn’t pay his share. I believe in love and want to make it work. I really do want to try, but I feel so overwhelmed and anxious. I’ve a history of some anxiety and panic attacks, and I don’t want things to get that bad. I’m scared, and I don’t know if this marriage and my sanity can both be saved.

A. “Marriage versus sanity” may be a false choice. The implication is that maintaining your sanity may involve ending your marriage. Based on your letter, there’s no indication that you have tried any alternative methods of resolution. Thus it’s quite premature to consider ending your marriage.

You and your husband argue but you should not assume that the marriage is over. It’s a stressful time because of your recent move and the lack of financial stability. Once either of you finds steady work, there will likely be less tension and fighting.

I would suspect that your husband is unhappy having moved to be close to your parents. I can certainly understand why you would prefer to be close to your parents but I can also understand why your husband would not be happy being so far away from his home.

In a marriage or partnership, often one person has more power than the other and through power or manipulation or subtle pressure the stronger partner gets their way. The weaker partner, though having conceded, does not simply accept the fact that they have acquiesced. They silently resent having lost. This resentment builds like money being added to a savings account. Often it leaks out or it can be suddenly released with the marriage ending in divorce. Perhaps your husband does resent moving to Pennsylvania. He loves you but he may not be happy living so far from his home. These are all issues that I would examine if you were in counseling with me.

Your relationship could greatly benefit from marriage counseling. If he is unwilling to attend marriage counseling, then you should attend individual therapy. A therapist could assist you in decreasing your levels of anxiety and teach you effective problem-solving skills. A therapist will also assess how both of you may be contributing to the problems in your marriage.

Marriage is a legally binding agreement. Your husband is also the father of your child. The ultimate goal should be to salvage the marriage. Marriage counseling affords you the opportunity to examine the relationship in a supportive environment with a trained professional who can teach you how to resolve conflicts in a productive manner. I would highly recommend it. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle
Mental Health & Criminal Justice Blog

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 8 Oct 2013

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2013). Marriage vs. Sanity. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 27, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2013/10/08/marriage-vs-sanity/