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Time to leave?

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Q: I’m a 35 year old married woman with three young boys. My husband and I have been together for 17 years — married for the past ten of those years. I’ve been really struggling with our relationship, my happiness, and the quality of my childrens’ daily lives now for some time.

My husband decided to quit his job and stay home with the children without consulting me about two years ago. I have not been entirely happy with him in this role since day one. He is great at managing the schedule, keeping things clean, etc but is constantly critical of the boys – and me. I suppose he’s always been critical of me, but I didn’t really notice until he started acting like this with the children. And it seems the older they get, the worse he gets. He calls them names, yells a lot, huffs and puffs over every spill and mistake, is constantly hurrying them and saying things like “what were you thinking?!” For me, he ignores my questions, criticizes the smallest things (like when I choose to go to the bathroom), and is just generally a negative person overall. He doesn’t much like to socialize or have people to the house and I’ve begged him to go get a job now for two years. His excuse is that he can’t find one or that he’d barely earn enough to cover childcare.

I’m afraid I’ve permanently lost interest in him as a spouse due to the past couple of years. We’ve been out to dinner a few times and it’s nice when it’s just the two of us — it actually reminds me of when we dated and why I fell for him. Deep down, I do love him. But every day I get up to a crabby, angry person.

I’m also not blameless. We’ve been to counseling twice — once about five years ago for a year and started again a couple of months ago. I have a really hard time just staying quiet and letting him put our children down and “backing him up” as I’m supposed to do. Also, I’m just not sure I have the energy to try to work through this and I am constantly asking myself if it’s better for the boys to have us together or have more peace in their day to day lives. Of course, divorce brings so much uncertainty too. What if he ended up w/ sole custody and the boys’ got even more of his moody, critical behavior. Of course, when I weigh the options, I feel like my head is spinning. I think of all the nice things he does for the children and how they do have fun together sometimes.

What to do? How do I know when to call it quits and when it’s just part of life?

Time to leave?

Answered by on -


You and your husband are both avoiding important problems by creating others. It seems to me that your husband has issues with work and self-esteem. Unable to do what he needs to do, he instead focuses on what you and the kids should do. Lacking authority in the world, he compensates by being the boss at home and makes everyone else miserable in the process.

Meanwhile, you have somehow forfeited your right to be part of the executive team in your household. Family finances, who works and how much, childcare arrangements, how to discipline children, etc. are all team decisions. Perhaps you have issues with self-confidence or with asserting yourself. By avoiding a confrontation, you are turning over all decision-making to your husband and then resenting him for how he does it.

I’m glad you two are back in counseling. I hope you are not talking about “backing him up.” Under the circumstances, you shouldn’t. Instead, you two need to be talking about how to become a true team and how to make a healthier home environment for your children. Inevitably, this kind of conversation will also include a discussion of just why it is that your husband can’t take on his share of the responsibility for providing for the family and why you can’t take on your share of the responsibility for deciding how your family should operate. I hope you will find ways to support each other in making changes so that you can both feel better.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

Time to leave?

Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Dr. Marie is licensed as both a psychologist and marriage and family counselor. She specializes in couples and family therapy and parent education. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2018). Time to leave?. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 25, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 May 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.