Dear Thelma: Feeling neglected, hubby is hardly home and doesn't care

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Dear Thelma,

I’m having problems with my husband. We have been married for five years and are blessed with two beautiful kids. Problem is, he never really cares about us and spends most of his time outside.

He is not at home most of the time, and comes home only at 8 or 9pm every day. He has own business and he has a choice to adjust his working time yet he is always late coming home. This has happened multiple times.

I have told him I want him to be back earlier for the well-being of our kids and also myself. He always says he is busy at work but how can he be busy 365 days in a year? I don’t understand.

We have helpers at home but I’m not happy.

When he is back, he does not talk to me and would rather just play with his handphone until he falls asleep. It has been like this for months.

I feel neglected, and so do our children.

Many times when we quarrelled, I told him I hoped he could spend more time at home but he never changes.

He always puts his friends and clients as the priority compared to us. When his friend invites him for anything or needs his help, he would be there as soon as possible. But this is not the case when it concerns me or the kids or my family.

Lately, one of my close relatives passed away, and he did not even bother to attend the funeral. When I confronted him about it, he blamed me instead, saying I liked to find fault with him and why did I not remind him.

Whenever I try to talk to him about his problems, he would mute himself. Even if he does talk, he would say I am the problematic one.

Am I expecting too much from him? All I want is care and love but this has changed over the years.

I have been thinking of divorce lately but I know this would not do any good to my kids.

He has greater earning power than me but he has never given me a single sen. I am working full-time and, due to the nature of my job, I can be very tired after work.

I feel so emotionally drained. I have been crying myself to sleep. I don’t know who to talk to.

When things turn sour, I have thoughts of ending my life but I know I would never do it as my kids still need me.

I hope you can offer some useful advice on how can I save this marriage or should I walk away.

Emotionally Drained

Dear Emotionally Drained,

I'm so sorry, it sounds as though you are both unhappy. Summarising the issues: you don't communicate, he puts others first, he is not even doing the basic public couples support like going to funerals, and you are feeling suicidal from neglect and loneliness.

First thing is to deal with your suicidal thoughts. You are quite right in that your kids need you, but there is much more to you than that. You're a successful career woman with a life of your own. At the moment, you are depressed but that can be dealt with.

Go and see a psychiatrist, a medical doctor specialising in mental health. See if you need or want medication. Then hire a psychologist, therapist or counsellor and start talking through your emotions and your options.

There are exercises you can do to help you manage your depression, whether you take medication or not. So those should be covered in an early session.

Also, you sound as if you're all work and duties, with no life of your own. You have your own needs; build up your support group and make time for hobbies and fun time for you.

Then, talk over your marriage situation. I have the impression you are thinking of two options: stay as you are or divorce. But you have lots of choices.

It comes down to figuring out how you want to live and who will be responsible for what. That means thinking about residence, housework and parenting tasks. You may also want to rethink your financial arrangements.

From your letter, it seems you have outsourced housework and basic childcare to third parties but you are doing everything else. That's not right. There are two parents, so what isn't done by third parties has to be divided equally between the parents.

Your husband may kick at this, but he has to be reminded of the facts: he can't just make babies and then live his own life. He's a father and that means he has to parent.

So talk it through with a therapist and see how you might work this.

For example, you can stay in the marriage and build a friendship network that supports you. Essentially that means shifting your mindset to get your love, connection and affirmation from people who are not your partner.

You would have your life, he would have his, and you take it in turns to be at home with the kids.

Or, you can arrange to have a second home like a studio apartment for yourself, and you take up your parenting duties in blocks, like one month your husband lives with the kids and the next month you do. Like a custody agreement but you stay married and work it out between you.

When you have explored all the various ways you may live, and are feeling less depressed, set about planning a conversation with your husband about improving your relationship.

From your letter, you feel abandoned and he feels criticised. You are disconnected from each other. Ideally, you talk this out calmly, listening to each other. Then you agree on a plan that addresses your parenting roles and tasks. Finally, you have to both work actively on getting into a better understanding.

You need to be friends, whether you stay married, divorce or separate. Your kids need both of you in their lives. Also, as kids see you as role models, they need parents who maintain a healthy, respectful relationship. You can't be distant, disengaged or quarrelling.

Aim to rebuild your foundation. At one point you loved each other so much that you married. Try to get back to that point.

What did you do together when you were dating? Do that again. Or join a club together, or take a dance class. Whatever it is, do something together so you can restore your connection.

Then give it a few months. With the pandemic raging, everyone is uptight, and making decisions when you're upset and stressed is rarely a good thing. So it's important to give it a bit of time.

In a few months, talk again. At this point, you should have rebuilt your own mental health, and both of you should have a better idea of your options and your needs. Re-evaluate and figure out together what's best for all of you.

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