Yesterday, on The Generous Wife, Lori wrote a great post about the value of getting to know more about the parts of your husband’s life you don’t share. She recommended listening, asking questions, and learning a new shared vocabulary. She gave the example of her husband’s fascination with zombies.
One of the commenters, Lisa, asked a question so many of us have asked at some point in our marriages. Her husband is unemployed and playing lots of online games. She asked, “Why would I want to learn about his newest online game if it’s all he does? It’s stealing his time away from his family.”
I ached for Lisa. It is such an awful place to be, wanting more and feeling like she’s enabling his harm to the marriage and their children if she follows Lori’s great advice. Just in case you missed it, I thought I should reprint my comment there, in case you are walking in Lisa’s shoes.
Great article, Lori! To answer Lisa’s question, you might want to do it because men are biologically different from us women. To them, for reasons that have to do with different hormone levels, the foundation of a relationship is respect. There can be no relationship with someone who does not respect you as a person.
Unemployed, he’s surely concerned about how much respect anyone has for him, especially you. Avoiding you avoids discovering his marriage has died.
If you express interest in his gaming, it also keeps you from focusing on your belief that he’s “stealing his time away from his family,” which surely gets in the way of showing your respect for him. He is more than his income. There are so many other things to respect about him.
Feeling your respect again is likely to relieve a good bit of the anxiety he surely uses gaming to deal with (unless this is a full-blown addiction out of his control — and yours). It might even free up some productive time for looking for work, and it will surely give him more self-confidence to face the possible rejection.
You cannot rebuild your relationship with scorn. You cannot win more of his time with scorn. And you cannot come up with more income or more Daddy time for your kids by ending your marriage. So why not try talking about the games?
(Sorry, Lori, for hijacking your comments thread, but I made this mistake 25 years ago and feel an overwhelming urge to hang on tight to anyone headed for the same cliff.)
Lori forgave me and encouraged Lisa “to join in on the gaming ‘to a healthy degree.'” Great advice!
Patty, Where were you when I needed your wisdom back in the first 3 decades of my marriage? I could have written Lisa’s question, only substituting my husband’s constant TV watching with her husband’s gaming.
I am so glad I discovered Assume Love a few months ago. I have learned so much from you and have applied many of your suggestions to my marriage with positive results.
However, I am often overcome by an overwhelming sadness over “what could have been,” and the many youthful activities my husband and I could have enjoyed together, but didn’t because we both screwed up and weren’t assuming love. I needed him to have eyes only for me instead of the celebrities he sought out. He wasn’t giving me the love I needed and I wasn’t giving him the respect he needed.
I know I need to live in the present and be glad for the improvements we have recently made. But, I wish I could go back in time and do it all right while I was still young. I know that is impossible, but I can’t seem to get that desire out of my head. How do I get over that mindset and be happy in the present?
Thank you, Lillian. I am so glad the blog helps you.
You do not “need” to live in the present. It’s just that it’s usually a much happier place to hang out, and you get to make the choice every moment.
Another thing that can help is to let go of “what if” and look around for “what did I miss” when your mind goes there. In Authentic Happiness, Martin Seligman writes of having another psychologist view his photo albums and question his report of his childhood relationship with his father based on the photographic body language evidence. He writes of the great pleasure of revisiting his past and discovering how many of the good moments he had forgotten because they did not fit his overall assessment.
Something similar happened to me when I realized how much my expectations had tainted my first marriage. As soon as I let them all go the day after he died, I kept remembering things that had seemed insignificant in my hurt and needy state but were brilliant, shining treasures once I threw open the curtains and let some light in on my marriage. Realizing what I had had right after I lost it was heart-breaking, but my memories now of my marriage are very different than they would have been if we had divorced and I had fossilized my hurt and angry version of things. We missed out on a lot, but we got an awful lot right, too.
Were there any activities you two enjoyed over the years? Were there times when, despite all your problems, happiness and connectedness broke through for a moment? You might want to keep a small notebook with you and jot them down every time you think of one. Take a few minutes every Sunday to flip through and reread some of the pages and perhaps gradually become glad for your life exactly as it was, because it got you here.
Thanks for the suggestions, Patty. I will try them.