As we mentioned, we are proud to be featuring our brand new monthly column "Ask Shelby" featuring expert advice from Chester County based Marriage and Family Therapist, Shelby Riley. Here is our installment for June!
My husband has so many "hobbies" and activities, I feel like he's never home. He's a great husband and dad, when he's around, but sometimes I feel like I'm a single parent. I don't know how to talk to him about this. I don't want to seem like a nag, or a "ball and chain" but I miss my husband and I want him to WANT to spend time with us. How do I get him to hear me?
Signed, Missing My Man
Dear Missing My Man,
So many women are resonating with your dilemma! On the one hand, you want your husband to have interests and activites outside of the family to enrich his life. On the other, it would be nice to feel like a prioroty to him and have some real quality time to spend with him. It's the hot word of the decade, "Balance."
Not to stereotype too much, but women tend to complain and criticize when we share our thoughts and feelings. Blame biology, blame socializing, but whatever the source, men will tell you they are the ones who feel blamed when we want to "talk about the relationship." Our inner thoughts and feelings are, "I love you, I miss you, I would like to have more fun time together as a couple and as a family." What comes out of our mouths is, "Company softball? But you just went golfing last weekend! And fantasy football starts in two weeks! Am I EVER going to see you and get any help around here?!"
Think about your words as your hands. The desire is to pull him in closer (think hands on his collar, playfully pulling him towards you with a smile). What you don't want is to make him run screaming (think hands shoving him in the chest forcefully) or to make him feel trapped (think hands wrapped around his ankle and leg pulling him to stay).
When things are calm and he's not headed out the door to one of his extra-curriculars, start a conversation by telling him how much you enjoy his company. Talk about why you think he's a great husband and dad. Tell him you like that he has interests and passions outside the family. Explain that it feels like time is so limited and that with your busy schedules, you miss him. Ask him (with curiosity and deep listening, not with blame and resentment) if he feels pulled in too many directions. Let him know you'd like more time together to have fun. Women often phrase it as "I need more help around here." It's not too motivating to give up fun for a long list of chores at home. The help and chores will come, but that comes after you've found a way to strike a balance of time. Talk about your hope that you can find a good balance as a family for time together and time to pursue individual interests. No blame, no yelling, so snide comments.
Most importantly, after you decide how you can make more time for each other and the kids, make sure when he does go off to softball or to have a beer with guys that you filter all resentment and all reproach out of your voice when you tell him to go and have fun.
**Remember to check out Shelby's website, Family Help Today, for a variety of useful information for couples, individuals, families, and kids. You can also find out more about Shelby's AWESOME e-books on her site.