Dear Barb – Learned Disengagement

Dear Barb:

My husband and I have been married five years and have two children. We get along pretty well, but lately I’ve been feeling like my husband doesn’t really care about me or the kids. When he is home he watches TV or plays video games. The kids often ask him to do things with them and he says he’s busy. When I ask for help with something he will help me, but when he’s done he goes back to watching TV. I try to talk to him but he doesn’t engage with me. He doesn’t have a lot of friends and rarely talks on the phone with anyone. Whenever I ask if everything is alright, or if he’s happy, he says he is. At times I feel very lonely and I can tell the kids would like their dad to be a bigger part of their lives. I fear that we will drift further apart if we don’t talk or do more things together. I talked to my sister-in-law and she said that their father was the same and rarely engaged with the family. She said at times her mother would get upset, but for the most part her father was easy going, so eventually her mother accepted him and they were married for 50 years until he passed away. I don’t know if I can do that, I wonder if some counselling would help, what’s your opinion?

Thanks Tanya.

Hi Tanya;

Thanks for your letter. Yes, I think some counselling wouldn’t hurt. It seems your husband has learned this behaviour from his parents, as according to your sister-in-law this is how they interacted. Perhaps you will have to encourage him to become involved with the family. He needs to step out of his comfort zone. There must be some activities that he enjoys, arrange for you and the kids to participate in these activities as a family, whether it’s going on a hike, bike ride, or a game of golf. Initially you will have to make the arrangements and then eventually your husband will take the initiative. There is also a possibility that your husband is suffering from depression or some other health problem. Has he always been like this? You mention that you have noticed this recently. If he is suffering from depression he may need to be put on antidepressants. Also, he should be checked out physically. Make an appointment with his physician for a complete physical. If everything checks out, then you know you have to make the effort to engage him with the family, or do as your mother-in-law did and accept him as he is. You are the only one who knows what is best for you and what you can live with.

Best of luck Tanya.

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