Devoted life mate seeks more balance with husband
“Local Answers to Life’s Questions” gives Gazette readers the opportunity to ask a licensed counselor from Delaware for advice on a broad range of issues. Readers can submit their questions here and responses will be printed in the Gazette. Readers who submit questions remain anonymous.
Dear Mariann: My husband has lots of things to do outside the home and I have little to do outside the home. I don’t want him to rid himself of his hobbies/interests just for me so I can more enrich my balance of life, but, I do need him around more as life is so complicated with all the technology. How can we have more time together? I do insist on caring for my own home, but it takes many hours a day to do it right.”
Mariann’s Response: “Balance” is the optimal word in your question and it’s something that far too often is lacking in our fast-paced, multi-tasking, technology-driven world. Seemingly the more we accomplish, even with the advantages of computerization and technology, the more we try to achieve.
The focus of your question is one of reconnecting in your marriage. Within many marital unions, the children become the primary focus for both parties, but especially the wife/mother. Since raising a family still remains more the responsibility of the wife, even more so when she stays at home, it is easier for the husband to continue his hobbies, while more sacrifice is needed when fulfilling the obligations of being a mother. Even though you do not offer your ages, my guess is that your husband maintained his hobbies during child-rearing years, while you became more focused on the children and let your outside interests lapse. Now that the children are potentially adults and you are “empty-nesters, “you have either forgotten about past hobbies or need other alternatives, while your husband has maintained his interests without much interruption.
Even though my math skills were far from stellar at Rutherford B. Hayes High School, I am going to return there for a moment and rekindle the concept of the “Zen Diagram” to formulate my suggestion. If you remember that geometric concept, it has two equally-sized circles with an overlapping area in the middle where the two share commonality. The two circles in my analogy represent the husband and wife in a marriage. While raising young children, the middle, common area is usually filled with kid-specific activities and the obligations of being parents. Once the children are self-sufficient, the middle area becomes less-dominated by their needs. When this eventually occurs, each spouse should find individual interests along with those that can be mutually shared, versus the void of being strangers once the now-grown children have departed.
From your question, seemingly your husband has a multitude of interests, while you are seeking solace in filling both your own circle and the common, overlapping area of the Zen Diagram. This leads to the necessity of introspection and fulfilling your needs, both individually and as a couple. What outside of the home is rewarding to you? Is volunteering at the hospital or with a local hospice of interest? Tutoring children at a local school who are challenged by reading difficulties? “Finding your voice” via singing in a community or church choir? Raising a service dog for Canine Companions for Independence which has a Delaware training facility? Or is participating in yoga or other type of exercise a potential option for you?
And finally, what can you and your husband do TOGETHER to fill the empty Zen middle area? Always my first suggestion is ballroom dancing. Just a few Gazette readers might still remember Betsy Ann Humphries, a Delaware fixture during my youth, who owned a dance studio and resided in the lovely brick home at the corner of Winter and Elizabeth Streets, now The Winter Street Inn. If you were raised in Delaware during that era, possibly you participated in her classes. That was my first exposure to ballroom dancing, a beloved activity for me that has never subsided. Not only is it great exercise, but a wonderful social outlet for meeting other people.
Continuing my list of possibilities that could be of interest to both of you, how about joining a gym? Even though your husband might enjoy the weight room while you attend a Zumba class, at least going there together is a start toward establishing common interests that can lead to a healthier and happier marital union for both of you.
Traveling is another avenue to a stronger marriage. Even though an exotic destination is most desirable, just a weekend jaunt a few hours away can be equally as enjoyable. Frank Lloyd Wright’s “Falling Water” is just across the Pennsylvania line and an incredible architectural masterpiece idyllically set in the lush rolling countryside, with a gamut of other area activities.
I will close with a final suggestion that involves the housework component you mentioned. This also can be an area where you work together, versus my sense that you alone accomplish the majority of the cleaning. Since you both live in the home, asking him to participate in keeping it maintained is not unreasonable. Setting aside several hours weekly for him to help with either the cleaning or to assist with the complications of technology, would be a relief to you since I sense a feeling of abandonment in your letter. Speak up and let him know what you need! Intuition and being able to “mind read” are not usually male-attributes. Being direct, loving and communicative are three essential ingredients to a happier home.
Mariann Main is a licensed counselor and serves on the Delaware-Morrow County Mental Health Recovery Services Board. She is a Delaware native and an undergraduate Journalism major of The Ohio State University. Her master’s in counseling is from Georgia State University and her post-graduate training is from Richmont Graduate University.