Dear Life Matters,
I am furious with my husband because he did not give me anything for Mother’s Day! Not even flowers. The kids gave me things that they had made me in school and we all went to breakfast that he paid for, but I have a 6-month-old little boy. You would think he would notice and get a clue. I am barely speaking to him and he has asked me “what is wrong?” I just say nothing or “you should know.” I don’t want to stay mad, how do I let this go and how do I get him to see his own behavior?
Dear Very Angry,
You are clearly very upset, which makes me wonder about a few things. First, what were you expecting for Mother’s Day? Obviously, you expected something more, but why? Is it because you have received gifts from your husband in the past? Or perhaps this is what your father did with your mother? Or is it because you saw what some of your friends got and you didn’t?
No pun intended, but expectation is the mother of disappointment!
Do yourself a favor and think about this, and then I think you will begin to realize that while you may feel angry, you are probably more hurt or scared. There is usually hurt or fear or both underlying anger. We prefer to get angry because it makes us feel more powerful. Do yourself a favor and try to be a little more introspective before talking to him, or worse yet, blowing up at him.
Second, what has been going on in your marriage? It is unusual to be this hurt if you are really getting along and communicating well.
Often, men get hurt and jealous when there is a new child. But mothers can get hurt too if they feel that they are not getting the support and help they need. If this is going on, but it only comes out in fighting or through sarcasm, then maybe your husband is angry and didn’t want to give you a gift. Could he be angry with you for being a good mother but forgetting to be his wife? This is just something to consider. Also take into account whether you have already been angry with him before this incident occurred. Again, I don’t know if you have received gifts in the past, but if you have, this might be a clue.
You mentioned that you have a 6-month-old son; there is no question that they can steal away a lot of our attention. Actually, a lot if not most of marital problems start with the first child because of the radical changes in your relationship. You are no longer a romantic dyad but now you have a triangle. Triangles are always difficult to negotiate, but with an infant negotiation is near impossible, therefore things can be really rough. You mentioned other children, so a question I have for you is how did you do with the first kids? Were there any problems in your marriage that you perhaps never resolved?
Lastly, with all due respect, I don’t know of any place where it is written that a gift is expected from our husbands on Mother’s Day. It really depends on the couple.
So when you write about his bad behavior, I’m unsure of what you mean. Do you mean his disappointing you, or hurting your feelings? After reflecting on what this all means to you and what you are hurt about or what your fears might be, tell him in a calm, non-accusatory way. The real secret to staying in love is communication. This is something you need to start and soon. Don’t withhold from your husband; talk to him.
Finally, if you are having trouble communicating the way you know that you need to, seek couples counseling. Don’t wait until it is too late and please remember that it takes two to make a relationship.
I hope this helps you let go, and to forget about changing his behavior; just start talking and see if you can’t become good friends again.
Dr. JoAnne Barge is a licensed psychologist and a licensed marriage and family therapist with offices in Brentwood. Visit her at www.drbarge.com or e-mail your anonymous questions and responses to firstname.lastname@example.org. Got something on your mind? Let us help you with your life matters.