Q: My husband is a production supervisor at a major manufacturing plant (makes really good money) and works many odd hour shifts. My husband is over-working……sometimes 32 hours on a 48 hour weekend!! (after a 40- hour week) When he is on this shift (2nd) he tends to ignore me and the girls…my daughters…has “other” things to do…like “start a new business so he won’t have to work all of these hours!” My problem is…he is trying sooo hard to start this new business, that he is forgetting what is, or should be, important in his life. I will go for several days without even talking to him…and he will tell me he didn’t have time…although he has a 45 minute drive to work and a cell phone! But when I tell him how I feel, he just tells me…”thanks for being so supportive!” Now…after a confrontation…he refuses to even answer my phone calls or pages…I am at wit’s end!!! His way of getting even is to not call me…answer the pages/cell…and not come home when he is supposed to! Somebody….please help me!!!!
A: Cheryl. Your plight is unfortunately all too common. It sounds as if your husband is over-working and is emotionally compressed into a responsibility mode that leaves him too depleted for loving. This may or may not be necessary. Families often do go through periods when, for the sake of survival or big opportunities, they suppress emotional needs and focus on the bottom line priorities. It may be acceptable that your husband is over-working for awhile. However, it really needs to be mutually negotiated and it is especially important that both parties know when the emotional sacrifices will end. Unfortunately, your husband is over-working and not managing this very well and it raises the question of whether he perceives his role as paternal protector. In other words, if he’s paternalistic and you’re viewed as being more child-like, the he will not feel obligated to share the decision-making regarding finances. Ask yourself if this is the case. If so, you may want to use a family counselor as mediator to renegotiate roles of more equal authority. In short, Cheryl, you may have a more general problem than whether or not your husband returns your calls. I would suggest that you stop focusing on the latter and address the former. The main goal is to get to the point that you and your husband are mutually strategizing and negotiating when your family will make these emotional sacrifices for financial gain. In the meantime, you can print out the section on Emotional Starvation Syndrome elsewhere in the First Aid Kit. See if you can get him to read it and discuss it with you.- Bryce Kaye