I can’t forgive my husband for abandoning me in my time of need. Should I continue trying or leave and start afresh?

I don’t think that I can forgive my husband for not supporting me after the birth of both of our children and I don’t know what to do about it.
We have two children, a girl who is 7 years old and a boy who is now 3 years old. Before we became parents I thought that we had a good marriage and I was really looking forward to starting a family with him. The reality has been very different to what I thought that it was going to be.
After our daughter was born, he was brilliant to begin with. He was just as I imagined he would be. He did everything to help and it felt like we were definitely a team. But then it was as if our new reality really hit home and as the weeks went past, he started doing less, and very soon I was left doing pretty much everything and he just wasn’t there. He had major surgery planned for when our daughter was 3 months old. He told me later on that he was distant because he was scared about that and it made him distracted. I was really hurt by how he had been but I started to understand and accept how he was feeling and I felt like we moved on from that. However, when our son was born, it felt like a repeat of how it had been with our daughter. Our son was born prematurely but he saved his paternity leave and holidays until he came home from the hospital. Again, he was very helpful and we were a team sharing everything. But as soon as he went back to work, it was like he lost interest again. Our son didn’t settle down to sleep until around 5 am and I had to get up with our daughter 2 hours later. I was exhausted. I really struggled with the lack of sleep. On one occasion when it felt just too much, I phoned my husband and asked if he could come home to look after the children so that I could get some sleep. He said no and blamed it on work. On another occasion, he worked nights, and he came in from work and slept for a few hours. When he got up, I asked him if he could let me have some sleep and he said no because he was going out for a walk with his friends. Then my daughter had chicken pox and passed it on to her brother. He kept me awake for over 24 hours. In desperation, I called my husband and begged him to come home and help. I was crying uncontrollably and again, he said no, he couldn’t. It felt like torture.
I have asked him plenty of times since why he didn’t come home to help me. He’s given me several excuses, one even actually made me feel bad for asking him. He even made me feel bad for asking my family to help me and turning to them instead of him. Last October he eventually admitted that he had struggled after the birth of our son because I had a miscarriage a year earlier and he was scared about what could happen. He even told me that he had been to the doctors and had therapy at the time to help him, but he kept that to himself. I don’t think that he would have told me about it then if I hadn’t asked him so many questions.
I just don’t know what to believe anymore. He’s even changed his story to why he wasn’t supportive after our daughter was born. He has always left pretty much most of the childcare to me but he will help out with the housework. At the end of last year, I told him that I had had enough and couldn’t continue on how things were. He knows that I have stopped wearing my wedding ring. He’s helped out a lot more since then but I can’t help but feel like he’s just shown me that he’s been capable of doing a lot more all along. He just wants me to forget about how he has been up until now and move on, but I really don’t think it’s that simple. He says that he loves me but I really don’t feel like he does. Surely if he did, he would have wanted to be there for me when I needed it the most. – Anonymous. 

Dear Anonymous,

Thanks for reaching out – my sympathy goes out to you! Sadly, this is a situation many women find themselves in. The idea of a child is highly appealing until reality sets in, and then more often than not, the burden of the work is left to the woman (quite often on top of working, too). 

It’s clear that you’re experiencing a deep sense of betrayal and disappointment, and rightly so. The birth of your children, a time that should have been filled with mutual support and joy, has instead been marked by feelings of abandonment and frustration. Your husband’s inconsistency and lack of support, especially during critical times, have understandably left you feeling isolated and overwhelmed.

First and foremost, please acknowledge your feelings. It’s completely okay to feel hurt, angry, and exhausted. Your emotions are valid and stem from very real experiences. Your husband’s behavior has shown a pattern of withdrawal during times when you needed him most, leaving you to shoulder the overwhelming responsibility of childcare and household duties alone.

It’s important to take a step back and assess what you want and need moving forward. Your well-being and the well-being of your children are paramount. If your husband’s actions have repeatedly shown that he’s unwilling or unable to be a reliable partner and parent, it may be time to consider what that means for your future together.

Communication is key, but so is accountability. Your husband has offered various reasons for his behavior, from fear and distraction to struggles with your past miscarriage. While these are significant issues that warrant empathy, they do not excuse his lack of support and presence. He should have communicated these struggles with you openly, allowing you both to navigate them together, rather than leaving you in the dark.

Couples counseling could be a beneficial step if you believe there’s a possibility of rebuilding trust and understanding. A professional can help mediate these conversations and provide tools for better communication and support. However, this requires a genuine commitment from both sides. Your husband must be willing to acknowledge his shortcomings and actively work towards being a more supportive partner.

Here are a few questions to reflect on as you navigate this difficult time:

  • What are the specific actions or behaviors from your husband that have hurt you the most?
  • How have these behaviors affected your mental and emotional well-being, as well as your relationship with your children?
  • What do you need from your husband to feel supported and valued in your relationship?
  • Are there patterns in his behavior that suggest a willingness or unwillingness to change?
  • How do you envision your ideal partnership, and what steps can be taken to move towards that vision?
  • What are your non-negotiables when it comes to feeling respected and supported in a relationship?

If you seek professional help (which I strongly advise you do), reflecting on these questions will help you convey your emotions towards your husband in a clear and honest manner. 

Lastly, prioritize self-care and lean on your support network. Whether it’s family, friends, or a therapist, ensure you have people you can rely on. You deserve to feel supported and understood. If your husband continues to fall short, it might be necessary to make some tough decisions about your relationship. Staying in a partnership where you consistently feel unloved and unsupported is not fair to you or your children.

Remember, you have the strength to shape your future. You don’t have to settle for a relationship that doesn’t meet your needs or makes you feel undervalued. Take control, set clear boundaries, and make decisions that prioritize your happiness and health.

Wishing you all the best, 

Evie 

Do you have a question for Evie? If you would like advice from Evie, fill out the form here or send your problem to askevie@ideapod.com. 

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Ask Evie

Evie is on a mission to revolutionize relationships and help you sort through your emotional woes. Her popular column helps readers break free from societal restraints and create empowering relationships - both with their inner selves and with those around them. With a wealth of experience in relationship counseling, backed by several professional certifications, she’s open-minded, big-hearted, and extremely compassionate… But she’ll also be completely honest in telling you the (sometimes) brutal truth, so you can get straight to the heart of the matter. Maybe you’re trying to save a marriage that currently feels like a sinking ship? Or worrying that your new friend isn’t quite as nice as they seem? Perhaps you’ve accidentally killed your partner’s goldfish and are weighing up the pros and cons of going to the pet store and finding a doppelganger, or fessing up? Whatever the dilemma, Evie’s at the ready to help sort through the emotional turmoil and guide you towards the next best step. To get in touch with Evie, click here.

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