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I have been married for 30 years. For the last 5 years my husband has been taking care of his parents who live close by. His mother passed away about 3 years ago. This time had been very stressful on our marriage due to the amount of time my husband spends with his parents. For 2 years we never went away. I was feeling neglected in our marriage. I was thinking things would change after my mother-in-laws passing. Now my husband's father is suffering dementia and other poor health issues. Although there has been live-in help at the house, often 2 caregivers at once, my husband still spends a lot of time at his father's house. He visits him DAILY staying for hours each visit. I wait for him to come home. I have dinner ready, we eat, watch tv and then bed. Go to work the next day and the same routine every weekday. He often works on the weekend and spends time with his father. In defiance I sparingly go and visit my father-in-law myself. There is also other family members around. His father is not short of visitors. When I have my own family events, my husband complains and often says alienating things to my family which is embarrassing. I think we are now starting year 6 of this eldercare odyessy. Believe me, my time is coming with my parents, as they are in their 80's and live close by. Who knows what their care is going to be. We are lucky that my father-in-law has the means for paid caregivers. I know we are luckier than most.


Because of my feelings of not being a priority in my husband's life our relationship is on a precipice. I have suggested counseling but he wants nothing to do with it. We are always angry at each other, and rarely do anything spontaneous. I'm feeling that his Dad gets the best of him and I get what is left over, which is a husband who is tired and stuck in a routine. In 30 years of marriage we've had disputes but the most recent was one that I'm not sure I can forgive. I've pretty much shutdown after this last fight and feel that nothing is going to change. He thinks I'm making too big of an issue about my feelings and thinks the status quo is fine. Is your marriage suppose to take 2nd place to eldercare? Am I being selfish and should just grin and bare these eldercare years? I'm tired of crying in the shower. Any advice.

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No, marriage is not supposed to take 2nd place to eldercare. Marriage is also not supposed to take 2nd place to childrearing. Anything that gets in the way of maintaining intimacy in the marriage is a threat to the marriage and, if not corrected, may cause the end of the marriage whether officially through divorce or functionally where spouses lead separate lives while living under the same roof.

LizBeth - stop waiting for your husband to get home. Stop making dinner for two. Stop waiting to eat dinner with him. Stop watching TV with him. Stop going to bed when he does. Stop taking him to your family functions. Stop doing his laundry. Stop taking his clothes to the cleaners. Just stop doing all the things that your husband takes for granted.

Rather, start being unavailable. Start being busy. Start making dinner for yourself. Start eating dinner when you're hungry. Start going out. Start taking walks. Start using your time in ways that make you feel good. Start surrounding yourself with people who make you laugh instead of cry in the shower.

Your husband has checked out of your marriage. Your husband is emotionally unavailable to you. You cannot keep your marriage going all by yourself; you've been trying and it's not working. You have waited patiently for your husband. You have asked him to go to marriage counseling and he refused. Your husband is sending you a clear message that his dad comes first.

Each and every time you wait for your husband he thinks it's okay to treat you the way he does. Stop waiting because it's not okay. Maybe he'll realize that you've stopped, beg for your forgiveness and check back into your marriage. Or, he won't. But either way, isn't it better to find out sooner rather than later?

[[[[[[[[[HUGS]]]]]]]]]
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MaryKathleen Jan 4, 2020
I totally agree with you. I too wonder if he is spending all this time at Dad's house. To me it sounds like he has a girlfriend somewhere.

The question, if I remember right was "How many people divorce over elder care". Mom who didn't drive etc. moved in with us. My husband encouraged this even though I didn't want to. One day I got to crying and couldn't stop. I thought my youngest will be gone in a year or so and I can't live with husband and my mother the rest of my life. I just can't do it. I started therapy because according to husband, "I was the one with the problem". Eventually, I moved out and left the two of them there.

So, in my case it lead to divorce.
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Lizbeth, separate out the eldercare from the other marriage issues.

It sounds as though your husband is irritable and unhappy.

How are you feeling about your marriage, overall?

If you are unhappy, seek therapy. For yourself. Don't make it about the eldercare issue. Make it about the marriage overall. Figure out what YOU need and what you want to do.

You may need to detach a bit while your husband works this through on his own.

The only actions you can control are your own.
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I agree, you need to talk to someone.

Don't do anything without thinking it thru. Personally, I think separation would be good. But you need to plan. Find out what you are entitled to in your state. In mine, your allowed 3 yrs of alimony and half the assets.

Or, live like your doing and get your own life. Go out with the girls. Join a book club. Take trips. (there are single people who go alone) If you don't want to cook, don't. Tell husband when he treats you like a wife, you will treat him like a husband. Maybe have a bedroom of your own.

Another thing, husband can go live with his Dad.

I was married to a man that treated me like his housekeeper. He couldn't take me to the movies but if a friend called to do something, out the door he went. He hit the Peter Pan profile. He came home one day saying he didn't want to be married anymore. He did me a favor. I remarried a man where I am #1.
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NeedHelpWithMom Jan 3, 2020
His leaving was a blessing in disguise, JoAnn. Glad your second husband is worthy of you.
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Perhaps I have a nasty suspicious mind, but are you quite sure that your husband is actually with FIL all this time? There certainly are more interesting things to do, with a good excuse, than sitting with a very old man.
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gemswinner12 Jan 4, 2020
I think you may be on to something here. Perhaps this overly attentive son may have an interest in one of Dad’s caregivers? Why does he need to be over there so often if he’s got help 24/7 ? There must be something pretty interesting going on over there; it’s got to be something more exciting than watching TV with pops, IMO.
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All I can offer is my personal experience, so I'm really just thinking out loud and letting you listen in.

Three months ago I put my 95 year old mother in a small memory care facility. I am in my 70s and pretty good health, I am also a nurse. I am married for 55 years to high school sweetheart. Mom has Alzheimers. Putting her in a facility has been one of the most difficult decisions I have ever made. I feel like I should be taking care of her myself. Guilt simmers. Hubby is a very good man but he doesn't want to sacrifice our "us" by my taking care of Mom. He is protecting us - like you want to orotect your "us". I feel caught between a rock and a hard place. Guilt either way.

However, we had the same discussion when it was HIS mother in a fragile place. I wanted us to be the ones that loved on her as well, rather than leave her alone and yulnerable to abuse or heing ignored, alone in a bed that was not hers. He wanted her in a facility . She did break a hip in the first facility then went to another facility where they met her physical needs and ignored her otherwise. We finally did bring her home with us where she lived the last 3 weeks of her life. She died in our home, with us by her side. I had the privilege of watching my man reveal his character. I knew, watching him, he would care about and love me the same way, if that time comes for us. I feel even safer with him knowing I won't be a throw-away and he will love me as much. IMaybe your dear hubby is struggling with his own guilt, and protective side, trying to get it right. And strong emotions. Strong emotions can be scary. It will be hard but make his home a safe place to land. I've been known to hug my husband when I feel distanced and say "Honey, I'm your friend." To which he replies "I know. Maybe my only friend. I'm sorry." And the ice begins to melt.

I had the privilege of watching my husband love his mom deeply. We turned her every 2 hours to prevent bedsores 24 hours a day . She was nonverbal but we could see in her eyes she was still in there . He put a recliner on both sides of her hospital bed. He switched from side to side all night long, with each turn and held her hand through the night so she would not be frightened or feel abandoned. In the morning he got up, showered, and went to work while I cared for her. I slept on the sofa near them at night.

Hubby and I are wired differently. You end your dear hubby are, too. Hubby and I have dufferent weaknesses -- and strengths. All couples do. Each one needs, complements, and completes the other. He needs you, really needs you right now. And you, him, which is why you are struggling. The other part of you (him) is hurting too and missing from you.

You still have a solid foundation on which to stand. Find it again then hold on tight, nourish it, and remember what drew you to him in the first place. Think on those things, rather than the thoughts you have been nourishing. It will take effort but the outcome is worth the work. That man you loved way back when is still there, though buried under a lifetime. He us still worthy of investing in.

Caregiving has challenges. Marriage has challenges. Parenting has challenges. Work has challenges. Life is a series of changes. And challenges. This is just one more. You absolutely have what it takes to get through them. But it's a choice only you can make.

Don't assume divorce will make everything better. Or that a better man will. Statistics prove 67% of second marriages end in divorce, too. And 75% of 3rd marriages end in divorce. Statistics paint a bleak picture for the future after divorce. And that is not even mentioning that neither side of a divirce leaves the marriage feeling like a winner. Or that divorce is financially devastating. It tears at the hearts of even grown children too.

Much living and loving has happened in 30 years. Some tears.

You are discouraged. Discouragement is not a good time to make life changing decisions.

Be cautious
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I agree with DollyMe...........spouse & children should come first in a marriage. That is often not the case, however, and so, marriages suffer.

What makes DH want to spend hours at his dad's house? For me, spending an hour at my mother's place in Memory Care is about all I can handle, truthfully. It just strikes me odd that he'd be SO interested in spending THAT much time with a demented elder. I work in a Memory Care community as a front desk receptionist; the average time a family member spends with a parent is about 1/2 an hour, sometimes less. Rarely more, but sometimes they are taken out for lunch. We do have a couple of gentlemen who come to visit their wives daily; one man comes TWICE a day, but that's his wife. Spending time with a dementia sufferer is stressful; there is very little to talk about and lots they'd like to argue about, etc.

Secondly, your parents are going to require attention soon, as you stated in your post. Then what? NOW is the time to start planning YOUR future and how you intend to live YOUR senior years. With or without your husband, who wants no part in strengthening your marriage through counseling. And what to do/how to handle your folks when their care crises crop up, which they will. Do they have the funds for Assisted Living?

In any event, I wish you the best of luck taking care of YOU.
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gemswinner12 Jan 6, 2020
She might consider moving her parents in to establish their residency in her house,
Alternatively, just divorce him. Counseling at this point would be a waste of time, energy, and money.
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Is he doing all of the caregiving for his father or are you helping? Based solely on the original post, it sounds like he does all of it while you and the kids wait at home.

Looking at this from a different perspective, my marriage is to more than just my husband but also to his family. So his parents are just as much my responsibility as his - AND I expect my parents to equally be his responsibility as well. (If I find that my husband does not treat my parents as I do his, that’d be cause for divorce in my household.) If and when your time comes where you need to care for your parents — if you’re honest, would you be happy with the amount of help he offers you if he does exactly what you are doing right now? (I’m not accusing you — I’m sincerely asking.)

If I am reading your situation correctly and you’re not entirely or meaningfully involved, I’d be resentful of you if I was him. That would also keep me away from home more — and doing MORE for my ailing (and now solo) parent than I would be if you were adequately sharing the load, so to speak.

Your marriage should never be ”second place,” but your marriage will sometimes have move to the back-burner and cannot be the priority when other needs arise, be it a sick child or sick parents. This would be perceived differently on your end if you both mutually decide what is more urgent at any given time.

If your mom is very ill and needs care, you and your husband should agree together that until mom passes, these are the things that have to get done, this is how your duties will be split among you two, and XYZ will have to be put on the back-burner until your mom either recovers or passes. Vacations, date nights, etc. would all be moved aside for now, but not because your marriage is in second place but because sometimes, other things take priority. If it’s your mom and you have a limited time left with her - I imagine you’d appreciate your husband agreeing to making her first for now, no?

The same should apply to his father. Communicate with him and take on some of what he feels requires attention so that he can be home more. I’m sure he’d appreciate it.

But again, I’m offering this advice on VERY limited information in your original post. So please forgive me if I’ve made too many presumptions.
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thepianist Jan 7, 2020
You make an important, beautiful point: we marry a person and INTO a family. That family is ours now and we need to honor that through our actions. Thank you.
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Good answer nydaughternlaw, the OP needs to do things for HERSELF!! If her husband doesn’t turn things around she can divorce him and move on. Gray divorce is the biggest age group now for divorce. 50 and 60 year old use to stay in an unhappy marriage. Not anymore!!! Do what makes YOU happy!!!
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Well, I have strong feelings about this, me, I believe that a spouse and minor children should come first.

I feel that he is taking advantage of you and has misplaced priorities, and I agree he will not change.

I cannot tell you what to do, however, if you are miserable it may be time to make a change, you can always move out and not divorce, or just divorce and go about the business of recovering your life...for you.

Sending support your way!
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Ok - I have the opposite situation here, Didn’t ask for it but...my 89 year old mother moved in with my new husband five years ago, a month after we married.

He supports me in the decision to care for my mom as there is no one else to do this and a home she will not be placed.

Boldly answering here from my perspective and could get scolded by you all, and I’m OK with that, but marriage is also about supporting your partner even if you don’t agree with it or want it, after all there are no moral borders being crossed, it has to be about your partners needs too. Which your husband feels he needs to care for his Dad. I think that says a great deal about his character. Why don’t you participate or at least go with him for visits - doesn’t matter if others are there - you are there to support your husband in his love for his dad. You surely don’t want your husband to feel like he has to choose between you and his elderly dad.

Perhaps some compromising could be made by the two of you. Go to counseling to find out the best way to deal as 30 years is worth that.

Caregiving is tough business, the toughest of all and I tell my husband all the time that I could not travel this path without his support and I’m so grateful I have the opportunity to care for my mom, who will be leaving us soon. What a ride these past five years have been, but somehow seeing the end of the road as it gets closer, gives me a clearer vision.

Remember your father-in-law is not the enemy - he is aging and needs help.

Best of luck
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