I have never had peace for the 18 years I’ve been married. All these years, my husband has been unavailable, lazy and uncaring. Whenever I read your column, I keep wondering what went wrong. We have never fought and my husband has never abused me. He will go to drink and return late in the night. His love for alcohol has kept him away from us and it makes me mad. I need help for myself and in particular, my two kids who in a real sense have no father. I don’t know why I’ve lasted this long.
Let us pick out major issues in this situation you’re in: First, you are feeling neglected, and, to some extent, abandoned by your husband. Second, you are deeply concerned that your children have missed a father figure in their lives. Third, there is an underlying feeling of a woman whose husband has been enslaved by alcohol. I must say that you are a dedicated wife and mother who has endured a lot in the marriage. I can only imagine the level of inner disillusionment and bitterness you feel. You have lasted this long because you love your husband even though he has not been supportive at home. I also see a commitment towards your kids. Somehow, raising your children and generally the chores that were associated with their growing up occupied you mind for most of time. Now that they are grown, you’ve had more time to reflect.
I believe the need for your children to identify with their father through their maturing years is concerning you a lot. I’m glad that he has not been abusive towards you. This is a positive trait you could use to approach him and see if he can get help. Most spouses get caught up in alcohol because of wrong social associations; desire to deal with stress, or a way of dealing with personal shortcomings or issues they face. Socially, some people drink out of leisure, or because they saw their parents do so.
For those who become dependent on alcohol, chances of addiction are high. It’s argued that physiologically, alcohol and abuse of drugs have a way of altering the balance of chemicals in the brain. As a result, the body craves for more to restore pleasurable feeling they bring.
Also, people who suffer from depression associated with work, their background or how they feel treated by others will put them at a higher risk of alcohol addiction. We also live in a world where advertisements and marketing of beer and cigarettes in the media has portrayed drinking as a glamorous and exciting adventure.
Depending on how your husband perceives his association with you, and how you will approach him, he will either take or reject your advice. Try and establish if there is a routine in his drinking. If you can map this out, it may reveal something you may not have been previously aware of.
Try and understand the background to his drinking problem. Did it start before you got married, when you got married, or somewhere after the children came?
This can reveal a lot. As many as are there may be reasons that drive one to love alcohol, it’s important to find out if he’s willing to get help. Breaking out of such habit is not as easy.
You may disagree, but it’s important to understand that you are still his closest friend. You are the only person who understands him best, and as such, your constant assurances may be the best song he may agree to listen to.
I’ve encountered many situations where wives used their wisdom and caring heart to win their husbands’ ear and trust to desire change.
As you deal with this matter, do remember that blame and intimidation will only drive your husband away from you, send him into defence mode and eventually out of the house. In the end, it will work negatively for you and your children.
There is a story I told once about a woman who turned her husband around. She consistently called the alcoholic husband to say goodnight to the kids when they were little. After some time, he started to call the children to say good night. Two years down the line, he begun to miss them. It was not long before he made the choice to leave the bottle. Yes, you feel pain and harbour bitterness, but turning you attitude around could just be the best thing to happen to you.
As you walk with him, avoid threatening him to either change or you will leave. The best way is to win his friendship. Maybe you have pulled away from him because of the way he has been distant. Think about the need of making your husband feel needed and important even though he may not deserve it.
He has faults, but with your support, the future can be bright. Love and acceptance does wonders.
Ways of developing a learning environment that creates impact
Relationships grow and heal where an environment of positivity is encouraged. This helps a couple build common understanding on their shared ideals. Since attitude is as much taught as it is learnt, spouses need to expose themselves to morally edifying language, belief system, and actions. It’s common knowledge that what we spend time thinking and talking about, or even watching has a lot of influence on the learning environment in a family.
The choice of friends for example, is key to how we will reinforce and foster learning in a marriage. Although we know that bad company corrupts good morals, such knowledge must translate to actions that are consistent with the knowledge.
Contradiction between what we know and what we do is what systematically kills a learning environment. In a relationship, the learning environment must be embraced by both spouses if the marriage is to enjoy the benefits that such environment contributes.
Learning to do better
It’s pointless to expose oneself to good knowledge, but turn around and love the company of those who practice the opposite. It’s like building with one hand and tearing apart what you just built with the other.
For many spouses, disillusionment, apathy and mistrust is what defines their learning environment. When we engage in mistrust, blame and finger pointing, it does nothing but erode any good will that could have existed between the two people. Zeroing in on your partner's mistakes and faults only paints your partner as the wrong one.
All of us make mistakes. However, learning to do better is an assignment we all can embrace. Hudson Taylor once wrote, “All God’s giants have been weak people.” When we take relationships and marriage as a learning journey, we set ourselves up as learners and not “know-it-alls.”
Here are some ways to enrich how you build a learning environment in marriage:
Choose friendship beyond partnership in relationships
Wish your spouse well and see them as a key contributor to your well-being.
Avoid negativity that leads to gossiping about your partner before other people.
Include adventure in your relationship as a necessary ingredient to learning.
Your communication should be characterised with honesty and respect.
Be ready and willing to apologise and take responsibility for your mess.
Affirm the good in your partner before bringing up the corrections.
Offer help particularly in times when your partner doesn't deserve it.
Stick in for your partner particularly when the situation would have dictated otherwise.
Replace competition with complements.
Be an encourager to your spouse
Find out their love language and use it
Prioritise your spouse by scheduling her/him in your diary.
Keep romance alive and personalised.
Do time away to refresh and rest together.
Build a predictable home culture.