I have been struggling with a bad feeling for around two years. It started when new neighbors moved in a few doors away from us. At first, I felt very lucky to have such wonderful people living on our block. But as our children became good friends and we had more to do with each other, I began to be really jealous of my new friend. Her husband seems so much better than mine. It’s really difficult for me to live with these feelings.
My husband is responsible, smart and caring. He does his best to provide for our family and to be a good role model. Yet I have always felt that my husband could do more to help me out around the house. He is very traditional, and he never saw his father do anything other than going to work. So I have tried not to expect my husband to pitch in with taking care of our house and children.
It isn’t easy to juggle the majority of our family’s needs on my own. I work as a teacher, and I’m exhausted when I get home. There is no break for me, because I pick up my children on my way home. I need to shop, cook, clean, entertain my children and do everything else with the few remaining hours of the day. I wish that my husband would at least play with the children, help with their homework or put them to bed. Yet he says he needs to unwind as soon as he gets home. Aside from eating supper with our family, we don’t really spend time with him until Shabbat.
In contrast, my friend’s husband seems to always be around. Even though he works full-time, when he is home, he plays ball with his boys, he helps out with shopping, and in many other ways. It is so amazing that he spends time with his children and really helps his wife.
It hurts me to see the contrast between the way my neighbor’s husband helps and the way mine never does. How can I help myself get rid of these awful feelings about my husband?
You work really hard, and it makes sense that you wish your husband was more helpful with running your home. It feels much worse when you notice that your neighbor’s husband is also busy, but he still makes time to connect with his family and shoulder the burden together with his wife. Seeing a contrasting situation so close to your home greatly amplifies your feelings about your own difficulties.
It is important to recognize that there are two parts to the negative feelings you describe. The first part is that you yearn for your husband to be more involved with you and your family. The second part is that you are jealous of your neighbor since her husband is more helpful than yours.
Sometimes we feel that the only way we can fully express a difficulty we have is by proving from another person’s life that it does not have to be that way. Yet, in reality, your thoughts, feelings, and emotions are valid by themselves. You are welcome to fully and completely feel the negativity, resentment and frustrations, without needing to support them from another person’s contrasting experience. When the Torah that we read on Shavuot exhorts us “Lo tachmod—Do not covet,” it is allowing us a freedom—a freedom to live our own life and notice its own ups and downs, without the need to compare it to someone else’s life in order to give voice to our feelings.
You can feel lacking in something without being jealous of someone who has what you desire. The fact that your friend’s husband is very helpful in his home does not really affect the reality in your own home. You are not worse off because your neighbor’s husband helps her more. Your husband is not less helpful just because your friend’s husband is so helpful.
When you spend time brooding over your neighbor’s family, wishing you had the daydreamy type of reality you envision she has, you are depleting your energy that you can otherwise use to improve your own situation. Comparing your friend’s husband to your own intensifies your resentment towards your husband and unnecessarily distances yourself from your friend.
So what can you do to improve the life you have with your husband and the family you created together? First, think about what is bothering you most about your situation. You are overworked, exhausted and lonely. It can be helpful to observe that you might not only be resentful of the actual work that you have to do, but how your husband seems to completely ignore you. You come home after a long day and are equally as tired, stressed or drained. When your husband tends to his needs and not to yours, you can feel alone, taken for granted and insignificant. Those feelings might be even more of an issue than the technical aspects of whether he is helping you or not.
Have you discussed how you are feeling with your husband? If not, that can add to your feelings of loneliness. Suffering all of this within your own mind fortifies the wall between the two of you. If you have had conversations about it and they have not gone smoothly, that may be even worse. When you leave a conversation and feel unheard, it can hurt more than not having had the conversation in the first place.
Try discussing your feelings with your husband. Take turns sharing your experiences of the division of roles and responsibilities in the homes in which you each grew up. Explore the expectations you each have for how to manage your family’s needs and create a comfortable daily routine. Discuss each of your needs, and brainstorm ways to meet both of your needs more of the time. If you find you are hitting a brick wall, a therapist can help you facilitate these conversations with your husband.
Your pain, loneliness and frustration are real. Give yourself a gift and allow yourself to notice those feelings deeply without needing to support them by example from your neighbor. Also, notice how much of your resentment stems from the lack of communication and understanding between you and your husband. That can give you a stepping stone to improve your reality and to create a more calm, supportive and harmonious relationship with your husband.
Wishing you much success,
Chani Maybruch is a social psychologist and relationship coach specializing in teaching emotional connection and communication skills for over two decades. She coaches individuals and couples, teaches courses on how to become a master of relationships and provides free relationship resources at chanimaybruch.com. Learn a step-by-step method to improve your ability to emotionally connect with her online course: The RELATE Technique™—Seven Steps to Emotionally Connect Through Conversation. Reach out to her at [email protected]