It’s devastating when you feel like your partner isn’t interested in parenting the children you have together. When the person who is supposed to love you the most refuses to hear your cry for help, it can wreak havoc on your marriage/partnership/relationship and your mental health.
So what can you do?
Talk to Your Partner
Like any issue that comes up in a relationship, the first step is to discuss it. You may feel like you’ve tried to talk to them about it plenty of times, but this time, try taking a step back and ask them how they feel. Listen to what they have to say rather than trying to make them understand where you’re coming from.
Perhaps your partner doesn’t know how to help. While this doesn’t excuse the behavior of not trying, it’s a starting point. On the other hand, if your partner feels they are contributing, but the way they do it isn’t helpful to you, let them know you appreciate them and let them know what would be more useful.
Sometimes just knowing how they feel can give you some peace.
Ask Your Partner How You Can Both Better Split The Logistical Tasks or Chores
If you’re a parent of slightly older children, you know the “I’ll do it this week, you do it next week” model rarely works. The task often gets displaced onto one person or the other.
One way of working together is intentionally dividing up specific responsibilities. If you are responsible for getting the kids to school, perhaps your partner is responsible for picking them up, making sure they eat and helping them with their homework.
This arrangement allows both of you to develop your own way of doing things and keep that consistent for the kids. This also helps keep you from micromanaging, which can be a big turnoff for either partner.
Parenting Isn’t All About Chores, Especially As Your Children Grow.
More complicated issues pop up in parenting than just chores, such as necessary discipline when your children misbehave and/or helping them make decisions as they become teenagers. If your spouse doesn’t want to help in these areas, it could be because they don’t truly understand the children as people.
If you ask your partner, they aren’t likely to admit not knowing their own kids, which is understandable. This problem has likely gone on for years, so they may not even realize how little they know about their own children.
Encourage them to spend time alone. Go for a walk and leave them with your partner, or take a night off and go out with friends. You can leave basic instructions but refrain from calling or texting your partner reminders while you’re gone. You are in a relationship with an adult and they need to learn to handle the responsibility and build a relationship.
Common Reasons Parenting Tasks Are Unequal
If you’re reading this, it’s safe to say that you may feel the parenting tasks have been divided unequally. Parenting is difficult no matter the circumstances, but if you’re feeling like you’re carrying all the work upon your shoulders, it can be even more challenging.
Many factors can play a role in why tasks at home are unequal, but here are two that are most common.
- Gender Roles
Unfortunately, this is one we as a society still haven’t figured out yet. Historically, mothers were the ones to stay home and care for the children while the fathers worked. This model is still unequal due to the enormous amount of hours that go into parenting, but despite this, mothers are now expected to work and take care of the children in many cases.
Why is this?
Many women are taught as girls not to expect much help from their spouses and take the reins themselves. On the flip side, because of how many men are raised, they may be culturally programmed to step back and let the woman take over when it comes to household chores.
Such behaviors are clearly unsustainable and living based on traditions is not the recipe for a healthy and fulfilling relationship. To truly have a relationship that is balanced, relying on gender roles for most parenting needs to be addressed and be discussed in your relationship, even if one parent stays home and the other works.
- Different Expectations
A great way to further the conversation on gender roles is to talk about each of your expectations. There’s a good chance both of you are expecting something from the other that you were unaware of. Talking about it will help you develop a plan to work together. To grow in your relationship, you must go deeper in your communication, work on reducing how your ego and cultural baggage is causing you to have a narrow view of what is possible and acceptable. It is important to understand that if you are raising a child with someone, it is a journey together–and it is better to become allies than enemies.
How Couples Counseling, As Well As Family Counseling, Can Help.
Sometimes, talking about it together just doesn’t seem to work. No matter how many times the issues are brought up, nothing is resolved, and the resentment continues to build. Likely, there are more significant problems under the surface that neither of you may realize. Couples counseling can help you uncover deeper issues in the relationship and teach you how to deal with them.
Couples counseling is also a great space to break down gender roles and how perceptions of these roles may be impacting your relationship. If both members of a couple commit to couples counseling, the results are likely to bring the couple close together.
In much the same way, family counseling can help bring the entire family closer together. This is especially great if your children are a bit older and especially if you are parents to teenagers.
Remember, communicating effectively and honestly is key!
What To Do If Your Partner Refuses To Attend Counseling
First off, if you’re dealing with this, allow yourself a moment to grieve. When one person wants to get help in the relationship, and the other doesn’t, it’s upsetting, and it’s okay to allow yourself to acknowledge that.
However, even if your partner doesn’t join you, beginning individual therapy can help you sharpen your communication skills to still help you get to the bottom of the issue.
Not only that, but more importantly, you will also be able to work on yourself. Being the best version of yourself is one of the best things you can do for any relationship.
Work on empathy and self-compassion. Just because your partner isn’t listening doesn’t mean your concerns aren’t valid. Individual therapy can help you build self-compassion and empathy towards yourself.
Work on ways to have boundaries with your partner/ spouse. This is a tricky one at first, but it will get easier over time. Try to have a conversation with your partner about relationship boundaries and what those look like to each of you. Boundaries are good for relationships and a sign of respect towards everyone involved.
Like any problem in a relationship, there’s no one right way or simple solution. We are all people trying the best we can.
With that said, do your best to be honest with your partner, and seek professional help if the issues persist.
Please don’t hesitate to call the therapists at Health for Life Counseling in Grand Rapids at 616-200-4433 or reach out to us on our contact page to get started! If you live in the State of Michigan our team of counselors can also meet with you online.
We can’t wait to help you on your healing journey!
Written by Kaitlyn Pfiester; edited and reviewed by Paul Krauss MA LPC