By Dr. James Dobson
We turn our attention now to the relationship between husbands and wives, which reminds me of a telephone call I received recently from a man who had read my previous book The Strong Willed Child. It did not answer his questions. Furthermore, he said he had read my earlier book What Wives Wish Their Husbands Knew About Women, and it didn't satisfy his needs, either.
"John and I were deeply in love when we got married. We struggled during the first two or three years, especially with financial problems, but I knew he loved me and he knew I loved him. But then, something began to change. I'm not sure how to describe it. He received a promotion about five years ago, and that required him to work longer hours. We needed the money, so we didn't mind the extra time he was putting in. But it never stopped. Now he comes home late every evening. He's so tired I can actually hear his feet dragging as he approaches the porch. I look forward to his coming home all day 'cause I have so much to tell him, but he doesn't feel much like talking. So I fix his dinner and he eats it alone. (I usually eat with the kids earlier in the evening.) Frankly, I like for him to talk on the telephone just so I can hear his voice. Then he watches television for a couple of hours and goes to bed. Except on Tuesday night he plays basketball and sometimes he has a meeting at the office. Every Saturday morning he plays golf with three of his friends. Then on Sunday we are in church most of the day. Believe me, there are times when we go for a month or two without having a real, in-depth conversation. You know what I mean? and I get so lonely in that house with three kids climbing all over me. There aren't even any women in our neighborhood I can talk, because most of them have gone back to work. but there are other irritations about John. He rarely takes me out to dinner and he forgot our anniversary last month, and I honestly don't believe he's ever had a romantic thought. He wouldn't know a rose from a carnation, and his Christmas cards are signed, just "John." There's no closeness or warmth between us, yet he wants to have sex with me at the end of the day. There we are, lying in bed, having had no communication between us in weeks. He hasn't tried to be sweet or understanding or tender, yet he expects me to become passionate and responsive to him. I'll tell you, I can't do it. Sure, I go along with my duties as a wife, but I sure don't get anything out of it. And after the two-minute trip is over and John is asleep, I lie there resenting him and feeling like a cheap prostitute. Can you believe that? I feel used for having sex with my own husband! Boy, does that depress me! In fact, I've been awfully depressed lately. My self-esteem is rock bottom right now. I feel like nobody loves me...I'm a lousy mother and a terrible wife. Sometimes I think that God probably doesn't love me, either. Well, now I'd better tell you what's been going on between John and me more recently. We've been arguing a lot. I mean really fighting. It's the only way I can get his attention, I guess. We had an incredible battle last week in front of the kids. It was awful. Tears. Screaming. Insults. Everything. I spent two nights at my mother's house. Now, all I can think about is getting a divorce so I can escape. John doesn't love me anyway, so what difference would it make? I guess that's why I came to see you. I want to know if I'll being the right thing to call it quits."
Dear Dr. Dobson:
I have read your book What Wives Wish Their Husbands Knew About Women. It hit right where I live. Especially the part about low self-esteem. In today's world where so many women have jobs, it is sometimes hard to feel you are worth much if you aren't employed. I mean, some people look down upon a mother like myself who devotes full time to her children and family. But I know Christ doesn't see it that way, and that's what counts.
Unfortunately, I couldn't get my husband to read your book, which brings me to my problem. It is really hard to communicate with my husband when I have to compete with the television, kids and work. At mealtimes, which should be a time for talking, he has to listen to Paul Harvey news on the radio. He's not home for the evening meal because he works the 3 to 11 p.m. shift. I really would like him to listen to your program, but he won't
I'm not permitted to go to Bible Study now (I attended for one year) because he says the kids will pick up diseases from the children. Of course, I know that's not the real reason. I have a 2 1/2-year-old son and a 3-month-old baby and feel I need to get out among adults. Oh well, I guess I'll keep on praying.
Keep broadcasting your good shows. It would be nice for you to devote another program to husband-wife relationships, mainly communication. Thank you for listening to me.
Will you please discuss this. Dad arrives home, reads the newspaper, eats dinner, talks on the phone, watches T.V., takes a shower and goes to bed. This is a constantly daily routine. It never changes. On Sunday we go to church, then come home. We take a nap and then it's back to work again on Monday morning. Our daughter is nine, and we are not communicating, and life is speeding by in this monotonous routine.
1. A woman can detach herself from home and family, reinvesting her emotional energy in an outside job. The "back to work" phenomenon by Western women is, in part, a product of this coping mechanism (combined with the pressures of inflation).
2. She can become very angry at men and society for their perceived insults and disrespect. This source of hostility helped to power the now defunct women's liberation movement and gave it an aggressive character. Fortunately, both men and women quickly recognized that that was not the answer.
3. She can remain at home in an atmosphere of great depression or despair. Depression is "anger turned inward," and is usually related to low self-esteem. This woman often becomes a classic nagger.
4. She can attempt to meet her pressing needs by getting into an illicit affair. This disastrous avenue usually becomes a dead-end street, leaving her more depressed and lonely than before. We'll discuss its implications in greater detail in chapter 13.
5. She can turn to alcohol and drugs as a temporary palliative. Many homemakers are yielding to this alternative, as evidence by the rising rate of alcoholism among American women.
6. She can commit suicide (or make a suicidal attempt as a call for help).
7. She can denounce the responsibilities of mothering, by either remaining childless, or by failing to meet the needs of her kids at home. Or she can run away and let Dad take over.
8. The depressed woman can, of course, seek a divorce in the hope of starting afresh with someone more understanding and loving. Today, more than ever, this final alternative looms as the accepted method of coping with marital frustration.
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Dr. James Dobson is the Founder and President of Family Talk, a nonprofit organization that produces his radio program, “Dr. James Dobson's Family Talk.” He is the author of more than 30 books dedicated to the preservation of the family, including The New Dare to Discipline; Love for a Lifetime; Life on the Edge; Love Must Be Tough; The New Strong-Willed Child; When God Doesn’t Make Sense; Bringing Up Boys; Marriage Under Fire; Bringing Up Girls; and, most recently, Head Over Heels.
Dr. Dobson served as an associate clinical professor of pediatrics at the University of Southern California School of Medicine for 14 years and on the attending staff of Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles for 17 years. He has been active in governmental affairs and has advised three U.S. presidents on family matters. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Southern California (1967) in the field of child development. He holds 17 honorary doctoral degrees, and was inducted in 2008 into The National Radio Hall of Fame. Dr. Dobson recently received the “Great American Award” from The Awakening.
Dr. Dobson is married to Shirley and they have two grown children, Danae and Ryan, and two grandchildren. The Dobsons reside in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
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