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I read a lot about men dismissing their wives’ changing behaviour and dissatisfaction as a ‘mid-life crisis’ caused by hormonal changes. I want to give a possible take on the situation. Obviously, what I’m going to say is a generalisation, and perhaps controversial in places, but here goes anyway.

A couple meet and start a life together. Things are fun – there are few responsibilities. Then they buy a property, pay bills, children arrive on the scene. The latter has a profound effect on a woman – overnight she becomes responsible for another human being – no matter how hands-on the father is, it is my understanding from speaking to other women that she feels the ultimate responsibility lies with her. The father’s responsibilities are different – he is generally assumed to be the main breadwinner, even if his wife continues working. He goes out the door in the morning, knowing that his wife has organised the childcare. The woman will generally do the bulk of household chores. Like I said, this is a generalisation.

For a woman, her time is no longer her own. She can only do things when the childcare is in place and that can be a difficult thing to arrange, so difficult that doing something for herself becomes not worth the effort of getting everything in place to enable it to happen. She makes sacrifices, often willingly, but sacrifices and compromises nonetheless. She goes to the hairdressers but with a screaming two-year old so the experience is stress-laden; she meets with friends but can’t concentrate on the conversation because they are constantly responding to their children or checking on their safety and behaviour; she goes to the cinema but to see a cartoon not a thriller or rom-com; she goes to work and feels like a bad mother neglecting her children; she’s at home with the children and feels like a bad employee not pulling her weight at work; and so on. Life is a constant struggle to juggle – a compromise and sacrifice to the demands of others.

However, all this time she is aware that one day her children will be less dependent and so she is mentally filing away the things she wants to do in her pending drawer, in preparation for this moment.

And sure enough, it does come eventually. It takes her by surprise. One day she’s at the beck and call of her children, then suddenly she’s sitting around waiting from them to return home from their friends, twiddling her thumbs, wondering what she used to do with her time pre-children, so all-consuming had they become.

So she goes to her pending drawer and starts flicking through the things she’s put on hold for 15-20 years. She joins a gym instead of chasing around after the kids; she learns a language instead of talking toddler-speak; she takes up dancing herself instead of watching her little ones perform in the school show; she reads The Tiger’s Wife instead of The Cat in the Hat and joins a reading group where she can discuss it with like-minded people; she dusts off the killer stilettos and ditches the comfy trainers; she goes from being drab, practical mummy, housewife and employee to sassy, sexy lady.

What the f***, thinks her husband. He thought he knew his wife. Their life together seemed steady, mapped out, growing old together, sitting at home in front of the TV. Who is this woman? So he gets suspicious, he resists and resents this new person standing in front of him, what has happened to his old, comfortable life. “You’ve changed”, he accuses. She can’t understand it, doesn’t he realise this is the person she wanted to be all along, but couldn’t. They’ve got time to enjoy together but he doesn’t want to do anything. Why doesn’t he want her to be happy? She starts to become resentful, “I’ve sacrificed so much, surely now the kids are older, it’s my turn to do the things I want to do. Do you begrudge me my happiness?” But he’s frightened and worried: the woman in front of him looks great: hair, make-up, great clothes, oozing with confidence from successfully raising children whilst looking after house and home and holding down a job. The insecurities of her youth have gone. Heck, now there’s nothing she can’t do and she plans on making up for lost time. He looks at her and thinks she’s fantastic. He thinks other men will look at her and think she’s fantastic. He becomes fearful and withdrawn. He doesn’t know what to do – he wasn’t expecting this and doesn’t know how to handle it.

And so the relationship starts to break down.

I think that men severely underestimate the sacrifices and compromises that women make when they have children. I’m not saying that it is only difficult for women. During these years, life is busy for both parties. They are struggling to keep on top of the everyday duties. It’s exhausting and they’re too tired to talk about how they’re feeling. Men feel burdened by the responsibility of providing for their family; women feel pressured by the constant juggling of family, home and work. Their relationship is overshadowed by the struggle to survive. But I think men need to realise that their wives are going to get that pending file out when the time is right and start attending to the unfinished business that has been put on hold for so long.

This is just one take on the situation. What do you think?
 

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I think it is interesting, and to a large part valid. However, I'll point out two things. First, the relationship didn't start to break down when the kids are grown and the wife begins to "change". It started way back when they didn't continue to make time for themselves & each other.

Second, the husband has worked hard over the years. Once the kids came, the sense of responsibility grew. He could no longer make job decisions based on satisfaction/fulfillment. He has a mortgage to pay, braces, college funds - the hits just keep coming. Maybe he likes his job, maybe not. But when he gets home, the works not done. There's dinner to cook, diapers to change, the toilet's running again, they need a new roof. And the hits just keep coming. The weekend is soccer games, basketball games, dance recitals.

And he is thinking of the things he wants to do, how he used to be able to go out and enjoy the night, enjoy the company of his wife, how she used to want sex, want to spend time together. But he was taught, family first, job second, himself third. His wife puts the kids first and here again the best he can hope for is a distant second, and even that's a stretch. But now the alarm is ringing, its 6am and time for work.

The years seems to fly by, some good, some not so much. The kids become real people with real problems of their own. There are younger guys at work with more energy, drive, ambition and seemingly no responsibilities that he has to compete with. And now his wife is starting to do things without him. She's changing. All those years he accepted 2nd, 3rd or 4th thinking when the kids are grown he'll be 1st again. But that's not happening. She's doing the things that she wants to do, not the things they talked about all those years. He doesn't understand why she's now straying from the plan. Is there someone else? Does she even love him any more or is she just going through the motions? It keeps him up at night, wondering. What should he do? How should he handle this. But the alarm is ringing, its 6am and time to get ready for work. He's got to work and she's now doing the things she wants to do. Resentment replaces suspicion. When is it his turn.

Maybe I'll add to this later, but its now 6:20am and I have to go to work.:(
 

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I read a lot about men dismissing their wives’ changing behaviour and dissatisfaction as a ‘mid-life crisis’ caused by hormonal changes. I want to give a possible take on the situation. Obviously, what I’m going to say is a generalisation, and perhaps controversial in places, but here goes anyway.

A couple meet and start a life together. Things are fun – there are few responsibilities. Then they buy a property, pay bills, children arrive on the scene. The latter has a profound effect on a woman – overnight she becomes responsible for another human being – no matter how hands-on the father is, it is my understanding from speaking to other women that she feels the ultimate responsibility lies with her. The father’s responsibilities are different – he is generally assumed to be the main breadwinner, even if his wife continues working. He goes out the door in the morning, knowing that his wife has organised the childcare. The woman will generally do the bulk of household chores. Like I said, this is a generalisation.

For a woman, her time is no longer her own. She can only do things when the childcare is in place and that can be a difficult thing to arrange, so difficult that doing something for herself becomes not worth the effort of getting everything in place to enable it to happen. She makes sacrifices, often willingly, but sacrifices and compromises nonetheless. She goes to the hairdressers but with a screaming two-year old so the experience is stress-laden; she meets with friends but can’t concentrate on the conversation because they are constantly responding to their children or checking on their safety and behaviour; she goes to the cinema but to see a cartoon not a thriller or rom-com; she goes to work and feels like a bad mother neglecting her children; she’s at home with the children and feels like a bad employee not pulling her weight at work; and so on. Life is a constant struggle to juggle – a compromise and sacrifice to the demands of others.

However, all this time she is aware that one day her children will be less dependent and so she is mentally filing away the things she wants to do in her pending drawer, in preparation for this moment.

And sure enough, it does come eventually. It takes her by surprise. One day she’s at the beck and call of her children, then suddenly she’s sitting around waiting from them to return home from their friends, twiddling her thumbs, wondering what she used to do with her time pre-children, so all-consuming had they become.

So she goes to her pending drawer and starts flicking through the things she’s put on hold for 15-20 years. She joins a gym instead of chasing around after the kids; she learns a language instead of talking toddler-speak; she takes up dancing herself instead of watching her little ones perform in the school show; she reads The Tiger’s Wife instead of The Cat in the Hat and joins a reading group where she can discuss it with like-minded people; she dusts off the killer stilettos and ditches the comfy trainers; she goes from being drab, practical mummy, housewife and employee to sassy, sexy lady.

What the f***, thinks her husband. He thought he knew his wife. Their life together seemed steady, mapped out, growing old together, sitting at home in front of the TV. Who is this woman? So he gets suspicious, he resists and resents this new person standing in front of him, what has happened to his old, comfortable life. “You’ve changed”, he accuses. She can’t understand it, doesn’t he realise this is the person she wanted to be all along, but couldn’t. They’ve got time to enjoy together but he doesn’t want to do anything. Why doesn’t he want her to be happy? She starts to become resentful, “I’ve sacrificed so much, surely now the kids are older, it’s my turn to do the things I want to do. Do you begrudge me my happiness?” But he’s frightened and worried: the woman in front of him looks great: hair, make-up, great clothes, oozing with confidence from successfully raising children whilst looking after house and home and holding down a job. The insecurities of her youth have gone. Heck, now there’s nothing she can’t do and she plans on making up for lost time. He looks at her and thinks she’s fantastic. He thinks other men will look at her and think she’s fantastic. He becomes fearful and withdrawn. He doesn’t know what to do – he wasn’t expecting this and doesn’t know how to handle it.

And so the relationship starts to break down.

I think that men severely underestimate the sacrifices and compromises that women make when they have children. I’m not saying that it is only difficult for women. During these years, life is busy for both parties. They are struggling to keep on top of the everyday duties. It’s exhausting and they’re too tired to talk about how they’re feeling. Men feel burdened by the responsibility of providing for their family; women feel pressured by the constant juggling of family, home and work. Their relationship is overshadowed by the struggle to survive. But I think men need to realise that their wives are going to get that pending file out when the time is right and start attending to the unfinished business that has been put on hold for so long.

This is just one take on the situation. What do you think?
Shame you seemed to have had a very miserable life and have wasted a great deal of it.


It's what happens when a person overly compromises and makes sacrifices. They become exceedingly bitter and resentful.


Fact of life as your story proves.


Problem is for you that your bitterness and resentment casts into the dark shadows any joy and happiness you experienced in all those years. Again a fact of life and again just as your story proves. You'll probably repeat the same all over again in another 20 years or so.


You should never have sacrificed. What a waste of love, time, money and energy all that was. And surely such stupidity, to sacrifice and not even get back anything at all you sacrificed for!


I think your post should be a clear lesson to all here on TAM. Never ever sacrifice if you don't do it with love in your heart for you sure will end up one bitter and resentful person.
 

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sadwife - I'm a mum of 3, married 22 years and I just don't relate to your story at all. I don't have a pending draw. :scratchhead:

I'm sorry you feel you have sacrificed everything to raise your children and look after your husband and home. What would you rather have been doing? What is more worthwhile than being a good wife and mum?

I can see why your a sadwife.... is there any part of the past 20 years you look back with joy or love... I looked (but may have missed) I don't see any mention of love in your OP.

Edited - Just been and read through your other posts. You and your husband have clearly lost your connection..probably sometime ago.

Why do you think that happened...when did it start?
I'm gathering when the kids came along the dating and fun stopped between the two of you?

Any chance he'd do MC?

In some of your other posts you sound depressed? Try getting some exercise, go for a walk, it's a great mood enhancer and get back into your hobbies, have fun, be a fun person...he may decided to join you.... he may not.

But it's YOUR job to find happiness and joy in your life.
 

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I found your thoughts very interesting, and also enjoyed reading the mans perspective right after yours. I see that same situation playing out in my parents marraige - very tense and unhappy times there now.

I relate a lot to what you mentioned about feeling pulled in all directions at all times, and constantly feeling like you aren't doing a good job at any of the 50 things you are responsible for. Really wears you down after awhile. And I DO have a "pending" file, btw. Both H and I do, and I hope that when the time comes we share that enthusiasm to get back into all the things put on hold for so long, and that he doesn't become complacent and withdrawn and a total couch potato. Time will tell I guess.

I have always had this problem - feeling fulfilled. I am NOT a woman who dreamt of a husband, children and a white picket fence as my end-all and be-all dream. I think of career advancement, volunteer opportunities, making a difference in lives, being involved in something bigger than my four walls. I envy women who are content with the simple life. I can't get myself there...it feels like settling and I keep feeling "there's got to be more to life than this."

Of course happiness comes from within, so without answering that crucial question you certainly aren't going to get yourself there (short of medicating yourself there I suppose...which I am about to try). The issue is who has time for self discovery in the world you've depicted?

I cycle back and forth on this issue...especially when it comes to my marriage. Is he expecting too much? Am I expecting too much? Are we just not compatible? Do I stick it out? Do I leave and try to forge my own path? How do I teach my children to be content with their life when I can't answer that myself? Maybe its good to be constantly seeking something bigger...keeps you moving, setting goals, making progress...but it also makes you insane!
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Discussion Starter #6
The responses are very interesting. Thank you.

I think some of you misunderstand me. I haven't had a miserable life at all - far from it. However, when you have children, you can't be selfish as you are responsible for them and therefore your own needs can't come first. I don't resent making those sacrifices at all - the time was very rewarding and I have no regrets. During the years, we worked together as a team, doing whatever needed to be done to keep everything going. But now we have some freedom and I want us to enjoy it together. The fact that my husband is finding that hard is why I'm sad. We both had to compromise through the years but now we have some freedom, he doesn't want to, or maybe doesnt know how to, share it with me. Perhaps I was always anticipating this moment and mentally preparing for it, whereas he wasn't.

Anyway, what I was doing when I wrote this was exploring what seems to be a common scenario and trying to discover how it comes about. Not all of it relates to me (for example, I wouldn't call myself sassy and sexy!), although it stems in parts from my experience. We go through stages in our lives and different things happen at these different stages. Motherhood is a time when women put their own needs to one side to focus on their children.

I guess the alternative to having a pending drawer is 'empty nest syndrome', where the children leave home and the woman (particularly if she was a SAHM) feels that the meaning and purpose has gone from her life.

I've enjoyed every stage of my life and I'm ready to enjoy the next stage but I want my husband to be there with me.

rj700 - it's really interesting to get your take on this. Thank you.
 
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