Inside His Head: ‘Gym rat’ husband skips out on family too often

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If you’ve ever wondered, “What was he THINKING?!” you’ll love this monthly feature.

Here we go where women fear to tread — Inside His Head. Find out what men are thinking, delivered straight from the “horse’s” mouth.

This month’s question for our anonymous panel of husbands:

Q: It drives me nuts when my husband gets home from work, grabs a snack and says he’s going to “run to the gym”. Meanwhile, there’s dinner to cook and kids to take care of — which I get to do by myself. I would be fine with it a couple of nights a week, but it’s more often than that. I haven’t put my foot down yet, but I know it has to be done. Any advice for getting my point across without it leading to a huge fight?

GRAY: Seems like he’s too busy pumping iron at the gym to recognize he’s not pulling his weight at home and it’s making you resent making a meal and spending time with your children. It appears to be making the situation divisive. And if something this innocent could lead to a “huge” fight then some time together might do you all some good.

To me the solution seems simple: find time to exercise as a family.

Exercise is a great habit to have, but carving out the time to do it regularly can be a real bugger. Making it a family affair can be a great way to teach your kids the importance of staying fit while giving you all an opportunity to share your day with each other. If they’re too young to go on a bike ride or run around the park, there’s a whole host of carriers and strollers perfectly suited for the situation.

Sure, you might be able to talk him into switching a workout or two to the weekend or a morning, but why not join him? Find ways to bring the family together. It’ll be the best exercise any of you can do.

john.thumbnailMAVERICK: Your complaint sounds pretty reasonable. You don’t mind him going to the gym, it’s just his timing that puts the whole family, except for him, in a bind.

The best way to get this across without leading to a huge fight is to address it when A) he’s not “driving you nuts” with his behavior and B) when he’s not focused on getting out the door and hitting the gym.

Assuming he’s not a total gym rat who has to be working out every day, bring the subject up on one of his off days and in the evening when dinner if finished and after the kids are in bed or doing something to keep them occupied. For goodness sake, whatever you do, don’t “put your foot down.” He’ll instantly react badly to that, you’re not his mom and best I can tell he’s not even been told his behavior is causing you grief.

Unless he’s just a jerk, and your question points more to oblivious rather than jerky, he simply doesn’t realize he’s jamming you up with the timing of his workouts. He likely is thinking that by timing his workout between the end of work and dinner he’s getting it done before he can be lured in to simply staying home and hanging out and it leaves his evening free to be with the family.

Let him know you think his gym time is important to his sanity and his health, but you really need him at home to help with his family in that all-important time before dinner. Tell him there’s just too much going on during his gym time and you need some help. Remember, you are both adults. This is a reasonable request, not an ultimatum or a chance for you to vent, bringing up all the times in the past he’s fallen short of your likely unvoiced expectations.

Offer some alternatives, maybe starting dinner earlier while he helps you with that or tends to the kids so he can still get out to the gym at a decent hour afterward.

If his going after dinner all the time isn’t the best solution maybe you two can compromise, with him going to the gym straight after work a few times a week and on those days he becomes responsible for evening duties, like baths or homework or the bedtime routine. Or maybe some of those things you need help with regarding the kids, say homework or household chores can shift till after dinner when he can be the one who tends to them.

You have every reason to expect help and likely a compromise can be arranged. Just don’t minimize his gym time. Don’t couch this like he’s out playing while you slave around the house. It’s important to him.

It’s become an issue, most likely, simply because he’s unaware. And don’t, I repeat don’t, come at him like your his mom. It’ll just make him defensive and make that huge fight you say you are dreading a near certainty.

generichead-1MICHAEL: It’s not a matter of “putting your foot down”.

It sounds like your husbands personal time has edged past an acceptable limit. You need to clearly communicate your annoyance to your husband in a constructive way. He may assume that dinner and kids is your “job”. Clearly it’s not.

We all want our spouse to be healthy, but not at the expense of the rest of the family. Tell him you appreciate him taking care of himself but you need him to cut back and expend some of that energy at home helping you in the evenings. He can always go later at night if necessary after things have settled down.

Summer-Remix4When you have kids, you have to shift your priorities a bit. That doesn’t mean that you never do anything for yourself, but you do have to compromise a bit to ensure that the entire family can win. It’s time for him to take one for them team.

Inside His Head: The perfect Father’s Day day?

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We really appreciate the dads who answer questions for us here on Inside His Head. Guys, you’ve helped us gain insight into how dudes think and have offered some great advice to women in Northwest Arkansas over the years.

Thanks, Inside His Head husbands! This question is from the mamas, because we’re curious:

Dear Dads,

Father’s Day is coming up and that usually means ties, cologne and cooked meat. What would your Ultimate Father’s Day day actually look like? (If ties, cologne and cooked meat factor into the day, there’s no shame.)

GRAY: I don’t often wear ties and never wear cologne, though the allure of some tasty cooked meat is difficult to turn down any time of year. And I’m sure many dads, such as myself, don’t need token gifts.

If my daughter was old enough to be away from home, a phone call would be nice. Not just a “Hi. Happy Father’s Day. Gotta run.” kind of call, but a genuine conversation about how they are and what they’re doing.

Since my daughter isn’t that old yet, I think letting her have a fun-filled day would be nice. I think it’s when we see our children having fun or achieving personal goals that we most feel like dads, whether it be pushing them on a swing, watching a movie on the couch or going out for a bike ride.

And just to go back to the meat thing for a minute, a good meal is always welcome, but not for the gluttony of gorging ones self. The real pleasure of any meal should be the company and conversation around the table.

I suspect it’s a lot like any other day in which we celebrate. As we get older the less presents matter and the more substance is important. I’d certainly skip everything to simply have a day to look back on with my daughter and remember it as what being a father is all about.

MICHAEL: Up early alone with coffee, NPR and the New York Times.

Follow that up with pancakes at home with the family. A walk around the square at the farmers market and then a trip to the library.

Lunch somewhere on Dickson.

A short hike somewhere close, then home for a quick shower followed by dinner at Greenhouse Grille with just my wife. Finish the night snuggled on the couch with all my girls while we watch a movie.

pancakes

MAVERICK: Well, a perfect Father’s Day would of course involve sleeping in and waking up to some hot tea and my wife’s wonderful fluffy pancakes, some bacon, and maybe some eggs – over easy.

While I know a lot of dad’s would like some solitude on their day, and I understand that urge as well as most, I would of course want to spend the day in the company of my lovely daughter and spouse.

Because I’d have to be there to watch my lovely daughter and spouse mow the yard, do the weed-eating and clean up our small chicken coop.

After the showers and the griping had settled down, we’d all go to the movies.

I usually get to pick anyway because my wife tends to select films that are just terrible, but to be safe I’d invoke the Father’s Day rule and select an action-adventure film.  If the girls want to see something, well, girly, I’d send them along to watch something frilly and I’d sit by myself in the dark with a big tub of popcorn and not feel one bit guilty.

To prove I’m not a total load, I’d take care of cooking dinner.

Perhaps grilling some steaks and burgers, fresh corn would have to be there, and as a slight nod to my heath, a small salad. Afterward we’d all go out for ice cream to properly undue all the good stuff from the salad.

The evening would involve some TV watching, perhaps re-runs of Arrow, or The Flash or Gravity Falls. We’d laugh and joke and likely snack.

And while I’m sure, after all of this, I’d feel properly spoiled, I’d also feel grateful.

And while moms get a lot of the credit for child rearing and as Chris Rock said so famously, “Nobody every says, ‘Hey dad thanks for knocking out that rent’” I’m just happy to be my daughter’s dad and my wife’s husband.

But a little recognition, an the odd tie now and then, doesn’t hurt.

Inside His Head: Wife is “bored” with her husband

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Dear Inside His Head husbands,

I know this is a problem, so I really want some help. I feel “bored” in my marriage and even when I try to do something new or suggest a trip (for example), I still can’t seem to enjoy my husband the way I did when we first got married. I knew the relationship would change over time, but I didn’t think it would be like this. I really want to make my marriage better, but I’m just not happy with the way things are right now. What could I do to turn things around?

greg1.thumbnailGRAY: There’s an expression you may have heard: The honeymoon’s over.

I dare say nearly everyone goes through a period where all the anticipation of things to come has turned into not anticipating anything to come.

If yours is a fairly new marriage (fewer than 5 years), your present life may lack the excitement of chasing each other, including all the time with friends and the anticipation of the marriage and honeymoon.

You may feel like a kid who’s looked forward to Summer Vacation all school year, but then only sits around bored in their room all day whining about how there’s nothing to do.

The reality is that you can’t enjoy your husband the same way you used to because both of you have grown and changed. What you need to find is how to keep the love growing as well. Everyone knows how thrilling puppy love can be, but you’re heart’s not going to go pitter pat forever. Some people confuse that change as no longer loving their spouse, but it is not.

Keep your relationship as real and important as you think it ought to be. Are your nights becoming sweat pant and TV events? Do you give each other tired-from-work glances? Do you spend more time complaining about what’s wrong instead of what’s right? Your life becomes what you let it become. If you’re not comfortable with it then you need to make things more intimate or more about each other instead of all that other stuff that doesn’t really matter much.

It may help to think of it as you might a job.

If you don’t have goals to achieve, projects to create, and, most importantly, finding joy along the way then anyone can get bored with showing up to the daily grind. Improve each other, challenge yourselves and celebrate the victories and your complacency with each other will surely diminish.

MICHAEL: I don’t think this is an uncommon problem. We each change over time. Some of us more than the others.

We can both get into patterns of behavior that make us unattractive to each other. I think the key here is to be honest with your husband about your feelings. He needs to know there is a problem so that you can address it as the couple you are and not just you as an individual.

If there are particular things in the relationship that are causing you to feel the way you are, call them out specifically without making it a personal attack on your husband. You can’t make it a gripe list. Make sure that you can provide an alternative behavior that you’d like to see from him.

If there’s conflict during this activity or you can’t reconcile the issues and get to a common resolution, please see a marriage counselor. Boredom can usually be worked through if the both parties can get the focus back on the appropriate things in the relationship.

If you really don’t know why you are feeling the way you are, then please go to a counselor to talk through your issues. The underlying problem might not be your husband at all.

MAVERICK: It sounds like you’re more unhappy with yourself than with your husband.

Expectations are dangerous things. They rarely work out like we expect and the end result is often irrational feelings of disappointment. You don’t say what those expectations are or imply that your husband knows them and has chosen not to work toward them.

Instead what you seem to be describing is feelings of pretty broad and vague unease.

It may depression. I’d consider talking to your doctor. Depression is not to be fooled with. Seek help. If you’re positive depression is not the issue, I’d say you need to do some soul searching and focus on yourself, not your husband. He’s not responsible for your happiness.

Our spouses exist to support us and help us to be our best, to be happy and fulfilled but they’re not responsible for that. We are responsible for our own well-being. So, decide what makes you happy and pursue it.

Go back to school, write a book, get back in shape, try stand-up comedy, talk long walks, read more, try out for a play. Do something.

Begin your life as a married woman as a woman who is responsible for her own mental well being. Start the journey. Build a wonderful life. Let your husband help. Just don’t expect him to do all the heavy lifting.

♥ If you’d like to send a question to our panel of anonymous husbands, email us at mamas{at}nwaMotherlode{dot}com. We’ll pass it along to the guys.

Inside His Head: I caught my husband in a lie

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Dear Inside His Head,

I have a question about lying. I have caught my husband in a few “white lies” lately and it’s infuriating. If he didn’t take the books back to the library or forgot to deposit a check, why doesn’t he just tell me? It’s pretty easy to figure out he lied when I get a late notice from the library or see that the money isn’t in our account. I don’t know how to handle this. It seems really immature and I feel like his mother when I have to ask if he REALLY did what he said he would do. HELP!

GRAY: Well, first I’d check to make sure it’s not simply his nature. Has he always been the forgetful type? Sometimes we all assume we’ve done things only to find we haven’t, so best to make sure this is a change in his behavior instead of just how he is.

When I have bigger things on my mind, whether it’s finances, job status or the future of my family, it’s easy to have the small stuff sneak up on me.

My mind drifts while I’m pondering things and that trip to UPS to get a package delivered gets overlooked. I don’t lie about it, but I could see how I might have convinced myself I did take care of the task while my mind was occupied with more pressing matters.

Certainly, I may be inclined to lie if my wife constantly hounded me about why I couldn’t get to UPS on time and then stayed on my back about it afterward. I’d lie because she would be making the simple stuff more important that it deserves. I’d lie about it because I’m an adult and I don’t need to be treated like a child who forgot to put his toys away, so there might be some resentment building.

I’d feel badgered and probably wonder why she makes such a big deal of the small stuff when it’s clear to me that there are bigger fish to fry. Probably more to the point, I’d wonder why – if these things are so important – that she can’t take care of them herself. I mean, if she has the time to make a big production about how I can’t do these things, why can’t she take a few minutes and help me instead of treating me like an imbecile?

And if I was getting the third degree for stuff I consider pretty petty, I’d wonder how much my wife really cared about me. If she doesn’t trust me with something as insignificant as making another trip to UPS, then how concerned is she about anything else?

If it was me, I’d wish she’d show some concern about what was making me so lax about the small stuff instead of seemingly being unable to see past the small stuff. Lots of issues can make husbands despondent or unconcerned and I don’t know of anyone who would deliberately lie about such trivial matters unless something larger was overshadowing the conversation.

generichead-1MICHAEL: Two reasons for this come to mind.

First, he must feel it’s easier than listening to you complain about him not doing it and treating him like a child. Second, he’s too lazy to have the discussion about why he didn’t do it.

When you say you “feel like his mother” he probably feels like you’re his mother too. Granted, he should be able to handle routine tasks without being followed up on, but sometimes we forget things.

If you treat him like a child when that happens, you can expect some childish behavior back.

On the second note, he may just find that the discussion/argument about him not doing the task simply is too emotionally taxing. Especially if you make a big deal about it.

If you hit a dog enough times, he’ll shy away every time you raise your hand. So if you harass him each time he forgets to do something he’ll find away to avoid punishment.

You may have to just put up with the fact that your husband can’t be depended on for certain tasks and learn to do it yourself.  Either way, you should probably look at how you address him when these things happen and don’t make it a punishment when he does something wrong. Once you stop doing that, he’ll have little reason to lie.

MAVERICK: If he’s the sort of guy who finds $20 bucks on the ground and doesn’t try to find who lost it; or who spots an error on a bill in his favor and keeps his yap shut; or lied on his income taxes to help pay off your car — newsflash, he’s a liar.

They’ll always lie to cover their butts. Welcome to your new reality.

But, if he’s not a liar by nature and this is really a new behavior, I think you need to look at yourself first here as the possible cause.

I’d say your adult/child or mother/kid analysis of the situation is dead on. More importantly, the inequality in power in your relationship. You say is goof ups “infuriate” you. Is that a normal reaction to a guy who brings home the wrong dishwasher soap?

Kids lie for a lot of reasons but mostly it’s to avoid instant consequences because they have little real power in the dynamic.

Here’s how it works.

First, if you’re a kid and not caught in the lie in the first place, you’re golden. Remember Ralphie in A Christmas Story – all kids know its better not to get caught. Second, if you do get caught in the lie, it’s likely worth it compared to the nagging and other stuff you were set to get if you were  honest.

As an aside, I wonder how much  he asks you to do? How many errands to you run for him?

Sometimes men become the unofficial gophers of families. Some of us like it. Others not so much.

So, I may be going out on a limb here but I’d say he’s lying, even though he knows you’ll find out, because he simply doesn’t want to deal with you  for as long as possible.

Why? He feels powerless and this is his way of fighting back. Granted it’s a sissy way but that’s what he’s doing.

He feels like he can’t tell you no when you have him do errands and he equally feels like he can’t tell you the truth when he fails to do what he said he’d do for whatever reason. Why? See the choice use of the word infuriate in your question.

He’s afraid of you but not that afraid of you. You have him in the sweet spot where he’s passive-aggressive enough to lie to you but not so scared he’ll do what you want out of pure terror.

Sure he can run simple errands. He just doesn’t want to.

So, I would suspect, all things being equal, that he gets griped at a lot, and by you. You likely nag him about the errands you send him on. When he brings stuff home it’s likely the wrong thing because you didn’t give him enough info to begin with and he gets hammered again. And you likely don’t thank him when he makes any effort at all.

The bottom line is he’s likely acting like a little kid here because you’re standing on his neck.

Nothing can be as belittling and emasculating than watching a wife tear into her husband for some errand-based misdeed – be it he didn’t get the right toilet paper to he showed up 15 minutes later than expected with the butter.

I’ve seen it happen to guys I don’t really even care for and I end up feeling sympathetic.

So for the sake of your relationship, stop acting like his mother and ask him to do stuff but keep off his back about it. If he fails to follow through or deliver, mention it and drop it. If he continues to not do simple stuff without you on his back, maybe stop asking him to do stuff all together for a while to give the relationship a chance to reset.

And if it keeps up, do the errands yourself, or is your time more valuable than his?

Got a question for our anonymous panel of Northwest Arkansas husbands? Email is at mamas{at}nwamotherlode{dot}com. Click here to read previous Inside His Head posts.

Inside His Head: Husband’s appearance is a ‘turn-off’

Dear Inside His Head guys,

My husband needs to lose weight. His BMI is 32, he has sleep apnea (snores some even with the CPAP), is on two medications to control high blood pressure and now has been told by his doctor that he is pre-diabetic. He talks about losing weight all of the time.  And he never does. He just keeps gaining.

His health is obviously at risk and quite frankly his appearance is a turn-off.  I’ve only mentioned his weight issue once and that was the day after we made love and my hip was aching so badly that it was difficult to walk. (There is a 130 lb. difference between us). I was not mean, just matter of fact.

I don’t get it. Any thoughts?

GRAY: You need to have a serious talk with him. Everything you’ve mentioned has the potential to take years off his life and cause a lot of medical complications down the road if they’re not already. If he’s talking about losing weight then he obviously wants to, it’s just a matter of figuring out how to get there and how to get him motivated.

Get him active. Whether it’s insisting he play outside with the kid(s) for ½ hour a day or taking a long walk with you after dinner, anything is a step in the right direction. If he wants to use a health club, encourage him to do it with a friend. You’ll notice these options involve someone else who will, hopefully, keep the motivation and interest present and give him support on days when the spirit is weak.

Monitor what he eats. Especially with the onset of diabetes, diet can be paramount. And heck, these days it’s relatively easy to find healthy meals that don’t taste like cardboard. If he’s eating fast food lunches, start sending him off with lunch from home or find a way to dodge the high-calorie, high-fat fare most restaurants can’t seem to get away from.

Setting short-term goals is great, but try to make lifestyle changes. In the end, the two of you probably aren’t looking at something he’ll be doing for the next 3 or 4 months as much as you’ll be creating a new way of living. Get him thinking about ways to keep exercise from getting boring. Maybe you can find different activities for each season to ensure doing the right thing doesn’t become tedious.

Reward him along the way. Especially for those who have little self motivation when it comes to losing weight, getting surprises, compliments and praise for all the work can go a long way. It can also make him appreciate the extra time he’ll get to spend around all those who support him now that he’s in better physical condition.

MAVERICK: Okay, so this guy is considered obese by that BMI ranking and if you’re like 110 he’s at least 240. Even if he’s a tall guy, he’s still pretty big and the implication here is he’s not rippling with muscles.

So, he needs to lose weight for his health and it sounds like losing some pounds might improve his sex life too.

Two very good reasons to get back in shape.

So, level with him but don’t be mean or too direct. Men can have fragile egos.

“You’re too fat and I find you too heavy to get on top of me,” isn’t the best approach.

He might not be really aware of how bad the situation has gotten. Guys are thick like that, no pun intended.

Instead, tell him you’re worried about his health and want to keep him around for many years to come. That means losing some weight. Be determined until you convince him you’re right. Don’t nag, encourage him. Try to show him how important it is for the future for the two of you that he is healthy.

Work with him on diet — nothing too drastic at first. Try to eat healthy foods and get rid of the junk food in the house, all that stuff — but do it with him. Many guys are unused to watching what we eat, so he’ll need some help and support. Don’t be a kill-joy or his mom, be his partner in this.

Encourage him to join a gym, start bike riding with a pal, or take up a sport he’s put aside like pickup-basketball or softball. Once again, you could help with this by allowing him to take the time to get back in shape or simply encourage him to go on walks with you or even hikes.

Reward him with encouraging words. Tell him he looks better once he’s lost some weight or tell him you admire his determination when he heads out to the gym. Tell him you love him, and his efforts to keep himself fit make you happy.

Also tell him they turn you on.

As he gets back in shape, reward him with sex. Teach him to associate hard work and a disciplined diet with an eager and appreciative wife.

It’ll work like a charm.

MAX: “Diseases of the soul are more dangerous and more numerous that those of the body.” ~ Cicero

I told y’all to never EVER accept questions from my wife. Seriously, though, one thing you must never do is to tell or infer or hint to your husband that you find him unattractive because of his weight.

Your husband is putting his health at risk as well your family’s security. It seems that he has deeper issues here than just weight problems. If he was doing similar destructive acts to his family and himself with drugs or gambling, an intervention would be called for. You need to have an intervention-style
conversation with your husband.

The way you begin the conversation is “I love you so much and if something happens to you, this family will be devastated. We don’t want to go on without you. We love you and need you. Healthy. Happy. Here.”

Whatever course you chose, you must come from a basis of love and support. Your husband is in danger, and you have to love and support him out of it, but you can’t make it, in any way whatsoever ever, about his appearance.