I sometimes hear from wives who feel quite criticized and unaccepted by their husbands. One of the common complaints is that the wife "no longer makes an effort" or "has let herself go." I fully admit that I often side with the wives on this topic. Because I've been on the receiving end of this criticism and I feel that much of the time, it's quite unfair and it's a bit of a double standard. Nonetheless, however unfair the criticism is, it is often your reality. And if left unaddressed, it can leave your marriage in trouble or even end it.

A wife might explain it this way: "last Friday night, my husband approached me about going out to dinner. He said he felt like celebrating because it was the weekend. Honestly, I had the busiest week at work and I was exhausted. On top of that, I had carpool all week and I had to take my son to orchestra practice that evening. I honestly just wanted to turn on 'Dateline' and put on my pajamas. I asked my husband if he would mind ordering pizza and going out on Saturday. He sighed deeply as if I had told him that I would never go out again instead of just asking for a delay. He whispered under his breath: 'you never make an effort for me anymore.' I asked him what in the world he was talking about. He said that I don't make an effort to spend time with him, look pretty for him, and make time for just him. He said that by the time I get around to giving myself to him, I am too worn out. He is right about that. I am exhausted by the weekend. And I feel like the last thing I want to do is get dressed up and stay out late. I think that it's selfish of him to pout like a child when I won't do exactly what he wants when he wants it. We all get dressed up on Sundays to go to church and we eat out afterward. It's not as if he never sees me dressed up. He says that I don't do things to make him feel special, but he doesn't always do this for me either. And I don't always expect it because I know that we live in the real world and that we have adult responsibilities. Our children's' needs and commitments often come first and yes, we do spread ourselves thin sometimes. But our children will only be with us for a certain length of time before they are adults."

Why This Criticism Seems Unfair, And Why You Should Absolutely Take It Seriously: I do sympathize. Frankly, Friday night in my pajamas and in front of my television is healing for me also.  It can feel like my sanctuary sometimes and I often invite my husband to sit down and watch right along with me.  I look forward to it and I safeguard it. So I know exactly how you feel. And I don't think it's selfish of you to ask for it. But, I also get a good deal of correspondence from men who outline situations very similar to this one. The problem is extremely real to them - so real that it can lead to separations and divorces. Plus, I think that in some way, this was a problem in my own marriage before my separation - although it wasn't the only one.

So I would never tell you to ignore the problem. In my opinion, that just wouldn't be wise. You'd get what you wanted temporarily, but your husband wouldn't. And he could become resentful because of this or he could feel like you're not hearing him or that you just don't care.

How To Strike The Balance That Beings To Make Things Right: I think that probably the best solution here is trying to strike a balance and that is not always easy. It is often our inclination to try to reason with our husband. We will try to explain to him how tired we are and how he should just know how much we love him. And he might agree on the surface, but he may be deep-down angry that his wife isn't giving him what he thinks that he needs. And he may begin to withdraw from you or become distant. So you make less of an effort in response and it becomes a destructive cycle. (I know because this destructive cycle lead to a separation in my marriage. I was able to save it, though. That story is here.).

A Strategy That Gives You Both What You Want: I think that there is possibly a more effective way to make your point. The next time you're feeling up to it, get a sitter, get dressed up, and give your husband exactly what he's been wanting. When he's all happy and content about this, tell him that you wish you could do this all of the time, but that it's not always possible because of your commitments. Tell your husband it might help if he could cover Friday orchestra practice so you aren't as tired. Or perhaps the two of you could be very honest about how often he needs "the effort" and how often you need to decompress.

Sometimes, the easiest way to handle this is to schedule regular outings for him and regular rest for you. That way, everyone knows what to expect and no one feels slighted or ignored. It can be tricky to come up with a schedule that makes everyone happy, but it is so worth it. And it is much easier to navigate this now than to have to try to save your marriage later because you didn't address this.

A New Way To Look At This Compromise: I have found it helpful to look at "putting in the effort" as pampering. It's easy to get frustrated and to think that you "have" to primp because of him when you'd be content in your pajamas. But the truth is, every time I do this, I feel better afterward and I'm glad I did make the effort. Plus, my husband's reaction is always very sweet and endearing and it makes me feel closer to him. I know the challenges of handling fatigue when you are trying to be all things to all people. And there will be days when you will honestly have to take a raincheck. But you don't want to get in the habit of always taking a raincheck. Taking care of your marriage is very important - even when there are children. Especially when there are children. You are modeling the marriage that they might one day have. And ideally, you want them to make time for their marriages also.

I do understand how you feel.  It stinks when it feels that you are pulled in many directions.  I think that you just have to do the best that you can and know that your marriage takes work and maintenance.  It is easier to maintain it than to save it once it's potentially gone.  I know that firsthand.  I almost lost my marriage due to a lack of maintenance.  Thankfully, this forced me to see my marriage differently, so I was able to save it. You can read more on my blog at http://isavedmymarriage.com

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