It's the second week of July – my sabbatical month and I am really enjoying the break. I’m back to painting, which I really enjoy, reading, and taking long morning walks (before it gets too hot to go outside). All these things feed my soul which fires up my creativity.
One of my coaches, Susan, will answer this week’s blog question. Susan has been on our team for over a year now. She is such a wise and gentle soul, who knows what it’s like to be in a destructive marriage and not just to get away from abuse, but to steward and feed her own healing and growth.
This week’s question: I recently emotionally separated from my husband, in order for me to be able to grow in healthy ways. I've also quietly moved out of our bedroom into an empty bed in the house, but we remain in the house together. Our home is toxic. My question is, what do I do when we're in-house separated, but he makes it impossible to make decisions for our kids and home together? He finds ways of putting off decisions endlessly that the kids and I need to make… sports camp, going out with friends, driver's ed, missions trip, playing a school instrument, etc etc.
How can I run our home and make necessary decisions, when he intentionally sabotages each one, typically blaming me or the kids because we were “disrespectful “?
Answer: Thank you for asking your question. I believe others are dealing with a similar situation and can benefit from your vulnerability. I noticed that you specified that you had emotionally separated from your husband because of toxicity in the home. I agree, that detaching from a destructive person is a good way to support yourself if you are looking to grow in healthy ways. I want to note, that healthy detachment and unhealthy detachment look different and have different results.
I am unclear about what you mean when you use the term “emotionally separated”. The reason I bring this point out is that you stated you quietly moved out of the bedroom. No matter how long you have been married, moving out of the marital bed deserves a conversation. Have you talked about the problem that caused you to separate within the home? Perhaps you have a reason for doing it quietly or perhaps moving out without communication was an attempt at detaching from the relationship.
[Tweet “Healthy detachment still allows for kind, respectful communication but grants an emotional release of the outcome.”] Maintaining the ability to have some level of conversation is important as long as the two of you are sharing a home and raising children together. While it takes skill and practice to converse effectively, you can only control your part. In other words, if your husband is not willing, you will not be able to make decisions together.
However, you can still apply good communication skills and choose how you are going to show up to talk with him. If you are noticing that he delays making decisions, you may decide to be clear about the deadline. You might even notice out loud to him that he seems to delay making decisions and get curious with him as to why that seems to happen. Let him know that you would like him to contribute to the decision; but if he delays longer than a certain date, you will make the decision without his input.
For example, you might say something like, “I noticed that you have delayed in responding about the decision we have to make about camp. I am wondering what is causing your hesitation. Do you have questions or concerns you would like to talk about further? I really do need to give an answer by Friday so Johnny can participate.”
Your tone of voice and the words you choose are important in order to come across as kind, respectful, and curious. I can’t guarantee your husband will respond the way you want, but a good outcome would be you applying good, clear communication which is in line with the character you would like to display. He may feel disrespected if you disagree with him or he doesn’t get his way, that is the case with some people.
Since you are your own person, you might disagree. [Tweet “Disagreement is not equal to disrespect.”] However, you are responsible for yourself, so you can choose to disagree in a respectful way. Remember, you are not responsible for how your husband feels about that. This is what detaching in a healthy way looks like; you take responsibility for your part and let go of the rest.
I am not certain about other ways he sabotages decision-making in your home. I can guess that he might refuse to compromise when there is a difference of opinion. Again, you cannot control his behavior, but you can be clear about what is happening and what needs to happen to reach a decision by the deadline. Asking good questions, listening to differing opinions, and validating input are good communication skills to apply.
A question you might ask is, “With regard to this decision, what outcome would you like to see happen for our child?” This will help shift the discussion from marital conflict to intentional parenting. If your husband is generally a good father, you can appeal to his desire to love his child well by saying something like, “I know you care about our child’s wellbeing, delaying this decision is not what is best. How can we come together to do what is in our child’s best interest?”
Even so, he may be unwilling to work with you to reach a decision. Going through this process will help you determine if parenting together with your husband is even possible. If you determine it is not possible, then you have a decision to make. You can continue on with the struggle while caring for yourself and your child well or you may decide to parent separately with outside mediation or legal assistance. Your situation is a difficult one. Gaining clarity, by taking responsibility for your part and accepting the truth about the situation, is an important place to start.
Beloved reader, what challenges have you faced when learning the skill of healthy detachment? Be well!
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