Dear Carolyn: My husband has had to travel for the past several weeks. We have young kids. I haven't missed him at all. Not as a partner and not even helping with the kids, since he doesn't do much. He is a good dad, but he and I constantly bicker when we are together (both of us are to blame for that). Maybe we could improve our marriage if I could find a way to bring this up to him, besides "it's easier not to have you here." But marriage counseling is not going to help because he can outtalk any therapist.
— Husband Absent, Don't Care
Husband Absent, Don’t Care: That’s some heavy contempt you’re nursing there — a toxic emotion in a marriage. (Check out John Gottman’s work, gottman.com.)
You can get counseling on your own to work through this and to find some ways to tell your husband how you feel that aren’t hostile. You also can work on strategies for addressing the division of labor so that you can cross it off the list of reasons to resent the man who is supposed to be your partner (and whose relationship with you is the primary model you’re providing your children).
Short version: less bitterness, more work to make it work.
Even if your differences are irreconcilable, finding a more respectful, cooperative, positive tone will bring dramatic improvement to the example you set, no matter what next step you and he decide to take.
Re: Don't Care: Huge red flag. I still remember that feeling after a business trip over 15 years ago. I wasn't "happy" to see my boyfriend at the airport. Did I do anything to fix situation? No. Married him and then felt that same feeling years later after he'd been away. Eventually divorced. The truth will follow you around. It's mean like that.
Anonymous: Well said. I do think the marriage and the child mean the letter-writer has to work at getting past that feeling first, before answering to it. Thanks.
Dear Carolyn: Just wondering if ever in recorded history, since the invention of the automobile, has there been a documented case where a wife got her husband to (calmly, cheerfully, willingly) slow down somewhat (say, 5 to 7 mph) to relieve her discomfort over speeding and tailgating? Asking for a friend.
— Car Trouble
Car Trouble: Yes.
Sorry. I know that’s not the solidarity you were looking for.
But some people really are able to accept constructive criticism gracefully, and it’s a beautiful thing that we should thank people for whenever we have the chance.
Anyway. The tailgating is bad news — it’s driving either mindlessly or angry, and his refusing to stop when you point it out suggests he’s on the angry side. I urge you to address the anger in a larger sense, at home; approaching it when you’re both calm and not going 80 is your best bet.
Re: Car trouble: What works for me in the car is to say, "Heidi thinks you're tailgating," or, "Heidi thinks you should slow down a bit." Heidi is our dog; this makes my boyfriend laugh and he does actually slow down.