I have a difficult time when my husband deals with his stress by sleeping a lot and watching a lot of tv. He thinks I should give him the space to be who he is. He is 60 pounds overweight and has no motivation to diet or exercise. He has been this way for our entire marriage, 27 years. Every month or so he will escape like this for weeks at a time, even months. He still provides for his family and feels he has fulfilled his obligation to his family and he should be left alone. I feel I have loss my partner and have a difficult time with it. I try to encourage him to find healthier ways to deal with stress. He said he will do things in hiz own time and in his own way. I feel I am having a harder and harder time dealing with it. He is also grumpy and defensive and won’t help out at all.
If your husband has been this way for 27 years it would seem as if what you need to be concerning yourself with is how you can change your reaction to the situation so that you don’t have to be suffering the way you are suffering in trying to deal with it. After 27 years it should be apparent that the situation itself isn’t going to change. I assume you’ve complained about it to your husband many times in those 27 years, yet he is still doing it and has told you outright he is going to do things in his own time and do them in his own way; so you are not going to fix it by forcing him to make adjustments around your ideas of more appropriate ways of managing his stress. Your choices as I can see them are:
- Continue to put up with it and hope eventually he’ll wake up one day and decide the time has come for him to seek to find more effective ways of dealing with his stress
- Go out yourself and seek help in learning how to still have the quality of life you desire while living closely with someone who lives their own life in a manner that you find intolerable. In other words invest the energy spent on trying to get him to change how he acts when he is under stress into changing how you react to his choice to sleep excessively , watch a lot of tv and act grumpily and defensively
- Leave the marriage
I understand that everyone has a right to feel how they feel and every situation is unique and needs to be accepted and respected for what it is rather than compared to other situations for the purpose of proving things are not as bad as they could be, but if it helps, maybe you can consider that some people deal with their stress in ways that expose the people around them to great harm. Your husband could do significantly worse things than sleep a lot and watch a lot of tv when he’s stressed out. He’s coping with his stress in a way that technically harms no one. Every day there are stories in the news that remind us how horribly bad things can turn in marriages and families.
I understand that you want to see your husband motivated and managing his stress more admirably. By all means you can gently encourage your husband to seek to educate himself about more effective ways of handling stress. You can gently encourage him to look after his health so that he can enjoy the best possible quality of life. You can express your concern as often as you feel the need but make it be loving encouragement that you offer, and offer it in a soft and caring manner rather than annoyed criticism. Don’t come off like you’re demanding that he adjust himself in order to make you comfortable and happy. Make it be about him—about your concern for him; and be considerate of him to the extent that while you lovingly and gently encourage him to try something different, you also give him his space and respect his request that you let him do things his own way in his own time.
I understand that you’ve probably tried this approach already. After all we’re talking 27 years, and eventually you get tired and start to wonder when exactly will “in my own time” come. You’ve given him all this time already and still no change; but the reality of the matter is you will never change your husband. You cannot control this situation except by changing how you deal with it, whether you decide to ignore it, continue to complain about it, or divorce your husband so you don’t have to continue to live with it.