Sunday 20 October 2019

Dear Mary: My husband is desperate to start a family, but I feel I need more time

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Mary O’Conor

My husband and I have been married for a couple of years and are still young. I love him and he is kind to me but there are bumps in the road that I am finding hard to deal with and I don't have anyone I can turn to for advice.

He doesn't have any real family and wants to start one of our own. I'm busy trying to start up a business and he just can't understand why I want to put it off for another few years.

I'm working 12-hour days, almost seven days a week and his response to these worries is "it will never be a good time".

My job is also physical so to take time off for the third trimester or postpartum I feel would be detrimental to all I've been working towards.

I have explained that I do want to start a family but not just yet. I don't know what to do.

I feel so much pressure that if I don't give him a child soon he will leave me for someone who will.

I am also so busy he does a lot of the chores. When I am there to help, ie load the dishwasher, hang the laundry or make beds, he tells me to "leave it, I'll do it, you don't do it right". It's extremely frustrating to be told I don't do enough in the house and when I do help it's not good enough. This is starting to affect my self-esteem and self-confidence.

He can be hard to talk to and when I do bring things up about chores he turns it completely around like he is a victim - "I'm wrong, sorry for doing the laundry" - and it turns into a heated argument and he could ignore me around our own house for days.

I really don't know what to do. He never used to behave like this. What do you suggest?

I would be interested in counselling but he's so stubborn I think he would be angry I even brought it up and it would cause another argument and another few days of cold shouldering.

Mary replies:  I see what you mean about bumps in the road. But please keep telling yourself that they are only bumps and you will get over them. Every marriage goes through ups and downs, particularly in the early days when the couple are getting used to being together full-time if they haven't lived together and some of the wedding glow has faded and reality bites, sometimes quite sharply.

There are two distinct problems here. The first one is the question of starting a family and the second is the smooth running of the household.

I can understand why your husband is anxious to start a family. People without siblings often speak of their longing for a family of their own.

You are already a family of two which he naturally wants to expand. You probably have siblings and that, combined with the stresses of starting your own business, means that you are in no hurry to have children.

It would help if you were to put a specific time on it and so tell him that in, say, January of 2020 you will do your utmost to get pregnant and that in the meantime you will work on your marriage and try to have the best possible base for your future children.

Regarding the household chores I think you should be very grateful that he is doing his share and try not to take things too personally when he says you don't do it right. What he really means is that you don't do it his way - there is actually no 'right' way.

He is also trying to find his role in the marriage - you don't mention anything about his job but he may be feeling a bit left out when all the emphasis is on your new business.

It might help you both if you had a discussion every Sunday about the week ahead and decide who is doing what regarding shopping, cooking, laundry and all the other things that make up your routine. That way you may feel more that you are a team rather than pulling in opposite directions which is what is happening now.

The recently deceased US President George HW Bush was married to Barbara for 73 years. In an interview about the success of their marriage one of the things he said was that couples should never stay angry with each other. He acknowledged that they are going to have arguments for sure, but he warned 'Don't go to sleep being angry'.

I think that is something you both need to think about, given that you go for days without speaking. I realise that your husband is the one who doesn't speak to you but that in turn must make you angry.

Have a talk with him about all of this, telling him how worried you are about the state of your relationship.

Don't apportion blame but instead ask him what you could both do to make things better between you - apart from immediately getting pregnant which may be his answer if you don't set the boundaries. Then suggest that both of you work on making it good for each other because compromise and understanding are necessary to have a successful marriage.

Good luck with your new business and, in time, with starting a family.

You can contact Mary O’Conor anonymously by visiting or email her at or write c/o 27-32 Talbot Street, Dublin 1. All correspondence will be treated in confidence. Mary O’Conor regrets that she is unable to answer any questions privately.

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