We share anonymous member posts in our closed support group on Facebook. A recent post about an unsupportive husband attracted a number of comments from our members, ranging from upset to concerned and even absolutely outraged. Although all of the comments had the best of intentions, the member did not find many of comments suggesting she was being abused, or that she should leave her husband, very helpful. While it can be triggering to hear of a fellow woman being treated by her husband in a way that we would not consider acceptable in our own relationship, if we are to help someone, we need to be able to meet them where they are. We need to be mindful that coming on too strong could leave someone like our anonymous member feeling like everyone is giving her a hard time, that she is to blame and that she can’t go anywhere for non-judgemental advice.
Thankfully, there was one particular comment from Gina Haitidis, who has degree in sociology and criminology, as well as a masters in both social work and forensic mental health majoring in child psychoanalytic psychotherapy, that felt very balanced. Gina offered insightful and practical advice that empowered the anonymous poster. We are very grateful for the variety of members we have in our 30,000 strong group and appreciate experts like Gina taking time to reply to our members. Below is an altered version of the original question, together with Gina’s response.
“My husband wants me to stop breastfeeding my son. We have daughters together, but he makes fun of my son when he cries for me, and says things like “he’s such a girl”. My husband also thinks I should stop breastfeeding because he says it’s stopping me from losing weight. He isn’t open to the idea of talking to a professional about this. Has anyone got any advice on dealing with an unsupportive husband?”
Gina’s expert response
“ I have quite a bit of training in this kind of thing and based on what you have chosen to disclose I would say that he is possibly unsure of his role in your family dynamic and relationship. There are a few reasons I would suggest this:
1. Your third child is a boy and he as a father possibly has had fantasies surrounding the relationship he would have with his son. It appears (most likely because your son is still very young) that you are living out your husband’s fantasises, but he is not. This could make him somewhat jealous and insecure.
2. This is further emphasised through his remarks of saying your son is being like a girl when he cries for you. Your husbands may be saying this for two reasons – One being again he is not the first point of protection or comfort and two, he would feel somewhat left out of your special relationship.
3. With respect to your weight I’m not sure of the background to the comment, but if you yourself have mentioned weight loss in the past, then this might be a way of him trying to persuade you in a positive supportive light (although it might not come across that way). Or if you have brought it up in a negative light, again his way of trying to somewhat emotionally provoke you to stop. He may think that if you stop breastfeeding, he can be with you and have possible a more confident role in both his relationship as a father and partner.
The positive is that he is communicating his needs albeit subconsciously – maybe make him conscious of his remarks and talk through them in a safe unjudgmental way. We are all human at the end of the day, and some people hate the idea of “professional” help – it might be worthwhile considering a different therapeutic approach like going for a long walk together and cultivating your relationship with just the two of you.
I would also suggest encouraging father son time, something that just they do that you and your daughters don’t participate in, that’s enjoyable.”
Relationships Australia offer a variety of services to families, and are an excellent resource for anyone who is experiencing relationship issues.