I want to run away from my adult son and husband – what should I do?
I have a family of three. I have an adult son who is mentally challenged and a spouse who just doesn’t want to grow up. As soon as he gets home from work, he starts messing with the motors of the small engines but doesn’t help fix anything to do with the house, from plumbing to bookshelves.
My adult son does nothing at all unless I ask him to do something. The garbage in the house is not thrown away unless I remind them both. They can’t even bring their own waste into a bin. I come home from work to a sink full of dirty dishes before dinner. When I’m done doing the laundry, I ask my partner to put away his laundry and he doesn’t even when everything has been put on hangers. When I clean the living room, they will ruin everything again.
I clean the yard and pay the bills for the house, while my husband wastes his wages on who knows what and asks me for money when he earns $700 a week. I just don’t understand.
I am a Cinderella [the fairy tale character] waiting for a prince to come save me. I just want to run away or better move and let them take care of themselves. I’m so sick of housework and haven’t had a day off or vacation in five years. I’m tired of talking to them because none of them will move. What should a woman do?
It’s time to put yourself first
Janine Hayward is Director of ComposurePsychology, a Registered Clinical Psychologist and Honorary Research Fellow at University College London in the UK.
Oh, Gracie, I’d feel so tired and wish I could escape if I did all the chores alone! Luckily, you can be your own prince and “save” yourself by placing yourself and developing your wellness skills first. Below are six psychology-based skills to foster meaningful change.
- Show self-compassion: Like your husband with motors, when was the last time you did something for yourself before you started chores? Free time does not have to be grandiose: walks, meetings with friends, sitting, 15 minutes of reading or daydreaming are examples. Regularly prioritizing household chores leads to more balance and less burnout.
- Live by your values (behavioral qualities): How well do you demonstrate your values? If your top three are “kind, loving, and strong,” what are you going to stop or start doing for yourself/others? Values-aligned behaviors often lead to a sense of time well spent and happier feelings.
- Beware of unreasonable standards: Are you setting very high standards? Does it matter if the clothes aren’t put away today? Letting go of having everything “our way” reduces stress and invites others to contribute “in their own way”. We see things differently; wanting someone to do a task they deem unimportant probably won’t work.
- Create a “TEAM”: explore what others prefer, are willing to do and when. Your husband and son may hate taking out the trash, but be prepared to strip a bed or fold laundry. Together, list the most important tasks (with sub-steps) and how often they could be done. Invite everyone to assign themselves parts of tasks based on their preferences and strengths. It encourages empowerment, teamwork and mutual gratitude.
- Reward the behavior you want to see repeated. Being aware of desired behaviors and rewarding them helps people feel good about what they do. Acknowledging the person and their actions means they are more likely to repeat the behavior. Similarly, reporting unwanted behavior invites the same. Instead, try to notice what works well.
- Learn to say “no” and tolerate discomfort: Saying “no”, sticking to it and overcoming uncomfortable feelings, thoughts and sensations are fundamental to self-respect, clear communication, managing the expectations of others and setting healthy boundaries. Practice saying “no” to small things until your mind and body learn they can handle it. Then say “no” to important things (like money) and trust that you will survive any discomfort, no matter how unbearable.
My advice assumes that you feel secure in your relationships. Don’t feel safe? Talk to a trusted friend and contact local support groups for advice.
Express what you feel, what you need and your wish for change
Wendy O’Neill is a clinical psychologist based in London, UK who works with individuals and families experiencing emotional difficulties.
Naturally, you feel tired and frustrated with your husband and son as you juggle a number of different responsibilities and have little time to care for yourself or be taken care of by them. I wonder if you also feel invisible to your husband and son because they don’t listen or recognize your role and the things you do at home.
You mentioned that your son is struggling and I wonder if on some level this is preventing him from helping you around the house. Since he responds well to your request for help when you ask him, could you talk to him and create a to-do list for him during the week, offering lots of positive feedback when he completes them. It can also improve his sense of agency if he doesn’t believe he is capable of completing tasks.
It seems that you feel rejected by your husband and his actions when he spends time fixing things outside the house when you would like him to fix things that are important to you in the house. you share. You indicated that you have spoken to both of them, although I wonder about the possibility of having an open and honest conversation with your husband, expressing how you feel, what you need from him in terms of support and your desire for change. This can then be reviewed over time.
I wonder if you feel like you’ve lost some of your identity in the day-to-day reality of life today. Some of the lessons of the character of Cinderella are about persevering through adversity, the determination to try to change, and taking charge of a situation. You strike me as an independent, strong woman and maybe you can lower the tools and see what happens when they don’t trust you and add some well-deserved shine by treating yourself to something that brings you joy. I wish you good luck.
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