I want my husband to be less self-absorbed

There were updates yesterday.

Also, it's September. Time to send a letter.

I don't like my husband. I love him and care for him, but I don't like him. The reason? He's very defensive. If I approach him about things that bother me, he takes it as disapproval and gets ticked off. He has six kids (all grown and no longer living with us), but he'll side with them and defend them at my expense.

He's self-employed, so I end up providing insurance for him and the kids. He's also self-absorbed and a slob. He can't even wipe off the kitchen counter after he's made a sandwich. I would like for him to find a job working for someone so get can take over the health insurance. I'd like more freedom. I'm usually exhausted from working, caring for our home, taking care of the yard. I'd be more relaxed if I wasn't working full-time. I want more time to do the things I enjoy – entertaining, doing crafts, etc.

I don't want a divorce. I just would like for things to change. For him to be more giving and understanding. When I had surgery a few years ago, he left me for the day a week later (it was Father's Day) to see his kids. But I really needed him. When we travel, we have a wonderful time. It's when we're home that I’m unhappy. One counselor asked me once where I'm most comfortable, and I said at work – because I'm respected there. I don't know what to do.

– Unhappy


There's no way to force someone to be a different person – to change all of their habits and give them entirely different instincts. I do think it's possible to make specific requests. The sandwich thing is a good example. Maybe start with a few things he can do (or stop doing) and go from there. Sometimes people don't see their own mess. But if sandwiches are on the brain, that change might happen.

It's great you're in counseling. That's the right place to talk about his commitment to his kids and how to compromise as a couple when his energy is divided. But you also might benefit from a different kind of help. Many of your complaints about this marriage are tied to money. You feel trapped in your job because of the insurance. You could use extra resources to take more vacations. It would also be lovely to have cash to pay for help around the house. A financial planner can sit down with you and your husband and talk about your lifestyle and how to pay for it. That person might be able to get the two of you to plan together. You can tackle the overwhelming questions as a team.

As you look for that kind of help, try to figure out why vacations work so well. I mean, vacations are often fun for couples, but they're not for everyone. They tend to be kind of terrible when a companion is a self-absorbed, thoughtless person. Your letter suggests that you can enjoy each other's company elsewhere – that you can notice each other when you're away from home. Consider how you might replicate that experience where you live.

– Meredith

Readers? How do you get a partner to change their routine at home? How do you recreate a vacation experience without going away? Thoughts on the Father's Day issue?