Dear Rachel,

I have been married over 10 years. I must confess that while I was never head over heels in love, it was pretty good until recently. However, the last couple of years I have just become sick of all his excuses for why he can’t get a job, can’t do things, isn’t motivated, etc. He is so terrified to fail that he cannot bring himself to try most things that people attempt to do in life. He is very negative and can be very cool and remote to me. If I try really hard and I swallow all his insensitive behaivor, I can break through to him and actually communicate. But, lately it doesn’t last too long, and quite honestly, I don't have the patience anymore either. I am so fed up with him not working hard. And with his constant refusal to try anything which he deems, risky or too hard. I only stay because of my children. I feel very little love left for him, if at all, and not too much respect. Please help me. I want to save my marriage for my kids’ sake, but I am finding it hard to change myself and become like he is. I love life and I want to drink it all in, but his attitude and laziness are driving me to distraction. Please help.

Fed Up

Dear Fed Up,

The issues you raise are definitely not minor and must be dealt with. I would begin by suggesting that you attempt marital counseling, though it sounds like your husband may not be open to that as you mention that he does not like to try new things. Does he know how unhappy you are? Have you tried speaking to him about it? Is there anyone he respects, a rabbi, friend, relative, who could get involved and speak to him on your behalf?

Respect for the other is essential in a relationship. He needs to find a way to behave that you can respect once again. At the same time, if you want your marriage to get better, you need to look for the things in him that you can and do respect. Is he a good father? Does he help around the house? What does he do that you do admire? This doesn't mean that you don't also need to work together on the problems, but at least if you can try to rebuild some positive feelings for him, that will be an incentive.

Don't forget that he most likely knows that you look down on him, whether or not you verbalize it. Often, when we feel that the other person thinks poorly of us, we don't even want to try. Sometimes we even feel that we can't win. If he feels that no matter what he does you won't be happy, then he won't even bother trying.

I also think you need to stay strong that the goal is not for you to become lazy and follow his lead, but just the opposite. You need to pull him out of his rut. You need to motivate him and give him opportunities to prove himself. And you need to be patient while he tries.

This is the power of the woman, to take the latent potential in another, and to help actualize it. This is why we are taught that in marriage there are three possibilities. There is the statement that a good wife "osah ratzon baalah" which can mean one of 3 things. It can mean that she "does" the will of her husband. Or it can mean that she "makes" the will of her husband. As both "to do" and "to make" are meanings of the word "la'asot."

But the highest meaning of the word, as is explained by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, is "to rectify." And this is something that takes work, but that you are able to do. You don't want to be giving in to your husband's laziness, and you don't want to be telling him what to do and leading him around. Ideally, you want to work with him and help him rediscover his strengths and reveal his potential, and in doing so you are able to rectify his will.

And while it is clear that you want your marriage to work, I think it is important that you shift your reasons for wanting that. While it is wonderful when children live in a family unit where both mother and father are together, children are not the sole reason for two people to stay married, when the atmosphere is one that is cold and negative. Granted, there are people who stay together “for the kids” but what you are describing doesn’t sound like merely a loveless but civil and decent marriage, it sounds like one that is on a downhill and becoming more and more tense and negative as time passes.

If you want your marriage to work, you need to want to be married to your husband, and not solely for your children. Only when you put the focus on each other and to rebuilding and strengthening the trust, love and connection that the two of you need to share, will you be able to have a healthy marriage, and then you will be giving your children the greatest gift of all, which are happy and healthy parents in a home filled with love and optimism.

I wish you much strength and hatzlacha in this situation.