motherhood, marriage, and Michael Buble

I recently heard a story about a very nice man who has finally left his wife after a very difficult marriage. Apparently, she’s told him in no uncertain terms that until her children are grown (their kids are between the ages six and ten), his job is to bring in the money and her job is to be a mother–in other words, don’t touch me, I’m off limits for the next decade. She’s cold, she’s been cruel, and he can’t do it anymore.

This couple hasn’t been intimate in over a year and a half, and he has remained faithful. He’s been begging her for years to go to counseling and she’ll have nothing to do with it. The heartbreaking part is that he still loves her. (Personally, I don’t have the temperment for that kind of hurtful dry spell. I would be moving on to better, more Latin things as well.)

This story has really affected me lately because I know they’re not the only couple in this situation. Would someone help me understand the mentality here? Why a woman would think, for even one second, that her children can and should trump her husband?

It seems obvious that while this motherhood gig is a long haul, it’s not our forever haul. Being a mom is a season. Being a wife is forever. Hey, I love my kids, but I don’t cuddle up to them at night, I cuddle up to the one I’m glued to for the next unfathomable space of time. They will grow up and find their own mates and have their own families and their own problems. Sure, we’ll be there for the moments they need us and we’ll love the heck out of them, but we’re not married to them.

The worst part about this story to me is the fact that this woman is acting like her husband leaving their non-marriage is an act of infidelity. If you ask me, the man is smart to move on with his life before he actually gets himself in trouble somewhere else. Men aren’t meant to closet themselves away, they need warmth and love and affection and sex.

It doesn’t matter what your religion is, or what your moral beliefs are, no one wants their man to cheat. But let me tell you, withholding companionship from him is just as bad, in my eyes, as having an affair. You want your marriage to rock? It takes work and dedication–and sometimes it means putting that man over everything else.

And that, my friends, is why I have chosen to go to Florida tomorrow with Jason on his business trip (don’t worry, Obama’s paying for it). But, since I’m a good mommy who does care about my children (and Michael Buble’s concert on Wednesday night), I’ve decided to come home after five days because I think it would be too hard on them (and Michael Buble) if I stayed the full week. See, I love my kids (and Michael Buble), but Jason gets me first, my priorities are looking good (kind of like Michael Buble’s….nevermind).


  1. It’s what my mom has always preached-mom’s and dad’s relationship comes first. I think it makes kids feel good and secure knowing their parents are completely and totally in love and dedicated to each other. Too bad they can’t make it work out.

    Oh by the way, Obama’s not paying for it, the taxpayers are…or China.

    Have fun in Florida.

  2. Good for you, Annie. While I consciously know that Superman comes first, sometimes my actions don’t communicate that. It’s something I need to work on. Have fun in Florida!

    p.s. I don’t mind paying for it. 😉 (Kelly’s comment made me giggle.)

  3. p.p.s. love that I can read your column in a pop up window.

  4. See? you CAN have it all. Go, girl.

  5. My parents have this really ugly cross-stitch that says “The greatest gift a father can give his children is to love their mother.”

    It is ugly, but without a doubt my favorite thing in their house – I hope to own it some day.

    The sentiment goes both ways, and I agree with it whole-heartedly.

  6. I have a sort of hard time with this, sometimes its hard to put him first. When your kids need something, you feel like you HAVE to help them because they’re children, but sometimes with your spouse its like sorry I’m helping our kids, you’re a grown man you’re going to be okay. But thats not all the time, definitely we should have a strong relationship with our spouse and not just ignore them. Of course! I mean heck, my needs get ignored quite often, and I deal with it. But we do the best we can and as long as we’re trying and working on being better, I think we’ll get there! 🙂

    p.s. Thats a terribly sad story, I’m sad they couldn’t work it out. I always hate to hear (in any situation) where one spouse wants to work it out and the other just won’t budge. Sad. 🙁

  7. How horribly sad. I don’t understand her way of thinking. At all. How can she shut herself off for the next 14 years? Did she not feel anything for him before having his children? And how could she let her boys’ male role model leave? If her mind is solely on her children (which I suspect it’s not) you’d think she’d want their father more actively in their lives. Those poor boys.

  8. OH gosh I try to tell this to everyone I can.

    it’s so true so very very true

    Michael Buble needs me also… to bad I didn’t even know he was in concert!


    Florida sounds so nice right now.

  9. I have a very dear friend who is going through some of this right now. It hurts me to watch her-no,it kills me to watch them going through this. I don’t think that either her or her husband has even looked at the situation with this perspective I will definately be forwarding this on to her.
    I love you and I love you that you tell the truth-always. Whether it’s about lazy moms or vacationing with your man.
    You were fabulous on tv and I hope that one day-we will be on the same show-cause I would love to meet you!
    Hope you vacation is fabulous! You deserve it! Yea-now the fabelhaven book will be the center of attention.
    You rock girlfriend!!

  10. I’m all kinds of jealous that you get to go to the Michael Buble concert!

    My mom always made it VERY clear to us that our dad was #1 in the house. Everything centered around him—and you know, we didn’t suffer as a result. For the most part we’re pretty stable, happy children. And we’re all quite fond of our parents. And bonus; pretend I get married one day—I’ve already had the greatest example of how to make my husband #1. Some guy should marry based on that alone:)

  11. Thanks for the great reminder . . . I’ve got a sweet husband, not a roommate who makes all the money.

    And I’m a bit jealous of the Florida trip. It’s snowing outside my window as I am writing this.

  12. You are right on. And you know this talk of putting the spouse as number one, doesn’t mean you ignore the needs of your children. It’s about perspective. Marriage is work, and if someone tells you it’s not, they are lying or have blinders on. When governments and churchs talk about needing more stable homes and families, it STARTS with couples!
    I went to a conference where Julie De Azevedo Hanks was talking about women taking time for themselves, for their own health. Some women just struggled with that idea, but her response was wonderful and I think it pertains here too. Taking care of yourself (or spouse) WHILE regarding to needs/care of others is NOT selfish or wrong. Ask yourself these questions: Is it good? Is it reasonable?

  13. I’m going to be the jerk that disagrees with this. Not completely though. I think a good relationship between wife and husband is the absolute most important thing we can do. But who knows what kind of stress that woman is under? What if she has issues with depression? What if her husband isn’t willing to do the little things that make her happy? What if she was reaching out in a way that her husband didn’t understand? It’s not always about sex. With women, you know that comes second. There is always two sides to every story. Every time. And just because a man has a wife that hasn’t been able to put out for awhile doesn’t mean he should destroy a forever family. What about their kids? Is it fair to them because their mom was probably mothering the way she knew how? Every marriage has problems, every couple struggles. People struggle individually in their own ways. Our job as a wife or a husband is to do whatever it takes to make it work. And that goes for a sex-deprived husband as well.

    • annie valentine says:

      I would agree, but I can tell you that from what I hear (and the source I got the story from is very close AND it’s a woman AND she’s a friend to both), he’s the most kind-hearted, gentle husband a girl can get. Serves, helps, just wants to feel loved. And from experience, I can tell you right now that there ARE marriages out there where one spouse is cruel and refuses to show any warmth or kindness. It’s the worst kind of pain, and if you thought that post was all about sex, you need to reread it.

  14. See, I don’t think I could even come close to being a good mother if I didn’t have my husband by my side and a wonderful relationship there. How lonely.

  15. We don’t know what is going on in this woman’s mind. We can’t be her judge. The problem with the situation Annie described is that she is so totally unwilling to go to counseling to try to see her contribution to the problem.

    I’ve been thinking a lot about this. I wonder if we (lecturing myself here), as women and mothers, are a little quick to play to victim card. I appreciate when I hear Oprah and other public voices give praise to motherhood as the “hardest job in the world”, I really do. I just think we need to remember that life isn’t a picnic for our husbands either and the primary way most men communicate love is through physical affection.

    I know it’s not the way we women communicate love, but I believe the formula to a great marriage is to put your spouses needs first. If this is important to your husband then you need to put physical intimacy first on your priority list. Even if it’s not your favorite thing to do. If I told him I needed more expressions of thanks/help with the housework/a regular date night, whatever is important to me…I would expect no less of him!

  16. I finally discovered your site after years of being oblivious of you and your awesome writing. Thank you, CBC teleseminar, for introducing me to the fabulous Annie! And what a way to start my journey here–very insightful, spot-on post. Of course, I am all too guilty of putting everything else before my husband. It is something I need to work on, and work on I shall. The marriage relationship lays the foundation for your family, and if it isn’t healthy and strong, a dysfunctional family situation isn’t too far behind.

    Enjoy Florida and then enjoy Michael. He’ll have missed you terribly!

  17. Some of the best advice my father ever gave me about marriage was that when it came to loving my spouse, I needed to love him 100%, with all my heart, without expecting reciprocation. Not because I didn’t deserve it. Not because my husband shouldn’t give back–but because I needed to love him wholly with MY heart. I had to set myself aside and that loving a person was not about “what do I get out of it?” The second best bit of advice (and this is purely for me alone) was that as long as my husband and I aimed for God, we’d always meet in the middle. Like a triangle. The close you get to the top, the closer the space between the sides.
    The moral to “my story” is that when I’ve done those two things, I’ve seen phenomenal results in my marriage. My husband reciprocates (and sometimes more than I expect) and we both strive together. I can’t speak for everyone but I know that when I give freely of my love to my hubby, I get it back ten fold.

  18. Sarah Knight says:

    Woohoo, come to Florida, have some sex, 2 good things! My post is so deep 🙂

  19. Here’s for time with the hubs! Go girl, enjoy it and don’t regret a moment of it!

    As for that relationship, there must be something we’re not privy to in that situation, a past history, story (his or hers), abuse, etc. I don’t know, but whatever it is, I feel sad for them. Relationships need love and watering and tending. There are cycles in our relationships, sometimes a dry spell of affection, etc., but the hope is that it cycles back around to the normal/good/affectionate again.

    PS: Who’s Michael Buble?

  20. OK, let me first say that I agree with you, Annie. What I’m going to say next is secondary to the true message of your post, which I believe is that our commitments (covenants?) are between the two of us, and our children are blessed by that healthy primary relationship. Sort of like what we learn on an airplane when we’re instructed to secure our oxygen mask first and then help our children with theirs.

    Having said that, can I say that your description of the husband in this story just isn’t very…well…attractive? No one likes a martyr. If someone were trying to line me up with a man and said “He’s sweet and serves others and is kind hearted and just wants to be loved” I’d say, “I don’t need a pet, thanks.” I’ve known a number of men who became just one more emotional well to fill as soon as they felt threatened by the arrival of children, and even those very close to them didn’t recognize the signs, particularly in religious culture, where the qualities he exhibits may look awesome on paper but don’t really appeal in real life.

    I’m not saying he made the wrong choice, but I have to support Melissa’s assertion that no one but these two is in possession of all of the facts. Having gone eight years struggling with undiagnosed, untreated depression, I do worry about this woman’s mental health. Her refusal to seek help is unfortunate, but not surprising, particularly if she is mentally ill.

    Again, I absolutely agree with the message of your post: Two healthy partners, putting one another first and offering equal care and love to their family, are the best gift any child could ask for in parents.

  21. zstitches says:

    That’s such a sad sad story–and there’s so much an outsider can’t know or judge about either of their decisions. Has he sought counseling by himself or sought a bishop’s advice before making an ultimate decision? Has he had a clear answer to prayer that the situation is unresolvable? Does she have a history of abuse or depression? Is she able to be flexible on other topics that shows any possibility of eventual change? Etc. etc. etc. I heard a story once about a woman who nursed her husband for most of their lives after he suffered severe brain damage, so she experienced long-term celibacy but stuck it out with the firm hope of spending eternity with her healed husband. Of course the scenario you described is different since the wife is refusing help or treatment–but who knows what tactics of persuasion he’s tried, and whether there might be some other way that she could be reached? I do think that we should take our marriage covenants so seriously that we would never end a marriage unless there’s really no hope the relationship can be healed–which is something a person can only know by revelation and after trying everything.

    Also, while I definitely agree with you that the marriage relationship comes first, I also agree with others’ comments that sometimes for a spell that can mean both partners pulling together to work on something else–i.e. both partners can be so tired from caring for sick kids that neither’s in the mood, but you take care of the kids first and make time for each other later. Or sometimes one or the other needs to acommodate one partner’s temporary (or even long term) impairment.

    But I also can’t relate to not wanting to be with the man I chose to marry.

  22. Awesome, a trip with hubby, and Michal Bubble CD’s.
    I agree with that post. The relationship between a MAN and a
    WOMAN is paramount. I have never understood women who withdraw from sex…..(perhaps cause I am such a nympho??)
    Anyway, I like those “bonding” moments. Sometimes I just want to crawl inside his skin.
    I love my children with all my heart….and miss them a ton…..and miss my grandkids.
    But I have waited a lifetime to be back with Mr. Gorgeous.
    and it is amazing.

    I think some women are just “missing the boat”.

  23. It was interesting to read all the other comments on this subject. Relationships…..THE GREAT MYSTERY OF LIFE.
    Hey, I am no expert…Helllllllllllooooooo, I am on my third marriage.
    But…………before everyone starts getting all self-righteous and judgy…….they don’t know the “story”
    maybe like we don’t knowALL their “story”

    But I do believe that fostering the relationship of husband and wife ……..and getting that done right……….is the “challenge of a lifetime”

    is it Buble???or Bubble???

  24. Oh Annie, I needed this post so much. My daughter-in-law has left my son with four little children. She told him to leave and he refused and stayed, he forgave her and still she wanted another life. How do you stay with someone that doesn’t want you around for a whole year and until the divorce is final? The divorce was over in October and she moved another block over from my son and the children.

    The pain is over-whelming for so many. I literally loved her as my own and I experienced… the first time, ever as I bore my testimony in Relief Society in January (after being the very last to know about the situation) and completely, completely, lost it. My son-in-law carried me out of Church. My husband was working at the fire station, taking my son’s Fire Captain shift, so that my son could take his kids to Church w/o her. I knew my husband often worked for him, but I thought the my son’s family was visiting the other grandparents. Still… now, it’s been seven months later and still the very few know in his ward what happened. It’s the Bishop and my son’s cousin and her husband. He will never say anything bad about her…in fact, he builds her up in the children. However, they know. His wife asked for a family meeting and said she wanted out, all were crying so hard, but her. The children cling to him, they don’t want to go to her house to even visit.

    I can’t believe I’m writing this. My son about went crazy. Firefighting is a very dangerous job and he put all his unhappiness into saving houses and people. Unfortunately, he didn’t really watch himself and had to think of his children. He changed and started running—running on the beach with large weights, every night that he wasn’t working and after the children were asleep in bed. He lives about a block from the beach.

    Our firefighter’s schedule had changed and I really believe it was for my husband and son. They are captains at different stations and my DH can help him. Also, the days to work are two days on and four days off. Heavenly Father watches over us and blesses us, even though others were forced to change their routines. The “fire-brothers” like the new schedule now.

    The demands of my ex-daughter-in-law are extreme and emotional charged. She is suffering and it’s breaking our hearts and she thinks we all hate her. I can’t turn-off the love. I’m just unhappy. I can only hope that the changes in her life were something she couldn’t control and I suppose I have no answer except to accept what it is and always speak kindly about her, as my son would do.

    Thank you Annie for this post. I have always believed that Temple Marriage and the girl of my son’s dreams, was his reward. His mission president said, “If you serve an honorable and good mission, you will be blessed with a beautiful wife.” After listening to Young Women’s Conference with President Uchtdorf I understand so much more and that everyone has adversity and trials to really “temper the steel” we have in us, so that we can be stronger. I know that my son is stronger and his trial is and seems overwhelming, but his testimony is growing.

    I am so grateful for the example my husband has set for him though out their lives. I see my son as my husband at the same age. He is humble, grateful, respectful, and gives his children love no matter what the circumstances. The children are not taking the separation well, I might add. They are 12 and under, but love Church and the oldest passes the Sacrament and never wants to miss a Sunday.

    We pray for his, “Happily Ever After.” FYI… I think Michael Buble is just the best singer, too!
    You make me smile, ponder, and giggle often. Bless you. Susan

  25. annie valentine says:

    You know you don’t have to read this blog, right?

  26. Too, too true. I sort of want to punch that lady in the face.

  27. A year and a half?
    I don’t even need to hear any more.
    Poor guy.

    And Annie, I love that you’re always willing to delve into the controversial to make your point!

  28. I like your blog. A lot.

    {did you get your little problemo solved?}

  29. OH. One more thing– Did you get someone to cover you for you at Michael’s tonight? Cause if not, I’m totally here for you. That’s what plastics are for! ;->



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