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Husband Disengaging from Marriage

by hrcounts

My husband and I have been married 30 years. Four years ago we received custody of five grandchildren. The parent have done nothing to comply with Court requirements to get the children returned to them. There are no other family members in a position to care for the children and we have tried but it fails to work out.  Last year I had a major health scare but have since recovered. Now ,my husband has basically told me the kids go or he goes. He has completely disengaged from us and is sullen , critical and grudgingly helpful to a small extent. The bulk of the care and household falls on me. I feel it is unfair to put me or the kids in this position and have told him to go . He is very unpleasant and is narcissistic . I guess I’m seeking guidance and validation in my choice to keep the kids. The only option is foster care and I refuse . They have been with us and are settled in and would be crushed . I realize he may be tired of it , I get tired too but it feels like emotional blackmail to me. (age 56, from US)

I’m so sorry that you have found yourself in this position. What a difficult choice!  There are many grandparents raising their grandchildren these days, but taking in five all at once must be incredibly stressful. I’m wondering if you and your husband were able to talk about all the possible outcomes when you first took them in, but you were probably also thinking that their parents would work harder to get them back. I’m also wondering if you and your husband were having any marital trouble before taking in your grandchildren.

Not everyone is cut out for raising children a second time around and it sounds like your husband feels that it is too much to handle. I also understand that if foster care is the only choice, you feel that you don’t have other options. There are many wonderful foster homes out there, but I’m sure that it would be heartbreaking to see your grandchildren grow up somewhere else and to possibly be divided.

If you ultimately decide to work with your local children service agency to place them in a loving foster home, you should be able to work out a visitation schedule. If you do decide to keep them in your home permanently, you need to tap into resources available to you. Most child protective agencies offer support groups, training and respite care. There may also be other informal networks within your community that you can get involved with, such as a support network formed specifically for grandparents raising their grandkids. Whether you tap into your own network of friends and family or community offerings, you will need ongoing support and time off.

Finally, I know you’re most likely busy and pressed for time, but before you give up on your marriage, I would suggest that you and your husband speak to a marital therapist or a spiritual counselor if you have one. These decisions are life changing for everyone involved. I admire you for what you are doing and hope that it works out. Love doesn’t fix all things, but in this situation, it makes all the difference.

All the best,

Dr. Holly Counts

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