The Unsupportive Spouse

One thing I have heard frequently in parenting and in supporting other parents is this area of the “unsupportive” spouse.  Whether it be breast-feeding, co-sleeping, homeschooling, eliminating media – it seems like this comes up a lot.  “I would like this, but my partner is not supportive.”

I can only offer you a few suggestions from other mothers  that I have heard over the past fourteen years or so…

1.  Remember your spouse is a parent too.  Sometimes we are fortunate enough to have been breastfed/have been raised with no media/were homeschooled ourselves.  Then we bring that to the table as part of us, and our future spouses and partners KNOW this about us.  However, many of us were only exposed to these ideas AFTER we had children and now it is almost like changing the rules of the game in a sense.  We feel as if we have better information and knowledge to make a better choice for our families, but we are bringing something totally new to the table for our partners or spouses…which leads to….

2.  Communication; have the honest dialogue. Communication is really important. If you set it up as “I am right and you are wrong in “X” parenting matter” ….well, you probably aren’t going to get very far.  But a heart-felt conversation in which you address your partner’s fears, assumptions, wishes in a respectful way…that can go a long way.  Be a team together.  Share information and support each other.  Talk about how you came to the conclusion you are now holding as truth; maybe that will help your partner’s journey as well.

3.  Can you respectfully compromise?  There are two of you, and you have to parent like it.  Are there baby steps?   

4.  Can you offer alternatives that  protect your child?  What compromise can your spouse make to help meet you? 

5.  Give it time.  Some families start out with a specified time frame to try things out – three weeks seems like a good time frame – and see what happens! Is everyone happier? 

If the time passes, and your spouse is not happy but overall the family seems more happy, ask yourself:  is this a parenting problem or a relationship challenge?  In other words, is this really about breastfeeding/cosleeping/media-free/homeschooling/etc. or is it really about something else? See point #7 below.

6. Be respectful.  Mothers often are the ones researching things and wanting to move things in a certain direction; be respectful and again, allow communication and time for your partner to work on this issue that you have raised.

7. How is the rest of the relationship?    I read an article once about “The Unsupportive Spouse” by Gregory Popcak in “The Nurturing Parenting”  (1996) and he wrote about how we cannot use these issues as a shield to avoid each other or not work on our relationship with our partners.  If you need help, get help. A great therapist or counselor can be the wonderful third party and objective sounding board.  You may grow even closer having worked through some of the challenges inherent in parenting!

I would love to hear your stories….how did you and your spouse handle big issues that you disagreed upon?

Blessings and love,

6 thoughts on “The Unsupportive Spouse

  1. Great article Carrie! I agree, communication is so important! I think with raising kids, especially with a Waldorf approach, it is important to be on the same page, or at least be able to find some balance or compromise. The children really are watching mom and dad and it is important to have the same basic beliefs, or it will be difficult for them to see us as real authorities.

    My husband still watches T.V and it bothered me for a long time, but he does it at night after he comes home from work when the kids are sleeping, so that makes me feel better. I prefer no media, but we are a low-media family. I am just very careful about what my girls see.

    We also have this issue with food, as I try and buy organic and eat mostly vegan. My husband used to be on board with this, but he decided to eat meat again. I really hate confusing our children, but I also know that they need to see that everybody is individual and our choices do change. So now, we all have our different ways of eating. That used to bother me a lot too, but I am grateful that we can all enjoy meals together, even if we are eating differently. Most families do not have that luxury, or do not pursue it.

    Much Love!

  2. Hi Carrie

    This is GREAT post ! You’ve really hit upon the “big” ones here.

    As a home-birthing, (LONG-term) breastfeeding, co-sleeping, homeschooling, wild Mama married to a (once-upon-a-time slightly up-tight accountant who already had 3 kids before I met him) man – there were a few things that really helped me bring him around to some of these less traditional parenting/living ideas.

    The most important thing for us was for him to have a standard reply for those regular questions that family & others are likely to ask. It was amazing how many of his business colleagues would actually GRILL him about why we homeschool! (As if it was any of their business!)

    So we came up with some answers & some impressive stats that would just roll off his tongue. That made the inquirers stop in their tracks (once they knew he KNEW what was going on they felt less apprehensive). These little speeches removed the “deer in the headlights” feeling that my husband had been struggling with & made him so much more comfortable with everything.

    LOVE that you’re exploring some of the thornier issues that go along with this lifestyle. Once we work our way through them – it can really be like a bed of roses!

    Happy Sunday!


  3. Media!! That’s one of my niggles at the moment but I’ve realised by reading this post that Rome wasn’t built in a day and my husband is not a mind reader! Plus habits die hard – mine too.

    I am up for the challenge of a free tv household and curious as to what changes it would bring to our family dynamics however my husband and I both come from TV centered families. I don’t expect my husband to quit TV just as I wouldn’t pack up my laptop however I get how it can affect my two and half year old daughter. During the day is fine but it’s the evenings that I’m finding difficult as my daughter has a late bedtime and I can’t seem to break the habit so she sees TV then which I know is worse than daytime TV. I am trying hard to break the habit so she can be safely tucked in bed when the TV is on but as I am still breastfeeding it means getting into bed with her and sometimes waiting an hour or so till she either falls asleep or gets up and says I’m not tired – oh happy days (nights) 🙂 I’ll keep positive, try to be much more patient and not expect too much all at once.

    Another thing that was a problem but seems to be getting better is dinnertime – we used to have the tv on whilst eating but I moved the table into the kitchen and hey presto we light a candle say a prayer – it’s alot better than before although still needs some fine tuning. It’s crazy how much we rely on background chatter to fill the silence.

    I love what challenges waldorf brings because they bring about changes that invite something better. Life without TV is OUR life not someone elses – we are making it happen. I wish my daughter has that life and I want to be able to give her that chance.

    I used to feel like a broken record with my husband but I have to accept that things can’t just change overnight – I have to show through example and believe. I know though through the baby steps that we are taking now, no matter how tiny, that we will in time reap the seeds that we are struggling to sew now. It takes two to tango but one to start.

  4. Wonderful post Carrie! When my husband and I met we were both environmental activists so we had similar standpoints in most issues. With children, that progressed into homebirths, extended breastfeeding, Waldorf schooling, etc.

    Two of our children presently go to Waldorf schools. So despite us being the odd parents among family and most friends/acquaintances, the schools provide an environment where we can meet like minded parents. Also, it is funny, because when people criticize or ask my husband about our life/parenting style he often has great answers, even though how he acts at home doesn’t always mirror that 🙂

    Our biggest issue is probably media. When he met me I had no tv in my apt., but he is really into watching movies and the like. Since we got married 11 years ago, we never had a tv at home, but we do have a computer and the kids have limited access to it. However, he often watches stuff while they are still awake and on weekends, which bothers me as he is not being an exactly an example of what we preach.

    The other thing for me now is that, as I still nurse my two and four year olds and the little one still wakes up A LOT at night (I literally haven’t slept a full night in four years! :)) I would really like to sleep in on weekends but the kids wake up early and my husband is usually in deep sleep from watching too many movies the night before! So we have been bickering about that…

    The third issue is more minor. I have always been into health foods and was vegan for a few years, and when I met my husband he would eat all of the “weird stuff” I made (such as green smoothies). Then he started to “lose interest” and only several years into the marriage did he confess that eating those foods was only a strategy to conquer me hahahaha

  5. Pingback: Thoughts on Media « Seattle Waldorf School

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