Dear Emuna,

Sometimes I think my husband loves my children more than he loves me. When we are with them, he is much more interested in talking to them and I frequently feel like the third, fourth or fifth wheel (we have three children who are young adults). I of course love our children dearly but I feel a little resentful and left out. What should I do?

Lonely

Dear Lonely,

On the surface, this seems like a problem that can be resolved fairly easily – I hope that turns out to be true. In the first place, you need to remember that your children are the creation and reflection of the two of you, that in speaking with them and appreciating them, he is also appreciating you. He may feel that he is connecting to you as he communicates with them.

That may be a little abstract and unfulfilling but I think it’s probably true and it’s a good place to start because it allows you to judge your husband and the situation more favorably.

You mention that your children are now young adults. From that information, I infer (perhaps incorrectly) that they no longer live at the home and that the opportunities to interact with them are not as frequent as they used to be. In fact, even if they continue to reside at home, the opportunities to interact may still be limited. And following this line of reasoning, on the other hand, there are many opportunities for the two of you to interact; you now have a lot of private time. Therefore your husband may feel that he can talk to you any time but not them.

This is a reasonable position which should lead to greater understanding on your part. It doesn’t justify rudeness or ignoring you but it sets the stage for a reasonable conversation on the topic.

Which leads me to your communication with your husband. Especially since it seems to be the two of you alone without the kids (am I assuming too much?), the most important issue here is to ensure that the two of you have a healthy and open form of communication and that your relationship flourishes under these new circumstances.

An aspect of that is illustrated here. You need to find a way to tell your husband that he is hurting your feelings, perhaps and probably unintentionally, and that you would appreciate his continued attention to and consideration of you, even when you are out with your children – and even if those outings don’t occur as often as you would wish. Don’t nag, don’t recriminate, don’t get nasty, don’t accuse – just describe and give him the chance to step up to the plate. Chances are that he is completely oblivious to the situation and will be upset to discover that he has hurt your feelings.

From this, the two of you can learn and grow and set the pattern for the future as you continue to navigate your empty nest. Ask the Almighty to give you the wisdom, strength and patience to make these years of your marriage at least as rewarding if not more so than the previous ones.