I studied Computer Science and now work full-time as a developer. When I come home from work, I want to spend some time with my husband and the kid until bed time, and then play video games or crochet or puzzle, listening to audio books... I really need this time doing things where I can turn off my brain, as the job (and especially the social interaction coming along with it) is quite exhausting to me and I want to leave work at workplace.

My husband has been unemployed for several years and has spent much time at home with his PC, trying to figure out many things and became tech savvy before we met. After we became a family, he does most of the chores, takes the kid to daycare, cooks (~ male house-wife). He doesn't spend his free time with technical issues anymore. Anytime something around his PC, our home network, the router or peripheral devices, etc. is broken, he expects me to fix it because 'I am the master of technology' and kind of mocks me when I'm not successful. Even when everything works fine, he tells me instead of playing a game, I should program some mods for it or program apps for his personal use or simply work/read/educate myself. He thinks my job is just 'free time' as I often could send him a short message and tell him about my day, and he does the 'real work' - as our toddler is very demanding.

How could I make him stop ruining my free evenings?

Currently I could chose from wasting my spare time with issues I am not interested in, and fighting with my husband and having a bad conscience for being not as dedicated as he wants me to be. I mostly chose the latter, but I'm tired of it.

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    Would you clarify if you think the situation would be the same if your husbands "hobby" was not related to your work. For example was wood work or model building, And his requests for assistance would be equally intrusive into your down-time?. Also does your husband believe your expertise has no value to the household during work hours and you'r expertise is only contributing to the household by fixing his issues? Thirdly(sorry) would you clarify if your husband shares parenting time with you when you are both home, or does he expect you to "take over" and allow him to get his down-time? – Moz Oct 12 at 11:05
  • @Moz - I guess, if it was unrelated, he'd leave me alone. He likes cooking for example, or music, but he never dragged me much into this. And when he did it was different: more 'would you like to join', less expectation. - for the last question - I guess he's trying to get something valuable out of my degree as the money I earn is not enough. Money never played a huge role in his life. – Kinaeh Oct 12 at 11:23
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    Is your husband comfortable with the fact that he's a stay at home dad and you are out working full time? – DaveG Oct 12 at 14:30
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    @DaveG It was always pretty clear that he is at home and does the housework and takes care for the child. He is kind of retired for medical reasons (you get some money from the welfare system when you’re unable to work) and this was since we met for the first time. I started working as the child was nine month old (I graduated right before his birth) because he wanted it. Otherwise I had stayed at home some months longer. I understand the household is hard work too, but I simply need some time for me as I am an introvert. – Kinaeh Oct 12 at 16:45
up vote 35 down vote accepted

An important factor in any relationship is mutual appreciation. Not feeling like your partner values you or what you do to try and benefit both of you is extremely disheartening, and in my opinion something that should be restored in your relationship.

Restoring appreciation

Your husband does not seem to understand that your work is demanding, too. Sure, having a toddler to take care of for the longest part of the day is demanding. But so is having a job.
You should have a talk with your husband about that. Don't make it a confrontation that might leave him feel attacked, but a calm discussion in which both of you clearly state their point of view.

Tell him that you feel stressed when you come home from eight hours of work (I'm assuming) and need some time to unwind. Just relax and do something to help you shut off your brain. You don't want to come home from work and directly be greeted by more work. (Trust me, I get that...)

And also mention that you might know tech stuff, but you don't know all of tech stuff. Just because somebody is an electrical engineer it does not mean they can fix a microwave that stopped working. Say (calmly) that it always stings a little when he mocks you for not being able to fix something.

Everybody needs an occasional timeout

It is perfectly fine to ask of your partner to just have some time on your own. Everybody needs that from time to time. This does not mean your relationship is dysfunctional it just means you want to relax and take your mind off things. That is normal and should be respected by partners.

Make the discussion about finding a solution together

Your phrasing should always reflect that you do want to find a solution to the current problems and not that you are just stating how things should be done in the future. Figure that out together.
Maybe in an honest and calm discussion you get some more insight on how your husband is seeing things.

The result will most likely be a compromise, but it will very likely be better than your current situation.

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    From experience, I've found the first point about appreciation - can also be that the other partner is not feeling appreciated themself. Because they feel unappreciated - they want to see you doing more things for them; which makes it worse when you are also feeling unappreciated yourself. – Bilkokuya Oct 12 at 15:08
  • @Bilkokuya That might be very possible, but I didn't want to sound like I assume that. Theoretically the calm discussion should reveal something like that. That is specifically why i added the "Maybe in an honest and calm discussion you get some more insight on how your husband is seeing things." – ArtificialSoul Oct 12 at 16:20
  • yeah, I guess that is the underlying problem ._. appreciation. But how to demonstrate it properly? – Kinaeh Oct 12 at 17:01
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    @Kinaeh One thing would be clearly stating that you appreciate everything he does. (Go into details. Name specific things you are thankful for. As many as you can think of). That goes a long way, already. But to have a more permanent solution you need to make sure you always thank them directly for everything you appreciate them doing. e.g. my gf sometimes cooks for me, I don't cook. And i wouldn't cook if i was living alone. I still make sure she knows every single meal she prepares that I thank her for it. She makes effort I avoid. I appreciate that. – ArtificialSoul Oct 12 at 17:18
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    @Kinaeh Things like this never have permanent effect. You can't do everything right once and it will stay perfect forever. A working relationship requires ongoing effort of everyone involved. You don't set it up properly once and it runs forever. That's just not how humans work. – ArtificialSoul Oct 12 at 17:21

I can 100% relate to the situation you've described. I'm also a programmer, work crazy long hours, and have a wife who wants to spend every waking minute that I'm not at work together. I love her to death and I want to spend time with her, but I'm also very introverted and require "downtime", meaning time spent alone and not working, in order to recharge and satisfy my mental health needs.

In the beginning of our marriage, this issue caused us a lot of tension. When I tried asking her for some space, she would take it as a personal attack against her. While I in no way intended this, I can see how she felt that way. She was probably thinking something to the extent of

"he spends so much time at work, then when he comes home he still doesn't want to spend time with me. What am I doing wrong?"

Eventually, once I began to understand why she was so upset, I tried to explain to her why I needed some downtime instead of simply stating that I need it. Even though she still couldn't empathize with my feelings, she began to understand them better and things began to improve.

Although you don't directly allude to this in your question, I think it's important to highlight the following:

In no way should you feel guilty about feeling this way.

While a solid marriage is going to have some give and take, your mental health needs are real, important, and deserve to be addressed. Not addressing them for fear of confrontation or guilt isn't really doing yourself or your husband any favors in the long run.

Based on my experience, my advice to you is the following:

Be upfront and honest with your husband.

Tell him the truth, that you love him and want to spend time with him and your kid, but that you also need time alone to yourself. It might take some getting used to for him, but he should respect your needs and provide you with this space. If he doesn't, then there's probably bigger issues between you two.

Another thing to consider is the perspective of your husband. He's alone with a toddler all day, so it makes complete sense that he would crave interaction with an adult at the end of the day. Does he have any hobbies/friends outside the house that could provide this for him? Or has he looked into getting a part-time job, if not for the money just to get him out of the house a bit more? These things could take some pressure off of you, and ensure that both your mental needs and his are adequately met.

  • The adult part is not that much a problem since he and the kid spend a lot of time with my parents and he is kind of social and likes to talk with neighbours or random people around. He also spends a night here and there with his friends - which is the only time I could enjoy my me-time. Sometimes I really kick him out of our flat to go to them twice or more a week. – Kinaeh Oct 12 at 16:49

Recognizing that different cultures have different norms I'm going to be brave and say I recognize some jealousy here.

I say brave because the problem with mentoring is our answers are only as good as your description of the problem. I am also making some assumptions here. I'm assuming he doesn't contribute to income(not an issue in itself as he does the home making). Im assuming you own/rent a home together and live together.

There is an example you give in your back-story that stands out.

He doesn't spend his free time with technical issues anymore. Any time something around his pc, our home network, the router or peripheral devices etc. is broken, he expects me to fix it because 'I am the master of technology' and kind of mocks me, when I'm not able to.

If this started around the time you graduated and or landed your new job that might indicate some jealousy on his part. The mocking part might just be his way of leveling the field a little

"Yes you have your degree but your not that much better than me".

A simple response to this might be "Well your the one asking me! You broke it!"

You haven't indicated what he did before he became unemployed or why, What his aspirations were/are, What his education/experience is and what he has done about it in response so it is difficult to relate and offer up past experience where possible. Finding out what he plans to do in order to contribute when the little one starts school will be a good measure of his mind set.

Your direct question "How could I make him stop ruining my free evenings?" could be rephrased slightly and instead answer the question "How can I find a way to relax that agrees with both of our requirements." This is going to be a team effort and will need buy-in from both of you.

As for how to talk to him, A quick fix that worked for me was to stick some wellies on the little one and take down-time outside and away from any distractions. A walk or kick around worked quite well. This should help give time to workout what to do at home, if nothing it helps lubricate conversation a little.

This will only work if your husband is not glued to his pc and reluctant to have any time away from it. You have not said what he does with it. Is he studying? Is he researching? Does he freelance? Does he contribute to the households cash flow in any way? Does he intend to soon and he's building his way there?. If he is simply "Fiddling" you could recognize that too him but also understand that might be his way of unwinding too.

Being a parent is hard work, You mention daycare and I am assuming this is stay and play where he stays with little one with out much chance for a break. One question to ask would be what he intends to do when the little one starts full time school? As this will significantly shift the pressure onto you, And most likely cause resentment on your side.

Some suggestion's then to start with might be:

Decide and work out if he is at all jealous in any way. What he is jealous of and how that manifests might be two different things. This is best done with indirect questions, perhaps even a story. If you suspect he is jealous of your degree then a story of how a friend you studied with that dropped out of uni has just landed a job as a junior programmer and is doing well, might just illicit a response. See what his response is and go from there. Obviously keep it factual and relate-able. How you deal with where to go next is another Question all together.

What does he do on his pc that requires so much attention from you? Could your intervention to fix something not wait a day or two while you have a "Date Night" or "Quiet Night". If he has the technical knowledge but would rather see the 'Qualified' one do it in order to 'Justify' or 'Prove' your time at uni then that again is a whole other Question.

Find some common but neutral interests if you want to unwind together.

If all else fails the blunt approach usually works, a good fall out usually clears the air in my experience.

  • +1 for "Your direct question "How could I make him stop ruining my free evenings?" could be rephrased slightly and instead answer the question "How can I find a way to relax that agrees with both of our requirements." – Sundararaj Govindasamy Oct 16 at 20:51

A couple approaches that are perhaps more low-road than other answers. :-)

Firstly, you are a professional developer. He is the tech-savvy one. These are waaay different things. (As a developer than can set up a *nix network and do tech support I understand it's all "being good with computers" to those outside the industry, but that's not the point.)

You don't expect formula one drivers to act as mechanics just because "they're really good with cars". Neither should developers be expected to solve printer and router problems. That's a job for the tech guys. I would suggest that he look into tech-support courses and maybe gradually re-enter the workforce doing odd PC problem solving jobs. Even if he doesn't take up employment, just doing the courses might be enough to give him something to occupy his free time other than what you are or aren't doing.

In regards to the 'you should create mods/read/educate yourself' arguments, ask where his latest Effective Parenting/Advanced Cooking/Handyman Mastercraft is, or why boeuf bourguignon/lobster thermidor/mille-feuille hasn't been on the dinner table recently after you've come home from a long day at work. If your expertise is expected to be used to benefit your partner, then his expertise should benefit you.

Finally, I might make an ironic comment that with all the nagging he's doing he's behaving like the stereotypical house-wife, and that he should quit his whining, get you a glass of wine, and go back to the kitchen and do the dishes where he belongs. Though this might not work outside of western culture, within that space the point should effectively be made.

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