I speak to a lot of men who, despite feeling that they place significant focus on their family life, feel underappreciated and left out by their partners. The dynamics of any family can be unique and complicated, regardless of work schedule or life circumstance. But there are certain proactive approaches shown to help people re-engage with family and reaffirm the feeling of having a spot in the family dynamic.
See Things From Both Perspectives
Perhaps your family fits a more traditional model where he works longer hours, and you spend more time at home with the kids.
You may feel the brunt of household responsibilities and feel that your husband, despite his long hours, comes home and feels that his day is done in terms of “work.”
Conversely, he may come home and do his best to spend time with your family, from picking up the kids’ toys, to reading the bedtime story, and may love this part of his day, even if it takes an extra push of energy.
Getting a read on where each member of a relationship is, on a day to day basis, can help you work with each other to get the best out of your time at home.
Talk About It
No matter how close you may feel, you can’t read each other’s mind. If you or your husband feel underappreciated, bring it up. Sensitively, of course. How each member of a relationship feels should be at the forefront of any relationship dynamic. And in any relationship, romantic or otherwise, communication is key.
Take Over a Task
Have your spouse take over a bedtime routine, like bath-time or assist with homework help. Actions can sometimes speak louder than words (though words should probably come first). This kind of gesture will help convey that he really is part of the team.
Break the Daily Grind
Let your spouse propose an activity that involves the whole family as a unit like a game night. Have a pizza night on an otherwise normal Wednesday evening. Finding something that everyone is interested and engaged in can promote everyone’s feelings of belonging.
Create Family Time Traditions
Have your spouse plan a specific event that your family can look forward to and eventually enjoy together can create another stable sense of belonging. Make Sunday morning Pancake brunch day. Or, plan to have a monthly trip to a favorite store or park. Reserving these special events for your family and your family only can make everyone feel like they are a part of something important, and what’s more important than that?
Relationship and family dynamics can be difficult to navigate. Due to simple life circumstances, some men end up feeling like the odd-man-out. But working to become aware of these feelings, communicating them, and coming up with creative ways to make everyone feel like they belong can go a long way.
Konstantin Lukin, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist in Ridgewood and Hoboken, NJ. He has extensive clinical and research experience spanning individuals of all ages, in both inpatient and outpatient settings. He specializes in men’s issues, couple’s counseling, and relationship problems. His therapeutic approach focuses on providing support and practical feedback to help patients effectively address personal challenges. He integrates complementary modalities and techniques to offer a personalized approach tailored to each patient. He has been trained in cognitive-behavioral, dialectical behavior, schema-focused, and emotionally focused therapy, and has also been involved with research projects throughout his career, including two National Institute of Mental Health-funded studies. He is a member of the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies, New Jersey Psychological Association, Northeast Counties Association of Psychologists, New York State Psychological Association, The International Centre for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy, The New York Center for Emotionally Focused Therapy, the International OCD Foundation, the Association for Contextual Behavioral Science (ACSB) and a regular contributor to Psychology Today.