Dear Carolyn: My husband does not want to spend alone time with me, leaving me feeling frustrated. We both work high-pressure, full-time jobs and have two very young kids. We both are desperate for more time with our kids and try to maximize any opportunity we have to spend with them, but it never feels like enough. We never get time for ourselves, either, but have sort of given up on that for now.
I'd like to spend some rare time alone with my husband. He does not. I recently asked for a lunch or dinner every three months, but it was clear he did not want to commit. He wants to spend time with me — just along with the kids. He says he feels connected to me with them there and doesn't want to miss out on time with them.
I don't want to miss out on time with them, either, but I want a separate relationship with my husband. We haven't been out alone together in over a year — and that includes our fifth wedding anniversary, because he wanted to spend it with the kids.
I could basically force him to go out with me, but it is clear he doesn't want to and, honestly, it doesn't feel great to be on a date with my husband who doesn't want to be there. I'm a total cliché, but yes, I want him to want to spend time alone with me, which I know I can't control. Where do I go from here?
Carolyn says: I know you asked a specific question about alone time with your spouse, but all I could think as I was reading this was, are you going to look back on this life you've built and think you took good care of yourself, and of each other, and took advantage of the best life has to offer?
I wrote this three different ways before settling on this one because I don't want it to sound shamey. I intend it only as a prompt for you to stop everything, take three steps back, and look at the whole picture of your current day-to-day life. Ask your soul to have a look and report back.
That your husband won't go out with you alone, ever, is a significant marriage problem in its own right. Huge. But I don't think you can fix it in isolation.
I wish I were talking to you both, because both of you created this runaway-train life together and both of you, from the sound of it, are stressed and exhausted by it, grieving your kids' childhoods before they've even elapsed.
Please insist, flat out, that you and he go on some kind of retreat together, alone, to find the brakes. Before everything crashes, before the kids get hurt.
If he refuses, then you ask him to go to couples counseling with you, because this isn't a matter of, aw geez, I want to go out to dinner and he wants to stay home. You have made an almost ludicrously small request: four lunches a year, just adults. That means his "no" is a statement. If he won't go to therapy with you, then go solo, to get to work on Plan B.
E-mail Carolyn Hax at firstname.lastname@example.org, or chat with her at 11 a.m. Friday at washingtonpost.com.