Dear Tracey: My husband is a hunter. If it walks, crawls, swims or flies, he’ll go after it. I knew what I was getting into with him when we got married 36 years ago. (We had to plan our wedding around deer season. I’m not kidding.)
All these years and we never got a family vacation because he was always hunting and fishing. He’s even called in sick if the fish were jumping. If he had to skip a weekend trip with his buddies, he’d mope around the house or get really irritable. And don’t get me started on how much money he has spent on guns, ammo, bows and gear. It’s terrible.
I’ve tried not to complain. He always worked so hard for me and our girls, I felt like he should have time for himself with his friends.
But now that he’s retired, all he ever thinks about is hunting and fishing. Every night he’s online searching everything from wild boar hunts in Florida to moose hunting lotteries in Alaska. What’s worse, he shoots, fishes and bow hunts, so the seasons all string together, one after another. He’s gone more than he’s home.
Silly me, I hoped once we both retired we’d actually do some traveling together that didn’t include hunting. When I bring this up he says to tell him when and where I want to go on a trip. But when I do this he won’t commit because of, you guessed it, hunting.
I know it’s important to him. I’m not asking him to give up what he loves. But is it so much to ask that he cut deer season short sometime so we can finally go see the fall colors in the East or go on some other trip together. — Signed, Hunting Widow.
Dear Reader: Sadly, you are not alone. Countless women find themselves left behind during hunting and fishing seasons.
Many men find satisfaction from these activities. The “hunt” feeds them psychologically, as does the time away with friends and the absolute freedom from responsibilities. When kept in check, all of this is perfectly healthy.
But when does a passion become an obsession or even an addiction? I know that’s quite a term to toss out but when a person is unable and/or unwilling to adjust an all-consuming behavior in order to have quality time with his spouse and family, something is amiss.
From your description your husband spends most of his free time thinking about, planning or going on his trips. He’s even used his vacation days and sick time for hunting and fishing. Sorry to say, all of this sounds a bit beyond the norm.
Regretfully, you two established this pattern from day one when you planned your wedding around hunting season. I understand how a young bride could do this. The pattern only continued when, as a loving wife, you believed your “hard working” husband deserved time with his hobbies.
But enough already!
It’s time to have a very honest talk with your husband about his overwhelming need to hunt and fish. Own up to how you supported his habit for years because of how hard he worked and provided for you and your daughters. Acknowledge that you should have been more honest with him about your feelings.
Then, clarify that these are very different times. You now have the freedom to do more things together. Ask your husband if he is able to make you and your marriage a higher priority?
Then, ask him to commit to a short vacation with you.
If he says no or backs out on you yet again, please get yourself to a counselor. Breaking up well established patterns can be very difficult. You will benefit form support and guidance.
You can’t change your husband. All you can do is to learn how to manage your own emotions and behavior. This may be challenging, sad and even lonely, but your focus needs to be on living your life as you want it.
I’m sorry. I wish there was an easy answer. Hopefully your husband will see how important you and his marriage are. If he is willing to take a good hard look at his overwhelming need to hunt and fish, you two have a good chance at a satisfying retirement.
Tracey Barnes Priestley is a life coach with a master’s degree in community counseling psychology and more than 30 years of experience as a counselor, educator and consultant. She is married and the mother of three adult children, and the author of “Duck Pond Epiphany.” Visit her website, www.thesecondhalfonline.com; email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org; or send your letters to 665 F St., Arcata, CA, 95521. Tracey regrets she cannot answer all letters and emails.