Lonely Stay-At-Home Mom

Dear Annie,

lonelyMy stay-at-home wife "complains" about not having any close girl friends nearby. I work a lot and her family lives a couple of hours away. She is a hard worker around the house and with our 9 and 10 year old kids, but socially she rarely plans anything or makes much effort to get together with anyone. I encourage her to get out with the friends that she does have, but she never plans anything. She has a hard time making new friends and doesn't like to go out at night, when most of the friends that she has go out.

I get frustrated because she doesn't seem to do anything to fix the problem, and my suggestions are quickly dismissed.
Do you have any suggestions that I could use to help her become more social and make new friends? -  Signed - Frustrated Husband

Dear Frustrated Husband,FeetDancing
Think of advice giving like a dance. The key to this dance is not to lead because it can cause your partner to drag their feet or not find their own rhythm. You want to help your wife? First, become a better dance partner by changing your steps.

Instead of taking the lead with giving suggestions, ask what would help more - listening (with empathy) or giving advice? If she just wants you to listen (btw - many people do!),
here's an empathy reminder: Being a mom is often selfless and draining. She's not getting a lot of practice thinking about herself. She may also have little energy to develop friendships - especially if that's not one of her strengths. Finding good friends isn't that easy and not all relationships have that much potential. That's why we often go back to family - because the blood thing really does give us a deeper connection.

Once you have listened, ask how else you can support her? Keep listening? Encourage her? Help with real barriers like child care? Be a bridge? Help her think of ideas?

If she wants ideas, first see if you can jump on any possibilities she already has. And finally, ask if she wants a few more. Only if she is receptive take the lead.

Pose your suggestions as questions. Here are a variety of ideas to choose from (but only offer a few): What about Susy from down the block? A part-time job? Volunteering at...? Going back to school? Taking classes? Joining or starting a book club? Places where you share common interests - like church, hobby classes, kids' activities or virtual communities? How about taking a few days to visit family or plan a sisters' get-away without kids?

AND...eh...I know you work a lot but is there something YOU could do to fill the void? Perhaps she married you because she wants to spend time with you as well? A regular date night might help her feel more cared about or joining something together might help.

If you feel her resistance coming back - stop.
This might be where you kindly challenge her to decide if she wants things to change and possibly point out how she gets in her own way. "OK you say you want things to be different but you don't do much to change things." Or "I'm trying to help and now you're yelling at me."

She may be stuck in complain mode and need to be challenged. She might also be depressed. If you suspect this, KINDLY suggest that she talk to someone - family member, priest, therapist. It is possible that beneath this complaint, your wife feels lost. What is her purpose? What does she have to look forward to? What is she engaged in that makes her feel valued, cared about, creative, and challenged? (Folding laundry doesn't count.)

Finally, remind yourself - and your wife - that you love her. Then love and support her as she figures it out.

Please let me know if that helps.
Take care, Annie