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Saturday 23 August 2014

Dear Mary: My wife turned into a harpy when I lost my well-paid job

Mary O Conor

Published 19/11/2012 | 06:00

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I've never written to anybody like this before, but I'm at the end of my rope. I'm married for 20 years now to a woman whom I find enormously attractive. We have two fantastic teenagers that make me incredibly proud. They are good athletes, are academically successful as well as being great people. Our marriage has been normal, with the usual ups and downs – more ups than downs, if truth be told, but the last year or so has been very hard.

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We were doing well since we married until 2007 when I was made redundant. My wife was very supportive in my last job when my boss was bullying me, all through my redundancy and then my seven months of unemployment until I found my current job. This job pays 30 per cent less than my last one and I have not received an increase since I started four years ago although taxes etc, have gone up. I have always been the breadwinner in our house by mutual agreement. My wife is a terrific mother and this has been fine until recently.

This last year, my wife has been moody, to say the least. She has been very difficult to live with and is lashing out at me for every little thing. I have accepted this as on occasion she has been moody in the past. However, this is not like previous times, as it was always short lived.

My children, whom I love more than life itself, have noticed this and I'm afraid they will think this is normal – my daughter, that it is OK to lash out at your partner /husband; my son, that being treated like this is alright. We have put our house on the market recently– at best we hope to break even or make a deal with the bank and restart. My daughter is hopefully starting college next year, my son two years from now and I've no idea how I'm going to pay for this – but I will even if I have to sell a kidney. I love my wife – or at least I love who she was for the first 19 years of our marriage – I don't know who she is now and she is impossible to communicate with.

I suggested therapy but she says they will twist everything to suit their agenda, and she still lashes out at me.

I'm by no means perfect, by the way, I keeping missing the obvious around the house and with getting stuff ready for the sale/move.

I do try, but trying is not enough, apparently.

I will not go near the issues in our physical relationship, I just want the wife I had back, my best friend, my partner, the one I relied on, needed, talked to about everything, and whose opinion I wanted and valued.

Not this harpy, angry all the time at the world, at me, at ... everything. And I'm tired of being the pressure release valve for her.

So what do I do? Do I get up and go – because I think I deserve better than this – what do you think?

Mary replies:

I think that the scenario you describe is very indicative of current-day Ireland and will resonate with many readers. Not necessarily the moody wife, but certainly all the other aspects of your life right now. Things are much more difficult for people than they were 20 years ago and very often this has an effect on relationships. You and your wife are having quite a different life to the one you probably envisioned when you started out because things have taken a downward spiral. You have the advantage of having wonderful children, but even they are a cause for concern as you don't know how to pay for their college education.

I don't know what type of work that you do, but whatever it is, you get out into the world each day and have other things to occupy you, whereas your wife is full-time at home with lots of time to ponder the financial problems.

She is also facing a hugely stressful time in trying to sell and move house.

Another factor to take into account is that she may be peri-menopausal – not yet menopausal but displaying some of the symptoms such as irritability and mood swings.

It is very true that the example being given to your children is not the correct one – they need to know that couples have conflict but then have the tools to resolve that conflict.

So how have you dealt with the moodiness in the past? If you just put up with it and waited for it to go away then that is what she has learned to be your usual behaviour.

She now expects you to have the same reaction, even though her outbreaks are longer and stronger than they were before.

If this is the case then you need to let her know just how miserable you are – so much so that you are even thinking about leaving.

I don't agree with her that a counsellor will change things to suit their own agenda – what benefit could that possibly be to any counsellor? For some reason she appears to be afraid to go for counselling but that is what I would advise.

Perhaps as a first step you could get her to go to see her doctor in order to find out how she is hormonally. A simple blood test will let her know where she stands regarding the peri-menopause.

I agree you deserve things to be better – you both do – but something has to change and for this to happen you need to take more control by letting her know that you are not prepared any more to put up with her constant anger.

Submit your letters to Mary anonymously at dearmary.ie.

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