Friday 19 January 2018

Dear Mary: My husband is a street angel - but an ignorant, bullying devil at home

Mary O'Conor is a relationship counsellor and psychosexual therapist who offers advice in her weekly column.

A reader's husband is a bully at home. Photo: Getty Images.
A reader's husband is a bully at home. Photo: Getty Images.

Mary O'Connor

I've written many letters to you - but have always decided against posting them, and have torn them up. However, I am hoping to post this one.

My problem is ongoing, probably since I married 30 years ago. I have wonderful grown-up children, some are married with their own children and they are all happy.

The problem is my husband. He is 60, has his own business and no shortage of money. He likes drinks with his friends every week. He appears to outsiders to be witty and funny - but at home the story is different.

He is very bossy and always passing comments on what I'm doing: I'm using too much hot water, I'm having too many showers, I use too much turf, I light fires too early, too many lights are on. They are such little things but he is driving me scatty.

He passes remarks on our grandchildren, telling their parents what they should or shouldn't do. They just ignore his comments, except for one son who answers him back and tells him he doesn't know everything.

But it makes no difference. My husband never backs down and always has the last word in a nasty way.

He sulks if I bring up his behaviour and often won't talk for days. During this time I continue to cook for him. I do all the housework and cleaning. I have a part-time job which I adore and great friends. I get an allowance for groceries but am never offered a cent for myself.

If people call to visit he can be very rude. Recently he turned up the TV to get the weather forecast when my brother, recently widowed, visited. I found this so ignorant. Whenever I say anything, he says "they don't have to visit - can't they stay at home?"

I can't think of anything nice to say about him. He is so negative, unromantic, uncaring. I have wonderful brothers who are warm, welcoming and a joy to be around.

When my husband's sisters visit, he puts on an act for them. I'm sure they aren't fooled. They too are very pleasant. He never rings or contacts any of our children or his own family. I'm the one keeping the contact up, and only for me he wouldn't know what any family member is up to.

When he drinks he never stops talking and completely changes. If you could listen to him! On these occasions he expects sex and I usually give in to please him.

I know that sounds pathetic, but it's another sulking match if I don't. I don't love him - but I am stuck in a rut.

Where would I go if I left?

You probably can't give me much advice. I try to live my own life. I love family and friends and often meet up and even get away for weekends occasionally. I'm positive, good humoured and kind. He doesn't have any health problems or depression.

So why is he rude, unkind and selfish at home?

Mary replies: I'm delighted that you posted your letter - it made for very interesting reading. Your husband sounds like a bully and you enable him by going along with it all because if you don't he will sulk for days. If I were in your shoes, I would prefer to have him sulking rather than put up with his constant criticisms. He will not change the way he is because for all these years he has got away with his nasty behaviour, so the only thing that can change is you and how you react to him.

Your other option is to leave him altogether which you are not inclined to do, but it would be no harm to let him know that you are thinking along those lines. He really has it all the way he wants it - showing a different face to the world and yet being mean, critical and bad humoured at home. So he changes totally when he has been drinking, is very talkative and wants sex, which you give him. This then gives him the message that his behaviour is acceptable. But this is not the usual man that you have to live with, and I cannot understand how sex can be even remotely enjoyable for you unless you are able to escape into a fantasy world. Sit your husband down and tell him that you are fed up with his treatment of you and unless things change you are seriously thinking of leaving.

I am being so direct because you really need to address this unhappiness immediately. He was able to make you fall in love with him and marry him, when presumably he was showing you his 'good' side. Let him try to now remind you of what he was like all those years ago, and make up for lost time.

You can contact Mary O’Conor anonymously by visiting or email her at or write c/o 27-32 Talbot Street, Dublin 1. All correspondence will be treated in confidence. Mary O’Conor regrets that she is unable to answer any questions privately.

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