Wednesday 17 July 2019

Dear Mary: My life looks perfect but my bully of a wife makes me so miserable

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Photo posed

Mary O’Conor

I am a forlorn dad of four great kids, and I have a great job, big house and nice lifestyle, and to the outside world I have the perfect life.

My problem is my wife makes me miserable day in day out. She talks down to me, imposes her will and problems on me, belittles me and says things about me. She also criticises my reactions to certain situations, like getting mad with the kids. The fact is I now resent her and can't see past it.

Everything has to be done her way, her tasks are important - mine are not. Nothing I do is enough, despite huge effort on my part, where work allows, to help with the kids.

Mary replies: I appreciate a man can be henpecked by his wife but this is beyond that. Sex has become unimportant/non existent in our life and almost everything I do seems to make her angry, to the point of physicality. I have no contact with long-standing friends any more - I just feel beaten and definitely have many facets of depression. I don't want my kids to be from a broken home, but I don't know what I can do. I couldn't afford another house where I could share custody. I earnestly think she hates me too, and would probably welcome a split. Please help.

Your choice of the word forlorn really says it all - the dictionary defines forlorn as lonely sad and forsaken, and I feel all of these adjectives would describe how you are feeling. What is particularly worrying is that your children are being taught, by observation, that the woman talks down to the man and nothing he does is ever right. That is a fairly shocking lesson to be learning at a young age. They will learn that lesson and in future times act it out if something doesn't radically change in your household.

Domestic violence is a crime no matter which partner perpetrates it and that in itself is a huge issue. It would be interesting to go into your wife's background to see where she learned that such behaviour is acceptable. Then also to look into your own family of origin to try to discover where you learned that it was OK to take verbal and sometimes physical abuse without protest? But it cannot be allowed to continue.

You don't want your children to come from a broken home but it sounds like they already do, even though you are all living together. Ireland is part of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child which declares that children have the right to be protected and live free of violence, abuse or harm - and that is not happening in your home.

You need help so look on writing to me as the first step in a long quest for a solution. First, you need to re-establish your friendships because we all need friends, especially when things aren't going well. There probably is one particular guy that you were close to in the past, so make contact with him again and arrange to meet. You don't need to go into all the details straight away, but get back into the habit of meeting your friends.

You also need to visit your doctor and explain that because of family circumstances you are feeling depressed and ask the doctor's advice as to whether medication would help over a short period.

Then talk to your wife and tell her that you no longer can go on with this sham of a marriage which is outwardly perfect and inwardly very damaged. It may well be that separation is the answer, before one of you totally cracks. I appreciate that you would not be able to afford another house but others have faced that same problem and worked something out, such as living in the same house with separate lives and separate rooms. Or she may want to try counselling, but from what you say you are gone beyond that point as you have lost respect for her.

When you have decided what you are doing please find a therapist for yourself (try who will be able to support you through the coming months.

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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