Saturday 25 November 2017

Dear Patricia: I suspect my husband played away and now he wants a job back on the road

Patricia Redlich

QI'M feeling a bit desperate at the moment. My husband, I think, is depressed. Two years ago, he was made redundant from a job he'd had for more than 20 years. It involved being away from home on a regular basis, and he really loved it. Almost immediately he got another job, where he's based at home, so the problem is not unemployment. He hates it, and moans about it non-stop. I dread ringing him because I just get doom and gloom. Even going on holidays has lost all its joy because he moans almost from day one about having to go back.

He does have an option of a different job, but that would involve him being away from home for long periods and would basically mean me being on my own -- something I put up with for more than 20 years and don't really want to face again. During those years, I have had reason to suspect my husband of playing away. A couple of years ago, I found texts on his phone to another woman. We got over that, but I'm still broken-hearted thinking about it.

We have two teenage daughters who are good and thoughtful and never cost us any worry. When things get really bad, my husband won't talk to me, or to them. They, in turn, refuse to humour him, and tell me not to. But I'm always pussy-footing around him, just to keep the peace. I know I shouldn't. My husband is bullying me emotionally. But I just don't know what to do.

I'm 50, and from the outside, we look like we have it all. I sometimes feel like ending it all. I've never found it easy to make friends and I feel I'll have nobody if he leaves me. How can I learn to handle my marriage?

Patricia replies:

YOU don't need to learn how to handle your marriage -- well, it's certainly not your first task anyway. You need to learn how to handle yourself.

I salute your honesty. Now look at what you've told me. You live in daily terror that your husband will leave you. That's not about him, although undoubtedly he's playing on your vulnerability. It's about you.

Your self-esteem is at rock-bottom. Your emotional independence is non-existent. You truly believe your very survival depends on your husband's presence. Worse, you don't feel you can make it even with him around. You're so fearful you feel you should perhaps end it all before disaster strikes. Isn't that truly shocking and seriously sad? What an impossibly hard time you've had all your life. And wouldn't you wonder what messages were signalled to you as a young girl growing up, which left you so lost?

Let me tell you the good news. This isn't about your husband. The focus on him is misplaced. This is about the belief system which you developed about yourself since childhood. This is about the thoughts that constantly circle in your brain, ideas of worthlessness, the sense of uselessness, the notion that there is nothing you can do to make yourself safe.

You've clearly always felt like that. So when the opportunity arose, and he had to change jobs, you latched on to the opportunity of binding your husband close. This has clearly backfired. His constant whingeing over the past two years has simply left you feeling even more vulnerable.

Just for the record, your husband isn't depressed. He's pissed off. Instead of standing on his own two bullying feet, he's played the passive game, and failed to go for the job with travel. Maybe, deep down, he wasn't sure it would work out. Maybe he's scared of it, and just using your opposition as an excuse. Who knows?

What we do know is that he's stayed, and is punishing you for that decision, making it sound like all his unhappiness is down to you. Let him off. Tell him to take the job he wants, and do so with a big smile. The current situation is intolerable -- for you, I mean. Yes, I know you're worried about him playing away. But he could do that down the nearest cul-de-sac. And then tell you it was all your fault because you deprived him of the job of his dreams!

Then go to a counsellor and deal with your sense of helplessness. Word of mouth is always best in finding someone. If you wish, use the excuse of menopause and your need to get some support. That's sort of universal, isn't it?

The point is, you need help in facing the fact that your insecurity has nothing to do with your husband and everything to do with the picture you have of yourself. And no, that's not a statement of blame. You are the way you are because it was the best you could do with the emotional material your upbringing gave you.

Now you're older and wiser and -- although it doesn't feel like that right now -- more courageous. The big step is always admitting there's a problem. You've done that. Now tackle it, privately, without telling anyone. It will be your private time, for you. Believe me, the very fact that you do that will subtly, but fundamentally, change the dynamic between you and your husband. Not to mention the shock he'll get when he's told he should take that job.

Sunday Independent

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