Dear Fiona: My husband has been miserable since losing his job and he’s driving me away

31 March 2022

The problem…

“Covid took a big toll on my husband’s company, but when we first heard he might lose his job, I really wasn’t too worried. He’s 58 and has worked long hours all our marriage, so I thought it would be a good chance for us to spend more time together and get closer to one another again. Instead, the opposite seems to have happened.

“He’s got so bad tempered and loses his rag over the slightest thing. He grumbles about everything and when he gets really down in the dumps, he says I may as well pack my bags and leave because he can’t afford to support me. I don’t need his financial support – I run my own company, which has actually done really well during lockdown – and while I’m not wealthy, it will support us both.

“I hate this tension between us though and I am beginning to wonder if he is right. Maybe he wants me to leave him but doesn’t know how to tell me. I would have thought that coping with this together, in spite of having less money, is better than trying to cope alone. Why can’t he see this? I really love him, but he is driving me away.”

Fiona says…

“I suspect your husband may well be very depressed. He obviously invested a lot more of himself in his job than you appreciated and losing it has dealt a real blow to his confidence. The fact that your business is doing so well and that you could afford to support him may be making him feeI even worse. I am sure he doesn’t really want you to leave him, but it’s his way of saying, ‘I feel worthless’.

“Although he is saying you should go, if you were to leave, that would almost certainly just make him feel he was right. It’s quite an old-fashioned view that it’s a man’s role and duty to work and provide security for their wife and family. Perhaps your husband is a bit of a traditionalist, but perhaps you could encourage him to realise that in many relationships these days, there is a lot more give and take.

“It’s certainly not always the husband who is the main ‘breadwinner’ – in many relationships, a woman has that role. What’s more, it can change with time. But, for traditionalists, as your husband seems to be, if you take away their job, they think they have failed.

“He will need a lot of reassurance from you that you love him. If you can manage to convince him of this and show him that you want to work through the problems with him, it may be enough to bring him out of his current state of insecurity.

“If he can’t or won’t open up, you may also find it helpful to ask your doctor to refer you for counselling. If he is seriously depressed though he may need medical help – again, your doctor is the person to advise.”

If you have a problem you need help with, email Fiona by writing to [email protected] for advice. All letters are treated in complete confidence and, to protect this privacy, Fiona is unable to pass on your messages to other readers. Fiona regrets that she cannot enter into personal correspondence.

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