Caroline West-Meads: ‘I want much more from life than he does’

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Q. I am in my late 30s with two young sons and have been with my husband for ten years. I’ve always been a free spirit and when we first met he had a similar mindset. Now, though, he’s happy to just stay in all the time, drink beer, watch TV and do nothing with his life apart from work (he has a demanding job with long hours). He has no hobbies and doesn’t see his friends much, but he is content with this lifestyle.

I want to do more, so we have separate lives where I do things with the children and my friends and he stays at home. I feel we’re not compatible now and worry that if it wasn’t for the children I wouldn’t stay with him. He is a kind, loyal, decent man, and I go from wanting to leave him to deciding to stay because he’s my rock. I’ve approached him about counselling but he says he’ll start to do more things with us. Then after a week or two, it’s back to his old ways. I don’t know what to do. I feel so torn.

A. I hope this marriage can be saved, but sadly, in its current state, it is in danger. You say your husband is a decent man and, of course, he is the father of your children, so you feel it would be wrong to leave him. However, I’m sure you must feel like screaming with frustration and loneliness. It is also not fair that he leaves the upbringing of the children to you – and your sons must notice the lack of their father’s involvement in their lives. They could well end up experiencing this as rejection.

I wonder why he has changed so much since you first met. Is he exhausted from his job? When you say he drinks beer, is that in moderation or could his alcohol consumption be making him listless? Usually such little drive could suggest depression, but you say that he is content with his lifestyle. You, however, are clearly very unhappy – and therefore something has to change. I’m guessing you feel that he has stopped noticing you. I wonder if he is aware of how deeply unhappy you are. It is important that you communicate this to him, so tell him gently – but clearly and firmly – how you feel and that unless he goes to counselling with you, you are not sure that your marriage can survive.

The reality is that if things continue like this, your resentment is likely to increase and his emotional distance will drive you away – or into the arms of a lover who makes you feel alive again. Few people set out to fall in love with someone outside their relationship; mostly it happens when people, like you, are screaming inwardly. If he will not agree to counselling, go alone to help you decide what to do – try relate.org.uk or bacp.co.uk. Whether the marriage can be saved or you decide to end it, you will need support.

‘Why is she so rude and judgemental?’

Q. A close relative often gets the wrong end of the stick about matters in our family – then takes offence at an imaginary situation. She proceeds to message whoever she considers to be the instigator, in very unpleasant terms. If you reply telling her she has misunderstood and that her message is very hurtful and upsetting, she neither apologises nor backs down but rubs it in more. She has strong opinions and is very vocal about them while being totally intolerant and judgmental of others. We are constantly walking on eggshells. We are close to her husband, but we just don’t know how to cope with her.

A. Unfortunately, some people are determined to take offence or be difficult. If she wasn’t a family member, I would advise cutting her and her toxic presence out. However, as you don’t want to upset her husband and she is unlikely to change, all you can do is manage your reactions to her. If she sends horrid messages, either don’t reply or say that you’re sorry she’s upset but that no offence was intended. Don’t over-apologise as she only sees her own agenda. If she replies, just ignore it. She will have nowhere to go if she doesn’t get a response.

The next time you see her, be charming. Her controlling behaviour could suggest mental health issues. Try to talk to her husband gently and tactfully. If he also finds her difficult, it might pave the way for him to stand up to her or to get help or counselling if he feels he needs it.

Find more of Caroline’s advice here