Caroline West-Meads: He’s selfish and I want to leave him

Caroline West-Meads
Chris O’Donovan

Q. My husband is not the man I married and we are increasingly living separate lives in the same house. We have two children aged ten and six, and the problems seemed to start when our youngest was born. We were both in our 40s – though my husband is eight years older – and were traumatised by the difficult delivery. I was exhausted and our physical relationship suffered. But he’s never made an attempt to get the spark back. When I’ve tried to talk about it or suggested a night away, he says he’s tired. He goes to bed at 8pm and watches TV on his iPad so I spend most evenings alone. We do nothing as a couple and rarely go out as a family. He didn’t come on holiday with us last year. When we first met, he had an interesting life and he involved me in his world, but over the years our views have diverged and we now have heated arguments over politics. He doesn’t care about my concerns, such as our children’s school. He has also become self-centred. If I talk to him about my day or how I’m feeling, he turns the conversation to himself. I have told him it upsets me, but he hates being criticised and it leads to an argument. I can’t bear the thought of breaking up my family (and we would struggle financially), but I hate to think what my husband might be like in ten or 20 years’ time. I don’t want to hurt him, and am conscious that his childhood was difficult, but I’m not sure we’re right for each other.

A. You must be feeling very neglected, as your husband sadly takes no interest in you emotionally or sexually. He, indeed, sounds self-centred so it is not surprising you feel hurt when he doesn’t even come on holiday with you. You say he had a difficult childhood. If he was able and willing to explore this through counselling and understand that perhaps this contributes to how he behaves, and how much this hurts you, there might be a chance that things could improve. However, he shouldn’t be allowed to hide behind his difficult childhood. It doesn’t give him the right to have things entirely his own way. But what worries me is how uninterested he is in your children. They must find him a cold and distant father. It is probably also hard (though not impossible) to be married to someone with an entirely different political viewpoint. It does sound as though your love for him has died, which is not surprising as you are getting nothing back. You need counselling, ideally together, but I suspect he would refuse. So go on your own to help you decide what to do – sadly, I think this will be to end the marriage. You will need support and help in that decision. He may even object to you seeking counselling, but be strong, tell him how unhappy you are and that unless things change, you don’t see a future for this marriage. Contact Relate (relate.org.uk) or the College of Sexual and Relationship Therapists (cosrt.org.uk).

Working from home has made me lazy and depressed

Q. I’m a woman in my late 40s, divorced, with a grown-up daughter who lives with her boyfriend. I know that I am lucky to have a job but I’m finding it a struggle to feel motivated. Like others, I’ve been working from home for nearly a year but I’ve been getting up later and instead of showering and being ready for work I slob on the sofa in my dressing gown with my laptop. Often I don’t change until the afternoon and rarely leave the house. I’m just about keeping my job together because I work into the evenings, but hardly exercise and I have put on weight. Friends have suggested walks but I’ve said I’m too busy working. How can I get out of this rut? I feel depressed and useless.

A. You are not at all useless, but, yes, I think you are depressed – as well as lonely, anxious and bored. The pressure on us all has been relentless and it is especially hard for those who live alone. You need to be gentle with yourself, not heaping on blame and guilt, but be more strict in regards to routine. If you can, take a break from work for a week, but don’t stay in bed. Set an alarm for 8am and force yourself to get up and go for a walk first thing. Make yourself ring one friend every day to talk (and go for a walk with one of them). Spend your week at home seeking out fun and new challenges – dance wildly in the kitchen, listen to intellectually challenging podcasts or sing loudly while you clean one room in your house so thoroughly that it is a pleasure to be in. Read books. The idea is to break the pattern and set a healthier routine until things get easier.