Life

Ask Fiona: My husband thinks our marriage is over because he's lost his job

Columnist and trained counsellor Fiona Caine advises a woman whose husband is dealing with redundancy and another feeling bored with life and not sure what to do

Unemployment can cause anxiety and a sense of hopelessness in men

I KNOW a lot of people are going to be in the same boat as me but I'm desperate to find a solution to my problem. My husband was working through most of lockdown for his company and we thought that would have been rewarded, but instead he has just been made redundant.

He was working so hard too, but they say that in the current economic climate, cuts have to be made. Because he was always working, I quite welcomed the news at first and, in some funny way, I thought this would bring us closer together. Instead I'm alarmed that it seems to be having the opposite effect. He is moody, irritable and loses his temper for no reason at all.

Yesterday he told me he believes our marriage is now over because there is no way I will want to be with him anymore. He even packed a bag for me and told me to call my mother! I can't stand the tension this has created and wish things could go back to the way they were. I know money is going to be tight, but why can't he see that I love him and that we have a better chance of dealing with this if we work together?

MS

FIONA SAYS: You are right in thinking a great many people are, unfortunately, going to be in the same position as you and your husband. The economic ramifications of this extended lockdown are going to be devastating for a great many people, emotionally as well as financially.

Your husband's current behaviour is erratic and although it's hurtful, I am sure this is just part of the depression and anxiety is he feeling about losing his job.

Many people link their self-worth to their income and, generally speaking, men experience this more than women. They see their worth in a marriage as revolving around their ability to work and provide a secure home for their family. Take away the job and it easy to see why some men then think they have failed. In your husband's case, this has left a huge dent in his self-esteem and created in him the anxiety that you are going to leave him.

That's clearly not how you feel and even if you've told him, I suspect that right now, what you say to him isn't getting through very clearly.

He is going to need a lot of reassurance but there may well have to be tough love too. Finding a new job may not be easy but it's not necessarily impossible. He needs to make sure his CV is up to date, and he needs to take stock of all his skills and experiences because you never know what might be useful now. Things that have perhaps just been hobbies for some people could become their new career, and you need to encourage him to think outside the box.

You are quite right in thinking the two of you have a better chance of dealing with this if you work together.

If he suggests again that you're ‘obviously' going to leave him, you need to tell him that it's not going to happen, so he may as well get used to the idea.

I would encourage him to speak to his GP for help with the depression he is going through, before it gets on top of him. Make sure you tell him, regularly, that you love him and remind him of the old adage that it's his job that's been made redundant, not him. Tell him that you believe you can get through this, maybe not with the life you had before, but with a new one. Who knows – that new one might be even better and perhaps you will, at least, be able to spend more time together.

The Government website (gov.uk) has a whole section on redundancy, which he should check out. He should definitely contact the Jobcentre Plus Rapid Response Service, which can help him in a number of ways.

Finally, if he needs help to talk, do contact Relate (relate.org.uk), who can help him to find ways of expressing his feelings.

I FEEL BORED AND UNFULFILLED

I AM 50 this year, with a secure job and a lovely family. I've been able to work part-time through lockdown, thanks to my employer being very flexible about my job. The thing is though, this pandemic has given me time to think and I've realised that, quite honestly, I'm unfulfilled.

My job is quite frankly boring and at my age, I should be feeling as though I have achieved something but, to be honest, I just feel empty. Everything is becoming a chore and I feel as though I'm on some sort of treadmill, heading downhill towards retirement, then extinction.

I tried talking to my husband about it be he said he thinks we just need a holiday. It's true that we haven't had one for over two years now, but I can't believe that's all it will take to make me feel better again. Do you think he's right – do I just need a break?

TH

FIONA SAYS: Economically, leaving your job right now would be quite a risk. Unemployment is almost certainly going to be high for some time, so I'd encourage you not to make any sudden, rash decisions without thinking it through carefully.

It's quite possible your husband is right and a holiday – perhaps even an extended one – might be all you need to make you feel better about yourself and what you do. We all need a break from our routines for leisure and to re-charge batteries, so if you haven't had a break of any sort in two years, I am not surprised that you are feeling a bit down. Constant work – with no reward other than money – would wear anybody down, so if you can take a holiday, I'd suggest you do so.

Talk to your husband and explain that you want time away to think. Ideally do something active but very different from the norm – hire a boat, organise a walking or cycling tour – and try to make sure it's for two weeks at least – you won't unwind otherwise.

If a long break isn't possible right now, then at least take a short break. It doesn't need to be expensive – two nights in a B&B on the coast could be all you need to break the sense of routine. You may not have unwound as well, but it should give you a chance to think differently and give you a break in routine.

You've many more years of work ahead of you before you're eligible for your state pension, but if you want to do something different, you're probably at about the right age to do so. If you want to consider starting your own business or giving up work altogether, make sure your finances are in order. You need to be sure your husband and family are on-side with your ideas, especially if money is an issue. Also, could you speak to your employer? They might be willing to give you a leave of absence for a few months, or to allow you to work part-time. This would certainly be a buffer for you and if they are struggling at the moment, they might welcome this flexibility.

Be under no illusions that it's going to be easy, but if a radical shake-up is what you need, then maybe this is the time to do it. The world is certainly not going to be like it was for some considerable time to come. A lot of people are going to have to find new ways of living and working so there could be opportunities that you've never before considered.

MY FRIEND HAS CUT ME OFF AFTER I PRAISED HER BOYFRIEND

MY best friend has been living with her boyfriend for the past five years, but when I said recently that I liked him, she cut me off completely. She won't answer her phone or return my messages.

I didn't mean I had feelings for her boyfriend – I only meant he's a nice person and fun to be with. I miss her – and him – very much and I wish I could put things right as they both means so much to me.

MB

FIONA SAYS: It sounds as if your friend is feeling very vulnerable about her relationship with her boyfriend, for some reason, and I suspect your comment hit a nerve. Maybe her boyfriend had said something similar about you, and she put two and two together to make five.

While I can see no real harm in what you said, it might have been better to say how much you like them both, rather than singling him out. Having said that, I think your friend's reaction is a bit over the top. Message her again and explain, as you have to me, that you like them both and meant nothing more than that you liked him as a friend.

If she still won't talk to you then she's really not the good friend you think she is and, sadly, you may have to face the fact that your friendship is over, at least for now. In time, she may realise that the problem is with her own lack of security and nothing to do with you at all.

HOW DO I DONATE MY BODY TO SCIENCE?

I AM now in my 70s and am determined that my body should be donated to medical science or research once I die. My husband is less keen on the idea but recognises that it is my choice. It seems like an obvious question – but how do I go about it?

WU

FIONA SAYS: Donating your body to science isn't as straightforward as you might think. With organ and tissue donation it's more simple, but with whole body donation for research, only you can give consent, which you'll need to do now. You will need to have contacted a local medical school directly, well in advance of your death, to ensure that they will accept you as a potential body donor. You have to enter into a written agreement with them that has to be signed and witnessed and you really, really need to talk to your family and friends, and inform your GP of your decision.

Be aware that this may be very difficult for them and if you die before your husband, he may be very uncomfortable with the idea, so you really do need to get him onside with your wishes. A medical school can keep a donated body for up to three, years after which it is disposed of. If at that point your family want a funeral then they should make this clear at the outset.

Finally, although it seems counter-intuitive, once you are signed up, don't carry an organ donor card. If your organs have been taken, the medical school are unlikely to want the body. For those living in England and Wales, this means ‘opting out' from the NHS Organ Donor Register.

If you have a problem you need help with, email Fiona by writing to help@askfiona.net 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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