“My husband and I hardly get to see one another these days as he works such long hours. When we do manage to carve out a little time to be together, we just end up either shouting at one another or ignoring each other.
“I think the arguing all stems from the fact that I have started to train to be an accountant. Before we married, I worked in the accounts department of a large firm and I loved it. I stopped working for five years when the children were babies and I don’t regret that at all, but now they’re at school and nursery, I decided I wanted more.
“I can fit the course in around the time I have on my own, but it does mean I’ve stopped doing as much cooking and household stuff. Everything gets done but perhaps not to the same level as before. The qualification will mean a really rewarding career and you’d have thought that my husband would be happy for me. Instead, all he does is criticise and undermine my confidence. I’ve had two sessions where I’ve had to go away for a couple of days, and he got really aggressive and angry about it.
“I’ve tried several times to get him to talk about this but he ignores me. He’s definitely changed and when I suggested this to him it sparked a furious row, in which I finally said that perhaps we should separate. He ignored this too and now I don’t know where we stand. He continues to snipe at me but when I try to address the problem, he sticks his head in the sand. What’s the matter with him?”
“It sounds as if your husband feels threatened by what you’re doing and, through his unpleasant behaviour, is trying to make you give up. He probably doesn’t even fully understand why he’s doing it. You say he’s changed, but so have you. You’ve become more ambitious and you’ve taken steps to realise your potential. You’re also showing signs of becoming less dependent on him. Over the past few years, with you being at home with the children, he’s been able to adopt a very traditional role, and with your, and the children’s, increasing independence, that role has changed.
“He’s having to face up to these changes and he’s not coping with it very well. He’s also probably realised that he’s going to have to face the very real possibility of his wife earning more than he does. For someone who’s been used to the traditional male role (however outdated that may seem), he’s perhaps finding it all very hard to take. Lashing out, either verbally or physically, is entirely unacceptable though and thank goodness we live in an age where women can fulfil their potential. He needs to realise we live in the 21st century and that this behaviour cannot continue.
“You’ve tried the confrontational route – which hasn’t worked – so, if you want to try and save your marriage, you need to find another way to reach him. Choose your moment then start talking. Talk calmly and tell him that you realise the changes you are going through are possibly hard for him. Tell him how important this is to you and how much you’d value his support to do it. Ask him what he needs from you in order to make this happen – it might be something very much simpler than you expect; perhaps reassurance that you still love him.
“Hopefully, this will be the start of a calm and measured conversation in which you can both say how you feel without losing your tempers. If he’s prepared to meet you halfway, then hopefully there is a chance you can make your marriage work. You have children together so it would be a shame not to try and work on things. If he continues to be aggressive and angry with you all the time though, that’s a toxic mix for your children to grow up in and so, perhaps, a separation is the only way forward.”
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