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Vanessa,LMHC, Therapist
Category: Relationship
Satisfied Customers: 30
Experience:  Licensed Mental Health Counselor
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My husband and I have been together 20 years. We have 2

Customer Question

My husband and I have been together for almost 20 years. We have 2 children ages 7 & 10. I have always been a very positive, upbeat, social and optimistic person who feels that life should be lived to the fullest. My husband is very opposite as he tends to be more introverted, negative, judgmental and pessimistic. Somehow we have always seemed to balance each other and our relationship seems to work.
After working for several years I decided to leave my job which was very hard and stressful. During that time I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer and my treatment was very aggressive (5 surgeries, chemo, radiation, ovaries removed (putting me into early menopause at the age of 36) and so on. This experience has of course changed me, how could it not? I always knew that I wanted to go back to work and I'm very conscious to avoid negative stressful situations and "toxic" people, especially after what I've gone through. 2 years ago I was fortunate enough to find my dream job! I absolutely love what I do and have never been happier. I'm able to do more with my kids as well as provide for the family quite nicely. My husband on the other hand has been self-employed for many years and is at a point where he hates going to work. When he gets home from work all I hear is negative and complaining. I try to be supportive but I'm at a point where it is becoming increasingly difficult to listen to. This has increased quit a bit since he turned 40! Depression and selfish behavior tend to run in his family. I have actually suggested he speak with someone which may help. He of course has refused time and time again saying he is fine.
I on the other hand have been given amazing opportunities which also benefits our family, including all expense paid vacations. It also involves attending many events, including red carpet/black tie galas. I of course want him by my side at these events however he feels very uncomfortable and always feels he is "out of his league". I let him choose whether or not he would like to attend now as I don't want him to feel uncomfortable and miserable. On the other hand, he doesn't want me to attend all of these events and simply doesn't understand that it is all part of my job. He feels that if he is not going then his wife shouldn't go either. I don't feel that this is fair! Does it make me a bad wife that I go? Does it make him selfish not wanting to go himself therefore feels I shouldn't either? I don't know anymore!
My kids say that life was good before but has gotten so much better since I started working again but my husband says he "liked it better when I was home and not working". After what I've gone through it has changed me and I feel for the better. I try to explain to him that he can't understand as he wasn't the one with cancer (which he doesn't even want mentioned much since I finished treatment...this bothers me). Life is simply too short not to do the things you want to do (within reason of course). I have recently been given an incredible opportunity to attend a charity event over seas (charity work is 90% of my job hence all the events I attend). I will be gone for 2 days! I asked him if he would mind if I went and he said no and that it was a great opportunity. However, now that I am about to go he tells me that he doesn't feel that I should have said "yes" and if it were him he wouldn't have gone. Now, if he was given an invite or opportunity to do something like this I would be incredibly happy and excited for him and would encourage him to go. I would never want to hold him back from doing something he really wants to do.
I've suggested couples therapy but again...he refuses and doesn't feel it's necessary. I'm at a point that I really need an "outside" perspective. Please help!
Sincerely, ***** ***** Frustrated
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Relationship
Expert:  Vanessa,LMHC replied 1 year ago.

Hello, what conflicting emotions you must be experiencing! Thank you for sharing the details of your situation. It sounds like it must be difficult to find common ground with your husband since you seem to be appreciative of life and fulfilled whereas he must be out of touch with the fact that life itself is a blessing/miracle/gift. First and foremost, you won't be able to do the work that he needs to do to grow. He would likely benefit from counseling but until he decides to take the step, you won't be able to make him. This is a difficult thing to do in a marriage, to refrain from focusing on trying to help your spouse when you can see clearly that they need the help but they are less inclined to help themselves. Encouragement is one thing but be mindful if you start to "nag" him about the need to get help because it could have the opposite effect. You should not feel guilty for wanting to attend the events and opportunities related to your work. If you avoid them, you will risk growing increasingly resentful and conflicts in the marriage could result. Communicate how you feel but don't let his reaction draw you into a situation where you feel guilty. That could potentially border on emotional manipulation. You two have a lot of years together and if he truly loves you and wants the marriage to work, he will want you happy and fulfilled despite how he feels. You two sound as if your personalities are different yet you've been able to make the marriage work for almost twenty years. That most certainly means you both have been doing something right!​ I suggest open, respectful communication regarding how you feel. You can at least let him know how you feel (such as "this is important to me") and can invite him to express his feelings as well while working to refrain from letting them control your actions. If there are any common interests/activities you both have in common, perhaps making time for those can give you two time to connect. I would agree that forcing him to go to work-related events would not be overly wise but choosing to go yourself would be if you desire to do so since it is important to you and your work and is not harmful or negative. Sometimes, when someone is unhappy or unenthused with life they have a difficult time dealing with the fact that their spouse/significant other is happier/more fulfilled. You deserve to be happy, especially considering that you've beaten the odds by overcoming cancer. Hopefully since you cannot discuss your feelings about cancer survival openly with your husband, you have other people, such as friends and/or family, to do so with. It's okay to set boundaries in a relationship if they are healthy. Letting your husband know what you are okay and not okay with, for example" "I'm okay with you choosing not to go but I am not okay with staying home." Also be mindful to refrain from blame statements when communicating your feelings, such as by stating only how you feel with use of "I" statements, as this can be helpful in avoiding an argument. You probably have changed considering what you've experienced. Life and people are always changing. Marriage takes work and your husband will need to respect that you are choosing to live life rather than avoid living it. You both have at least 2 very important reasons to keep working at it, your children. I wish you all the best! Thank you.

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