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I'll always love you, but I'm worried about the mortgage.
June 12, 2012 5:57 AM   Subscribe

Is my depressed partner about to get fired? Can I help him improve work habits or fix the depression so as not be fired? And how can I cope with my worries about this (and consequently, our financial future) -and in particular, bring them up to him- without blaming him for his job uncertainty, implying that he's bad at his job, or increasing his depression?

Last year, my partner was fired from his job. I'm not exactly sure why, though I'm pretty sure it was performance-based. He'd been having to play catchup on a lot of projects, working overtime in order to get them done, and was choosing not to stay as late as he ordinarily would have. He was also often late or sleep-deprived when he got into work, for a variety of factors.

Fortunately, he was able to get a job again fairly shortly (he works in a very intellectually-demanding and much-in-demand field.) Things seemed to be going well for a few months, and he was very happy - but then the projects started piling up again, and work stress started to build. Multiple times, he's been unable to complete his work by his deadlines or has messed up on the work (usually probably from sleep deprivation.) He's also started to be less fussy about his professional appearance, and is more frequently late to work because of oversleeping, or not wanting to get up when the buzzer goes off. When he's made mistakes on the work, they've been pretty big careless ones, and the client has been unhappy, and the firm has looked bad. He also spends a lot of time on the internet, screwing around, or texting me, even when he's got major work he should be working on.

This is reminding me of what happened last time, and making me fairly worried. (Slightly similar to this AskMe, except that I'm not the person with the job, and things are actually going badly at work.)

He's not the sole source of income for our household - I make fairly good money - but we are not particularly frugal, and don't have a lot of savings to cushion the blow if he did in fact get fired. In addition, I've been spending a lot of money (both personal and household money) on ways for him not to be depressed - experiences, trips, etc. We've also been planning for some larger things - such as a bigger house - based on the expectation of our continued shared combined income.

(I know the MeFi answer is going to be: find him a therapist! But sadly, he is reluctant to get counseling, because he says it would take away from during-the-week work time and only compound the problem.)

Fears
1. I am afraid that he's going to get fired for a second time, and then I will be the only one supporting our family. I could do it for a while, but I guess what I'm /really/ afraid of is that this is a pattern, and it will keep continuing, and I'll never be able to feel secure in family life decisions based on a budget where his income is counted.

2. I'm afraid that he has an exaggerated belief in his own work competence, that he may actually not really be very good at his job, or maybe doesn't have very good work habits, or maybe simply isn't able to cope with depression and employment. From my managerial experience, combined with what he's told me about his behavior at work, I feel like he is probably a less-than ideal employee. So it's hard for me when he tells me that if he gets fired, he'll just snap up another job again and we'll be fine. Also, when we last discussed my fears, he got very insulted at the idea that he might not be very good at his job.

3. I also worry that he won't be able to ever hold a decent job, and I have some (partially gender-based) concerns around that, and how it will impact our relationship, and my ability to respect him as a co-provider.


Questions:
1) How do I know how likely it is that he will be fired? I've never been fired from a job, so I don't know what the bluster-and-yelling-to-actual-termination scale is.

2) How do I talk to him about this? When we talk about it, everything I say seems to come out wrong. We are usually very, very good communicators around emotional stuff, but somehow when it comes to finances and jobs and money, it all tanks.

3) What can I actually do? I tried suggesting a time we'd both go to sleep so he wouldn't be so tired at work, but he doesn't really hold to it. I'm already the one who keeps track of the alarm going off. I don't know what I can do, or even if it's my responsibility to do it.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (22 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
(I know the MeFi answer is going to be: find him a therapist! But sadly, he is reluctant to get counseling, because he says it would take away from during-the-week work time and only compound the problem.)

I think it's time for a little tough love; your partner's actions affect you and it's not your job to be his mother and make sure he goes to bed and wakes up on time.

Your partner needs to acknowledge that it's not fair to you to have to burden the responsibility of a job and the functional aspects of his life as well. If your partner feels they are unable to make the necessary changes on their own, they need to acknowledge that they need a little help and need to do the things to get it.

I'm not suggesting it's ultimatum time, but at least standing up and saying that his actions affect you and your relationship negatively are a step in the right direction and that getting fired again for tardiness/lack of quality work would be a major step in the wrong direction.
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 6:06 AM on June 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


He may need a number of things external to your love and support.

1. Getting some professional help, now. Counselor, psychologist, psychiatrist; start with his PCP and get a blood workup and someone to talk to. At least the blood work up to get to a start of eventually going to counseling; he might see that okay, thyroid is fine but he's not imagining these things.

2. Have him talk to his work, as well. Can he talk to them and tell them, hey, things are going yellow and I'd like to take stock of this and get some assistance before they hit red, how can we get them back to green?

I've seen situations at a largish company where people were having trouble and they approached with performance improvement plans. And those were used to help them improve and/or switch over to other positions (I know that's likely not an option here).

I've seen others go off the deep end (literally) when hit with a PIP and have to be escorted from the building, because they wouldn't accept help from work or from professionals. Just kept digging their hole deeper and deeper with the screwing around and missing deadlines and not making their cohort aware of needing some help.

I have trouble not farting around on the internet some days, major problems. I employ physical blockers (software) or psychological (timers, rewards for crossing x numbers of things off my list) but I wanted to do it and sought help to do so.

YOu can't make him want it, but you may need to be more firm about the consequences to you and your family if he lets his life spiral out more. Rodrigo said, you're not his mommy. I'm not my spouse's mommy, either, but I've done a few things to help some of the appearance situation - made room in the budget for dry cleaning (not traditional, the type that doesn't use tons of crappy earth killing chemicals). It's made a big dent in his appearance (client facing) and time spent dealing with folding and washing and ironing and such.

Maybe you can also walk him through an "ideal day" and help him with ideas he can implement to get it done (getting up and out by a certain time, back in bed for the night by a certain time). But he's got to want it - if you can present it as a way you guys can work together to help him get back on track rather than letting his failure snowball build up...
posted by tilde at 6:13 AM on June 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm so sorry - having experienced similar, I know this is hard.

Unfortunately, most of this is entirely out of your control.

You can't know if he's going to get fired. You can't get him to therapy (or even to bed at a reasonable hour) if he doesn't want to go.

All you can do is set your own limits of comfort and sanity. If you don't feel you have enough of a financial cushion -- stop spending and make sure you have your own safety net in place. Don't think of it as an "ultimatum" -- think of it as modeling responsible behavior -- either he figures it out and tries to make improvements, or he doesn't.

Then you decide what you can live with.
posted by pantarei70 at 6:14 AM on June 12, 2012 [6 favorites]


You've got the tail wagging the dog. You don't throw money at depression, you deal with it therapeutically.

First of all, get your partner to a doctor, he may need a combination of drugs, a CPAP machine and therapy.

Husbunny had a similar thing, missing one day of work per week. Then we got the CPAP and life is completely different.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:19 AM on June 12, 2012 [5 favorites]


But sadly, he is reluctant to get counseling, because he says it would take away from during-the-week work time and only compound the problem.

Yeah, reluctance to get help is a symptom. Therapy and medical attention may be the only thing that will save his ass in this job, by a) improving his performance, b) giving him a concrete talking point with his management ("I'm being treated now for sleep/whatever issues and intend to stay on top of that situation. I didn't realize how bad it was.").

There is no way for you to know if he's about to be fired, but if his performance issues have been noticed and commented on you need to assume he is on the bubble. It doesn't really matter how great he thinks he is at his job if the people above him don't agree.

You don't have to talk to him about his job specifically. Not being able to get up in the morning is a classic symptom of depression and/or a physical problem. Lack of energy and being easily distracted are also symptoms of something. Start there.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:44 AM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is your partner a "Yes-person" ? Always trying to please everyone? Never has the ability to say "No" or even: "I cannot possibly take on another task" ?

That's me. I'm learning, but it is still in my fundamental nature to say: "Yes I can" help out the team/project/etc.
posted by jkaczor at 6:45 AM on June 12, 2012


Oh... and being fired? It is going to happen to everyone at some-point - do not place much stigma on that.

But it does sound like he could use either theurapeutic help - possibly medication if he does not want to take the time to work on things with a traditional psychologist.
posted by jkaczor at 6:48 AM on June 12, 2012


He may have ADD or sleep apnea or just be a goof off. It sort of doesn't matter. You need to make therapy and medication an ultimatum. This situation will not improve without intervention, and if you are looking at this man as a life partner, it will not get better when you have (or financially, cannot have) children.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:43 AM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Stop with the spending and the experiences, start with a doctor for a full physical, books or classes about time management and life skills, couples therapy, vitamins, therapy for him - whatever you can think of - get assessed for sleep disorders, ADHD, start a meditation routine, exercise routine, yoga, cycling.....

Maybe he's gluten sensitive? I hear from friends and customers that have it, that it causes brain fog.

Make him take vitamins even if he won't do anything else at first. He might be open to fixing stuff if he's feeling better, the vitamins should help take the edge off of the sleep deprivation, which is likely clouding his judgement at this point.

Best.
posted by jbenben at 8:48 AM on June 12, 2012


It sounds like maybe you could use some counseling too? You're in a frustrating situation, compounded by the scary feeling that things that seriously affect your life are out of your control. And on top of that, you're worried about the future of your relationship ("what I'm really afraid of is that this is a pattern, and it will keep continuing, and I'll never be able to feel secure in family life decisions". . . "my ability to respect him as a co-provider"). A counselor can help you sort out your own feelings about this situation, help you set boundaries with your husband's behavior that are fair to both of you, and help you cope with the fears. It sounds like you're afraid your partner in life might be turning out to be an anchor rather than a team player; while I can't speak to whether that's true or not, it's a valid feeling that you might want some help to work through.
posted by vytae at 8:49 AM on June 12, 2012


1) How do I know how likely it is that he will be fired? I've never been fired from a job, so I don't know what the bluster-and-yelling-to-actual-termination scale is.

There's no way to predict this. Every place is different. Some people get fired completely out of the blue with no warning and even positive performance reviews, others are given multiple chances, put on probation, and such.

2) How do I talk to him about this? When we talk about it, everything I say seems to come out wrong. We are usually very, very good communicators around emotional stuff, but somehow when it comes to finances and jobs and money, it all tanks.

I'm guessing the emphasis on finances & his job rather than his health is what derails this conversation. It's not that they are not legitimate concerns or you should never address them, but try to have a conversation about this without bringing up his job or your finances. While using his job performance as evidence of a problem may seem like a good way to get through to him about his issues, it probably just shuts him down. It's unclear from your question if your partner admits he's depressed. I get the sense he does, and if so, it will be a lot easier to talk about your concern for his health. Why you can't control what the other person does, you do have a responsibility to one another to make your best effort to take care of yourselves. Maybe agreeing that ignoring health issues is not an option for either of you would get you some traction. tilde is right, he needs a physical with blood work to rule out any other conditions, and then he needs to make his way to a counselor and probably a psychiatrist. Pronounced depression like you are describing often requires medication, even if on a temporary basis.

3) What can I actually do? I tried suggesting a time we'd both go to sleep so he wouldn't be so tired at work, but he doesn't really hold to it. I'm already the one who keeps track of the alarm going off. I don't know what I can do, or even if it's my responsibility to do it.

It's your responsibility to love and support him, but you should not be required to parent him. It's one thing to help your partner with normal life tasks here & there, but if you juggle every ball he's in danger of dropping, he'll be able to persist without getting help or actually addressing his issues. Also, no one can keep that up indefinitely, and you'll begin to show signs of wear & tear. At times, depression makes even the simplest tasks (brushing your teeth, showering, household chores) seem overwhelming, which is difficult to fathom if you've never experienced it, but you cannot brush his teeth or shower for him. Making sure he has toothpaste, body wash & shampoo for the shower, and clean towels, however, makes those tasks that much easier. Small things that remove barriers and makes things easier is immensely helpful, but he needs to do certain these things for himself.

Also, depression usually makes it impossible to truly enjoy all those positive experiences & trips you've organized. Right now, I would say those experiences are wasted on both of you because of his depression and your stress. Hold off on any major purchases, like a new house, until he gets some help. While I wouldn't withhold love or affection from him, it sounds like he needs some tough love. I think there's a fine line between making a stance or issuing an ultimatum. Both are sometimes necessary, but I'd begin with some sort of declaration like, "I need you to go to the doctor and see a counselor, not just because I'm worried, but also because it is taking its toll on me." Offer to make the appointments (this is HUGE and could make all the difference in the world) and accompany him if he wants. If he starts to say it will make things at work worse, no it won't. It's a couple of hours out of his life that he would probably spend stressing about work and procrastinating. Doing nothing, however, will eventually undermine it all.

Lastly & most importantly, take care of you. Make sure your needs are being met and your life isn't solely about your partner. Eat properly, get enough sleep, and take some time for yourself, even if it is just a 15 minute walk or dinner with a friend. You should also consider seeing a counselor yourself. A therapist could provide perspective, offer support, and help you figure out some of these issues. Best of luck. All of this is solvable and it does get better, but your partner needs to make some concessions.
posted by katemcd at 9:01 AM on June 12, 2012


Sleep deprivation sucks. It's a symptom that becomes a cause. I've tried various different things (valerian, vitamins, 5-htp, melatonin, white noise, relaxation MP3s, etc.) with some success, but ultimately what helps is having some sort of interesting task to look forward to the next day. My brain just gets bored with tedious everyday stuff and craves constructive accomplishment.

(For instance, right now I am selling a bunch of stuff on craigslist. Checking on listings and arranging meetings and seeing how much money I can make off junk that was lying around is tremendously fascinating and has my brain very very happy.)

I'd suggest getting him involved in a team sport, or seeing what he can do to provide a sense of accomplishment in his everyday life. Stay away from video games or anything not in the real world. Is there an area of the house he finds satisfying to clean or fix up? Do you have a garden to work in? The hard part is he needs to want the accomplishment of a task done and not think of it as a boring chore. (I confess, sometimes I clean the bathroom because it is a reward to go from dirty and gross to clean and shiny. It's an easy, fast task with visible, appreciable results. Life and work doesn't always have that instant gratification.)

This is a big, multifaceted problem, and ultimately your spouse is responsible for getting his head in the game. He really needs to be committed to helping himself get out of this rut. But if he is committed, there are a lot of resources (books, therapy, etc.) available and a lot of things he can try. This is a pretty good book, for instance. If he's willing to spend a few bucks and put in a couple of hours looking through the self help section of amazon, he can get a big stack of materials targeted to his issues and delivered to him. Sometimes just feeling like you are taking action against the problem is a help, moreso than the book content.

What you need to do (besides being supportive, which it sounds like you already are) is figure out where your limits are, if he can't get his head out of the maze. Maybe some help for yourself is in order?
posted by griselda at 10:52 AM on June 12, 2012


You can't make him get help or address the underlying issues. But you can do is work out where your boundaries are in terms of how much or how long you would be willing to support him or what non-financial contribution you expect him to make to your joint life that would make it equitable for you. The other thing you can do is limit your financial commitments to a level you can sustain alone for a while. Don't enter any new financial commitments, park the extension or the new house and any other large investments you had planned. Secondly you can cut back on your general expenditure - he doesn't need excursions, he needs therapy. Save that money to build up your safety net to calm your nerves.
posted by koahiatamadl at 11:31 AM on June 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


possibly medication if he does not want to take the time to work on things with a traditional psychologist


I would caution against the idea of "just throwing meds" at the problem. While finding the "right" med can help, in my limited experience there seems to be a need for a guiding hand through finding the right med combo, both at a professional, internal, and external level. Professional to "hear" what's going on, "internal" to be able to express how Med A or B is affecting him, and "external" to also listen and watch out for red flags of the meds making things worse/not better/the same.
posted by tilde at 11:42 AM on June 12, 2012


I would also second professional help.

In the meantime, I would point out that dealing with depression doesn't have to cost money. The single most effective non-drug coping mechanism for depression is exercise: going for a walk, riding a bike, running up and down the stairs.
posted by jb at 12:52 PM on June 12, 2012


YMMV of course, but getting an official diagnosis for a condition and taking steps to treat it makes it much harder for a person to get fired in the US. If there is a threat of him being fired, he can certainly bring in a note from his doctor saying that he has X diagnosis and is doing Y to treat it. I believe he would then be protected under the ADA, as long as there is some type of accomodation that can help him do his job.
posted by bendy at 12:54 PM on June 12, 2012


I'm going to go against the grain and say yes - if your husband is saying that he's messing up his work and the clients are unhappy, this WILL lead to getting fired. Maybe not tomorrow or next month, but it will happen.

Getting fired ONCE is not a stigma....but getting fired almost immediately from your very next job, for the very same reasons will make you less appealing to future employers.

I think the problem is definitely that he feels he's a superb worker and, essentially, "everything will be fine." Who cares if he goofs off at work? He'll get another job if he's fired. And if he doesn't, well, you're paying for stuff, right?

So my advice is - cut him off. It sounds like you're still paying his way, and he feels no ramifications for his goofing off. You take him on trips with your money, you look into houses with (mostly) your money, why should he bother? So stop.


Start saving the money you used on him for you. Trips to help you relax.

Stop looking for bigger houses. If he brings up house-hunting, bluntly say that the savings are there, and you're not sure if the monthly income is there. If he throws back the combined monthly income you two have, look at what you've brought in together in the last few years (which would include the time he was unemployed).

I know everyone will say, "get him to a therapist!" but adults don't go to therapists unless they feel a need, and your husband doesn't seem to feel a need. Maybe putting down hard lines ("look, your inability to securely hold down a job is costing us this house we wanted") may give him that need.
posted by Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth at 2:16 PM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


(say the savings aren't there. d'oh)
posted by Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth at 2:17 PM on June 12, 2012


In the meantime, I would point out that dealing with depression doesn't have to cost money. The single most effective non-drug coping mechanism for depression is exercise: going for a walk, riding a bike, running up and down the stairs.

Not all studies support this. I know that one study either way ain't shit, but I think it's very easy for people who aren't depressed, or who have experienced transient/situational depression, to give relatively flip advice about the "single most effective" way to handle it.

The reality (f your husband is depressed, and we can't really know based on just this post) is that depression is complicated and in some respects intractable, in that after this crisis is resolved--and for the rest of his life--he will be a person who is liable to slip back into functioning-less-well, and both you and he will need to be vigilant. If his professional competence and earning potential are going to make or break your relationship, you should get out before you're too entangled and look for someone who is a better match.
posted by pullayup at 2:43 PM on June 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


"I've been spending a lot of money (both personal and household money) on ways for him not to be depressed - experiences, trips, etc. "

Having been in the same boat as your husband, don't be doing this. It doesn't help the problem, and does lead to bigger ones. Not having savings leads to more stress which will make his problems even bigger, the fun trips and play time memories will not alleviate that.

You can make good memories for little to no money.

I only managed to dig myself out of issues with therapy and time. Even if you got his butt into therapy tomorrow it's not an overnight fix, and if your concerns about his work turn out to be real you'll still need a short term back-up plan.
posted by Dynex at 3:52 PM on June 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Dynex and pullayup just said exactly what I wanted to say. I'd add that the right medication can be transformative for both of you. MefiMail me for more if you want.
posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy at 5:57 PM on June 12, 2012


Seperate your finances now, talk to a lawyer and prepare yourself to be able to leave him if he continues this downward spiral. He is the only person that can save himself, like a drowning person he will pull you under in desperation, and after drowning you he will still drown himself. You are far too concerned about not hurting his feelings; you need to prioritise yourself. Stop being his mother and enforce consequences. I am sorry, it is a horrible situation to be in.
posted by saucysault at 11:14 PM on June 12, 2012


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