Healing from financial betrayal
December 11, 2017 11:45 PM   Subscribe

So I'm not sure what to call it exactly. Maybe financial betrayal is the wrong term. My spouse spent a long time unemployed, not actively looking, despite being treated for depression, and it's made money a bigger deal than I would like. I want to be supportive but find myself resentful. Help me find my balance here.

So my spouse was out of work for about 2 years, and I had to take on extra jobs. We are getting out of the worst of it - yay! But my fear remains, because he showed me that when the going gets tough he will not rise to the challenge which is, honestly, pretty terrifying.

During that time he escaped into hobbies rather than facing the issue by seeking extra resources to help him find work, etc. Tonight he talked about getting a second job somewhere affiliated with his hobbies.

I don't know which end is up here, what's reasonable for me to expect, etc. So I'm seeking outside feedback. I hear people talk about being supportive, but I feel like he actually wants enabling. I did not have a good initial reaction to the idea. He thinks I'm being hurtful when I feel like I'm talking about my own pain, and not protecting him from the consequences of his choices.

He thinks I'm hanging onto the past and can't let things be good. I think I'm shell shocked by the hobby obsession, and afraid that he won't prioritize providing over hobbies (by, for example, taking said job at a low rate of pay because he enjoys the work, even though he has lots of pre-marriage debt that he is responsible for, rather than taking a better paying opportunity until the debt is more manageable).

I feel polarized into a reluctant breadwinner position because providing doesn't seem important enough to him to work at and do what's hard. (He got the current job through my own effort.) He has ADHD and depression but I find myself feeling like he uses those things to make excuses sometimes. Then I feel like an awful person for thinking that way.

So what is reasonable here? I don't want to keep bringing up the past but the thought of him working at a store for his hobbies after those hobbies were responsible for dragging out the unemployment makes me feel ill. I felt very betrayed by that time period and don't know how to just drop that feeling. He doesn't understand it. I would love to follow the good marriage advice to not make my partner pay for their mistakes several times over. I don't know how to get past the betrayal and anxiety so it doesn't surface. Am I supposed to just hide those feelings when they surface again?

I don't need any DTMFA answers here. I would like to understand the value difference presenting itself in nonjudgmental terms, and possible solutions to the issues. I love my husband and he has all the positives of the "type B" personality, is very supportive to me when I need it now that he has a job again, etc. I have had depression before but approached it very differently and I do feel betrayed because I would always push those feelings aside to support my family and he didn't do that, and maybe I'm sexist here for wanting my partner to bootstrap his way to pay for himself, to "be strong" etc., but it gave me a complex that's hard to digest. But how in the world does one talk about their heteronormatively socialized partner's struggle with providing. It's quite a mine field. Is this something that other spouse's just learn to let go of? I don't expect to be a homemaker but I expect my spouse to pay his own way at least, barring disability. Depression is a disability but he got treatment for it early on. I don't actually feel that he was depressed at that point so much as floundering from a lack of purpose, dealing with ego issues, and using avoidance to cope. But he will make all these excuses for himself to avoid seeing that he did bow out in certain ways, and that it was preventable.

Anyway, don't misunderstand. Things are way way better now. But there's still this icky thing that we see so differently. I could use some perspective.
posted by crunchy potato to Human Relations (46 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
This stood out to me:

...so much as floundering from a lack of purpose, dealing with ego issues, and using avoidance to cope. But he will make all these excuses for himself to avoid seeing that he did bow out in certain ways, and that it was preventable...

Because it is exactly what depression looks like on the outside. Depression on the inside feels so dramatically different than how it looks.

I think understanding compassionately that depression looks different than it feels will really help you.

In addition, treatment for depression isn't like treatment for other conditions. Depression doesn't just automatically improve because treatment started or when in the depression cycle he started treatment. It can take a long time to find something that works. Also, that treatment can stop working and depression can return.

I also think seeking a job somewhere you enjoy is a good thing. It's scary for you from a money standpoint, but everyone wants a job that they like! That is normal!

You may want to do some reflection about how you handle uncertainty in life. Not having a job for a long time isn't all that uncommon even when giving it your all. It is just a possibility. No matter what, depression or no depression.
posted by AlexiaSky at 1:46 AM on December 12, 2017 [12 favorites]

I want to ask about the meaning that money and financial security has for each of you, and whether you've talked explicitly about all of that stuff. Did you grow up in different financial circumstances? Did one of you have an obvious provider figure in your family when you were younger, and the other didn't? Do you have the same agreed financial goals now, with an agreed plan about how you're going to bring them about? Do you have the same approach to saving for the future? Do you have an arrangement that you're both happy with for how you share the load for joint household expenses?

If things are getting back on an even keel now that you're both earning again, it might be worth having some conversations to make that stuff clearer. Sometimes it's easier to talk first about practical matters - like which bank account you use to pay household bills, and how to make sure there's enough money in there. Then build from there to some other related questions - are you saving an amount that you're both happy with each month? What's your threshold for a single expense above which one partner should talk to the other before committing to it? What's your joint agreed approach to paying down debt? At what age do you each want to retire?

If you can lay down solid agreements on some of those practical things, you maybe have ways to mitigate the feelings of resentment and betrayal that came from the time when it felt like you weren't on the same page.
posted by rd45 at 2:39 AM on December 12, 2017 [10 favorites]

Are you married to either of my exes because I lived through the same thing twice and in both cases, had to DTMFA (after counseling didn't work) because it spoke to a far larger issue. Both times, they didn't have jobs and spent their time playing tennis or golf or video games and as they would remind me, they had depression.

Depression is rough and I really feel for all of you. Yet I realized they certainly managed to find time to do the things they wanted to do, and acting like an adult was not one of those things.

I mean, think about it. Let's say I can put a whole lot of energy into hiking and being a teacher and a great single mom and also train my dog, but I don't have the energy to cook fancy meals. That's okay because in my roles, I don't need to be a fancy cook. No harm, no foul.

But let's say I can put a whole let of energy into hiking but not into working or being a good parent.

There are consequences to this; it adds stress to my family and as a responsible adult, I don't get to decide that hiking is the only thing I can manage to do.

I'm saying your husband has depression and ADHD but it hasn't historically ever stopped him from doing what he wanted--things that negatively affected you. And sure, now he's working (at a job you helped him get), but he still has significant debt, and he has decided to la-di-da into more funtimes, not responsible-person-times.

Of course you're annoyed. Anyone would be annoyed by this because he's still refusing to acknowledge his bad choices and continued financial burden and stress he is actively putting on you, his partner.

He thinks I'm being hurtful when I feel like I'm talking about my own pain, and not protecting him from the consequences of his choices.

This is seriously not okay. You are certainly entitled to feel however you feel and it's pretty low for your partner to whine, "Stop saying that; you're hurting my feelings."

This has zero to do with heteronormative socialization and all to do with partners communicating and sharing the load. Your husband is doing neither and is now suggesting something that will continue to place a financial burden on you in the name of fun. When do you get to not worry about finances and have fun?

You don't need to DTMFA, but you definitely need counseling to hash this all out. Someone needs to get through to him that his selfishness affects you. Good luck.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 2:40 AM on December 12, 2017 [73 favorites]

This sounds to me like a self-confidence issue. He feels confident with his hobbies and so they don't switch him into avoidance mode the way searching for a job, which he feels unlikely to succeed at, does. The positive aspect about the hobbies is that it's not just mindless time wasting like watching TV on the couch -- if he can change his mindset to see his job similarly he should flourish.

Some individual therapy for him would help him sort through confidence issues.

Sorry, that's just a thought rather than an answer to the larger questions you asked.
posted by duoshao at 4:08 AM on December 12, 2017

You ask what is reasonable is regards to your partner's choice of jobs making you ill. I don't think its reasonable to decide that they shouldn't take a job that includes their hobbies because you feel those hobbies extended previous unemployment. If the question was should I be upset that my partner is taking a 75% pay drop, that might be a different story. What you said makes you ill was that is involved their hobby. That sounds like you are trying to punish your partner.

It sounds like you are holding a lot of unresolved anger over these things that happened. If you truly want to get past this, you are going to need to deal with that anger. It seems to be clear that this anger over the past is causing you distress, and you seem to want to work past . It also sounds like when you are describing your feelings of betrayal, you are focusing on your partners past actions more than your own emotions. Your partner hurt you a long time ago. It would be normal to address it at that point, then to move past it. That you are holding it to this day is probably not helping you and might be worth looking into.

That said, I am sure there is plenty of things your partner needs to work on as well. However, your question was how can you get past this and become a supportive partner. I think the easiest path to that goal lies as always in dealing with your own issues first.

I am always reminded of the airplane crash safety. First you put on your oxygen mask, then you look to help others.
posted by Oceanic Trench at 4:45 AM on December 12, 2017 [5 favorites]

What I hear you saying that stands out to me is you want understanding/validation from him about the effect of the past couple years on you. I don't get a sense that you're blaming him, just wanting him to get and empathize with your experience. You suffered also.

That's a totally reasonable and legitimate thing to want. Do you think, based on your history with him, you can get it -- either now or with some counseling?

Alternatively, might you be satisfied to get this witnessing and validation from going to a counselor solo instead? Hopefully, someone who would also coach you into better self-care as well as exploring better communication/self-advocacy, and whether to set different boundaries going forward?
posted by dancing leaves at 4:46 AM on December 12, 2017 [6 favorites]

He thinks I’m hanging onto the past and can't let things be good.

My two cents from my own toolkit, which may not be useful to you: Perhaps tell him calmly, gently, firmly, no-holds-barred All The Things, concisely but completely, that he needs to know about how his decisions and his apparent decisions affected you.

Then, let things be good. Change the mood and have some fun. Go out to dinner and cast your loving light on him. Beam from your eyes and your smile.

What you must know (the hypothetical “you” for whom this advice is useful) is that he is challenged in his efforts to process the situation. He won’t let himself face the shit reality of it, which is that he let you down in a repeated, snowballing, solution-avoidant way and he has hidden inside his denial as you’ve rescued him at great expense to your own well-being. That’s a lot for him to come to terms with!

What he must know is that you love him, you truly do. You’ll support him now because he absolutely must support you going forward. You respect him enough to be fully candid with him, and then you’ll (painstakingly) give him the space and support to begin looking at himself and processing his choices.

When people say love conquers all, this is the type of thing they’re referring to. When they say love is for fools, it’s because sometimes we spend a lifetime in our efforts!

I wish you a renewed supply of patience so that, if you give your partner space and support, you’re able to do so without a hint of resentment. —That it’s just real, whole-hearted forgiveness, or suspension of anger. Though he should have no doubt, you’re not effing cool with his antics. You’ll watch them play out, but if he has any sense he will crawl out of his delusion and do the right thing (who knows, maybe his 2nd job hobby thing isn’t so bad. Maybe you’ll turn the corner on that?).

This is a TON of emotional labor on you, but... It might be step one in the tables turning in a very big way. I’ve seen it happen.
posted by little_dog_laughing at 5:08 AM on December 12, 2017 [15 favorites]

Completely aside from anything else: how likely is it for him to find a second job that would pay more than the second job he is currently considering?

On the face of it, it looks like he's thinking, of his own initiative, to do something that would bring in more money for the family. Is your worry that eventually he'll decide to go all-in on low-paying but enjoyable work at the expense of better-paying jobs?

On the other hand, depending on what the hobby is this could be a way for him to have his relaxing time while getting paid for it. If he doesn't use it as an excuse to let other things slide, it could be a great way for him to stay sane while also bringing in some more income.

This doesn't address the feelings you're dealing with, but it does make sense to ask whether him working an extra job would be a net good even if (and maybe because) it's related to things he enjoys.
posted by trig at 5:30 AM on December 12, 2017 [5 favorites]

During that time he escaped into hobbies rather than facing the issue by seeking extra resources to help him find work, etc. Tonight he talked about getting a second job somewhere affiliated with his hobbies.

This is a bit dangerous. On one hand, taking an extra job to help fund his hobbies is pretty responsible. But on the other, will he be like a kid in the candy store and end up spending more money on said hobby because he's soaking in it a few hours a week? I've known gamers who have done this and ended up working for store credit, which again can be fine, but if cash starts flowing from other jobs into the hobby job, that's a problem. Those relationships that survived did so because a very bright line about resources was discussed beforehand.

Also, consider that in addition to money, time is a finite resource. If he spends 20 hours a week on his hobby and then adds in another 10 at hobby work, where does that time come from? While it should come from his hobby time, it could easily suck away at the time you guys have together, time needed to work on himself, chores, etc. Still on the "this sounds like RPG/miniatures" thread, what happens when he gets wrapped up in weekend extra-curricular activities (cons, tournaments, etc) that might not actually pay anything extra?

I currently have a hobby that has evolved into a better-than-self-funding side hustle but that takes up a big chunk of my evenings and I sometimes struggle to balance it and other responsibilities. When I have events I attend to vend at, they are a huge impact on the family dynamic as I'm taking a parent (and sometimes car) out of the equation. It is very, very easy to get wrapped up in the tactical success of the hobby while failing at strategic family goals. I sometimes need to be reminded to refocus (and to clear up the kitchen table as it has been covered for weeks) and I have to take that reminding not as nagging but a statement that I have responsibilities that I have to meet that take priority.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:56 AM on December 12, 2017 [8 favorites]

I look at this in a far more clinical way than you seem to want to frame it, so I apologize in advance if that is a turnoff or makes my response seem unhelpful.

I come from a very similar situation where (former) spouse could not keep a job to save his life and I was defaulted to being the breadwinner and family manager and took on all that burden for us and our kids. His lack of job stability was always someone else's fault, even though such incidents were always traceable to his own failings and ego/temper etc. He also wanted to only pursue hobbies and felt that I was cold and unsupportive for having a problem with the fact that dicking around with [hobby] cost us money and did nothing to help us in our family life, security, etc.

Not only did he resent me for not "supporting" him, he did not ever show any evidence that he took on any degree of responsibility of being an equal partner. He simply did not believe it was his obligation. It was like having a long-term employee just decide that he did not need to work, but was free to enjoy all the benefits of having a job.

If this were to happen in a work situation, no one would tolerate it. No employer would stand for such a blatant rejection of the obligations of being an employee. Yet when it happens in a relationship (where it's supposed to be assumed, expected and obligatory), all sorts of feelings and personal dynamics take over. I call BS to all that and say, if he was your employee and was slacking off this much, and taking this much advantage of you and the situation, then you would give him a few warnings and then ultimately, he'd be fired. Otherwise you would be complicit in all of it. You would lose your ability to complain because you were enabling the slacking by not mandating he change and own up to his role, and do his job.

In your marriage, HIS JOB IS TO BE AN EQUAL PARTNER WITH YOU to provide for the family. He is NOT DOING HIS JOB. If you boil it down to this, what are you willing to do about it? How long will you put up with it?

But how in the world does one talk about their heteronormatively socialized partner's struggle with providing. It's quite a mine field. Is this something that other spouse's just learn to let go of?

I am sorry but I simply cannot accept this as valid. How are you rationalizing this degree of slacking and abandonment of responsibility? The answer is, you hold his feet to the fire and set boundaries, and set consequences. You tell him to do his job. You stop being an enabler. You have hard conversations. You get help from therapists or others whom you trust. But every day you let this continue, you become more and more a part of it. It's not a mine field. It's a very clear path. You are making it a mine field by trying to dance around the fear of confrontation that seems to be present. I understand this too, to a degree. My former spouse had a temper and I had to wait to leave when it was safe. I hope this is not part of your situation. But if it is, there are resources and you should look into them. You can't live like this.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 5:59 AM on December 12, 2017 [19 favorites]

It sounds like you two have different priorities right now. You feel he should be focusing on team you (eliminating his pre-marital debt, replenishing the love bank that he just made two years of heavy withdrawals with no deposits, focusing on a joint future) and he is on team himself (the past doesn't matter and I want to have fun and *you* can be the un-fun adult in the relationship).

I doubt anything you say to him will change his (already made-up mind) and get him on team you. This is something that you can have professionals address with him; book a financial advisor appointment with the goal of eliminating his debt and rebuilding joint savings from two years of unemployment (with probably a goal of a major purchase for you as thanks for going above and beyond over those two years). I doubt an advisor would suggest a hobby side job over something more lucrative. Also a couple's counsellor to help him with his listening skills and re-prioritizing his goals (or have him admit he is not ever going to be on team you).

I would have a short timeline for him changing his attitude; this is a pretty common situation and really goes one of two ways - either the wife puts up with a man-child who diminishes her life (and makes it harder and harder for her to leave by sapping her emotional and financial resources) or he (much more rarely) matures years in the span of a few months and begins to hustle and be an adult. Good luck. I hope it works out for you.
posted by saucysault at 6:13 AM on December 12, 2017 [12 favorites]

I have been the sole financial support for my partner and myself for going on eight years now, due to his mental health issues. Neither of us intended at first for this to be a permanent break from work, and then it seemed like it probably would be, and now it seems like he may be able to work again someday but probably not at the kindof work he was doing before, or the same pay level. It's hard, living with that level of uncertainty and responsibility on your shoulders, and being the one who has to struggle through your own mental health issues and step up just because you're the one who will or can. It is hard feeling like you no longer have a partner but a dependent. I'm so sympathetic to that feeling. I

But. Stewing in that feeling forever is not going to help, and it is not going to make you any happier. I think that you could probably benefit from some therapy. A safe place for you to talk with someone who is entirely on your side, and who additionally has the expertise to help you untangle which of your husband's behaviors are clinical depression and which may be simply inertia or some other issue, could be extremely helpful for you right now. I think before you make any other changes, you should spend some time with a therapist talking through a plan to proceed.

At some point you're going to find yourself asking yourself the question, "What if this never changes?" It may not. You have to ask yourself whether you are okay, for the rest of your life, being the one who shoulders the primary financial responsibility, with perhaps some financial help from your husband but not the full and equal financial contribution you expected to have. Could you live with that? Could you live with that in a way that is not begrudging and does not make you or your partner miserable, but accepts and works to build a new form of partnership that can work for you both and make you both happy?

It's okay if the answer is no. It will suck for both of you, but it would be better to be honest about it than to put both of you through years of resentment.

Since you asked how others handled this: for me, the answer was that I can live with this, and I can do so in a resentment-free way. It took me a few years to really get there, and it wasn't easy, and boy, do I still miss my partner's paycheck every once in a while. Also, I have a major advantage here in that I have some family money to fall back on; I work hard not to need it, but I do know that I'm not going to lose the house or anything - if the situation were dire, I have that cushion. That makes a big difference in my outlook, I'm sure.

It took a lot of therapy, mine and his, and a lot of uncomfortable conversations between us about what we wanted our partnership to look like and what it reasonably could look like, given current constraints. Hiding things is not the answer; it's okay for you to express your anxiety and to tell your husband that you're having a hard time working through lingering feelings of mistrust around the way the last few years have played out between you. How you do so can be a delicate question, but I do think that you should. He deserves to know, and he can't help allay fears that he doesn't know you have.

For us, a lot of it has been about finding other ways that my partner contributes to our family, and redefining both of our notions of what "partner" means. He doesn't bring in a paycheck. He does take on the lion's share of housework, cooking, and home repair projects. He works hard at providing emotional support for me, which is something he was not really able to do at the low point of his depression. He works hard at taking care of his own mental health needs, keeping up with therapy and his medication regimen and support groups, etc. He works to maintain his own social life and friendships so that I am not also bearing the burden of being his sole social/emotional support or having to see to his social needs. When I am in a bad way with my own mental health stuff, he steps up and takes care of basically everything so that all I really have to do is go to work, take care of my mental health needs, and I know the rest will just take care of itself.

He takes care of himself, and in some ways takes care of me. From the outside it probably doesn't look much different than the worst years of his depression did, but it feels like night and day. I don't regret staying and working through it, and I'm so grateful for how much better our lives are now. So that's what one version of getting to the other side of your current impasse might look like.

There's probably another version where you leave, and start your life over, and I bet that side ends up not too shabbily either. You're going to be okay one way or another, but you do have to do something, because where you're at right now is not sustainable in the long run. Something is going to give; you can't bottle this stuff up forever. Find a good therapist and start working through your feelings, and see where that takes you.
posted by Stacey at 6:28 AM on December 12, 2017 [26 favorites]

I just want to tease apart a few things here.

1. Full-time job
Even if it was your efforts that resulted in his job, if he is working full time and his income is decent to good for his background, then I think in some ways that fulfills his absolute bottom-line responsibilities.

If this means his income will always be lower than what you had hoped/planned for, then there is definitely a long-term discussion to be had about what that means for your current life, for future plans like kids, etc. and whether that needs to change. I just dropped my income considerably to take a very different job, but my family's finances are okay regardless...if not I would buckle down and look for a better paying job. But my husband and I believe together that it's our combined income that needs to work, not which percentage is paid by whom.

It's unclear from your question whether his full-time job isn't good enough overall. If so, I think that is a better issue to focus on than a second job, as it makes everyone's lives going forward more sustainable...but he may need to stay in this one a year or two anyway to get that on his resume solidly.

2. Second job
It sounds like two years of unemployment has understandably resulted in debt and stress!

I'm a bit confused by this: "by, for example, taking said job at a low rate of pay because he enjoys the work, even though he has lots of pre-marriage debt that he is responsible for, rather than taking a better paying opportunity until the debt is more manageable" -- is he able to take a second job that pays WAY MORE than the hobby job? And by able I mean will he be able to jump through the hoops to do so, and have the energy to sustain two higher-level jobs? Because when I have worked side jobs, often the benefit of them has been that they are different enough to give me a break. When I've worked like 60-70 hours on very similar jobs, often my performance has been wobblier in my main gig. And it sounds like that is important here.

If it's a choice between two lower-paying jobs then I think you might benefit from seeing if you can handle the hobby job emotionally. For one thing he might be more likely to keep it. However this gets to point #3.

3. Team You Guys
Really I think the hobby job is a bit of a red herring in that it's bringing up the fear that this hobby will engulf him again and undo his nominal progress. And it's also pointing out that for two years you have felt incredibly alone and struggling while he did not step up. This is a pretty huge deal and I have had my spouse get engulfed in hobbies while we were going through awful life things and it is...horrible. (Ironically, the second hobby he lost himself in is now my lower-paying FT gig.)

I think it would be rationally irrational to say to him "I love your idea to get a second job and I see why you would want it to be around your hobby, but after watching you hobby for two years while we were struggling so hard, I am not going to be able to deal with it. I need you to hear me on this and get a different second job." You do not have to get the award for Swiftest Spouse To Get Over Things. You are allowed to have hangups and feelings and ask him to accommodate them. I still have a freak out if my spouse goes near Hobby 1, and so he doesn't, even though it's pretty stupid on my part.

However, if he's doing well at the FT job, and the second job would actually produce $X amount to help your budget, and it wouldn't drive you nuts, it might be okay to agree to try it, with the understanding that if it's not working out in 6 months he will quit. Honestly though, from the "I think I'll get a hobby job somewhere" comment, this may not even pan out? Do you think he was actually just saying "I'm about to obsess on my hobby again?" If so, maybe ask him how he will make sure this hobby doesn't take over his life again.

Will he ever be the rock that you want? I think it is way too early to tell.

Lots of people go through a period of unemployment and depression and recover and it doesn't happen again, and then for lots of people it does become a pattern. That question of long-term partnership is still really open I think.

I don't think it is your job to bury this question at all, or your feelings about it. I think this is a fundamental issue that you both will need to work through. It might be good to set aside an hour a week or so to make homemade pizza together (or similar) and talk about financial and professional and life goals, thoughts, and feelings, so that you are having that conversation regularly and not just when something hits those buttons.
posted by warriorqueen at 6:29 AM on December 12, 2017 [6 favorites]

Marriage counseling. In my case, my ex- is a narcissistic jerk. He has some sort of innate feeling that he deserves the best, and someone else, should provide it. That someone else will be a woman. He operates like a con artist. What he said was we're a team; we're in this together. How he behaved was I will take care of myself. I will exploit you. Me. Me. Me. I knew he had debts and was bad with money, so we had a written agreement because we both had small businesses. That saved me when we divorced.

Pay a lot more attention to how your husband behaves; he's telling you what he really thinks and feels with how he acts. I would like to repeat this 10 times. Took me ages to learn this, but now I really pay a lot more attention to actions, in addition to words.

How he behaves towards you is as bad or good as you will let him. Stop enabling him. Make sure some of the bills are in his name. Let the electric bill go unpaid. Let the landlord threaten. When his personal comfort is threatened, he will step up. And when it's the electric company pushing him, it won't be as difficult for your marriage as you pushing him. As long as you show willingness to pay the bills and be the responsible one, he won't have to. Do not allow his irresponsible behavior ruin your life or your future. Get yourself in good financial shape. Pay off your car. Bump up the retirement savings. Set your financial goals and pursue them. Don't pay off his debt for him. Lots of people are way better at responding to things being on fire than to planning ahead. (Read Aesop's Ant & Grasshopper story.) Part of this is you valuing yourself. And when you value yourself, he's likely to value you more.

Focus on having more fun and rebuilding a loving marriage. Go for walks together, have shows you watch together, have more sex. Your relationship needs some healing and rebuilding.

You are, quite fairly, resentful of working your tail off while he literally played. Recognize some anger. Don't let him BS you out of it; it's real and justified. Then figure out how to let it go. He had depression and that's a reason for some of his behavior. But the person who lives with someone who's depressed deserves love and support, too. That was one of the things I had to learn in counseling, because I was the depressed one, though it rarely stopped me from working.

Marriage counseling is really indicated. It will help you both grow and learn.
posted by theora55 at 6:31 AM on December 12, 2017 [6 favorites]

Framing this from a 'team us' perspective, it sounds like he has hijacked the decisions that should be made by the two of you. Does he think his is the only opinion and needs that matter, or does he think you should decide on things as a couple? If the latter, does he think that's been happening? Those are basic questions you could pose to him.

You brought up heteronormative .... it's important to note that the role of the wife in that scenario is to accept the husband's decisions, whatever they are. Are you playing out that role in any way? I think some time or therapy directed at defining your own needs and goals, independently, would be useful; and then think about whether those can be met here too. Because right now it sounds like your marriage is all about him, his needs, his decisions, and that's just not ... a good partnership.
posted by Dashy at 6:32 AM on December 12, 2017 [2 favorites]

A point of clarification. His main job is not full-time. He is underemployed. He also has a large sum of debt that cannot be discharged in bankruptcy. He just called me a psychopath for trying to have this conversation about my lack of trust. He thinks I want to take things to a bad a place and wallow in it when I'm just trying to sort through the trauma of what has happened in our recent history. I explained it is like infidelity. You don't get over that instantly in a single conversation. But he is not hearing me. He has difficulty with self-regulation and black or white thinking. Part of the ADHD. But it's difficult to make progress in that context. Again, I don't want to leave him, but I want ways to navigate these apparent value differences in a mindful way. Thanks to those who are offering such ideas.

Also, yes it is table top gaming that is the hobby.
posted by crunchy potato at 6:56 AM on December 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

If he doesn't use it as an excuse to let other things slide, it could be a great way for him to stay sane while also bringing in some more income.

This is a good point (it may not apply to his case, but if so, it's important). In depression (you may or may not have experienced this) the choice is often really not between frivolous_action and responsible_action, but between frivolous_action and nothing at all (or possibly just as likely, self-destructive_action). Activities which to anyone else seem like laziness or time-wasting (especially when there is so much important shit that urgently needs to be done!) are often all that a depressed person can do to engage with something besides the depression. The energy needed to do the two types of things is completely different.
It's maddening. I've been on both ends and have plenty of feelings over never being in a place where I was similarly supported so that I could focus on nothing but getting through and getting better. If you're not venting about the bullshit unfairness of that in therapy, doing so may help. Specifically,
I don't know which end is up here, what's reasonable for me to expect, etc. So I'm seeking outside feedback. I hear people talk about being supportive, but I feel like he actually wants enabling. I did not have a good initial reaction to the idea. He thinks I'm being hurtful when I feel like I'm talking about my own pain, and not protecting him from the consequences of his choices
addressing all of this with someone who can help you work through your own sense of not receiving support, and providing you with language to express your pain without putting things in him which aren't actually his burden while holding him accountable for things that are.
The trick (for him, not for you to manage) is to develop ways to convert the energy he does have into the type that he can use for things that help him to progress, engage, and contribute. To me, it sounds like the second job is him trying to do this; others have spoken about the pitfalls if he uses it instead as a way to increasingly escape his/your life. There is a tendency, when things are starting to improve, to get caught up in the hey-this-is-actually-working-for-a-change-and-i-feel-better-so-now-let's-pile-on-a-bunch-of-activity-because-I'm-cured-right??? high, and depression frequently doesn't work like that. This urgency is reinforced by people around you, who understandably are eager for you to get with the program and return to normal. Depression management is a slow-ass process and it doesn't follow an upward path.
But what you have to put up with may be vastly different from what he needs. This is even more the case given that you don't really trust that he hasn't just been taking advantage of you all along. It's important that you are able to talk to someone who hears you.
posted by notquitemaryann at 6:56 AM on December 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

despite being treated for depression

The first thing I want to say is that being treated for depression is not the same as being cured of depression. Depression can be very treatment resistant - people can go decades without getting better. So the fact that he was being treated does not mean he wasn't depressed. And depression is extremely debilitating. The best description I ever read was by a man who said that if the cure for his depression had been on the other side of the room and he had known that, he wouldn't have had the ability to walk across the room to get it. So I think it's important to understand that this is a serious life-threatening illness. I know you know that people who aren't depressed can't just pick themselves up and do better, but your expectations make me wonder if there isn't part of you that's expecting that anyway. So that is something to think about.

Aside from that, I'm a little confused. The job related to his hobbies is a second job? Maintaining a second job is a very hard thing to do. Having the second job be something he enjoys might be what makes having two jobs even possible for him, especially if he struggles with depression. If he were taking a low-paying job related to his hobbies as his only job, I would be more concerned.

You seem to have a lot of emotions regarding his hobbies, and I get that. But are you really sure that the hobbies were what kept him from finding work for so long? If he hadn't had the hobbies, would he have been actively looking because he would have had more time or sitting on the couch watching Netflix because he was depressed? Being unemployed for an extended period of time is really, really hard. It doesn't seem unreasonable to need some escape from that. Now I don't know if the amount of escape he was doing was in fact unreasonable, but I do think that's something for you to consider. This is clearly a very emotional issue for you, and you seem to be aware that this could be coloring your view of what happened.

I don't know the answers to the questions I'm asking, but I think they would be useful for you to think about.
posted by FencingGal at 6:57 AM on December 12, 2017 [3 favorites]

Well, your update changes things considerably. Thank you for clarifying.

I think I will change my advice to "counselling for you, start working on your own financial health in case counselling leads to leaving." Because that is awful, awful behaviour. You are not a psychopath for having scars from this experience.
posted by warriorqueen at 6:58 AM on December 12, 2017 [30 favorites]

He just called me a psychopath for trying to have this conversation about my lack of trust.

That would be a dealbreaker for me. All your posts here are about this guy being a terrible partner. I would try to move to a "living well is the best revenge" model, get some counseling for yourself, investigate the sunk costs fallacy of relationships and, if you truly don't want to DTMFA, look at the way you are framing these situations because the way you present them along with your reluctance to make major changes despite your dissatisfaction points to a co-dependency that could maybe be addressed?
posted by jessamyn at 7:01 AM on December 12, 2017 [44 favorites]

Good grief. You're a psychopath for wanting to talk about marital finances? Despite your disclaimer, I can only say... counseling and dedicated improvement, or DTMFA.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 7:10 AM on December 12, 2017 [11 favorites]

I've had depression severe enough to interfere with my daily life--and if I had had a partner at the time, it would probably have been very frustrating for them.

So, with that history in mind:

He's taking advantage of you.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 7:29 AM on December 12, 2017 [19 favorites]

He just called me a psychopath for trying to have this conversation about my lack of trust.

DTMFA. This is never ever ever going to get better and life is wayyyy too short to spend with a selfish person who treats you like shit.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 7:42 AM on December 12, 2017 [6 favorites]

You don't get over that instantly in a single conversation. But he is not hearing me. He has difficulty with self-regulation and black or white thinking. Part of the ADHD.

Y'know, speaking as someone with ADHD who is familiar with some of these issues, black and white thinking is something you can reflect on and be aware of and get past to some degree. He needs to hear you.

Also, calling you a psychopath because you want to talk about these issues is terrible. If he can't talk about it with you and you won't leave, I am not sure what to tell you except that I think you deserve better than that.
posted by hought20 at 7:45 AM on December 12, 2017 [6 favorites]

You don't mention what his "hobby" is? If his hobby is drinking and his new hobby-related job is working at a bar - you know how that usually ends.

Also, he may be ashamed of his past behavior, even if you're understanding about it. Qualification: I know that there's shit I'm embarrassed about from the time I was depressed - mostly from a (misguided?) belief that I didn't "step up" to the plate, like I wasn't able to pull myself up by the bootstraps and therefore "failed" in some way, and no amount of psycho-talk about how depression's a disease, etc, can take this core belief away. Having someone (especially someone close to me) want to talk about how my behavior affected them - my God, it's like a different level of pain (however necessary).

In this case, it may help to tell him how much you love him and are proud of him, but you've also felt hurt and alone in this process. If his EQ is at all developed, he will understand your need to be seen and heard, and hopefully this will open up communication.
posted by Spiderwoman at 8:03 AM on December 12, 2017 [2 favorites]

I'm having maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaajor flashbacks while reading this, to an ex that I ultimately kicked out. And - within 5 months of my kicking him out, he finally got his shit together, went to grad school and started taking responsibility for himself.

I'm sorry, but this may not be salvageable.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:17 AM on December 12, 2017 [3 favorites]

I want ways to navigate these apparent value differences in a mindful way

Your value difference is that you respect other people and he ...doesn't. So make yourself as small as possible in this relationship. Have no financial or emotional expections of him. Teach your child they aren't worthy of respect either (or that any women are, to guide them in their future relationship choices). That is the only way you can make this relationship survive.

I understand that with a lot of therapy experience it feels helpful to pathologise behaviour and accept a diagnosis as an excuse. Over the past few years, via your comments, he has been demonstrating psychological and financial abuse of you and your child; a diagnostic label does not make his abuse ok. (If you are going to say he has never been directly abusive to his child then I would respond that exposing a child to the levels of abuse he has shown you for years is very much abuse.)

Like many others in this thread, I am speaking from lived experience. I wish I had left at a much earlier opportunity instead of hoping it would get better. Life NOW is so, so much better.
posted by saucysault at 8:56 AM on December 12, 2017 [16 favorites]

I explained it is like infidelity.

Have you considered treating it like infidelity in getting past it ? I say this because if it feel like infidelity to you, those techniques might be close enough to help you. Also, I think getting past infidelity is a subject that is pretty common and might have good resources for.
posted by Oceanic Trench at 8:58 AM on December 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

You don’t need to separate from him emotionally just yet, but I strongly recommend that you take steps to separate financially.

To protect your marriage, you need to protect your financial future with him. This will help you both, whether you do unfortunately break up or you stay together.
posted by samthemander at 9:10 AM on December 12, 2017 [4 favorites]

Okay, I figured it was tabletop. Now, though I rarely get to play, I consider myself a gamer, still buy RPGs, and try to keep up with the hobby. I like gaming, I like tabletop, and I think it is a net positive across the board. I understand that your reserves of Emotional Labor are probably tapped, and he was just a jerk that called you a psychopath, so it might not even be worth it, but sticking with your request to avoid DtMF scenarios, here are some things for both of you to think about (just print this out and give it to him). Maybe by being able to speak in his gaming language you can show this isn’t some sort of black and white / me vs you / gaming vs adulthood thing.

That said, I’ve seen this Always Be Gaming behavior from gamers many times before in my (aw, geez) 25+ years of owning 20 sided dice. Some of the negative drawbacks can be pretty insidious. Since tabletop is a social activity, some folks I have known took to it as their only social activity, so if they wanted to be with a group of people, they had to do something game related. This means simple social interactions like “Let’s go get a coffee and catch up!” become 6+ hour dungeon delves (not including prep time). If people do not play, or don’t have the time to play, they might as well be strangers, which reinforces the need to keep playing because this is their social interaction and they don’t want to be left out. To reduce gaming is to risk exclusion and isolation, which is pretty scary.

Once playing, people can find an outlet for some portion of themselves that they might not be able to express in their real life. Sure, I was an awkward freshman who was often racked by self doubt and fear of admitting what I don’t know, but in game, I’m a smoothly confident vampire of Clan Tremere and privy to the mysteries of power. On the positive side, this sort of thing can help people work to overcome issues, but on the negative it can help them completely duck them.

Depending on the game, there’s also a progression and advancement element. If people feel stuck in real life, then games can give that feel of progress and achievement that our brains are wired for. Gaining levels, making it to new floors of a dungeon, defeating a big bad, becoming Primogen, all this stuff can set off little attaboys in our heads. Online games make millions off this, the little rewards and dings and gratz are really hard to pass up.

Real life is often pretty messy, but in game you are controlling a simulated life (or lives if you’re running it) whose rules are easy to understand. Being able to control something and have it behave in expected ways (even the outcomes of die rolls are expected, you know what will happen if you roll a 1 or a 20) can be an oasis of calm. I may not know what will happen to me out in the world, but here on the tabletop, I know Xathia, Firebrand of Cormyr will progress - I have her next 10 levels all planned out. And if she falls to the dread priest of Baal that killed her father? Then I have some plans I’ve been toying with for a cleric of Mask....

So your husband might be looking for one of the above things (social interaction, self expression, advancement, control) by gaming so much. Is there some way he can get these in real life?
If it’s social interaction he wants, he could host (with your permission) some gaming-adjacent events. Movie nights, pot luck dinners, murder mystery kits, whatever, just so long as it’s not about dice or actually gaming. He can invite his gaming crew (and their SOs!) and you can invite people and really host it up. There is a confidence boost to be found there, especially with the validation that people actually like you for who you are, not what you bring to the gaming table. That boost can carry over to work and other social interaction.

Paying down debt sounds a lot like gathering loot or gaining experience (admittedly, there are no magic items in it, but if you want a stronghold at 9th level, you gotta do it..). Can you work together to set some sort of tiered reward/ability unlock? Start with small, even jokey things - Pay off at least $100 in debt in a month and get a fudge round cookie! But then have larger tiers - Pay off half the debt and you earn the ability Go To GenCon! I found that setting achievable rewards (and pie in the sky reward ones) help me focus on goals and stay focused.

Does he run the games? I’ve found that the people who run the games are the ones most interested in expressing something and having control over something. If he’s working on all these stories and settings and scenarios, any chance he can commit them to paper and either self-publish them as Kindle fiction or DriveThruRPG content? He might not charge at first, but the free validation is priceless (says the guy who once kept strict track of his Mefi favorites) in letting him know that he’s on to something.

Hopefully, you’re not doing all the chores and housework in addition to everything else. If you are, then that sounds like an opportunity for him to own a process and control how it goes. Making a grocery list and an equipment list are pretty similar and even if you are the one who has to pay for it in the end, he can control that. Heck, if he’s good at min/maxing he might be able to save you a few bucks. You can then send him off to quest for the groceries or join his party and do it together.

Speaking of parties, he needs to understand that he’s not on a solo quest. He’s married to you, which means you two are in a party together and should be working towards similar goals. It’s pretty annoying when you’re playing and one member of the party is always running off on their own side quest. He needs to focus on the main quest and if that main quest isn’t you and him succeeding together... well, that’s a more serious talk. Before you get to that, though, there will be a serious discussion of what your joint party goals are and what each of you can bring to the table to achieve them. You can even touch on what your individual goals are, but do it from a point of view as to what the other person can do to help achieve them. You all have different talents and skillsets.

When it comes to looking at couples like parties, be sure not to fall into the trap of specialization. Sure, in an adventuring party it can make sense to have a damage dealer (who defeats the foes) and a damage sponge (who takes the hits), but that’s not an optimum load out for real life. You cannot have one member of the party tank adulting, especially if that party member did not sign up for it. Share the load and all that.

Sorry this is so long! I tried to couch it in gaming terms as much as possible. There is a lot of work that needs to be done, hopefully more on his part than on yours, so by making it game relevant I hoped to show that this isn’t an attack on him or his hobby - it’s just stuff that needs to happen. He should expect further discussions on this topic and plan for them the same way he plans for a gaming sessions.

It sounds like he’s done some work himself and I hope he is able to see a therapist. One of the reasons this reply has grown so much is that I based it on people I have known that have struggled with the intersection of gaming, adulthood, and depression. I then realized that this is the 19th anniversary of the death of one of my college gaming friends. These things have a way of creeping up on you and I feel guilty for forgetting even though by now he’s been dead for half my life. There are specialists out there that help people with depression and I hope your husband is able to see one, but if he can’t due to finances and our shit healthcare, that he really stops to think about the impact his actions have on others, especially those close to him. I believe that if my friend had understood the hurt his actions would cause to those that loved him, he would not have done what he did so suddenly.

Woah. That took a turn. Sorry.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 10:03 AM on December 12, 2017 [13 favorites]

Are you still doing the majority of parenting your baby, working a couple of jobs yourself, caring for his kids from a previous marriage when they visit, and doing most of the housework?

Would his second job mean he could spend even less time doing any of this?

Please reread all the answers to this question, because I think they still apply a year later (especially after your latest update in this thread where he has called you a psychopath!).

Please listen to saucysault.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 10:15 AM on December 12, 2017 [11 favorites]

I've had friends of both genders struggle with this, and to my mind while it is Often complicated by mental health issues and love? It comes down to whether you both view your partnership as a team effort, where each partner tries to do everything they can. Because when one partner Doesn't? That IS a betrayal, and coming back from betrayal requires that they change their viewpoint from a selfish one to a team one.

Financial betrayal can absolutely feel as bad or worse than infidelity, because (to use a bad analogy) the STI he brought home was a Whole Lot of debt that will take Years to deal with.
posted by ldthomps at 10:27 AM on December 12, 2017 [2 favorites]

Wait hold on--you've asked about this guy for years now, and the advice you got years ago was things were not going to get better.

He had you work multiple jobs when you were pregnant, right? After you had the baby, he remained unemployed and got really into RPG but couldn't work because of depression?

Oh, my sweet, sweet friend, please leave this piece of garbage. He contributes nothing to your life.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 10:39 AM on December 12, 2017 [7 favorites]

Are you still doing the majority of parenting your baby, working a couple of jobs yourself, caring for his kids from a previous marriage when they visit, and doing most of the housework?

Would his second job mean he could spend even less time doing any of this?

He has been a phenomenal parent, better than me in many ways. I am winding down the extra work. I do not do anything to care for the other children that I would feel resentful about. He has stepped up his housework game, and been respectful/understanding when I point out that things are getting crazy on that front. It has been much more of a team effort, and he has made great strides at fulfilling roles that are entirely new to him as an adult. Just a couple days ago he took on all the bedtime stuff so I could go see some friends, and followed through on a promise to deal with his old stuff in preparation for moving.

Not to threadsit but as those questions were asked, I wanted to answer. He has been much more of an equal partner than he used to be. That is part of why I said I do not want to DTMFA. But I do still have the pain, and it can be triggered around hobbies and the leisure gap, and it can be triggered around a feeling that he values his personal fun over financial contributions and that I am somehow wrong for not being okay with that. While I get that he doesn't really want to hear about it anymore, I am not here to protect him from negative consequences when he violates normal expectations of a relationship. I am overly persistent in the face of his avoidance sometimes, and he uses childish techniques in conflict, and I come here with my hands up sometimes, but it's all like 300x better than it was when I opened my account. FWIW.
posted by crunchy potato at 10:41 AM on December 12, 2017

I am glad to hear that, crunchy potato. The reason I asked was because the "psychopath" comment was very worrisome and reminiscent of previous comments he had made in the path. Whatever else, please know that your responses to him right now are not unreasonable and you do not deserve to take on responsibility for things that you have the right to feel. After what you've been through in your relationship, certain things will be triggering for you and that is reasonable.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:18 AM on December 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

I get that he's much better and you want to acknowledge that, but if "better" still involves calling you a psychopath when you try to have a discussion then... it's damning with faint praise.

All your questions sound like way too much... pretzeling. Pretzeling up to somehow find ways to live with behavior that is obviously not ok. And in this case, pretzeling up to avoid saying a hard thing.

You have two reasons not to want him to take a gaming hobby job. I don't know if you have articulated them to him, but here's what I'm understanding: Reason 1 is that you were traumatized by his appalling part behavior and now find the whole prospect of his gaming to be triggering to you. Reason 2 is that he hasn't done enough since then to make it likely that he won't get addicted to the gaming again, to the detriment of his work and family, when he's immersed in that environment.

You're not wrong on either of these counts. And honestly if you were able to excuse and support him through his depression he can damn sure extend the courtesy to respect your sensitivity on the topic of gaming.

But I can't help you explain away any of this, and I can't help you be ok with your husband calling you a psychopath.
posted by fingersandtoes at 11:43 AM on December 12, 2017 [9 favorites]

When my wife was still my girlfriend, she went through a period of about 7 years as she slowly recovered from disabling levels of depression through some underemployed and very frustrating years to her current state, where for several years she's been back at a full time job and doing well.

One of the things I found most difficult and most frustrating was that I kept having to walk that line between being sensitive and understanding and sympathetic to what was going on for her and also trying desperately to take care of myself and try to figure out what I needed and what she needed to woman up and do. About 6 or 8 months before things really turned around and she got a job, we went into couples counseling. It made a huge difference - the counselor got to act as the proxy for "the relationship", which meant that it wasn't on *me* to have to be the person saying difficult things, and freed me from having to walk that line between being sensitive to her and also looking out for us-as-a-unit. The job she found was somewhat a happy coincidence (party conversation with someone who had a new job and it sounded like a good fit for my gf), but I think her being in a place where she could make that jump was heavily due to the couples counseling. It also helped me to come down slowly from a place of incredible stress - there's a lot of things that are even now (several years and a wedding away from then) highly triggering for me, but we get through it, in a large part because of communication skills/tricks we picked up in the counseling.

I figured since there are some stories in this thread of "we did couples counseling and ended up splitting", I'd chime in with a story from a somewhat similar place as you where we did counseling and we're doing great.

TLDR: Couples counseling is the fucking best. It gives you a space where someone else speaks for the relationship and you can think as yourself instead of the Keeper of the Relationship.
posted by rmd1023 at 2:06 PM on December 12, 2017 [2 favorites]

I am going to be contra here and throw this out, as I have been thinking about it all day and even wrote it long-hand before committing it to MeFi:

Your husband's problem, and your problem with your husband is not depression. The major problem is ADHD. I work with and around adults with varying levels of ADD and ADHD. Many of them want what you and your husband have: education, life, house, wife/husband, kids, etc. But treating depression and expecting ADHD to go away is like pouring water in the ocean. Your husband needs to access a manager who can assist him to find jobs he can do and can be coached to enjoy. That sounds crazy, but there is an entire industry around assisted employment in the USA which is set up to assist people to find and keep roles that will give them access to money to make their world go round. That world going around is called independent living. He is lucky to have you but you are both unfortunately caught in a loop where the preexisting condition, a problem which neither he nor you can control, makes life hard and challenging.

Reading through the subject lines of past questions, you and your husband have been dealing with a lot. You and your partner should get a medal for going this far despite the challenges and risks. He must be the most beautiful man on earth.

You might think "I live in a conservative state so what hope do I have?". The good news is that people who have a condition diagnosed before the age of 18 are usually able to access state, local and some federal benefits simply by applying. The only way to find out is to find a services provider. This might feel like it is below you and him. Believe me, a counsellor who wants to help your husband find meaningful work and come home happy and content is going to make life so much better. I know people who would never, ever go back to how life was before they met a service provider. They can help clear away a lot of baggage, like: managing finances, advance planning, finding work, acting as an advocate for healthcare and social security services. It's very useful.

Start with CHADD, a national organization who can connect you with local services in your area. Or, look at the local agency for health and family services. Most American states have services for adults aged 18 and over.

You should access resources that will assist your family. I know it will be a surprise to your husband, but this is a very useful step in the development of your family.
posted by parmanparman at 3:39 PM on December 12, 2017 [8 favorites]

Oh, yeah, my girlfriend had massive undiagnosed ADHD, and getting that treated (as well as the depression) was a big step up.
posted by rmd1023 at 4:58 PM on December 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

From your comments, you needed to come here to get validation. Done.

called me a psychopath for trying to have this conversation about my lack of trust. Be cautious of gaslighting, basically, making you doubt yourself by distorting the truth. The best response I've learned to gaslighting is Don't BS me. I tend to be earnest and sincere, and have long discussions. Learn to say what you need to say, listen and then stop. It's not easy, for me at least. But especially don't engage when it's crap. Call him on BS, but don't talk it to death.

I think you want him to acknowledge that you totally rock, support him, and have gone far more than the extra mile. Probably unlikely. Getting external validation is a lot of work. You do totally rock. You've supported the family. You are a generous, loving person and you deserve praise. You may need to learn to supply it for yourself. And learn to reject mean and/or hurtful, and/or unfair comments. Read the Shamu article; see if you can modify his behavior a bit. What Shamu Taught Me About a Happy Marriage
posted by theora55 at 5:14 PM on December 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

called me a psychopath for trying to have this conversation about my lack of trust.

This is gross. Since you've defended him in other threads by pointing out your own temper, I'll also point out that anxiety turns many people into controlling angry people. For my entire life, I only knew my grandmother as a controlling bitter person. When my relationships have gotten tough, I tap into those same defensive mechanisms. Most recently in a relationship very much like yours, where I had inadvertently become the provider and couldn't seem to climb out of that role.

It was only until a few years ago, that I learned that my grandfather was openly cheating on her. Financially supporting the other woman lavishly over the course of 30 years, and threatening to cut her off financially if she dared to complain or divorce him.

She was never right to take out her anger against her children, grand children or employees. By staying in that relationship, she perpetuated the cycle of violence in ways that upheld class, race, and gender power structures. But it was also the only way that she knew how to survive.

I love my family. They're profoundly fucked up. But they did their best and I love them. But I'm spending yet another holiday away from them, because I can't figure out a way to be around them without picking up those controlling habits and being someone who I don't want to be.

All that to say that you will need to figure out if you can do an unhealthy amount of compartmentalization to sustain your relationship with your husband. Or understand that your anxiety is a giant red flag that you are not getting what you need.
posted by politikitty at 6:05 PM on December 12, 2017 [6 favorites]

: "TLDR: Couples counseling is the fucking best. It gives you a space where someone else speaks for the relationship and you can think as yourself instead of the Keeper of the Relationship."

It can be the best. It can also be complete crap. When my marriage was having issues, my wife told me she had been seeing a counsellor about our marital problems. I got asked to one session. ONE. Not sure how the counsellor was able to work on a relationship of two people when they only heard from one party.

She left me the same day as we had to leave the session to try and say goodbye before my grandmother passed away. One might have thought we could have at least made it to the car before she told me she was leaving me. Instead we didn't even make it out of the hospital building. So, keep in mind counselling is only as useful as the counsellor. And the dedication of the couple to making it work.
posted by Samizdata at 6:25 PM on December 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

Here's the thing, (speaking as someone who has experienced severe depression and ADHD) he doesn't get to use his situation as emotional blackmail.

The one thing I will tell you is that no one (and I mean no one) changes their behaviour until it more difficult not to. We all travel the path of least resistance. This is the reason that many people hit rock bottom before addressing addiction or depression. The crazy thing is that the path of "least resistance" can be quite convoluted since we all can do amazing mental gymnastics to avoid feeling anxious. Externally it can look like people are actively making themselves miserable, however from their point of view they are living with the devil they know and a level of anxiety that is familiar.

Ultimately, you can't live his life for him. It's not unreasonable to make it clear what kind of life and partnership work for you and sticking to that. Right now he's in a safe situation to begin addressing his behaviour, but you need to be very careful to avoid enabling poor actions on his part.

When I've been in a similar (but not nearly as selfish or petulant acting) situation, I found that I needed very prescriptive direction each day, and sometime each hour of each day, to move towards improving my mental health. Clear goals that I was expected to achieve. I wasn't harassed if I didn't achieve them, but it was always grounds for a conversation on what was needed, in my world, to move forward at all. Each success allowed me to become less and less overwhelmed by my depressed perspective on myself, the world, and my relationships.

It sucks, but it's going to hurt him (and you by extension) to change. If he's not hurting, he's not moving forward. The part-time job smacks of enabling if it's not part of a plan to being participating at a more even level in your relationship. It is good, however, if it helps keep him to be socialised and engaged. But again, there needs to be a realistic progression to a healthy state. Every day should include some level of anxiety-provoking movement forward. If he's not on board with getting healthy, you likely don't have much say in his world and he's may continue to take advantage. His "job" is to become healthy and re-engage as a partner with you.

So, sit him down and make a plan. If he balks, the plan is to have him out the door and on his own whilst he figures things out. And show him how that's going to go. The timeline, the efforts you may organise so that he has a place to be, and your support in helping him help himself. Again, no one changes until it's more difficult to stay the same. It might take a really dire situation for him to decide that what's "fun" in life is contributing to a mutually engaging and loving relationship.

And make sure you are getting your own therapy going forward. You need an advocate on your side.
posted by qwip at 9:31 PM on December 12, 2017 [5 favorites]

Not sure how the counsellor was able to work on a relationship of two people when they only heard from one party.

They're not. I don't know what that is, but it's not couples counseling. And I'm sorry.
posted by rmd1023 at 5:39 AM on December 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

Your husband's problem, and your problem with your husband is not depression. The major problem is ADHD.

Considering the history here and the current state of affairs, I think it would be a very bad idea to go down a rabbithole of, "Well actually, it's untreated ADHD so let's spend time working on that."

You've said your husband is aware of depression and ADHD and has for years and has chosen to get as much help as he wanted.

I would not start giving him excuses and passes because it turns out to be ADHD (also as an adult who works with people with ADHD---ADHD is not an excuse).
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 6:11 AM on December 13, 2017 [3 favorites]

Just a couple days ago he took on all the bedtime stuff so I could go see some friends,

He works 30 hours a week in a job YOU FOUND FOR HIM and you looked after his FOUR other children all summer while working two or three jobs. He should be doing this EVERY NIGHT while you drink wine with your feet up.

Look, as soon as you got married, he stopped working. (Are you absolutely certain he was "laid off" from his job and not fired for ADHD fuckups or temper tantrums? How would you know?) Losing his UI and having a baby to support weren't enough to motivate him. The only thing that motivated him to take a part time job and put his FIFTH baby to bed was that you were ready to divorce him, meaning he would have to get a full time job and support himself. He wants you to think you're a psychopath so he doesn't ever have to do that.

This man is an irresponsible child. If you really don't want to leave him, the only thing you can do is work on accepting that he won't ever change.

I'm really sorry to put it that way, but you are a devoted, hardworking person who wants to see the best in people, and you deserve a loving supportive partner and a stress-free life. Your husband is keeping you from ever having those things.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 12:58 AM on December 17, 2017 [5 favorites]

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