PROB­LEM SHARED

I can no longer cope with my hus­band’s ne­glect. There have been many ex­am­ples of this over the 15 years of our mar­riage, but the worst was when he went alone on a planned hol­i­day when I fell sick and was rushed to hos­pi­tal. That was three years ago and I

Good Housekeeping (UK) - - Front Page -

ANYA SAYS

You de­scribe a des­per­ately sad sit­u­a­tion and my first con­cern is for your men­tal health and well­be­ing. You are clearly strug­gling and I’m glad that you have the sup­port of a coun­sel­lor. While coun­selling is a so­lu­tion-fo­cused and ther­a­peu­tic ap­proach, if your de­pres­sion wors­ens, this must be ad­dressed as well with ad­di­tional treat­ment as nec­es­sary.

Your mar­riage sounds dis­tant and unlov­ing. I won­der why your hus­band ap­pears to show such in­dif­fer­ence to you. Is this how things were be­fore you ex­pe­ri­enced men­tal health dif­fi­cul­ties, or is there some­thing about your vul­ner­a­bil­ity now that he strug­gles to en­gage with? It seems as if he re­sents your vul­ner­a­bil­ity and is an­gered by your sense of help­less­ness.

Cer­tainly, the more dis­tant and un­car­ing he is, the more (un­der­stand­ably) needy you are, and the fur­ther he may pull away. You are both, there­fore, stuck in a neg­a­tive cy­cle of need and ne­glect, help­less­ness and hope­less­ness.

You seem to have made the de­ci­sion to end your mar­riage, but has there been any at­tempt to ad­dress the dif­fi­cul­ties? I’m struck by your anx­i­ety about los­ing your chil­dren and won­der if that is be­cause you fear be­ing seen as de­pressed and there­fore com­pro­mised in meet­ing their care needs. Take this one stage at a time, start­ing with find­ing ad­di­tional men­tal health treat­ment (which may in­clude med­i­ca­tion) to en­able you to feel stronger and so present your­self in a way that doesn’t com­pro­mise how you are judged as a mother.

Ap­proach this dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion from a po­si­tion of strength and with pur­pose. Hav­ing the right treat­ment for your de­pres­sion along­side your coun­selling will en­able you to feel em­pow­ered to make the right de­ci­sions for your hap­pi­ness and well­be­ing (and also your chil­dren’s).

While you may not feel that mar­i­tal ther­apy would work for you and your hus­band, it would still be in ev­ery­one’s best in­ter­ests for di­vorce to be dis­cussed and man­aged as am­i­ca­bly as pos­si­ble. Rather than in­volve lawyers from the out­set, which sets an ad­ver­sar­ial tone and can cost huge sums, I ad­vise that when your men­tal health feels more ro­bust, you look to en­gage in me­di­a­tion with your hus­band. You can contact Res­o­lu­tion (res­o­lu­tion.org.uk), an or­gan­i­sa­tion of lawyers and other pro­fes­sion­als, who be­lieve in a con­struc­tive, non-con­fronta­tional ap­proach to fam­ily law mat­ters. On the web­site, there is in­for­ma­tion about me­di­a­tion, sup­port­ing chil­dren and also think­ing through the enor­mity of di­vorce be­fore tak­ing the step.

Fi­nally, cou­ples ther­apy might be help­ful. You both ap­pear to be caught up in a de­struc­tive and un­happy cy­cle, and there are many ques­tions that need an­swer­ing. To have the space to look at this to­gether may en­able you both to free your­selves up within the mar­riage – in what­ever di­rec­tions that even­tu­ally takes you.

with Pro­fes­sor Tanya By­ron

Pro­fes­sor By­ron is a char­tered clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist. Each month, she coun­sels a reader go­ing through an emo­tional cri­sis

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