YOU (South Africa)
Ask Dr Louise
‘WE DON’T DEVELOP COURAGE BY BEING HAPPY EVERY DAY. WE DEVELOP IT BY SURVIVING DIFFICULT TIMES AND CHALLENGING ADVERSITY’
– AMERICAN WRITER BARBARA DE ANGELIS
MY HUSBAND IS SO GRUMPY WHEN HE’S AT HOME
I’ve noticed a change in my husband over the past two years, after he was promoted at work and started going on regular business trips away from home.
He has changed from a charming man to someone who’s grumpy and critical all the time when he’s home. I know it only happens at home because when we socialise with our friends, he’s still the same charming person.
We used to have a wonderful sex life but now he’s perpetually tired and is no longer interested in sex. He also comes home late very often, and dresses differently than he used to. It’s almost as if he wants to “redo” himself with his grooming. What is happening? He’s 40 years old and I’m wondering if he’s having a mid-life crisis. Elaine, email
There are two likely explanations for your husband’s behaviour. The first is that he’s highly stressed due to his new responsibilities at work and is also exhausted by the travel.
However, the fact that he’s coming home late from work so often, and that he’s dressing differently and seems to have given himself a bit of a makeover, may point to a less innocent explanation: he’s having an affair.
It’s not uncommon for married men who are having affairs to become grumpy and critical at home. They also often start dressing differently and paying more attention to their appearance. Their interest in sex with their wives also tends to wane.
Keep your eyes and ears open and try to ascertain which of these two possible explanations it may be. Women often don’t want to admit to themselves that their husbands may be indulging in an affair because of how painful it is emotionally – and because they then have to decide what to do about it.
Have an open discussion with your husband and tell him you’ve noticed how he has changed, particularly in terms of his behaviour at home. Ask him if he can explain why, and also whether he needs more support and understanding from you. The way he answers these two questions will hopefully give you some insight into what is happening.
I CAN’T STOP STEALING
I’m a 45-year-old wife and mother. I started stealing when I was six years old and although it’s something I’m very ashamed of, I just can’t seem to stop. I’ve lost jobs, friends and my self-respect.
I know I shouldn’t work with money but I do, and at this point in my life how can I choose another career? I feel like I’m addicted to stealing and it’s disgusting and I feel so much shame. How do I change? How do I make better choices? Jasmeen, email
You are probably suffering from kleptomania, which is characterised by the recurrent failure to resist an impulse to steal. The items that are stolen may not even be wanted for personal use and may have very little monetary value. A kleptomaniac experiences gratification or relief when committing the theft.
People with this disorder usually don’t plan the theft or fully consider the risk of being caught. They are aware of the fact that stealing is wrong but can’t resist the impulse.
The neurotransmitter pathways associated with behavioural addictions – namely those associated with serotonin, dopamine and opioids – play a role in kleptomania as well. The disorder often begins in adolescence but can also start in childhood and may continue for years despite the loss of friends and jobs and even convictions for theft.
You will not be able to address this problem on your own and need professional help – from a psychiatrist as well as a psychologist. The problem can be treated but it is complex and usually requires medication and therapy.
I’VE BECOME VERY LONELY
I’ve been depressed since lockdown started and it’s been very difficult for me to venture out of my home this year.
I’m single and in my thirties but I’m too afraid to start socialising again or even to invite friends to my home. The result is I’ve lost a lot of friends and I’m very lonely. What can I do? Reynard, email
Many people are suffering from what I call “lockdown syndrome” – they isolated themselves in their homes because of lockdown and have kept on living like that. This may be fine for a family but not a single person. You can’t hide in your home forever as it’s bound to make you extremely lonely and depressed.
The reasons for lockdown and staying home may be valid, but we are social beings and need interaction for our mental wellbeing. Yes, we are still in a pandemic, but we also need to weigh that up against the toll isolation takes on our mental health. What you need to do is control your interaction with others so it’s as safe as possible.
Start by inviting a friend who is also single, so it’s just the two of you at your home. Keep a reasonable distance from each other and wear masks as well if you prefer. Then invite a couple to your home for lunch or a braai.
If you live in a flat consider meeting friends for a picnic somewhere that’s not too busy. Next you could consider dinner at a quiet restaurant, and hopefully you’ll start to feel more and more relaxed about going out.