How can I help my husband when he won't admit there's something wrong?

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My husband is addicted to work. He goes to the office early, comes home late and often works from home at weekends. When he's not doing office work, he is obsessive about doing the washing and ironing - he normally puts three loads of washing on every day and if there isn't enough in the laundry baskets for a full load, he'll go into the children's rooms and take things off their floors, even if it's clean and folded up waiting for them to put it away. He then complains about how much ironing he has to do. If he's not ironing, then he'll be working in the garden - never allows himself time to sit out in the sunshine and read a book. When he sees me doing housework (and he's actually convinced himself - and tells other people - that I don't do any!), he says 'I can do that' and takes over, even if it means stopping doing what he was doing.

He never allows himself time to be with the family and has therefore become just a person who happens to sleep in the same house as us, rather than a husband and father. In fact, my youngest daughter told me that she doesn't think he's a very good father and that she wished he would put as much effort into being a good father as he does into trying to get his mother to believe that he's a good son. For example, yesterday we asked him to play Monopoly with us but all he kept saying was 'I'm not interested, I'm not interested' over and over again and when asked why, the only excuse he could come up with was that he had to do the ironing. All he wants to do is hide in the study, do the ironing and watch documentaries about war. He is also extremely rude to us, particularly me and my eldest daughter and will say very spiteful things which upset us a lot. We've asked him not to behave in this way, but he doesn't seem to think he's doing anything wrong. I'm very worried about him.

I've asked him to go to Relate, but he won't go because he won't admit that how he is behaving is destroying our family and his relationship with me. The situation is making me depressed and I am now having sleepless nights because of it. Is there anything I can do to help him?

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  • Posted

    Relate would say what they said to me and my partner - something is lost in translation. When asked what they meant, they told me about something called the 5 Languages of Love:

    I don't think anything your husband is doing is out of the ordinary. I wouldn't say there was anything he was doing that was 'abnormal' or required any kind of psychiatric help; nor should he be told that he has a problem. Personally I think how you're behaving is neurotic, exhibitis signs of dependance rather than independence; you're ruminating over things that don't necessarily exist - maybe you spend too much time in each other's company and in doing so, pay too much attention to what the other is doing.

    Personally, I think you should attempt to do what you want with your life and pay more attention to hobbies, interests and so on, and learn to not be so conscious of whatever it is your husband is up to. It seems to me as though he's being put under a lot of pressure at home. Some people work better at a distance.

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  • Posted

    Hi Sue.  I can relate to this in the fact that when I get stressed I can turn into a workaholic.  I'm not as bad as your husband but a few years ago when I had a really stressful job it seemed as though the only way I could cope with the stress was to continually be doing something.  I'd work late then bringe more work home with me etc.  It sounds like the ironing etc is his coping mechanism and that all his pent-up stress is coming out by him doing all the different activities. 

    You mention that he's trying to live up to his Mum's expectations and we had something similar in that my Mum couldn't sit down to watch a TV programme becasue her Mum has always told her she was lazy so she had to keep doing things to prove to herself that she wasn't.

    I expect that your husband doesn't like the way he is either but feels unable to help himself although I'm not excusing his spiteful ways.

    Is there anything that he used to enjoy doing that he doesn't any more that you could ask him if he wanted to try again?  Sometimes when we get into the stress cycle we cut out the hobbies that help us relax, so reminding him of things he used to do might work.

    And, I know it sounds corny but writing him a letter might help.  When you're overcome by stress it's difficult to concentrate on what other people are saying as it just adds stuff on top of what you're already feeling but if you could give him a letter that he could take away and digest it might help.  Try not to put too much blame in the letter but explain how you miss spending time together etc and how you'd like to talk to him about how you can help with the way he's feeling.

    Anyway, these are just some ideas, but I hope they help.

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    • Posted

      Hi. Thanks so much for such a considered response. Yes I have suggested he picks up his hobby again, but he's not giving himself the permission to do so. And you're right - the more work stress he's under, the more manic his behaviour seems to become.

      I like the idea of writing a letter - I will try that. Thanks again.

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  • Posted

    It sounds to me like something is on his mind and he is throwing himself into activity to avoid issues.  I really do not know what to suggest here but hope you can resolve things amicably.


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