A Role Reversal

 
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Q: My husband lost his job and this has caused problems at home. We’re struggling financially and fight all the time. I’ve had to work outside the home for the first time in years. When I get home I still have to do all the housework while my husband watches TV. I feel angry and resentful. I can’t understand my husband’s attitude-it seems he’s lost interest in everything and doesn’t appreciate what I’m doing. I hate the prospect of spending the rest of our lives like this.

A: You and your husband have experienced one of life’s most stressful events. Losing your job is never easy, but for a male it is even harder. Men often invest all their energy and interest in their work and it becomes the major source of their self-esteem. When they lose their job they lose more than just work and financial security, they lose an essential part of themselves. It sounds as if your husband is going through depression, which wouldn’t be unusual considering the loss he has suffered. He may need time to work through this event and will certainly require support and patience from you.

This can be difficult, considering that you have suffered your own loss. You’ve lost the freedom to plan your day as you wish. I guess you’re also finding it difficult having your husband home all the time when you’ve been used to having time to yourself and running the household as it suited. All these changes need time for you to adjust to them. You may also be experiencing some sense of depression, considering the financial responsibility now on your shoulders and the losses you have sustained.

Men often do not have the same emotional resources (ie friends) that women tend to build up over a lifetime, and in times of crisis are often at a loss to know who to turn to. I do not know if your husband is the kind of man who will consent to counseling, but it seems you would both benefit from some emotional support.

A change has occurred and you have to adapt to it. This is something that can drive you apart or forge stronger ties. See yourselves as partners in this crisis rather than antagonists. For this to happen you will both have to acknowledge just how these changes have affected you and allow each other time to adjust. You may need to discuss the division of household chores as well as other practical aspects of this new arrangement. This time of crisis will pass and I feel sure that eventually you will both be able to work out a satisfying life pattern. The challenge is to recognise that this moment of crisis is also an opportunity for change.