How to cope with a moody wife

Bruce believes he has been patient and supportive of his wife after she lost her job three years ago, but he is at the end of his tether and is considering an ultimatum. What does psychologist Dr Emmanuella Murray say?

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Q. Bruce
My wife stopped work – not her choice – three years ago and has changed dramatically, both physically and mentally. I’m still working and starting to struggle with her moods and lack of interest in living a healthy lifestyle. I’ve tried encouraging her, offering suggestions and being as supportive as I can. Now I’m just exasperated. If I try to shock her into waking up with an ultimatum, it may backfire. But what else can I do?

A. This is tough – for you and your wife. It can’t be easy seeing your wife struggle and it sounds like you are trying to help her. Bruce, please avoid any ultimatums. When people use ultimatums in relationships it can feel like a threat. Your wife doesn’t need a threat to ‘shock her into waking up’. She needs your empathy.

Your wife’s confidence may have taken a hit with the change of her work circumstances. I love that you are encouraging and offering suggestions – men are pros at trying to problem solve, and this can sometimes be helpful, but we must not skip over the empathy first.

Working allows us to follow a set routine and it helps us to stay focused and reap the reward of income. Your wife has lost this part of her life and it sounds like she is really struggling to adjust to her new circumstances. Some people find it hard to plan and imagine a new path, but others cope well and see it as an opportunity to travel and volunteer.

Three years is a long time for your wife to be feeling this way, and I’m concerned she might be feeling depressed. I would encourage her to speak with her GP so that he or she can assess whether she needs any extra support.

In a nutshell, approach her with empathy and talk to her about your concerns.

Have you had similar challenges in your relationship where you felt like issuing an ultimatum? Do you agree with Dr Emmanuella that they rarely work?

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