My husband suddenly left and went to his mothers 9 months after his father died of cancer. He was very upset about his father and angry with me, but had kept both hidden until he left. Then my father died days later, but he never came home. My husband was left by both his father and mother as a young child and was brought up by his grandmother. As an adult he became close again with his father only to lose him again after a year of cancer. He is unable to talk, isolating himself from friends and famlly, but able to keep his routine of work, exercise and seeing our children. We see and talk to each other a lot because of the children (I think), though he resists conversations about emotions. He did come back 5 months later but left again after a few weeks. He is still unhappy, can’t move forward or do the things he said he was missing out on. He rarely goes out and often drinks alcohol. Is this a mid-life crisis or extreme grief. Will things get better? What can i do?
- Dr. Schwartz responds to questions about psychotherapy and mental health problems, from the perspective of his training in clinical psychology.
- Dr. Schwartz intends his responses to provide general educational information to the readership of this website; answers should not be understood to be specific advice intended for any particular individual(s).
- Questions submitted to this column are not guaranteed to receive responses.
- No correspondence takes place.
- No ongoing relationship of any sort (including but not limited to any form of professional relationship) is implied or offered by Dr. Schwartz to people submitting questions.
- Dr. Schwartz, Mental Help Net and CenterSite, LLC make no warranties, express or implied, about the information presented in this column. Dr. Schwartz and Mental Help Net disclaim any and all merchantability or warranty of fitness for a particular purpose or liability in connection with the use or misuse of this service.
- Always consult with your psychotherapist, physician, or psychiatrist first before changing any aspect of your treatment regimen. Do not stop your medication or change the dose of your medication without first consulting with your physician.
In my opinion, midlife crisis is not the real problem facing you and your husband. Rather, it appears that your husband has two major issues and they are, 1. Inability to discuss problems that are on his mind and, 2. Alcohol consumption. I hope to show you that the two are connected.
Your husband states that he is angry at you. Yet, there does not appear to be any clear explanation for this anger because he refuses to discuss “emotional themes.” How are you supposed to know what is bothering him if he refuses to talk? He not only left you but the children as well. In so doing, he is repeating what his father did to him in abandoning his children. I have a hunch that he is unaware of this and that it could come as a surprise to him. One thing you could and should do is ask him why he is angry with you? This is not an emotional discussion but your wanting a list of his complaints.
You point out that he evidently wants to do many of the things he could not do in the past. Of course, every person feels this way. We make decisions about our lives and those decisions preclude certain other activities. We cannot do and have everything. No, we cannot have our “cake and eat it” too. Marriage and children are choices and, therefore, we either give up or postpone other activities. That is just life and your husband’s complaint about this is understandable but does not explain why he would abandon his wife and children.
This is connected to problem 1. because people who are dependent upon alcohol often fail to verbalize or talk about the things that are bothering them. There are some good books on this issue. Your husband drinks because he is silent and he is silent because he drinks.
One excellent book that stands out in my mind and that I think you and he should each read is by Terence Real, I Don’t Want to Talk About It. It is in paperback and can be bought Online at Amazon or at Barnes and Noble.
There is another way of looking at the drinking problem and it is that the drinking is what may make him feel angry. Some people become angry when they drink and he may be one of those people. In any case, it seems that he has a lot of accumulated anger at you that you know nothing about because he never talked about it at the time. Instead of talking to you, he drank.
Lastly, his father’s death appears to have been the catalyst for his leaving you and the children. Yes, he may be dealing with grief. On the other hand, he may be dealing with intense anger at his father for the childhood abandonment and, now, a new kind of permanent abandonment. InstWhaead of coping with these events, he is “acting out” his anger with you and the children. This is speculation on my part. It might just be that his father’s death caused him to face his anger issues for the first time.
What can you do and is there hope?
If you could get your husband to go to family psychotherapy it could be a big step towards healing for everyone. I am guessing that the way to convince him to go would be to remind him of the children and their well being. Include in this that his father had abandoned him. If he refuses to go to family or marriage therapy there is no reason why you should not go. You need lots of emotional support for yourself and your children and psychotherapy could help. This is especially true because you need to be emotionally available for them.
As to whether there is hope or not, a lot depends upon his willingness to go to therapy and, later down the road, do something about his drinking. Read that book and try to get him to read it.
Good Luck to You and the Family