Ask The Therapist: “My husband has been having difficulties in finding a proper job while I enjoy a job with a fixed contract…this is causing him to act negative, cranky and unhappy…”

In 2016, the number of people estimated to be suffering from mental health issues like depression and anxiety amounted to roughly 1.1 billion. Since then, numbers have likely continued to rise. Moreover, studies have also shown women especially on average are a) more likely to suffer from mental health issues, and b) less likely to talk about them. The taboo in Pakistan surrounding depression and anxiety disorders only serve to aggravate the individuals suffering even more. For the women who cannot seek out full time therapy, we’ve enlisted the help of a trained therapist. You sent us in your questions – here are the answers!

My husband has been having difficulties in finding a proper job, or a fixed contract. This situation has been causing a lot of stress at home. It feels like we are stuck and there is no progression. On the other hand, I have a job I enjoy with a fixed contract. The situation is causing him to act extremely negative, cranky and unhappy. Even my four-year-old daughter is starting to notice. Yesterday she asked him why he always looks so sad and that broke my heart.

Now the problem is that I am having a hard time in showing empathy. I feel like he should man up and start applying somewhere or take up a course that’s in demand. It feels like he is totally emotionally dependent on me and doesn’t want to help himself. He also notices my cold behaviour and tells me that I am not supportive, but I have been solving his problems for the 15 years I’ve known him. Please give me advice on how I can deal with him. How can I help him and still stay true to me? I know you can’t solve this problem, but any kind of advice is appreciated.

Shahrukh’s Response:

Dear Anon,

I can only imagine how frustrated and distressed you must be with the situation, especially with your daughter noticing – and that’s alright, you’re allowed to be. It’s important to note that as a partner, there’s only so much you can control in terms of your partner’s progress. Let’s see how you can support your partner, while also looking out for yourself.

Partner Vs. Rescuer 

When a person takes on the role of a rescuer or problem-solver, what ends up happening is that there is a tendency for the other person involved to become dependent on them. Unfortunately, in solving someone’s problems, the rescuer also takes away the person’s agency and independence to make it out on their own, and thus enabling their dependency. While it’s absolutely understandable to want to be there and fix your partner’s problems, at times, it might just negatively impact their ability to function on their own. It will also drain you of your energy. Perhaps it might be time to take a step away from rescuing him and instead, allow him to take up more responsibility. Even if this takes a while. 

Being Aware Of Your Frustrations And Voicing Them Out

When feeling angry or frustrated with someone, it can often be tough to connect with your own sense of empathy. This mostly happens in times of anger, when the person as a whole ceases to exist, and all that you might see are the parts of him that upset you. One thing you could do to reconnect with that empathy is to remember that at the end of the day, your husband, like you – or anyone else – is human. As such, he will by definition have imperfections. However, those imperfections do not define him or anyone. Trying to integrate the parts of him that are good, and knowing that he’s doing the best that he can at the current moment might help bring back some of that empathy that you’re struggling to connect with. 

In addition, for any relationship to function optimally, open and authentic communication is required. Perhaps try expressing the frustrations you’re feeling to your husband. As a point of reflection, I would also be curious about exploring that feeling of frustration and how your husband’s stagnancy in terms of his job prospects might be impacting your overall view of who he is. Perhaps try looking at how you might view his role as a man and what it means if he isn’t fulfilling that role.

Tips and Tricks On Supporting A Partner (And Yourself) – Job Hunt Edition

  1. Help him create a plan – this is something that he will have to implement on his own, but you could help him brainstorm ideas in terms of what he can do next. Perhaps the idea of actually applying for a job might be overwhelming. Instead, maybe try suggesting that he break that goal up into smaller steps to make the task a little less daunting. 
  2. Encourage him – what he might need at this time is encouragement and support. It’s possible that in all of this, there might be some fear or insecurities coming up. Allowing him the space to voice out those fears and talking them out might help him get into a more positive frame of mind.
  3. Give yourself space – given the implications of not having a job, it can be stressful for both of you, and it must be tough to possibly be feeling like you’re carrying that responsibility by yourself. Take a pause, know that it’s okay to feel upset, overwhelmed even, and then perhaps look into what is in your control at the moment. What can you do to give yourself a bit of ease and clarity? Sometimes we get caught up in the uncertainty, and can lose touch with what IS certain. So perhaps drawing up a financial plan, boundaries and engaging in coping strategies might help in terms of feeling more grounded.

Anon, at the end of the day when it comes to partners, it’s crucial to remember that you are two individuals in a relationship. You are not one entity. Yes, there is an overlap in terms of responsibilities, but you both have your own set of emotions, drives and narratives. You’re you and he’s him. You can’t control him, but you can control you. I hope things get better for you and your husband. Best of luck and stay in your power! 

The above article is written by Shahrukh Shahbaz Malik who is trained in humanistic integrative counselling at CPDD in the UK and currently has her own private practice in Karachi. The views expressed in this article are those of one expert. They do not necessarily represent the views of Mashion, nor do they represent the complete picture of the topic at hand. This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment.

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