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Please help me forgive and forget my husband's mid-life crisis

(15 Posts)
FrequentFlier Sat 25-Jun-11 07:28:03

No, he didn't have an affair, but his crisis is causing almost as much upheaval in our lives. I am a new member, so please forgive me for this v long post, but I really would appreciate advice on dealing with this and the circumstances are very complicated. Also, I do not live in the UK, though I did until about a year ago.

Briefly, I am an expat spouse of Indian origin married to someone whose job has taken us to 6 countries in 14 years, meaning a move roughly every two-three years. This way of life has meant we are financially secure, but I have had to give up a fair bit, friends, family and having any proper career of my own. I have worked on a consultancy basis most of these years, but work has been sporadic. My husband has more or less always hated his job, which is v stressful, long hours, horrible people etc etc. The goal was to do another 3 years in the job, which would entitle him to a lifelong pension, and then maybe find a less stressful job in training or consultancy.

Last year, we had the great good fortune of getting a 3 year posting in our home country of India, and better still, in my home city of Delhi. This is very rare indeed in our way of life. This was very important to me because I have an aging and recently widowed mother who needs care, and who I am very close to. Also, we were both ecstatic because we could settle our childen, who were absolutely fed up of moving into the Indian education system, do another 3 years for the pension, then setlle down for good in India.

We arrived in Delhi, found a house and school, had a joyous reunion with my mother. Ten days after he joined work, my husband had a panic attack in the office, and said he thought he was having a heart attack. Got it checked out; nothing wrong. He then told me that he was going to take a one year unpaid sabbatical from his job, and try and set up his own training business. Under his contract, he is allowed to take a one year sabbatical, but his job in Delhi goes to someone else, and he is then assigned to another job in one of over a 100 countries. Plus he gets even further away from his pension because the sabbatical period is not counted as employment. I asked him if he could continue for another 3 years so we got the pension and had a little continuity on our lives, but he insisted that he could not continue in the corporate life any more.

So its a year later now. He tried to set up his training business and found that it made so little money he couldnt even meet our grocery bills. We have been living off our savings for the past year, which we can afford to do, but gives me panic attacks! In the past year, he was absolutely horrible to me, yellling that I had no idea of the stress of corporate life, putting me down any way he could, accusing me of being a money grabber. He also went on a very very expensive training course to an American university which he claimed would help his business, despite my protests. it didn't of course, and just put us out of pocket. All this is very very unlike his usual self; he is normally a lovely considerate man who has never made me feel like I am sponging.

So I went out and did the best thing I could do: got a job. It's not a very highly paying one, but after 14 years out of proper employment, I am quite proud of getting one at all. I have also done the bulk of child care while working.

A month ago, he came to me, apologised, said he was wrong, was dying to go back to a proper job and informed his employer that he was willing to go back to work. They are now going to post him in one of any of 100 countries, could be anywhere from Kazakhstan to Latin America. I am not going. I think, and he agrees, that my children have been disrupted enough, plus I am not willing to give up my job. The plan is for him to go, then try to find a job in India once he has filled the hole in our bank account and in his CV. This may take a few months, or it may take years, who knows. We have given up all hope of the pension as I don''t think he can spend 3 years away from the family with this employer.

I find that I am extremely angry because he has completely turned our lives upside down, plus lost us a huge amount of money. The children will miss him terribly if he goes, but I will go crazy if I go with him yet again. I am also very bewildered by his behaviour, swinging from one extreme to another. I feel able to forgive maybe, but not forget. In the meantime, I am so tired and stressed waiting to find out where they will post him.

Sorry this is so long, but as you can see these are very complicated circs. I'd just appreciate advice from other people whose husbands have gone off the rails.

Finallygotaroundtoit Sat 25-Jun-11 07:46:15

No advice but think you should be proud of yourself for getting a job and giving your dc stability. And being there for your dm.

Family always comes first.Money's nice but really doesn't buy happiness.

AlmostGivenUp Sat 25-Jun-11 07:54:41

Well done for getting the job. In all honesty, it sounds like your other half needs to ditch the travelling job for good and focus on getting a good job in India. The money of the travelling is just not worth it for the stress and effect it will have on your lives.

3 years of him being away from you and the children is not good. Stuff the pension and stuff the higher pay. If you're educated and in India (which you clearly both are) you should both be able to get good jobs that will keep you together.

Stop chasing the money.

chris123456 Sat 25-Jun-11 08:02:18

You have had your expectations dashed clearly but I am struggling to see what the problem is here. You stay where you are happy to be - your husband has found work - the 3 years pension seems a complete red herring if you are financially secure.

iwasyoungonce Sat 25-Jun-11 08:04:02

I can well understand why you feel angry and let down, but I think you have to focus on this: your husband has been doing a job that he "more or less hated" for over 14 years. He did this to provide for you and his children. It sounds like he reached a point where he just couldn't bear it any longer.

You need to stick by him, forgive him, and realise that the most important thing in life is that you are all healthy and happy.

He must feel wretched about the consequences of his actions. He really needs you to support him. It can't be easy, but it sounds like you are doing well so far. Good luck.

belgo Sat 25-Jun-11 08:10:01

Is he getting any help with his behaviour?

The sentence that jumps out at me is:

'my husband had a panic attack in the office, and said he thought he was having a heart attack. Got it checked out; nothing wrong. '

Obviously something was wrong, and very wrong to cause a panic attack. Panic attacks can feel like a heart attack and can make the person feel like they are being suffocated to death. Did he ever get help after having this panic attack?

FrequentFlier Sat 25-Jun-11 08:28:47

Thank you all for such prompt replies.

In typing out this extremely long post, I omitted a crucial paragraph when cutting and pasting. After the panic attack, we found he was physically fine, but probably suffering from mild depression. He was put on anti-depressants (sertraline) and continues to be on them ( a low dosage as he could not take to the higher ones). However, he thinks that its not so much a mental crisis as an existential one, so to speak.

Yes, I think the best thing to do is let go of the money. To this end, I told him a year ago that if he wanted to get a lower paying job with less stress, even taking a 50% pay cut, I would support him. Unfortunately, it's very hard to go down the corporate ladder in India, especially once you get to senior management. Headhunters have actuallly laughed when he said he wanted a low stress job; apparently such jobs don't exist any more, or they don't offer them to "high fliers". He really has tried and he will continue trying in the future, but at the moment he needs to go back to his job or else it will disappear. In re hating his job, I sympathise but I can't support the family on my salary alone, so either he finds something else, even lower paying, or he goes back to the corporate world.

I guess I am just completely shaken by his v strange behaviour, going from a kind decent man to a complete stranger and then back again to relatively normal. I am just feeling a little bit shattered by all the ups and downs. But yes, he must be feeling shattered too, so I need to pick myself up and go on.

belgo Sat 25-Jun-11 08:34:12

I really hate the expression 'mild depression'. In my experience, there is no such thing as 'mild' depression.

All depression is serious. Look what it has done to your family - it's turned your lives upside down. Depression can completely change a person; there is nothing 'mild' about that.

Have you been getting any help? The chance to talk about things, the stress that you have been experiencing?

Do you think he is better?

countingto10 Sat 25-Jun-11 08:39:29

This might help you and him understand the "mid life" process. My DH had a major mid life crisis culminating in an affair and "breakdown". We nearly lost everything. With a lot of counselling we both turned it around and reassessed our lives etc.

You need to keep talking and communicating and learn to "let go" - life is about letting go of things smile

Good luck.

quietlysuggests Sat 25-Jun-11 08:46:04

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

WriterofDreams Sat 25-Jun-11 08:55:43

I would urge you to have as much sympathy as you can for your husband. Working in a high stress job that you hate can be soul destroying. It sounds like he pushed his feelings down for a long time in order to protect his family but in the end it all got too much and he just snapped.

Depression is a terrible illness that can really change a person. When I was depressed I went from being a highly capable and reliable person to a quivering wreck would could barely shower. Rather than collapsing your husband tried desperately to find ways to make himself feel better - he took a year off work, tried to find a new career etc. I know it was very very hard on you but essentially he did the right thing, it's just a shame that it didn't work out.

I know your angry but from everything you've said it really doesn't seem like your husband did any of this on purpose. He was completely overwhelmed by life and he made mistakes, which is understandable. Now is your time to step up and help him, forgive him wholeheartedly for what he did (which in the scheme of things was ill thought out but not cruel or wrong) and help him to sort himself out. It seems like you expect him to be endlessly strong. Let him know it's ok for him to be weak, to need help and to not always get it right. My heart goes out to him because I've been there.

I know it's very tough on you (my husband suffered terribly when I was depressed too) but he was and possibly is still ill. Keep that in mind.

belgo Sat 25-Jun-11 08:55:49

I agree with that quietlysuggests.

It sounds like he had reached breaking point and suddenly 'just three years' seems like an eternity in hell and he couldn;t even manage another day.

Are you still in India? Can he not get another job there, and combine that with your income?

belgo Sat 25-Jun-11 09:04:33

also agree with Writerofdreams. Some good posts on this thread.

sayithowitis Sat 25-Jun-11 11:33:00

I do feel for you. But I feel for your DH more. He has done a job he hates, with people who you say are horrible, for 14 years. he has been so stressed by it that he suffers at least one panic attack and depression. And when he asks you to support his choice to try and make a go of something else you ask him to continue in his hated, stressful job for another three years! Your OP is full of how it has affected you, but very little about how he feels. You talk about what you have given up due to the moving around, but don't seem to acknowledge that he has also given up things as well. You talk about forgiving him - for what? For doing a job he hated and that has made him ill in order to support his family? For sacrificing his mental health by pursuing a career in order to earn a pension? For being prepared to go back into that hellish way of life for potentially another three years, alone because this time you do not want to go with him? For having a mental health issue that has disrupted your financial comfort? Would you expect him to apologise if he had contracted a physical illness which kept him off work a significant length of time?Would you be angry with him then? I doubt it. Depression is a serious illness. It makes people do things that seem irrational to others. But it is part of the illness. And it seems possible that his depression was at least in part due to some pressure he felt to keep doing that job because he felt he had to support you and the family, not just day to day, but for the future as well. have you ever considered that actually, some of the pressure he felt came from you? How would you feel if he blamed you for his illness? Would that be reasonable? Maybe, instead of continuing to blame him for his illness, you could concentrate on finding a way to genuinely support him whilst he goes back to the job that contributed so much to his state of mind in the first place.

Smum99 Sat 25-Jun-11 12:57:18

Very sensible post from quietlysuggests. Your life hasn't turned out exactly as you had planned or hoped but life has a habit of doing that to us. Just when we think we have it all planned out something will be thrown into the mix.

Now is your time to focus on the positives in your life - take each step at a time and just embrace the challenges ahead. Forgive your husband for being human and let go of any anger or hurt. Often we have to let go of something, be it a job, lifestyle to get the life we are meant to have.

I'm sure you will find a way forward - uncertainty isn't pleasant but sometimes we have to accept it.

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