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How can I help my husband? LONG

(14 Posts)
LilP Thu 22-Aug-13 14:14:56

DIDN'T PLAN ON SUCH A LONG POST - SORRY My husband, who works in teaching, returned to work yesterday. After weeks of him being confident, sleeping well, being positive and cheerful, helping around the house (and supporting me through some tough stuff over the past two months) - he has instantly become stressed and argumentative. This isn't the first time it has happened - it happens after every break away from work. In term time he works long hours and many saturdays and he is an excellent teacher. But he seems to feel enormous pressure to perform to the highest standards at all times. When he's working, he has no headspace for anything else - we can't work on the house or make other plans. He would love to do a postgraduate degree or some of his own creative work. I have tried over the years to help him to do so, but he's never really got anything off the ground, work just takes over. I have tried in so many ways to help him talk through things, but I feel like after all these years I'm just going round in circles and nothing changes and I'm starting to get fed up. He has tried some online CBT courses which help him abit, but don't change what is really happening. I think he needs to focus less on his current job and start moving towards what he really wants, but he is very mindful of maintaining a wage - he is so scared of losing his job if the performance of his students slip. It would be very unlikely that he would lose his job, he is the most highly qualified and experienced in his subject area - but it makes him so anxious. I suppose what I'm saying is that he needs to change his outlook, and when he's at home, try to leave work worries behind. I work (part time) and have my own work stresses (as well as family issues right now) - I have my moments when I let the stresses out and have a cry on his shoulder, but then I usually manage them ok. He gets totally consumed by stress - he can't sleep and can't remember where he parked the car or left things and cannot discuss anything than requires any level of decision-making. My husband is a lovely man, but very bloody-minded and cannot take any comments on his behaviour or his situation - he sees anything as criticism or some kind of one-upmanship (I am very conscious of NOT doing that as he does it to me so often!). I sometimes think he'd be better off looking after our daughter part-time and I should try and find a full-time job (would probably mean we'd have to move to a different city) I just don't know how to help him. Helping him with his stress, would make life happier for all of us. I am dreading another academic year with my husband overworked and overstressed. Thanks for listening.

Dahlen Thu 22-Aug-13 14:29:33

I think it needs explaining to him in black-and-white terms that part of the ability to do the job effectively is the ability to manage stress. It doesn't matter if he's a brilliant teacher if he's coming apart at the seams at home - he can't do the job. Either he quits and finds a less stressful job, or he commits to dealing with stress as seriously as he commits to his job.

I have enormous sympathy for him. Work-related stress can be horrific, and teaching is renowned for it, with relentless, ever-changing targets and missives from on high, tightened budgets, stroppy students and belligerent parents. There are many people out there who have quit teaching because while they make great teachers, they cannot cope with the stress. Conversely, there are many type As out there who can cope with the stress but aren't great teachers. Unfortunately, the only way to survive in what is an increasingly demanding career, is to learn how to do both. That's the reality he has to face.

It really isn't fair on him to subject his family to the fallout from this.

CailinDana Thu 22-Aug-13 14:32:44

Teaching did the same thing to me, in fact I had a breakdown. I had to stop working for 6 months to recover then I did supply and eventually a part time role before becoming a sahm. I'm now a magazine editor and I can't describe the relief I feel at never having to go back to teaching. I just wasn't able for the constant stress. Sounds like your dh isn't either.

I think it's time to sit him down and tell him that his job is destroying not only his mental health but his family life and that he absolutely must do something about it.

LilP Thu 22-Aug-13 14:49:24

Teaching is massively stressful for sure - I work in education too. But to be honest, I'm not sure it is just his type of job. As a student, he would work literally through the night - he gets very pulled into things, consumed. He also needs to take his time over things and HATES to be rushed. He still has a chip on his shoulder from being fired from a part time job in a cafe from when he was student, because they wanted someone who worked faster. I think he would operate like this in almost any job - thats the difficult thing. Dahlen - you make some interesting points - but if I was to suggest that because he can't handle the stress, he can't handle the job, would totally enrage and offend him (even though I see where you are coming from). We really have talked about this so many times. In a flight-or-fright situation, he just freezes - and in some ways I feel he's doing the same here. Digging the same trough because he doesn't know what else to do.

LilP Thu 22-Aug-13 14:50:28

CailinDana - happy to hear that you found a way out and have a new career.

CailinDana Thu 22-Aug-13 15:01:03

If he refuses to engage then that's a big problem. What about writing him a letter/email?

Dahlen Thu 22-Aug-13 15:04:32

I can understand why you wouldn't want to cause him offence. It's much harder to say these sorts of things face-to-face to a loved one than it is to post it on a forum of course. However, why is it not as equally dreadful for him to make the lives of your family as miserable as he is?
I think a little blunt talking is called for if supportive behaviour and polite requests have failed to achieve anything.

I do feel for him enormously. He's probably a wonderful teacher, but the demands of the job are really quite unreasonable these days. Really it's the teaching profession that should change, not the teachers. But since that's not going to happen anytime soon he needs to quit or change. Carrying on the same way expecting things to change is one definition of madness and can only lead to increasing stress for him and therefore your family. Choosing not to address that is actually quite selfish, though I'm sure he's so fixated on doing his best for his students that he's unable to see that right now rather than it being a 'chosen' selfishness IYSWIM.

CailinDana Thu 22-Aug-13 15:10:45

Despite the awful effect it had on me I still feel sad that I had to leave and something of a failure. Being a teacher becomes your identity in a way and it's hard to give that up. But I agree with Dahlen about the selfishness. There is no way I would have expected my Dh to put up with the way teaching made me behave.

slipperySlip000 Thu 22-Aug-13 15:50:45

I have a brother like this, OP, I am glad I'm not married to him! My brother often reaches breaking point from the relentless pressure and ridiculous working hours (international lawyer). He gets to the point wher he can't make even simple decisions. Yet he is stubborn and our suggestions to help him achieve more of a balance fall on deaf ears, he just digs his heels in. My brother is also very slow/methodical in the way he goes about things. He was actually asked to leave a London law firm because he was 'too slow'. He does not have a natural propensity to change his behaviour. Somerimes I wonder if My bro is midly autistic. I think being overly methodical has some advantage in his job. My brother is single so if doesn't have the same impact. I imagine it would be hard to live with. My mum was a secondary school teacher: it took up most of her waking hours. No advice, just sympathy from me. I think you would be justified in asking bluntly for something to 'give', here.

justgivemeareason Thu 22-Aug-13 15:56:26

There is a lot of pressure on teachers to completely dedicate themselves to the job above everything else and personal lives do suffer. Conscientious people like your dh make excellent teachers but at a cost. I expect he will always be like this if he stays in this job.

Wallison Thu 22-Aug-13 16:01:24

I agree with Dahlen; you need to have a frank discussion with him about how this impacts on you and your home life together. I grew up with a stressed out father (not a high flying career; just one that he couldn't cope with) and not to put too fine a point on it, it made home life pretty unbearable. Now that I am older and have been in stressful work situations myself I can understand and empathise with him that he was miserable, but as a child growing up in such an atmosphere it was awful. Please don't allow your kids to have the same experiences that I did.

practicality Thu 22-Aug-13 16:18:24

I sympathise - I have been in your position. My DH decided to move into another area of education- school improvement end but not until he nearly had a breakdown after becoming severely depressed.

I nearly quit my marriage because of the stress of trying to cope with fallout of someone who considered it a 'weakness' in becoming ill as a consequence of working in an intolerable environment. The stress of student numbers,grades, school budgets, inadequate teaching practice and an unethical governing body undermined his confidence such that he lost perspective. He could do the job exceptionally well but had no way of self- managing the ongoing stress.

Some people aren't able to separate out work/home etc and they tend to be the perfectionists. I don't think teaching suits some personality types because there is always more you could do. A person who can't set themselves reasonable limits needs to be in a working environment where these are clearly defined for them I believe.

Guiltypleasures001 Thu 22-Aug-13 17:15:05

Hi op

You have already hinted at what is the trigger for your dh a small part of his unconscious is still that young student sacked from that cafe job if you could get him to a decent integrative counsellor who will do some mainly psychodynamic work with him I'm pretty sure he could calm down coupled with some decent CBT techniques for relaxation and breathing excercises

LilP Fri 23-Aug-13 14:31:36

Thanks everyone - its just so good to talk about this, as I don't feel I can really say all this to friends and family. Just to have sympathy helps too. I would like him to look into doing more work for the exam board, and I think he'd enjoy it too, but again he got as far as registering with them but hasn't pursued it (grrrrrr!!!). To be fair on him, as well as looking into CBT and the Alexander technique, he tries to go swimming and does meditation and relaxation techniques, but if it only helps with that day's stress. Sometimes I think he'd rather look into those sorts of things - in a way, confirming that he is stressed, than look into making changes in his life IYSWIM. To be honest, if he was to go swimming every evening after work, he might feel better but we'd never see him. (I'd also slightly resent it as I don't get to do any exercise or relaxation at all) Both his parents are teachers. Thinking about it, his Dad, similarly, the moment he retired became a different person, so much happier and relaxed - but I don't want to wait till we're 60-odd! I think I am going to have to find my moment carefully to really talk about all this and I really do think it would help him to see some kind of counsellor - to help him move towards a less stressful life. Anyone know a CB Therapist/Careers Advisor all wrapped up in one (who doesn't charge a fortune?)! :-) Thanks again Mumsnetters x x x

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