My partner of 20 years recently lost her grandmother. She became depressed, followed by spending enormous time on her cell phone.
She quit her job to stay home with the children, though I opposed it.
Whenever I questioned her excessive cell phone use, I was met with hostility.
Six months later I discovered that she’d spent upwards of $30,000 on online games.
I was shocked and attributed it to her grief. She broke down when questioned and confessed. I paid off a large amount of the debt.
Three months later she relapsed and put herself into collections.
I don't know what to do.
I have to remind her to change her clothes. She’s tried to become more of a friend to the children than a mother.
I ask if she plans on getting a job as the children are now older, but she accuses me of trying to be like her dad.
I’m trying to pay down the mortgage and save for the children's education, but instead I have to pay her needless debts. She’s 44. Where do I go from here?
Depressed or Addicted?
Grief can be all-consuming, and yet also spark all kinds of escapist behaviours to avoid the reality of death and loss.
We humans experience grief in so many varied ways that we don’t always recognize or acknowledge that it’s the source of new, unhealthy reactions, such as anxiety and addictions.
She’s fortunate that she has you reaching out to find ways to help her.
I advise professional help for both her depression and excessive online gaming.
A combined approach from her doctor assessing her depression (e.g. whether meds are needed), plus a therapist’s process of grief counselling, is where to start.
Of course, she has to be willing. Appeal to her for a feeling of well-being and emotional stability, for her own sake. Don’t make it about her debts or responsibilities.
Once she makes a start in facing her grief, instead of letting it consume her, she’d benefit from a cognitive behaviour specialist who can help her recognize and avoid the triggers to her gaming habit.
It may sound like a lot of effort, but as her partner and mother of your children, she needs your understanding and help at this very low point in her life.
On the strictly practical side, see your bank manager and your accountant to discuss strategies to avoid her amassing future debts while she’s still vulnerable.
My husband and I recently travelled to stay one week at a widowed friend’s home. We hadn’t seen her in three years due to busy lives.
We keep contact by phone and messaging, so we knew that her “sometimes difficult” daughter, age 28, had moved back home after losing her job.
This young woman talks constantly, and voices contrary opinions on every comment anyone makes, even if it’s about the weather!
There were no walks, conversations, meals or shopping trips we could take without her joining us and dominating the occasion.
Her mother’s incredibly patient with her, telling us only that she “has issues.”
What could we have done other than suffer through it?
You could do little other than find an excuse to leave early, but that would’ve been obvious and hurtful to your friend.
She’s chosen tolerance of her daughter’s manner, for private reasons she hasn’t shared.
Stay in touch, and consider next time whether she can visit at your place, on her own. She could use the break.
FEEDBACK Regarding the young girl who feels unloved by her mother (August 30):
Reader – “Her mother may be a Narcissist, so an attempt to have a gentle conversation with her will only bring more heartache and disappointment.
“Not all mothers have the ability to love.
“She should be encouraged to see a school counsellor and ask for referral for a therapist familiar with this type of parent.
“I discovered the truth about my mum in my 50’s, after a lifetime of trying to please her and second-guessing everything I said and did because of a lack of positive reinforcement as a child and teenager.
“I wish someone had been available to me to point out the truth, so I could’ve understood that it wasn’t me.
“Also, to know that she was the one with the problem, then understand the abuse and be okay without her approval.
“Sometimes distance is the only solution.”
Tip of the day:
When grief envelops a person close to you, reach out with every help possible.