My husband of 15 years has become very negative. When we dated, he was sometimes moody, but I could lift him out of it.
Now, he sees and reacts to everything as a burden or a putdown.
When a couple we’ve been friends with purchased a new home, he declared them “materialistic” and didn’t want to get together with them.
Their new place isn’t large or showy, but they’re now “off limits.” I still see the wife but my husband gets annoyed about it.
That’s just one small example. He’s distanced from a couple of his old friends, argues with one of his siblings, and finds fault too often with our sons ages 12 and 14.
His own childhood had been harsh. His father left the family, didn’t keep up regular visits with his children, bad-mouthed their mother, causing her to be unhappy throughout their growing up.
I don’t know how to handle his bleak attitude toward everything. He should’ve gone for therapy at least ten years ago but always balked when I suggested it.
I’m a very positive person. I’ve worked throughout our marriage to be an equal financial partner, and am closely involved with the children’s schooling and activities.
If my husband could appreciate all that we’ve achieved over the years, he’d see how positive our marriage, family and many of our friendships could be.
But he’s unwilling to leave behind his negative views. Any suggestions would be appreciated.
You’ve given yourself too complex a job, to be sole caretaker of his moods and family cheerleader, despite your admirable attempts.
Meet with a therapist on your own in order to discuss his negativity, its past origins, and how it’s now affecting all his relationships.
Ask the therapist when and how best to share some of what you learn.
Also ask if there’s a possible need for a health check due to a physical or mental-health reason for your husband’s depressive outlook.
For example, a diagnosis of long-term depression since his childhood and youth could lead to deeper understanding of himself as well as potentially helpful treatment.
Even a few sessions with a professional psychotherapist can bring new insights and lift your own burden of feeling responsible for him.
Continue to live positively, maintain friendships you don’t want to lose, see the relatives with whom you have mutual good feelings. And show your husband and especially your children appreciation for your home, health, and each other.
If things don’t improve over time, you’d be wise to continue therapy to help you decide your response for the future.
FEEDBACK Regarding the couple who are divided on their basic values/interests (August 19):
Reader – “Rules that exist in a relationship can be changed, but only if all parties agree. However, you can't change the original declaration, which at the time of marriage is "Forsaking all others,” without expecting serious consequences.
“There's nothing in the published letter to suggest that the wife hasn't, at least sometimes, participated in his preferred outdoor activities.
“But regardless, swinging is hardly a reasonable response to any marriage problem.
“So, it's highly unlikely that her husband’s going to give up his new group-sex obsession in return for a few weekend canoe trips.
“Another helpful quote for the wife: "This above all, to thine own self be true."
“She doesn't want this new lifestyle and should be prepared to walk away, however painful it may be - because staying and tolerating it would be even worse.”
Reader’s Commentary Regarding your longtime principle of not connecting letter-writers for the purpose of meeting and dating:
“Yet many times, a woman who’s been cheated on will ask, “Where are all the nice decent guys.” Likewise, with “nice guys” who’ve written about manipulative partners.
“Certainly, some of these “nice women” would like to meet some of these “nice guys.” Since both parties would be on alert due to their previous relationships, such connections would evolve slowly over time.
“Personally, any of these women sound like people I’d like to meet. Their ideas of “nice guys” also match how I consider myself. I wouldn’t object to some women having my contact information to permit an initial chat, even for just simple companionship.”
Ellie - My two operative principles in this column: 1) Anonymity for letter-readers to protect children and others involved; 2) No financial interest in “match-making,” which is a business, not relationship advice.
Tip of the day:
A partner’s persistent negativity can drag everyone down - spouse, children, even adult siblings included.