I’m sick of being the pillar of strength in my marriage

I’m sick of being the pillar of strength in my marriage

I have been married for 10 years, and have increasingly felt that I am the backbone of our relationship. I earn significantly more money, work more hours, and do far more around the house than my husband. We own a business together and during a particularly bad time I was made redundant from the business and had to hurriedly resume my career during rather dire economic times, just to continue supporting us.

During that time, he suffered a serious bout of depression, and mostly took everything out on me. I deeply buried my fear, frustration, anger, resentment, hurt and emotional needs just so I could keep coping during that very difficult time. We have come through the other side of it, and I am now beginning to experience all those long and deep buried feelings. My husband refuses to discuss this to help me process these emotions, despite my constant support for him during his period of depression.

I am making arrangements to speak with a counsellor, but I feel if my husband cannot accept some responsibility and more candidly discuss my feelings about the way things have gone the past few years that I may not be able to carry on. I’m sure other women who have been the ongoing pillar of strength know what I mean, but unless I can be vulnerable again and feel that I can be supported by him in some way going forward, I don’t know what my next step should be. Any advice on how to heal this growing rift? Paula

Psychologists say there are two schools of thought on ‘talking things through’. For some people (like you and me), it’s a way of processing and dissecting the experience, and figuring out ways to avoid going through it again. For others (like your husband), talking opens up a can of worms. It can be a trigger taking them back to a dark place they don’t particularly want to revisit. He may just be like, ‘That happened, yeah – but we’re past it now. Can’t we just move forward?’ Argh. Brick wall, meet head.

That’s why I’m glad you’re seeing a counsellor. Not just to vent about all this stuff you’re boiling over with, but to also workshop some strategies for communicating with him about it. Your husband might not be ready to talk now, but maybe in time he will. However, you might not be prepared to twiddle your thumbs in the hope he’ll one day meet you halfway. You might have needed that six months ago.

Ultimately, I reckon one of the biggest relationship lessons we need to learn is that no matter how much work we put in or how much we communicate, people will never be exactly what we want them to be. Whether that’s down to their choices, values or something as unpredictable as mental health issues. We’re left with a choice of our own: accept them and the things we can’t change and focus on the good  – or decide whether those things are deal-breakers. About your situation, I will say this: it’s not just about his needs here. Your marriage shouldn’t be a one-way street with you forced to do all the driving. You’re miserable and it’s time to figure this out – either on your own with that counsellor, or hopefully, with him. 

Wishing you all the best, Paula.

Love, reality chick


Got a question for RC or the Manswers team? Drop a line in

RC’s Question Box! (Questions may be edited.)
Freelance journo, blogger, self-appointed advice-giver and co-author of Get Lucky. If you've got a dating or relationship issue, feel free to ask a question. (PS. You can also find me at The Mama Files and Letter To My Ex).

4 Comments

  1. Hi there, I love this excellent website! Great advice, RC!
    Paula, I hear you. Counselling seems to be the way to go. Friends tend to be a bit unreliable in these situations because they take sides and it may come back to bite you and your husband. Talking to a friend may work if they’re balanced and objective, but you’ll find that many, many times, friends can be anything but…
    It seems that your ‘resilience tank’ is almost running on empty, Paula, and it’s time to ‘refuel’. You’ve been there for your hubby; now you need to be there for yourself.

  2. Lola 4 years ago

    Hi Paula, I’m going through something similar at the moment. Counselling works very well for me because it gives me a broader sense of perspective and empowers me. As RC wisely pointed out, no matter how badly we need our significant other to behave / think / feel in a certain way, they simply won’t because they’re not us; they’re different people. Does that make them ‘subpar’ as partners / spouses / significant others? Who knows? I had to take some time out of my relationship some years ago and that ultimately changed the dynamics between my partner and me. Most importantly, I became a far more mature human being.
    I find that men in general aren’t prepared to ‘talk things through’, not the way we would want them to, anyway. For some odd reason, they believe that conversations of that sort constitute psychological warfare (John Gray anyone?). Probably in your case, it would be better to save yourself the trouble of engaging in extra conflict. Preserve your energy. At the end of the day, there’s only one ‘you’ and you do matter. Enormously. All the best and more, Lola.

    • Author

      Great advice Lola. I interviewed a couple of really great psychs about men and relationships recently. Huge insight into how differently we handle conflict and problems. For us, it’s about realising that and working out different ways of communicating – and having other sounding boards (like good non-judgemental friends and counsellors!)

      Totally with you on the preserving your energy and picking your battles, too!

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*