Tell Me About It

My husband is unemployed. Where will he go if I leave him for my business partner?

Tell Me About It: ‘He’s not the man I married: he lacks ambition and takes money from me’

PROBLEM: My husband is a good man, he helps around the house, is great with the children and generally very supportive of me and my ventures (business or work). I believe he loves me or at least that he believes he loves me and I love him a lot too.

He lost his job about six years ago, just a year after our wedding, and hasn’t been working since. I was so panicked that the stress of not working as a man might cause him depression, that I worked harder and harder and got into various business ventures just to make sure we keep afloat while he is looking for work.

Six months ago, I lost my job due to the pandemic and for the first time I was home for two months straight. And it soon became clear to me that while I was working to support us, he was sitting at home spending most of his time visiting his mother’s house and not really looking for work.

I feel so betrayed, that I spent six years of my life supporting a man whom I was sure was fighting just as hard for our future and was just not being lucky, only to find he wasn’t at all.

I have found that as much as I still love him, I am no longer attracted to him. Because he is not the man I married: he lacks ambition, and he takes money from me claiming to be chasing either employment or business only to spend it on only he knows what.

To make matters worse, something I am honestly and truly ashamed of, I have started looking at my business partner differently. We are constantly on the phone speaking about how to grow our business and exchanging ideas on our personal investments. I am so frustrated right now because I think I have unconsciously fallen deeply in love with him and he has expressed the same and this is way outside of my comfort and religious zone.

The situation with my business partner has complicated my thought processes because now I am wondering if my feelings of betrayal, disconnectedness and anger at my husband for basically letting me work alone, support our family and stress about his wellbeing are valid or are a result of my infatuation with my business partner.

Now I feel like the only reason I am still in this marriage is because my husband is still unemployed and I don’t want to leave him destitute.

Where will he go?

ADVICE: You need to decide what you want to work towards – a marriage and full-supportive relationship with your husband, or a separation and a combined business and romantic relationship with your business partner. You mention children so they also need to be central to your decision making.

It seems that you have a very traditional view of what men should do and this may have come to light only when you discovered that your husband was not seeking work. There are now many examples of successful relationships where the woman is the main breadwinner and the man is the homemaker.

If you are to re-commit to this relationship, you will both need a lot of help working through your issues

However, this seems to clash deeply with your values and with what you thought was the basis for the marriage and I wonder if your husband has had a chance to be heard about what his experience of unemployment has been. At the moment, he must have some knowledge that you have withdrawn from intimacy and connection as well as having some experience of your disapproval and this might affect his ability to speak with confidence.

If you are to re-commit to this relationship, you will both need a lot of help working through your issues and this is unlikely to work unless you find a way to value him for who he is rather than what he does. He would also have to answer your sense of betrayal and anger at feeling left alone to support everyone. In your final comment in the letter you sound more like a parent than a partner (where will the child go when you stop supporting them) so there is quite an uphill climb to build a relationship where both of you can have equal but different standing.

The other option for you is to seek a separation and if this is on the cards for you, mediation is the way forward. Family mediation is a free, Government-sponsored service to couples who wish to separate in an informed, fair and legally supported manner. The process will take into account the needs and rights of all concerned, including your children’s needs into the future and also your husband’s need to be financially supported until he finds his feet.

Making a huge life decision while you are full of resentment and infatuation may not offer you the best judgment

The mediators are highly trained professionals who guide a couple through the process of separation with knowledge and expertise and some of the more adversarial and expense-laden aspects of separation can be avoided in this way.

You say that this option might go against your moral and religious values, and this may be your crunch point as it seems that the decision to stay in the marriage or leave rests with you, with the brunt of responsibility falling on you. This is a big burden to take on and you might need some support in untangling all the different threads to this story so that you are clear and confident in your decision.

Would you consider talking this over with a close confidant or someone you admire so that you can hear where your own challenges and difficulties lie? Making a huge life decision while you are full of resentment and infatuation may not offer you the best judgment, so take time to talk, consider and reflect until you can come to a calm, considered place.

For couples and family therapists see familytherapyireland.com. For family mediation services see citizensinformation.ie.