Dear Thelma: My husband is depressed, hurts himself and has financial issues


  • Family
  • Sunday, 30 Jun 2019

My husband recently told me that he is very depressed because of his work. He basically does not like the concept of working nine-to-five. He has been working in his current company since 2015, just before I delivered our first baby.

He has stayed on this job since our first child was born as we now have two kids to take care of. Before that, he used to change jobs frequently and was out of a job during my first pregnancy.

He says his depression causes him to hurt himself. Every morning while riding his motorcycle to work, he says he wants to crash into the car in front of him so that he can be out of work. A few weeks back, he hurt himself and took two days of medical leave. He told me he fell down in the bathroom but actually, he hit his own hand until it became swollen.

He likes to stay at home and do some forex (foreign exchange) trading, which he has been doing since his student days, but it does not generate income for our family. He wants to resign and stay at home but he is scared of being a failure and a bad father to our children.

I actually do not mind him staying at home because I’m doing sales. I can work hard to earn more even though I’m already working until 10-11pm every day, and sometimes on weekends too. I’m not always at home and he has been the one who takes care of our kids. He is better at handling them, compared to me.

So I said to him, if you are really depressed, why not change jobs. But he said it would be the same because he just does not want to work full-time. So I suggested that he resign and try to work on his trading again. He was very happy and excited when I suggested that.

So, we had a discussion and agreed that he’d have to refinance one of our houses before he resigned, in order for us to manage our finances better. It is so that he’d have less commitments and some extra cash for a couple of months until he can earn a stable income.

I suggested that he work as a part-time property agent because it is related to my work and it would help me a bit. He was OK with the idea as long as he has flexible hours.

But now I am really stressed because he did not tell me everything about his financial problems. It turns out that he has a lot of credit card debts and has even taken out a personal loan without letting me know. I have to settle these issues for him before he can refinance the house.

We have had such financial problems for so many years. I’m really tired of doing charity and not getting paid back just because I’m his wife.

He is always giving me empty promises. All this while I have been the one contributing more to the household expenses.

He earns a fixed amount via rental income but his extra cash always goes somewhere else. Two weeks before his payday, he would have to use my money because he has no more.

I do not like to argue about money and whenever I bring it up, he will be mad at me and avoid talking to me for days.

I earn more because I’m doing sales but that doesn’t mean he can simply use my money for his expenses.

I’m sick and tired of his attitude because he doesn’t understand that my work is stressing me out too and I have to double up my workload just to cover both our expenses.

I also have to pay for my mum’s and sister’s household expenses because my mum is not working and my sister is still studying. At the same time, I have a three-year-old and a six-month-old baby to care for.

If he is not working, it will burden me more. But if I don’t let him resign, I know he will do something more dangerous than the last incident just to avoid going to work.

Please help me. I do not know who to talk to since people I know will be very sceptical or critical towards my husband if they find out about our situation and will act differently with him.

M

You write a very clear letter, so let me lay it out as an action plan.

First, your husband’s self-harm is extremely worrying. Your approach was excellent: Supportive, non-judgmental and solution focused.

However, you should rope in a professional to have your husband assessed for depression as he is actively engaged in hurting himself. Also, he needs to learn healthy coping methods, which professionals teach well.

Second, revamp your finances. This will be sticky because your husband feels he’s failing. Remind him that marriage is a partnership and that means leaning in.

Also, you might point out that being a man does not endow him with an MBA. Most people find money difficult! Pack the kids off for the afternoon, sit down and make a deal: No more secret debts. Cut up the credit cards and have just one each. And no more personal loans. Also, commit to a monthly money conference. That will prevent any nasty surprises.

Then come clean about every scrap of income and expenditure so you know where you stand. Once you have a clear view, figure out budgets and responsibilities.

I understand that he doesn’t want to work full-time but he has family responsibilities and the rental income isn’t enough. Between you and me, I wonder why he got married or had kids. However, it’s a done deal. Until the kids are adult and independent, he has to do his part.

If you both feel he should try his hand at real estate be sure he knows he has to work at it. Set a time limit and an income goal so you can check if it’s worth it. If it isn’t, he’ll need a backup plan.

As for the forex trading, he’s not making money so ditch that. Frankly, he’s not good with money so common sense suggests he should stop messing about in that sector. It’s too dangerous.

While you talk responsibilities, define child and house care, too. Treat this as urgently as you treat your finances. There are two parents, and working people split it down the middle.

Alternatively, consider that you will be the income earner for a few years while he runs the home full-time. Either way, this will show the kids a good role model: Dads do their share.

Third, there’s you. My dear, you have too many responsibilities. Make space at least once a week for a treat – a massage, a girls’ lunch, an art class – something that recharges you.

Finally, the bit about “what people might think”. When you have a plan that works for your family, tell the busybodies to mind their own business. They’re not living your life, you are. If you’re more polite than me, you can say: “My husband is in real estate. Here’s his card.”

In short, see this crisis as an opportunity to remodel.

It will take honesty, transparency and letting go of ego but I think you will both be a lot happier.


Is something bothering you? Do you need a listening ear or a shoulder to lean on? Thelma is here to help.  Email star2.thelma@thestar.com.my or write to Dear Thelma, c/o StarLifestyle, Menara Star, 15, Jalan 16/11, 46350 Petaling Jaya, Selangor. Please include your full name and address, and a pseudonym. No private correspondence will be entertained. The Star does not give any warranty on accuracy, completeness, usefulness, fitness for any particular purpose or other assurances as to the opinions and views expressed in this column. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses suffered directly or indirectly arising from reliance on such opinions and views.

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