Dear Thelma: My wife wants me to be wealthy and successful like her ex

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Dear Thelma,

My wife is a full-time housewife. We have a two-year-old daughter and are expecting a second child.

My wife expects me to be a wealthy and successful person to make her happy. Many times, she tells me how she helps me to save money and how she does not ask for presents for her birthday or anniversary, because I do not earn a high salary. I myself do not buy presents or treat myself to anything luxurious. In truth, I wish to live a minimalist lifestyle without the desire for expensive things.

She looks down on people who play video games, claiming that such people cannot become successful. I admit that I need to change – I am guilty to a certain extent for the amount of time I spend on video games, which means I end up paying less attention to my wife. But usually I only play video games after spending time with our daughter and after she has gone to sleep.

My wife insists that I pursue wealth instead of playing video games. I understand that different people have different ideologies, but she completely rejects and belittles those who do not share the same ideology as her.

She is very emotionally driven, bad-tempered, criticises my family a lot, but does not handle criticism well herself.

Our daughter is not easy to raise. She is extremely attached to my wife, to the point that she has to be carried to sleep most of the time, which is very physically straining for my wife and I feel sorry for her. And if our daughter throws a tantrum, she will not accept anyone but my wife, rendering me helpless. She will keep crying and screaming until my wife carries her to comfort her.

My wife mostly blames my daughter's tantrums on what I or my family did. It causes my wife to suffer, and she takes it out on our daughter. She says the reason our daughter is so attached to her is because I am not spending enough time with her although when I am home from work, I usually spend most of my time with our daughter until she falls asleep.

In our arguments, she often mentions that her ex has become wealthy and successful. She also compares me to other guys who had pursued a relationship with her and how she regrets being with me. She complains about how I have changed towards her since the beginning of our relationship. But isn't change normal and expected in a relationship, especially after marriage, parenthood and financial commitments?

I am far from being a perfect husband, and I am open to making improvements. I understand that my wife has a heavy burden upon her shoulders and finds it stressful raising our child, but I wish she could also see that she has her flaws as well, and it is a shared accountability and responsibility for the problems we are going through, instead of all the blame being placed on others. I wish to bring up some of her mistakes in which she could change and improve, but fear it would backfire and cause a meltdown as this has happened on many occasions.

Husband who wishes to have a simple life and be happy

Your wife judges you by the amount of money you generate, and punishes you with emotional abuse if you don't spend every single moment of your time working.

Let me ask you this: if you heard of a man telling a woman she had to work 24/7 and that her only value was in her bank balance, would you consider that a healthy relationship?

This is abuse.

As for your little daughter, she is a toddler, and they are notorious for going through the "terrible twos", driving the most saintly parents to the limit of their patience.

I appreciate it is difficult; however, for your wife to take out her temper on a child for being small and unable to control their emotions is cruel. I am concerned for your daughter's welfare.

As for blaming you and your family, you don't provide a reason for this, and you also state that any attempt to discuss issues results in you being punished with temper tantrums, so much so that you are now afraid to speak up.

The nasty comparisons to her ex are all part and parcel of systemic humiliation and shaming.

You are in an abusive marriage. I strongly suggest you talk to a mental health professional who is skilled in dealing with abuse, emotional abuse and financial abuse.

Couples counselling is excellent when both parties communicate openly and are set on a fair and equitable relationship. But when there is abuse, you can't go to couples counselling because the abuser hijacks the process in order to bully the victim.

Seek your own support, and please do so as soon as possible. If you are short of funds, call All Women's Action Society (AWAM) 03-7877 4221 or Women's Aid Organisation (WAO) 03-7956 3488 or SMS/WhatsApp TINA at 018-988 8058. (They are NGOs that were founded for women, but anyone can be a victim of abuse and they are helpful resources.)

If your wife is willing to go to her own therapist, and to change her behaviour, you may have a chance to build a healthy relationship. But it's typically a long road as abusers tend to avoid seeking change.

I appreciate this is difficult, but you cannot change your spouse, so this is where you have to look after you and your children. Seek advice, and decide what you wish to do.

You deserve happiness. Please reach out for help so you can plan for positive change.

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