Waving, Not Drowning

Dear Viv: My husband's anxiety is taking over my life

On this week’s podcast, Viv discusses what to do when your partner’s mental health threatens to derail everything

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By Viv Groskop on

Dear Viv,

My husband's anxiety is taking over my life and I feel like a horrible person for being so selfish, but after nearly six years together I don't know what to do anymore. I love him, his family, our friends, our shared values and our life together - in so many ways he is my best friend. However, his anxiety and anger management issues are like a black cloud over our life and nothing ever gets done about it. I feel like I have to shape my life around his mood and stress. He gets so angry that he has punched walls, kicked walls (even breaking a toe in the process), smashed plates and had panic attacks. And I have begged, insisted, considered blackmailing him into trying therapy or taking anxiety medication. But he is stubborn, and believes anxiety and anger is just his personality and that everyone needs to stop trying to change him.

When something major happens (or sometimes even something smaller) everything stops and his mood dominates the flat's atmosphere. If he's in a stressed state then I'm not allowed to cook in the kitchen at the same time as him, as it stresses him out. He just needs his space.

That's just one tiny example though. There are bigger things - like the fact that we rarely have sex because he's "not in a sexy mind frame at the moment". He's anxious about terrorism and so won't visit my family with me anymore as they live abroad in countries he thinks are unsafe (though they’re hardly war-torn states!). He won't take the tube anymore because of terrorism, and if he's in a stressed state he'll cancel social plans we have so I often end up going to parties on my own or not at all.

He doesn't share any of my interests either - never ever will he go to the cinema to see a movie I have chosen, or watch a TV show that I'm excited about. Choosing where to go on holiday is a looooooong debate about where he would be happy to go. What I'm trying to say is - I feel that EVERYTHING in our relationship is on his terms and there is no wriggle room or compromise (other than me). I have said this to him, but he thinks I'm being dramatic.

We are buying our first home at the moment. I have done EVERYTHING for the move (because we need to avoid causing him stress!). He's barely slept for the past few months and is so irritable that I sometimes dread coming home in case I am greeted by this monster. And then some nights I get home and he's wonderful again, and we laugh and kiss and have a brilliant time. It's not all doom and gloom...

Finally, we are really split over starting a family. I'm 31 now and although I never felt I wanted children before, I have now changed my mind and I am definitely starting to feel it's what I want. I think if I'm honest, I do want children but I'm worried about bringing a child into this environment because I know my husband wouldn't cope with parenthood. When I told him my feelings on children had changed he flew into a huge rage and we had an enormous row – He was so angry that I'd 'deceived him' and changed my mind 'so flippantly'. He doesn't think we can afford a baby (not true), worries that he would spend his life stressing about the wellbeing of the child, and is convinced the baby will be disabled or very ill and that we wouldn't be able to cope with that in our lives. He also thinks that he would end up doing the lion's share of the work because he is tidier and I'm terrible on little sleep.

So in short, I feel that if he went to therapy and started a course of anti-anxiety medication our life together could improve. I'm due to start therapy soon as I really want to work on myself. He's up for couple's therapy in principle but wants me to arrange it all (as I arrange EVERYTHING) but is reluctant about the cost. He really thinks everything is fine and I just need to accept him for who he is. But I'm exhausted from constantly rubbing his shoulders, talking in soothing tones and saying I understand.

Your wisdom would be SO appreciated.

This question has been edited for length. 

Hear Viv's answer to this question on her podcast, Waving, Not Drowning, above.

Got a question for Viv? Email her at DearViv@thepoolltd.com. The Dear Viv podcast airs fortnightly on The Pool at 5pm on Tuesdays. All letters will be edited for length. Unfortunately, Viv cannot reply to your emails personally. 

You can subscribe to The Pool's podcasts on iTunes

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