Q: We have been married over 40 years. The first 30 weren't too bad. Between us we raised and educated five children. A few years ago he got cancer and I nursed him for one solid year, although the doctors only gave him 30 days to live. The last five or six years he has been demanding, critical, inconsiderate of my feelings and coming down on the children very hard. He criticizes my cooking at every meal, as well as everything else I do. We have to watch what HE wants on TV. My choices don't count. He is driving me crazy. What do I do at this point? -- Jody, 70
Dr. Susan: People who undergo a life-threatening experience, who make it through what was supposed to be a quickly terminal illness, are usually grateful for the extra years. Some of them say they see life in a whole new way and appreciate each moment with their loved ones. Unfortunately, your husband is not one of those people. It's impossible for me to tell you why he changed so much, but maybe it's not hopeless yet. Is he on some medication that makes him more short-tempered? You'd have to look up all his medications, or perhaps speak with his doctors or a friendly pharmacist. Some drugs do increase irritability. Or it's possible that, rather then seeing these years as a happy bonus, he is less patient with whatever bothered him before because he knows how suddenly life can end.
If the first 30 years were indeed reasonably satisfying, then don't give up now. But don't play his game either. Tell him to cook several times a week. Take turns choosing what's on TV, or get another TV just for yourself. Your kids are grown, so let them fend for themselves. Talk to them though, and let them know what's going on. If at all possible, after checking his medications, try to get him to see a counselor with you for a few times. Don't say it's because he's changed and is driving you crazy, but because you need help making him happy again.
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Advice for Her
Advice for Him
Susan K. Perry, Ph.D.
Susan K. Perry, Ph.D., is a social psychologist, relationship expert, and bestselling and award-winning author. Her books include Loving in Flow: How the Happiest Couples Get and Stay That Way, and Kylie's Heel, a novel for adults.
Pamela G. Chollet, Ph.D.
Dr. Pamela Chollet has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and Master degrees in educational psychology and fine arts. Her passion has been helping people face and get through those times when they feel trapped and unable to move forward.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, stress management expert, and author. If you're feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, or struggling to make changes in your life, Anna can help.