Dear Jennifer,

How do you deal with a spouse who suffers mental illness? When I met my husband he had his stuff together, or so it seemed on the outside. Four years and one child later, he’s an absolute shit-show.

When we started talking about having a baby, he talked about how great it would be, that I could stay home and raise the kids. He was just starting a business and had imagined great things happening with it. Four years later, his business is barely off the ground and isn’t paying for itself. He has a business where he sees clients, averaging 5 clients a week. He’s basically a S.A.H.D. (stay at home dad).

We’ve been depleting our savings to pay his office rent every month and he’s trying to get money from his mom (he’s 48). He tells me that when he met me, he thought he’d met someone who wouldn’t abandon him when he fell apart. There are so many aspects to this situation and they’re all shit. I make $30-35,000 yr, and am the only income in a 2 adult home. This is certainly NOT what we agreed to.

He suffers from major depression with some aspects of bi-polar, delusional thinking, and opportunistic personality. He’s a shit-show. He won’t get a job, because he says “if his business fails there’s no point to anything”. I’m not sure why he doesn’t see that his business has already failed. I’m mostly terrified that my son will grow up to be like this hot-mess of a man. I’m not sure what to do.


Worried Wife

Dear Worried Wife,

There’s a lot going on in your letter so I’ll break each point down. I want to preface this by saying I’m here to offer a different, wholistic perspective (with love, I might add).

Saying your husband is a “shit show” is disrespectful, condescending, belittling, and damaging to him (and yourself and your son). Even if you don’t say this to his face, your attitude, demeanor, facial expressions, tone of voice and energy relay this to him - and that will NOT encourage him to do or be better.

CONGRATS to him on quitting drinking. That isn’t an easy endeavor. If he quit drinking and things are going well, I’m curious why you brought this up? If it is no longer part of your lives, then relaying this information is either reenforcing a victim state in yourself // or // you’re wanting compassion from those of us reading this to make yourself feel better // or // you’re wanting to paint him in a more negative light // or // you’re wanting those of us reading to know what you’ve been through (I certainly understand the damage alcoholism does to those who live with an alcoholic). Bottom line, it’s a waste of time to focus on this = he quit and that’s something to be grateful for - that’s something to commend him on. He’s making an effort to be a better father, husband and human. Good for him.

His desire to allow you the ability to stay at home with your child is ah-mazing! It shows how much he cares for you and wants to provide a good life for you. Be grateful for this. Everyone imagines and hopes for great success in their business. You didn’t say what exactly he does for his clients, but many businesses can take 4 - 7 years to really take off. I advise people to start a new business *on the side* whilst maintaining their full time job. Once the new business brings in half the income of their current full time job, then they can plan to quit the current job and focus primarily on building their new business. If he didn’t do this ((and you were aware he didn’t do this when you married)) then you and he, together, are at fault for not planning a little better and it’s not something you can blame him for - no one can predict how well a new business will do so it’s not something a person can count on as a guarantee. My opinion.

For his business… think outside the box. Does he NEED an office outside the home? Can he have a home office and work with clients from home, meet them at a coffee shop or public library, or work virtually with them via FaceTime? That way he can eliminate the office rent dues.

Your point that he’s trying to borrow money from his mother when he’s age 48 is belittling, demeaning, and condescending. Plenty of people, age 50+, takes out loans to start businesses (from banks, family, family friends). Again, commenting like this won’t build him up or encourage him to do better. You have to give him credit for trying. Many men equate their self worth with business success - so please understand when he says that if his business folds, he folds. Many entrepreneurs feel this way - it’s an innate characteristic built in most men and it comes from the desire to provide and protect. When a man’s business folds, his self confidence takes a hit (at least for awhile).

I think it’s fair to say that most humans, when they meet and marry the love of their life, hope they’ve married a mate that won’t turn on them or abandon them if they fall apart (if they become physically or mentally sick, if they have a breakdown, if they fail at something big, or make a huge mistake, etc). Isn’t that what commitment is? Marriage is standing by one another through the storms. It’s lifting one another up to encourage them, support them, fill them up when they feel depleted and love them when they feel most unlovable.

You say you’re the only income in your home. Does your husband do his work with 5 clients a week for free? Or does he contribute - just not as much as you? There’s a big difference between no income and some. There’s a big difference between being lazy, not caring and not trying, and trying but struggling. This may not be what you agreed to before marrying him - but can you make it work? - that’s the question. Things change. People change. Things don’t always play out the way we expect or want - and that’s okay sometimes. We aren’t in marriage for the good times only. We don’t say, “I do - but only if everything goes smoothly and life is easy”. We say “for better or worse”. This may be your ‘worse’.

If I were advising your husband, I’d tell him to get up off his *bum*, get a full time job and allow his business to be a side hustle until it takes off. He has a wife and child to provide and care for. If he is unwilling to do this, only you can decide how long you want to endure this situation. But I, a business owner, don’t think his business has failed. I think it hasn’t taken off yet. Instead of looking at this (or him) as a failure, maybe focus on how you can encourage him to grow. Can he take a business class or get business coaching?

To address the mental illness - depression, bi-polar symptoms, delusional thinking can all be brought on from a host of things. My questions would be: Did he receive a hard diagnosis? If so, when - before or after you married him? And what are the causes? All those you listed can be triggered by low mineral deficiencies in the blood (poor nutrition) and can be easily remedied. There are a host of physical conditions that can be the root cause of these symptoms and can be remedied. I’d recommend detailed blood work, working with a nutritionist, changing lifestyle, exercise, etc. If it still persists, get a second or third opinion - because mental illnesses are grossly misdiagnosed.

Now with allllllll that being said, I want you to know that I do, most certainly, understand your perspective, your frustration, and your fears. You’re frustrated that he isn’t a successful man. You’re scared and worried about your life: Will we have enough money for rent/mortgage? Will we have enough money for food, health insurance, school, medical bills, etc? How much longer can we/I endure this? Will his mental condition worsen? Will I be the sole provider forever? What lessons will our son learn from observing my husband’s behavior?

All legitimate concerns.

I get it. You find yourself in trying times that will either make you or break you - but that outcome is a choice and one only you can make.

I think the real question boils down to whether you truly love him and are willing to remain committed, or not. Several times you referred to him, a human being, as (and I quote you), “a shit-show”, a “hot-mess of a man”. This doesn’t sound like love. Dig deep and focus on your heart. We’re all familiar with how crucial a positive, optimistic mindset is and how detrimental it is to our personal reality - but in addition to Mindset, we also have a heart-set, too. What's your Heartset now? I know you’re frustrated, hurt and scared, but…. Focus on gratitude. Focus on how you can help. Focus on solutions rather than problems. And reach out to me if you need help.

Sending you my love!

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