Tell me about it: My wife is tired of our money problems – and so am I
Kate Holmquist answers your relationship and life queries
Q My wife complains that all we talk about is money, and she’s right, because there isn’t enough. I am unemployed despite applying for many jobs and continuing to network in my field, and due to my wife’s income being just above the line, social welfare gives me no more than jobseekers’ benefit, despite the fact that we have a family.
After many years of being the provider, I am relying on my working wife, and frequently ask her for money. We have budgeted, sought financial advice, negotiated lower payments on debts and bills, yet still we struggle to have enough for food and can’t afford the dentist or GP.
The children keep asking for money for summer activities and new runners, for example, which we cannot afford. Our eldest has a part-time job and the middle child babysits. But with things so tight, our children are now also constantly talking about money, worsening the tension in the house.
A I am sorry to read of your difficult financial situation. Continuous worry about a lack of money is emotionally and physically draining. You say that you have got financial advice and are budgeting carefully, so let’s focus on the anxiety.
As I am sure you are aware and perhaps even fear, many relationships break down under such stress, and yet you are still together, so you must be resilient as a family, a quality you can draw on.
“When things go wrong many couples tend to blame each other for what has happened, and a pattern of blaming and recrimination can make things worse,” says Tony Moore, a counsellor with Relationships Ireland.
“This negative outlook can override any other positive views of your family life and block consideration of solutions. It is important to focus on what is going well for you as a family, despite the challenges you face.”
Choose when to talk about money. A weekly family council where the budget is outlined and solutions found would help. “Your children need to be part of the solution; young people appreciate being involved in family decisions and taking responsibility,” says Moore
For you as a couple, “take immediate steps to strengthen your couple relationship as the two of you working together is key”, he adds.
Have you thought of scheduling a no-money-talk zone with your wife, such as a country walk or treating yourselves to the cinema? Try talking with her more purely because you appreciate her, without mentioning money, and she’ll appreciate you more.
Q I’m an older gent, but still with some interest and potential to perform my matrimonial duties. When I was younger, my wife wasn’t too interested and really treated sex like a chore to be suffered. Over the years, an unspoken accommodation arose: I tried to bother her as little as possible, while she tried to not turn me down too often.
There’s been a sudden shift in her behaviour just as she has emerged from her “change of life”. I awoke one night last year to hear her enjoying a pleasurable moment to herself. This has become a pattern: she waits until she thinks I’m asleep, sometimes gently nudging me to make sure.
Is she sending me a signal that she wants to restart our intimate life? Or should I give her privacy to enjoy what has eluded her over many years?
A You married in an era when shame made it practically impossible to talk about sex, and even today it is difficult. Ageing and sexuality are taboo still.
“Your wife’s need to achieve her own sexual pleasure is both natural and healthy; it is likely that your wife has been exploring her own pleasure in this way from some time, not just after menopause, and this is not a reflection on you,” says Teresa Bergin, a psychotherapist specialising in sexual matters.
You are indeed a gentleman to respect her privacy and not be confrontational, but you seem to want more. “If there are future sexual encounters between you there, they could be somewhat better. This could be achieved by gentle questions during sex about what she is enjoying at the moment,” Bergin advises.
You and she must have been doing something right to maintain a long marriage through all the ups and downs. Perhaps it’s time let go of the embarrassment and talk.
Email your questions to email@example.com or contact Kate on Twitter @kateholmquist. We regret that personal correspondence cannot be entered into