Dear Miriam,

My husband is a perfectionist and workaholic. I’m really struggling on several fronts.

1 Financial stresses: I work and take care of all the house needs and children’s needs. He pays bills like mortgage, ESB etc. But he constantly worries about costs. It’s constant pressure. Is this a farmer thing?

2 Emotional: He’s also a bit of a house devil, street angel. While he is great company on one hand, he loses his temper and shouts at me and the kids when we get things wrong. He sometimes also puts us down.

3 Pressure: I carry the burden of family life. He rarely leaves the yard apart from paying bills or to do farm jobs. 4. Loneliness: Finally, I’m lonely. I’m not even sure he loves me. His main and sole priority is the farm and work.

Right now, I can’t breathe. What can I do to make this better?


Dear Lily,

Thank you for getting in touch. I have spoken with accredited counsellor Claire Lyons Forde, who is based in Killarney and Listowel, but also offers services by Zoom and by phone. Claire can be contacted on 087-939-9818 or you can find out more at

Claire writes

Well done on having the courage to both write and send your letter. Please know that as I reply, nobody is being judged here.

It sounds like you and your husband are really two adults living in the same house, sharing costs to a certain degree and trying your best to get on with life. It also seems that you are both existing rather than living.

In relation to money worries, it may be a “farmer thing”, but it is also a “most of the population thing”. What many people forget is that we can choose to fret or choose to have faith and know that whatever the outcome, we have an inner strength that will see us through the difficult times. Fear and faith both demand that we believe in something about the future that we cannot see. It is our choice which one we opt for.

You cannot change your husband but you certainly have the power to change how you are in relation to being around him and sharing your life with him. I am sorry to read that you are sharing your life with the proverbial “street angel, house devil”. Remember, you do have a choice here. You do not have to put up with this. Nor do your children. A toxic environment has negative connotations for everybody. It seems to me that your husband is a very stressed, anxious person, not inclined to talk about his feelings. When we suppress our emotions, they will eventually find a way to surface: in this case, in anger, resentment and blame.

Have you ever tried speaking to him about all of this? Perhaps he is not an easy person to approach. I get the feeling that you may be at the end of your tether and experiencing what is known as “burnout”.

Nothing changes if nothing changes. Remember, you are only responsible for your own health, happiness and wellbeing, and that of your children if they are not yet adults. It is time to come off the killer treadmill and put self-care number one. I would suggest the following: counselling, spa treatments, coffee breaks with your friends or on your own, a new hobby, fun with your children. It is time to claim back your personal power. Remember, you are never alone and there is plenty of support out there. If you have concerns about your children’s mental health, there are supports available to them also.


I strongly suggest one-to-one counselling to begin this process. In time, if you feel inclined, you may suggest couples counselling to your husband. If he is not willing to change (usually because of fear), then you have to ask yourself: “Am I willing to continue to live my life like this?” Or: “Am I willing to make changes and create a new life for me and for my children?”

Can your marriage be saved? Everything is possible, but only with equal effort, accountability and responsibility. Working all the hours that God gives him seems to be your husband’s way of managing his anxieties.

Healthier options

There are healthier options available. If you can allow yourself to see the bigger picture, it may help you feel less angry/resentful towards him. It is not about condoning his behaviours, but taking control back and understanding a little of what may be going on for him.

I wish you and your family well. Sending this letter was a huge step in reaching out for help. Now try and keep going one brave and beautiful step at a time.

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