Dear Miriam,

I am married with four children. I work full-time and my husband works for himself and is farming. He is extremely obliging to all friends and neighbours. If anything goes wrong, he will be the first to be called. Unfortunately, we are often left as second choice as he simply cannot say no. He has missed many matches; really has no idea how [the kids] get on in school – all that is left to me (though I thoroughly enjoy doing it).

The biggest problem I have is funerals – and I know that may sound bad – but I feel it’s a factor in our marriage not working as it should be.

Is it natural, nowadays, for farmers to go to the wake, then the pub and drive home, stating “I only had five or six pints”? Then, the next day, something again? Obviously this doesn’t happen for every funeral, but it’s happened too many times for me. Then it will be a week of misery as I am so sick of it that I don’t want him to even speak or touch me.

I know it’s not good for family life. The kids are old enough to know something’s wrong, but it doesn’t bother him that they know he drives after a few pints. He doesn’t have a drink problem, he just has a problem saying no when he meets someone at a funeral – even though he knows how much it upsets me.

As I said at the start, he is a very kind, obliging man, but I’m feeling more and more distanced from him as the years go by.

Thank you, Lonely Leinster Mam

Dear Reader

Thank you for getting in touch. I am sorry to read about the difficulties you are experiencing.

From your letter it would seem to me that your husband is a “people pleaser”, finding it hard to say no. People exhibiting this type of behavior usually experience low self-esteem, and a low sense of self-worth. They have a very active inner critic and depend on other people to praise them and validate their sense of worth.

This is a very difficult situation, and while I am not condoning his behaviour, understanding what is probably at the root may help you feel less resentful and angry.

We can never change another person, but we can change how we are around them. First of all, you need to know and understand that a person’s behavior is a mirror of what is going on internally in their mind. It is never about condoning inappropriate behavior, equally about not judging it. It is learning to respond rather than react to the situation you find yourself in.

You did not mention if you have ever tried talking to your husband about your feelings, especially around his behaviour whenever there is a funeral. Who takes care of the farm while he is away drinking? By not confronting him about this, you are unintentionally enabling him to continue to do what he is doing. Time and time again people say to me that they keep quiet as they hate conflict. But it means the same pattern continues and there is a high cost to be paid emotionally. The very fact you have written this letter is saying to me that you are no longer willing to pay such a price.

You ask if it is normal or not for this behaviour with regard to the drinking/funeral situation. I cannot answer that question as there are no statistics available. However, I would disagree with your belief that he does not have an issue with regard to his alcohol intake. The very fact he is unable to say no and believes that it is OK to drink and drive is a red flag signal as far as I am concerned. Furthermore, you did not say how old your children are. They need to know that this behaviour is not acceptable and they need to see that you do not condone it.

Trying to manage this situation alone is not easy. Perhaps it would help you to seek professional counselling where you will be given a safe and confidential space to explore all of the issues you have mentioned in this letter and be gently supported as you embark on making positive changes in your life. After a while, when you are feeling stronger, you may be able to approach your husband who is obviously going through his own emotional pain and see if you can work things out in a way that best serves both your greater good and the good of your family. There is also support available from Al Anon for families of people who experience issues with alcohol. Remember you always have choices, but whatever choice you do make, let it be an informed one. I wish you and your family the very best.

Read more

Ask Miriam: 'I am worried about my grandchild's spiritial needs'

Ask Miriam: "My marriage ended and now my other relationships are suffering"