Husband encouraged to improve listening skills

Q: For the past four or five years, my wife has been a little more than edgy, downright unreasonable at times, and most often very difficult.

I have no idea what is going on. About the only time she is at all sparking with the life that I used to see in her eyes is when one of the kids brings over some of our grandchildren for a visit. Otherwise, she is just down most of the time.

The thing is that I don’t understand this at all. We had nothing when we got married. It was pretty desperate. But I worked hard, made some good calls, and even though farming is always an up and down kind of industry, I have managed to build a pretty good farm to support us, and maybe even one day all of our boys. Who knows. The point is that I think that we are in a position to enjoy ourselves.

She obviously does not see it that way. I am thinking that maybe she is depressed or something, maybe the menopause thing. Whatever it is, I would like it if things got a bit better around the house.

We should be enjoying ourselves, not scowling. Do you have any suggestions for me and my wife. How can we make this thing happen better?

A: You have obviously reached a point in time when you and your wife need to sit down to have a good chat with each other.

From where I sit, it looks like she should be doing more of the talking while you could be doing more of the listening.

First, you have to get the message to her that you are interested in whatever it is that is going on with her. That might mean that you are listening even when she is not saying all that much. You have to be patient.

Don’t forget that while you have been getting various rewards and accolades for having built yourself a successful and productive farm over the years, for having done exactly what it is that you wanted to be doing, your wife has been in the background.

Has she dared to suggest what it is that she would like to do with her life? Apart from the occasional smile from a grandchild or a hug from one of the kids, what kind of reward does she get that says to her that she is a valuable and wonderful person?

I cannot say whether your wife is depressed. Neither can I comment on the challenge menopause may present to her. But I am willing to venture that she has not felt like anyone has supported her in her own private goals for any number of years. She is not going to feel that support until she comes to believe that you are listening to what she is saying.

She might stumble at first, she might not know quite what it is that she wants to say, but over time she will rediscover who it is that she really is and what a celebration that will be.

She will tell you whether or not she needs to see a physician to talk about anti-depressants. She will tell you where she stands within her mid-life crisis. And she alone will tell you what she might need to help her fulfill her personal promise for the good life.

No one else can do that for her. Neither can anyone else do it for you. She alone can tell you. As I said, you only have to listen to her.

Jacklin Andrews is a family counsellor from Saskatchewan. Contact: jandrews@producer.com.

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