Question: Dear Luise: I want to know if there is anything I can do outside of divorce to exist with a husband of ten years who thinks he has to handle everything. He used to be the comptroller of my small company of one, me. So, when it became economically necessary for him to find outside work, all of my bookkeeping, contracts, database, and taxes were on his computer. Our house is a disaster. The totally hopeless mess in his office spills out everywhere. I have no idea if it is an obsession, phobia, neurosis, preference or none of the above. I honestly don’t care. All I know is that he doesn’t have the time or the energy to carry what he imagines is on his shoulders and almost nothing gets done. He will spend hours telling me why he doesn’t have the time and why it is so complicated and how I don’t understand. In half that time he could have just done it! (But he doesn’t.) I have mostly backed off and given up but there are things to do with my business that have to get done, and household bills that have to be paid. I live in a horrible mess. The flip side is that he is kind and loving and I want us to be together. Please, what can I do if anything? Fran
Answer: Dear Fran: You have a long uphill climb ahead of you if you want to stay in your marriage and survive. You know that, so what I am going to give you is a plan on how to get started. You are going to meet with massive resistance and hysteria. My plan is not for the faint of heart.
You have to extricate yourself. It’s not your problem. It’s your husband’s problem and you have let it become yours. It doesn’t fit you or your makeup and is abusive. There are many kinds of abuse, some very obvious and conscious and others pretty subtle and unconscious. They do terrible damage. If you let the situation continue, you are abandoning yourself. You need to reclaim your life.
You will have to take things one at a time, and separate what is yours. Make a list of all the places where you have merged during the last ten years. You have mentioned your home. On that front, start taking back areas and then rooms, setting them up so they work for you. His office is the outward symbol of his inner turmoil, and you can’t go there. However, you can take back other rooms, closets and common areas. For your own mental health, you must.
Let your husband know that you are taking back your business, (even if you have to hire some part-time help). He has taken an outside job. That’s enough for him to deal with. Your business is yours. Make it clear that he is no longer your comptroller. Don’t ask him. Tell him. You’ve made a unilateral, executive decision. He is being laid-off. He has enough on his plate. Break down what has to be removed from his computer. You mentioned bookkeeping, taxes, contracts and a database. What else?
In the realm of personal finances, tell him that you are taking over the budget. Being late with payments doesn’t work for you and you know his being on overload has led to overwhelm and his inability to stay current.
Don’t even think about trying to do this all at once. See it as a five-year plan at best. When you enter into any aspect of it, let him know that it is an absolute necessity for you and the only other option is separate residences. Once you take over a room, don’t back down. Once you have your database, keep it. Pick certain bills and insist on paying them…and don’t budge. You are an individual, not half of his unresolved issues.
If you can’t or won’t do this, look very carefully to see if you need to be a victim. If you carry that dynamic, all bets are off because you need to keep it the way it is. Blessings, Luise