Tell Me About It: He is euphoric when he makes a sale but when things don’t go well he becomes aloof
I met my husband about 10 years ago at university. Even at that time he followed the stock markets intently and invested whenever he could. He was different to all the other lads and I admired his drive. He eventually gave up university and became a full-time investor, initially buying and selling foreign property and then stocks and shares. He makes a good living from it and I trust that he will not risk our savings.
Due to some wise judgment very early on, we have a very nice home and no mortgage. I also have a secure post as a senior public servant with a decent salary and pension. We have two very young children and he does much of the childcare. My worry, however, is that I believe his work to be an addiction. His mother refers to it as gambling. He becomes obsessed by assets. When he makes a good sale he becomes euphoric and when things aren’t going well he appears low and isolated and doesn’t engage much with me or the kids.
I would really like him to find a more secure stable occupation, but don’t know how to broach it with him as he becomes defensive when questioned about his work.
This is a difficult question to answer, as there is not enough information to back up the notion that this is an addiction. An addiction usually takes precedence over everything else. It is compulsive and usually, over time, it begins to destroy relationships and lives. Your husband seems to have firm boundaries around his working life, in that his investments have not put your joint lifestyle or savings at risk and he is able to commit to childcare and give time to the family. However, some aspects of addiction are noted in what you say: euphoria and feeling low and isolation. The issue seems to lie in being able to talk to him about it.
He might be defensive in discussing the situation because you want him to change his occupation and he is resistant to this. That two of the most important people in his life want him to give up something that gives him such satisfaction and delight is significant. He might feel that if he lets either of you into a discussion, then he might be forced to give up something he loves – whether it is his work or you.
Ten years ago you fell in love with your husband because of his drive and ambition; at the time this was very attractive to you. No doubt, now you have two young children, your attention has moved to stability and predictability. This is very understandable, but you already have this stability in your life in the form of a well-paid public service job and a secure pension, so perhaps you as a couple can afford some risk financially.
It might be possible to retain what you originally found attractive while not suffering from the emotional rollercoaster that comes with the rise and fall of investments. Your husband might find this conversation less threatening than the idea that he needs to give up his work completely. He, too, might want to manage his emotions better, and this is a very achievable goal.
You both need to communicate, and perhaps this could happen away from home and the usual pattern of arguments. Could you go away for the weekend and use the time to find out his viewpoint and what he sees as the issues? I think you will need to be upfront and say that you are not asking him to change career, so that he does not feel manipulated. However, his highs and lows are affecting everyone around him, and he might recognise this and, if supported, be willing to do something about it. Try not to come to conclusions too quickly, as both of you need time to absorb and reflect on what the other is saying. Perhaps agree to come back to the conversation a number of times.
Emotional dysregulation is a well-known issue and there are lots of well-tried and validated methods of addressing it. Many of these include tackling mental, emotional and behavioural patterns, along with the use of mindfulness techniques. Changing habits requires commitment and persistence, so both of you should be aware that any agreed changes will probably take up to a year to become normal, so tolerance and optimism will be required. It is better if it is not you who is guiding your husband, as this could alter the balance of your marriage and turn you into his teacher or monitor, so I suggest a psychological support independent of the family. Your husband could source this support for himself and allow you to take a back seat. See psychotherapy-ireland.com for registered psychotherapists and psihq.ie for registered psychologists