You can’t chase your husband’s demons for him [Ellie]

Question: My husband of six years and I lived separately for two and a half years because of his immigration problems. We have two lovely children.

My husband is often unhappy. He has a lot of history, much of which I’ve helped him sort through. But some issues are unresolved. Sometimes it’s about our lack of sex life. Or his preference for particular foods, which I’m not cooking often enough to satisfy him.

I’ve tried to explain reality — that I’m tired — but he won’t listen. After I get home from work, clean up after supper (we have cooking help on week days), spend time with the kids and put them to bed, he’ll give me heck for our lack of sex life. He feels unwanted. I’ve suggested counselling but he refuses.

Our marriage was perfect before his immigration ordeal. Now there’s no pleasing him. He’ll often return from work and go upstairs to be alone.

He has two habits that perhaps affect his mood. He watches porn regularly and he smokes marijuana. How often do other married couples have sex? He says there’s something wrong with me for wanting it only outside of my menstrual cycle and two to three times per week.

I seem to be a failure and I’m afraid of losing my husband.

Bad Wife

Answer: You’re not a “bad” wife, but you’re married to a troubled man. He’s caught in a cycle of moods, caused by his past and fuelled by his habits. He is blaming you rather than dealing with his own ghosts.

Your sex life is active compared to many working parents with young children. But there’s a cloud over it.

You can be supportive and understanding but you can’t force him to change his habits or chase his demons. Getting counselling yourself will help you stop feeling guilty and teach you strategies to deal with him without being so hard on yourself.

Question: Our sons, ages 12 and 15, are in gifted programs at school. At our invitation, we also have a motherless girl, 16, with ADD and a learning disability, living with us. We have contact with her younger brother and alcoholic father but no financial or legal arrangements other than her father’s permission.

She’s a lovely girl, very attached to us, appreciative and helpful around the house. We provide homework help, money management, rides to after-school activities, etc.

However, she’s self-absorbed, boy crazy and easily distracted. This is not surprising, given her upbringing and the fact that she is a teenager. But we’re finding it very difficult to accept her lack of effort at school and her inability to see that she’s hurting herself. We’ve stopped handholding her after repeated late or missing assignments. That said, she’s not pregnant, skipping school or running with the wrong crowd. Do we just need patience to stay the course?


Answer: Stay the course, but use more resources to bolster your efforts. You are making a generous and significant effort to help her achieve her potential. But it’s counterproductive to expect instant rewards.

She doesn’t have to become a super-student for you to have succeeded. She needs only to try her best and to surmount setbacks.

Seek support from the school guidance program, especially with teaching her time management for projects and homework. Get her tutoring for subjects she finds difficult (hiring an older student shouldn’t be expensive).

Meanwhile, give her encouragement. She knows she’s not your own child; so don’t pressure her to perform like them. Praise her for her unique qualities and give her room and time to grow.


Counselling can help you handle a troubled partner, even if he or she won’t go with (or without) you.

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