My husband and I have been married for over 25 years and those years have been mostly happy ones.

We’ve moved house and have no mortgage, which was my idea as my husband keeps changing jobs. But he’s no longer the kind man I married. He smokes indoors against my wishes and he’s quite short-tempered.

We haven’t had sex lately as I’m starting to dislike him. He says he feels unloved and neglected but so do I. Should I tell him to go?

How can we discuss anything if he takes everything the wrong way and loses his temper?

He told me our marriage had run its course recently, which really upset me, but is he right?

Your relationship has arrived at a clear crossroads so there may be some truth to his painful statement.

‘You have many complaints about your husband – his smoking, his job restlessness, his temper, his dissatisfaction – while he complains about the lack of sex and feeling unloved,’ says Dr Angharad Rudkin. ‘This all amounts to a relationship that is in crisis.’

Now that you are no longer financially tied to him, you have a fair amount of freedom around leaving him. The emotional ties are more difficult to sever, of course, but a resolution might still be possible.

‘Did you know that old trees lay down a ring of new growth every year? The first ring – the most tender innermost part – is still there at the centre of the gnarly old trunk,’ says James McConnachie. ‘Perhaps the kind man you married is still in there and I bet your husband misses him as much as you do.’

So consider starting the conversation there. ‘Because he clearly doesn’t feel good about himself and might be feeling depressed,’ says Rudkin.

Marriage counselling may help as could the rules of productive conversations. ‘They include starting statements with “I” as opposed to “you” and reflecting back what the other said before replying,’ suggests McConnachie.

‘I know talking to him is difficult but sometimes we only say – and hear – the difficult stuff when we let the storm happen. Sometimes it helps us reach calmer waters beyond.’

But, ultimately, until your husband is feeling happier, you won’t have a happy relationship.

‘You can’t find him a satisfying job and you can’t stop him smoking,’ says Rudkin. ‘Only he can be motivated to do so.’

So helping him find the support he needs would be another useful next step. But Rupert Smith is not optimistic about your dynamic returning to what it once was. 

‘If you need permission to pull the plug, consider it granted,’ he says. ‘You’re being dragged into a destructive dynamic of mutual torment that is tying you to the past. Whatever unresolved issues are holding you together, work through them with a therapist so that you can begin your new life.’ 

You can’t force your husband to change but you can remind him what courage looks like and that might even be the inspiration he needs.  

The experts

Rupert Smith is an author and counsellor

James McConnachie is the author of Sex (Rough Guides)

Dr Angharad Rudkin is a clinical psychologist

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