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My husband's pride & sense of entitlement


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My husband is having a really tough time at the moment. He's depressed, angry and anxious - to say the least.

 

He has gone through feelings like this before (for the same reason). They came back yesterday.

 

In highschool, my husband was not only a straight A student at one of the best highschools we have in this city, but he was the dux. He also topped the state in the end of highschool exams.

 

He went on to do fantastically at uni. I think he graduated third in his law school - which was again, one of our best lawschools.

 

He comes from an enormously large extended family, which mostly consists of massive over-achievers.

 

He is certainly very intelligent and very gifted and.. up until our recent career transition - enormously successful.

 

He never really struggled, is my point. He never felt.. how hard it can be. A simple way of putting it would be to say he had it easy. He never had to deal with rejection (in a career sense). Everything he wanted (from a career point of view) he got.

 

We recently made a transition. It's the same field we have always been in but its a different branch of that field. A different type of job. A MUCH HARDER type. It's so hard, it's not funny. There's everything against you. That's how it feels to me sometimes. It's so hard to get a good client base to feed you work. It's so hard to get interesting work.

 

My husband, I hate to say it .. has a sense of entitlement where his career is concerned. He feels entitled to immediate success. When I tell him "everyone really struggles doing this for the first 5 years.. everyone goes through this crap" he will point at the small minority of people who he knows who have done really well from the get go, in this particular job.

 

The thing is, regardless of their talent (and I know these people and their talent doesnt exceed my husband's - they are at the very least on par), those people have "made it" from the beginning because they've either had family connections on their side - or they have been lucky.

 

We all need a bit of luck in this job and my husband has had none. In fact, if anything, he's had a bit of bad luck (i.e. things falling through of no fault of his own). To me, thats the way it is. You have to accept it and keep fighting.

 

To him, its massively unfair. It makes him angry.

 

He doesnt want to wait five years for things to change. The thought of that makes him furious. It's happening now for some people so it should be happening now for him.

 

He also refuses to do some things, which might help (in terms of raking up publicity and experience) which he considers beneath him.

 

Hell, other people are getting sought after and put on high profile matters.. so why isnt it happening for him?

 

His mind .. when he's in these moods.. is completely overcome by those thoughts.

 

He's felt this way before. He got over it and was getting along just fine.. he was accepting the situation and just ploughing along, making the best of things, waiting for things to eventually get better.

 

Then, yesterday, a friend of his told him about a wonderful, high profile matter, he'd just gotten in on. My husband, while not unhappy for his friend, immediately started to focus on all the negative stuff again. I understand this, I do. I've felt it myself before in different circumstances.

 

I really want to help him. It tears my heart out to see him in so much pain. And I worry about him. In the past he's suffered from OCD because he let the pressure and stress get to him too much. I don't want to see him go through that again.

 

I don't know how to help. I've tried to rationally talk him through this stuff. Maybe that's helped a little bit - I don't know.

 

But how do I get someone like him to let go of his pride and sense of entitlement to success? Those two things are making it so much harder for him then it needs to be. Believe me, it's hard enough when you don't have pride and entitlement attacking you. I can't even imagine what its like to be dealing with that too.

 

Does anyone have any advice?

 

Male persepctives would also be great as men are (in my opinion) totally different creatures to women and I'm fairly sure I'll never completely understand them.

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I don't have any answers for you, but just wanted to let you know you are not alone. We have a friend of the family who is like your husband, an exceptionally intelligent man, always on the top of the job and always expects that life will always be this good. Like your husband, with times changing, things aren't always going according to plan, and this guy is feeling it. He just doesn't know how to deal with reality and his PRIDE gets in the way where he wont allow himself to take on jobs which he feels are "beneath" him. I told him straight up that his pride will be his downfall, and he wasn't happy to hear it.

 

It's really really tough. I have no idea what you can do, other than hope he has a wake-up call one day. Hopefully some other readers will have some answers for you.

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Sometimes our competitive desire clouds our judgment. Sometimes we lose sight of the big picture because we're too busy with a very specific thing.

 

Is success in this new field really worth it, or is he in it simply for the challenge. 5 years is a long time... a LOT of one's life to just expend away at the chance for future success.

 

If he's only in it for the challenge, I'd recommend that he step back, and look at other things that are challenging as well, but maybe have a better reward ratio. Something that is tough, sure, but might not have such a long lead-in time... he's used to instant gratification for his efforts.

 

If it is worth it, then it will take nothing short of an epiphany for him to deal with it. He's spent his whole life over-achieving, and now BAM.. the game has changed. I went through something similar when I went to uni for engineering... up til then I had never put much effort into anything and always came out on top, winning stuff, blah blah. When reality hit, it f'ed me up, and even contributed to depression.

 

Sometimes you just have to be able to cut your losses and know when to walk away. That might be the hardest thing for him.

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Thanks Capricorn,

 

After he acknowledged himself "maybe I'm just a job-snob" I did gently (I hope) say that his pride wasn't helping him. I think he knows that. It's just so hard for him to change who he is.

 

And unfortunately, who he is is not someone who can sit by and handle long periods of lack-of-success (as he perceives it) while he watches people he knows, in the same economic climate, with the same past experiences, do so much better in his eyes.

 

I just keep hoping that he does catch a break soon because I honestly don't know if he'll be able to cope for the 5 years I think he needs to be willing to deal with crap before things get significantly better.

 

You are right about dealing with reality.. when I say "accept what you cannot change and work on what you can" ... he really can't do that. The thought of there being "things he cannot change" keeping him from immediate success make him really angry.

 

Sigh.

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Lecturer, thanks for responding. You're the same age as my H btw.

 

Sometimes our competitive desire clouds our judgment. Sometimes we lose sight of the big picture because we're too busy with a very specific thing.

 

The big picture is something we can all lose sight of, I agree. Two of the guys I know he's thinking of who have had "immediate success" - bless them and I'd never want anything bad to happen to them - but they have other areas in their lives which are not so great. One of them is supporting a wife (who often gets sick) and two babies and is our age. And he never gets any time to spend with his family cause he's always working. Now he loves it and maybe it works for him - but that's not a family life that my husband would want. I know that.

 

Life is replete with challenges in one sense or another. Noone has it perfect. If nothing less than perfect will satisfy you - you're in trouble.. This is something I have to remind myself when I'm having career blues.

 

Is success in this new field really worth it, or is he in it simply for the challenge. 5 years is a long time... a LOT of one's life to just expend away at the chance for future success.

 

It's the glory. People do what we do for a variety of reasons. Some people do it for the challenge. Some people (me) do it because they want an interesting job and some independence in their work and other branches of our field have not had that. Many other people, like my H, do it for the glory.

 

I spoke to him about this last night. I said that many people have said to me that if you chase glory, you never get it. If you just concentrate and focus on what you are doing.. and you are talented..it just comes to you. He said: "this job is not interesting enough to do it for any reason other than the glory."

 

I hope this doesn't make him sound like a tosser because he's not. He's a kind, gentle, caring, compassionate, loving, loyal, wonderful man. But as far as his career is concerned - he's driven by a need to achieve. A need to be perceives as extremely successful. A need for glory. That's why he's doing this. Because any other branch of our field.. is not good enough. He wants to be the top of the top. Anything else.. is not good enough for him.

 

5 years is a long time.. and its also not. We're going to be working for.. what.. 30-40 years? It's like starting a new business. In fact its just like that. It's hard at the beginning and the beginning is measured in years.

 

That said, in the past when he's had these spelled I've tried to get him to think about other things he might enjoy doing. He just can't. I understand that. When I'm feeling crap about this job I think very hard about what else I might do.. and I just can't think of anything I'd want to leave this for.

 

 

If it is worth it, then it will take nothing short of an epiphany for him to deal with it. He's spent his whole life over-achieving, and now BAM.. the game has changed. I went through something similar when I went to uni for engineering... up til then I had never put much effort into anything and always came out on top, winning stuff, blah blah. When reality hit, it f'ed me up, and even contributed to depression.

 

I fear this so, so much. I know what depression and mental health problems can do to you and those who love you. It's just heart breaking to me, that people in our position, who have each other, have wonderful families.. are currently in a stable financial position... need to work ourselves into such a poor mental health state that we derode all that good in our life... and just feel miserable. That's what my greatest fear of the outcome is.

 

I'm telling myself that if we do go down that path, we've both been there before. We've both helped each other to get help. And we've both overcome it. And we can do it again. But gosh its a stressful and horrible thought.

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His mind .. when he's in these moods.. is completely overcome by those thoughts.

 

i imagine it's his thoughts that are actually creating the moods - the thoughts he's been having for his entire life. he's conditioned to be this way. his expectations, perceptions, attitudes, behaviors...all conditioned responses to repetative and compulsive thought patterns. it makes sense that you can't reach him. how can you compete against years of conditioning? you can't. and i can imagine how frustrating that is...and he probably senses that. i'm sure that makes for feelings of helplessness on your front. but you know...i bet he's feeling just as helpless right now. here's a situation that is threatening who he is. so, naturally his tendency is to defend himself.

 

i agree with the comment that it's going to take some sort of epiphany on his behalf...a grand realization that just because he's thought something for years and years...it doesn't mean that particular thought is an ultimate truth.

obviously it will take something profound (likely pain) to trigger that.

 

i can imagine that his situation is only going to deteriorate...regardless of what happens on the career front.

 

i'm not sure how much help being supportive is in these instances. often times the supportive attitude can be misinterpreted as interference. sounds like you've got a pretty good handle on why he's like this...but can you understand what it actually feels like to be him?

 

he probably feels like whatever you have to say is a personal attack against him. can you sense any negativity within yourself when you talk to him? if you remove the negativity, there will be nothing for him to react to...and in that way you'll end the cycle. attack, react, defend, counterattack.

 

maybe you haven't really argued about it. in that case, i dunno. maybe you'll get to that point.

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So much of what you say (and esp the bits I've bolded) rings true for me. Its amazing how much people on here understand.

 

You are right.. I understand why he's like this but I do not understand what its like to be him. In this sense we are completely different people.. and his perspective is not even logical to me. I can identify what his perspective is but I can't relate to it. From time to time I feel like I cam glimpse into understanding/empathising with it. But for most of the time.. I dont know what it feels like to be him. Which is why I feel like .. I don't know how to help.

 

I know I can't fix this for him (as he can't "fix" MY career issues) .. but at least he can and has eased the pain for me by being there.. hugging me.. being a shoulder to cry on..

 

I want to be able to at least ease his pain and unless I understand how it feels.. I don't think I can do that. So much of what I say to "help" doesnt help at all but makes him feel worse.

 

We havent ever fought about it. He goes silent and sad and ponders away. I try to bring him out of that by giving him my take and asking him to tell me how he feels. He eventually tells me (and its all this anger and sense of injustice that he feels.. directed at all the people he thinks have let him down along the way.. and at the situation in general) .. and then I try and say something helpful.. and he'll either be silent and I'll know that it hasnt made a difference.. or he'll actually tell me "that doesnt help, it makes me more angry" - or.. on the very rare occasions.. I think it does help a very tiny, tiny bit.

 

But you are right. He is having these compulsive, obsessive thoughts and I can't get through. And I agree.. if.. with such little problems in the scheme of things.. we feel this.. what about if life gets tougher? how will he cope - short of having that epiphany which I'm too much of a cynic to hope for?

 

I guess I just have to take it day by day.. try and try and try to get better at getting through to him and not give up on that - and just do what I can, when I can.

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And by the way - I qualify his perspective with "he thinks" because - its not really as bad as he thinks it is.

 

Some people have let him down. But others have helped. His career isnt perfect - but it has aspects (like financial prosperity) that many others in our position don't have - including me. I probably do more varied work than he does but I make 1/4 as much. But he says I just don't know what it feels like to do the work he does. He thinks its meaningless.

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you're definitely onto something. if you've had glimpses of that understanding (that REAL empathic connection), then you've achieved something that isn't all that common in relationships these days. it's impossible to feel empathetic towards someone when you're constantly caught up in your own thoughts (actually very much self-absorbed). by nurturing those glimpses into something more, you provide safety within the relationship. you provide him with the space to be as he is. you accept the person he is today...accpet that he may have unhealed wounds...accept that

each and every experience he's had has contributed to the person he is now.

 

that being said...i dont' think it's unreasonable for you to hope for some kind of change. you're in a marriage afterall...and if you can't communicate your needs as the individual, then there is something lacking in your relationship.

by promoting safety yourself, you liberate him from judgement. he doesn't feel threatened in that way. that's where the healing magic of the relationship really takes hold. when you find that peace together...that's when you have a true communion.

 

this definitely isn't limited to his career. that may be where it manifests itself most clearly...but i'm sure there are other aspects of your lives together where you notice these things about him. it does make you wonder...if and when things aren't running as smoothly...what happens then? that might be where the stimulus has to come from ultimately. suffering is the path to enlightenment they say. i know there is truth in that.

 

to me, it's not really surprising that your 'help' doesn't really help him (not to sound callous). he's probably quite used to relying on himself. by not depending on others, he's feeding his own sense of satisfaction. it's what happens when you're always shooting for the top. you seek to find separateness from others. if you accept help, it means that you couldn't do it on your own. i know for some people that can feel like a huge blow. his sense of self is so attatched to what he accomplishes, and how well he accomplishes...that anything short of perfection is a dismal failure in his eyes.

and failure helps to feed a diminished sense of self-worth. so, in many ways, it's not that your help isn't valuable...it's that he's threatened by it. perhaps some of what you say actually makes perfect sense to him...but the fact that he didn't figure it out for himself is a miserable thought. it would threaten what he identifies with: self-sufficiency. his silent ponderings could be seen as evidence to support that.

 

i might be off base here. your hubby sounds a lot like my own former self (who eventually went hell-bent on a depressive trail of pain and self-destruction). i'm not trying to worry you...but i think it's good to be aware.

 

i dunno if you're interested...but there's a book i found quite helpful for myself when i was starting to realize my own dysfunctional thought patterns.

it's called ''feeling good'' by 'david burns'. it might give you some more insight into what's going on...might allow you to achieve that empathic connection more often. it really does come down to thoughts as far as i'm concerned. the mind is such a destructive phenomenon when it's compulsive. it ceases to be a wonderful tool and becomes more akin to a prison. awareness is the key. i think the more aware you become...the more that his own lack of awareness will find that intolerable. when seeking a positive outcome...you must remove negativity from the equation. any action done with negativity in mind is doomed to some form of failure.

 

i dunno if any of that makes sense to you. i think you're already on the right track. you're not reacting. you're not angry (at least you don't seem to be).

just continue to have patience. do what you can when you can do it (like you said). through your awareness he will eventually see some light.

 

 

 

night

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And by the way - I qualify his perspective with "he thinks" because - its not really as bad as he thinks it is.

 

Some people have let him down. But others have helped. His career isnt perfect - but it has aspects (like financial prosperity) that many others in our position don't have - including me. I probably do more varied work than he does but I make 1/4 as much. But he says I just don't know what it feels like to do the work he does. He thinks its meaningless.

 

in his eyes...his mind...his thoughts...it IS as bad as he makes it out to be.

that can be such a difficult thing to accept. something that seems so wrong to you...can seem so right to him.

 

he's with you because you have the power to heal him (once he realizes that your relationship together is a safe place for that to happen). i think that's pretty amazing.

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Adversity builds character.

 

Perhaps find him a biography of someone he admires. It's NEVER smooth sailing, in all aspects, for anyone...Maybe if he focuses on some of the struggles faced by now really successful people he admires, it might help make today more tolerable.

 

After all, how interesting will HIS biography be one day, if he's never had to face and overcome some obstacles?

 

It is what it is, now is a tough time (you seem to get that), so the best thing he can do for himself is to reframe it into a phase of his life that will build his character more, and give him some interesting 'tough times' stories for the future.

 

Keep telling him you believe in him, and you're not worried because you know the day will come when this time will be looked back on with a "remember when...?" kind of attitude, and his success will feel much more valuable for knowing he really, really 'earned' it.

 

Hang in there....

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Has he done volunteer work with people who are less fortunate than he is/has been? I suggest this because I think he needs firsthand experiences that will humble him - not "put him in his place" in a harsh way (because that would backfire) but a nice amount of humility to shift his perspective. Reading about someone else's experiences is probably too humbling.

 

Also was his sense of pride and entitlement something that attracted you to him early on? He may sense this and not want to change his behavior/mindset so that he can continue to be the man you fell in love with (not saying this makes total sense but it might make sense to him). I am certain you're very supportive of him no matter what so that is not at all meant as a criticism of you or your interactions with him.

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90_hour_sleep - I will have a search for that book. You are right in that he is certainly used to relying 100% on himself for everything. We've only been together for 2.5 years and over that time he's made some movement towards seeing the worth in relying a little bit on me too. (He's great with being the rock himself, he's just not so good with needing a rock from time to time) Luckily, while communicating his fears doesn't come naturally to him, he's not completely adverse to doing so either. So it's a struggle, but I try to push him without nagging (a skill in itself) and when pushed he'll open up bit by bit .. till he's just ever so slightly adjar.

 

I think I do need to work more on feeling what he feels .. at the same time as trying to show a different perspective.

 

And no.. I'm not angry. I'm a bit stressed and worried for him. Neither of us are angry at each other. I really hope that doesn't change or it would be horrible. He's a gentle soul though. He doesn't like to hurt people.

 

We had a very long conversation last night about all this. This morning, we had another chat - a short chat - which kind of sums it up in many ways.

 

He pushed me to talk about it because he could sense I was stressed. And I told him I'd been thinking about something he said last night. He said he believes that if you are going to do something, you should strive to be the very best. This really is the heart of his way of thinking. It's the essence of his mindset. His philosophy of life.

 

So I said to him.. say there are three alternative ways of living your life.

 

1. Strive to be the very best at what you do.

2. Strive to do the very best you can do, at what you do, regardless of whether that makes you the best, or average.

3. Instead of striving to be the best, just do what interests you.

 

I asked him, why is (1) more qualitatively better, more inherently correct, than (2) or (3).

 

He said its not - he says he knows its not but thats just how he's thought all his life. So its become ingrained.

 

And I said, "no, it's not in my eyes, but it is in your eyes.. so there's some reasoning or rationalisation going on in your mind that makes (1) the right conclusion".

 

He said there was no reasoning. And I pressed, that if there was no reasoning he wouldnt believe it.

 

I said, "here's what I suspect your reasoning is, you tell me if I'm wrong .. because you are the only one who really knows what you are thinking". So he nodded. And I said "is your reasoning that there is only value in being admired and respected by other people for being better than they could ever be?"

 

And he said "no, that's not it". He said that, as he's told me in the past, from a very young age he's been obsessed about the emphemeral quality of life. How it's momentary. And he was impressed with the idea, that only if you made your mark on the world (did something glorious, became the best etc) could you transend that emphemeralness. Could you be remembered in time.

 

He said it was additionally a product of how he was raised.

 

I said to him, that even if you put aside the fact that even famous people eventually get forgotten, thousands of years from now.. or even the fact that people themselves will eventually be gone from this Earth - if you put all that aside, the problem was still this. If you believe in (1) and you don't make it, then when all is said and done, when you are 80 and at your death bed, even if you've lived a life where you loved and have been loved, travelled the world, had wonderful sensory experiences, enjoyed wonderful friendships (his life already) - you would still, at your death bed, come to the conclusion that you were a failure. And that conclusion is just so wrong. Any thinking that can lead you to that conclusion, must be unhelpful. There must be better ways of thinking.

 

He said.. but can't I just strive to make my mark anyway? And I repeated that I thought he should strive to be the best he can, rather than focus on making the mark. I told him that anyone with his talent and skill, if they just strive to do the best they can, was bound to make their mark anyway. But why pin your entire self-worth on something you can't control?

 

Before we parted ways to go to our separate offices I just reiterated that all I wanted, was at the end of the day, when he's on his death bed, for him to not feel like his life was a failure when he has meant the world to people. And I got a bit teary and he gave me a big hug and kiss and promised to at least think from time to time, about this conversation.

 

I know we can't change the way he's thought for 27 years in one conversation. So I just want him to think about these alternative view points from time to time.

 

And I asked him to promise me that if life feels like a trap he will call a therapist without waiting for me to instigate that. And he's promised.

 

FarthestEdge - he has over a thousand books (we need storage for them) which he loves, which are mostly bios of the people he admires. I think the problem is that he appreciates the adversity they've faced - but he focuses on their success and wanting to achieve something similar. But its a good point you make. I will remind him that all the people he admires faced adversity too.

 

Batya - no .. he hasn't. He's never even known what its like to be in a family that financially struggles. And how stressful and depressing that can be. Hmm. My cousin does a lot of volunteer work. I will ask her to see if there's something we can do on the weekend that might expose him to the less fortunate in a way that he takes note. I think we could both benefit from that.

 

Thanks everyone. You've been a great help.

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And he said "no, that's not it". He said that, as he's told me in the past, from a very young age he's been obsessed about the emphemeral quality of life. How it's momentary. And he was impressed with the idea, that only if you made your mark on the world (did something glorious, became the best etc) could you transend that emphemeralness. Could you be remembered in time.

 

 

that thought will become an unbearable burden at some point. perhaps it already is. just imagine all of the unnecessary pain he's causing himself. stress, anxiety, worry...a burden. i think you're touching on a very important point. all things end. forms and bodies all pass away at some point. even thoughts pass away. none of these things are constant. i think it could be potentially liberating for him to realize that. the buddhists call it 'death before dying'. by realizing the impermanence of all things...you are free to find the joy in life. you are no longer attatched to what you think or feel...or what you have or don't have. things just aren't as important (in the grand scheme of things).

 

 

I said to him, that even if you put aside the fact that even famous people eventually get forgotten, thousands of years from now.. or even the fact that people themselves will eventually be gone from this Earth - if you put all that aside, the problem was still this. If you believe in (1) and you don't make it, then when all is said and done, when you are 80 and at your death bed, even if you've lived a life where you loved and have been loved, travelled the world, had wonderful sensory experiences, enjoyed wonderful friendships (his life already) - you would still, at your death bed, come to the conclusion that you were a failure. And that conclusion is just so wrong. Any thinking that can lead you to that conclusion, must be unhelpful. There must be better ways of thinking.

 

 

there may be better ways of thinking. but it may also be that the true transformation comes from transcending thought altogether. escape from the prison that is your own mind. realize that your mind is not life...it's not you.

 

i find it interesting.

 

just want to mention that i really respect your approach to this situation, indigo. i think your bond between you and your husband will only get stronger as a result of that approach.

 

 

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I also want to mention that you are a great wife to him - ask him if he thinks you have made your "mark" in that way and I bet he will say an enthusiastic yes.

 

lol thanks Batya - thats precisely the way I want him to feel about himself based on the H he makes to me (and the son he makes to his parents and big brother he makes to his bro) .. so that should at least drive the point home

 

And thanks again 90_hour. I'm feeling very grateful for enotalone.

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