Reader dilemma: 'My husband retired at 51 and wants to piggyback on my salary while not working - should I leave?'

'He spends most of his time on the golf course'

Virginia Ironside
Sunday 01 November 2015 16:26

Dear Virginia,

In 15 years of married life we’ve both worked – he full time, and me mostly part-time while looking after the children and home. He retired at 51 and has no intention of working again. I’ve been forced to go back to full-time work. He says he’s ‘done his bit’ because of his small pension. We’ve had lots of problems but his behaviour used to bearable because he was out all day! Now he spends most of his time on the golf course. I’m not sure I want to spend the next 17 years working, with him as a passenger. Should I leave?

Yours sincerely, Beth

Virginia says

Your life sounds absolutely grisly. And certainly some changes need to be made or you face the rest of your life with, it sounds, a selfish and unpleasant partner who you clearly don’t love. And who, it sounds, doesn’t love you.

Walking out, however, would be very drastic, and also financially rather unwise until you know exactly where you stand.

First, I would go to a solicitor (you can tell your husband or not, depending on how you feel) and find out exactly what you would gain – and lose – were you to get a divorce. Then at least you would have some cold facts at your fingertips.

Second, I would suggest relationship counselling of some kind. From what you say it sounds extremely unlikely that anything would come of it, but it’s a tremendous shame to throw away 15 years of togetherness, which can’t have been all hell, without giving counselling a go. It would be as stupid as, the moment a washing machine packed up, putting it out for the binmen instead of asking the engineer in to give an opinion. It could be that it’s just fused or there’s a bit of dirt in the filter. It could be that your husband has some hidden emotion or fear that he’s too uptight to discuss with you. At one time, remember, you did love each other. Have you both changed as much as you think?

And anyway, if you talk about splitting up with him seriously, that might give him the spur to change his ways. Maybe he’s just behaving like this because he knows he can get away with it.

Another reason for getting counselling is because of the children. Unless you got married when your children were young, they’re obviously still teenagers, and for parents to split when the children are in the early teens is one of the worst times imaginable for them. They’re just starting to think of flying the nest, when the nest breaks up and their world, which is for them extremely strange and new, just crashes down around them. Their secure base will have become as flimsy and uncertain as their future.

Finally, there is always the thought of divorcing but agreeing to live in the same house while keeping completely separate lives. Depending on what shape your home is, this might mean your having to install a mini-kitchen for your husband, and perhaps a small extra shower room, but sharing nothing except a front door. This would be the cheapest option, and means you could have the occasional meal together when you felt like it, and be there for each other if either of you became ill, but you wouldn’t have the grating misery of feeling he’s part of your life 24 hours a day.

Readers say...

Get a divorce

For all the years you stayed at home, claim a salary:

1. as a housekeeper

2. as a mother (raising the children)

3. as a nurse

4. as a taxi driver

5. as a counsellor

6. as an entertainer

7. as a whore (assuming you had more than just procreative sex)

8 as a cook

9. as a cleaner

10. as a gardener

11. as a decorator

12. as a personal shopper

13. as a laundress

14. as a teacher

15. as a secretary/administrator

So that’s 15 annual salaries for EVERY year unless I have missed a role here.

Josephine Dunn

by email

Embrace your independence

I’m not sure what you are more concerned about, having to work for the next 17 years or having to live with a man you clearly don’t like? I assume you are a relatively young 48-year-old who has spent the past 15 years caring for your family and, basically, becoming invisible to everyone around you. If your husband really believes that he has “done his bit” and is now happy to spend most of his time golfing then shame on him and double shame on you if you put up with it. I fear that it is propably too late to revive your stale relationship, so my advice is to fully embrace the idea of going out to work and becoming independent. Make new friends and – who knows? – either “misery guts” will dump his clubs and take notice of you, or you’ll simply move on and enjoy the rest of your life with someone new.

Harvey Brown


Don’t become his victim

I think you should leave. If I knew then what I know now, I would have done, too. The facts are: it will not get any better, it will get worse; he is not going to change and you can’t be a victim of his choices. You need to have a life – you only have one of them – and you can’t waste it on someone who only thinks of himself. If he wants to live his own life, because “he has done his bit”, then let him do it on his own.


by email

Next week's dilemma

Ten years ago, having had several unsuccessful, painful relationships, I met a great guy, but he was a bit of a drinker. During our two years together he promised he’d never let me down like the others. Then he suddenly dumped me, and married someone else within six months. I became very ill and so upset I had to leave my job temporarily. I’ve now received a letter from him saying he wants to “make amends” for his behaviour (something to do with AA). What do I say? I’m now too old to have children (he has two) and I still can’t forgive him.

Yours sincerely,


What would you advise Viola to do? To answer this dilemma, or to share your own problem, write to

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