ASK CAROLINE: I’m angry that she went behind my back
If you have a problem, email Caroline at firstname.lastname@example.org. Caroline reads all your letters but regrets she cannot answer each one personally
I’m angry that she went behind my back
Q My wife gave £3,000 to her friend without my knowledge and it’s left me feeling angry at her deceit. She confessed what she had done about two months later, saying that the friend’s husband had lost his job in the pandemic and they were struggling to pay their mortgage. She said she felt guilty for going behind my back and couldn’t keep it a secret any longer. I was furious that she didn’t ask me first – I’m the only one with a salary and am reasonably well paid – and we argued for three days. The money was intended to help our children. I have calmed down now and forgiven her. It’s not really about the cash because we can probably afford it as a one-off, and I know how close she is to her friend. I might well have even agreed. But I feel hurt and betrayed that she didn’t ask me first. She says she was afraid that I might be angry. But aren’t you meant to discuss things in a marriage and make decisions together? My wife suggested I write to you to ask you who’s right.
A Which of you is right or wrong is actually rather irrelevant – you both have elements of each on your side. However, it sounds as if there is a bit of a power imbalance in your relationship. I can completely understand that you were upset that she didn’t ask you about helping her friend and, yes, ideally she should have done so. The fact that she didn’t because she was afraid of you being angry – which you were – reveals that perhaps you have become the more dominant partner in the marriage. Often one is a little more dominant and that can work well in some areas – but the best marriages are the ones in which both partners are equal. Respect for each other is crucial. You mention that you have the only salary, which suggests you may feel that really the money is yours. Sadly, stay-at-home parents can feel disempowered in society. Too much value seems to be placed on our work status and what we earn. But what you have to remember is that your wife is doing an equally important job in bringing up your children – which enables you to go out and earn a high salary. Please don’t think that I’m being overly critical – you do, in fact, sound quite generous towards your friends, and wanting to sort out what is right for your marriage is admirable. So explain to your wife that you don’t want her to feel scared to ask you about anything. And I’m sure she would agree that future decisions do need to be made together. Also reassess how you handle money between you. Personally, I’m not a fan of joint bank accounts because I feel it sacrifices independence, but it can feel demeaning for one partner always to have to ask the other for money, so perhaps you can find a creative way to avoid this.
My boss is a bully and I want to quit
Q I’m 59 and I was going to retire in two or three years but I really just want to quit now. Recently a new boss took over and he is a horrible, ruthless bully. Two of my colleagues have already left because he was so unpleasant to them and now he has started on me. He constantly finds fault with my work and recently he promoted a junior colleague over my head – even though I had been doing a similar role for years. My husband says that it’s grounds for constructive dismissal and that I should sue, not just go without a fight. But I haven’t got the heart for it and fear that it could undermine the last bits of my confidence.
A Working in a climate of fear can be damaging to your self-esteem, so you need support. Firstly, contact your human resources department and get in touch with your union if you have one. You could also contact Citizens Advice (citizensadvice.org.uk) to check your legal position and rights. It will make you feel stronger to know you are less alone. Also remember that bullies thrive on making people feel powerless – and you are not. Keep a record of your boss’s appalling behaviour. If you are thinking of retiring in the near future, you have nothing to lose by standing up to him. So don’t reveal your plans yet, and if your boss tells you that your work is not up to standard or makes unreasonable demands, politely but firmly stand your ground. Tell him that your performance has always been of a high level. If he sees that he cannot intimidate you, he may even back down.