My wife and I have had a difficult year — I’ve changed my medication (I suffer from multiple sclerosis), my wife has needed an operation, her nan died and her mother’s partner walked out.

This year we wanted to put everything behind us and move forward, we even booked a holiday for the family with our three children in July. However, a month ago I was told that they were making redundancies at work and they won’t know which positions will be made redundant for a while yet.

I feel stressed out and have been argumentative at home, snapping at the little things and pushing her away as I bottle things up and don’t talk to her.

I know that she would rather break up — we have broken up twice before due to her getting attention from someone else. I can see the signs are there again. I really don’t know what to do with everything now. I need help and have nowhere to turn.

Ammanda says…

There are few things in life more difficult than standing on the sidelines of something so important yet feeling powerless to intervene. When I read your letter, the things you tell me about sound like a “perfect storm”, with everything combining at once and likely to make anyone believe that nothing can be done. No wonder you feel there’s no way to turn.

Sometimes though, when everything is conspiring against us, taking each issue at a time can help to give a different perspective. I don’t think that necessarily we then “know what to do” but occasionally new ideas emerge that can at least shed light on things and that in itself can be useful.

From what you tell me in your longer letter, it seems to me there are three main areas that feel particularly difficult right now. These are your health, your job and your relationship with your wife.

Let’s take the last point first. You tell me that you’ve seen signs that alert you to her getting attention from somewhere else. You may be right but I’d like to say until you “know”, you really don’t and this can lead to expending so much energy and misery based on old information. You might also be adding to this worry by guessing what other people think and most of all feeling anxious about what you fear the most.

As things go on, the worry gets bigger and you can feel less able to cope with it or challenge it outright. That’s usually because if your fears come true then you have a new set of problems to deal with and might have to cope with feeling lost and abandoned as well. I didn’t get any sense of how you and your wife communicate. To be honest, it felt like it’s been really difficult to talk about anything much and maybe that’s left each of you seriously out of practice with sharing how you feel about your relationship.

You tell me that you’ve previously separated but clearly, something got you back together. I wonder what that was and if it’s something you can both use now to help start the conversations that sound so important to have. I’ve worked with so many couples where each assumed they knew what the other was thinking and was about to say, so they stopped listening because they didn’t want to hear it. Sometimes what they were eventually able to hear came as a surprise, sometimes positive and sometimes painful but it usually meant that they were able to move on and make changes. I would recommend that you try to talk and if it’s too difficult maybe see a counsellor who will help you get that process started.

The second issue is your job. Being told that redundancy is a possibility but there is no firm news for a while is always intolerable but it does at least give you some time to think about the ‘what if’s’, take advice and start to think about what needs to happen in the worst case scenario. Losing anything that brings meaning to our lives is hard. Jobs are sometimes one of the ways we define who we are, quite apart from the obvious benefit of bringing in money. I would say take as much advice as is being offered and if you don’t feel you get this from your employer then ask Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) for support and guidance.

Lastly, you tell me you have an MS diagnosis. I’m not a doctor but I understand that MS takes different forms and I don’t know how you have been affected and I don’t want to make any assumptions. But whatever the symptoms I can imagine that this has been extremely worrying and maybe brings the other things you’re dealing with at the moment into even sharper focus. If you haven’t already done so, getting support can make things feel less isolating.