Group Therapy is a relationship advice column to which readers contribute their wisdom.
A reader writes: Over the past year, my husband has been very successful in his work, winning praise from employers and underlings alike. To my embarrassment, I realize my pride in his success is turning to resentment. It bugs me that everyone seems to just talk about how great my husband is, and how happy I must be for him. And, while my husband and I often did projects together, now I'm turning down such jobs. I feel I'm struggling to maintain my identity. Is this simple jealousy? How can I fix it?
Hug yourself and keep going
Ah, caught between a rock and a hard place. Overwhelmed by him, and underwhelmed by you. You have already made clear what you must do: “I feel I'm struggling to maintain my identity … How can I fix it?” To which I would answer: Continue with your own personal growth. It sounds ridiculously simple, because it is. So hug yourself, and keep on keeping on. You'll be the better for it.
Wes Glockling, Chatham, Ont.
Focus on your contributions
It is a challenge to feel a professional imbalance with your partner. At the root, you need to feel that you are an equal contributor to your relationship and that that is valued by him. But it’s healthier to focus on your own contributions to society – whether through a new career or volunteer focus, travel or peer groups.
Robert Kruger, Winnipeg
Envy eats at the heart
Would the light of achievement by a child or parent, for example, similarly eclipse your own worth? Your spouse may eventually discover some kind of tax levied on his success, but it’s your job to lovingly ensure that the price of his distinction not consist of envy you harbour. It eats nothing but your own heart and that is unjust for you both.
Bob Burgoyne, Montreal
The last word
I remember once, after finding out a network rejected my sitcom pitch, rocking on the stairwell at home while moaning, “I’m married and I have children.” One of my kids asked his father, ‘What’s wrong with Mama?” My husband responded dryly, “Your mother is trying to convince herself we matter.”
Work is an important part of our identity. It’s also multifaceted and we should treat it like we treat our financial assets – diversify, so that loss in one area is balanced by gain in another. Part of your identity is based on your work, but your work is tied to your husband, who’s getting all the praise, so you feel unrecognized.
I understand Bob’s point about not being jealous about our children’s/parent’s achievements; in fact we’re relieved when our kids are good at something other than the Internet. It means we have a fighting chance of getting them out of our homes before we retire. And when my mother mastered her iPad, the quality of my life changed. But being jealous of a spouse is different, because we’re equals in the relationship – or at least we are supposed to be.
People often comment about my work to my husband. But he’s got his own career, which he’s good at, so he takes their lack of interest in him in stride. In fact, he finds it amusing. We’re proud of each other’s accomplishments because we’re separate and what we’ve created together is a life.
The solution is to be happy for your husband but, as Robert and Wes suggest, stop working for, or with, him. Strike out on your own so your successes are solely your own.
With some effort and moxie, the next time people say, “your husband is great,” you’ll be able to agree, and then show them the solar-powered car/house/backscratcher you invented, and cue the oohing and ahhing. You’ll appreciate your husband more once you get your own groove back.
Zarqa Nawaz is the creator of Little Mosque on the Prairie.
Next Week’s Question
A reader writes: A couple of years ago, my long-term therapist shocked me by hiding her face when she saw me in public. I was never courageous enough to confront her directly, only months later asking why I triggered negative reactions in her. That’s when I learned how low her opinion of me was. I never went back. Now I am seeing an amazing therapist but still can’t get past that rejection. How do I tell my new therapist without putting her in a compromised position with a colleague?
Let’s hear from you: If you have a question or would like to participate, e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.