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Planning Retirement Online

Relationships - 26


It could be you.... 

Maggi Stamp, LaterLife's Relationship Counsellor

Every month Maggi Stamp, a qualified and experienced relationship counsellor for Relate and in private practice, writes about some of the emotional challenges we meet in later life.

For reasons of confidentiality Maggi never writes about a particular person's problems unless you have sent one in to be answered, but all her examples are based on problems raised by clients, family and friends over the years.  

You can write to Maggi at for her to respond in the column.


My husband has had a stroke and his behaviour makes him impossible to live with…

A Laterlife member writes: 

After a difficult and stormy 35 year marriage, my husband and I, both in our early fifties, seem to be at a point of no return. My husband suffered a stroke six weeks ago and his behaviour seems to have changed for the worse. 

He has always been something of a bully and all but one of our children have cut off contact.

I have always tried to achieve peace and harmony through understanding, forgiveness and compromise. As an old-fashioned misogynist and bully, my husband sees these as my ‘weaknesses'.  

Over the years, friends have advised me to leave him and I have, but always returned. Our remaining daughter has MS and is living here in the house with her husband and two small children. Sadly, she is feeling increasingly alienated from her father as he dictates how to raise her children and complains of her family's presence. This is most upsetting as she pays rent for their accommodation. He resents any time I have with the grandchildren, is jealous of my closeness to them and is critical of our son-in-law. 

Since the stroke, he tells me he cares nothing for me and threatens me physically. He is at home and I am nursing him, but my life is more miserable than ever.

I have undertaken to stay with him and help as long as I am physically able, but I am losing any of the remaining affection I felt towards him. I don't know if he will eventually adapt or continue to bully and control, keeping this new extra aggression and spite even if he improves physically.

I feel guilty about feeling this way but don't know where to turn or how to handle things. 

Maggi replies:

It sounds as though you have led a very hard and difficult life, always trying to be understanding, the peacemaker and mender.  Sadly your children, apart from your daughter, are not around for you.

It also sounds as though your husband has become much more difficult and angry since his stroke.

I am sure many people will tell you that to have a stroke while still relatively young is a huge blow and shakes a person's confidence profoundly. The most mild mannered of folk can manifest changes of personality that surprise those around them. This can be connected with several things:

  • The emotional shock of the illness

  • Damage can occur in the brain following a stroke

  • Depression, stress and feelings of anger or hopelessness and other changes in mental well-being are well documented after-effects of stroke

You don't know if this is why your husband is more hostile or not, and if it is a permanent change in his character.  Perhaps a talk with his GP or Hospital Consultant might help here.  

What concerns me most is your feeling that you no longer have the strength to resist his attacks and that they are becoming more physically threatening. No one can continue loving and caring under these circumstances and it is very important that you talk with your daughter and son-in-law about how you arrange your own mutual support system. You are of no help to your husband or yourself if you become unwell or live under the threat of being physically hurt. 

Your husband has to know that he is threatening what remains of his family and with it his only hope of having your support while he recovers. He also needs to know that to be in a constant state of anger and dissatisfaction is going to raise his chances of another stroke occurring.  

You say you have always been the one to strive for harmony, forgiveness and compromise in the family. You need to ask yourself if this has been a success or if there is room for some adjustment on your part that will enable you to become more responsible for your own peace and less responsible for everyone else's. Your family are all adult and responsible for themselves.  

Perhaps the compromises you have made have also eroded your own self respect. You owe it to yourself and your future stronger relationships with your estranged children to take hold of the reins and decide what you will and will not put up with. Note I use ‘will' and not ‘can'? You must be firm. 

Ask yourself these questions, they may help clarify some points for you:

  • Would your husband manage if you weren't there?
  • If his stroke is not major would he prefer this?
  • What would life be like with him if he didn't bully and threaten?
  • How long can you carry on before you become ill too?
  • Would it help if you all decided to be in his company only when all three are present in order to offer each other mutual support?
  • Can your husband be left during the day or can you arrange respite?
  • Do you have friends you can go out with on a weekly basis as a vital break from caring?
  • Do you want to regain contact with your other children?

If things become completely unbearable 

How severe was your husband's stroke?  Does he have sole control of family finances? Things are more complex if he does. Can you set a little money aside in case things continue to worsen? 

In an extreme situation it may not be financially possible for you to consider living apart from your husband, or easy to persuade him to find a flat elsewhere. But in this event, perhaps it would help focus his mind on the effect he has on you all if the three of you together were to tell him, quietly but firmly, that you intend to live separately from him in the house as his behaviour is no longer acceptable.  

Help for you

Finally, it seems to be that you might benefit from someone to talk to who is outside the family. There is much research to show that the physical and mental health of carers can be badly affected by the strain of coping. If you can, find a counsellor, perhaps through the Stroke Association or the hospital.

You need to spend time exploring how you can build back your own confidence.  It has taken a battering over the years and is badly needed now.


The Stroke Association

Stroke Helpline: 0845 30 33 100 

Family Support : The Stroke Association's community service, Family Support, is a visiting service providing emotional support in the early days after the stroke and over the time when the patient goes home. If the service operates in your area, the organiser will lend a sympathetic ear to your problems, suggest practical solutions, and point you towards all the help you are entitled to. 



You can write to Maggi at for her to respond in the column.

To view previous articles in this series - see the Relationship Counselling & Advice Index



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