Dear Therapists,

My husband keeps on making bad investments and losing money. He borrows money to try and invest and now he has lost other people’s money. He is totally out of touch with reality vis-à-vis his business ability, complete oyalam hadimyon, but it doesn’t "pas" for him to work for someone else or get a regular job. I am at my wits’ end. Please suggest how to talk some sense into him.



I’m sorry that you’re in the position in which you need to worry about your husband’s responsibilities in addition to your own. It must feel like you have twice the responsibility due to your sense that your husband is not dependable in this area. 

Is your recognition that your husband is not in touch with reality regarding his capabilities based simply on past performance, or is there another issue that you’ve identified (like a cognitive or attention deficit) that contributes to his problems is business? Your approach to the problem may differ based on this. If there is no obvious problem, but your husband simply hasn’t been successful in the past, the problem could possibly be addressed more directly. If there is some kind of cognitive or emotional issue, the approach will likely need to be more sensitive. 

Does your husband have a connection with an authority figure (like a rov)? If so, they might be able to help him to acknowledge the reasons for his lack of success. A therapist could help him to identify underlying sources for this. 

Another factor relates to the reason for your husband’s refusal to work as an employee. Does he truly feel that doing so would be a blow to his ego? If so, what is it that makes him feel this way? Does he feel that not being his own boss somehow diminishes him as a person? Is this the only reason for this reluctance? I wonder if he may also be hesitant to work for someone for fear of failing. This can seem counterintuitive, since he has been failing at his own endeavors, but the notion of being directly answerable to others can give people a sense of being judged in a direct fashion.

If your husband does have a fear of being judged, resulting in a need to avoid situations that lend themselves to this, it could be difficult to get him to see a therapist. If he would be willing to meet with someone whom he respects, and with whom he already has a relationship, they may be able to help him to acknowledge any fears or insecurities that he might have. If he has a fear of being judged (or a similar insecurity), it would be important to bear this in mind when discussing any issues that may provoke these feelings. It can be frustrating to clearly see a problem but not be able to directly address it. However, the wrong words could trigger your husband’s negative emotions, thereby causing him to be all the more apprehensive about discussing the issue. 

As you know, we can only work on ourselves. Though we can point others in directions that we feel they need to go, we cannot change them. Hopefully you will be able to identify an approach that will allow your husband to recognize any underlying issues. This would be the first step toward moving past them. 

Yehuda Lieberman, LCSW

 psychotherapist in private practice

 Brooklyn, NY   |   Far Rockaway, NY

 author of Self-Esteem: A Primer / 718-258-5317


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