Husband changed and unhappy after move to Germany

Problems adjusting to life outside the UK

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despair
I have used the search facility and can find no other thread similar to this so I am starting a new one. I think I need to get things off my chest so please everyone, don’t feel you need to post a reply unless you really feel you want to.

We (husband and myself) moved over here just 3 years ago from the UK. We had it all planned, husband to retire, me to work part time and we even bought our house 2 years prior to moving. I had high hopes of a new life and with my husband being so positive about things, even learning a new language (I speak fluent German and have done for many years), I though we were on a roll. Was I wrong…..

He is so half hearted in everything he does. He even looks like a tramp and if I have to look at his dishevelled appearance over the breakfast table one more time, I will scream. He won’t go out, mix with people and he is starting to withdraw so badly, we are not speaking to each other like we used to….. He started to learn German and then decided that because most people tried to speak to him in English it wasn’t worth the effort so he stopped going to school.

He is now a shadow of the man I love and married and I don’t know what to do. I am at my wits end….I feel so responsible for his unhappiness as it was my idea to move here although he did seem eager. It seemed to me that it was just the last 4 months that he has changed but I think it has been going on longer although I have never noticed it. I feel a bit better now I’ve got this off my chest….
RainKing
I feel terribly sorry for you both. It is hard for many people, to find a purpose in their life when they retire. They feel that they have suddenly become useless. It is terrible for a man to feel useless. I'm afraid that moving to a foreign country has compounded that for your husband. In the UK he knew how to do most of the normal things in life. Here, he has difficulty doing even the simplest things. That is an emasculating feeling. From uselessness, you spin into apathy and depression. Once you fall into that state, it is hard to crawl back out. You have lost the motivation to escape your lack of motivation. He may need external help, some form of counselling, to help pull him out.

If you search again for subjects like depression, counselling, I think you will find some information. There are English-speaking counsellors in Germany who might be able to help. I hope he agrees to go, for both your sakes. I wish you all the best.
Pas
Sounds to me like he needs English speaking friends?
despair
He was a successful self employed individual who was always there for others and now he seems to need help himself but will not acknowledge it. He is very proud and also very stubborn.
swimmer
I've seen a few instances of this recently, albeit all (older) German blokes, and I can see it happening with another at the moment. It must be harder if you are dealing with the zillion stresses of immigration. Generalising, but it does seem a pattern - unhappy, aimless life, often without "status" from work, stop shaving / washing etc, get all listless. Without putting labels on it, and I don't usually suggest going straight for the meds, but one thing I did see deal with the short-term problems was medication (anti-d's). They seemed to help deal with the problems around appearance etc that popped up. Therapy perhaps, too, to give him some support?

The German thing could be that he actually finds it difficult - not everyone finds it easy - or has no confidence (and I imagine, perhaps wrongly, that he has few peers in his classes). But he might just need to try again, presuming he can get the motivation. It might not be the same somewhere else but he really just needs to be hard - just because others want to speak to him in English, doesn't mean he is under any obligation to. That just has to be his ground rule - he doesn't use English in the class, so perhaps learn some stock phrases "I only speak in German as that's what I'm here to learn etc".

Also, his wider social circles? Are there any? Or is it just you and him? Hobbies - anything old or new? And have you done the difficult stuff - considering if Germany is the best place (at least opening that up might take some pressure off)?
Moonboot
what is your location?
Alcala
He's feeling sorry for himself which is always tough....if he was successfully self employed perhaps you have the money to travel a bit including back to UK to see friends?
jeremy
This is something I definitely have. My listlessness comes in phases (I'm going through one at the moment). I've been a stay at home father the last four years, and have found it very tough here, doing the simplest things you're right can be exhausting. I can't find a job -  I've tried politely knocking on doors to offer my services but no luck, and have the feeling noone wants my help but I have so much to offer. I won't say openly here how low I got.

What has helped recently was joining a gym in the winter. Summer you can jog outside and don't need it so much, but winter here is hard and cold. Getting slowly fit has helped a bit. Also for me being able now to go for a pint in the middle of Munich in an expat bar has also helped - I've been a few times now and its better than any therapy.

I also got my German together.  Although my vocab isn't extensive, I am now fluent. Being able to function in the language does make a huge difference especially in the countryside where almost noone here speaks English. 

So the gym, learning German and socialising a bit are my bits of advice. Good luck.

Alcala
...I am also reminded of one of the all time famous jokes....

Q - Why do most husbands die before their wives?

A - Because they want to!!

ha ha
despair
Yes, I think he is feeling sorry for himself. He has travelled back to the UK a few times and doesn't like it there. He has never had many friends because he has always been busy and I have been his main focus in life. In some respects that is a big compliment to me but thinking about it, it is probably not a healthy mindset. He has children and grandchildren within mainland Europe but he doesn't feel the need to visit them more often.
Alcala
ok then if he is feeling sorry for himself then he's a bit of a selfish prick...especially when he has an extended family...sounds like he needs a kick up the backside more than anything...especially when I just read what Jeremy wrote...that situation I can feel and appreciate what he is doing to counter being at home and not working!!
Moonboot
he needs some hobbies perhaps. can you specify your location I may have some links for you.
despair
I've tried with the hobby idea. The other day I saw that our local College of Further Education are offering water colour painting courses starting in January. He loves that so I suggested it would be something of interest to him. No, he doesn't want to be in a group with other people. Alcala, I think he is being selfish - which he never was. Moonboat, we live in the North.
Moonboot
could he be depressed? it may be worth him seeing a doctor. it's easy to dismiss his listlessness as selfishness but it really may not be the case.
in any case you definitely need a big talk to discuss what is going on in his head.
swimmer
In some respects that is a big compliment to me but thinking about it, it is probably not a healthy mindset. He has children and grandchildren within mainland Europe but he doesn't feel the need to visit them more often.
In that case, is his (and your) life not playing out as he might have expected? Maybe he just has no capacity to do the things he needs to do now? He's spent all of his adult life not prioritising social relationships and networks (other than business) and family (other than you) and a wider world. Instead, he's focussed on his romantic partner. And, now, at retirement, he has no wide social structures and doesn't know how to "do" them. Surprise! This is very much how the blokes I mentioned earlier have lived. Your hubby is probably just not like the flexible, sociable beings that pitch up at the German class and drink up the stimulation of new stuff.

My best friends work in elderly medicine and they note that the people who have difficultes in socialising and with loneliness in later life tend to be those who have actually spent their earlier life doing just the same (but relied solely on a narrow family structure that's hidden their inability to form social relationships). It's often not a coincidence that certain people end up like this, in other words.

In which case you have a long haul to change the habit of (I presume) 60 years and I suggest you might well not be able to do it alone, you need professional support. Don't be his "rescuer" (which it sounds like you may have been in the past except, until now, that worked for you, not against you).
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