I’m disillusioned with my husband who merely follows instructions

Dear Troubleshooter:

I’m a female company employee in my 50s. My husband is from the same generation and we have three children of high school age and older. However, I’m filled with despair when I think about my children becoming independent in the near future, leaving only my husband and I in the house.

My husband has no problematic habits such as drinking, gambling or dallying with other women, and he works hard to support our family. He also cuts back on sleep to help with the housework and childcare.

But he can’t do anything without “instructions.” He’s the type of person who just can’t grasp what is going on in a given situation. He seems to bear no ill will toward others and is afraid to show his feelings. But if he’s told to do something, he’ll do it unquestioningly, without thinking whether doing so is good or bad.

I’ve long supported him because he’s not a bad person at heart, but I’m genuinely disillusioned by the fact that he can’t do a single thing, even shopping, without my instructions, almost like a kindergartener. For the past 20 years, he’s just been following directions and hasn’t learned anything new. Looking forward, how should I deal with him?

— D, Gunma Prefecture

Dear Ms. D:

I see your point. When you think of your postretirement life alone with your spouse, you are overwhelmed by feelings of despair. Indeed, it seems being alone with a husband who merely waits for instructions makes you feel empty inside.

But he does house chores and helps with the children, and even curtails his sleep time to do so. He seems to be not very assertive, but is he merely following your directives when putting so much into family life? Can you say flatly he has no feelings for your family?

Everyone has their own inherent weaknesses, which can often be difficult to overcome. People have told me that I’m totally indifferent to human relations. I still have no idea how to overcome this. Nevertheless, I am not particularly troubled. I wonder if your husband feels embarrassed when you tell him, “You always wait for instructions.”

As for how to deal with him in the future, why not try giving him no instructions at all and see what happens? If, as a result, you conclude that you cannot live any more with a husband with no will of his own, you can propose living separately and freely after retirement.

I really think everyone should live for their own happiness in their later years, after having fulfilled their duties.

— Megumi Hisada, writer