Dear Ms. Peirano,

I am 38, my wife is 37, we have three children (daughter, 7, and twins, 4).

We met during our studies and have been together for twelve years. I studied business administration and computer science and then founded a company (software development, application development for artificial intelligence for three years). My wife worked in marketing after studying, but then took parental leave for two years after our daughter was born and stayed at home when the twins came. On the whole, she enjoys doing this and is a social person with many friends and acquaintances.

I had no idea that my company would grow so quickly; I now have 60 employees. In the beginning I had a partner, but after he embezzled money and made decisions behind my back, I had to take legal action against him for several years until he finally left the company and I paid for the damage he caused (also a huge one). loss of image). This all took place from 2017-2022. I was very worried about the company and constantly had appointments with lawyers, notaries, the tax office and dissatisfied customers.

My wife had our little daughter at the time and often commented that she felt neglected. I didn’t really understand it because I was at home on the weekends and took care of everything. Back then, we bought a house that is a listed building and extensively rebuilt and renovated it for ourselves. I took that from her as we had agreed. And as far as I could, I planned vacations on the weekend, did our accounting and office work because my wife doesn’t like that at all, and of course did something with our daughter so that my wife had time for herself.

Looking back, it was a very stressful time; I was constantly in the fast lane. I slept very little (5-6 hours a night maximum) because I went running at 5 in the morning. That was the only free time I had. We spent time together as a family, but there were often tensions between us. She accused me of being able to pursue my career and her being stuck at home. I felt attacked and told her that we had decided together and that she could also go to work.

Then she accused me of how unrealistic that was since I would never be home and she would be alone with everything. She couldn’t imagine going to work with three children. Once I was in China when she had a miscarriage, another time I had to leave her alone with a fever of 40 degrees because I had a business trip. That was terrible for both of us.

In short: she was very dissatisfied and I found myself in a daily battle for our livelihood. Because our lives took place at a high level with a house, a horse, cleaning help, 2-3 vacations a year, two cars and branded clothing. My wife spent a lot of money and bought a dog without my consent (I detest dogs).

I often explained this to her in a relatively matter-of-fact but internally irritable way and asked her whether she would be prepared to live on a smaller scale. I felt attacked because she didn’t appreciate my efforts and often blocked me when I talked about my work. She once said that my “stupid work dominates our lives anyway” and that’s why she didn’t want to hear about it in the few moments she had with me at home. When I come home, she is often already in front of the television.

The fronts have become increasingly hardened. My wife was disappointed and wanted me to go back to being the man she had met. I was more balanced during my studies and had friends with whom I cooked a lot and played handball. But with the time pressure that I had for years, I gave up my personal free time, and my wife accused me of that.

My wife started therapy a year ago, and since then she has probably only really realized how dissatisfied she is. I sat in on a few conversations with my wife’s therapist and it became clear how dissatisfied we both are. Ultimately, I also realized that during the years in which I had to fight like this, I switched off my feelings or had little access to them. I just functioned. My wife has made it clear that she doesn’t see a future if I don’t change.

And I’m also at a point where I can’t continue at this pace. I also want to find myself again. I just don’t know where to start feeling again and how to do it. I’ve completely forgotten how to do that.

What approaches do you have?

Best regards, Johannes T.

I work as a behavioral therapist and love coach in private practice in Hamburg-Blankenese and St. Pauli. During my doctorate, I researched the connection between relationship personality and happiness in love and then wrote two books about love.

Information about my therapeutic work can be found at

Do you have questions, problems or heartache? Please write to me (maximum one A4 page). I would like to point out that inquiries and answers can be published anonymously on

Dear Johannes T.,

That sounds like a sad story: for you personally, but also for your wife, your children and the whole family. What I find particularly unfortunate is that you both originally started the “Family Project” with great wishes and dreams and obviously both meant very well.

You not only worked hard at your job, but also spent a lot of money to finance a comfortable life for your family. And then, through the commitment required to start a company, drama arose. Your partner cheated on you, embezzled money and thereby damaged your company – or even put its existence at risk.

I can very well understand that you got into a fight mode and did everything you could to prevent the damage to the company. This obviously used up all your energy and you had neither time to recover nor to clear your mind about your wife’s worries and feelings. They were just rotating, and to do so they even gave up sleep and largely exercise. It’s lucky that you obviously didn’t get burnout or any other illness! Nevertheless, with regard to your mental and physical health, we strongly advise you to slow down and achieve more balance.

Here is a book on the subject:

Thomas Bergner: “Burnout prevention. Prevent exhaustion – build energy – self-help in 12 steps”

Your wife has also given her all: she has given up her job for years and taken care of the children and the household. It becomes very clear that this is not how she imagined her life as a mother would be. She probably misses her job and the recognition that comes with it, and she would obviously like to have more interaction with you.

They just seem to live in the same spatial coordinates, namely in your house. Internally you cannot even be located in the same coordinate system. Your areas of life have been completely separate for years: you struggle in your professional life, are with lawyers, notaries, tax officials and with customers, and your wife takes care of homework, playdates, the worries and needs of the children and the network at home the family.

Especially when areas of life are so different, it is important to continually bridge them so that a gap does not arise.

It seems like you mostly live next to each other and no longer feel or act as a team. One does one area, the other does the other. And both deny each other appreciation, which could be expressed in the form of praise, thanks, recognition or an open ear for the difficulties. In addition, you have seriously hurt each other by disregarding or neglecting each other and in the process anchored beliefs such as: “You are not important to me. I am not interested in you. I will not help you when you are in need.” This seriously damaged trust!

It is time for you to think about how you want to provide for your family. Do you really want to do it only financially, without commitment and emotional closeness? What do you think your relationship with your children will be like in 10 to 15 years, and what about your relationship with your wife (who is probably separated from you)? It would be very important for you to think about how you can spend more quality time with your family and really be there for your wife and children. Only if you work through the hurt you have caused each other in recent years (I’m letting you down; you’re not important) (and sincerely apologize for it) and show a change in priorities and daily behavior, do you both have a chance of a fresh start.

In my opinion, it would be important to have this process accompanied therapeutically, ideally as part of couples therapy and, at the same time, individual therapy for you. There you could work together on the injuries, but also on the question of how you can exchange ideas more and better. For example, through active listening: one person tells what moves and stresses them, the other listens attentively. And then the roles are reversed.

Have you ever thought about selling the company or delegating important tasks, for example to a managing director?

First, can you take some time off and stay at home for a few weeks or months and look after the children with your wife? This would allow you to cross the bridge into your wife’s area and experience what life is like and feels like there. You would build more closeness and contact with your children. This could be an important first step.

In addition, it would also be important that you both do things together as a couple on a regular basis. What did you enjoy doing together before the stress started? For example, art house cinema, bike tours, going to music festivals. It would be very important that you come up with ideas together about what you want to do and then prioritize those times.

In the individual therapy I recommend, an important point would be that you feel yourself learning again. For example, you might come off the fast track and take a break to calmly discuss and grieve what you’ve experienced and how you’ve felt over the past few years. Constantly tense, no self-care, teeth clenched. That didn’t feel good! The self-compassion (not self-pity!) that comes from understanding would be an important starting point for getting back to feeling. Only those who feel good about themselves can build emotional closeness to others.

If you set out on this journey, a lot will definitely change in your life and you will be able to fill it with more meaningful relationships.

I can recommend a beautiful book about the meaning of life:

“Tuesdays at Morrie: The Lesson of a Lifetime” by Mitch Albom

I hope that you can actively tackle this turnaround!

Herzlich GrüßeJulia Peirano

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