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Confusion and depression

Blue Voices Member
Blue Voices Member

Earlier this year, I took the opportunity to work for three months as a volunteer on an overseas aid project in Vietnam. I have been retired for a few years and find it is not fulfilling enough to just be at home, do a few voluntary committee board roles, and play in the garden.

My wife insisted we move back to Brisbane to be close to her family, but since moving here, we have only made contact with 2 out of 8 other siblings, due to ongoing ill-feeling over distribution of her mother's estate.

I had an interesting time in Vietnam. I felt socially isolated due to language and culture issues, but stuck it out and achieved what I set out to do and more. However, while there, I met a woman 20 years younger and over the last 8 weeks I was there developed a strong and intimate bond. I felt younger, more alive and could see a future which was much more rewarding than sitting around here listening to grievances about family, her illnesses, and watching the world go by.

I've been back 2 weeks, and tried to share my experiences with my wife and her family, but there is little if any interest on their part. I feel very lost and alone and constantly thinking about going back to Vietnam to reconnect with my partner there and try to assimilate into Vietnamese life.

I've tried showing warmth and interest in my wife, but there is not much in return. My head says stay and try to work things out. My heart says follow your instincts and take the positives of my experiences and see if I can make something of them back in Vietnam.

I dont know which way to turn, as it is easier and more comfortable from a financial and lifestyle to stay here and pretend nothing happened, though my mind constantly replays the good parts of my Hanoi experience. I try to counteract that by reminding myself of the challenges I had with language, culture etc.

23 Replies 23

Community Member
Hi there Quiettall

This is certainly an interesting situation that you’ve become faced with.

How did you feel prior to your leaving for the voluntary role in Vietnam? Possibly sounded like you were bored with the way things were turning out. I guess the opportunity of going overseas and doing some kind of volunteer role would really boost the old morale and then to top that off to find a potential new and young love interest – that would really tweak the old enthusiasm for life big time.

I guess one thing to consider is that while you were there, it was only for a short time and indeed, everything was probably new and exciting and as such, possibly all went very well and created every day to be exciting.

You mentioned other members of the extended family, but for what I could see, you didn’t mention whether you have children of your own. Not sure if this would be another influencing factor for you to stay here? How did your wife feel about you going over? And when you were back, have you received the feelings that she missed you, etc?

It is a tricky situation – do you have any close friends/mates who you feel you could confide in, regarding this?

I’m sorry that I haven’t really done much more than ask a few questions, as this is really a massive decision you’ve got in front of you – and you really need to take time to weigh up every angle of every side of each situation.

Kind regards


Community Member
Hi Quiettall, that is a tough situation. I think you really need to think about what makes you happy. I'm not one to throw out things that could be saved, but life is short, and your time to be happy is limited to what you make of it. I would say that if you think you and your wife can be happy again, then it's worth pursuing that, but if not, then there is nothing wrong, in my opinion, with pursuing that which does make you happy. i guess the important thing to keep in mind is that the grass is really never greener on the other side, and so whatever you pursue has to have substance. best wishes

Blue Voices Member
Blue Voices Member

I have children who live in Melbourne. they are grown up and have had very little to do with my wife since we were married over 12 years ago.

I felt similarly before I left for Vietnam and yes, the new life was exciting though extremely challenging - this actually stimulated the grey matter beyond just sitting watching TV and gardening.

My wifer has not said directly that she missed me...only that she doesnt understand why I bother to do what I do, and cant understand why I am not satisfied just to sit at home and do same ol' same ol'.

I have no close mates or friends that I would confide in on this issue.

Blue Voices Member
Blue Voices Member

Thank you for your comments. I am constantly throwing around in my own mind what is important. I only have one life and I want to make the most of it. I see so many people being buried with "IF ONLY" written all over their coffins.

It is an issue of "bird in the hand" is worth "2 in the bush"? I've tried talking with my wife about what I discovered about myself in Vietnam and prior to, but she immediately shuts down with the standard response of "I dont understand why you are not happy to just enjoy retirement" and "why would you be bothered doing the overseas aid or other voluntary work, if they dont pay you?"

Community Member

Dear Quietall. From your post, you were pretty dissatisfied with your life prior to Vietnam. It sounds as you see coming home as almost a backward step for you. You've been married 12 years, was your marriage happy prior to your retirement, which seems the catalyst to your present state? You mentioned the woman you met in Vietnam was 20 years your junior. I don't wish to throw cold water, but while you enjoy life and living now, if you did reconnect with this other woman, I wonder how long before she would want to travel and enjoy life as you age. You're in your 60's, she's only in her 40's, I sort of feel she may start resenting you as you get older and she's still relatively young. Please don't be offended, but when you're young, age is only a number, as you start to get older, physically your body starts slowing down and you find it harder to keep up the pace when your partner still wants to 'get up and go'. When you're in your 70's, she'll still only be in her 50's, your age difference might start showing a bit. As vroom said, sometimes the grass isn't necessarily greener, it just seems to be. I understand where you're coming from with your dissatisfaction with your marriage. Maybe if you just return to Vietnam and just 'play things by ear' a bit. Like you with the volunteering, I do volunteer work too and really find it stimulating. I couldn't just sit at home, I'd be bored too.


hi Quiettall, this is an interesting post, and what I'm going to say is by no means meant to upset you and if it does then I apologise.
By doing volunteer work and servicing that particular project requires a great deal of an effort, and you should be congratulated for doing so, as there would be few people wanting to do this.
By going alone maybe good or it maybe not good for your wife, or yourself, but when a strange man who speaks english arrives in this new country, there are ladies who typically pray on these men, and excuse me for saying that, as I've heard it also happens in other countries, but what these new ladies want to do is to acquaint themselves with you so that the friendship does become very close, and so a relationship develops with the idea of coming back to Aus. with you and away from their hardship in their own country, so that's their intention.
Where I live there are many elderly men who have a young foreign girl in toe, and when these chaps marry these girls they are then accepted into Aus.
This might not be what you are thinking of, but if you go back then after awhile there will be pressure to travel back to Aus. so that she can get citizenship.
You may love her as well as her telling you the same, but she could have these other ideas, and that's her abjective.
Sorry this maybe not how you see it, but it can be a looming thought. Geoff.

Blue Voices Member
Blue Voices Member

My Viet friend is aware of my age and the difference between us but she makes it very clear that what we do together suits her fine. She is not one to go out raging. Her friends invite us out to KAraoke etc but she says she would much rather enjoy quiet music, movies etc and enjoy being at home cooking dinner or spending weekend with her family with me.

I have been offered to return to Vietnam on a contract basis and can play it by ear but dont want to inflame things anymore if there is no future between us...would rasther stay here and persist with home

Blue Voices Member
Blue Voices Member

Hi Geoff

You have not upset me at all. I have had lengthy dioscussions about this same thing with her and her family. She and I both understand that if we make something of this relationship, it is on the basis that we live in Hanoi, not Australia permanently. She is strong on being in her home territory and made it clear we would not be together if I was intending to go back to Australia or anywhere else. I am very happy to move to Vietnam although it will be a struggle to learn the language, but this is a challenge that would keep me going, rather than sitting around here being bored, frustrated and counting down the days until God takes us.

I have met her friends and family and they accept me, knowing full well my age, my situation and what we have discussed.

I spoke to my wife and her attitude is she is not interested in doing much with her life other than being at home, watching endless TV, spending time playing in the kitchen and running from one medical appointment to the other. She cannot and will not understand that (according to my doctor) I have a young and active mind and body and therefore should do something with the rest of my life apart from being a sedentary retiree. That is why I put my hand up for the overseas aid work in the first place, to do something for someone else, and get me out of my comfort zone. Little did I know I would be in the position I am in now.

The agency I worked with in Vietnam has approached me to go back and work for at least another 12 months, at which point I could financially retire easily and more comfortably than I could here in Australia.

So I face a lot of agony, whether I leave my wife and head back to Vietnam, or stay here and persist with doing things irrespective of my wife's lack of interest in life

Hello Quietall

Without being cynical, I think this is an old story. Not about the young woman in Vietnam and you, but about reaching a stage in your life when you feel restless, unhappy with your current life and not at all sure what to do with it.

Can youconsider your relationship with your wife without considering the other woman. Do you want to stay married to your wife? Not do you want to leave and go to Vietnam. Simply how happy are you at the moment? What do you want from a marriage?

The next step is to think about what you want to do with your life. Not what you want to do if you are still married or if you go to Vietnam. What speaks to you, what makes you excited, what turns the light on.

I think you need to answer these two questions before making any decision. In fact you need to answer the second question first. Someone else has commented that everything was exciting in Hanoi and part of that excitement was a new GF. And I can see how attractive that would be. You need to put both relationships out of your mind and concentrate on yourself. What do you want to do with the rest of your life?

Sixteen years ago I left my husband for all sorts of reasons not relevant here. I made that decision so that I could live in safety. Once I retired I needed something to do that made me happy and was in line with my values and principles. It needed to be satisfying, not just a job or task I could do with my eyes closed. I needed to be fulfilled as the novels say.

It seems to me you are comparing your present lifestyle with a potentially different lifestyle and getting excited because it means change. In many ways marriages are not very different. I gather this is your second marriage, but you will understand when I say marriages start with excitement and settle into comfort. If this marriage is not "doing it for you" then leave. That decision needs to be independent of any other option. It cannot be, "Oh well, I've had a better offer". It sounds as if you are engaged in the lost cause of finding happiness with or through someone. You first need to find happiness with yourself.

Back to my original questions. Do you want to live for the rest of your life with your current wife? If not then leave. Not to fly into the arms of someone else, but to find what you are really looking for. Give yourself a year on your own and make your own life. Then you will discover if you want a wife, a GF, single bliss.

By the way, Brisbane is a great place to live.