As an immigrant I’m undervalued, and my wife has no sympathy

<span>‘I was a professional in Iran. I was educated, experienced and respected. But my qualifications are not recognised here.’</span><span>Photograph: Shutterstock</span>
‘I was a professional in Iran. I was educated, experienced and respected. But my qualifications are not recognised here.’Photograph: Shutterstock

The question I am a recent immigrant from Iran and I am almost at the end of my tether. I was a professional in my country. I was educated, experienced and respected. But my qualifications are not recognised here. I am now working a menial, minimum-wage job.

It is essential work, but I am struggling with how it is perceived. I feel as if I’m viewed as 80% human. I spend two hours a day on public transport. People take one look at you and then sit anywhere else rather than beside you. The work I do is tiring. I am working extra hard as my income is all we have. My wife is doing a course, so she can’t work. The reason we moved here was so she could enjoy equal rights, which women didn’t have in our country.

She doesn’t seem to think what I am doing has value. She does not understand how hard it can be to earn money. She takes it all for granted, and recently has been resenting me for not doing an equal share of the housework. We agree in principle that housework must be done by both, when I get home at night I do what I can, but she has already done most of it.

We are running a household on one minimum wage. I have not looked for any government help, because I do not want to be a burden, so there is little money. My clothes are increasingly shabby, but my wife regularly buys herself new clothes. I used to be seen as intelligent, now I’m treated as if I’m slow, and everything I do is resented by my wife. Sometimes it feels I’d be doing us all a favour if I just disappeared.

Philippa’s answer My heart goes out to you in this horrible situation. Human dignity means all people hold a special value that’s tied to their being human. It has nothing to do with class, race, nationality, financial circumstances, job, religion, or anything else other than being human. I want you to refind your dignity. It feels as though it has been stripped from you by the attitude of others to the work you have to do – as well as how you are treated on public transport, and by how your wife seems to relate to you.

What you don’t seem to have now is a group of friends. You need like-minded people with whom you can discuss your circumstances, people who might have been in a similar situation to you. If you are not used to getting support, it can feel hard to reach out. How you are now being treated may cause you to feel shame. Shame makes you feel like an intruder, which ruptures confidence, making it harder to ask for help, so I know it won’t feel easy, but to regain your dignity you will need to find community. I wonder if the Iranian Association could help you? Don’t be too proud to seek help. Pride does not equal dignity, but taking care of yourself does. And taking care of yourself would mean seeking advice on what benefits you may be entitled to as well. When you find community, you will be able to cherish the dignity of your group which, in turn, will make you feel better about yourself. You also need to know that you are OK exactly as you are – irrespective of how you are treated.

I’m concerned about how your wife is resenting you and buys more new clothes while you look shabby

I’m concerned about how your wife is resenting you and buys more new clothes while you look shabby. You have left behind a country and profession where you were respected, so she can pursue her educational dreams, but if your marriage means you each feel resentful, you will be heading for marital disaster. Resentment thrives in silences; it hampers communication and puts up barriers to connection and intimacy. It results in judgments being formed and blame being assigned; situations being interpreted as personal affronts; and a sense of being put upon. But resentment withers away in the face of open communication. So, sit opposite your wife, look into her eyes and in a non-blaming way tell her what your experience is and how it makes you feel.

In a nutshell, there are two things for you to find: first your dignity (don’t confuse this with pride) and second, community. And one thing for you and your wife to work on – how can we improve our marriage?

I’m worried about how you are feeling almost at the end of your tether and fantasise about “disappearing”. When you feel despairing, please ring the Samaritans on 116 123 for free, or visit

And for the rest of us, let’s remember that a friendly nod to a stranger on the bus makes a difference.

I went to a lecture recently in Mexico given by the psychotherapist Guy Pierre Tur and, referring to Donna Hicks’s work on dignity, he said: “When I hear a foreign accent, I hear effort; where I see difference, there is courage; where I see discrimination there is resilience; where I see denied dignity, I see strength and survival.”

Philippa Perry will be appearing at the Also Festival, 12-14 July 2024 (

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