My wife won't share marriage responsibilities - Talk About Marriage
Financial Problems in Marriage When financial times are tough, it adds to the stress we deal with on a daily basis. This section is for talking about how financial problems affect our relationships and ways to cope.

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post #1 of 9 (permalink) Old 01-23-2011, 12:56 PM Thread Starter
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My wife won't share marriage responsibilities

I have been married 8 years, and am now 35. I am beginning to realize I have not been able to do the things I want in life because for the past eight years I have had to support my wife financially and emotionally. It is as if I had kids when I was 26. It has also affected career choices as I had to first limit where I lived based on her college, and felt I had to choose the "sure thing" over more rewarding jobs that had more risk.

I pay for almost everything in our marriage, including overseas travel to see her family. After ten years living together, I will finally have no credit card debt - for the first time. This year for the first time my wife starting paying for about 10% of the cost of our living.

My wife wants to be a practicing artist, and since this breaks even, to earn money she works in a low-paid industry (child care) despite having a college degree. She offers many reasons - she doesn't care about money; she doesn't need things like houses or health insurance (but if I want to provide them that's great!), she feels after nine years in the US and a Bachelors degree, her English is not good enough; she doesn't like computers and doesn't want to work with them (despite maintaining a website about her art); or getting another job would require "going back to school" which takes time and money. She has no interest in participating in any home-based business with me. She is very intent on only doing those things she "wants to do," even when choosing a part-time job.

At the beginning of last year she tried to convince me that other husbands in the US provide for their wives in this way (even though she doesn't want kids.) After many fights, she admitted she didn't have confidence that she could get a different job, mainly because of her English (she is from Japan and speaks well but obviously her writing is not perfect grammar-wise and she sometimes has difficulty following rapid conversations in American English.

I feel like my options are limited. Although my career is middle-income, I have not been able to save money with my one salary. We will have to use my pension as down payment on a house. I know finances would be tight if we ever have a child, which she has decided she doesn't want anyway. I am in a job I really don't like at all now, which has caused stress and self-esteem problems, and I am searching for new jobs. I cannot afford to go back to school for a one-year professional program - how would I support us (I do not want more student debt)? I tried taking evening classes but the stress was too much and I did not perform well. I also work part-time as a consultant, in part for money but also because it will build experience to leave my current job. I feel like I've become a workaholic, even though my ideal life is to balance work and meaningful interests.

I think my immediate frustrations would go away if I found the right job. However, I really feel my wife and I should share responsibilities like earning money, planning for our future, deciding where to live - but all of these are placed on me.

I don't now how to communicate with her because if I try to discuss this, it almost always ends in a fight, in her crying and saying I am reducing her self-confidence, or that she is not good enough, or that she doesn't care about things like money because there's no meaning in life. Or she says she is a burden on me and "offers" to leave after I've supported her through college and so much else. Two years ago she went thru treatment for depression and is seemingly better now. However, we fight about 3 times a week, I think because of the stresses of this situation.

I am not sure what to do and although I love her and want to be together, I also have other goals, including doing things I like in life, having enough money to have a modest home or travel, doing meaningful work or starting a business, balancing work and life, and having at least one child. I dream of living a "debt free" life (no mortgage & living simply) but we'll never get there on one salary ...

I do not think this is a cultural issue b/c women our generation in Japan would work if they didn't have children, including my wife's sister. And my wife does not support the male-dominant society norm in Japan, one reason it was easy for her to come to the US. I do think however it is related to her recurring depression, and perhaps even my bringing up this subject makes it (depression) worse. She refuses to get further therapy because, she says, she's always felt there is no meaning in life since she was young.

Last edited by mc75; 01-23-2011 at 02:45 PM.
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post #2 of 9 (permalink) Old 01-23-2011, 03:10 PM
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Re: My wife won't share marriage responsibilities

I have depression and anxiety. I recently restarted treatment, after being off it for several years. I will say that any time my boyfriend brought up something that I deemed as negative, it would depress me more. I would feel like I couldn't make him happy and so I must be worthless. I was so depressed that I couldn't see any way to make things better. Now that I've started treatment again, I feel better. I can hear something from him that I deem negative and instead of feeling worthless, I can think and look for ways to change that. I can discuss things like that with him, and while being criticized or told you're wrong doesn't feel good, I can do it without feeling as though he's trying to hurt me. I am in the right frame of mind to understand that whatever he is saying to me, it is because he wants our relationship to work and that whatever the issue is, we need to resolve it.

If she is depressed, treatment is the only thing that will make that better. Whether her treatment is meds, or therapy, or whatever, depression generally does not go away on its own.

At the same time, though, you cannot avoid these subjects just because it might make her worse. Avoidance will stress you out, frustrate you further, and further deteriorate your relationship. You have to find a way to make her understand that this is vital to your relationship working, and that she must listen to you and seriously think about what you are telling her.
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post #3 of 9 (permalink) Old 01-29-2011, 01:06 PM
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Re: My wife won't share marriage responsibilities

So you didn't talk to her about goals when you married? What she planned to do...when to have kids...where to live...etc??? Or did you two agree that she would not work and stay home and do art? If its the latter than what's the problem? You agreed to it.
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post #4 of 9 (permalink) Old 01-30-2011, 01:34 AM Thread Starter
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Re: My wife won't share marriage responsibilities

Thanks, atruckersgirl, for a helpful answer. Things seem to be going well as my wife, after having a month with little income, has realized that we need enough money to live comfortably, plus is not so depressed lately. I'm sure there will be more ups and downs. I hope if the next one comes, she will be willing to go to therapy.
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post #5 of 9 (permalink) Old 03-07-2011, 04:04 PM Thread Starter
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Re: My wife won't share marriage responsibilities

I wanted to follow up if anyone can give more advice. Things are getting better - my wife was able to sit down and plan for the future without saying it didn't matter. She has decided she wants to earn some money with her art and maybe take classes to improve her skills as a pre-school teacher. So maybe things are finally getting better, slowly. But it feels too slowly for me. I find I am resenting her.

She gets to devote her time to creative art, even though it only earned $400 last year for working about 20 hrs a week. She teaches pre-school which she finds enjoyable and always has something good to say at the end of the day. I go everyday to a desk full of paperwork at a bureacratic government office, so that I can pay our bills, try to pay down debt accrued while living on one salary, etc. I am happy on the weekends and spend the week depressed and tired - this is perhaps the worst job I've had despite having a good education. It seems I always have to compromise - while my wife will not.

I feel like I've become 35 while all the things I wanted to do in life, all my dreams are slipping away. I'd like to travel and apprentice on a family farm before we have children - I'd like to do that part-time in the future. But it always comes down to - not enough vacation time, not enough money, and if I quit my job to do what I really want, I have to worry about providing for two of us. Today I had to fix the car (that she drives to her art studio) and the bill is $660 - another month until I can finish paying off our debt. Our only savings are about $25,000 in my pension, which will go to our down payment when we buy a house. I find myself afraid to take any risks because I have to support 2 people.

My wife is 32, and says she won't have a child after age 35, so the window for me to do what I want seems to be closing. After supporting her for 4 years thru college and 3 years now of trying to establish herself as an artist, I am tired ...
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post #6 of 9 (permalink) Old 03-08-2011, 07:35 AM
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Re: My wife won't share marriage responsibilities

You have to lay out the choices, your desires in life, her desires in life and then show her that in order to get choice X, then Y dollars are required. In order to have Y dollars, then what are the ways to either get more income or spend less.... The bottom line is you are relating money to her dreams in life (house, children), you are leading her into what it takes to achive these dreams, and you are offering her the choice (i.e. get a job or cancel the dream). But it must remain a choice you are offering, not a demand. But one of those choices can become Work or Divorce. But, I will point out that if having children is a plan, and she is working in childcare today, you should have a real discussion about whether she wants to ever be a working Mom. Most childcare workers see this from the inside and are against leaving their children in childcare.
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post #7 of 9 (permalink) Old 03-08-2011, 01:43 PM Thread Starter
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Re: My wife won't share marriage responsibilities

Thanks, Hicks. We are lucky to live in an elightened place where the child care is excellent - still, they only pay $10 an hour as is usual. Still, the only way I could imagine my wife working while having a young child is if she worked in child care and get to enroll our child for free - otherwise, at that salary it just doesn't work financially! If she gets some certification and experience, she may be able to earn more - up to $15 an hour which I think is pretty decent.

We have talked about money and have gotten over two challenges recently - one, that she needs to earn money and not just at some undefined time in the future; and two, that we do need to plan for the future despite her episodes of depression. I guess we just haven't talked about how and how much - I guess I should've done this. The reality is we could live frugally and in a low-to-average-cost place on my salary alone, but I am utterly burned out, and want not just to change careers but to live a different way (mixing a self-sufficient lifestyle with well-paid part-time work).

When my wife wanted to do a artist's residency a couple years ago, she picked up and left in a manner of weeks; when it didn't work out I had to go and get her and bring her home at my expense. When she lately commented that she might use frequent flyer miles to go abroad for a month to visit a friend, I felt its utterly unfair that she lives this care-free lifestyle while I go everyday to a job I can't stand, and told her as much. Right now she only works as a subsitute, as that gives her time to do art. Meanwhile, I am having to give up a farm apprenticeship this season because of our finances, or rather the worry of what will happen afterwards ... I am trying not to tap my pension. The thing is, she has been very care-free about her own life but at the same time expects financial stability, health insurance, etc. which I provide.
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post #8 of 9 (permalink) Old 03-11-2011, 08:39 AM
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Re: My wife won't share marriage responsibilities

Hi Mc75

I came across this website by accident – after typing into a search engine my situation and I can’t believe some of the similarities between your situation and my own.
I met my husband in my home country where he was studying. At the time I was due to start my masters in the area I wanted to work in, but as our relationship got serious and we became enagaged we decided to move to the USA where he is from. Now part of this decision was the fact I was told by him and his family that I would easily be able to start my masters over here and work in my field and that my husband was more likely to get work in the USA. He has a PHD is a strange field so bearing in mind the amount of universities in the USA I agreed.

Upon coming to the states however – I found that my husband still had his student mentality. He has been studying for most of his life and never really out there working. Rather than look for any sort of work I found he was constantly waiting for something he liked….this resulted in him working about 5 hours a week whilst I had to find a job within 2 weeks of immigrating in order to set us up. That was a year ago and nothing has changed. The promises of me returning to university have gone or met with a “in the future” but I cant stop working as I am the only one with permanent employment and health benefits. I also recently found out is a several hundred thousand dollars in debt, and so the idea of getting us more debt by me going to uni over here – I just cant think about.

I work 40+ hour weeks, getting up at 5.30 ever morning, I have left my family and friends and support net work behind, we have no social life. My husband works two or three hours a day, has spring break and summer of work. Although he does practical things around the house e.g tidy, food shopping it is always at my instigation. I have to tell him to pay a particular bill and I do the budget every week.

In short I am beginning to realize that I am doing everything, have sacrificed a lot and he has not sacrificing anything. Although I like the country here I am wondering if the only way to save the relationship is to move back to the UK where at least I have professional contacts, where the masters in cheaper and where I don’t mind taking the responsibility of the marriage as long as I am able to live the life I want. My husband however told me yesterday he does not want to move to the UK. When I try to suggest jobs to him, he always has a reason for not wanting to do them.

A friend of mine told me that at some stage a partner would go out there and do anything to support or look after their spouse – including doing a job they don’t like. I have realized that this is not going to happen and I am wondering if I should just go back to the UK and begin studying and see if he follows.

In short – I am realizing my husband is still in a student mindset – does not consider our future and does not feel it necessary to take responsibility. I don’t know how to change this and I don’t have the energy to try. I am in a strange country where I have pretty much had to teach myself how to live over here.

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
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post #9 of 9 (permalink) Old 03-17-2011, 04:24 PM
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Re: My wife won't share marriage responsibilities

If I were you, I'd start putting 10% of my salary into a long-term savings fund that is hard to withdraw from; let her help you figure out from there - on 10% less salary - how to get food on the table. Your savings should be nonnegotiable.
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