Supporting wife's self-education - Talk About Marriage
Physical & Mental Health Issues Marriage and relationships are difficult by themselves, but coping with physical or mental health problems can make things even more difficult.

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post #1 of 11 (permalink) Old 12-15-2016, 03:39 AM Thread Starter
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Supporting wife's self-education

My wife and I have been married four years. We are both highly intelligent, but with very different educations: I have a scientific PhD, but she left college unfinished under personally distressing circumstances. She's also seven years younger than me (I am early/mid 30s). Her failure to finish her education is due both to her physical handicaps (chronic pain and other not-understood problems) and her psychological issues (depression plus several past traumas), which have tripped her up on enough occasions that she now no longer believes she is capable of completing college because of the demands it would place upon her. Instead, she self-studies in the subjects she prefers: math, computers, and the sciences, as well as less academic pursuits such as art and ecology. She prides herself on being a "generalist". For the same reason, she doesn't work, and doesn't have the confidence to try to self-employ.

We have a recurring argument of the sort that seems to personally offend her (rather than being simply an agree-to-disagree situation) over the fact that in the time since we've been together, she has not gained mastery in anything she's studied. As an academically successful person, I see her approach to learning as hopelessly undisciplined and aimless, in no way resembling how a formal education should go. She, in turn, feels betrayed that I apparently judge her for this whenever she tries to involve me. In particular, she would like to use my expertise in math and science to aid her study, but whenever she brings her questions to me, we quickly degenerate into arguments about how she's learning. (This is an extreme example of why I believe that I should never teach someone with whom I'm in a relationship, but she feels that because of our relationship, she should in fact be able to rely on me to do so.)

I am not asking how to change her approach; enough time and fights have passed that I believe this to be impossible. She is strong-willed and never changes her mind about something she's thought about. Instead, I am asking for advice on how better to support her, given my own firm beliefs about how to learn and what one's goals in learning should be. I feel that she's dabbling within her comfort zone; she feels that she's advancing her broad interests; I need to be able to see this as a positive even though she isn't getting any closer to being able to contribute financially.

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post #2 of 11 (permalink) Old 12-15-2016, 06:10 AM
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Re: Supporting wife's self-education

Since she does not work or plan to, there's no point in making it more difficult than it needs to be.

Make a lesson plan with an outline of what you want to cover, assignments, etc. And combine with online resources.

At some point take an online class here or there or even community college.

How's her social life overall? Is she in IC?

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post #3 of 11 (permalink) Old 12-15-2016, 07:00 AM
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Re: Supporting wife's self-education

She's never worked and contributed; isn't likely ever to work.
She "studies" and is proud of her knowledge which is apparently not based on any goals of a degree or employment.

You should just get used to the idea that you will always support her. I personally see your situation as a recipe for disaster for you should you ever divorce, which is extremely common these days.

My advice is to insist on her finishing some kind of degree and getting a job, and make it a priority.

You've listed all these excuses for her not finishing her degree. Who doesn't have problems? Now she has a husband and support. What excuse could there possibly be now that is legitimate?
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post #4 of 11 (permalink) Old 12-15-2016, 07:02 AM
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Re: Supporting wife's self-education

You waited until the last sentence to get to the real meat of your issue. Do you really care about how she learns, or that she makes no financial contribution? Focus on what you actually want as a result.

You need to figure out exactly what you want from her and when you want it, then communicate. Don't tell her how to do it, only that you need her to get there and by a certain date.

Be prepared that she may have no desire to ever earn money. Some people like to live in a perpetual state of irresponsibility and self-indulgence. Is that your wife? If so, you may be faced with a big and painful choice.
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post #5 of 11 (permalink) Old 12-15-2016, 07:13 AM
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Re: Supporting wife's self-education

She sounds like she has an inability to complete or finish things.
This could be a part of depression.
You could suggest CBT and other therapies that might help her heal from her past.
If she grew up as a child in a messed up household with irresponsible parents who didn't set boundaries etc, it may be a reason why she cannot complete things such as college or keep jobs.

Fighting about it, will likely make things worse, you need to be/set a positive yet firm example to guide her along.
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post #6 of 11 (permalink) Old 12-15-2016, 08:09 AM
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Re: Supporting wife's self-education

If she is anything like my daughter, (who is finishing a degree) she was badly damaged by the "Formal education" system. My daughter managed to turn it around and now works part time in the student success department. The point of this is that the straight forward scientific approach is not going to work for everyone. You are not the person to help her forward in exploring other learning methods. But, you probably have connections to someone who can help. This is a healthier way to approach this. As a highly educated and educationally accomplished person it has apparently escaped your notice that people without your level of education do in fact have jobs, learn skills, and lead happy lives. You are doing her no favors by assuming that she will never earn money. Tell us more about the family? kids? long term plans?
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post #7 of 11 (permalink) Old 12-15-2016, 08:25 AM
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Re: Supporting wife's self-education

Originally Posted by oppenheimer View Post
I am not asking how to change her approach; enough time and fights have passed that I believe this to be impossible. She is strong-willed and never changes her mind about something she's thought about. Instead, I am asking for advice on how better to support her, given my own firm beliefs about how to learn and what one's goals in learning should be. I feel that she's dabbling within her comfort zone; she feels that she's advancing her broad interests; I need to be able to see this as a positive even though she isn't getting any closer to being able to contribute financially.
She trusts you and is comfortable bringing those questions to you... what are you teaching her?

Since finances were mentioned several times, it is clear you have an expectation and are looking for a financially contributing spouse... that taken away, what other values are you placing in your relationship?

Encourage her take her thirst for learning and begin volunteering in the college for beginning students who are struggling... often you don't need a degree to be a mentor, often it is best not to so the students can relate better to their struggle, just know a little more than them to get past a hurdle and offering something someone finds value in helps build missing self-esteem.

You are very good at touching the mind... perhaps she needs a heart to touch along with the mind.

Love needs patience and acceptance.
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post #8 of 11 (permalink) Old 12-15-2016, 08:50 AM
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Re: Supporting wife's self-education

She wants to give the aire of being educated and "smart" merely by the fact that she goes to college. Being a generalist will get her nowhere and it's only wasting money to let her continue. Eventually both of you will have to set a goal for her education centered around specializing in something and adding to the family income. Otherwise she'll just go on taking only the courses she likes without ever getting a job and helping you out. This can't be sustained indefinitely.
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post #9 of 11 (permalink) Old 12-18-2016, 03:14 PM
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Re: Supporting wife's self-education

Do you think she just lacks confidence? Is she a perfectionist? I have been in adult education for years and I never fail to be amazed at how quickly people give up after the first hurdle. Their scores drop, so rather than seeking advice (*from the people that are paid handsomely to help students*) they just throw the towel in. I see it every year.

I just feel privileged to be there in the first place - being educated IS a privilege. I think for her she needs to work out what she has a passion for, learn to enjoy the fact the she can educate herself, go to the people who are trained to support her with her studies (i.e not you). Other students on the same course are far more supportive for me than my H because he doesn't really understand what I am studying nor does he have any passion for it. The one and only thing he does for me is lets me regurgitate what I have learned through the day (we usually do this whilst preparing a meal together), it helps me get things straight in my mind and if I haven't understood something then I know I need to go back and get help.

As for YOU. I think you need to work out whether you feel resentful that she doesn't financially contribute. I suspect this is your frustration and you may need to have a talk with her about working alongside studying. I don't think that is unreasonable considering almost ALL students I know work part time to help fund their education. I will expect my daughter to get a job the moment she gets to University. I don't think it is for you to support your wife in her studies or be the one to motivate her to get out of her comfort zone - that is for her to do. Its her business and for her to work out what she wants from life. What IS your business is the financial side things which you need to communicate clearly. Make sure there are no mixed messages towards your wife and her lack of employment/studying.
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post #10 of 11 (permalink) Old 12-18-2016, 03:31 PM
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Re: Supporting wife's self-education

Are you paying for this "education"? If so, I would stop. Let her take loans out in her name only. You'll be amazed how quickly she graduates or stops her education.

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post #11 of 11 (permalink) Old 12-18-2016, 03:49 PM
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Re: Supporting wife's self-education

You mention several past traumas. Has she ever been tested for or diagnosed with PTSD, panic attacks, or any form of anxiety disorder? If not, it's something you may want to investigate. If she has been diagnosed with one of these conditions, she needs therapy and counseling. She might also be able to get disability until she overcomes the issue enough to get a job. However you should be aware that some people with severe anxiety issues are never able to work outside the home it is simply too stressful for them. If that is the case, you might support her looking into developing a work from home career.
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