> Current Issues > Dear Emuna

Non-Working Husbands

September 8, 2016 | by Emuna Braverman

And their resentful wives.

Dear Emuna,

When our children were young, my husband and I made an arrangement. He would be the stay-at-home dad and I would support the family. I have a much better job and when the children were younger, this was a great plan. He still didn't do much of the laundry or any of the cooking which was frustrating but since he was responsible for the child care, I let it go. Now our children are older (high school and even college) and he still considers himself a stay-at-home dad. And he still doesn't do much of the laundry or any of the cooking. Now I really resent it. I want our marriage to survive but I'm really doing way more than my share and he won't even try to get a job. How can I move past my resentment?

Planning for the Future

Dear Planner,

That's a tough one. I totally understand your resentment and, if I'm honest, I would be resentful also. What's missing from the picture here is a description of your relationship for the last 20-something years. Did you laugh together, enjoy each other's company, build each other up through tough times? In other words, besides this issue (and I'm not denying it's a big one) was there a loving and caring and pleasurable relationship? Is there something to work with? Or was it just a parenting partnership? That's an important question for you to answer.

In general I’m optimistic that relationships can be rebuilt and revitalized, but there has to be a foundation in place. It's not clear to me whether you have one or not. I think the time has come for some serious soul searching on your part. Is there a relationship here to pursue? If so, how are you going to do that? Is your husband open to counseling for example? And if not, how are you going to deal with that? Are you prepared to live with the status quo for the rest of your life? Can you do that generously and without resentment? The questions that have to be asked and answered seem to be ones that only you can deal with. I wish you much success in determining the healthiest and happiest course for you, your husband and your children. (A little hint about all the needs you must keep in mind!)

Dear Emuna,

My husband of 10 years is a lovely man; bright, caring and thoughtful. The only problem is that he can't seem to hold down a job. I work so our family stays afloat - but just barely. It's not just a financial strain; it's taking a toll on his self-esteem. What should I do?

Supportive Wife

Dear Supportive,

We seem to be dealing with variations on a theme here. What seems to distinguish your situation from the first letter writer's is that your husband seems to sincerely want to work. You also seem - from your description of his positive qualities - to have a closer marriage than the previous writer. Those are two important foundations for moving forward in your situation. While his joblessness is taking a toll of your husband's sense of self-worth, I am sure that you may still at times feel resentful that so much of the financial burden is falling on you.

You don't mention if you are also left with the responsibility of running the home and looking after your children (do you have any? You didn't say). If those two responsibilities also fall into your lap, it would be normal, even with the best of intentions, to feel frustrated and just plain worn out at times. It is then hard to add to your duties, the need to prop up your spouse. So, I empathize. It can be difficult.

On the other hand, you have a wonderful husband with wonderful character who is going through a (hopefully brief) tough time. Marriage has many ups and downs, times when you need to support him and times when he may need to support you. If he knows that you believe in him and respect him, despite his unemployment, that will go a long way towards keeping your marriage strong and rebuilding his sense of self. It's a tough and complicated economy right now but, please God, when he does get another job, you will both benefit from the love and support you gave each other during the rough spell. Ask the Almighty to give you the strength you need and cast your burden on Him to help your husband find a new job. Then take a deep breath and move forward.

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