AdviceHelp Me Rhonda

Help Me, Rhonda

My Mind on My Money

My husband and I are pretty broke. I am a poor graduate student; he moved from another country to live with me in the States and basically had to start over. I have been having a hard time figuring out how to be supportive of him lately, though. He has a job that pays OK but wants to quit it, because his co-workers are racist and pick on him for being foreign. But he seems to be so picky about what to do next! Whenever I make suggestions to him, he says that they are not the type of work he wants to do. Whenever I express worry about our finances, he thinks I am accusing him of avoiding his responsibilities. It makes for some pretty stressful conversations. The thing is, though, what I make as a grad student is just not enough to cover the basics. As much as I would like to be supportive of him taking his time to find his path, I need to pay the bills, and I need his help to do it. What are some strategies for talking and thinking about this situation in a healthier way?


What you can do, Strapped, is let him talk to me. And I’ll explain to him that he can’t quit his current job until he has another one lined up. And by lined up, I mean the ink is dry, and they’re waiting for him to start. I do not mean he thinks his buddy’s cousin might know of an opening in a few months. The reasons for this rule are several. First, you can’t afford to weather a period of his unemployment. Second, it is very hard to get a job when you don’t have one. It is much easier, and you find much better work, if you are looking for a job while you already have one.

That having been said, what’s happening to him at work is not trivial, and I don’t blame him for wanting to get out. His co-workers’ behavior has the potential to be really damaging. If the situation were reversed and you were truly uncomfortable going in to work, how long would he expect you to stay with that job?

I recommend a three-pronged approach right now. First, recognize that his co-workers’ behavior may rise to the level of harassment. If that’s the case, his employer has an obligation to address the situation, and your husband needs to pursue this formally. He needs to document what has been said, when, and by whom. He needs to attempt to force his workplace to address and remedy the situation.

While he’s doing this, he also needs to be looking for another job. His employer may not respond, he may never feel comfortable there regardless of the outcome and/or he may just be ready to change fields. I’d suggest he polish his resume—today—and start sending it out, asking around and generally shaking the bushes. Clocking in to a bad job becomes a lot easier when you know there’s an end date or when you just know that there are other options out there.

While all of this is going on, the two of you need to have a conversation in which you consider all possible ways to reduce your expenses in order to take some pressure off your income. During this conversation, everything about your lifestyle is on the table. This includes finding a roommate, moving somewhere cheaper, living in a camper, selling your car, giving up cell phones and on and on. You don’t have to do all of those things, but you need to consider them. Reducing your expenses to the point where your income can carry you both will give him tremendous freedom.

Missing My Best Friend

I’ve had the same best friend for many years now. We’ve seen each other through so many ups and downs, and I can’t imagine life without her. The problem is that several years ago, she became involved with an abusive shitbag. This man is not just abusive to her; he’s a total shitbag to her children too.

For the past several years, literally all she can talk about is being stuck in her relationship. I recognize that she’s suffering from battered-woman syndrome. I’ve tried just listening to her, I’ve tried pointing her to resources, I’ve dropped every piece of advice I can think of but she seems incapable of moving on and away from this poisonous shitbag.

At this point, I feel like a bad friend, because I am so effing tired of hearing the same things every time we talk. I have my own problems (unemployed, major illness), but we rarely talk about those things. The only part of my life she seems interested in is when I have a problem with my significant other. She almost seems to take joy in hearing that other people have relationship problems too.

How do I get her to realize that when I complain about my SO not taking the trash out, it in no way compares to putting up with the kind of abuse she’s suffering? And what else can I say or do to help her move on with her life?

Wish I Could Help Her


You need to reframe your idea of what her response to your help is going to look like. Made-for-TV movies and television shows from the early ‘90s would have you believe that the two of you will have one heart-to-heart and then she’d have her suitcases packed and walk out with her children. There would be music playing, and her chin would be raised. But, after several years of this, you know that that’s not realistic. She’s mired in a terrible situation, and part of her abuser’s pathology, as you point out, involves manipulating her in such a way that makes it extremely difficult for her to see that leaving is a real option. This can be extraordinarily frustrating to someone viewing the situation from the outside, but remember that she’s truly living in an alternate reality—one in which her relationship is normal and would be perfect if she would just work harder at pleasing her BF.

You mention the ways you’ve tried to help her—listening, pointing her to resources—as if those attempts have failed. From your perspective, you haven’t helped her successfully because she’s still in this relationship. But you have no real way of knowing what the impact of your friendship has been. It may be a source of tremendous comfort to her. You may be slowly helping her see that she has support and friends who value her outside this relationship. So I say continue listening to her and asking her about the relationship. Be careful not to attack him or the relationship, but give her the space and freedom to talk about it. If she senses that you want her to leave him and she’s not ready, then you’ve just become another person with expectations of her that she can’t meet.

Her decision to leave can only come from her and only when she’s ready. You can’t make her ready, but you can be supportive and be nearby so she knows that when she is ready, she’ll have help.

You are her friend and will continue to be her friend by providing support. However, while all this is going on—and it may continue to go on for some time—you need to realize that she is not in a position to be the kind of friend that you need right now. You need someone who can give time and attention to your problems, someone who can share in your excitement when you have good news, and someone you can complain to without having your complaints distorted. You need to give yourself permission to find that friend (or those friends) and spend time with her as well. You’re not abandoning your best friend; you are finding other friends so you’re not depending on your BFF for something she’s not capable of providing right now. That’s what will sustain you enough to allow you to keep helping her.