My husband and I have been together for about six years, and have lived together for five years. Lately, he has been underemployed, and this is creating an extreme amount of stress for him. I totally understand that, because I've been in the same situation in the past, and I'm grateful that I have a good job that allows me to carry more of the financial weight for us as a couple.
That said, his depression is starting to get me down. I try to think of fun things for us to do. I also offer to pay for all or the majority of the costs of these activities. He routinely turns me down and makes comments about how he can't afford these activities. When I respond by saying that I'm willing to pay, he stays that I shouldn't have to take on all of that financial responsibility. The fact is that life is for living, and I want to have a good time! I don't mind paying for these things, especially if I know that he can't pay for it, and that the benefit will be that we get to have an enjoyable time together as a couple and deepen our connection.
It seems to me like he doesn't care about this aspect of us making an effort to get out of the house and enjoy life. He's starting to really bum me out. What should I do? Just go on vacation without him? I don't want to sit around the house all day like we seem to be doing these days.
Thanks so much,
I think his reluctance to share in your wealth is about ego. I know personally how hard it can be to let others pick up the bill when you can’t do it yourself. You all know that I spent last summer pretty destitute—the only job I had was this one, and while I love writing this column and treasure my relationship with this community, everyone knows that freelancing can be tough. When my unemployment benefits stopped three months before I found full-time work, it was easier for me to consider sleeping in a storage facility than to ask my parents to pay my rent. My sister lives in this town and has a perfectly empty garage apartment, but my pride would not let me ask to crash with her.
But, of course, my family helped me out, and those months that I spent living on someone else’s dime were definitely the toughest. I literally felt wrong for wanting to go out for dinner or a drink. How could I let someone buy me a meal when I couldn’t afford to keep my lights on? What a greedy bitch I was, right? I must expect everyone to take care of me, right?
Of course the hell not. Loved ones offer to treat us during rocky times because they want us to be happy and continue to chase joy in our lives. I was so preoccupied with finding consistent work that I couldn’t see that, and I was embarrassed it was taking me so long. I felt like I wasn’t allowed to enjoy my favorite ramen unless I had a full-time job, which is absolute crazy talk. We are all entitled to happiness and joy, period. That’s all you want for your husband, and you should explain to him that your offers come not from pity, but from a desire to continue the relationship you had when money wasn’t an issue.
Picking up the slack and contributing more than your share is what families and lovers do for each other. It’s part of the natural give-and-take of any relationship. Sometimes, only one person is cooking all the meals or paying the bills, because that’s what the family needs at that point. I think he’d be much more comfortable letting you sponsor a night out if he could see that as part of your marriage’s ebb and flow, not a sign of his worth as a cog in our capitalist machine.