Q: This economy is really creating all kinds of problems. I hear people complaining about their reduced lifestyles and panicking about mounting bills. We all know that we're undergoing a recession and that means that many people have to revise their goals and what they can expect from life -even whether they can afford to retire. I know all this, so I feel a little bad when I ask this question: Why can't I blame my husband -- not for the economy but for his failed attempt to protect us, me and the kids, from what's happened. Frankly, I'm mad as hell.
I married my husband assuming that each of us would pursue our assigned roles. I did my best job as a homemaker and as a mother and as a wife. I spent my household budget in a prudent way; I didn't overspend. We ate well. We entertained well. The children had everything they needed. In other words, I took care of my end of the bargain.
My husband was supposed to secure our future, me and the kids. He was supposed to see to it that we could travel, take family trips. Sometimes I would wonder where the money was coming from, but he always blew me off: Don't worry, honey, I'll take care of everything.
So, guess what? I did what I was supposed to do, but he's not doing what he was supposed to do. He says he has lost all of our savings and his job is even in jeopardy. We are now really struggling and the future scare me to death. The children have to figure out a way to pay for college. Vacations are out. We may even have to sell the house -our dream house -and move to a smaller place. He has even hinted that maybe with the kids being older, I could find a job or cut down on my household expenses.
WHAT!!! Boy, do I resent him! I am so angry. I lived up to my part of the bargain, but he has reneged on his. The kids know what's going on. They, too, feel betrayed. They find it difficult to even have a conversation with him. He wants us all to sit down as a family in order to figure out what to do. No way, I say. Let him sit down and figure out what to do. He figured out how to get us into this hole, let him figure out how to get us out. I am not even sure I want to stay married to him. I will take what's left and let him start over again!
A: WHOAH!! You need to take a deep breath, count to ten, and analyze the situation. Who are you actually mad at? What do you think all this anger will accomplish? If you divorce your husband, who's going to take care of you? -for from what you say, you're a woman who needs to be taken care of. Better stay put for the moment. You'd be a seller entering a buyer's market.
Let's try to look at this step-by-step.
It seems obvious to me that you and your husband did, indeed, have an arrangement -just not the one you thought. Your real arrangement went like this: he would satisfy your need to be infantilized and you would satisfy his need to be the Big Shot -both to you and to your children. Then the economy crashed and the Big Shot is big no more. Maybe he was not wise about how he invested your money -it was yours, too, after all -and maybe he played the Big Shot in this area too -with awful consequences. If he seems a failure to you, just imagine how he must look to himself.
So show some understanding. Your husband must be in some pain. He knows he's failed you and the kids -and maybe he even knows you fantasize about getting a divorce. Added to this psychic burden is a very real financial one. He's in a jam. The bills are mounting up. The future looks bleak. Now is the time for your entire family to gather round and support one another. Now is not the time for recriminations. There's always time for that, if you insist.
As for you, yes, your husband has let you down. But you bought into it. You're an adult and you could have looked at the books and wondered about your investments and asked about how much money was being saved. You're not a little girl. You're a woman, a wife, a mother. Instead of pitching in, you want to cut and run. Even if you managed to pull that off, in no time you'd realize what you've done and feel disgusted with yourself.
Remember you marriage vows--for richer or poorer. Whatever happens between you and your husband, you still have a solemn obligation to your kids. You have to show them how adults weather tough times. Their life will not always be charmed. Adjusting to adversity requires tools that you and your children obviously do not yet have. Now is the time to get them. Your children will follow your lead. Show them how to find strength and show them how to be a compassionate person.
I don't want to completely throw the blame onto you, because this environment is one that has left a lot of us feeling abandoned and betrayed. Many marriages and relationships are under pressure. It is hard to figure out exactly whom to be angry at. Is it the government? The financial community? The unions? The list seems to grow longer every day. So, when we feel uncertainty, we sometimes want to focus our frustration on the person closest to us. In this way, we concretize our emotions. In your case, you've chosen your husband. Wasn't he supposed to know what to do? Wasn't he supposed to protect the family and ensure its future? Wasn't he supposed to focus on his responsibilities? He probably did. I cannot be sure of that.
Whatever the case, he is not alone. Many families now find themselves in trouble. They may have worked hard for a company that now is going bankrupt. They may have trusted an investment counselor who turned out to be a crook. It is almost impossible to not be adversely affected by the dismal economy.
So, before you leave the marriage, try to shift your focus to compassion, not anger, and start to become constructive rather than destructive. Work with your children and your husband to understand your financial problems. What can each one contribute? This is an opportunity for emotional growth. Up until this time, the only one in the family who was looking out for the entire unit was your husband -and he did it in an immature way. Isn't it time for all of to grow up?