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Ask a Therapist: My Hubby Won’t Take Financial Responsibility, Help!

Q: My husband hasn’t ever taken full responsibility for supporting our family Wasatch Family Therapy Couplesfinancially. He has had opportunities to advance in his career but won’t do what it takes to move ahead. I think he makes important decisions based on fear. His Dad and mine have been helping us financially for years. I work part time and recently took over ownership of the business and see it as our way to finally be self reliant. I feel some resentment towards my husband because he doesn’t work on most Fridays and spends those days as well as evenings with the kids while I’m working so hard. It seems like he’s always being bailed out of his responsibility and now I’m bailing him out by taking over this business. He seems fine with putting forth no effort. He’s been up watching sports games till 1 am while I’m up at the same time studying for business classes. I’ve lost respect and love for him over the years because of his lack of drive. My question is – How do I decide to be okay with his decision to pass of his responsibility to support the family when I think it’s totally wrong? Is it possible to live with this when it goes against everything I think should be important to a father?

A: You are in a very tough situation, and I can see how this has worn on you over the years.  To fall out of love with your spouse is a hard thing.  Your questions are good ones, and to be honest, it sounds like you’ve already answered them through your actions.  By working hard yourself and going to school, you are sending him the message that it is OK if he stays home or avoids career advances because you’ll take care of things.  Also, by not leaving him to this point, you are implicitly communicating that you can indeed live with it.  In other words, your efforts to put up with this difficult situation are giving him the message, “Don’t worry, you don’t need to change.  I can do this myself.”  This unspoken message is magnified by the financial support from your extended family, which further proves he does not need to work harder because others will step in to help if the need arises.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that what he is doing is OK or that you shouldn’t feel the way you do, I’m just wondering what motivation is there for him to change if everyone is doing the work for him.  Try pulling back yourself.  It may give him more room to step into his role as a bread winner.

If this is not a possibility, then I recommend you try to see your situation from a different perspective.  For example, instead of thinking “My husband doesn’t support me”, see if any of these other perspectives fit:

1)      “I don’t support me” – by taking on responsibility that you don’t see as your own, you are not being genuine with yourself.  There is no one to blame but yourself for that.  What is it that you truly want to do?  Start doing that and give the world a chance to support you in it.

2)      “My husband does support me” – he stays home on Fridays and takes care of your children, so you can work.  He is making it possible for you to pursue your career and further your education.  You own a business for goodness sake!  That’s impressive.

3)      “I don’t support my husband” – he is pursuing the life he wants.  You seem to resent him for that fact.  It sounds like you see him living a life based on fear, but it may be that he really doesn’t want to climb the corporate ladder.  He may not want to be the financial bread winner.  Do you really want to force him to doing something he doesn’t want to?

It may be hard to try on these different perspectives, but try them, and see if there are any others that fit better.  At the end of the day, if you’ve tried all these things and can’t seem to find resolution, I’d recommend you try couples counseling, as a means to address these important and painful issues.

Hope this helps,

Todd Dunn, PhD

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