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My wife won’t go back to work

‘She does nothing’

Love Letters

Love Letters

Q. My wife and I have been married for a long time. We have two kids that are both in school. For the last decade or so, we have been living in the house I grew up in. My parents moved and offered to allow us to move into their house. We agreed that we would get the kids through school and work on saving money to buy the house, but my parents said there is no rush.

Before the house was offered to us, my wife quit her job because she wasn’t happy working there. She was also pregnant and about to have our second child. When she left her job we agreed — or so I thought — that when both kids were in school, she would join the workforce again and help me provide for our family and save money to buy the house. My wife has made little to no effort to find employment again, and it has caused many fights over the years. Every time I bring it up it causes problems, and I’ve given up on the expectation. When we were first married, we both worked and we were a team. We were going to set the world on fire together.

I’ve asked my wife in every way imaginable to help me, but she does nothing. I love her and our family and we manage to survive, but life is supposed to be lived, not survived, and it’s taken its toll on our relationship. We communicate well about most other things and have a strong sexual connection, but I’m tired of asking for her help and getting none. There are no medical or other reasons that my wife can’t get even a part-time job, but she just doesn’t make any effort.


How do I get her to see that she is limiting our lifestyle and setting a poor example for our children? How do I convince her that I’m not wrong to expect her to pull some of the financial weight? I’m trying to remain patient, but how long should I be expected to wait? What can I do that is both supportive and encouraging but will show her that if she doesn’t make some effort soon, I will discontinue my support and encouragement?



A. You say there are no medical issues, but have you thought about mental health? Raising kids can be an overwhelming experience! Also, reentering the work force after many years can be an intimidating process. You might see this as possible — even simple — but in her brain it might be a lot more complicated.

My advice is to seek counseling together, even if it seems like it’s just another expense. It’s a way to find out if she’s OK and what the barriers are for working. It also might be a place where you can better understand what’s holding her back — or if she’s being held back. Perhaps she’s still doing a lot for the kids and isn’t certain that labor will be shared if she goes back to work.

Please remember that you have been a team this whole time. She was working at home while you were earning money.

When someone tells me a person isn’t making any effort, I wonder about depression, anxiety, and other feelings that might be standing in the way of next steps. There’s something missing in this story — the details about how your wife really feels, and how she explains her change in attitude over the years.


Instead of threatening to pull support, ask her to go with you to counseling because you need it. If she says no, that’s another thing, and I’d still say you should go on your own.



I’m curious what her side of the story is. Does she offer any explanation for her inaction?


^Her side of the story: My husband expects me to do all the cooking, cleaning, chores, shopping, and child-rearing. He needs me to get the kids onto the bus and off of the bus. He expects sex twice a week. AND he expects me to get a job and I can only do so much.


Suppose the wife does go back to work, possibly for minimum wage work. Expect some other area of your lives to suffer — it will most likely be your “strong sexual connection.” Because after working, household chores and taking care of the kids, she’ll have less to give to you. Be careful what you wish for.


How old are the kids? School for young kids seems to operate on the assumption that a parent is available during school day for various activities. Not easy for single parents and most married parents.


I can offer some perspective as a wife who has been in the wife’s position. I gave up my professional career (doctorate level position) to stay home with our three kids. When it was time to reenter the workforce, I had been out of the field for over 10 years and the field was experiencing a high turnover/burnout rate. It’s not that I didn’t want to reenter the workforce, but I didn’t want to return to a job that was going to be stressful, more than 40 hours. ... Perhaps the letter writer’s wife thinks the same. My husband and I eventually managed to reset both of our expectations for my return to the workforce. I am working again — part-time and somewhat in the same field, but a large departure from what I was doing before. Hopefully the letter writer and wife can have the conversation they need and have a happy ending.



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