What’s Wrong in this Marriage?


I saw this video the other day, and I was horrified.  Here’s the story:  A family with a husband, wife, and daughter.  The husband was laid off, and hasn’t been able to find work.   His wife increased her hours at work to compensate for their lost income.  So he’s staying home and caring for the home and their child, and she’s working.  Guess what?  They both resent the hell out of each other.  She has lost respect for him, because he’s not working, and because she doesn’t feel like a woman in this roll.  He doesn’t feel like she respects what he does around the house, and wants to be accepted and loved for who he is, not how much money he brings home.  She doesn’t feel like he understands what she has given up and how hard she is working, and he feels just about the same.

Whatever happened to teamwork?  To being a team in a marriage?  To supporting each other, no matter what?  To “for better or for worse”? The couple doesn’t sit close to each other, doesn’t sleep in the same bed, and I get the feeling they don’t talk to each other much.  I would hate to think that this could be the majority of marriages in America.  That so many marriages might be based on such a flimsy foundation, that a change in circumstances could derail their marriage to such a severe extent.

When Ted was out of work, I didn’t think any less of him.  I will admit to being a bit jealous when Maya was a baby, and he was home working on his dissertation, and was thus able to spend more time with her than I was.  I suspect that at that same time, he was probably jealous of my ability to go to work and focus on my job, rather than the million distractions a baby bring into the equation.  But we still loved and supported each other, and we made those decisions together.  I respected him for all that he did with Maya, for what an amazing and wonderful father he was to her (and still is, of course).  I wish this couple could come to such a place, where they respect each other again, without it having to be so much on her terms of what she expects from him financially.

13 thoughts on “What’s Wrong in this Marriage?

  1. That IS horrifying… but honest, too. I do think it is horrid that she bases her respect on him finding a job, and ONLY that. He’s probably already taken a big blow emotionally by losing his job, and to have his family net be pulled out from under him by his LIFE PARTNER is a double whammy. And the fact that this is spilling over onto their daughter… okay, that’s crazy!

    I think the wife’s resentment of her time away from her daughter is taking over common sense… she should actually be glad that one of them is able to be at home with their child, to be there for her. It can’t always be just the mom. But I suppose it’s the stress of added work hours when she doesn’t want to be working is getting in the way. If she thinks this type of attitude is going to help his self-esteem to GET a job I think she’s sadly mistaken.

    There are days when Ian wishes he could be at home with the kids too…but he’s pretty appreciative of the fact that I’m at home right now and that there is a parent here. I’m glad we’re still a team, because we’d lose the battle on the homefront for sure, if we weren’t.

  2. I agree totally, Karen. I suspect that even if this guy were to get an awesome job and she could stay home again with their child, the damage done to their marriage, all of that anger and frustration, would be hard to overcome.

  3. I agree J, it would be hard to over come. Frankly, I’ve felt the resentment cause by not being in a partnership and every little set back will just increase it. If you are not in a partnership to begin with…this is what happens. So glad I’m in one now!

  4. I couldn’t watch, your description of what I could expect was enough–so much of the rocky stuff in marriage now is related to money and roles and expectations.

    With Andrew and I I’ve come to realize that you can’t try to make things fair, you both have to just work to get the jobs done and we get different down times. His day ends pretty regularly just when mine is beginning and the family is coming home. You just can’t keep track of every minute your spouse is working or not working.

  5. You know, this is incredible to think about! This is that ripple effect that most people don’t realize occurs: there is so much “collateral damage” when a major shift happens in society. It’s not just that a business fails; an entire societal change happens. Women are the breadwinners now more than ever, but now we have to contend with the fact that women earn, on average, 78 cents for every dollar that a man earns in America. Will this finally bring about pay equity as families have to depend upon women’s salaries? What else might change now that women are the daily wage-earners of the family?

  6. It sounds to me like both these people need to step back or away and do something else and re-examine their reasons for being married. I know, it ain’t easy to do when you have a child and all of the ongoing persistent obligations that don’t go away.

    But if he were gone from the house for a couple days or more, would she miss him? and likewise if she were gone, would he appreciate her? Easy to get caught up in the immediate issue, and forget the big picture stuff.

  7. Thanks for posting this, J. You are so right about loving and supporting one’s partner. I had to cringe when I watched the video.

    Although, I am embarrassed to say that I needed to be reminded of the loving and supporting each other part…as the past few days I have been losing sight of that through all the sleep deprived nights and a screaming five month old. A bit overwhelmed, exhausted, cranky…and down right bitchy. I feel sorry for my husband. Thanks for reminding me of the supporting each other through no matter what. Gah! I have been feeling like the world’s most awful wife and mother the past few days. This video made me see that it could be worse. Karen’s right. It was horrifying!!

  8. I agree with Amy Sue. You are very fortunate, J.
    It seems like our society has such high expectations for marriage and so little tolerance for anything that doesn’t measure up. I’ve talked to so many friends who keep waiting for Mr. Perfect and are constantly disappointed. I don’t believe that there is a 100% perfect match, a person that will always make you happy and you’ll float away together on Cloud 9. That may be your first year of marriage, but eventually the stresses and challenges of life test your marriage and ultimately, your friendship. Marriages are work.

  9. OMG, I saw this the morning it ran, and I almost wrote in a letter. For almost 15 years, I have been the breadwinner of the family and my husband the stay-at-home dad. I just can’t get over how much, in this year of 2009, so many women are stuck in the notion that it is perfectly OK for women to stay home with the kids but absolutely not OK for men to. As Gloria Steinem said recently when she was here for an award, there will be no equality between men and women until men can do what women have historically done. In other words, women have proven that we can do what men do. Now let’s let men step into women’s shoes.

    But yes, it’s not just the wife’s shame over having her husband stay home, but he has a lot of resentments, too. I just couldn’t believe how much this crisis threw them for a loop. You’re right. Where’s the teamwork?

  10. J, this is why I have always held you and Ted on a pedestal. This is the exact reason. I had never seen a happy and true partnership like you and Ted. You guys gave me hope that loving and happy marriages DO happen.
    While I feel Eric and my partnership is pretty darn good, we work at it. And part of that working at it, is me squelching my feelings and learning what is the real value of a partner. I still put a lot of weight on how much financial security he adds (or takes away) to/from our little home and am resentful at times of my position in our financial situation.
    Thankfully we are able to talk about it. It’s not always a totally smooth conversation but we work through it. I’m learning.

  11. I confess I didn’t watch the video, but my experience is that these sorts of events just shine a spotlight on everything that was wrong with the marriage BEFORE the crisis occurred.

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