Ask Dr. Buckingham: What Should I do if My Spouse Is Not Contributing?

BY: - 29 Jul '14 | Marriage

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Dear Dr. Buckingham,

My husband and I have been married for almost three years; we were together off and on for almost 10 years before that. My husband and I separated once before because of his lack of ability to provide and lead our family. After about a year apart, he seemed to have gotten himself together and came back. Satisfied with the change I saw in him, I agreed to marry him.

Old habits die hard, it seems. I am a very driven and accomplished woman. I strive to make good decisions that will benefit our family; I work hard to make sure our family lives a good life. My husband, on the other hand, is back to his lazy, selfish ways. He makes decisions based on what’s best for him without thought to the future and best interest of our family. Despite my arguments to wait until we were stable financially, he decided to have knee surgery (which could have waited at least 6-7 months). He has not worked in over 7 months and currently has no income.

We are in dire financial straits. I can’t respect him as a man, much less my spouse. His laziness angers me to the point where I can’t stand to look at him, much less treat him as head of the household. We’ve tried counseling at my urging to no avail. I understand that a woman is supposed to follow her husband and speak life into him, but how can I follow a parked car? More importantly, how do I know when it’s time to cut my losses and move on without dead weight?

Tired of Dragging Dead Weight,

Ask Dr. Buckingham

Dear Tired of Dragging Dead Weight,  

Unfortunately, you have learned that there is nothing that you can do to get your husband to work unless he wants to. Talking, nagging or arguing is not going to change or motivate him. As you stated, “old habits die hard”. The best indicator of an individual’s future behavior is his or her past behavior. Change is sustained only when individuals truly embrace it and see the value in it. Be mindful that values influence behavior and some people value working and some do not. This is tough because financial distress is among the top contributors to marital discord.

In regards to your questions, let me offer a few thoughts that might help you cope with your marital distress.

Thought #1: You cannot follow a parked car. It appears that your husband lacks understanding of what it means to be the head of household and the importance of working. His inability or refusal to work threatens the family, your relationship and his walk with God. God himself worked and expects us to work. According to Genesis 2:15, He placed Adam and Eve in the garden to “tend and keep” it. He created man and woman to rule over creation. This requires work. Work is notable and demonstrates faith in God. Your husband may require some mentoring. Encourage him to speak with a pastor, life coach or a professional counselor. He might also benefit from reading my book, “A Black Man’s Worth: Conqueror and Head of Household”. Chronological age and desire does not make a man a man. He might need someone besides you to help him learn the importance of fulfilling his role as head of household. He might need a tune-up in order to get moving and to function like he previously did. 

Thought #2: Most people would agree that your husband should contribute to your family as head of household. He is required to lead and set the tempo in the house. However, this does not mean that he has to work outside the home and make a lot of money. I have worked with couples who have non-traditional roles in regards to who works outside the home. They do not focus on who is making the money as long as both are contributing to the family. One spouse takes care of the children at home while the other spouse goes to work. This might or might not work for your relationship. This is kind of thinking is called a reframe. Sometimes we have to alter our thinking and be flexible in our roles in order to make our marriages work.

Thought #3: Assertively express your concern about finances and let him know that you will make some changes if he does not contribute. Discuss job opportunities, the economy, and his concerns or motives for not working. Set deadlines and give him time to step-up. Monitor his behavior and see if he is actively trying to secure a job. Cheer for him instead of nagging or arguing with him. Positive energy motives people, not negative energy. Also, make sure that you conduct yourself in accordance with God’s guidance.

Try to exhaust all of your options before calling it quits. Do right by your spouse and remember that life is not fair, but God is. If you honestly feel that you have done your part as a loving spouse and an obedient child of God, then cut your losses and move on.

Best regards, Dr. Buckingham

If you have questions for Dr. Dwayne Buckingham regarding relationships (married, single, etc), parenting, or personal growth and development, please send an email to

Disclaimer: The ideas, opinions and recommendations contained in this post are not intended as a substitute for seeking professional counseling or guidance. Any concerns or questions that you have about relationships or any other source of potential distress should be discussed with a professional, in person. The author is not liable or responsible for any personal or relational distress, loss or damage allegedly arising from any information or recommendations in this post.

Want professional help with your marriage for a fraction of the price? Learn how to prepare for and overcome life’s challenges in your marriage. Get the tools you need to turn your marriage around. Click here to find out how from the country’s top African American marriage experts.

About the author

Dwayne Buckingham wrote 216 articles on this blog.

Dr. Dwayne L. Buckingham, author of Qualified, yet Single: Why Good Men Remain Single and Unconditional Love: What Every Woman and Man Desires in a Relationship, is a highly acclaimed international clinical psychotherapist, life coach, relationship and resiliency expert, motivational speaker and corporate consultant. He is also the President and Chief Executive Officer of R.E.A.L. Horizons Consulting Service, located in Silver Spring, Maryland. To learn more about Dr. Dwayne L. Buckingham visit his website at


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3 WordPress comments on “Ask Dr. Buckingham: What Should I do if My Spouse Is Not Contributing?

  1. Brent

    I normally don’t reply to these type of articles but I agree with Ms. Toni. No Biblical grounds for what the wife is considering.Helpmates should help, encourage and inspire not belittle.God doesn’t favor that at ALL. The man is most likely losing respect for her as well. Glad one lady who was in a very similar situation stuck it out.We now call her “First Lady” & her husband “Mr. President”…

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Four Insecurities Your Man Has, But Will Never Admit

BY: - 29 Jul '14 | Marriage

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“Girllll it’s easy to love me now, would you love me if I was down and out–would you still have love for me…girrllll!?” To many, it was just a song by 50 Cent. But for many men could really relate to it on a daily basis. Society told men that when it comes to providing and protecting, the weight of the world was on their shoulders and it was the only way to be respected by women. Sometimes women believe that they are the only ones who have insecurities about whether or not they will be good enough.  But the truth is that many men go through the same gambit of emotions and doubts. Here are a few questions that men might just have.

1. If I lost it all today would you still be with me?

Relationships can take us on journeys and rollercoasters. One year he could go from making six figures and providing a stable and secure lifestyle, and the next year he could get laid off and go back to barely making ends meet. No man ever plans on that happening.  But just like women, men want to feel secure in the fact that they won’t be left high and dry when they fall on hard times. 50 Cent said it best “If I went back to a hooptie from a Benz would you *poof* and disappear like some of my friends?”

TNMPINMaleThinkingStanding2. If I couldn’t protect you from something would you still respect me?

As much as men want to protect their families and their women from everything, there may be a time when what he does just isn’t enough. Sometimes, he may put in the effort but he may not get there in time or sometimes he may not have what it takes to protect you from a certain person or thing or situation. If he failed you that one, time would you still be able to respect him? Or would he be met with so much resentment that the relationship would fall apart?

3. If I wasn’t satisfying you sexually would you cheat on me?

Women aren’t the only ones who have insecurities about their ability to consistently satisfy their mates sexually. He may think “what if she gets curious? What if she gets bored with me? What if she stops desiring me?” YES believe it or not men go through these same thought processes, although many of them wouldn’t dare to admit it because of course that would be too “soft” or “weak.”

4. What if I don’t turn out to be the father you expected me to be?

The same way that women worry about not being enough as a Mother, men share in those same sentiments as it relates to fatherhood. What if I don’t live up to what my wife expects from me as a father? What if my child doesn’t turn out the way I raised him or her to be? What if I’m not able to provide him or her with all of the things and opportunities that I wanted to? What if I don’t live up to the expectations? These questions are very real to lots of men.

We can’t always control how other people act or behave, but we can control the effort that we put into doing the best that we can and being the best men that we can be!

We all know that no man or woman is perfect, but maybe what you now have a better grasp of is that men deal with the burdens of imperfection as well, sometimes to a high degree. All we can do is hope that we choose wisely in a mate and that we become the best we can be personally and in the relationship. We can’t always control how other people act or behave, but we can control the effort that we put into doing the best that we can and being the best men that we can be! With that said… your mind young man…and know that you can, and will deliver.

BMWK Fam: What are other questions that linger, that you may never ask?

About the author

Troy Spry wrote 225 articles on this blog.

Troy Spry a Certified Life, Dating, and Relationship Coach and the one and only "Reality Expert", resides in Charlotte, NC. He created his blog, Xklusive Thoughts, with the intent of putting out a very realistic perspective and using it as a vehicle for inspiration! He hopes to challenge people to think differently and inspire people to do and be better in relationships and in life!


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