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,
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 email@example.com
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.