My Type C- Husband

Dear Toni-

My husband Tom and I have been married for eight years and we have two wonderful young daughters. Right now I am working full time and Tom takes care of the girls when they are not in school. I was attracted to Tom in part because of his calm and gentle nature which was so different from how my father was when I was growing up. I knew he would be a supportive spouse and a loving dad and he is. So what is the problem? He can't or won't hold down a job, any job--and he doesn't pay the household bills, handle any of the finances, or even so much as record the amount of a check if he does write one. It's as though he never gives a thought to expenses, and leaves all the planning, management and concern for our financial security up to me.

I have tried making helpful suggestions regarding his seeking and following up on potential employment, am supportive when he finds a job, which never works out, and have asked him to handle some of the the bills and even offered to do it with him in order to get him involved. He is always pleasant about my requests and indicates he hears me, then there is absolutely no change in his behavior. The roof could be caving in and I don't think he would get excited or concerned about it.

I have slowly lost respect for him and my resentment has built to the point that it is impacting our family life and intimate relationship. Is there something I have missed in how I have approached this problem? Could this be partly my fault? Any thoughts or suggestions you have would be greatly appreciated. I am beginning to feel as though I'd be better off as a solo parent than the sole support for my kids and my spouse. --Sole Responsible partner

Dear Dear Sole Responsible Partner,

While it's very true that there is no such thing as the perfect souse; happy marriages do require that both partners take into consideration the feelings and needs of the other, and demonstrate a willingness to contribute to the overall well being of the family. From what you have shared, your spouse's contributions center on his role as a loving and involved parent and on his emotionally supportive relationship with you. He appears to be very strong in those two areas--and this should be acknowledged if you are not already doing so.

The problem you are having appears to rest squarely on his inability or resistance to becoming involved in the family finances and to making a contribution to the income you all rely on. Because the issue is so specific and pronounced--I have to wonder if you had an inkling of this before you got married and if so, if you chose to ignore it because he was such a good guy and so different from the father you grew up with. If so, it's probable you made assumptions that the money issues would work themselves out and/or that you would take greater responsibility for that part of your lives but he would get involved when asked to do so. If my hunch is right about you making assumptions, you are now discovering as many people do after marriage that things don't just work themselves out because you have said "I do."

Therefore the question then becomes; "What if anything can you do to get Tom more involved in the family's finances and/or offer him the right support towards finding employment that is a good fit for him and contributes to your income." The short answer is that you can't change him into someone who is a great breadwinner or is actively involved in the financial dealings of the family. Only he can do this and it won't happen without motivation and a willingness of his part to take the necessary steps. Attentively listening to you and making verbal agreements to so something you have requested without any change in behavior is just another way of saying "no," which is what he has been doing.

Therefore, I suggest that you find a competent and experienced marital counselor who can meet with the two of you individually and together, in order to more fully understand your deeply held feelings and needs while observing your interactions and how you attempt to problem solve and resolve your differences. This is necessary in order to help her or him to best help you. Once a counselor has a handle on the issues and your dynamics--they can help you establish realistic goals and offer you new tools and techniques for reaching them. This process will not be easy, but with a skilled third person to guide you--you can work on getting to know one another's true self, learn to communicate candidly and without fear of reprisals, and together find win-win solutions which are the only ones that will result in mutual happiness and marital satisfaction. Compromise and acceptance of your individual strengths and limitations will be the keys to a successful outcome.

(from November 2014)

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Toni Coleman, LCSW
Phone: 703-847-1768


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