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Carolyn Hax: Tired of a husband who’s always tired of his job

(Nick Galifianakis/For The Washington Post)

Adapted from an online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: My husband is very frustrated with his job. I cannot recall a time that he liked — or was even neutral about — any of the jobs he’s had over our marriage or even when we were dating.

I guess I’m tired of the complaining. Jobs aren’t fun all the time and sometimes bosses suck. Isn’t that part of life? I’ve tried to offer constructive ideas, but I am dismissed.

So am I supposed to just feel sorry for him for the rest of time? Occasionally, some of his complaints are valid and I’d be annoyed, too, but it’s similar to the little boy who cried wolf — all the other times where I had to fake sympathy have just depleted my sympathy reserves.

I guess I don’t know what to do. I don’t want to add to his stress, but I also am pretty sick of the whining. Thoughts?

— Depleted

Depleted: Firmly, but not unkindly, the next time he starts in: “I cannot recall a time that you liked — or were even neutral — about a job. Can you think of a time you were at peace? Can that point you to a better fit?”

Let him process that before you say anything else. Maybe he’ll have an aha moment.

If not — if he balks or gets defensive (again, not unkindly): “I’m not saying your complaints aren’t valid. But jobs aren’t fun all the time and sometimes bosses suck. So I don’t know how to help.”

Again, give him room to respond — and also listen with your mind open to his perspective. Maybe he’s had successive, objectively terrible workplaces.

If he just pushes back: “I’ve tried to offer constructive ideas and just listen, and it isn’t working and I’m wearing down.”

Then, hope he at least comes up with instructions for you. Then you can say what roles you are and aren't comfortable filling.

Being supportive isn't just about soothing and agreeing. Sometimes it means you admit what you're seeing and either hold up the mirror or ask explicitly what to do.

Re: Work: This is me. I hate every job I have ever had. My husband is well aware of this and is exceedingly tolerant of it, since I have changed jobs every two years since we met and I complain about every job … a lot. I know I need to change something — get out of this profession, find something I am more passionate about and would enjoy doing — but I ruminate on that all the time and have not reached a conclusion. Maybe he is in the same rumination station and just cannot figure out a good path?

— Hate My Job

Hate My Job: Passion sounds like a high bar. Don’t rule out going in the other direction, where you accept work as work and find something that meets only two criteria: revenue-positive, pain-neutral. There’s a whole cohort out there working at Whatever because it’s just fine and it allows them to live their lives. The work-to-live crowd. Worth a thought, at least.

Pardon the unasked-for advice.

Re: Work: I have a whole soapbox speech about why it was bad to tell a generation-plus of kids that you should “do what you love” and the right job will be your passion. That is absolutely true for some people, but also not true for many more, often through no fault of their own. My job is fine. Even my friends who love their jobs don’t love them every day.

— Fine

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