Dear Carolyn:

My husband of 11/2 years is a grad student at a prestigious university. I have a nice paying job, but a terrible commute keeps me out of the house 60-plus hours a week. While we would both prefer that he be the breadwinner, I knew going into the marriage that I would be the one to support us while he finished up. However, this summer he decided he would not get a job because it would take away from our time together, and our tax bracket would keep him from bringing home much money. While I will credit him with studying most of the time he is home, it really bothered me that he didn't want to work, and was perfectly happy to have me go off to work.

Because of many conversations, he finally took a job at a local grocery store. But, now I come home to an unhappy husband who is miserable to be around. I can feel us growing more and more apart because of this job. Should I have never mentioned that I think he should work when he has the chance to?

Confused

Sounds like your prestigious husband of 11/2 years has a wife with some growing up to do. You "both prefer that he be the breadwinner." Meaning, you prefer that he work the hard hours and you get the soft ones, because . . . he is the man? And reversing roles is unacceptable? Or did I misunderstand you -- when he finishes his studies and enters the workforce, you plan to get a job straightening canned peas.

I don't mean to pile it all onto you. Just most of it. You and he should have made his summer plans together -- his bad -- and sulking also isn't cool; he should either find a way to live cheerfully with his decision to appease you, or stand up to you and quit his job. But still. By your own description, it wasn't that he "didn't want" to work; it didn't make sense to. And you don't need the money. And he wanted time with you. So why so much anger at him? Why did you feel the need to show him, through those "many conversations," that you were going to shoot at his feet till he danced?

After you get off your knees from apologizing to him, please open your mind to what you both put into and get out of your prestigious marriage -- overall, not by the hour, and not just what's in it for you.

That means, anytime you feel you're suffering disproportionately, you don't just order your husband to suffer too. You discuss ways to ease your suffering or redistribute the load. Can you change jobs? Move closer? Telecommute? Reduce your hours? Can he accelerate his studies? No? Okay. Then can you come home to a clean house and a hot dinner and foot rub, and even some freshly painted rooms and reorganized closets -- and in return stay focused on the original long-term plan, support his schooling and suck it prestigiously up?

Easy treasure map: Whatever each of you intends to ask of the other when he finishes, you should be willing to do, yourselves, now, for each other -- breadwinning, homemaking and otherwise. Fairness is a many-splendored thing.

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