Hi, Carolyn: My spouse and I work full-time. He makes three times as much as I do. Recently we had an argument in which I asked him to help more around the house without me having to explicitly ask him to. His rebuttal was that he hates his job but feels like he has to stay there to finance our "lifestyle" and, therefore, should not be expected to contribute to general cleaning and upkeep. The bulk of the child-rearing duties is on me, because I earn significantly less.
He thinks my job isn't as valuable. It's a good salary for what I do, but doesn't come near his six figures. I feel it's unfair to blame me for his employment choices, on top of making me feel worthless. I've told him multiple times we can make it work if he wants to get a job he's happier with. Those lifestyle standards are HIS, not mine.
I feel these are very fundamental differences between us. I always knew he had a much more patriarchal attitude. But this has gotten worse over time, especially when I took a new job where I am happier but have a more erratic schedule than at my previous jobs. He thinks a high salary is more important than personal happiness.
He refuses to look at it from my perspective. It's clear he resents me for wanting him to help more around the house, for him having a career he doesn't enjoy, and for me having a career I do enjoy but with less flexibility in terms of picking up and dropping off kids and staying at home with them as needed.
The salary difference wasn't a big deal in the past, either, and my career in nonprofits is hardly going to afford me any chances for a salary commensurate to his. In fact, he's pushing for me to quit my career and be a stay-at-home mom. My career is not something I'm prepared to sacrifice, even if it isn't making the big bucks.
Where do I even go from here?
C.: All the logistics in your question can be kneaded and tweaked into something more manageable for both you and your husband. Two people who have mutual respect as their baseline can write down their home responsibilities; their hours spent at work (not dollars earned, ugh); and their work- and home-related stress levels (1 to 10, no inflating), for the purpose of black-and-white, spell-it-out comparison. Examine “lifestyle” expenses, too.
This is an annoying process, soul-sucking even, but it’s also too common in couples not to “see” what the other contributes. Often both ways. We tend to think we’re hard-working and awesome and so we mentally round up what we do, and round down what others do, and lovingly cultivate our individual senses of grievance because we’re human and terrible that way. Talk about soul sucking. So, the side-by-side lists, and their drudgy little epiphanies.
None of that, though, would touch the problem of being married to someone who thinks you have less value as a person than he does. If that’s the case, then you have a terrible choice to make: be with this husband, or co-parent with this ex-husband. As always, a well-chosen therapist — go solo — can help you sort it out.