Dear Carolyn: My husband and I, both unhappy in our jobs, have determined that with some strategic penny-pinching, we can live on one salary for a while. The question now is, whose salary?
The argument for my husband quitting is: He’s been in his job for longer than I have, and unhappier for longer, too.
He has no idea what he’d like to do next and feels like he needs a total mental break and reset in order to figure it out.
The argument for me quitting is: I have a side business that would continue to bring in a few thousand dollars every month even if I quit my day job. I also genuinely enjoy cleaning and cooking, and I would be happy to take on the lion’s share of housekeeping and errand-running, which I think would improve the quality of both of our lives.
My husband readily admits he would not agree to do any extra housekeeping if he was not working.
I know I’m biased, but I think the arguments for me quitting are stronger. Husband feels his are stronger. Do you have advice on how to move forward?
— Which One Gets the Break?
Which One Gets the Break?: I can't answer objectively because I think your husband's comfort with refusing to carry any more of the household weight if he quits his job is so profoundly entitled and glassbowlish — to you specifically, but also to the whole idea of equal human worth — that I couldn't take his side even if it had other merit.
I would also be very suspicious of granting a “total mental break and reset” to someone who apparently prioritizes himself above his spouse and the marriage.
What personal quality does he have that you can treat as a guarantee that he won’t make this “break” an indefinite one? He hasn’t quit already, which, to be fair, is significant, as is his honesty, but your one-income plan rests on trust of a higher order, and your marriage can’t afford for one of you to take advantage.
To be fair, you are likewise (though not as starkly) more focused on your interests than on his or your marriage’s. It does serve him and the marriage that you’d still earn side money and take over household management, but it’s doing what you already “genuinely enjoy,” not taking one on the chin.
A healthy marriage is one where each of you volunteers to sacrifice for the other vs. volunteering the other for sacrifice.
Unless you both can embrace that ethic here, I don’t recommend that either of you quit to live off the other. Too high a risk of resentment.
I’d be interested instead in seeing what you both would come up with if you, say, set a dollar amount you can live on; cut it in half; priced out any necessary benefits like health insurance; found an equitable split on household chores; then established that you could each find your own way to bring that in for the family. Part-time work, piece work, cutting back on your current jobs, etc., with any extra time used for regrouping or job hunting or retraining. Insurance and benefits alone could make this unrealistic, but why not do the work to find out? Character test included.
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