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DIfferent Ideals
April 17, 2014 8:29 PM   Subscribe

How do I deal with completely different ideals in a marriage?

I grew up lower-middle class in Mexico. I've always known what I want out of life, and I've worked hard to get to where I wanted to be. I have a strong work ethic, and I attempt to find satisfaction in any task I am given, no matter how unpleasant.

My husband grew up in an upper middle class household. When we married, he held strong anarcho-communist ideals and this dissatisfaction with society has followed him since. He struggles with the thought of working meaningless jobs to make someone else richer, the thought of work fueling life rather than the other way around. If it was up to him, he'd live in a society where everyone works in what they're skilled in to their best of their ability. However, and unfortunately for him, we don't live in the society that he wishes to live in. This disparity makes him angry and generally unsatisfied with life. I do not necessarily agree with his worldview, but I respect it. He doesn't seem to agree with my work ethic; he finds it sad that I'm essentially a happy slave of society. He says that he's "angry on my behalf".

When we married, he didn't know what he wanted to do with life. We decided that I would work and study while he found out what he enjoyed in life, something he could hopefully make a career out of. He flipflopped around a few majors in college, and eventually found applied math, which he enjoys. He is almost done with his degree, and he's found work within his college as a lab monitor. However, with college ending and the "real world" fast approaching, we've tried to hold conversations discussing jobs and such. And he's started to say things like his ideal job is one that doesn't make him want to kill himself, or that he wants to find a manual work that exhausts him enough that he has no time to think, or a job where he has to do next to nothing (similar to what he has at the moment). I'm alarmed at these thoughts, and suggested counseling. He will not go to counseling, and when I asked him to tell me why, he linked me to this article. He also said that he thinks there's nothing wrong with the way he thinks, and likes himself just the way he is. Eventually, he just said that he wants me to carry on with my goals and dreams, and he'll just be along for the ride. One past argument had him telling me that he would get a job and do everything I wanted him to do, pretend to enjoy his life and work, and once we were old and grey he would tell me it was all a farce. While these were words said in anger, they still come up in my thoughts often. I don't want to force him to work along with my goals. That's a horrible life to lead! If he finds no joy in his work, and I'm forcing him to do something he truly doesn't want to do, that'll only lead him to resent me.

I'm currently in therapy and medication for anxiety. My therapist's take in it is that life is taking us in separate paths, and I need to consider separation. But that seems like giving up. He's a kind, loving man. I want nothing more than to see him happy; if I didn't, I would just carry on and let him follow. What do I do? How do I come to terms with this seemingly massive rift?
posted by cobain_angel to Human Relations (94 answers total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
 
I want nothing more than to see him happy

It is *his* job to ensure his happiness. You cannot do it for him, and you cannot make him do it. You can smooth the path, you can cheerlead and encourage, you can help when and how he asks, but you cannot make him be happy. That is a thing he has to do for himself.

And on the one hand, it's nice that he's angry on your behalf....but not so great that it's in a way (it sounds like) you don't actually need him to be and isn't actually helpful. More harmful, really.

It may take him a long time to figure out (if he does, because some people don't) that hanging all your worth and happiness on what you do for money is a great way to be unhappy and resentful. Can you talk with him about separating his sense of self-worth from what he does for a job? Will he be able to hear you?

If he can't, then yes, I think you may need to consider a separation. His attitude towards you and your work ethic sounds disrespectful, and that is really corrosive to a partnership.
posted by rtha at 8:35 PM on April 17 [22 favorites]


You might want to consider reading this.
posted by HuronBob at 8:39 PM on April 17 [1 favorite]


Has he considered working for an NGO that does work in the developing world? Or a charity? Or an advocacy group focused on a mission he can support? Such organizations have professional career-oriented jobs, and he wouldn't be making some oligarch wealthy through his efforts.

Such places tend to be obsessed with metrics, too, so a background in math is probably a good one to have.

A side thought for you: beware that he isn't an idler on principle (which I can respect) but because he's just lazy. That's cute at 20; at 40 you won't find it so charming.
posted by Philemon at 8:40 PM on April 17 [7 favorites]


Why are you alarmed at his thoughts and suggesting counseling? His views are very reasonable as you've described them. He's right to be angry too, and has a better perspective towards his life than most. If a potential therapist views his ideas and anger as pathological then it will be no help. If (less likely) his therapist would understand the strong validity of his views then perhaps the feelings involved could be better worked through, and that would help him and your relationship.
posted by Blitz at 8:52 PM on April 17 [3 favorites]


I hold similar views to your husband. It took me a while to find a job I like, currently I'm doing ok but for a very long time I worked meaningless jobs because I wasn't happy with any of the jobs that seemed available to me. It just took a little more looking to find something I could be happy with. Working for an NGO, as suggested above, might be the thing.

I think there are a few different things that need to be separated out here.

1. Do you disagree with his political views? If so, is this a major problem, or just a disagreement that you can live with?

2. Do you feel something else besides simple ideological difference? Are you ashamed of his career choices? Feeling pressure from your family or friends to have a different lifestyle that he's not providing? Fearing for your financial future because you are trying to plan for two on a salary that can only realistically support one?

3. Is he actually pulling his weight in the marriage? Are there financial difficulties? If he's not willing to work, does he help around the house or find other ways to support you? That could certainly be a dealbreaker.

I don't see an insurmountable problem with different politics, as you've described them. I do see trouble if he's not living up to the role of partner. You might be happy supporting him, and that's fine. If you think that's something you want to do, do it, accept it, and be happy with it. Find a way to make it work.

You say you respect his views, but your therapist sees enough of a problem that they are suggesting separation. That's something to look deeply at. This disagreement may just be the flashpoint that's driving the anxiety at the surface, when really the differences are deeper.
posted by natteringnabob at 9:04 PM on April 17 [16 favorites]


And one other thing - love is not really enough to have a lasting marriage. You might stick around with someone who is really not for you, because you love them. But if it's not working, it's not working.

Love can help you accept things about your partner, if the other things are right. But it shouldn't be a reason to stay if those other things are wrong and can't be fixed.
posted by natteringnabob at 9:08 PM on April 17 [6 favorites]


His view is that you support him while he's angry on your behalf, but not angry enough to get a job. His anarchist-stick-it-to-the-man rhetoric sounds progressive, but his actions aren't progressive. You're working so that he could study and then pursue a career that is not distasteful to him, but now that it's time for him to live up to his end of the deal--he doesn't want to. His actions are telling you how he really feels--he's too good, too pure, too idealistic for the humdrum working world, but you're not. DTMFA.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:09 PM on April 17 [79 favorites]


Wow. There is a big difference between being an anarcho-syndicalist (or whatever brand of leftist radical) and being entitled enough that you are actually arguing, with the spouse who is financially supporting you, that you shouldn't have to work for a living because Fuck The System. Is he very young or otherwise immature? Is he perhaps terrified of not being able to cope with the real world? He says he's angry on your behalf that you're being exploited by capitalism; I'm angry on your behalf that your husband actually suggested that if he is not allowed to spend an entire lifetime exploiting your labor, he will see your entire life and marriage together as "a farce."

Arguments like "we're just making money for other people, I can't work a job that will make me want to kill myself" are frankly an insult to every activist or labor organizer who has ever worked to change the system your husband is so angry about. He needs to stop acting like a petulant teenager and find a way to pull his weight in your adult marriage in a way that he finds politically acceptable--because these ways do exist, and it's his responsibility to find them.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 9:11 PM on April 17 [118 favorites]


Barring actual danger to you or your husband, I don't think it's your therapist's job to tell you to separate from your spouse. I'm not saying that your therapist is wrong, because your husband sounds like a child and also like a bit of a jerk, but I don't think it's appropriate for your therapist to push you in that direction.

Does your husband value and work hard at things other than paid employment? Does he pull his weight in terms of running the household? It's hard for me to tell from what you say whether his attitude towards paid work is really about work or if that's a way of explaining away laziness or depression. If it's really an attitude about paid employment, then maybe you can work out some sort of arrangement where you are the primary breadwinner and he primarily devotes himself to running your household, which he might find more rewarding. But he would have to adjust his attitude towards your work ethic, because it does sound a little insulting.

It's ok if you can't make it work, though. It sounds like you guys got married really young, and you may end up not being compatible. It's ok to walk away from something that isn't working: that's not "giving up." You could argue that staying in a relationship that isn't going to work is actually "giving up."
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 9:13 PM on April 17 [3 favorites]


Lots and lots and lots of people have jobs that they do in order to put a roof over their heads and food on the table but which they do not otherwise respect or enjoy. They find meaning in the rest of their lives, rather than in their work.

What is the meaningful thing your husband would prefer to be doing rather than working? That should give you a sense of whether he's a relatively normal person whose passions and principles lie outside of the workaday world or someone who is a lazy bum who just doesn't want to work and has found some convenient lip service to pay to give him an excuse not to.

In terms of making the marriage work, well, 2 income families spent several generations being not the norm for the western world. People who don't contribute financially to a partnership can contribute in other ways. They have to be ways you both agree are worthwhile contributions, of course, but maybe stay-at-home Dad is in his future.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:14 PM on April 17 [5 favorites]


Your husband is not crazy, the world is, though. Give him some credit, because coming to grips with this and making your peace with reality is hard.

Has thought of starting his own business?

Really, that is the only way out for him, as far as I know.

If he's loving and awesome, see if you can stick it out.

Source: I'm in a mixed culture marriage and to a smaller degree, my husband and I have had this issue, too. The difference for us is that my upper middle class family didn't do a lot for me, and I have a strong desire to be productive...for myself. I am intimately familiar with what your husband is going through, tho.

Also, I graduated from reading anything reprinted on Alternet (geezus!) a long, long, long time ago. I feel for folks stuck on that part of the journey, but that side of things is major bs, too*.

*ends rant
posted by jbenben at 9:21 PM on April 17 [6 favorites]


You're speaking purely in ideals. In isolation, ideals don't mean much. Are there any practical considerations?

Is there any actual (e.g. monetary) reason you wish he was working, or are you simply worried that without working he'll have no self worth or be unfulfilled or something?

You're married; going into it, was there any discussion of who would be the breadwinner, etc.? Are there perhaps clashing assumptions about how such arrangements would be in years to come?

Are these ideals of his something that he brings up spontaneously, or something that you've had to drag out of him?
posted by Sys Rq at 9:29 PM on April 17


+1 to the comment from moonlight on vermont. There are ways to be angry at the system that involve a LOT of hard work (and a salary) but that might actually do some good.

Alternatively, if what offends him is making someone else richer, then he can start his own business or join a worker-owned cooperative.

These things are hard to navigate for some people when they're young. But at a certain point, the difference can be too great. I tend to agree with your therapist, that your paths may be diverging.

I do think that therapy might help him unpack the layers and get down to questions like what he really wants out of life and how to realistically get it. But telling someone else to go fix themselves in therapy never really works. If you are the person who wants a certain thing "fixed," you should go to couples therapy with him.
posted by salvia at 9:32 PM on April 17 [3 favorites]


I think you're framing this all wrong. The problem isn't his worldview; that's a reasonable if idiosyncratic reaction to current society. The problems are his actions. He seems to think it's cool that you support him indefinitely while he finds his bliss or plays WoW or sits in a room contemplating life's essential meaninglessness or whatever. Which would still be okay if you were both on the same page and so on but you're not.

You don't need him to reconcile his views with the world. You do clearly need him to contribute to your marriage's financial stability. I don't think there's anything wrong with that just as I don't think there would be anything wrong with the opposite.

He doesn't have to solve the world's problems. He does have to work to solve your marriage's problems. That clearly entails more than sitting on his ass complaining about society.
posted by Justinian at 9:35 PM on April 17 [37 favorites]


We are both 24.

There are no financial difficulties at the moment, as I have a good job which pays me well, and his parents help us with rent while he's in school. This help will end when school does, however, which is precipitating most of the work talk.

I am definitely not against or ashamed of his work. He's very, very smart. Math is a good fit for him. It's hard work at times, but he's put in the time and he's turned his grades around.

He doesn't pull his weight in the household. We rarely argue or fight, but when we do, it's usually about chores. I end up having to do most things because he simply will not do them. He says he will do them, but then doesn't, unless I nag him...

At the suggestion of the therapist, I suggested things like Americorps or the Montana Conservation Corps to him, and he is considering them.

He is also reading this thread.
posted by cobain_angel at 9:38 PM on April 17 [2 favorites]


He's reading this thread? FABULOUS!

I used the infodump function (maybe called infodumpster?) to find this previous comment of mine I thought relevant. Turns out, it was my most favorited comment - ha!

Comment here.

These are my bonafides. I'm happy to talk further. I bet I can get my husband to add to the conversation.

I like that you both are reading this. You 're going to make it. I gotta feeling:))


PS - MATH??

You're gonna be fine! It's in the bag!!
posted by jbenben at 9:45 PM on April 17 [1 favorite]


I'm talking now to your dude. Dude. I hear you. But pick up a fucking vacuum cleaner.
posted by cotton dress sock at 9:47 PM on April 17 [88 favorites]


He doesn't pull his weight in the household. We rarely argue or fight, but when we do, it's usually about chores. I end up having to do most things because he simply will not do them. He says he will do them, but then doesn't, unless I nag him...

I'm gonna be really blunt here, but that does not sound like revolutionary behavior to me. Revolutionary behavior, especially revolutionary behavior that wants to work outside the structures of misery that capitalism frequently imposes, recognizes the value of all labor whether it is paid or unpaid. So, in other words, he's worried about anarcho-communist ideals but he doesn't see how these ideals connect to idea that women should emphatically not be expected to do all the housework, especially women of color, especially if they are also putting in time to financially support the household?*

I'm sorry to say it, but your husband sounds like someone who is interested in having someone support him while he contemplates ideals that he has no intention of implementing in his own life. Anarcho-communism is about equality at every level. Not just the big down-with-the-oligarchy-level, but the intimate, two-person level as well. You doing the housework and being expected to provide most of the financial support, while your husband does not respect your work ethic, is not equality.

I think you two need to have a serious talk about this, and that maybe you should consider taking on some anarcho-communist priniciples of your own: namely, the radical idea that your time, attention, and work is worth just as much as his.

To quote a wonderful book on relationships within radical spaces: "The revolution starts at home."

*Note: actually, no one should be "expected" to do all these things without negotiation. It's just that we tend to question these assumptions even less when WOC are involved, because society trains the privileged to see the unprivileged's labor as a thing to be taken for granted and unacknowledged.
posted by WidgetAlley at 9:54 PM on April 17 [174 favorites]


Which, upon preview, cotton dress sock nailed it. I've got nothin' but sympathy for being pissed off at society's expectations of what work and success mean. But that doesn't mean you don't find ways to support those you love as an act of solidarity. Build together and make both your lives better.
posted by WidgetAlley at 9:55 PM on April 17 [7 favorites]


Hello, husband.

There's nothing revolutionary or cutting edge or new about the husband expecting the wife to just do all the house chores. That is old, old bullshit. A marriage is a partnership, so step up and be a partner.

/cranky old leftist
posted by rtha at 10:04 PM on April 17 [39 favorites]


Widget nailed it. You, dude of cobain_angel, are a white man expecting your WOC wife to do all the dirty work both at home and in the ~system while you pout that no capitalist job is special enough to accomodate your specialness? You are the worst radical. It's you. John Lennon changed diapers and slaved over a hot stove all day while being "along for the ride" of his wife's finance career. Get your shit together and start helping out your wife.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 10:05 PM on April 17 [34 favorites]


for his world view: many books, but maybe start with Alinsky' "Rules for Radicals" and Eric Hoffer's "Working and Thinking on the Waterfront"

for his career, applied math? The Matasano Crypto Challenges

for chore sharing: "He doesn't pull his weight in the household. ...about chores. I end up having to do most things because he simply will not do them." OP, steel yourself, you must build up your patience and outlast him. Wash your coffee mug, leave everything dirty and just wash a spoon when you need it; wash only your own clothes. You must outlast him on this.

for all 3: Cal Newport's "follow your passion" is wrong, make yourself useful
posted by at at 10:17 PM on April 17 [3 favorites]


You know, there is alot you can do with applied math that is meaningful. You can go into business for yourself and build tech or data products that solve problems. You could go work for a not-for-profit and optimize their processes and fundraising. You could work for the government and help decide how to allocate resources in the most equitable way. Alternatively, you could make big bucks in marketing or consulting, and then use all that money to support your favorite cause. The question is, are you willing to do the hard work to get there?

I also graduated in this fog of idealism, and spent a long time not making very much money in the name of a poorly paid nonprofit internship. Eventually, I found a field I liked and then worked hard to advance. I don't think it's a problem to be scornful of the 'rat race', but the question is are you going to just complain or are you actually going to do something about it.

(For what its worth, I think that it shows great things about your marriage that you're willing to be honest and share this thread. This sounds more like a personal maturity problem, than a marriage problem. But of course, one will influence the other.)
posted by tinymegalo at 10:25 PM on April 17 [5 favorites]


An adult that is financially supported by his parents and wife (who attends school and works full time) while he just attends school, AND expects you to do the majority of housework while he complains about being angry and generally unsatisfied with life? Sorry, you aren't his partner, you are his mother, and these "principles" are just smoke he is blowing up your ass while he treats you with open contempt.

If he isn't booking a counselling appointment tomorrow you should start following your dreams and goals - and a big goal of yours should be to treat yourself better than you have allowed him to treat you.

I am an anarchist, I work - paid and unpaid, and have made a real difference in people's lives by righting systematic problems through hard work at a huge cost to myself; he is not an anarchist, he just has no work ethic, sorry
posted by saucysault at 10:26 PM on April 17 [37 favorites]


To be clear, you aren't his "mother" that he respects or strives to please; you are as low as possible on the hierarchy - worthy only of "base" jobs like cleaning and working to pay the bills, and expected to have no needs like some angel in the kitchen, as you play a supporting role watching him be the lead in his Shakespearean drama. Sorry but these privileged faux-anarchists that try to use an intelligent, legitimate criticism of hierarchies and power structures in our society in order to justify exploiting POC/lower class/"not as book-smart" "others" drive me up the wall!
posted by saucysault at 10:36 PM on April 17 [9 favorites]


You know...as heartbroken as I was to leave my young engagement, looking back, there are some things I just never, ever, would have been able to learn if I hadn't lived on my own, away from my parents or a boyfriend. Men are the same in this regard, I believe.

Everyone needs that period of having no one, when it's time to tug on the bootstraps or starve.

I really loved my fiance. I'll probably always love him. We took care of each other through some really deep shit. It wasn't "puppy love" - it was love more real than a lot of couples experience, certainly my parents or his parents, most of our friends, and a lot of people in their mid-20s. And a lot of people our age who dated and/or lived together. I know everyone says that, right? Everyone thinks their love is real love. But I'm serious; it actually was something apart, something quite rare; of that I'm sure. We just unfortunately happened to meet when we were very young.

And it's hard. It's really, really, really fucking hard to walk away from actual love. But I survived it, and so can you. When you realize that love is not enough, that you need to grow separately, you have to let go.

I used to be an anarchist. I used to be a socialist. I used to date women. I used to hate seafood. I used to be a Christian.

I've changed a whole fucking lot in my life, and he probably will too, but he needs a kick in the pants, first.
posted by quincunx at 10:45 PM on April 17 [7 favorites]


Okay. Husband, I've taken a few shots at you but I haven't really talked seriously to you, and if you're willing to read this thread, I think you deserve to be talked to openly.

If you grew up upper-middleclass in the US you are probably deeply disillusioned with wealth and the way it's used by the people who have it. You're probably also used to seeing money being thrown around as an empty status symbol and have come to despise it. That's totally justified. But if your wife and parents are supporting you, you don't understand another truth about wealth and money: you need it to keep food in your mouth and a roof over your head. You need it to pay medical bills for yourself and your loved ones. I don't think you've ever been in a situation where someone you love, be that a partner or a friend or a child or a pet, needs emergency medical care and suddenly you realize that you can't pay to provide it. You haven't yet been hit with the realization that we are living in a broken system but that you cannot simply opt out of that system and let yourself be useless to help the people you love. If you are angry, you must make yourself strong enough to survive and fight the system; you and the people you care about are, at least, worth that.

I'm going to go out on a limb here based on the experiences of lost leftist twentysomethings I have known and say that you are not "angry and generally unsatisfied with life" but with yourself. If you want to fold and go "along for the ride" of your wife's life, if you are hoping to mentally anaesthasize yourself with manual labor, if you're so unhappy with yourself that you have stooped to insulting your wife to her face with the "farce" comment and with your generally contemptuous behavior in this relationship, you know that the problem is not with late global capitalism, but with yourself. And it is your responsibility to look inside yourself, at whatever you're using halfassed leftist politics to obscure and which is allowing you to be a contemptuous parasite on your wife and family, and deal with it. If you are experiencing depression, you need to seek help. If you're upset because your family has enabled you into the rut you're in, I promise you can work your way out of it.

But there is no job, no magical Marxist slot of the perfect individually designated labor that a kinder system would find for you and place you into, that is going to immediately fix your feelings of alienation and hopelessness and being at odds with the world. You can, however, work to try to make that place for yourself. The thing is that this takes WORK.

If you want to take a manual labor job that exhausts you, get into construction, get your welding certification, learn those skills and develop them enough to make a business, then run and use that business according to whatever ideals you see fit.

If you want to use your applied maths degree, other posters have pointed out paths you could take with it.

If you are not ready to face your fears of participating in the adult world as a worker, you can start being an equal partner in your home and do the housework you've been shuffling off onto your wife.

But you need to start somewhere. Widget really did have it: "Find ways to support those you love as an act of solidarity. Build together and make both your lives better."
posted by moonlight on vermont at 10:59 PM on April 17 [37 favorites]


Your question reminds me of this article that I came across via this post, specifically when Polly says:

"I was particularly privileged, because I learned the satisfaction of hard work early on in life. I do mean satisfaction. I can't count the times that setting my feelings aside and doing some really fucking hard work has pulled me out of a funk. Most of what's good in my life found its way to me because I knew how to work hard without giving up, to work hard at something until I was better and better at it. I'm not a workaholic, not by a long shot. I am a lazy motherfucker. But I do understand and appreciate a concerted, strenuous effort. I don't mind looking at my work and saying, "That could be better." It doesn't scare me that it'll take MORE HARD WORK to take something from mediocre to great.

People who don't understand hard work, who don't appreciate and enjoy it, end up suffering a lot. That is a fact..."
posted by salvia at 11:07 PM on April 17 [21 favorites]


I see a dissonance between believing that a person should find what they are good at and work at that for the betterment of society and then his plan, as someone who has skills at applied math that barely anyone else out there has got and yet he's talking about working manual labor. That is nonsensical.

I would agree with moonlight on vermont's assessment that when he says he is "angry on your behalf" what I am reading is that he is angry at himself, and insecure. He sees you achieving things and supporting him and he lashes out at you to make himself feel better. Sorry husband, but that is the way it comes off. Your wife is successful and you are trying to tear her down and make her feel shame for her work. I think you need to focus on your own life and how to make that a success before taking shots at anyone else.

I've got a dear family member who holds anarchist ideals and he works for a few weeks each year doing something that he is good at to pay the bills, and the rest of the year devotes himself to passions that actually make the world a better place (and he works hard at those things too, even though they don't pay the bills). He does positive things that make him happy and tries to change the world through protests and political actions rather than sitting around being miserable and railing against society and the system. He still supports his family and he achieves his dreams at the same time, and lives his ideals.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 11:09 PM on April 17 [14 favorites]


And he does cooking, cleaning and childcare during his spare time too, I should add.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 11:12 PM on April 17 [7 favorites]


He doesn't seem to agree with my work ethic; he finds it sad that I'm essentially a happy slave of society. He says that he's "angry on my behalf".

What is he doing to make it possible for you to stop being a slave of society? Is he offering to support you financially and emotionally while you find your true path, doing what you love best in the most fulfilling way possible, so that you can experience for yourself what a better way that is to live?

Or is he saying "Honey, I'm so angry on your behalf that you have to work for The Man! Also we're almost out of bread, when are you getting paid?" and expecting you to feed him with your oppressed slave wages?

It sounds like he's doing the latter, in which case he's pretty much a giant hypocrite, ready to sponge off you and your sad work ethic to swan about in his ideologically pure pool of superiority. (On preview, wow, and also expecting you to do the shopping, cooking, cleaning, laundry, and ironing, apparently.)

This is an adolescent worldview, better suited to teenagers sneering at their parents' humdrum lives and vowing that they'll never be like that. He's a grown man with responsibilities. Time to act like it.

He doesn't need to get a job as a drone somewhere, but he needs to start treating you with the respect you deserve, appreciate that your choices are every bit as valid and worthy as his, and start doing his share. If he really can't bear the thought of working, and your salary is enough to support you both, then he can get off his ass and start doing all the housework, including menu-planning, shopping, cooking, cleaning, laundry, errand-running, and social-calendar-keeping. If you two can't afford that, or he isn't prepared to take on 100% of that half of your lives, he can start looking for paid work, maybe for a nonprofit whose cause he believes in. If he wants to start his own business, he needs to work out a reasonable plan with a reasonable timeline, with agreed-on limits of "if this doesn't work in x years, I throw in the towel and go to work for a nonprofit".

Marriage is a partnership, and so far he seems woefully unwilling to hold up his end of that bargain -- not just going forward, but now. I noticed you said that you two decided that you would "work and study" while he "found out what he enjoyed in life", and wow, did you get the short end of the stick there. How come you have to do all the work outside the home, almost all of the work inside the home (!!), and study, while all he has to do is find something he enjoys and then study at it?

Husband, since you're here, how does that work? She is doing (more than) TRIPLE the amount you are, and you don't even respect that?

cobain_angel, I'm angry on your behalf, too, but it's not because of your work ethic.
posted by current resident at 11:33 PM on April 17 [16 favorites]


You know, I think a lot of people would like to do what they love exclusively. I also think the nature of jobs--or really any responsibility--is that sometimes you have to do things that you don't like to do. I love what I do at work, but it's still work, and some days I still don't want to go into the office.

What I'm trying to say here is: this is a balancing act. And if he were mature enough, he would see it that way.

How much money/material luxury vs how much pressure/hours of work?

How hard do you work now vs how early you could retire? (Where "retire" means to have the financial freedom to do whatever you want. There are whole forums about this, if you're interested, such as Mr. Money Mustache and Early Retirement Extreme. But it requires you to work hard and save hard *now* so you can not work later.)

Basically, what does he envision for his life? And how much does he envision contributing to that? If his vision is basically that he would only have the good parts (a job if it suits him, luxury in life, and everything else he wants), I would reconsider if he's a "partner" at all in the marriage, because he certainly is unhappy to pull his own weight. But if he envisions something different--early retirement or homesteading or something else of the sort--and you're not entirely opposed to the idea, there could be a happy medium where you two can meet.

(Anecdotally, I had an ex who was well educated and participated in the Occupy Wallstreet movement. He had a ton of student loans, and was always "angry" at the capitalist society. But really, he was lazy, undisciplined, and wanted to have the good things in life for nothing. Yes, he "worked hard" through a top tier graduate school, but had only a 2.5 GPA. And he had that one six-figure job offer that dissolved with the economy, but then he never actually seriously job searched again until we broke up. And in the meanwhile, he wanted to spend my money, and did spend my money, but also felt guilty and entitled about it. It was not healthy, for him or for us. He now works for a bank, selling financial products. So my view might be biased.)
posted by ethidda at 12:12 AM on April 18 [2 favorites]


Husband, you're only 24 so some slack.

However, you realise that your anarcho ways are a complete fraud yes? They are a fraud, because you could not have them without the bourgeois and proletariat people in your life (namely, your wife, and your parents) working, hard, to support you and giving you money? I mean, you literally wouldn't survive without their money - so really, you are just as much part of the system, entrenched in it, really - as they are. But you are outsourcing the unpleasant parts (work) and taking the pleasant parts (money). You know what that sounds just like? Capitalists. That's exactly what capitalists do, but they do it with the benefit of usually not knowing who they exploit, but you know - and you're still doing it! O_o

I dunno if you've realised it yet, but here's a tip for you: Most people do not love their jobs, and do not view it as a primary source of satisfaction in their lives. And I don't mean 51%, I mean most people. Most people are pretty happy with their jobs if they pay and conditions are decent, and they don't hate it. And that is entirely fine.

You can get meaning through a) the money that a job gives you, donated on worthy things, or spent on fun things b) the time you have to volunteer to help others and make the world a better place, and of course c) seeing your money put to use making a wonderful home, family, and life for yourself and your kin.

No offense, dude, you didn't write the question, but frankly what the hell are you doing to make the world a better place? Not as potential, but right now. Who are you helping, how are you changing things? You sound, at least from your wife's description, extremely self-obsessed and inward-focused - guaranteed to make you unhappy. You are not even helping your wife 's- the person you should love most in the world - life better. Very selfish.

Indeed, really, if you strip away all the political claptrap the description supplied of you - no work ethic, feckless, sponging off family and lovers, with no long-term plan, a general misanthropy and feeling of superiority (probably, hopefully just a mask for insecurities) - is not so special at all. Indeed, it's very common to a certain strata of wealthy, white, young, western boys.

The idea you're too good for the world is not a new one in young people - but you are part of the world regardless of how good you are, and the world doesn't give a shit. So what are you gonna do to change it? You don't have to remodel society; you could - and it sounds like you should - start at home.
posted by smoke at 12:43 AM on April 18 [46 favorites]


He says he's "angry on your behalf" that you're a "slave" to work for the capitalist system.... but apparently it's okay for you to do that exact SAME work to support his idealistic ass?!? Meanwhile, he's jumping around from major to major in an extended college career, searching for something that suits his view of how the world SHOULD be rather than how the world IS. Sheesh.

It's time --- PAST time! --- for him to man-up and start acting like an adult instead of a spoiled brat.
posted by easily confused at 1:57 AM on April 18 [1 favorite]


He needs to eventually work for himself. But in the meantime he needs to get a job to get some experience. I think his view has merits but I think there's possibly also an element of immaturity or naivete that he will outgrow as the school of hard knocks (i.e., life) outside academic school doors becomes his new educator.
posted by Dansaman at 1:58 AM on April 18


He doesn't pull his weight in the household. We rarely argue or fight, but when we do, it's usually about chores. I end up having to do most things because he simply will not do them. He says he will do them, but then doesn't, unless I nag him...

Dude. As a left-leaning househusband myself, this basic unfairness is pretty messed up. Grind through the Pomodoro and Flylady (or similar resources) and get this under control. Right now you're treating the woman you love unfairly.

Jobwise, I think your local food coop is looking to hire from its members, and working there would allow you to contribute to the communal household. I think it would be useful for people of any politics to keep one foot in the real world of bringing food home.

I think you should talk to a counselor at the university and ask them for advice in forming an after-college plan that's in line with your leftist ideals. And help sort out a bit of your personal life, vis-a-vis chores and expressing contempt regarding your mate's work or profession. Remember that contempt works like acid on relationships. And that you need to sort out your head or your mate will be stressed out worrying about you.

You can be a good leftist, fight the kyriarchy, and so on, and bring food home to put on the table.
posted by sebastienbailard at 2:18 AM on April 18 [11 favorites]


He is using you. He probably doesn't see it that way, but with a major in math he should be able to figure this out: He eats because you work.
posted by Houstonian at 3:34 AM on April 18 [10 favorites]


Back in the sixties a lot of my friends took extreme positions like your husband. Most of them could afford to go way out on shaky limbs because they had a safety net under them: they were American, white, mostly male; they had parents who could afford to help them out with bail money or lawyers or rent or farms or trust funds, whatever. When the going got tough, they took advantage of those resources and retreated into a more comfortable lifestyle.

What would happen if you said to him, "honey, you're right, I've finally seen the light, and I'm going to quit my job and be a revolutionary like you"?
posted by mareli at 3:43 AM on April 18 [6 favorites]


I just want to say that I am an anarchist (and so are many of my friends). We hold varying jobs - some people do very little work and live accordingly; I hold an ordinary job with benefits because the thought of being without resources and access to healthcare is terrifying. All of us make sure that our partners feel good about how we live, whether that's because they live similarly and that kind of life is congenial or because they feel that we bring something else to the relationship besides a large paycheck. (And I mean, really feel that way, not just pretend.) While anarchists differ in their underlying views, I think it's coercive and hypocritical to be someone's "partner" but refuse to contribute to the partnership in an agreed-upon manner. I don't think that's anarchism.

A lot of people who don't really get anarchism think of it as basically an abstraction - "if I get my thinking right, I can learn to live my life without compromising with society, I will be happy, and then I will be an anarchist"; therefore, my personal wishes about how my life should be are the Most Important Factor in every area of my life". (This does fit in rather neatly with the whole American self-actualization/dream-it-be-it business.) To my mind, anarchism is about mutual aid and striving to create a whole society where people are free from coercion. That means that contributing to the best of your ability in some way is integral to being an anarchist - it's not just being a beautiful soul, or being happy. Lots of the great anarchists haven't been that happy all the fucking time, for one thing.

I sympathize with your partner on one level. I did choose some things in my life that did not maximize my earning potential because I didn't want to be the boss or call the shots, because I haven't liked what I've seen of that kind of life and how it changes people - even though I recognize that some of the rewards are significant in terms of money and security. And honestly, the whole world of work and its hierarchy can be pretty gross, and it can be pretty gross to reflect that most humans, most of the time, are not only enmeshed in this system, but we're all expected to pretend that it is Wonderful! and Self!Actualizing! and that any attempts to improve the world will inexorably lead to the gulag, and will that be check or charge, Mr. Jones?

I know people who live the sort of wandering, scavenging, scraping-by life, several of them, and I like them a great deal. They are rare people, holy fools. But it's a difficult life, it requires particular character traits and it's not one I'd choose for myself. If your husband really wants that kind of life - and it has its rewards; the people I know are a secular version of wandering holy people - he has to realize that it's tough. It's a real, total commitment to that vision just as much as becoming a monk would be. You'll be at odds with the world, you'll be hungry, you'll be cold, people will think you're mentally ill, maybe you'll be genuinely homeless - not all the time, maybe not even most of the time, but those things will happen. You'll question yourself and doubt yourself and wonder if you are mentally ill. You'll have moments of great happiness and peace and love, too - but it is like a religious vocation, not like being a democrat or a republican or a hobbyist. People who do it do it because they can't make peace with the world any other way, not because they don't want to work a boring job.

As I say, I sympathize. Sometimes I look at myself and I see how some of my beliefs and abilities have eroded, how I go home and my days have added up to very little, how often I have to do thinks that offend my deep beliefs about how people should treat each other. It sucks! It does erode your sense of self!

If he's a good guy, he needs to figure out a way to come to terms with the world. Honestly, a little therapy for him might be healthy, for one thing - he's probably terribly anxious about his ability to find and hold a job, given his history. If he is actually onboard with getting a job, a job counselor might be helpful - IME, a lot of mathy people have trouble figuring out how to find the kind of job where they can work happily because all they see is the surface world of padded resumes and self-trumpeting and job interview fakery and jobs where you have to do a lot of affective labor, when they would often be happiest tucked away in a tiny office somewhere making sure that all the phages are accounted for or something.

But what I'm basically trying to say is that merely being an anarchist does not entitle you to financial support from your partner. It frustrates me no end that while most anarchists are not like this, these are the ones everyone points to.
posted by Frowner at 5:08 AM on April 18 [33 favorites]


You aren't thinking enough about what *you* want and how you feel. You're thinking way too much about what he wants and feel, and not nearly enough about how he behaves. You supported him through school, right? Time for him to work and help support you.

His politics are a red herring (a false clue). He could have any political beliefs and still recognize and act on the need to do his fair share in the marriage. Limit your engagement in his political talk, and focus on planning for what he's going to do.

You deserve to be loved and to be happy. Can he be the husband who will love you and help you achieve your goals?
posted by theora55 at 5:11 AM on April 18 [10 favorites]


Here's my issue with his work ideals. It only works if YOU bring in the money. What if you couldn't work, how would the two of you live?

He's being a leech on you.

Either you're okay with this, or your not. I suspect that while he's a loving wonderful guy, that he's only that way, when he's getting his way.

Where does what YOU want come into the equation?

It's all well and good to come from a privilaged background, and to basically expect that society or your partner or your parents will take care of you until you can find work that suits you 100%. The rest of us just get on with earning money to live on.

I'm offended that he thinks that he gets to sit around, faff around in school, criticize your choices and on top of it all, he then expects you to support him while he angrily rails against the society that supports him.

I'm not just offended, I'm angry because he's managed to convince you that he's ENTITLED to this, and that he can "be along for the ride" while you bear the burden of earning the living that he's enjoying.

I know you love him, but I agree with your therapist. Separate for awhle and see how quickly he changes his tune when he's living according to his earnings.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:15 AM on April 18 [9 favorites]


Your husband doesn't sound like an anarcho-communist, he simply sounds lazy.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 5:21 AM on April 18 [6 favorites]


I think people may be underestimating how damn hard it is to find entry-level jobs right now. Even in applied math! Seriously! So I wonder if part of this reaction is OP's husband worrying about finding a job, and creating a proactive ego defense against not being able to find one -- "Nobody wants to hire me, but that's fine, because I'm too good for these jobs!" Or even not looking, because he sees his classmates not finding jobs and doesn't want to deal with that.

OP's husband, is there any of that in your revulsion to jobs? If so, please know that jobs are hard to find, even in applied math, ESPECIALLY entry-level jobs, and it is totally normal to take a lot of time and effort (and connections, use any connections you have) to find them.

Anyway. I'm not particularly traditional on gender roles and work but I do think that, as said above, communism should start in the home. OP's husband, are you contributing an equal effort? Are you laboring to help make your shared home safer and healthier? What are you adding? What are you taking away? If you imagine yourself in your wife's shoes, do you really think the books balance in this marriage?

he wants to find a manual work that exhausts him enough that he has no time to think

I find cleaning the house is a useful form of manual labor for this.
posted by pie ninja at 5:42 AM on April 18 [15 favorites]


Hi. I'm a therapist your husband doesn't want to see. I started out as a mathematics major and I started out angry at the world. I became a therapist, ultimately, because it's a job where I don't feel corrupt. A good therapist isn't in business to convince dissidents to become "normal" members of society. Yes, there are therapists making good money doing just that, but those are to be avoided. There's a lot to be angry about in this world but it needn't destroy your marriage or your life. Shop around and find counseling that isn't politically offensive. It exists.
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:48 AM on April 18 [15 favorites]


So many, many, many good comments have been written about what's going on in your relationship and I agree with them all.

As you work through those questions and suggestions with your husband you should also be talking about other things that are bound to come up in a marriage - children and illness.

It's just the two of you now. Do you want to have children? Does he? What are your thought on raising children? What are his? And this goes way beyond who changes how many diapers. There are plenty of questions here on the green about disagreements over how to raise children for you to look at to see the kinds of issues you may be facing. How gender norms are reinforced, how much freedom to give your child, what kind of activities they should be allowed to enjoy, how they will interact with your family and his, etc... You should not continue in a relationship where you want to have children unless you are in great agreement over how they should be raised.

Unpack those issues now, or at least in the very near future if you get past this whole, "I don't think I should have to equally contribute to this marriage" issue.
posted by brookeb at 6:01 AM on April 18 [1 favorite]


I don't think this pile-on on the husband is justified, based on the question. The problem doesn't seem to be that the husband doesn't want to work at all, but that he isn't yet sure about what he wants to do and for the moment thinks he prefers a simple manual labor job to what he sees as a soul-sucking career. That can be a problem in a marriage, if one person is very goal-oriented and driven, but that's a very different problem than "husband doesn't intend to work at all and wants to freeload on hard working spouse for the rest of his life".

I would run away from a therapist who suggests divorce, personally. A therapist only hears your version of the story. At most they should advice you to get couples counseling with another therapist.
posted by blub at 6:14 AM on April 18 [2 favorites]


I think people are seeing a disconnect between a husband who says he only wants to do manual labor yet refuses to clean the house. That's a fair disconnect to point out.
posted by rtha at 6:18 AM on April 18 [34 favorites]


Your husband sounds a lot like the fiance' I broke up with a few months ago. Mine also didn't want to work for the man, be part of the corrupt system, and when I'd come home from my job as a high school principal and I'd share crazy-work-day stories, he'd get all up in arms about the "system" and how bullshit everything was. He had no recognition of the value of working hard and having passions. That shit never occurred to him; we were all slaves to some undefined system.

He liked to talk a lot about lightness of being and finding himself, and about spreading laughter and how making people smile was the most important thing in the world.

And I loved feeling that he cared so much about big ideas and the world while I was so busy running a high school, raising my kids, buying groceries, cleaning the house, planning vacations, taking the cats to the vet, doing laundry, doing HIS taxes, painting the stairs. I did EVERYTHING.

I did the work. He bitched a lot. Or philosophized. After several serious "come to Jesus" talks, it was clear that this man was not going to get a job, wasn't going to vacuum, wasn't thinking of us in any real way as a couple.

In hindsight, he wasn't loving or caring towards me. He could not get out of his own world view. He was a selfish boy who expected everyone else in the world to take care of him.

Have you ever read Toole's "Confederacy of Dunces?" My ex was Ignatius Reilly.

Your husband sounds the same. I would give him ONE chance to get his shit together and then I'd walk.

I wasted way too much time waiting for my guy to get onboard with acting like a grown-up and he never did.

When I told him to leave, he immediately called an ex from 30 years past and moved in with her. He then moved in with his mother. My ex is 56 years old.

Your husband is relying on you to be the adult. Believe me, give him one chance to get his shit together and then bail.

And this: One past argument had him telling me that he would get a job and do everything I wanted him to do, pretend to enjoy his life and work, and once we were old and grey he would tell me it was all a farce.

Jesus, what an asshole thing to say.
posted by kinetic at 6:20 AM on April 18 [33 favorites]


...he wants to find a manual work that exhausts him enough that he has no time to think...

I'd encourage this. Maybe he will discover that he loves this sort of work, and that working in this way is really what he wants to do. I don't subscribe to the Good Will Hunting philosophy that intelligent people owe the world their skills in a purely intellectual capacity. If he will be happy stocking shelves or hauling or whatever, why not be the smartest guy at the warehouse or the site? And why not enter industry from the ground up? If anything, labor needs smart people right in its ranks and not just advocating for them from the outside.

On the other hand, and much more likely, it will turn out that this sort of work fits him poorly. And maybe that will start him on the road of treating work and labor in a practical sense rather than a philosophical one. Same thing for a job where he has to do "nothing." Let him sign up to be a night-shift security guard in a place no one in their right mind would break into.

Not having done a job makes it easy to idealize it or see it as a way out of whatever current shitty circumstwnces exist. Once you do it For Real though, things get a little bit clearer in re what you are suited to do for work, and the choice of what to do gets a bit simpler.
posted by griphus at 6:21 AM on April 18 [6 favorites]


There is absolutely nothing wrong with supporting your partner while they "find themselves" if that is what you are happy to do, there is a fine line between "finding yourself" and free loading, I suspect this is what your therapist is worried about. Here is the thing, you are doing this to make him happy, what is he doing that involves putting himself out, to make you happy. If you are both working to make each other happy and you are BOTH happy then that is fine, but you say you are having anxiety issues don't dismiss the concerns you are having about your husband as the cause.

Oh and as someone else further up said "Dude pick up a vacuum." If you want to help the working class, then instead of bitching at your hardworking wife and making patronising comments about being angry on her behalf, show her you love her and do the damn housework.
posted by wwax at 6:23 AM on April 18 [3 favorites]


Also clean the fucking house, dude.
posted by griphus at 6:23 AM on April 18 [1 favorite]


cobain_angel, everyone else's advice is spot on but I wanted to also add -- don't nag. Just refuse to nag. It turns you into your partner's mother, and you are not his mama. Just don't do it.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:24 AM on April 18 [8 favorites]


I also thought about this more (on the way to work, no less) and I wanted to add, anarchist husband:

In addition to consulting our wishes, beliefs and dreams, I think that as anarchists we have to be aware of our weaknesses, both individual and structural.

If you grew up wealthy and white and male and straight, you grew up with a LOT of unconscious conditioning that your happiness and needs are paramount. Not necessarily even in a selfish way, just in a "this is the way the world has to work or something is wrong" way. It's like my parents feel that you really aren't having breakfast unless you have a little egg-cup-sized glass of orange juice. It's how they grew up, there's nothing wrong with orange juice...but I had to get orange juice glasses for their visits because they really did not like not having orange juice at breakfast and not having tiny cups, even though I never have it myself and don't really have a use for tiny cups*. But breakfast is Wrong without orange juice in tiny cups - they're not tyrants, they're not selfish people, they just have this...deep....feeling that the way the world works requires OJ in tiny cups.

My point is that you do not need to be a selfish tyrant to have learned that something is just off about the world if your daily life isn't completely in line with your feelings, wishes and beliefs. You can feel this in a very deep way that feels "true".

And I'm not saying that people should go through life just accepting that everything is terrible.

But the thing is, your confidence that you need to have exactly the right way of life is something that has been socialized into you. It's not something you would have learned growing up as a woman, a working class person, a person of color - those people would all have different sets of experiences, and a working class woman of color would have different experiences from an upper middle class white woman - but you have this extra layer of conditioning about What Makes The World Right.

I stress that this is unconscious.

But we have to watch it! (I mean, I'm white, queer, transmasculine or something that I am still working out in therapy, lower middle class...so my experience is difference than yours, but I think we probably have at least some assumptions in common.) Consider Alexander Berkman, the people's hero. A gentle, kind, truly decent man who did great work (and who wasn't homophobic, which is not bad for a straight dude in the early 20th century)....but all his partners in his later life were working class women who were not anarchists or who had no particular standing in the anarchist movement, who were not educated, who did not participate in the intellectual life of his social circle, and who were just there to play second fiddle and take care of him. I'm not saying that the dude could only date his exact female opposite numbers, or that there's anything wrong with dating people without education - but there was a huge power differential in those relationships, and it seems to have been intentional. And that is always the risk we run when we're not thinking about how we've grown up.

You might find it interesting to read Marge Piercy's novel Vida, which draws on her experiences in the sixties and seventies - there's quite a lot about dudes who start out radical and drift into being mooches and abusers, plus it's a great novel (recently re-released by PM Press!)

The risk you run when you live off your partner is that you will lose the ability to take care of yourself except by mooching. You'll wind up, for example, forty-five and hanging around movement people and being a semi-parasite on younger women. Or you'll wind up as the controlling husband of a hard-working woman you keep in line by rhetorical posturing. Not because you are, right now, some kind of awful person - but because the kind of life you're headed for can easily shape you into that type of person.

The world is strong. Individuals are fragile. That's one reason I'm an anarchist - I truly believe that individuals get pushed into misery and cruelty even when they try to resist because they get caught in systems of domination that overpower their wishes and plans and change their characters. But you don't get outside of systems of domination just by refusing to earn money. If only it were that easy!

Another question: were your parents really controlling? Did you have to refuse a lot just in order to have any kind of say in your own life? I know that if you have to learn refusal as your primary strategy when you're little, it can be hard to change and this can be crippling. Maybe you learned early on that you were being pushed unfairly or pushed into doing things that were wrong (I'm not just talking about being scheduled for swim lessons when you didn't want to go, for instance) and all you could do as a child was to basically sit down and refuse to move - your needs and feelings were maybe always discounted? If that's the case, I would also second therapy because that's crippling. (Remember that Bartleby died, right?)

I grew up in rather unusual circumstances and it was hard for me to start working. I was terrified at various times through my twenties about my ability to get hired, my ability to keep a job, my ability to Not Be Totally Miserable if I was working. The economy is a lot shittier than when I was getting started, I recognize that, but if you are in fact having a lot of anxiety about work, why not make an arrangement with your spouse about how you will do something like seek regular part-time work at first, with a goal of getting into full time work later; or seek some kind of temporary or casual work (with the understanding that you will be looking to work X hours per week/month)? You're fortunate to have a spouse who can support you through getting comfortable working - you can build up your resume and get more confidence instead of immediately needing to make rent.

I apologize that this is a wall of text even for me - but at the same time, I feel like there's some specifically anarchist stuff about this question.

*My parents are great; I don't mind having the cups.
posted by Frowner at 6:47 AM on April 18 [39 favorites]


Look, you're both right.

You are correct. You need to work hard and smart to get what you want out of life and support yourself and be confident in handling emergencies. You also need to exert some general effort and action into keeping your environment suitable for human inhabitants. Noone gets to just do nothing. Even super rich corrupt billionaire assholes have to do something, like monitor their staff thath actually does the dirty work. Noone gets to just be kept.

He is right in that the US is more and more a rigged game. The US used to be a great country, but our right to assert that we are the best in anything other than military and fast food is eroding, and it's embarrassing on an international scale. But that doesn't excuse one from hard work. People holding such beliefs can chose to work hard to participate in corruption to "succeed" financially, work hard as a "cog" and play by the "rules" to achieve stability, or work hard to dismantle the system (or some cobination of the 3). The system doesn't go down just because some lazy people decide not to participate in it. It only gets fixed if people work hard in opposition to the system.

So dude of cobain_angel, decide what you want to work for and DO it. Cobain_angel, base you decision to split or not on dude's action (or inaction).
posted by WeekendJen at 7:45 AM on April 18 [3 favorites]


Also, husband guy might find Mr. Money Moustache interesting. Its basically about things to do to use the system/ ignore teh system as appropriate to drop out of it as quickly as possible (i.e. retire way early, like 30s or 40s).
posted by WeekendJen at 7:47 AM on April 18 [1 favorite]


Well, I am taking a different track than the other answers. I am about to suggest this is perhaps a problem a little more everyday, a problem humans have struggled with long before Marx was born.

My hardworking OP, it is clear your family of origin put a strong value on work and likely every able bodied person in your family and community had a job, no matter how lowly. And even the lowly jobs were valued -- they were the difference between eating and not eating.

But all we know of your husband's family of origin is that they are upper middle class. What jobs does his parents hold? His extended family? Does he have a good example of work? Has anyone in his family ever faced poverty or hunger? Does his family value ALL work, or only certain kinds of work?

Could it be possible that he cannot see himself in a career that his family will approve of, and instead will take THE MOST un-approve-of-able job (manual labor)? He cannot do any of the jobs his parents will approve of (investment banker/doctor/CFO), and instead rejects the entire prospect of career and job? That it would be easier NOT to try to meet his parents' career expections as it is impossible?

As well, this economy is a meat grinder and it is possible he does not see a route into the upper middle class jobs that he came from, the base career expectations of his community, and has decided to reject the entire system and process as one he cannot win, or even enter.

I think he may be lost, and his family of origin's expectations are forcing him to reject most of his possible starting points to an interesting career.

I don't think you can solve this one yourself, it is something inside him that he needs to resolve himself. If he cannot resolve it himself, he will hold tighter to his rejection of it.

I see a few possible future paths:
- You will obviously continue to work very hard and will be successful through sheer force of will, if for no other reason.
- He may choose to retreat further and further from choosing a career.
- OR he may resolve this problem in his heart and with his history and family and will find a direction for his energy and work, but this work may or may not result in financial rewards.
- He may hide out in graduate school with parent support for many more years.

This could take him many years. There are countless articles about men that cannot find their place in society today. Are you willing to support him during these times? How many years? Will you resent him as the time goes by as he finds his direction -- and it is possible his direction is not a financially rewarding one?

If, and only if, you think the relationship is strong enough, you might consider having children with your husband as a stay at home father. You are currently in a position where you are making large decisions about the coming decade of your life, and having children early could help you have your 30's and 40's a bit clearer for you to focus on your own career. Fatherhood could ground him like no other experience. Or, it could blow the whole relationship sky-high.

You are at a turning point and I wish you the smoothest of paths and the clearest heart.
posted by littlewater at 7:50 AM on April 18 [7 favorites]


I am a little lost here...the husband is reading the thread but the question is how do you deal with different ideals, and not "we"?? Sharing all the advice from here and your counselor with the husband who refuses to go for counseling is helping you in what way exactly?

Is there anything positive/meaningful/substantial that the guy brings to the relationship? You can both have different ideals and agree to disagree while agreeing to work for the same common goal as a relationship/family but the issues here run deeper that that. Being too young to not know what you want is not an excuse to be married and exploit your wife's hard work while ALSO telling her how sad her work ethics are. Its insulting to you, and being 24 doesn't excuse that. Your husband sounds like a loser at best and an outright entitled brat at worst. If this is how he is now, how helpful is he going to be when you have children...or will the kids have to contend with dad's ideals on their dinner plates? The situation is causing you anxiety because you are trying hard to repress what you know, feel and very strongly believe in. The anxiety doesn't mean you have a problem, it means you need to stop ignoring THE problem and do something about it.

I am with your counselor on this one- you are headed in separate paths that are only going to diverge in the long run, and it may not be your place or in your power to drill sense into your husband regarding helping out your life partner. I don't think the counselor is being pushy at all. Leaving a relationship that is not working for you is NOT "giving up"! (Did your husband come up with this?) If you are flying on auto-pilot and you know you have a collison coming up, is it better to stick to what you have been doing and trying to correct the inevitable, or to realize what is going on as soon as you can and take charge? What is giving up?

Perhaps you can appreciate the following when you do make a decision for you-

"Some of us think holding on makes us strong, but sometimes it is letting go"
posted by xm at 8:17 AM on April 18 [5 favorites]


Yes, the economy is still tough, especially for entry-level workers, and jobs are hard to find (more or less depending on skill and location). But sponges, mops, and vacuum cleaners are NOT hard to find or use.

If the OP's husband cannot find work, for whatever reason, he must step up and do the lion's share of the housework. That's called "being an equal partner in the marriage."

OP, whatever you decide, do NOT have children with this man on the assumption that he will be a stay-home dad. If he's not doing his share of the chores now while he's young and unencumbered, he's unlikely to transform into House-Husband Of The Year when baby makes three and everyone's stressed out and sleep deprived. You do not want to be in the truly awful position of having a husband who won't work AND can't be trusted to be a good stay-home parent. I have known women who are the main breadwinners and still have to pay for child care, even though they have stay-home husbands, because said husbands can't or won't care for the child(ren) to an acceptable (read: doesn't endanger the child) standard. They are, in effect, single moms with an extra Big Kid to care for. Believe me, you do not want to be in this position - it is exhausting and soul-sucking.

A marriage that is all on one partner's terms is not a healthy marriage. If you are not in joint marital counseling (not just individual therapy), it's time to find a therapist and go.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 9:08 AM on April 18 [11 favorites]


Thank you, everyone. You've given us lots to think and talk about.

My husband thinks that this is not as big of a deal as I seem to think it is. It's becoming clearer to me that the ideals are a red herring and I'm simply trying to explain away the behaviors I've been observing. However, his stated ideals and his behavior don't match one another.

I should mention that ideology talk is not something that he is bringing up all the time. I ask him about it and he tells me, although lately he doesn't want to talk about it because it causes friction and he considers it irrelevant. He thinks the real issue is that he is not doing the housework I want him to do. And he seems to truly feel badly about not doing it.

One big motivation for me to clear this up now has to do with future children, so I appreciate the advice in that area.
posted by cobain_angel at 9:13 AM on April 18 [1 favorite]


My husband thinks that this is not as big of a deal as I seem to think it is.

So he's also minimizing the validity of your feelings. Why would it be a big deal to him? His parents pay his rent, you work and pay for everything else, and it appears that you also do all the household chores. He's got it made.

The fact that he is not recognizing that this is a deal for you should be the gigantic red flag waving in your face.

...lately he doesn't want to talk about it because it causes friction and he considers it irrelevant.

The fact that he is not listening to you and is actively shutting you down by saying your concerns are irrelevant...I wish, somehow, there was a way to hold up a mirror so you could actually process what's going on in your relationship and see how NOT OKAY this is. There's no give and take. He's taking, and taking, and then telling you that what you feel...it's irrelevant?!

He thinks the real issue is that he is not doing the housework I want him to do. And he seems to truly feel badly about not doing it.

Then he should be doing the goddamned housework, not truly feeling badly about not doing it. Jesus.
posted by kinetic at 9:27 AM on April 18 [40 favorites]


The quickest way to stop feeling bad for not doing housework is to do the housework.

Since this is a very short and obvious logical path, I have to wonder what it is that keeps Husband from taking it. What is that about, Husband? Something is going on in you - what is it? Are you depressed? Are you resentful? Are you afraid? Are you in fact just lazy? Do the work to figure it out, and quit minimizing your partner's feelings and observations. It's okay if something that is a big deal to her is not a big deal to you, but you don't get to just unilaterally declare it Not A Big Deal For Anyone. That is selfish and juvenile.
posted by rtha at 9:36 AM on April 18 [8 favorites]


For the moment, I'm going to take for granted your assertion that your husband is kind and loving. But he's behaving like a self-involved child who places abstract ideals above your equality and happiness.

I can understand how, with his background and political views, he's struggling with these issues and with the prospect of growing up and playing a necessary part of some kind in a system he abhors. But frankly, that sort of thinking a luxury. It's real to him, and I don't want to devalue his struggles, but it is a luxury. It's not something most people can even afford to think about, and certainly not something most of them can afford to prioritize. And it should never ever come above the health and happiness of his loved ones. He can wallow and grieve and struggle all he wants, but he doesn't get to act self-involved and just take and take and take forever. That isn't how good relationships work.

On Maslow's heirarchy of needs, love and family comes before self-actualization. If he loves you, he needs to prioritize your (COMPLETELY ENTIRELY MORE THAN REASONABLE) needs above his finding-a-dream-job desires. If he's serious about that, genuinely serious about that, and is just struggling with how to implement it — if he's struggling with depression and a terrible, lifelong work ethics problem — then he needs to find a solution and work towards a practical goal. He needs to do that, he needs to be trying literally everything he can think of to equalize the situation and move himself forward on a practical, day-to-day, he-cares-about-this-marriage-and-will-do-anything-to-save it level. That means therapy, both individual and couples. Frankly, someone I love refusing to go to couples counseling when we need it would be an absolute dealbreaker for me, because i would interpret it as not taking my needs seriously.

If he's in school full-time, he should be doing half the housework. If he's out of school and you're working, he should be doing 100% of the housework. That's what fairness and equality looks like. YOU shouldn't have to "nag" him — he should be absolutely committed to making this happen, even if it's hard for him and he needs to find a way to get the support he needs to make it happen. How does he think houses get cleaned and food gets made and clothes get washed if he isn't willing to do it himself and won't work to pay someone else to do it?

When it comes to the finding-a-job issue, he needs to do some serious thinking (with outside support) about how his ideals fit into a real, practical life. Maybe that means living as a freegan and building a cabin in the woods, maybe that means working for a non-profit, I don't know. It's hard for me to imagine growing up in a world where assuring my own safety and security is not priority #1. But he should definitely read this fantastic article, and no matter what he ends up doing he should goddamn quit devaluing your work and patronizing you about your career choices; not just because you're supporting him, though obviously that too, but because kind and loving adults don't treat each other that way. Period.

And job fears and career anxiety and political dilemmas are not the real issue here, he's right about that. When he says that "the real issue is that he is not doing the housework", he's correct. But that isn't the cause of the strife, it's a symptom of a much, much deeper issue. That issue is that he doesn't treat you like an equal, and he's putting his own abstract political feelings above your real-life emotional needs.
That's a very real issue, and you should both be treating it as one that is threatening your marriage.
posted by you're a kitty! at 9:46 AM on April 18 [12 favorites]


My husband thinks that this is not as big of a deal as I seem to think it is.

See how he feels about it when you stop paying his rent and buying his food with your filthy capitalist lucre. I bet he thinks it's a big deal then.
posted by like_a_friend at 9:52 AM on April 18 [19 favorites]


Just refuse to nag. It turns you into your partner's mother, and you are not his mama. Just don't do it.

The important unspoken other side of this, though, is that if you can't have your needs met without nagging, you need to leave.

If I had a dollar for every faux-radical man I knew in my twenties who sponged off his parents and girlfriend while justifying being a lazy jerk with revolutionary rhetoric, I'd be a rich woman. Life is too short to try to fix people.
posted by winna at 10:39 AM on April 18 [22 favorites]


There's an enormous disconnect between how your husband "feels" and how he "acts", in both his work and his public spheres.

Honestly, I think he's lying when he talks about how he feels, to himself just as much as to you. Who wants to admit their weaknesses? Isn't it better to raise them up on a pedestal and try to repaint it as being revolutionary?

I dated a guy once who talked big on how much he cared about me, but acted like a huge jerk. When I pointed it out he huffed a bit and said his words were more important then his actions. I didn't even bother replying, such obvious fetid garbage.

I have a tendency to be late when meeting up with people. I honestly feel bad about this. It's disrespectful of other people and their time. Do I bloviate on about how I am so sorry and I feel bad about it? No. That's an empty exercise in soothing my own ego. I just work on getting there on time. Christ.

If you husband ACTUALLY felt bad about you doing all the housework, he'd pick up the vacuum, or he'd be working on figuring out what was blocking him from doing so. He doesn't feel bad about not doing housework. Not doing housework is awesome! He probably does feel bad that you are upset. But you know what would really solve the problem for him? If you did all the housework and were happy about it. The perfect solution.
posted by Dynex at 10:57 AM on April 18 [6 favorites]



Just refuse to nag. It turns you into your partner's mother, and you are not his mama.

The important unspoken other side of this, though, is that if you can't have your needs met without nagging, you need to leave.


Any reasoning that compares a wife or g/f to a guy's mother is best taken with a grain of salt. Its a subtle way to take any rightful burden off of a man's shoulders and place it conveniently on a woman's. In general, women obviously should not nag just like men should actually grow up before getting hitched.

When you can't control a situation and you can't live with it either, then leaving the situation is a reasonable option. An arrant cost-benefit analysis might be in order.
posted by xm at 11:06 AM on April 18


I read this thread first thing this morning and got so, so ANGRY. It brought me back to my first marriage and the complete, utter lack of respect my husband had for me and the values he swore to uphold in our marriage vows. When things were finally getting close to breaking apart (after a good two or three years of a four-year marriage that SUCKED), he said, "We can't get divorced!"

"Why not?" I asked.

"Because I love you," he said. Except that every single thing he did contributed to making me feel insecure and unsupported. And he couldn't recognize it -- not on his own, not when I pointed it out, not when we went to therapy.

And the IDEALS... god, the IDEALS that kept coming up. And changing. And changing back. And never involving any ideals of my own. I feel physically ill thinking about that time in my life.

For now, I'm going to bring up the work of AskMe favorite John Gottman.

Here's a blog post that introduces a series on his "four horsemen" -- criticism, contempt, defensiveness, stonewalling. These communication styles can be very destructive to any relationship. Do this little self-evaluation. Be honest. Your husband may not criticize you directly sometimes, but what does his behavior say about how he values what you contribute to this marriage?

Here's his seven principles for keeping a relationship strong. From what you've shared here, OP, you are barely hitting any of them.

You don't have a partnership here, OP, and my heart aches for you because I know how it feels.

For the record, taking help from his parents is about the most bourgeois, least anarcho-capitalist thing I can imagine. He should be ashamed of himself.

But that's probably where he gets these ideals -- clinging tightly to some outside concepts and principles so that he, and others, stay away from discussing the things he dislikes about himself. Because it couldn't possibly be HIMSELF with the problem; it's everyone else.

He needs to work on his inner principles and his role in this relationship before trying to stand up for any sort of outside ideology. Full stop.

Do not ignore your gut feelings here. He's not a bad person; you're not a bad person. But he is not pulling his weight, and your relationship will not survive unless things change. I'm sorry to say that I don't think they will.
posted by Madamina at 11:08 AM on April 18 [21 favorites]


My therapist supported my divorce because he saw that there was a disconnect between my words and feelings, and my ex's words and actions.

I think many of the posters are zeroing in on that last. I bet your therapist is too.
posted by spunweb at 11:09 AM on April 18 [1 favorite]


Lots of good answers here. I'm a self-employed anarchist (no gods no bosses!) and this is something I think about daily.

I too came from a very privileged background, and I recognize that my success as a freelancer/self-employed person is not something that would have been possible without my families resources or the fact that I'm a straight white dude in a capitalist system that values those things above all else. I wish we lived in a world where everyone could do what they love like I do, have the autonomy that I do, and be free of bosses and the petty hierarchies and disempowerment that makes the average 'work' day so unbearable. We don't live in that world, but it begins with our relationships with the people closest to us.

Work is not the exclusive domain of capitalist pigs or Puritan value systems or whatever. Work can give you meaning. Work can make the world a better place. Work can (will!) empower you. Work can spread your ideals and your values to others who have no clue what anarchism means. Work is one of the few ways in our society to actually make anarchism real to other people, to put real democracy into real practice. To take joy in work is an anarchist value as much as hating cops and patriarchy and heirarchy and all that. You have to put your anarchism into practice, however imperfectly, because no amount of Proudhon quoting is going to put food on your table (something your privilege has obscured from you). Right now you're not doing that - how can you believe in an egalitarian world if your own relationship with your wife is based on patriarchal gender roles and capitalist division of labor?? The revolution starts when you pick up a fucking broom.

Working for a boss is of course exploitative and shitty and I've been privileged enough to avoid that in my life. Working for a boss isn't some sort of sell out though. You could work for one and organize your fellow workers to fight for their own dignity and autonomy. Doing that requires a lot of WORK. You too can be self-employed - a collective of one - without buying into the bootstraps bullshit narrative. Doing that requires a lot of shit load of WORK. You can work a day job and spend your free time on anarchist projects. Doing that requires a lot of WORK. You can join or organize a co-op, based on a very real and very anarchist practice of democracy, but that requires a lot of WORK. You can work for a hierarchical organization that is aligned with your values and an environment that isn't toxic to them, but finding that requires a lot of WORK.

You have options, you like me were born lucky enough to have them, now is the time to stop spouting off the easy platitudes and put it into practice. I mean I'm just an artist, you're a mathematician! If anything can be used as a weapon against the capitalist system, it's math. So now begins the hard part, the real work of making our utopia a reality. Maybe no one's told you this before, but it's a lot of WORK.
posted by bradbane at 11:22 AM on April 18 [9 favorites]


Noticed this article today and think 'emerging' adult describes a stage I have observed as well.
posted by Anitanola at 11:32 AM on April 18


…find a manual work that exhausts him enough that he has no time to think…

He can have that no matter what he does. A lot of people do. It's called going to the gym after work.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 11:47 AM on April 18 [2 favorites]


You know, the more I think about this, the more tiresome the premise of the question becomes. Why is all of this shit your problem to solve? The bottom line is, your household needs income, and the boy needs a job. Unless you're placing some bogus limitations on him that you have not mentioned, the world is his oyster. He can do anything. Whether that thing he does, or the next thing he does, or thing after that, makes him happy IS NOT SOMETHING YOU CAN CONTROL. Whether he does the shit you ask him to do or not is NOT SOMETHING YOU CAN CONTROL. His inability to follow through is NOT YOUR RESPONSIBILITY.

There are 37,000 To List apps, household chore gamification systems, reminder apps, whatever. He's a grown man, he knows how to use the internet, he needs to pull at least 50% of the domestic load, and he can figure out how to make himself do the shit he needs to do.

If he needs help figuring out what 50% of the household chores look like, fine; make a list and tell him to pick 50% of them. But he needs to sink or swim under his own steam. If that means he wakes up one morning and there is no loo role or toothpaste, well, welcome to adulthood honey.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:00 PM on April 18 [8 favorites]


This thread has been amazingly helpful for me in articulating something I've been wrestling with for over a year now. (Thank you, all!) I'm probably going to struggle a bit in articulating it here, so I apologize in advance.

OP, my late ex-partner identified himself a pro-revolutionary anarchist punk and lifelong radical activist. He was on disability after serving in the National Guard after high school. His employment history included manual labor (construction) and working 100+ hour weeks managing a chain of convenience stores, prior to SSDI. He had multiple periods of homelessness, living in squats/punk houses, and being heavily involved in "antifascist" groups in the Midwest. He was profoundly gifted (polymath, genius IQ) and very well-read, self-educated, charismatic. (People in his activist circles often looked up to him as a leader.) He came from single-mother family in a poor, rural area and later had to deal with a physically and emotionally abusive stepdad. His upbringing scarred him and he never came to terms with it, and by not dealing with it, it influenced the rest of his relationships in his adult life. Like others have said, there may be a lot of unprocessed stuff your husband is dealing with that he needs to confront in order to move forward.

For all of his political rhetoric, education, and activist experience, he essentially turned into 'that guy' someone else mentioned, who 'accepted' as much material assistance as he could get from every partner he was involved with, all while surrounding himself with a coterie of followers to prop up his ego. He chose to live beyond his (admittedly shamefully scarce) disability pay, and used others to support his lifestyle. As much as he resented being in that position, he continued to do it anyway. In our relationship, he used his rhetoric, life choices, and unprocessed abuse as a fulcrum on my self-esteem, and criticized with ill-concealed contempt every decision I had ever made to further myself in life. He very rarely acknowledged his particular privileges as a white, bisexual, attractive, educated male, and actually tended to use his privileges as evidence of how he was superior to less-talented, less-intelligent people, etc.

There was a point where, after he first moved in with me, I was working fulltime plus a side job, doing all of the housework/cooking/grocery shopping myself, and acting as his caretaker, i.e., he needed to have me with him to go anywhere, I had to drive him everywhere because he didn't have his license or a vehicle, etc. It was hard for me, but I didn't even necessarily mind any of that, as long as we were in it together, acting as a team. Our relationship didn't start out terribly, but over time, it turned into a referendum on how my choices made me a Ludicrously Deluded Tool of The Man and his choices meant that was a perfectly pure, logical, righteous actor against The State. He couldn't simply acknowledge and be somewhat grateful that my hard work, my home, my financial support, etc. enabled him to continue to devote himself to his causes. To make matters worse, he questioned my dedication to The Cause and told me I worked too much to be an effective activist, and criticized me for my student loan debt. But without the student loan debt, I wouldn't have a decent-paying job with benefits, a safe vehicle to drive, etc. I couldn't do anything right and it profoundly affected my self esteem, over time.

My student loan debt made me a tool of the financial system; my higher education meant that I bought into the system that would turn me into a compliant little worker. My modest apartment (which he initially preferred because it was 'nicer' than his inner-city rowhome) was too bourgie. My belongings (a few family antiques, free stuff, or stuff-from-Craigslist) were bourgie posturing, because who needs Things? Revolutionary anarchists do not need more than one pillow! Etc., etc. Self-deprivation and suffering were a show of devotion to The Cause. My car, which I needed to get to work, which was how we continued to be fed and have a roof over our heads, became "cars are so bourgie" and a "necessary evil." He made me feel like my driving made me personally responsible for global warming; my belongings and income potential were directly responsible for the suffering and deprivation of someone living in poverty, etc.

I need to keep a clean house because of allergies that contribute to chronic fatigue symptoms, but his takeaway: I was too much like his bourgie mother, because great revolutionary anarchists do not care about trifles such as housework! It was beneath him. I was literally so exhausted one day that I found it hard to carry a load of laundry upstairs and was in tears over it. He was sitting downstairs on his computer playing a game. When I asked him to help, he said to me in annoyance, "I don't know why you spend so much time doing house stuff. That kind of thing isn't important to me." I retaliated by making a chore board and marking off everything I did vs. what he could arse himself to do (petty, I know), after I had to repeatedly nag him to do it. His rebuttal: "I'm trying to make you Great; you're just trying to make me a better dishwasher." (His disability was not such that doing modest chores would incapacitate him, and he worked construction under the table for a while.) How's that for feminism, solidarity, and mutual aid?

We often debated, and sometimes vehemently argued (I'm not proud) about the meaning of just work, valid partnership, mutual aid, disability, poverty, and so on. He hated being poor and reliant on The State due to his disability, but tried to have it both ways: hating his dependence and yet disrespecting anyone who participated in the very System that enabled his disability check. He felt that it was best to reject institutional education, debt, and wage-slavery, and find a way to exist outside the system. I am totally sympathetic to those ideals, and I hope to eventually be self-sufficient enough that I don't have to work 60 hours a week just to get by. The thing is, we grow up in, and are forced to live in, a capitalist society. As was posted on the blue recently, "Poverty is a punishment for the crime of living."

We can't exist in this society without an income, and to have a semi-tolerable existence, that's requires a higher-than-subsistence-level income. You, personally, should not have to solely provide the entirety of that income, when your husband is capable of some kind of work. There comes a time to put up or shut up. He can continue to iron out his ethical stance while he engages in productive work to contribute to the household income and stability. If he is so resolutely against making someone else richer, in the interim, he could considering tithing a portion of his income to a revolutionary or activist group that works to establish economic parity for all workers, and/or towards the movement to establish a Guaranteed Minimum Income. He could become a community organizer, union rep, etc.

I'm not trying to say that I didn't respect where he was coming from; I did, and I still do. He was deeply committed to his personal ethics, but was completely unable to see how his own actions reified the system he railed against. I wasn't the enemy, but I was closest, easiest substitute for him to vent his spleen on. The ideal world of lofty philosphy is a great place to start, but it takes courage and wisdom look at the world we live in, and then figure out how to exist as a moral actor within a framework to which you diametrically opposed. It's not fair that we collectively have to exist within this unjust and corrupt system, but we must learn how to do it, regardless. (As an old poster from my beloved Ms. mag forums used to say, "We all make our deals with the patriarchy." Submit kyriarchy, if you will.)

I've had some terribly painful, long dark nights of the soul trying to work out the most moral path forward based on my past choices, and things that I learned from him. I learned that I had been desperately needing to check in with my moral self, and re-check my privilege. I learned that I could make better, more moral choices in terms of how and where I spent my money, for whom I worked, what causes I supported, etc. In that vein, he might appreciate the book Your Money or Your Life, by Vicki Robin & Joe Dominguez, or The Simple Living Guide by Janet Luhrs, anything of that ilk.

In the end, it's one thing to have ideals, but his actions belie his supposed principles, and he needs to own that and face up to it. You deserve better than to be told that your hard work and accomplishments just means that you're a tool, and you deserve far more than a partner who would work a job for 30+ years just to spite you!
posted by cardinality at 1:21 PM on April 18 [22 favorites]


Sorry for the essay, but I do think that your husband is getting some unnecessary stick here, mostly because we have only heard your side (which if I may say so, comes across as heavily biased). I think a lot of people are also missing the fact that he is an undergrad in the middle of his finals, who does in fact have a part time job as a lab assistant. What we actually have here is an undergrad who doesn't know what he wants to do after graduation, who has a part-time job but is supported financially mostly by his parents, who doesn't do much housework, and who reacts poorly when his wife starts fights with him about these things in the middle of his finals. That is hardly unusual, and is not worthy of all the scorn and condemnation that has been heaped upon him in this thread. I would feel differently if he was a 40yr old who had just never bothered to work, but he isn't.

You have to take at least 50% of the blame for this situation, and it may be that you two are just an awful fit or it may be that your anxiety is flaring and causing problems. You seem pretty full of resentment and contempt for your husband. You do not seem to like or respect either his political views, or him as a person, which is pretty damaging to your relationship. I notice the fact that you moved the goalposts in your update - in the original question the problem was that he hasn't picked a career. In your update it was the housework, which is a completely different issue. If your fights are full of "and another thing!" and you find yourself bringing up everything he's ever done wrong ever in every single argument you have, you need to nip that in the bud - it is toxic. I am ignoring the political stuff altogether because it is not fair to pick over the logic or consistency of things yelled in the heat of an argument and then reported back second hand. Encouraging us to gang up on him for you is also a pretty shitty tactic, on a par with "my mother never liked you!". Or indeed, "my therapist says I should divorce you!" How do you see that helping, exactly?

I am trying to imagine how his question would read: "dear metafilter, I'm a 22yr old undergrad trying to revise for finals, and I just can't focus. Every time I try to settle down to work my wife starts a fight about what I want to do after graduation. At the moment I just need to focus on passing my exams, but she won't let up. We bicker a lot about the future - my parents pay the rent and I work as a lab assistant, but she wants me to say now what I want to do as a career and honestly I just don't know! She's always wanted to be a dentist but I'm just not as ambitious as her. I do snap at her sometimes and then I feel awful, but I really need some time without the fights and stress to get my studying done. I dread going home at the moment because I know she'll start as soon as I walk through the door". I suspect that that framing would have had some slightly different responses.

Personally I do think that you should probably split up, not because your husband is a deadbeat, but because the way that you (plural) are arguing (yelling, appeals to authority, going over the same ground again and again, dragging several problems into one argument, the contempt for each other's political views, his comment about pretending to like his life to spite you 30yrs later) is so poisonous I can't see how you can possibly repair the relationship. The fact that you are pulling this stuff in the middle of his finals is outrageous and so unsupportive that if I was your husband I'd have left you already so I could concentrate on my exams without distraction.

Seriously, if this is your anxiety acting up and usually everthing is fine, then you need to back off and get the anxiety under control now, and then after his exams get to couples counselling to learn how to discuss things nicely. If this is more of a longstanding dissatisfaction with your husband, leave him and marry somebody who's more conventionally ambitious if that is what's important to you (they won't do 50% of the housework either, mind, and you may well not enjoy coming second to their career). Your husband will find somebody more laid-back or untidy who won't be remotely bothered about these things. You'll both be happier. You still need to sort out your arguing style though.

tldr: Do not use ask.me to help you "win" arguments. You are both at fault here. You are both arguing in a terribly destructive way; stop if you want this relationship to survive.
posted by tinkletown at 2:11 PM on April 18 [6 favorites]


Nowhere does she say that her husband is in final exams.
posted by Dashy at 3:09 PM on April 18 [6 favorites]


There are so many good comments above, I hesitate to add, but I did have a mild version of this situation with my husband when he was switching careers. Though he often spoke of ideals, I think part of what he was really struggling with was not living up to his expectations of himself (he's also white, from a middle to upper middle class upbringing, with lots of parental support and expectation). He felt like he was failing and so it was easier to blame the system/world/whatever. I also think his parents did not foster independence in him and to some degree encouraged him to remain dependent on them, which delayed his 'growing up' a lot, and made it much more painful. So he had lots of anxiety about selecting a new job/career, lots of unrealistic ideas about the necessity of money to survive and a general expectation that if he didn't do it, eventually someone else would take care of it (ahem, housework). In my opinion he was living in a fantasy world which conspired to make him miserable.

What I kept coming back to was that I needed an adult partner, someone who I could depend on, who could be a grown up and take care of his family (which was just me and the furries at the time), someone who lived in the real world with me. It took a little time, and I'm not sure I would have stuck with it except our first three years together I was very very sick, sometimes unable to leave the house or get out of bed and he took care of me and never made me feel guilty or like a burden. So I knew he had the metal in him to be a wonderful husband and father, it wasn't that he was scared of hard work, I guessed that the issue was that he was scared of failure (shoot, who isn't?) and just had some learning to do of the "what it's like to be an adult" variety.

I guess where I'm trying to go with this is, you need to decide what you want and need first of all. It was easier for me I think b/c I was a lot older, but I think most people want something similar: a partner who will love them, treat them with respect, and do what needs to be done to take care of them and theirs.

Then you need to tell him, very clearly, maybe multiple times what you need and what that specifically looks like to you. For example, for me "do what needs to be done to take care of them and theirs" meant a job where he could be the source of healthcare (this was pre-ACA) coverage in case I got sick enough again that I lost/had to leave my job (and thus both our primary source of income and our health insurance). This was specific to our situation.

If he seems to want to be the partner you need, give him a chance, give him all the moral/emotional support you can, give him honest praise for the qualities that you think he has that make him wonderful and make you love him, and honest praise for progress.

When he is not being the partner you need, call him on it in a proportional way. As much as this can be done in a non-nagging tone, great. Things like focusing on your agreement and his non-adherence (setting up specific goals could be useful maybe), also I've not attempted to use these intentionally but I've been surprised that sometimes dispassionate disappointment/disengagement and sudden righteous anger (not at the same time), get through where hurt feelings, resentment, crying, or hinting (yeah, yeah, I know, but that's a hard cultural habit to break!) don't.

Even if he wants to change this won't happen overnight, and progress might be two steps forward one back. BUT you should start to see some progress, even if it's small steps (agreement to counseling, doing the dishes, etc.). And he should keep making those two steps forward, keep progressing. If you don't or he doesn't, I'd question whether he wants to change, whether he wants to be the partner you need.

I think the most important thing, the thing underlying all the other issues is him treating you with respect. As others have said, the disdain, hostility and assholery (your whole life a farce, jesus) he seems to be demonstrating are the poison that can't be worked around, and I think the source of him leaving you so unsupported in the other areas. He needs to seriously think about what kind of person he wants to be, and what that means for how he treats the people he loves. Some of this can be attributed to youth, but it's not an excuse and every day he should be maturing in his emotional capacity and understanding. He needs to get on with the growing up already.

Sorry this is long, disjointed and rambling, I think as with a lot of folks it hit nerves for me.
Hugs, take care of yourself.

ps. Also, despite growing up in a pretty egalitarian household, I have this thing that I think is a product of our damn patriarchal society. For whatever reason I emotionally (if not intellectually) default to "everything is my responsibility" and so often my default approach to asking my SO to do something is along the lines of: can you x, can you do me a favor and x, i need your help with x. This reinforces that I'm the default doer of x (y and z ;) and that he gets a big old gold star for doing it 'when asked'. This is not establishing a dynamic of we are adults taking care of OUR household. I've been actively trying to retrain myself. He is not doing me a damned favor by doing the dishes, he is doing what adults do and taking care of shit, living life, etc.

pps. Much to his surprise my husband is actually a lot happier when he is in the responsible adult mode.

ppps. As for kids, I would strongly advise against having them until you are confident that he can be the partner you need. As wonderful as they are children will exacerbate everything that's already an issue - raw nerves, money demands/worries, housekeeping, inequality of labor, etc.
posted by pennypiper at 3:12 PM on April 18 [9 favorites]


I just read tinkletown's comment and wanted to add something, and I'll make this my last comment. The point I was trying to make in my novel was, well...don't make the same mistakes that my partner and I made. We had been discussing making a lifelong commitment to each other, for a while. We loved each other, and when we were good, we could accomplish great things. When it was bad, it was a level of misery that I hope to never repeat.

We never found a way to meet in the middle, and what killed our ability to trust each other was exactly the type of bickering and resentment that tinkletown discussed. Resentment eventually breeds contempt, and once you feel contempt for your partner, no matter how small, it's really hard to come back from that. I suspect that some of his snark is due to feeling that his views/wishes are being invalidated (no matter how idealistic they may seem to you), and in return, his refusal or inability to see what you are contributing to the relationship on a more practical level is invalidating to you. He might feel that, for lack of a better way of phrasing it, he's trying to "save your immortal soul" and you're like "Pfft, whatever, can't you just go sweep the floor already?" What do you need to do to stop hurting each other and find some common ground?

If you love your husband and he loves you, what do you need from each other to make the partnership work long-term? My lasting regret (my ex is deceased) is that we put our high horses before each other. He was so wrapped up in his ideology that he couldn't hear what I was asking him for -- simply his support, acknowledging my efforts, him having my back -- and I couldn't hear that he needed me to listen and not treat him as just another responsibility to manage. I was being a martyr, but so was he, in his own way. You married each other for a reason. Somewhere beneath these thorny ideological debates, I would hope that you both still love each other. It might require tabling the work issue for the short term, and doing some couple's counseling once he is done with school. It might also be true that some time apart would help you both to clarify things and cool down. It will definitely help if you both work out how you are communicating with each other, what you need from each other that isn't being heard, and how to validate each other's viewpoints and discuss disagreements without so much rancor. If you can both be willing to give a little on the ideology, meet halfway, and find some kind of common ground, you'll both be stronger for it.
posted by cardinality at 3:14 PM on April 18 [2 favorites]


Oh no, he has finals! Gosh none of the rest of us had finals and a job and managed to do our share of the housework.

It's undergrad, not his dissertation defense. He can do the dishes without having a breakdown.
posted by winna at 3:17 PM on April 18 [18 favorites]


It's only fifty percent the OP's fault if you are discounting the aspects of emotional and financial abuse present in the original question.
posted by spunweb at 3:38 PM on April 18 [1 favorite]


No college is having finals in the middle of April, and this is clearly not a temporary sorry-I'm-so-stressed-I-can't-do-the-dishes-tonight scenario, but something persistent and deeply problematic.
posted by you're a kitty! at 3:44 PM on April 18 [5 favorites]


Also, I hope that if the OP's husband had posted his side of the issue, our answer would still be "do some housework, your spouse is financially supporting you, jeez."

If this is more of a longstanding dissatisfaction with your husband, leave him and marry somebody who's more conventionally ambitious if that is what's important to you (they won't do 50% of the housework either, mind, and you may well not enjoy coming second to their career).

NO. No. There ARE decent men in the world who will do their damned share of housework like a grown-up and will treat their wives well. We don't have to choose between 1950s breadwinner misogynists and immature freeloading slobs.
posted by you're a kitty! at 3:59 PM on April 18 [20 favorites]


Thank you, pennypiper, your comment really helped, and is more along the lines of what I was looking for when I originally posted the question.

I highlighted tinkletown's comment as a best comment because it helped me see things from his side a little bit and helped me revise how we have arguments. However, we do not yell at each other, and I only stated the issues with housework because it was a question that was being asked often before I answered it. Finals are approaching, but since his courseload is lighter than mine, he is not as stressed.

Thank you all again for your comments. They have all been extremely helpful.
posted by cobain_angel at 4:01 PM on April 18


Just jumping back in briefly OP, to say that you should regard his opinions about doing hard manual labour with extreme skepticism. I have noticed that people who have never done hard manual labour sometimes have this weird romance idea of it. Once you've actually done hard manual labour, you realise why people are so keen to stop doing it - it's horrible, poorly paid, wrecks your body, and is frequently dangerous and usually hot and smelly.

It's easy to think about how great digging ditches would be until you've done it all day at the heigh of summer.
posted by smoke at 4:48 PM on April 18 [8 favorites]


My current husband washes the clothes, cleans the house, drives me to work (in the opposite direction from his own office), picks me up, cooks me dinner and tucks me in at night. I do feel like it's a lot more than I do; I try to contribute in other ways, but I make sure to thank him and do what I can. It's also true that he is better at doing this stuff without being distracted. And it's HIS CHOICE, and he offers.

Also, I am gestating our child.

My ex-husband (Mr. Principled Ideals) would get on my ass all the time about how much I sucked at cleaning, why didn't I do it more, all that. Well, he sucked, too! You can't just refuse to clean because the other person doesn't do things the way you like -- that kind of thinking meant that we had a living room with no furniture, because apparently I wasn't mature enough to not pile stuff on the futon :P

At any rate, don't let anyone tell you that men can't/won't do their share. Sometimes, the share they take on is more than perhaps they should. All I know is that we are blessed to have each other after what we've gone through before, and I will do ANYTHING to make sure that this relationship never even comes close to what either of us had to deal with in the past.

Think about the goodness and lack of crap that you COULD be dealing with. You deserve to be surrounded by love, not discord and worry.
posted by Madamina at 5:10 PM on April 18 [3 favorites]


If he really does feel badly about not doing the housework and wants to get motivated to start doing it, refer him to FlyLady.
posted by Jacqueline at 8:14 PM on April 18


I keep thinking about this thread, and just wanted to add that change has to be his choice (I think you know that from some of the things you've said). Be plain about what you need, and leave the choice to him. The other side of this is being sure enough of what you want to be willing to walk away if he doesn't want to go down the same path. This isn't about threats or ultimatums or recriminations, it's about choice, his AND yours. As others have mentioned, it's totally possible for two people to genuinely love each other and yet just not be able to work as a team. Better to figure that out now than, like a good friend of mine, in fourteen years, two kids later and you're staying together for the kids and he's sullen and morally superior while sponging off you, the government, and others to feed, clothe and house him and his children (when I think about it I am filled with white hot anger at him and total mystification that this bright amazing woman has chosen to stay in this situation where she is just. Not. Happy. And knows it.) Not trying to go all negative here at the end but it's just that not all love matches are happy or destined to succeed. How you react if that's the case, and thus what your life is like, are up to you. You sound remarkably mature and self aware, so I think the smart money would be on you having a good life, even if it's not always easy.

I'm glad some of what I said before was helpful, hopefully this doesn't ruin it :) and feel free to Memail me.
posted by pennypiper at 9:31 PM on April 18 [1 favorite]


Wait, you're working full time, supporting him and have a heavier course load?


Tell he needs to check himself before he wiggidy wrecks himself, because there's no excuse for him to not help with cleaning.
posted by spunweb at 10:23 PM on April 18 [8 favorites]


Like, not helping more would bad friend behavior and he's supposed to be your life partner, your biggest cheerleader, and your teammate. It's really majorly uncool he's not helping more.
posted by spunweb at 10:40 PM on April 18 [1 favorite]


Once you've actually done hard manual labour, you realise why people are so keen to stop doing it - it's horrible, poorly paid, wrecks your body, and is frequently dangerous and usually hot and smelly.

To this highly accurate list I would add something that I think is very important: it is also stressful. Manual labourers have bosses chasing them to get things done faster, just like every other labourer in the world. Pushing the limits of your physical endurance to satisfy the demands of Capital is, it turns out, usually even more corrosively stressful than similar pure mental exertion.

And it nearly always is the interests of Capital. The world's poor don't generally need wealthy ditch diggers slumming it. They do need people who are prepared to apply their skills to whatever jobs need doing. Usually that stuff isn't fun either, but someone's got to do it.
posted by howfar at 1:26 AM on April 19 [3 favorites]


I should think that applied math would have some practical uses in building a better world. How about using it to design infrastructures for green cities?
posted by xenophile at 4:07 AM on April 19


I think it's interesting that you mostly favorite responses that paint your husband in a very generous light. For many of us, your question is a reminder of pretty unpleasant situations we had with very selfish partners, and I think some of the more-favorited responses (including my own) reflect that we can see things in your description that you're not seeing.

Seeing that you have favorited the responses where you're advised to not nag him, to try to be more understanding of where he's coming from, for you to take 50% of the responsibility for the issue, to me this is demonstrating that you're not really understanding what people are telling you. From your description, you give and give and give, your feelings are dismissed, and the advice you're favoriting advises you to stop thinking about yourself and to consider his feelings. That's not an equal partnership.

In any case, I hope that this works out well for you.
posted by kinetic at 4:41 AM on April 19 [21 favorites]


Please do make sure you've conclusively eliminated the possibility that your husband is depressed. It's always something I think of when I hear about people who have difficulty keeping up with housework. I know for years I confused my political problems with the society we live in with the depression symptoms I was experiencing, and it's taken me years to disentangle them. I think my depressive responses to societal ills have got in the way of my actively engaging to do what I can to help, although there is always a certain despair created by having ideals that are so far from the reality you see in front of you. Sometimes you have to treat the despair, though. It's a symptom of something far deeper, but then so is asbestosis and we treat that.
posted by Acheman at 4:42 AM on April 19 [3 favorites]


There's a lot in favor of the probability that your husband suffers from depression, and the other things are an outgrowth of that. As in he feels that his condition is an impediment to recreating the lifestyle he was raised in and thus is lashing out against the system that only grants the possibility of material success to those not suffering as he does. I would say his failure to do any housework is another indication. The idea of wanting to work himself into exhaustion every day with manual labor is an expression of his wanting to dull the pain of daily life.

That said, it's a cliche, but the maxim that the patient has to "want to change" is true. He seems to idealize his depression/anxiety as being something that allows him to see the world as it "really is." And while some people with bipolar depression or other mental health conditions may well adjust better in a rural commune, unless he and any plans to move someplace like that anytime soon, treatment for depression is the better solution. And if he doesn't want those things and he feels that his depression and his ideas of not working are more important than your well-being, then you have to realize that he is making that choice.
posted by bright colored sock puppet at 10:46 AM on April 19 [4 favorites]


It's funny that someone mentioned The Matasano Crypto Challenges. I know a lot of people in that field and your husband's type of views are pretty common among them. I'd say they are fairly common in the open source software and hacker niches. I think people with these kind of views often are fairly happy in such careers because there is a lot of both independence and collaboration. And there are plenty of jobs that have a fairly flat hierarchy. Plus you are honing skills that can be revolutionary and there are certainly plenty of opportunities to utilize them that way. I'd encourage him to check out some security or open-source software meetups.

Writing is another way to help spread ideas he believes in and work towards solutions. When I'm not working in tech, I write, and I know I've exposed a lot of people to ideas like Basic Guaranteed Income, that they might not have heard of. The more people know about these and the more developed the culture around them is, the more likely they'll become reality.

I think a lot of these kind of people also struggle with housework. I've struggled with it for awhile. You guys might want to try out some unconventional methods to do it together. My BF and I use the Pomodairo method. We set a goal and we set a timer and we clean for the duration of that timer. Then we have a break and do another interval. I've also tried a few apps like Unfuck Your Habitat, which uses a similar method. For me, I never did well with to-do lists or just being told to do things, I needed a systematic approach.

As far as the counseling article he showed you, it is possible, though challenging, to find an unconventional counselor. The article is written by one! Maybe he can email the author for some suggestions? I personally found mine through a subculture facebook group.
posted by melissam at 12:24 PM on April 20


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