He ain't heavy, he's my soulmate
November 23, 2012 11:51 PM   Subscribe

I'm the one who works and he is financially dependent on me. How can I make him never, ever feel like a burden?

In light of some recent questions where the asker is the dependent one in a relationship, I want to know from those with experience: What NOT to do?

Details: We've been together since 1998. He had been employed in the same physically-grueling type of job for 25 years. His back pain was killing him and getting worse every day. He got laid off in '09, but the industry where he had always worked was laying off, certainly not hiring. For the better part of a year, he sent off resumes and applications to any place that looked like it MIGHT be a good fit, if you squinted. He would go to interviews in his spiffy suits and, the minute they saw how old he was (in his 50s), the interview would effectively shut down.

I didn't like what it was doing to him, how the whole thing made him feel so worthless, so I crunched the numbers on my salary at the time and figured out a way to make my salary alone take care of us. I told him that if he wanted to retire and just step out of the rat race completely, that I could make it work. It was difficult at first, but so far I have. Since then, I've gotten a better job, so we're even more stable. I was happy to do this for him, I feel proud that I was able to do this and grateful that our circumstances were such that I could suggest it and follow through.

The thing is, his family is horrible. Some of his friends are horrible or tease him about it. Even though we've told his family together what the arrangement is, and I've taken them aside to REPEAT what the arrangement is, they continue to make him feel lousy for "dropping out" and "giving up." They can't seem to wrap their heads around it that I make enough to care for our family of three, that I would WANT to and that this doesn't bother me. Every get-together, they ask him if he's "found anything" and seem to have grown more suspicious of me in general, like I'm hiding/planning something. They ask if make enough to buy us a house (we rent). Since I don't, this is taken as "not enough, then... if YOU worked too, you could have a house..."

He comes away from these get-togethers feeling like a failure. For about a month after, he plots ways to bring money in, business ideas, certifications he could go pursue... I support him in all endeavors he tries to put his hand to, but I know it's because of them and that, with his terrible chronic pain, he's otherwise happy and relieved to be retired.

Here are some of the things I currently do:
- I don't ask him "what have you done today?" (He does plenty without being asked.) I ask "how was your day?" instead.
- I say "WE got paid today" on payday
- And I say "OUR money" when I'm referring to what's in the bank
- I discuss any big purchases (anything over $100 around here counts as a "big" purchase) with him before making them
- I never whine about anything to do with work, because he reads this as "ugh, but she has to do it alone", which isn't my intention.
- I respect his time as much as I would want mine respected. I never make assumptions that he's "home all day" so he could, for example, wait there all day for a package. This is a recent one I've fixed when I realized I was doing it. He's a grown man, he goes to the library and out for lunch and to museums, so I assume I need to double-check that his time is available as much as my own.

What else can I be doing, or make sure I'm NOT doing? Anyone with this kind of experience: what did you have done to you in that situation that made you feel like crap, something the other person might not have even realized they did? What do you wish that the other person/s had done to make you feel better about the situation, and to neutralize negative family BS? I'm trying to be mindful, I love him dearly and I would never want him to feel some of the emotions I read in questions here where the situation is reversed.
posted by dean winchester to Human Relations (25 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
I know several couples in that situation where the male partner is not working, and they have made it work with happy marriages and confident husbands. The gender backlash is hard to navigate from other people - it's really good for you to shut it down in front of him by saying firmly "I am grateful to Mr Windchester and my job that we can live this way as a family, it works wonderfully for us." and refusing to engage in criticism. A united front and public support helps a lot.

Ask him how his day went, what projects he worked on. Treat the people he sees often as the equivalent of his work colleague. If he's running the household and making your full-time job life smoother and more pleasant, it might help him to see it as a job - that's how one house husband and a lot of house wives I know refer to themselves, as running the household. What does he want you to say when people ask what your husband does?

Whine about work AND encourage him to whine about his day! Mutual grumbling and a guaranteed ear is a perk of relationships. Protecting him from it seems to imply he's not able to cope with you working sort of?

Who is paying the bills, the actual sorting out paperwork and so on? It's probably good for both of you if you have a monthly evening where you go over the bills together and make budget plans for the next months, so you're both aware of the finances. It might be nice to pay both of yourselves the same amount of "pocket money" - not money for fixed or reliable costs like lunch at the office or dry cleaning, but some cash intended to pay for small indulgences like movie tickets or a book or a new shirt. It is horrible to have to ask for money for treats or feel like you're wasting joint household money on personal indulgences.
posted by viggorlijah at 1:32 AM on November 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm not usually confrontational but I'd be tempted to wade in, at the time, with "Oh, sorry, I thought I'd explained to everybody, partner isn't actually looking for work. It really suits us actually, huge benefits, for both of us and for child (I'm assuming that is what makes you a family of three). Change the subject."
posted by sianifach at 1:33 AM on November 24, 2012 [6 favorites]

In all honesty, it sounds like you are doing a fantastic job in terms of support and being a loving spouse. YOU are not the problem, the family is.

The only suggestion I would make is sitting down with him and discussing the treatment he's getting from the family and see if he might be open to some sort of third party input on that in order to affirm for him that you and he have a great relationship, where he is at in his life is just fine, and the family needs to take a hike with that crap. Perhaps a therapist/counselor/social worker type could help him develop a thicker skin and some strategies to deal with them.

(this is coming from someone 10 years older than your husband who is about to find himself in exactly the same situation).
posted by HuronBob at 2:52 AM on November 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

You sound like an awesome partner to this guy. The only thing I'd need to hear from you on the car ride home from these get-togethers is "Fuck those people, they'll never have what we have."
posted by Rykey at 3:25 AM on November 24, 2012 [23 favorites]

you can refer to his situation as an "early retirement"- something many dream of. Say that he was ready for an early retirement and that you both have the resources to make it a reality (he could've contributed savings, no need to delineate whose resources). then refuse to discuss further.
posted by saraindc at 4:22 AM on November 24, 2012 [12 favorites]

From a slightly different perspective, my father was a "house-husband" for most of my teenage years. At the time I didn't realise why, but my mother was always extremely forthcoming with friends and family about how awesome it was to have him at home all day. She used every opportunity to mention how much easier he made our lives, how good his cooking was, how great it was that she didn't have to worry about what we'd do after school before she came home, etc. So yeah, just throwing in the odd pre-emptive comment about awesome stuff he does around the home or how nice it is to have him around for your child(?) might help with the family backlash.
posted by lollusc at 4:42 AM on November 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

Seconding the "Hell, I'm living the dream of early retirement!" as a great stance for him to take with the assholes in his life.

Would it be feasible for him, health wise, to do some very part-time consulting or mentoring with an organization like SCORE or Junior Achievement or the Jaycees? That might help him feel connected to his former professional life and community, as well as giving him the satisfaction of helping others. Your local Chamber of Commerce or similar might also be a place he could help out.

I feel lots of empathy--when my husband and I got married, we earned about the same, and now my health has changed all that, which has been tough for me--and I am sure your husband has an extra helping of stress on top of that from the whole social pressure for men to be breadwinners.

One of the most helpful things my husband has said to me about having to support me financially was that he would rather work two jobs than have to deal with daily pain and illness. You may well feel the same--that hard as you work, you feel lucky to be able to do your job without pain. In some ways, you've won a lottery that your husband hasn't, so it might feel easy to share your winnings with him.

Best to you both. You'll be in my thoughts.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:31 AM on November 24, 2012 [6 favorites]

Sadly in our culture men are given the message that their value to society is dependent on their work; that their life is measured by the money they make and their status in the hierarchy. So you can approach this situation in two ways: underline the importance of his life to you now and de-emphasize the link between money and worth.

The first is easier, you show and tell him in a number of ways how happy you are now. That you think of him when you are at work, that you are excited to come home from work to be with him, that it has removed the stress from your lives that you no longer have to worry about his job and his job-hunting.

The second is a bit more difficult just because most of us are focused on money. Remind him in little ways when you can that money is not the be all and end all of existence-- as long as there is enough to pay the bills than that is all that is important. This means taking pleasure in small things such as nature or conversation or even sex-- the things that make life full and beautiful yet cost nothing.

If the two of you are united and strong than what the family says should be meaningless. Remind him that you are a team and you are a winning team-- you are happy and enjoying your life and that is all that should matter.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 5:37 AM on November 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think the best thing you can do for him at this point is have a frank discussion about how to handle these horrible people in your lives. Because it sounds as though the two of you have a pretty great life. The problem is that you have awful friends and family.

It might help to frame it to him by saying that you need his help, because those comments about the life the two of you have built together are making you feel bad. Because, as this question proves, they are. You feel as though you've made a wrong life choice somehow, as though you're trapping your partner in some sort of dependency arrangement that might lead to making him miserable. You feel as though you can't fully share your triumphs and fears and annoyances about work with him, because those comments have made you think that you need to hide that aspect of your life from him. Those comments make you feel insecure about the choice the two of you have made. Ask him how the comments make him feel. Ask him to work with you to figure out how to deal with the unkind words from people who are supposed to love and support you. Work with him to figure out whether these mean, horrible people have forfeited their right to be a substantial part of your lives by being so awful to you for all these years. Because frankly, you don't have to visit family or maintain friendships when people are enormous jerks who make you feel bad about yourself. I wouldn't.

Outside of that conversation in which the two of you work together to find a solution to the terrible people, I think the biggest thing you can do is to stop thinking about the decision the two of you made as a family like this:
"I told him that if he wanted to retire and just step out of the rat race completely, that I could make it work. It was difficult at first, but so far I have. Since then, I've gotten a better job, so we're even more stable. I was happy to do this for him, I feel proud that I was able to do this and grateful that our circumstances were such that I could suggest it and follow through."
This isn't a thing that you have done, in which you are the active participant and he is the person being acted upon. This is a decision that the two of you made together about your family. You need to change your pronouns. Make it, "We talked together about how the two of us could make it work. It was hard at first, but we make it work. We feel proud that we've been able to build this amazing life for our family." Because that makes it clear that both of you are in this, that it's not just you acting to facilitate his life.

This is a shared life choice in which you take care of some aspects of your shared needs (money), and he takes care of other aspects of your shared needs (childcare, running the household, and even occasionally being home to accept packages when you ask him to, for example). The two of you decided this together. If you were to split up, your life would be radically worse just as much as his would, because you are dependent on him for all of the things he provides for you that make it possible for you to live the way you do. You talk about this (and so I assume you think about it) as though you are active and he is passive in the ongoing choices you are making. Stop it. Stop doing that, and you'll alleviate a lot of your worries about him being dependent. He's not the only one who is.
posted by decathecting at 5:52 AM on November 24, 2012 [10 favorites]

Sadly in our culture men are given the message that their value to society is dependent on their work; that their life is measured by the money they make and their status in the hierarchy.

I always thought I was above this sort of thinking...properly evolved, as it were. And, then, I lost my job and completely floundered as a freelancer. As time went by, I grew more into the househusband role and Thorzmom became the prime breadwinner. I manage a trickle of income, but it amounts to burger money, at best.

Every day, I deride myself for not pulling my financial weight, and not being able to support my family. It's a terrible spiral, and I'm at a complete loss as to how to correct it. Thing is, it has nothing to do with a woman making more than me. I'd be perfectly fine if I were ably employed and bringing home a steady paycheck. It's entirely to do with my not making anything, and being a freeloader (in my eyes).

All I can suggest is you make sure nothing changes between you. Keep the togetherness and appreciation flowing. He needs to feel like he matters in some real way.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:21 AM on November 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

Hell, the only thing I see that you may want to think about doing is just plain not spending time with his family until they cut the shit. But let him be the one to tell them that and have final say on that.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:36 AM on November 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

How can I make him never, ever feel like a burden?

You don't. His family does. What you're really asking is "How can I fix the way his family makes him feel?" and well, you can't. You can't make them stop being people with different values who are acting like assholes.

Does your partner volunteer? Until very recently, my husband did not score a paycheque, which has worked for us but is like telling his dad my husband is a Vogon. He does a lot of volunteer work for a radio station, and my approach has just been to tell his dad "He's working at the radio station" where my definition of "working" simply doesn't include pay. The actual money is not anyone's business so I say things like "It's enough, we're doing well, we're happy."
posted by DarlingBri at 6:46 AM on November 24, 2012 [4 favorites]

Sounds good so far, and there's some great advice here.

As a recently-married and recently-unemployed man, whose wife makes a fantastic living, I can identify with your husband a little. We're in different stages of life (I'm 30), and odds are decent that I'll be able to get back on the horse in the near future. But I'm out of work right now, possibly for the next few months, so I'm staying home. This was not The Plan.

A few things I'd suggest. First, if your husband is anything like me, he wants to be useful. Going out to lunch and to museums is great and all, and possibly more your husband's speed at his time of life than for me at mine. But if you can find a way of expressing preferences without making them demands, he might get a kick out of catering to them. For example, I've assumed the vast majority of the cooking duties around here. This is fine, as I love to cook and would probably be doing a good bit of it even if I were employed. But I do not at all mind my wife saying "Hey, I'm in the mood for X" and then making X for her. Or "It would be really nice if we could fix Y," and then fixing it. She knows that I'm still busy, and she's not treating me like a slave, but if it's something I was going to do anyway, knowing I can do something she likes is kind of nice.

We're really not planning on this being a long-term arrangement, as we haven't had kids yet and are planning to do so. But for now, it's actually kind of nice having one of us home. And since she makes more than I did, this isn't a terrible way of going about it. It's teaching us a lot about ourselves and each other too, and will likely make sympathizing with the other once our roles reverse quite a bit easier.
posted by valkyryn at 8:27 AM on November 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

What does your husband do, day to day?

Is he retired in the sense that he sits in front of the TV, or does he have ongoing projects and activities that fill his life?

I can see it being really hard to answer the "found anything?" question at family gatherings if you mostly just play World of Warcraft or watch All The Football Games.

But I'm assuming his life isn't actually like that. I'm guessing that he's a stay at home parent to your child (you mention being a family of three), or that if the kid is older that your husband has other hobbies that are a vocation for him. Fixing stuff. Working on cars. Gardening. Running your church's sunday school. Whatever.

So why not frame whatever that is as his "found anything?" answer. It's not that he doesn't have a job -- he has an amazing job that he really loves doing X. Whether X pays the bills or enables y'all to buy a house is nobody else's business.
posted by Sara C. at 8:31 AM on November 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

There's a lot of great advice up above. But if the friends/family are really as horrible as you say they are, I don't think reasoning with them will work all that well. Personally, the next time it came up I would tell them firmly that you both love your lives right now, it's none of their business how you decide to spend your time, make your money, and pay your bills, and to back the fuck off if they want to see more of you. Be firm and follow through. If they keep bringing it up, leave and tell them why you're leaving. Let them know you love 'em, but that you're not going to put up with their bullshit.
posted by hannahelastic at 9:03 AM on November 24, 2012

Whenever I am asked about what my disabled, prematurely retired wife does, I just make the simple and true statement, " She makes our house a home." The conversation ends there. All the best to the both of you.
posted by scottymac at 10:31 AM on November 24, 2012 [14 favorites]

You know, I think you might also be underestimating how jealous other people are. Yes, I do think in the US we have the protestant work ethic- if you're in the US, where you have to 'do', not just be. And those who aren't doing their gender assigned roles (in this case. Men being the breadwinners) are supposedly lazy, slackers, failures, etc.

But you know, I've noted something insidious as a career counselor over the years. Somewhere, deep, deep, deep down inside a lot of people I've talked to who know people like you and your husband, there is this envy - a why does he get to not work, I'd like to not work, wah! - mentality, that people don't own up to. Rather than admit envy, they express it as derision. Is your sense that your husband's family liked their jobs, or found their work satisfying or rewarding? Because it not, maybe part of what is going on is a sense of "I suffered, and you should too". Which means you may want to mention to him that the happier or more content you two look, the more you might piss your family off.

So the suggestion unthread about talking about hobbies or achievements he has experienced because he happens to be in a situation to engage in them, might escalate the situation. And if that back issue doesn't result him looking physically incapacitated- actually suffering- that might annoy them too. If he looks healthy, or is working out more, or whatever (things that commonly happen when people have time to focus on their health and well being) he's just going to irk his family to no end.

Yeah, I think this is one of those haters gonna hate situations. There was a funny scene in the film Bad Boys, where Will Smith played a cop who by a fluke was quite wealthy. His cop partner continued to jab at him about it, about how 'we don't all have trust funds'. One day Smith's character comes to work wearing the most stylish perfectly fitted suit, and his partner starts in on him. And Smith looks at him, still brushing lint off of his fine suit and smacks back by saying, "don't hate the player, hate the game".

I think it might help for you and your husband to adopt this mentality. You didn't create a world where his hard work and bad luck in a changing economy sent him into early retirement, any more than your hard work and good luck enables you to support the team financially. Luck of the draw, and the whim of the game. His family probably knows what the realities of the job market is like in this economy, and the society we live in regarding workers over 30. They probably know about the back issues, because it might be a health issue that runs in the family. And rather than being supportive of how hard this is on him, and glad that he has health insurance, and a good relationship, and the ability to survive without burdening them, they go for the jugular? They are choosing to ignore the game, and blame the player.

I'm not saying "fuck 'em". I'm just saying it Might help you and your husband to see them for what they are. People in a game that doesn't actually serve them, but willing to tear their own family member down with obnoxious, unnecessary jabs, even if it means that they and that family member would be financially and physically the worse off. That is some twisted stuff right there. Seeing this won't make them change, or grow more self aware. It won't even necessarily make you or your husband feel better. But you at least will be able to see the world, and your family for what they are. And that's important.

Finally, I think you are awesome for all that you're doing, but in the end, I hope you don't take on all the weight of making him feel better. The language about our paycheck, etc. might help, but he's going to have to figure out how to self soothe, and be resilient enough to live with the choices he has made and the hand he has been dealt. Have confidence in him that he has this resiliency in him and talk candidly about your evolving thoughts on what you think and feel about the situation and crazy world you are both in, together. Because he does. And you don't need to coddle him as if you are afraid he doesn't.
posted by anitanita at 11:04 AM on November 24, 2012 [7 favorites]

And oh hey! My mental health professional colleague just pointed out that ironically, it's that resiliency that is the sign of a highly funtioning adult male, though often people mistake employment as a sign of adulthood. A fact made all the more plain by those family members with paychecks, who are acting like emotionally stunted children.
posted by anitanita at 11:17 AM on November 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

Are you sure that your husband is 100% okay with the way things are, and it's only the jerk comments that get him down for brief periods? Retirement can be very rough on people and brings out weirdness. Even if money is not an issue and family is 100% supportive, people sometimes flounder and aren't quite sure what to do with themselves. It doesn't sound like your husband was a malingerer at all - he continued to work a physical job despite the pain. But his career ended on a down note, as he was laid off and then had an unfruitful job search for while. Is it possible that there's a hole in his life that work used to fill (not defined by money or time, but perhaps sense of purpose or pride?) and his family's comments bring that back to forefront for him?

You can't really control his feelings. (Some people feel "dependent" on others if they go so far as to borrow a Kleenex.) It sounds like you say/do the right things about the money aspect. But maybe he's not entirely comfortable with his situation as it is, even if his relatives are off-the-mark. I'd just check in with him that retirement is working out for him the way he'd like.

Also, just stop talking about your "arrangement" altogether with the family! I know of many couples where the husband retired before the wife, it's not that unusual. Usually people just say they are retired and that's that. Tell them to mind their own beeswax!
posted by stowaway at 1:40 PM on November 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

This may be weirdly specific and goes both ways, but notice the things done around the house as part of basic maintence - a semi regular " oh thanks for taking out the trash" or " thanks for making coffee" goes a long way.
posted by The Whelk at 3:50 PM on November 24, 2012 [3 favorites]

nthing that you're amazing, and it sounds like you're already doing an incredible job of supporting him emotionally.

When there's one of these family get-togethers coming up, casually but clearly reiterate to him that you love him and really like both your roles. Try to commiserate with how he must feel (at least a little) even if he doesn't say it - that he'd like his family to knock it off already. "I know your family sometimes gives you kind of a hard time about work, but whatever - we both know we're doing the right thing for all of us. Don't let 'em get to you, all right?"

His relationship with his family is key here as well. That's going to make a big difference in how he handles them. Can he blow off their comments with humor? "Find anything yet?" "No, I haven't lost anything!" Or make up some crazy job title or a whole story about some secret government job, or whatever's the wackiest thing you can come up with.
posted by attercoppe at 8:45 PM on November 24, 2012

Thanks everyone!

Decathecting, you made a really good point. I should stop talking about that like it was all "me", I think more than a little hubris was rearing its ugly head there. Like the money, I should say ours and we and do a little pronoun policing.

The family situation, sadly, is one I can't do much about, except support him whether he wants to go see them or not. Lately, we've been limiting our interaction and a friend of his was very swiftly shut down when he made a remark about whether or not my husband should "spend his entire allowance on lunch."

Stowaway: My husband isn't 100% okay with the way things are. He would MUCH rather help provide in some way, but he also knows it probably isn't likely.

One of the things we came up with for next year is to take some basic expand-your-knowledge classes, both together and some for only him. We've talked about him taking college courses (just for the love of doing it, not necessarily the credits) in topics that interest him, and he's looking forward to that.

Rykey: "Fuck those people" is my general go-to! It's not like they're happy in their work, any of them, so maybe they do just want us all to be in the same miserable boat.

Thanks again, everyone. I really appreciate it.
posted by dean winchester at 10:11 PM on November 24, 2012

As the author of one of the questions you mention, I think you're doing fabulously. I smiled at the "OUR money" vs. "your earnings" comment; I still have issues with that and get gently corrected by SomePartner when I fret about spending "his money" on luxuries or treats. He points out that he's invested in seeing me happy, and is willing to invest in that financially as well as emotionally. It also means his not wanting to see me break myself trying to keep a job, in line with what Sidhedevil said above.

Personally, I don't need SomePartner to hold back on venting about work or asking what I got up to in a day, but that's partly because I know I'm contributing to making his life easier, and doing what I can on a day-to-day basis. (Other people have talked about the merits of keeping busy within one's limits, doing what one can around the home, etc. I agree with those ideas.) However, it's also because I personally would feel worse if I knew SomePartner was self-censoring and carrying his frustrations on his own because he didn't want to upset me or make me feel guilty. One of the ways I contribute to our relationship is by being emotionally supportive of him, so "sparing" me that "burden" would actually deprive me of an opportunity to do my part. You know your husband and his needs far better than I, of course, but I figure it's worth mentioning.

I think it's up to your husband to draw boundaries with his family and friends. Sadly, if gendered dynamics are in play in their sniping about this, then I suspect your stepping up to defend him from those comments will only reinforce those prejudices - that he is somehow "weaker" and that you're the one "wearing the pants." I snarl at even typing such gender-essentialist bullshit, but I can't pretend it doesn't exist in the world. Supporting him with regular doses of "fuck that noise" is awesome, of course, and I heartily advocate staying open to discussing it with him and developing your approach together.

anitanita makes a good point about envy. It's based in ignorance as you know, but I've lost count of the number of times I've heard things like "Oh, it must be nice to get to stay home/in bed all day and not have to work" or "Thank God it's Friday and the weekend's coming up - but I guess every day's like a [weekend/vacation] for you." I'm able to shut those down fairly quickly these days ("Yes, being curled up in the dark with a throbbing migraine is what all the cool kids are doing with their vacation time, right?"), but they do have a cost.

Unfortunately, even well-intentioned comments can be wearing - one of the harder things for me to deal with for many years was SomeGranddad asking hopefully about a cure for my condition or whether I'd improved every time we spoke, and then being sad and disappointed when things hadn't gotten better. I know it was purely sympathy and his wanting me to get the most out of life, but I always felt like the bearer of bad news when I had to say that no, there hadn't been a miraculous recovery yet. It's worth being aware of that sort of thing as well as the more obviously negative stuff.

One thing I did wonder was whether your husband had a connection to people with similar pain issues, either locally or online? I used to volunteer on a support line for my condition, and it's amazing what even calling a stranger who Gets It can do for someone. (It's also nice to be able to BE that support for others, of course!) Chronic pain and invisible disabilities are hard things for some people to understand, so I wonder whether finding some empathy - some folks who are going through the same sort of thing and can share their struggles and relate firsthand to the frustrations - would also help? It sounds like you're wonderfully supportive and sympathetic and I don't want to undervalue that, but it rarely hurts to have more people on your side.

Also, I know it's like the Universal Panacaea of Metafilter, but has your husband undertaken therapy since this fairly major life change? Adjusting to life with a disabling condition can be difficult; some of the coping mechanisms aren't intuitive and we don't get taught them in school. Plus, the narrative of Man as Breadwinner is fairly ingrained in our society, and if he internalised that as most do then this change could have a significant effect on his identity.

Feel free to MeMail me if you think it would be helpful - though I've said quite enough already! And good luck to you all - you sound like a strong and supportive family unit, and I'm glad you've got each other.
posted by Someone Else's Story at 12:01 AM on November 25, 2012 [3 favorites]

It's not like they're happy in their work, any of them, so maybe they do just want us all to be in the same miserable boat.

I have found this to be a factor in the attitude of a great many people who spend their time and energy putting down others.
posted by Rykey at 8:19 AM on November 25, 2012 [3 favorites]

Is it possible that his family isn't trying to be horrible? They might actually genuinely be worried about him and about your future, his marriage, all sorts of things that are hard to express. Especially if he isn't 100% on board with this situation of him not working, how is he talking to them? Is he telling them that he's looking? I could easily see where he might talk up that he's not dropping out, that he's still doing things, possibly even still looking for work, whether or not he actually is or whatever is going on at home.

They may also be worried you won't have anything to leave your child, if you haven't been able to buy a house.

It may be love rather than hate, just a crazy Protestant-work-ethic love.
posted by corb at 9:53 PM on November 25, 2012

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