How to discuss with my wife her quitting her job?
June 28, 2016 6:22 AM   Subscribe

My wife told me yesterday that she wants to ask for a sabbatical off work and, if this is refused, she wants to quit. She wants to do this tomorrow. I support her decision, however I feel we need to discuss the implications (which are many) before she pulls the trigger; she does not really see the point and gives the impression she doesn't really care about the implications. I think I have convinced her to have a discussion this evening, however how do I have this discussion without it ending up in a confrontation?

My wife hates her job and this, combined with some personal family issues that need to be addressed, means she is looking for a way out, at least temporarily. I support her in this decision because I see the damage it is doing to her and some time to step back will undoubtedly be good for her.

Ordinarily this would not be a major issue, since we have enough savings to cover a period of unemployment for one of us, however the complicating factor is that we both work for the same international company in a country which is not my native country. The sole reason I am posted to this country is because my wife is also posted here (this is her native country). If she quits, there is a distinct possibility that the company may require me to return to my native country, which is something my wife refuses to do. So, I could be faced with a choice between quitting my job or splitting up our family (there are children involved). This choice is a worst case scenario, how it is not unlikely.

I want us to spend some time discussing what happens in the various possible scenarios. Each scenario has financial and family implications that I would feel better discussing and understanding before she pulls the trigger.

She hates her job so much she just wants to leave and damn the consequences.

To further complicate matters, my wife is somewhat confrontational when if comes to discussions (even with apparently non-controversial topics), particularly if she feels on the defensive (e.g. if she believes I am trying to stop her). Based on this, I am having trouble seeing a way of having this discussion without it devolving into a shouting match.

My thoughts so far are to write down a list of topics and try to stick to this dispassionately, however I foresee this being difficult if her attitude is "I don't care". Also, I am not very good verbally and I can struggle to make myself understood, particularly under pressure, which means that a good chunk of the discussion is likely to consist of me trying to convince her that I am not trying to create roadblocks. In addition, when my wife is on the defensive, she also has a habit of trying to bring up issues that are at best peripherally related to the topic (e.g. incidents from our past) which she knows she can "score points" on and deflect from the immediate point of discussion. I struggle to deal with these.

So, what can I do to make this discussion go as smoothly as possible? Note that bringing in a third party to "chair" the discussion is not possible.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (38 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
What are your options for finding a new job in your current country? If there are visa issues in the way, is there anything that you and your wife can do to change your immigration status based on your marriage /children?

How long can you survive on one salary? How long with no salary? How soon will your wife be willing to start working again (at a different organization) if you can't find something?

Thinking through the questions above on your own, will help you narrow the focus of what you need to work out with your wife. If you burden her with worries about things that you could work by yourself, it is reasonable to imagine that she might feel like you are putting up roadblocks.

Another thing to think about is, if you really do support her in this decision, why not wait to have the talk until after she has done the thing? Sure, bad things might happen if she quits, but catastrophizing before anything actually happens does seem like it could be a way of manipulating her out of doing what she wants.
posted by sparklemotion at 6:38 AM on June 28, 2016 [4 favorites]


I think that focusing on the topic of you being deported is enough to consider. That is huge. Stick with the factual info you can both obtain rather than whether her decision is good or bad. Stick with logistics here. If she doesn't want to investigate this topic because she doesn't care in this moment, you're going to have to do this on your own, but talk her through the process. Maybe once she has heard these details she will reconsider if it turns out the consequences will make her life even more difficult than it already is. This would of course depend on you asking her to give it one more week. If she won't wait I don't see you have any choice other than to support her and eventually, possibly you moving on with your own plans.
posted by waving at 6:38 AM on June 28, 2016 [9 favorites]


From her perspective - I bet she sees any preemptive discussion of this as potentially involving you trying to talk her into staying with the company. And since she absolutely refuses to do this, she sees no point in letting you pitch the idea to her. I think the only way this will work is if, right up top, you tell her that you are not going to try to talk her into or out of anything and you just want to be prepared as a family.
posted by showbiz_liz at 6:40 AM on June 28, 2016 [22 favorites]


Based on this, I am having trouble seeing a way of having this discussion without it devolving into a shouting match.

You are not going to resolve your wife's issue resolution style in the next 12 hours. You are talking about the possibility of splitting up your family. This is one of those things where if this has to be resolved through a shouting match, that's better than your kids losing a parent.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:40 AM on June 28, 2016 [35 favorites]


I like a decision tree as a tool for contemplating a future cloud of outcomes, but if your wife is really stressed out and tired, she may be uncomfortable with a newish framework.
posted by puddledork at 6:41 AM on June 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


She's making a decision to put her personal issues before your marriage and your children. It's perfectly fine to not be okay with that and to have it out with her until she talks this through with you.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:44 AM on June 28, 2016 [14 favorites]


[Folks, please help with the specific question: what can I do to make this discussion go as smoothly as possible?]
posted by taz (staff) at 6:49 AM on June 28, 2016


Let your wife resign. Be supportive while she looks for alternative employment. If your company sent you abroad on an overseas assignment, presumably you're on an expat salary. Don't push her to stay or discuss her choices if she feels so miserable.

As for the remote possibility of you being transfered back home, cross that bridge when you come to it.

My piece of advice is this: after your wife has tendered her resignation, take her out for a drink to celebrate her newfound freedom.
posted by Kwadeng at 6:51 AM on June 28, 2016 [13 favorites]


If I were your wife, I'd want to hear that you agree "Yes, your job is so stressful". Agree with her so that she sees you on her side. Then tell her that she may want to look at all the options available.

Perhaps a doctor can request that she take time for for stress leave.

Bottom line, she needs to see that you agree that this situation is overwhelming and you want to help her figure out a way out.
posted by Coffeetyme at 6:56 AM on June 28, 2016 [7 favorites]


I would throw in behind your wife. Support her. She needs you now more than ever - don't be another barrier to her. Be her champion. Knock those barriers down and be positive. You will get through this.

What she needs is for you to hear her and believe her when she says she has to leave. Take her at her word.

Then ask what she needs you to do to help her succeed. And do it.

Any other approach will risk driving a wedge between you. Do you want her to remember how you made it harder for her? or easier?
posted by Dressed to Kill at 7:00 AM on June 28, 2016 [11 favorites]


Does she know about the full set of implications herself, or do you think you actually need to explain them to her? Your line of attack would have to vary drastically depending on the answer.

If she in fact does know what she's doing, you will not need to waste your breath pontificating about possible outcomes. Reconfirm her in her decision, whereafter you could spend some time discussing what actions need to be taken next, that is, after various hypothetical types of outcome.

If you, on the other hand, seriously think you first need to inform your wife about the full ramifications of what she is about to do, because she genuinely has no clue [do be careful here. Why do you think you know and she doesn't??], you'd likely need to go ahead and just tell her what you think will happen. Work out a structure before the discussion, so you don't get lost in your own fears and emotions. Try to be informative as opposed to confrontational.

A good thing for 'difficult' discussions is to agree upon a place and time to sit down and talk about the issue, to avert the danger of constant Breakfast-table nagging.
posted by Namlit at 7:01 AM on June 28, 2016 [3 favorites]


Marriage is trusting someone else with your future and the future of your children. Asking to discuss something that has drastic implications for your family is not manipulating her. If anything is manipulative, it's her negotiation tactics. She has disproportionate power here - she controls your job posting, your nation of residence and access to your children - she is the sole decision-maker about quitting; however, she isn't willing to discuss it with you before making a decision.

There can only be a shouting match if you shout back at her - don't do that. Your job is to maintain self-control. Speak softly, rationally and be clear when topics are out of the scope of this decision. That will be difficult to do on your own with the stakes so high.

Is there any third party that can help mediate? A counsellor you've used in the past? Clergy? Employee assistance hotline?
posted by 26.2 at 7:02 AM on June 28, 2016 [18 favorites]


It sounds like she's in lizard brain mode right now. Which is totally understandable if she's at the end of her rope! That means that she's even more likely to yell, etc. You're probably barely hanging on to not-lizard-brain yourself at the moment, which also makes sense. You're in a scary place. What would happen if instead of trying to talk rationally about her options and how they impact your family, you simply told her how you felt? "I really want to help you find a way to be happier. I'm really scared right now. I'm worried about you, and I'm worried about how this might impact me and the kids. Can we talk about that?"
posted by instamatic at 7:09 AM on June 28, 2016 [30 favorites]


What would make it go smoothly? You listening to her and understanding why she feels the way she does. Don't go into it assuming there will be conflict, because that's a self-fulfilling prophecy. She probably has reasons. You sound like a professional, and I assume she is too, so she's probably not feeling this way on a whim. There's probably been a long buildup to this point. She's probably also thought about next steps, including looking for new work. Let her present her case before you present your objections.

This is oversimplifying, but the key issue to me is you getting reassigned to your native country, and as I see it, there are two possible outcomes: A) Your company is actually going to send you home with no regard for your life or family, in which case it's probably a pretty horrible place to work, and I don't blame your wife for wanting to quit. You should probably look for a new job too, because that's pretty messed up. B) They aren't going to send you home, in which case there's nothing to worry about.
posted by kevinbelt at 7:17 AM on June 28, 2016 [5 favorites]


A way to release the pressure would be for her to go on stress leave. Even without sick leave, a doctor's note would let her avoid the stress of work while talking to you about the future and your options as a family. She can still quit, but using up sick leave might be a good financial move and lessen your stress.
posted by Gor-ella at 7:21 AM on June 28, 2016 [3 favorites]


Like you, I have a hard time with verbal discussion of big issues. What helps me is to write out as much as possible beforehand, and then ask my partner to read it through before we discuss it. That way I get all of my concerns down when feeling level-headed.
posted by ldthomps at 7:25 AM on June 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


Start with your own motivations. If the outcome of the conversation you really want is that she doesn't leave her job, you probably need to reconsider. Yes, it's nice to keep her income and your job security, but there is probably a way forward that lets her get out of a difficult situation and still has you putting food on the table for your family.

The conversation isn't about convincing her not to quit, it's about gaming out a plan for the next year or so. "[Wife], I know you want our family to be financially successful, so let's talk about some of the consequences of this decision so that we can continue to raise our children the way we want." She is not obligated to come up with the answers in order to justify quitting.

Be there with your contribution to this project. If you have a better sense of the family's financial position, then bring that to the table. "We usually spend $x per month, so our savings will last y months, but here are the things I can do to stretch that further."

Asking when she will get her next job is unlikely to be helpful at this point. It's the last thing most people want to think about when their recent work experience has been so difficult.

Review your employment contract. What are the actual terms regarding your continued employment? Is this just a contract they can refuse to renew at some point? Figure out what the permutations are. It doesn't help to speculate in the conversation with your wife. Just bring what you know, and gather more information as soon as you can.

Going forward, this is a change that forces you both to be creative about possible solutions to the issues that are going to arise about employment, residency, child care, family. You guys get to choose some of these answers together. So you both need to embrace this process. It's what you signed up for when you got married and started a family. If she's leaving a toxic workplace, she may need some time to recover from it.

You can't expect to have a new 5 year plan drawn up tonight. Tonight, it's about reinforcing your support for her, and starting a process of figuring out what things are going to look like for you going forward.

This sort of thing happens to so many people. Layoff, company bankruptcy, health issues, etc. Challenges happen. In this case, it's the toxic workplace, perhaps mental health issues.

You are on the same side. You want the best for your family. Start with that, and work out from there.
posted by thenormshow at 7:27 AM on June 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


So, what can I do to make this discussion go as smoothly as possible? Note that bringing in a third party to "chair" the discussion is not possible.

I would start by acknowledging all her feelings and frustrations as valid. You would ask her to do the same - particularly your fear of being deported and having your family split up.

If you both get to this place, then you may be able to confidently design a plan forward - including perhaps looking at medical/stress leaves, unpaid leaves, using up the last of vacation, etc. in the short term while you figure out . The key here is to acknowledge that she needs to leave this job and that, together, you are working on the most productive and lowest-risk way for her to do this.

If she is unwilling to so much as acknowledge your feelings as valid, let alone consider a variety of outcomes towards the same goal, I think you have a much bigger problem and discussion required and a third party couples therapist seems like an urgent need.
posted by scrittore at 7:27 AM on June 28, 2016 [3 favorites]


My husband just took a second job that will impact on how I can do my job so I hear you! I think your wife is putting you in a tough spot. Sometimes that happens when people are at the ends of their ropes but it really doesn't feel good when it's happening. Here are my tips:

Like many people have suggested, start by making it really clear that you are on her side. "I support you completely in quitting. I just want to slow down a little and make sure that we have the best plan." I promise that you will not have to stay in this job much longer. I would still like to talk some things through.

Just keep saying that you support her quitting. Like, every third sentence. Talk to her reptile brain.

Use I statements - "I'm worried that...I feel sick thinking I might have to return to X country and be away from you..."

Ask her to work with you on making a plan that works for both of you explicitly like "Let's work this out together and let's write down all the factors together."

I think it would be reasonable to ask for more time so that you're not trying to work through all the possibilities in one night.

Today if it's still business hours there I think you should do a bit of research too. When you say your company would require you to return home, what would the timeframe be? Would you be able to get a spousal visa or status in this country during that time and mount your own job search?

Those are the kinds of things you should think through because if you're just talking about "this bad thing might happen," then it becomes an argument over whether it will. But if you are saying "I think if this happens we will have 7 weeks to do this," then it's a planning session.
posted by warriorqueen at 7:41 AM on June 28, 2016 [3 favorites]


She's already thought about the implications. That you haven't is not really her fault, or necessarily her responsibility. She's thought it through in her head and weighed the pros and cons and she's made up her mind. She probably does not want to have to remember and regurgitate all of this in a way you understand, because it's too much work for her right now. She doesn't feel like "patiently explaining until he understands" should be required of her before being "allowed" to make this decision. Now, yes, ideally, freely volunteered communication is good in a healthy marriage, but if you're going to browbeat her, drag it out, or ask a million questions, and this is your typical and expected way of communicating, I totally and completely understand why she'd want to avoid it. Also, if she's been "thinking out loud" this whole time but you've been dismissing each bite sized communication as "just complaining" or not really listened at the time (because you didn't fully grasp that her mind was made up) and are just now paying attention, I also totally understand in that case why she feels she doesn't have to repeat herself.

Staying in a stressful and terrible job is really awful for families. I say this as someone raised by a workaholic who was constantly competitive with coworkers in an unhealthy work environment. It was terrible and if you "force" (or heavily encourage) your wife to "suck it up and stay in her job for the sake of you and the kids", listen, if she hates that job enough, there is a distinct possibility it will split up your family anyway. This was absolutely terrible for my parent's marriage. I strongly suggest you take her hatred of the job as the serious and real problem for your family that it is.

Can you quit your job and find another job before splitting up your family? I agree that if the company is immediately going to ship you back home, they are terrible people you shouldn't want to work for anyway. (How it is possible that she hates her job at this company so much yet you presumably love yours? Are your bosses different people and polar opposites?)

So, in sum, to make this as smooth as possible, I suggest you start with, "Honey, I agree with you and I understand you're going to quit your job tomorrow. Once you do that, I may have to look for a new job because of x company wanting to ship me home. What do you think about that?"

I also think you should make her side of the conversation as easy as possible by doing the work for her and laying out and repeating everything she's already told you so she doesn't have to. Seriously, start out the conversation as if it were a school debate and you were assigned both sides. Do her "opening statement" for her. "Honey, I hear that you are stressed with your job and family. I hear that you're quitting because you can't take it anymore. I know you are concerned with my hesitations but don't feel like you have the energy or stamina to stay in this job."

You might be surprised that if you start off by genuinely completely agreeing with her, she has a far better chance of thinking it through and changing her mind. Also, talk about your feelings. Do NOT, I repeat DO NOT logic her into anything. "It doesn't make sense if x because y." WRONG. Say "Honey, I am scared that company x will do this awful thing. I'm afraid to lose my family." USE THE EMOTIONAL WORDS- very important- men tend to resist this for some reason. This will win her over much better.
posted by quincunx at 7:54 AM on June 28, 2016 [17 favorites]


She has all the power here. You were hired at her company because she worked there. You are in her country. If you push her too hard, you could end up getting deported and not be able to see your children any more. That is the worse case scenario. If you continue to force her to work at a job that she hates just to meet your needs, you will lose everything. You will have to support her in this and hope that your work speaks for itself, and you keep your job on your own merits.

Cook dinner for her tonight and have the house reasonably clean. Rent a movie for the kids. Light some candles and take care of her for tonight. Tell her that you are worried but you love her and want what's best for her. And then let her go through her thing. It can be your turn to fall apart later. Right now, it's her turn. Be strong for her.
posted by myselfasme at 8:17 AM on June 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


For communications problems, can you write down what you are thinking? Just big bullet points.

Problem: wife's job is unbearable. She needs time away from it.

Sub-topics:
- Husband's job might get transferred to another country
-- how likely is this?
-- How long would you have to figure it out?
-- would this get you deported or would you have to just change your visa to a spousal one while you both look for work? How long does that take?
(Is your job really entwined with hers? Does it risk your job entirely? Or is "my wife lives in country" still going to be enough to keep you there even if it isn't the corp making her live there?)
- money (we have X months in the emergency fund)
- ways for wife to get some room:
-- sabbatical
-- quit
-- leave of absence (Family? Medical? Vacation time? Unpaid?)

Basically, show that you are looking for "how do we do this" not for "should we do this". Look for solutions not for things to be worried about. If taking a leave first us going to give you both time to get visa application paperwork done, or whatever, she can stop working before she quits. Or maybe you'll think about other people you know who have requested transfers to other countries or requested *not* to be transferred to other countries for family reasons and realize that your employment is not actually conditional on hers in the way you've been thinking.
posted by Lady Li at 8:50 AM on June 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


I think your wife sounds unreasonable. When I deal with unreasonable people I try to stick to "I feel" statements. Maybe start by telling her you feel scared/worried/hurt/frustrated etc that she is basically making a decision that affects the whole family without your input? When I tell people I'm feeling scared or hurt, it sometimes makes them stop and be like, oh shit that's terrible! I mean if she loves you and cares about you, telling her you are feeling these things should hopefully help her to not attack. And if she does you need to try to remain calm and talk about what you need. Just because she's unhappy doesn't mean your needs also get brushed aside so try to work out what you need and tell her. I hope this helps. But if this shouty thing you anticipate is a pattern and you guys usually deal with conflict in this way- you aren't going to be able to abruptly change that. Thats where therapy can help you long term. Good luck.
posted by FireFountain at 8:52 AM on June 28, 2016 [3 favorites]


She may be willing to talk but, since it sounds like this is going to happen regardless of your concerns, I'm in the "support her fully" camp. I also think, however, it's fair to express that while you support her 100%, you're a bit overwhelmed by the potential consequences.

I like myselfasme's idea of making tonight a lovely evening, but I don't think that means you can't have a conversation. I would suggest sitting down together after dinner and once the kids are occupied. Begin by asking her what you can do to support her. I think it's important to note that her wish is to take a sabbatical, not to quit. She may want to try out some pitches for taking a sabbatical on you. She may not, but even the offer to do that is a helpful and loving thing, which I think anyone at the end of her rope would appreciate. Ask her if she would like you to help dig up information about leaves and sabbaticals at her workplace and in your country/state or if she is all set. Again, she may say, "thanks but no, thanks," and that's okay. The idea is that you are helping her achieve the best possible outcome and you may help her think of things that hadn't occurred to her yet. While reading this, I did wonder if she would be eligible for a medical leave or a family medical leave. Every country is different, but if she is experiencing high anxiety and depression, a doctor can write a note supporting her leave without specifically naming her illness. if a family member is ill, she is likely entitled to take a leave as well. That's just another route to consider, which means she would be informing them of her leave, not asking to take one.

After those important and meaningful shows of support, I suggest saying something like, "I love and support you and hope they grant you a sabbatical. I know you have thought this through fully, but I am trying to wrap my mind around the possible consequences and how we handle them, if you need to quit. I want to focus on you and our family and not worrying about worst case scenarios. Can you please help me sort this out in my own mind a bit?" She may have some very reassuring things to say. She may ask you what are the worst case scenarios. She may say yes, but she can't do it tonight. I think you will have to content yourself with those answers until you really know what the outcome is. I'm sorry because I know this is not the answer you want. It's quite possible, however, she will be granted a sabbatical/leave and you will have much more time and energy to explore other ideas and solutions. Good luck!
posted by katemcd at 8:56 AM on June 28, 2016


I don't approve of what I'm about to suggest because I know you're in an untenable and you get to have no agency and that's unfair and you're trying to squish it down for the sake of your wife and family.

I suggest you imagine how you would respond if you knew unspeakable things were being to her at work, like having a toe chopped off everyday and she can't tell you because then your kids toes would be at risk. I think maybe in those circumstances you'd be saying. I don't even want you to go back to work to quit, I want you safe. Then you might say, we will have to talk about contingency plans, but that can wait a week while you recover.

I can not imagine any way possible for you to have a calm and constructive conversation with your wife given what you've explained. I have asked Metafilter often myself, how do I make this impossible thing occur when the people involved refuse to change their minds, and you can't.

Next question you might ask instead is: I work in this country with that visa and those skills. Through no fault of my own, my employment is tenuous, what do you suggest? I bet one of the suggestions will be to consult an employment lawyer, to find out what your current employer is and isn't allowed to do, and to check whether you will be allowed to work for someone else.
posted by b33j at 9:16 AM on June 28, 2016 [3 favorites]


Okay. So she's going to quit this job, because she can't stand it, and you support that. I agree that needing to discuss impact on the family implies that she might not be "allowed" to quit, so I'd frame the discussion differently. Maybe this is about *when* she quits, and what you and she might need to do beforehand to be prepared for all possibilities?
posted by aimedwander at 9:19 AM on June 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


It seems to me that any workable options must begin with her quitting her job. If you believe that's true, then your first premise ought to be: "Go for it." Show her your hands and tell her that you (say "we") will deal with the results when it's necessary to do so. But not today. Today is for solidarity. Today is about how she is fed up and needs relief. That might well be the sum of your discussion about it right now.

As things stand, she has shut you out of the decision-making process regarding her job. You needn't let your ego be involved here; she's telling you how important this is. But down the road family issues ought to be taken by discussion. I'm sure she understands your status as a foreign national as well as you do, so that ought to come up, along with budget issues, later on. First things first. You indicated that some family issues are contributing to the stress. I don't know how to evaluate that except from my own theory of how my family works, and that shouldn't be the metric here. For me, dealing with in-laws is a case-by-case thing, one step at a time, sort like walking through a minefield.

The situation you described is scary. I wish you the best when, later on, the two of you begin to put your future back together.
posted by mule98J at 11:02 AM on June 28, 2016


she also has a habit of trying to bring up issues that are at best peripherally related to the topic (e.g. incidents from our past) which she knows she can "score points" on and deflect from the immediate point of discussion. I struggle to deal with these.


This sounds like the dynamic I had with my ex. It was not about scoring points. It was about "This issue I have with you today is an ongoing problem. Here are previous examples of other crappy things you have done that are like this." And he didn't get it. He never got it. I eventually left.

So, it is possible that quitting her job is a left-handed means to get rid of you.

I suggest you calmly point out that A could lead to B could lead to C on the off chance that she hasn't thought it through. If that isn't her goal, pointing it out as nicely and calmly as possible might lead to real discussion. If it has already occurred to her and, on some level, that is the whole point, then you need to start figuring out how you are going to handle the pieces you can handle, like whether or not you plan to sue for custody of the children.

Sometimes, people simply haven't thought it through. But, often, people are not as dumb as we think they are. They know A will lead to C and that's the entire goal.

In this case, it seems like there is little you can do about it. There is nothing to be gained by provoking her. That will only slam the door shut on any hope of having a conversation.
posted by Spanish Ash at 11:19 AM on June 28, 2016 [8 favorites]


I think Lady Li makes a good point. Instead of having a discussion like "If you quit your job, A might happen or B might happen or C might happen" you could start off by saying "When you leave your job A might happen, or B might happen or C might happen. Since we know you are leaving your job, can we try to figure out what to do in case A, case B and case C?"
posted by layceepee at 11:34 AM on June 28, 2016 [4 favorites]


I think your wife is being unreasonable: it's really not okay to make decisions that affect the family without consulting it first. That said, here's how I think you can make the conversation go as well as possible.

-- Start by asking her to tell you where she's at and what she's planning. (This part might be brief. But give her a chance to talk it through for as long as she wants.)

-- Then sympathise and mirror back to her what she said. Like "Okay so your work totally sucks right now because of X and Y; that sounds awful. I knew it was bad; it sounds like it is worse than I thought. I'm really sorry." Do not argue or nitpick/question her facts or try to minimise or problem-solve.

-- Once you've shown you've understood her, tell her how you feel. Emotions not facts. "This makes me scared because it's a big change. It makes me worry about whether I will lose my job or be deported. I want our family to be happy and together: I am afraid that six months from now we might not be." Make it clear that i) you are thinking about the family not yourself, and ii) of course she is entitled to do whatever she wants. (That is important because she has access to information you don't -- like, maybe she is being seriously humiliated or harassed, etc. Not only does she have the right to make this decision, also she is best equipped to make it.)

Then let her respond. Either she'll be open to your fears and will start naturally problem-solving as a team, or she won't. If she sticks to her plan to quit, then I'd go immediately to comfort-and-support mode, and forget about everything else for now.

(Also FWIW if your wife won't discuss this with you, you might want to try discussing it with a friend, or making a bunch of pros/cons lists or decision trees or whatever. I think you will feel better once you have done some researching and thinking and preparation, even if it's not with your wife.)
posted by Susan PG at 12:01 PM on June 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


Personally, I would print out documents/visa information that show the likely scenario of what her quitting will trigger, and go point by point over how your family will navigate each step. Ask her opinion and thoughts on how you will all handle your possible deportation. It is not manipulation if these are real issues you guys are about to face. It is very possible she knows exactly what the result will be and doesn't care, or even prefers it, and maybe that will become clear in the discussion, and you can begin to weigh your options.

I know people who 'argue' in the way you are describing, and they usually have more serious issues than their ability to discuss things. If these profoundly serious, life-changing problems just seem like 'argument fodder' to her, then no amount of diplomacy is going to change the situation. Good luck, sounds like an impossibly difficult situation.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 12:04 PM on June 28, 2016


What you want to communicate is:

1. You love and support her
2. You believe she can do this and be successful
3. You care about your family and want to keep it together, fed, housed and secure

So perhaps, take it straight on as a done deal.

"So when you quit, let's talk about what comes after that and how we can make this happen in a good way for all of us." In other words, take the positive, forge-ahead approach. In doing so, it stops becoming a fight between you two and becomes a task you tackle together. Be completely on-board with the idea. This will let her get out of a defensive mode, at which point she might very well decide to take things slower after all. Or not. You should be prepared for either eventuality.

You can all get through this.
posted by emjaybee at 1:24 PM on June 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


So i can see a couple possibilities here:

1. She's really, truly hurting. It was a frog boil, and by the time she was hurting enough to grab any rope and climb out, the situation was too dire to have a serious discussion about it.

2. She is fully aware that this will likely split up your family, and doesn't really want to be together with you. Or at least, being together with you and as a family unit is less important to her.

I can't kick 2 out of my head. She's blocking you off at the pass on discussing this, moving with you to where you'd be forced to go, or trying alternative solutions. She's ALSO blocking you off on planning this out and waiting until you have a solid or backup plan.

You kind of have a gun to your head here. She could have said 3 months ago "i'm quitting in 3 months, this is non negotiable, how can we make this work?". She could say that now.

I guess i'm just a firm believer in people not making huge life changing decisions that will also split them up from their partner if they want to be together. And i'd honestly, assuming you have felt that way at all, bring that up too.

I agree that you need to lead with supporting this decision and what planning steps should come next, but it's absolutely reasonable to feel like she put not just doing this, but not planning it ahead of keeping your family together and you staying in the country at all. My tone would be something to the effect of "this is a done deal, and now we need to figure out how to mop up the aftermath, but we could have done a lot better if we had come together and had more lead time on this, or if we could set a date and wait".

The shittiest life changing bad situations i've been in were where i had no notice of what was happening and had to start triaging the mess while everything was on fire. The bad, but like survivable ones were when i knew that in say, 30 days, Big Thing was going to happen.

I like layceepee's sandwich approach to bringing this up.

I guess i'm more cynical, but i would pay very close attention to how she interacts with this. If you go "so i'm on board, are we taking the scenic route or the freeway?" and you get some kind of why are you making this so complicated then ugh. Because functionally, refusing to assist or plan for this is not value-neutral. It's kicking you out.
posted by emptythought at 1:35 PM on June 28, 2016 [7 favorites]


Sometimes when someone is shouting, a calm voice is infuriating. Have you ever tried shouting back? Maybe be prepared to shout both of these phrases:

- "I hear you! You HATE your job!!" (I'd follow this one with a litany of how much it sucks, at loud volume. "It's killing you! Your boss is actively trying to destroy your reputation! You have to get out of there! I hear you!!")

- "I'm not trying to stop you from quitting!" (This one might be worth repeating over and over until she hears it.)

Then you need a sentence to say in the calm after her storm: "I'm afraid the company will end my posting here and I'll get returned to [country]. What will we do then? I'm scared you wouldn't come and it would break up our family. This worries me and I want us to have a plan."
posted by salvia at 3:48 PM on June 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


"(1) i understand why you're doing what you're doing and want to help you. (2) but i am scared. what are we going to do? how can we make this work? what do you think will happen?"

(if it's her country / culture she probably has a better idea of what is likely to happen and how to play it. you sound like you're scared and so want to control everything. i can understand that, but it sounds like trying to control things will just make things worse. so you need to explain the basic problem (that you're scared) and then find a way to work together. good luck.)
posted by andrewcooke at 4:46 PM on June 28, 2016


First off, she wants a sabatical. She wants to work within the system to get time off.

Quitting is her last option.

So aside from a sabatical, what are other options within your work culture? People here have mentioned some of them already. So can she call in sick? Because this is the perfect time to take the rest of the week off to think. Can she take a leave or vacation? In the US, getting FMLA for mental illness wasnt that difficult of a process and then I had months to do what I needed to do.

She is trying to escape which is a really really basic instinct. Whatever going on is huge in her mind and she needs lots of support.

The first question you need to ask is what does she need right now. The second question is what does she need tomorrow. After that is sorted then you can start talking about fears and consequences and a game plan.
posted by AlexiaSky at 5:15 PM on June 28, 2016


So she'd rather lose you and split up the family than stick with this job? She can't stay one minute longer? Apparently this must be the world's worst hell job if she's willing to risk THAT. But that's also not super fair to you to make you lose the country and family because she can't stand her job for one more day. That's what I'd lead with: do you hate your job so much that you're willing to risk our family? That might be the only argument that would work at this point.

But yeah, it does sound like she's at "I'm about to snap AT ANY SECOND" mode, so you may just not be able to get anywhere with her.

I think that if she's that desperate to leave, though, she needs to think about the consequences of you being kicked out of the country. How does she plan to handle that?
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:51 PM on June 28, 2016 [5 favorites]


If you really support her decision, why is it so imperative that you "discuss the implications" before she acts on the decision?
It seems really stressful to try to badger her into that kind of discussion on top of all that she's facing, just as she's about to "pull the trigger".

If "pulling the trigger"/acting on her decision is a foregone conclusion, and if you truly support it, then why are you making it harder for her by demanding a discussion about the implications right before she's about to act?

You say she's going to act on her decision (which you claim you support) tomorrow. Ok. Why not wait that one more day? After she's taken that load off her shoulders, it will probably be easier for both of you to discuss what to do going forward, without the added emotions and stress that come with the anticipation of "pulling the trigger".

I feel like we are getting a very one-sided impression of the overall story here.
posted by aielen at 7:24 PM on June 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


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