After three years of dating and nine years of marriage, I’d had enough. I was done talking. I was done pleading. I was done negotiating. Most of all, I was over carrying the load by myself. I took a good, hard look at my marriage and my life. I thought about every conversation I’d had with my husband – every time I made him look at our bank balance, every time I went to a cash advance place to pay a bill, every time I spent my days off a week cooking and cleaning while he was home all week – and I was done. I refused to be married to someone who couldn’t and wouldn’t earn his own keep.
The decision to stay or go is deeply personal and every situation is different. For those who face the same question, there are a few things to keep in mind.
Define “Earning His Keep”
Only you know the answer to this. Holding down a job that helps pay a portion of the bills and lets you save for a rainy day might be the definition. Taking care of the kids, working with the PTA, cooking dinner, and keeping the house clean could be another. Doing the part of marriage you can’t or won’t do could – fixing the car, mowing the lawn, and killing the spiders – might be it.
Once you figure out what this is, take a look around. Is it getting done? To earn his keep, my husband either needed to get a job or take care of the kids and our home. He only worked three years of our 12-year relationship. The kids are still alive so he got that one right, but I cleaned our home every weekend plus did what yard work I could. It wasn’t a good situation.
Figure Out What You Need
Okay, so this isn’t all about you – it’s about your husband, too. In this case, though, you need to take an honest look at what your relationship needs in order to survive. If you’re spiraling down into poverty with no way out, you will probably decide you both need to earn an income and contribute financially. Does your husband agree? Is he willing to give you what you need?
At some point during my marriage, I found equilibrium where my income could cover most things, and after years of unemployment my husband couldn’t make an income that would do more than cover the cost of gas and the daycare we’d need. What I needed from him was to become a househusband. When he explained to me he refused do anything he didn’t want to do (in this case, we were discussing vacuuming), I knew we had much bigger issues.
A Brick Wall or an Open Door
First of all, realize you aren’t right every single moment of the day, even when you know in your heart of hearts what needs to happen. Be prepared to compromise a little. That being said, is your husband a stubborn person who won’t do anything that wasn’t his own idea or is he open and willing to work with you to make your lives and relationship better?
I was married to the brick wall who wasn’t willing to bend or open until he saw the end was near. Two months before I told him it was over, he cooked every meal, cleaned the house, and even found a part-time job. After 12 years together, it was too little, too late.
Can You Live With What You’ve Got?
If he’s trying and putting in the effort, the answer may seem easier than living with a lazy husband. I think most of us are forgiving when we see someone working hard, even when they fail. Most of us who work hard at something have little or no tolerance for laziness. But only you know the answer. Once you’ve communicated your needs, discussed the options, and made it clear that something needs to change, you have to decide if you can live with the results.
Me? I couldn’t do it anymore. My new motto became, “I can do bad by myself.” And after a dozen years together, my trust had eroded away. Too many broken promises and too many failed hopes that things would get better made it almost easy to walk away.
Why do we stay in marriages where one person refuses to carry their load? For me, it was hope. I lived on the hope that he would become the person he’d been prior to our engagement. I believed in that person. Eventually, I gave up hope and walked away – to a much better life.
Only you know when you’ve had enough or when you’re willing to try a little longer. Look to your husband for the cues about whether it’s worth the effort. For me, it wasn’t. Like I said, I can do bad by myself – I don’t need anyone’s help for that. But the man who wants to walk by myself and work together to create a good life? Bring it on.
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