*This article is a work of nonfiction based on actual events recounted to me by a friend who witnessed them firsthand; used with permission
Having a good relationship with your spouse is about falling in love, making time for each other, and finding the things that make you both happy. But what do you do when money issues come between you and one spouse isn't willing to cover every bill, even if that seems to be a good balance?
Would you keep trying to pay for your half of everything, or is that an indication your relationship won't last long because there's no flexibility or compromise?
My friend Martha, who lives in Dallas, Texas, has been married to her husband, Jonas, for six years. They have one son and a daughter together, and they agreed to still work so they could cover their bills without getting stressed.
"I would have wanted to be home, but Jonas told me he wasn't ok with paying for everything himself. I understood that and felt like this agreement would be part of our relationship for a good while. Even so, I was reluctant to leave my kids with a babysitter," Martha said.
The mom accepted her husband's idea even if she wanted to spend more time with her kids, but something else came up. As it turns out, Marta still hasn't found a job she likes.
So, every time she finds a new position, she will be there for a few months and then give it up or get upset and bored.
"I'm not doing it on purpose. I just always thought I'd be a housewife, and now I'm stuck with being a mom, a wife, and having to work, too. It's not how I saw a relationship and a marriage. And I don't know what kind of job I want either," Martha said.
Jonas has been mostly supportive so far, but he's getting to the point where he can't stand his wife constantly giving up several jobs. To him, it just shows she's not committed enough to their family and can't be relied on to provide for their kids if he can't.
"This makes me so uneasy. I would like to see my wife focus a lot more on her career. I know her parents raised her to be a housewife, but I told her from our first dates I wasn't looking for that kind of relationship. And she said it was ok, so having doubts now is not fine with me," Jonas said.
Martha's mom was a housewife all her life, and she expected to do something similar, but Jonas keeps insisting on her getting hired. When she comes back from an interview without an offer or when she starts to work only to let it go, it causes arguments and a lot of tension in their relationship. Marta would like to make things better, but she's not convinced that working full-time is the way to go.
"I think he's so focused on money and how much each of us brings in with every paycheck that he forgot about the things that make us happy. Being with our kids and sharing tasty meals and fun times is more important than a high salary. I just don't know how to convince him I should be home instead of a babysitter that we don't really know that well," Martha said.
Jonas, on the other hand, told her he was getting tired of her indecisive career options. He let her know that unless she was willing to look for a job and stick with it, he would consider ending their relationship.
Jonas isn't thinking about a divorce just yet, but a separation is definitely an option if he doesn't see any improvement in his wife's behavior.
"She can't earn enough; I'm not paying for her and our kids. We agreed on something, and she's not doing her part. And I don't want to keep arguing about it. It's awkward and tiresome," Jonas said.
Martha's parents advised her to wait for a bit until Jonas calmed down. They think he'll eventually realize their daughter should stay home with the kids once he gets a chance to think about it some more.
Jonas, on the other hand, is getting organized for a possible separation. He would like Martha to go back to her mom and dad and live with them. He's ok with having the kids live with him and paying for what they need but will expect a contribution from her, too.
What do you think about this situation? Is it fair for Jonas to expect his wife to do what she agreed to and keep earning from a stable job, or should he let her stay home? Should Jonas focus on his relationship with Martha and change their initial agreement if staying home with the kids is what makes her happy?