My wife and I just had our first post-honeymoon argument. Opinions, please.

First a little background. I’m in my late 30s; my wife is in her early 20s. We got married in late August after dating for several month prior to that. When I met my wife she was a barista who had just gotten out of high school. Though she did very well in high school, as she is very bright, she did not intend at that time to ever go to college, for a variety of reasons it would be otiose to rehearse here. While we were dating she changed her mind and is a college freshman, albeit a year later than normal, which requires me to be the primary breadwinner.

Now I have two jobs: freelance writing, which is the majority of my income but is by definition erratic, and working as a relay operator, which provides our health insurance but is soul-numbing. I don’t mean this as a joke. Over the last several months I have grown to hate the job so much that, if the place is ever fire-bombed, I would be a reasonable suspect. (I’m not threatening TO firebomb my office; I’m just saying that there were a firebombing there; I could entirely understand the police saying, "We should check out that Skald fellow’s albi. He has PLENTY of motive.) I’d love to leave, and if I were single and younger I might. But I’m neither of those things. I need the security of the regular paycheck, and Mrs. Rhymer has a couple of very expensive medications that my benefits pay for. If I quit, we will be very hard-pressed to pay for her meds. (I have a couple of prescriptions too, but they’re generics available at Wal-Mart for a pittance, so I don’t bother using insurance for them.)

Here’s the thing. Mrs. Rhymer has noticed that it’s taking me longer and longer to get out the door each morning, and I’m more and more depressed when I come home each night. She wants me to quit and says that she should can take a semester off to work, if need be, while I get a better job or focus exclusively on writing. I’m opposed to this. I don’t want her losing momentum. She’s brilliant, and she belongs in school, and if I have to sweat it out in the pits of hell for a few more months, well, it won’t kill me.

This bothers her. She feels that I’m treating her as if she were my child, not my wife; that I’m not giving her credit for her ability to contribute to the marriage. She finds it infantalizing, and that’s what we argued about this morning.

Thoughts, anybody?

IANA marriage counselor, IAN any time of counselor. IAN even married or living with anyone.

It must be very frustrating for Mrs. Rhymer to see you leave and come home all depressed, going to a job you hate. She is trying to help you with your problem, and you are saying “no.” Your depression might be affecting her schoolwork.

I would suggest she take the semester off and get a job. During those three months, you do your damnest to find a job you really like or find a way to increase your writing income. She can always go to school in the summer and make up the missing semester.

This sounds like one of those fights where you’re both ‘right’- or at least your hearts are in the right place. You want to support her, she wants to support you. Has she ever worked anywhere else but a coffee place? Hating one’s job, even to the point of fantasy fire bombings, is not that exceptional. It’s not exactly healthy, but knowing (or hoping) it’s a temporary situation that’s better than the alternative (no health insurance) helps one cope.

Has she applied for all the scholarships and bursaries available to her? Can she work and go to school part-time? Does her school offer subsidized health insurance that covers her meds?

The ‘infantilizing’ thing is going to come up a lot considering the age difference (assuming it hasn’t already). I can sort of understand it from her perspective- she wants to be an equal partner but can’t yet contribute to the marriage, at least not financially. Remind her that plenty of women work and even raise kids so their husbands can go to college (leave out the part about then becoming doctors or lawyers and getting younger wives! I kid). She’s probably met her fair share of freshmen at school on their parents’ dimes. Remind her that a marriage is about more than money, and that she’s contributing in other ways. Tell her the best thing she can do is excel in her classes and increase her post-grad job prospects.

I think your wife has a point. I think you underestimate the degree that your at-work misery is leading to your not-at-work misery and thus to your wife’s misery. Even if slaving away in the salt mines doesn’t kill you, it may make you wish it had.

I think that it would not be the end of the world for your wife to work part-time and attend school part-time. So she doesn’t lose momentum entirely, but feels like less of a financial burden. (This may or may not be a practical solution. But I wanted to point out that education doesn’t usually have to be an all or nothing deal.)

On the other hand, I can understand your reluctance to sacrifice her health for the sake of your health. (If your benefits pay for her medications, and quitting your job would make it difficult to pay for her medications . . . )

But the decisions you get to make for other people are limited–and I’m not sure that you deciding whether she should attend college or get a job OR she deciding whether you quit this job or keep it; fall into the category of choices you can make for others.

My normal advice to newlywed guys is to apologize to your wife and tell her you were wrong and she was right (whether any of that is actually TRUE is immaterial) and get used to repeating that routine until death or divorce, which ever comes first.

The age difference in your case kind of worries me, though. You married a kid right out of high school (after only a few months of dating?) and it does sound like you’ve probably got some kind of parent/child dynamic going on. This:

sounds like somebody talking about his daughter, not his wife. You need to take a step back and evaluate whether you really see this woman as a soulmate and a peer or whether you see her as a project or a “ward” who you think you need to guide and mentor. The latter is a recipe for a disatrous marriage. The more paternalistic you become, the more she’s going to resent it and rebel.

My advice is respect her as an equal, let her make her own choices and let her make sacrifices if that’s what she wants. Think about what you’ve said to her and how you treat her. If your honest with yourself I’ll bet you’ll see that there is merit to what she says about you “infantalizing” her, even if it’s all been subconscious on your part.

Good luck.

Your early-20s wife who you only dated for several months when she was a just out of high-school-barista is now a freshman in college, one year later than usual? That’s a neat trick.

Regardless, in a marriage, everyone pays their own way. Let her.

Nothing is stopping her from quitting school and getting a job. You aren’t preventing her from doing that. So you aren’t infantilizing her by making it possible for her not to do that.

If she needs to contribute by working, she can do that and you can’t stop her. It sounds almost like she thinks she needs your permission to stop school and go to work.

I feel her pain. I was unemployed for a couple of months after we moved to Pittsburgh, and I really felt awful for not contributing to our marriage. I’m terrible at most household tasks (I’m like a lot of men in that I don’t even notice when they need doing), so I couldn’t really contribute that way, either. It sucked.

I was going to respond to all who have written thus far, but I have decided to read and think for a while instead. Don’t think I’m not readng, though.

No advice, just wanted to thank you for enriching my otiose afternoon.

You’re welcome. I was going to try to work “obscurantist” in there but there was no clear opening.

You’re infantilizing her, and I’m not surprised given the dynamic that’s bound to be a part of your relationship. If she wants to take a semester off and work to allow you the freedom to find a job that isn’t as soul-killing, give that serious consideration. That’s part of marriage, having someone who has your back. I’ve had friends work as relay operators and it nearly drove them to the mental hospital, so I have some idea of what you are dealing with.

Your feelings about the job are coming home with you and affecting your marriage. Too often, I’ve seen people who feel depressed about something that don’t realise how much those negative emotions affect those around them. Imagine for a moment being in a job that you don’t hate. When you get home at the end of the day, you’re smiling, you’re happy to be home, you’re interested in hearing about your wife’s day, you’re wanting to plan for the future. I’m guessing none of this is happening at the moment.

I understand your reluctance for her to postpone her studies, however, why was this the only option discussed? What is stopping you from looking for a different job whilst you continue at this job?

No comment on the apparent topic of your argument.You say,“first post-honeymoon argument”.
Is it the first argument,ever?
Views given upon answer.

We weren’t married yet (and I might as well state up front that he’s 11 years older than me), but Mr. S and I lived together during my final year of school. The last semester I got “laid off” from my part-time job, and rather than look for another while I was trying to finish up my degree, we just agreed that he would cover all our expenses. I actually kept track of “my share,” intending to pay him back. But it kind of fell by the wayside . . .

A few years later, I was the one with the soul-sucking job. He once actually made me stay home one night (it was a 3rd shift job) because I was too upset to go in. Over the next year or so, I decided to give freelancing a go, and he agreed, with some reservations, that I should go ahead and give it a try. When I quit, I didn’t quite have enough clients for full-time freelancing, so I took a couple of part-time jobs. He was still a bit nervous . . .

And then in 2001 he got downsized, and long story short, I’ve been the breadwinner ever since because the job situation around here is for shit.* (He’s been working, but the hours and pay have always been spotty.) I’ve more than paid back my “debt” to him. And I was grateful to be able to support us both.

As someone said, marriage is give and take. And in this case, based on the info given, I’m with your wife. Maybe the plans don’t go 100% as planned for a while. Better to keep your sanity. Talk about your options (and you do have them), rather than plowing away killing yourself in a job that SUCKS.

*But he passed the state CNA exam a few weeks ago, and he has an interview tomorrow at the nursing home where his instructor works. SQUEE! We’re crossing our fingers . . .


Generally, when we talk about young folks belonging in college, it’s to secure their future. Her future is with you, all that education won’t help if you’re a clinically depressed mess by the time she graduates.

Second, you can’t be the only one taking the lumps. That is an infantilizing position, she is just as much responsible for the success of the marriage as you are, so she can give up something for the common good, just as you can.

I might think differently if she was a senior, and you needed to suck it up for 6 months to get her degree, and future earning power secured. She’s a freshman, how long are you going to keep this up?

You two should talk about how you, together, are going to accomplish what you need to, and it can’t be just you making all the sacrifices. Be creative, it doesn’t necessarily have to be an all or nothing choice.


Permission? Or agreement?

In a sense both Skald and her are right. She feels bad that he has to go a soul numbing job and he wants her to finish school because therein lies the path to a better future. I think that Skald is right in that sometimes you take one for the team. It sounds like the reason that he stays with the job isn’t really the money but rather the benefits which cover her meds. Even if she quits school and gets a job, she would need a job with benefits.

Maybe rather than fight about it, you can discuss it with her and point out that the reason you keep the job is for the benefits and that most likely and job she gets without her degree isn’t going to provide you guys that.

a question: Do you think she’s trying to bow out ‘gracefully’ from college that she doesn’t want to go to?