Hello, I am Rafael. Thanks for asking your question - I'm here to support you. (Information posted here is not private or confidential but public).
I am sorry to know about your situation.
Could you please tell me about it?
My wife and I have been together for 6 yrs now. She is a massage therapist and I am a director at an internet company. I've always made considerably more money and that's never been a problem with me, but it has been a sensitive area for her. My personal opinion is that division of labor in the family (house, work, etc) has a closer relationship with hours worked vs money earned. If she works 40 hrs and I work 40 hrs, then I could care less how much she made. I would expect household duties would be split 50/50. Before she became pregnant, which I will get to in a moment, she was working about 20-25 hrs a week as a MT. I felt like she should do more in the house and she felt like she worked and I worked, so we should share it. That seemed very odd to me, so when I probed things more, I would uncover this issue with her feeling like "the maid". I, unfortunately, can't really relate to this feeling. If I had someone taking care of me financially and I was working part time, I would gladly run the house and feel great that I was financially secure. For me, I just don't think she appreciates my position and what I provide. I sometimes feel like her position doesn't leave any room for empathy on my side. Being the main breadwinner comes with the mental burden of keeping the family secure and safe. I don't think she gets that enough and I dont think she ever will, since we can't just switch roles. Fast forward to present. We are 3 months along with our first child. She wants to not work for 2 years and I am 100% supportive of that, because I would want nothing more than one parent to be with the child during such an important development time of their life. However, she had concerns about the household duties and if we would fight. We had a nice conversation about her concerns of "feeling like the maid" and she said she is fine with cooking, cleaning, handling the clothes, etc. But she feels bugged when she is cleaning messes I made. I told her that I'm not the cleanest person, which it's important to note that neither is she. I would say that the messes made in the house are probably 60% me and 40% her. Anyways, I told her to just be patient and respectfully XXXXX XXXXX the mess and I'll handle it. That I'm not opposed to helping out if she can ask respectfully XXXXX XXXXX pick fights. We both agreed and things were good for a bit. Then one day I pointed out really nicely that she had left food out over night and it got spoiled. I'm not saying that's 100% her responsibility, but if she cooks and is tired - she can always tell me to put things away. I assumed everything was put away. She snapped and I let it go. Then the next day that same food was sitting there and I said, "babe, can you please throw that away soon - it's spoiling". She wasn't happy about the comment. Then later that day, she asked me to throw away a bottle I left out. I didn't do it right away and went to sit down and eat. Then she nagged about me forgetting to throw away the bottle and threw it away herself. I responded upset at that point and said I can't seem to nicely ask you to throw something away, but you can get upset at me if I don't listen to you? That doesn't seem fair. Then we got into a big argument and again she starts talking about how I make messes and such. It seems very crazy to me that she is not working at all and can complain about the small place we have to clean. We live in a small apartment. Yet I work 40-50hrs a week and make a living that gives us many comforts and security and that seems to count for nothing when I'm nagged about not picking this or that up. I want to find a happy medium, but I also want this to feel fair.
I am very sorry to know about this concerning situation you describe here
What your story shows seems to be much more than an isolated division or labor problem. It shows you assess, address, cope and do things in very different ways and that your communication, level of understanding, trust and support in your marriage are very limited in your daily life too as a couple.
Everything you described before makes perfect sense, unhappily for your wife it does not seems to be the case, and you have been living most of your marriage in disagreement about different areas related to finances, work, responsibilities, what makes each of you happy and fulfilled as individuals and as a couple. It seems that having your first child with all the natural challenges it brings into a marriage has just triggered all these differences and conflicts making them more obvious and present, what is obviously not helping any of you to feel happy nor satisfied with your life together.
If you are in the US and your cultural values do not go literally against what common sense in this society and the law guide about healthy an responsible life, then "reciprocity" and "equality" are in fact core values necessary to build a healthy and fulfilling relationship, even more if it is about marriage and family. In mental health we also support and promote these principles around mutual respect, understanding, collaboration,support, affection and commitment. Thus if we talk about house chores, around domestic situations like the ones you described, it becomes obvious that any unequal approach would not help building and promoting marital and family harmony, integrity, prosperity nor fulfillment.
If you have discussed about these core issues and been unable to get into an agreement, and since now it is not only about your individual and marital life, but about your child and family as a whole, I strongly believe and suggest the importance of considering marriage counseling as an ideal source of support to facilitate a mature, respectful and accountable dialogue between you, from where each of you could take full responsibility for your own feelings, choices and actions; when a professional could support you developing and improving communication and coping skills you could implement right there during sessions and in your daily lives.There you could and should work on developing and implementing "healthy and assertive " confrontations in order to address these core issues, set good boundaries and limits, and work on effectively supporting each other with "mutual" respect, understanding. caring and empathy as you said.
Does it make sense?
That sounds great. However, we have tried marital counseling. We've seen 2 therapists, without much luck. I should say that we did make a lot of progress on our own. We used to fight almost every week. Then one day, I said that we should separate our bank accounts and she be responsible for her portion of the bills, and things started to change. It seemed respect started to develop, because she saw how hard it was. She literally came from living with her family to me supporting her, so she never really experienced how it was to support yourself. For the past year or so, we have gotten better and better. But, as you say, they are still lingering issues that haven't really been addressed at the core. At this point, I would maybe like to try some reading material first, and then proceed to a marriage therapist if needed. I think we have laid some framework to build on and a book would at least help us to make more progress, without the heavy expense of a therapist. If we find that A) we aren't making progress on our own, or B) that we are making progress but need to take things to another level, then maybe we can see a therapist at that point.
Marriage counseling would assess and make evident core personal issues leading to marital destructive conflict and problems, and refer any or both of you for individual counseling or psychotherapy if necessary in order to work at the personal levels on those issues leading to marital disharmony. In marriage and family therapy this approach exists based in the understanding that the marital and family systems depend on the individuals' personal ability, maturity, commitment and willingness to make a good job in the relationship-family, playing a healthy role in them. This is why marriage counseling could only be very beneficial in serious personal issues are addressed and resolved too.
I see. I am sorry to know about your frustrating experience with marriage counseling. Reality is that in the mental health field like with any other professional area, we could find good, mediocre and bad professionals, and unhappily in this field not finding a mature person and competent professionals could literally lead to chaos, financial issues and further deterioration in personal and marital lives. This is why time ad caution are required to assess as much as possible professioanls' ethics, competence, experience, availability and willingness to truly understand and support you the way you need and deserve.
I would suggest you to start reading about codependency, because it would allow you to effectively understand and address basic dysfunctional patterns of understanding, thinking, sharing, coping and doing things in your relationship. Books like "Codependent No More", and others are very useful for individuals and couples to start working at these core levels,
"The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts" is a very good book specific for working on addressing marital issues and building good communication, empathy and understanding in marriages.
Great. That sounds like a good start. Thank you Rafael. I also saw that you are affiliated with a site that provides live counseling, remotely. I think that is intrapsyc. I may look into that and reach out to you. It seems reasonably priced.
This is another good one that could help you too: "The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country's Foremost Relationship Expert".
You're very welcome. I am glad to know this has been helpful to you. Please feel to contact me since I am willing to support you as much as possible,
Thank you for your trust.
Please take gentle care and consistent action. It's never easy when it is about these situations and challenges, but it is always necessary and absolutely worthy.