I’ve been with my husband for 16 years and married for seven years. I’m 50 years old now, and I feel like I’m raising another child.
I do everything: cook, clean, house repairs, while also raising my 5-year-old granddaughter. My husband makes very little money and is hardly able to come up with his share of rent. I work three jobs while he sits at home sometimes and does nothing around the house to help in any way.
I love him very much, and he is very loving! I’m just not sure how much more I can handle. I have a strong work ethic, but I’ve used up all my savings due to some medical bills and expenses he’s had in the past year and a half. How can I ever get ahead?
-Broke Old Lady
Dear Broke (Not-That-Old) Lady,
Maybe your husband is pleasant. Maybe he’s affectionate. But anyone who’s content to sit back as their spouse works three jobs AND runs the household AND raises a 5-year-old doesn’t sound loving to me.
Tell your husband the following: “I love you very much, but I’m at my breaking point. I can’t keep up with three jobs and all of the household chores on top of childcare. I’m so stressed about having zero savings. I can’t do any more. What can you do to take some of the pressure off of me?”
I’m not expecting your husband to be brimming with ideas off the bat. But at least by asking him what he can do, you’re planting the seed in his head that you expect him to be part of the solution. Because as things stand right now, his solution to every single problem is you.
Pay close attention to how he responds when you put this out there. Does he at least acknowledge that it’s a problem that you’re stressed to the brink? Or does he insist that there’s no problem and he’s working as hard as he can? Because if it’s the latter, what he’s telling you is his needs come first, even if he’s not saying it in so many words.
Try volunteering your husband for some tasks. When something breaks, don’t jump up to fix it. Tell him you don’t have time to cook, so he’s in charge of dinner. Let him experience discomfort. If he fails to cook dinner after you’ve asked him to, consider taking your granddaughter out to eat so your husband has to fend for himself. Yes, that will cost extra money, but I think it’s worth it to drive home the message that you are not your husband’s mother.
Getting on the same page in terms of work and budgeting is going to be the harder part. Even when you love a person, sometimes your respective work ethics and priorities are completely out of whack. Being in a relationship with someone who’s fine living hand to mouth is hard when your financial goals go beyond keeping the lights on and not getting evicted. No matter how you split the monthly bills, the weight of everything that could possibly go wrong rests squarely on your shoulders.
Ask your husband to go over how much you’re each contributing and spending together. Try making the case for rebuilding your savings. The expenses you’ve encountered in the past year and a half are great examples of why you need an emergency fund. If you can get your husband on board with replenishing your savings, that’s a good starting point.
But he has to be the one to step it up, and you need to make that clear. You have no more time and energy to give. Even if your husband doesn’t have any specialized skills, opportunities for side gigs and part-time jobs abound right now.
If he refuses to budge, you have a big choice to make: Is being married to your husband more important than becoming financially solvent? Because without some effort on his part, I don’t see a path for you to stay married and get ahead.
Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Send your tricky money questions to [email protected].