A while back, we discussed via a write up the challenges of women who for one reason or the other become bread winners either temporarily or for a considerable period of time.
We established the fact that the situation is a reality for some of our sisters out there and with the current economic situation; many ladies have become sole or substantial contributors to their family’s economy.
The hard truth is that this phenomenon cannot just be wished away and in order not to contribute to making the unpleasant and unwelcome situation the beginning of the end of an otherwise good relationship, it will be wisdom to take note of as well as inculcate same coping mechanisms. The situation can actually be a stepping stone to a season of closeness and stronger bonding in your marriage.
The earlier write up identified nine tell -tale signals that characterise the beginning of the end of a marriage in which the woman is the sole bread winner. Check it out under the Money Matters category.
How then do you as a woman avoid the pitfalls: How do you navigate the course of events in such a way that your relationship remains intact and the ego of your husband is not totally deflated?
Have you suddenly found yourself in this situation due to your husband‘s sudden job loss or the collapse of his business or did you knowingly walk into the situation through marriage to a jobless and carefree husband? If either of the first two scenarios above applies to you, then I will love to suggest the following:
- Call a conference with “you” and sit with yourself for a good talking to. No room for a pity party at all. Be grateful that at least one of you has a job. There are families where both husband and wife earn no regular income. Realise you have been chosen to shield the family from lack and penury and thank God for the opportunity. It is worse going cap in hand to a sibling or neighbour to request for daily necessities.
- Have a one on one conversation with God (call me up if you doubt this is possible or if you really want to know how it is done) asking Him for strength and wisdom. Request that this upturn in role-playing/empowerment balance in your family will be short-lived.
- Have a heart-to-heart chat with your husband and please whatever you do, DO NOT order or summon him to this meeting. Don’t even formally request one. Let it flow in a casual conversational way. Ask him for his thoughts and plans on the current situation and ways in which he would want you to support. Promise to stand by him through thick and thin. Tell him you believe the situation will be short-lived because you know he is responsible.
- Steer the conversation in 3. above to a planning session where you both articulate your fears and expectations. Pledge your support again and respectfully ask for help in the areas in which you can foresee a need, an example could be helping with the children’s home work rather than paying for “after school” services.
- Discuss practically and jointly agree on luxuries or excesses that need to be trimmed in the family finance. Will it be necessary to change the children’s school, move to a smaller accommodation? etc. Do not live in the illusion or give the impression that you can continue living and spending the way you have always done without dire consequences. Even where you have saved up for the rainy days, you may still need to cut down on a few things.
- Be deliberate about cultivating your relationship with your husband at this time. Remember he is under pressure as a result of the current situation and a friendly air/atmosphere devoid of tension will definitely be a plus.
- Build in little treats for yourself and unwind occasionally with a trusted circle of close girlfriends so you can exhale. That way you can deal with the overwhelming feelings that lead to impatience and criticism. You can’t afford any of them right now.
- Massage his ego. Remember he is not less important than he was when he had an income. Do not make him feel disrespected in any way.
- Be careful not to rebuff his sexual advances. Don’t be surprised his libido has not adjusted to the size of his income. It rarely does. Sit up and dish out some affirmation. Go the extra mile and initiate sex often. It is a morale booster like no other I tell you!
- Watch out for traces of withdrawal symptoms. He may want to withdraw from old friends and associates because of feelings of inadequacy. Encourage him and verbally express your trust and confidence in his abilities. Acknowledge his areas of strength and praise his capabilities in those areas to the high heavens.
- If it appears like it is taking forever for the new job to land, then encourage him to start off something. A hobby that could be turned to a business or a disadvantage gap in the community that could be an opportunity to start out a business. Use your influence and contacts for him and if necessary start him off with a seed capital or take off funds.
- If he decides to take up a job you think is beneath his or your status, please don’t discourage him. It is a positive signal. That means his sense of responsibility is high and he feels uncomfortable doing nothing. Rather than doing nothing, encourage him for instance to run a cab service with his car if he has one.
- DO NOT NAG! You must learn to overlook a few things or cool off before reacting. Discuss issues when you feel in control of your emotions. Don’t raise your voice at him even if you notice he plays video games all day long! Truth is he is idle and needs to get his mind engaged. Stylishly redirect his focus by getting books on subjects he is passionate about. Make information on online certificated free short courses available to him.
- Be careful not to devalue him. The children are not to know he is no longer empowered. If he has been the one visiting the children ‘s school to pay fees or attend to other related issues ,then let him continue. Even though you are the one paying the fees ,transfer the money first to his own account from where he then settles the bills. Same for house rent and other major expenses.
- Don’t bottle up your fears or keep from him the realities on ground. While you may not want to appear like you are complaining , it is good to keep him abreast of the family’s financial situation in the course of your normal conversation and as prayer points (if you pray together).
- If he has external financial obligations especially to his parents, they should be accommodated in the new financial structure even if it will be reduced. Caring for them brings blessings. Shirking this responsibility comes at a cost.
- Remember to keep respect high on your daily “to do” list. Be deliberate about doing stuff that communicate respect to your husband daily. Respect is a major deal for men, more so in situations such as we are discussing, it is very easy for attitudes displayed and words spoken to be taken out of context and misunderstood. Don’t leave any room for doubt that he is respected.
- Remember to periodically give yourself a pat on the back. Celebrate yourself for the huge task and the gap you are filling. Remind yourself that you are sowing a seed and that in due season you will reap. Get some help if needed and if affordable so you do not burn out. Take care of your health because you can’t afford to breakdown. Have trusted girl friends with whom you can unwind and get encouragement from. You can join the soon-to-be constituted virtual Wives Alert Gisting Sessions (WAGS).
- Finally, this is a time to stand tall and strong! A time to live out your calling of being a helper to your husband. You can’t afford to be tired or fed up! It is a time to pray for him and declare that the divine order of headship must not be reversed in his case. It a time to pray for yourself that when his turnaround comes, you will not be in the grave, forgotten or out of favour.
May your labour and sacrifices for your home not be in vain. May your story end with joy and accolades.
The above points are suggestions. There is no “one-size-fits-all” solution. The peculiarities of every woman’s issues do differ but one or two of the points above will surely help.
Just a little note of warning please, if your husband has demonstrated irresponsibility beyond a shadow of doubt, if he has never been gainfully employed or has become very comfortable doing nothing and is constantly making demands of you, a very different set of dos and don’ts will apply. Watch out for Part III!