Double Jeopardy of Being the Breadwinner – Coping Mechanisms

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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!
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. 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).
  16. 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.
  17. 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.
  18. 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).
  19. 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!

Bisi Adebayo
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Bisi Adebayo

I am Bisi Adebayo, a dynamic woman of many parts. I am a lawyer with over 27 years’ work experience spanning maritime practice, commercial law and general practice. I have had a decade long foray into the Financial Services Industry and at various times oversaw the legal, marketing, credit and treasury (assets trading and intermediation) functions of the organization I worked for, a testament to my versatility.

18 thoughts on “Double Jeopardy of Being the Breadwinner – Coping Mechanisms

  • February 5, 2017 at 10:52 am


    This is awesome, I pray for the grace to do all this suggestions easily for all sisters who need them. Its one thing to know and the grace to be able to them is another thing to pray for.

    • February 6, 2017 at 2:45 pm

      I totally agree with you. It takes grace and I pray for an abundance of grace for all sisters out there in this or similar situations. They will not buckle under pressure in Jesus name!

  • February 5, 2017 at 1:49 pm

    Great tool for any woman in this situation. God bless you ma.

  • February 5, 2017 at 2:18 pm

    Bisi this is wonderful, glory to God this advice is well needed with the current situation of our country, God bless you

  • February 5, 2017 at 4:40 pm

    I’m wowed by this write up. God bless you ma and grant you more wisdom as you reach out to the millions who are suffering in silence. God will prosper your ministry and make it a global impact in Jesus name Amen

  • February 6, 2017 at 5:29 pm

    I am in this situation and apart from the massaging his ego and praying for divine wisdom and strength to cope, most of these guidelines do not work. IT IS HARD!!! A continuous struggle with highs and lows – unfortunately I fall into the number 2 category of women so I went into it with my eyes opened thinking it didn’t matter who earned more and I earned enough to take care of us and things would get better when he started earning. 5 years on, it is still the same because he has someone to carry him. My first attempt at planning with a spreadsheet, I nearly got beaten for. I am practical and plan on actuals. He is a dreamer and plan on blind hope and faith without works. I am here for keeps though so I will keep on keeping on. I wont fool people and say there is a formula to it apart from prayers and being grounded in God’s will concerning marriage.

    • February 7, 2017 at 4:30 pm

      Thanks for sharing and giving us practical insights into this scenario. I agree totally with you that it is not easy being in this situation. The latest post on the blog addresses in particular your situation. It is part III of the Double Jeopardy series. Please check it out as it says a lot about what to do where the man is no longer making an effort to get a job or earn an income. It is very practical and down to earth.

  • February 11, 2017 at 3:22 am

    Thanks dear woman of God for this timely write-up. Quite a number of women are presently in this position.

    The insight gained here will surely help them in going through successfully. God bless you

  • February 21, 2017 at 8:43 pm

    Thank you Ma for this wonderful insight. I am blessed by it. More of God’s grace. Shalom!

  • February 27, 2018 at 12:27 am

    Gone through this phase, but we came out on top & intact, a lot of hardwork on the woman’s side, it Helps a lot to have a saved husband, applied most of the points as well, they are golden!
    Thanks Aunty Bisi🌹

    • February 27, 2018 at 5:40 am

      Wow! Happy to read this.
      Congratulations for coming through intact and on top 🖒🖒

  • February 27, 2018 at 6:44 pm

    Wisdom in print. Thanks mama. I particularly liked the last part…
    ” 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!”
    It balances out the whole piece . Grace Lord

  • March 5, 2018 at 4:05 pm

    Can’t agree any less. Very practical steps that if followed no one will feel being taken for granted. More grace ma

  • March 5, 2018 at 4:46 pm

    This is so lit! Thank you so much ma. May your wisdom never fade. Every married woman needs to read this..


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