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DW will not work
Old 12-04-2015, 07:55 PM   #1
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DW will not work

Sorry if this offends anyone. I need help. I am semi fired after being sole bread winner. I am feeling some resentment by the fact that my DW is nearly 50 years old and has never really had to work for income,food, shelter etc - she grew up privileged and was a SAHM for past 19 years, and I never pushed her to work once we had kids. She did some part time things here and there and never got paid much but felt she was still doing her share by being flexible to tend to kid stuff and she earned some mad money.

6 months ago I asked her to help the family by working part time so as to help with some family expenses now that kids are in HS/College. I asked her to help by earning 1000-1500 per month.

Note: We are partly fired but a little bit extra income will help with some kid sports and college costs, not to mention her getting some needed SS credits and also possibly reducing expenses with some health insurance through a job .

She has in demand skills (licensed health care/ nurse). She is healthy and capable of some work. She can land something decent tomorrow. The amount I asked her to cover was small - so small that it could have been earned part time at Walmart infact... Let alone working at a hospital etc.

I may be over reacting -- I grew up poor and worked my tail off from a young teenager. She did not have to really ever hold a job aside maybe a year or two out of college before marriage. Growing up, the urgency of working to eat and to survive was never one she felt ...very different from me

a marriage is partnership and I think she should be willing to work a little to help us make ends meet in pre-fire to bridge the gap for a year or two til I can cash in some bigger investments.

She worked by raising the kids and I brought home the paycheck for 19 years.

It worked well but now I want her to do more than be a SAHM for kids who don't need a full time SAHM any longer. She is not insecure about working ... She has had some great experience to make her a stand out applicant.

Am not asking her to earn to cover the whole family , just enough to cover her own carbon footprint so to speak, and I am doing the same.

There are times in marriage when one partner drives and the other drafts. I want her to take some initiative and drive, again if not for the family then at least for herself.

She continues to make various excuses as to why not to go to work. Mostly she doesn't want the inconvenience of working. I find the "laziness" totally unattractive ... Unacceptable in fact. But I worry if she is depressed as the nest empties, menopause or ?

We talk about it but not getting to a why ..

I find myself wanting her to spend a day hungry just so she really knows what it's like and stops being so darn pampered / spoiled/ comfortable..

Should I be resentful ? Opinions ?

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Old 12-04-2015, 08:13 PM   #2
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Here's my opinion. Bear in mind that I am a divorcee, and so probably not the best advisor on marital problems. Also I am female. But anyway, here goes:

Basically you can't control people, and you can't make a spouse do what you want them to do. All you can do is let her know what you are thinking. If that doesn't change her mind, then you only have the choice of staying with her or leaving her. You can't make her do what you want her to do. Fact of life.

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Old 12-04-2015, 08:14 PM   #3
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If your DW has been a SAHM for 19 years, I doubt she has "She has in demand skills (licensed health care/ nurse).". 19 years is a long time.

Yep, it would be better if DW helped. If not, aren't you partnership? Partner up!
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Old 12-04-2015, 08:28 PM   #4
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Would divorce change your retirement goals? Think about that. Because what you are expressing here, to me, could easily lead to that.

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Old 12-04-2015, 08:55 PM   #5
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Some thoughts:
- This is not a good sign--the resentment (both ways) is very likely to seriously degrade your relationship, or end it. Do some "what if" analysis on that.

- You've been happy enough until now with the work hours you are doing and the money that is coming in. What changed? Nothing on your end of the equation, and she's bringing in as much as she ever did. It apparently wasn't her idea that the household needed $1000-$1500 more per month in income, it was your idea. And why that particular amount? Is there any reason that she should buy into this new idea that things would be better with more income? I'll say this--I would not find it particularly appealing to work a job to pay for my kid's sports or other hobbies unless said kid was also working to pay for those hobbies.

- When the folks on this board quit working, sometimes our friends and associates get a bit envious and bitter. They think it's unfair that we not work (anymore), when really that was our plan all along. It was probably her plan, too--to not go back to work once the kids left home. We usually find any bitter remarks by our still-working friends to be petty and unappealing--because we are each just getting the outcome we set out to get.

- Yes, I agree that, as you tell it, your marriage partnership would be more equitable if your spouse were to now get a job (assuming she's not doing a disproportionate share of other unpaid work, like cleaning the house, cooking, shopping, etc). But do you >really< want her to go to work every day because you told/threatened/sulked/nagged her to do it? That will not put a song in her heart or endear you to her. She will resent that, and you. And, really, how will you feel if you "win" and she grudgingly takes a job that she doesn't want to be doing. Will that make for a great environment at home? Instead, if she goes to work it needs to be something she wants to do. Are there steps you could take to make it more likely that she'd reach that decision? It would probably have been best if the whole issue had started with discussions of the positive aspects of bringing in more household income, and then a discussion of how you two, together, could do that. You'd find out right then whether she thinks the benefits are worth the trouble, and you'd have your answer. If it's already turned into a contentious test of wills between you ("get a job you lazy layabout!" "No, you controlling SOB!"), then your best opportunity to have a rational and constructive conversation about the issue has been forfeited.

It would be very interesting to hear things from her perspective. "All of a sudden he wants to change the deal--and now I'm the selfish one . . ."

There are 4 ways this can go:
1) You just keep pulling on the oars and be happy that your wife has a lot of free time, that you're helping her to have the life she wants.
2) You both grow increasingly resentful--that ends in you guys having a terrible marriage or none at all.
3) You decide you can't stand to go to work while she isn't, and you quit your job and early ER. That means scaling back on your assistance to your kids, it means cutting back your retirement spending, and it means possibly increased chance of financial failure in retirement. Are we sure Option 1 isn't better?
4) Your spouse decides that she wants to go back to work, maybe because Option 3 looks pretty bad to her, too.
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Old 12-04-2015, 09:04 PM   #6
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Here you are on an Early Retirement forum. I suspect you might want to retire early. Have you run your numbers with and without DW's small contribution? You might find it makes very little difference in the bigger scheme of things. If it does make a difference, it would provide you with information on the impact of her contributions to the household coffers and possible early retirement.

Her work may or may not make a difference for her SS. A good chance not. Again, do the calculations to figure this out. It is likely her SS will be higher at half your SS.

I might also point out that I have been reading posts on this forum for several years. A recurring theme is how difficult it is to find a job once you hit 50 even with current skills.

I hope you can both understand each other's points of view on the subjects of employment and retirement and are able to establish a plan for getting where you both want to go in a future that will likely not be as focused on the kids.
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Old 12-04-2015, 09:44 PM   #7
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I'm single, so I cannot comment on the marital dynamics. However, as a retired physician I am pretty sure that a nurse who has not worked in the profession for 19 years will be completely out of date and will require retraining and updating before reentering the workforce.
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Old 12-04-2015, 09:57 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by W2R View Post
Basically you can't control people, and you can't make a spouse do what you want them to do. All you can do is let her know what you are thinking. If that doesn't change her mind, then you only have the choice of staying with her or leaving her. You can't make her do what you want her to do.
I really hate this simplified understanding of marriage, but not saying it is not true in many respects. A marriage is a vow or promise... where most fail either by ending in divorce or being a partnership that really doesn't work.
It takes a lot of work to stay on the same page through out the marriage. Each needs to feel worthwhile, needs to be growing and learning. There are so many stressful times in a relationship where people can grow apart. You can't reengage 10, 20 or 30 years latter and expect to be on the same team.
As others noted divorce would kill FIRE. Maybe try to calm down and find some common ground, rebuild the relationship, and both of you figure out how to build each other up and figure out how you continue together... or not.
I would expect if I had been unemployed for 19 years, I would be a bit apprehensive about entering the workforce.
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Old 12-04-2015, 10:31 PM   #9
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You could try a research based couples communication course. We found them really helpful for a couple of issues we were at loggerheads over. There are two we've tried and had success with. One was a workshop DVD from the Gottman Institute and one was called Marriage PREP. The DVDs are a lot cheaper than divorce. The Gottman research idea is that most couples, even happy couples, usually have some intractable issues they never really reach agreement on.

I can see your point, but your wife probably feels you have a defacto contract about you working and she holding down the home front, and maybe she feels it is a bit late in the game now to try to change the rules. I would delve more into why she doesn't want to work. Maybe it is a status thing if her friends don't work or maybe she is afraid no one will hire her. Perhaps you can find some middle ground and suggest something she might enjoy more than nursing, like a preschool teacher, if she has enjoyed helping out at school and raising her own kids. Or maybe if you just sprang this request on her she needs some time to get used to the idea and she will warm up to it over time. Good luck.
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Old 12-04-2015, 11:30 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Meadbh View Post
I'm single, so I cannot comment on the marital dynamics. However, as a retired physician I am pretty sure that a nurse who has not worked in the profession for 19 years will be completely out of date and will require retraining and updating before reentering the workforce.

Totally agree. Unless she just recently got her degree.

She will not be much in demand at all.

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Old 12-05-2015, 05:04 AM   #11
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As far as the being out of work for 19 years goes, if any of her apprehension is about being that outdated, there are "nurse refresher programs" out there which are some times conducted in partnership with hospitals. If there are any such programs and hospitals in your area, that might be an option to look into assuming she's amenable to it.

If she simply refuses to work, well... not much you can do to force her, it becomes "take it or leave it" at some point. From your perspective, I can understand that this may have felt like a fair deal when you had kids in the household that she was raising, but once they are all grown up it feels like the calculus has changed. Still, this is more of a marriage counseling and marriage dynamics issue than a vocational one, I think (take that with a grain of salt as I'm not a professional in a position to make that clinical call).
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Old 12-05-2015, 05:25 AM   #12
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I understand how you feel; I once felt the way you feel now. I had to let go of my own self righteousness.

Our story: Ten years ago I was underemployed for about 3 years and DH tried to go to work to help us out. He has a bachelors degree, in music. He has been a SAHD, and our son was in middle school. DH looked for other work all over the place. He ended up doing retail part time as he was doing some paid gigs in the evenings as a musician. The amount he made was an absolute joke, and the aggravation was endless. He quit when I found a position that lasted until the end of my career. I asked him to.

Your wife can't have kept up her skills and nursing license being a SAHM for 19 years. In fact she never worked long enough to truly develop good nursing skills. Both clinical and nonclinical jobs require experience and often advanced degrees and additional training.She would not be in demand. Your expectations are not realistic.

It sounds like you have pent up resentment toward her for her staying at home while you worked very hard. But it is a choice both of you made long ago. Raising two children is also hard work, especially the early years, and it is unpaid. Like it or not, she sacrificed her career. Staring over at age 50 if you don't really want to or need to is next to impossible.

I went through the same sort of resentment toward my husband, feeling the burden of sole breadwinner. but that was the deal we agreed to. Where is it decreed that every adult must spend their lifetime slaving for someone else, to make a buck? It isn't. I gave my DH the gift of freedom from that. Now in his 50s, he is in higher demand as a musician than ever, but it still doesn't pay well.

I totally understand what you are feeling, but maintaining that negative feeling is not good for you or your marriage. The way I overcame it was to change my attitude. I decided to see my work as my using my skills to provide a gift of love for my family, especially my husband. Doing that left no room for resentment. When I changed my tune from resentment to love, his attitude changed completely too.

Now should be the time when you see the light at the end of the tunnel, being close to FIRE. You want to share that with her, not cause it to drive a wedge between you. You are racing toward the finish line and you want her to share in that. She may be apprehensive about finding work, but if it can be turned into a shared experience, it might be more appealing to her. If not, let it go.

Her making an extra $10K to $15K per year (which will be a lot less, after the costs of work clothing, commuting, additional taxes) will not do much for financial independence now. 20 years ago, that extra money invested would have made more sense.

It sounds like the problem is more than just the extra income you seek. Good luck.

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Old 12-05-2015, 06:42 AM   #13
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My first reaction to your opening post was one of great hostility. I thought that you sounded very judgemental and had devalued your wife's contributions to the family. You sound truly resentful. But then I began to think of DH's and my own situation. I stepped away from a career that was on a great upward trajectory when the first of our 2 children was born. At that point I had worked for 10 years. It was difficult to leave the workforce. I missed my work very much for several years, but we had jointly decided that having one parent in the home was important during their early childhood. Over the course of the next 10 years I gradually became accustomed to not working and embraced the Mom in the home role and became very involved with the children's school and activities. Fast forward to the end of the first ten years and DH began to express concern about looming college expenses. I remember so clearly being petrified of re entering the work force. Who would hire me? What would I do? How much could I earn? I was about 44 at the time. I don't recall feeling any resentment toward DH, but then again he didn't give me an ultimatum, nor did he give me a range of money that I was to contribute, as you did to your wife. I would have found that particularly galling. At any rate I decided to go back to school to become certified in a field that would enable me to work part time. I worked part time for two years and then went full time. I then started my own business in that field and over the course of the next 20 years made a lot of money. My self worth skyrocketed along with my success. It was the best thing that ever happened to me.

So my thoughts are 1) your wife is scared and 2) your understanding and handling of the situation has been very poor. Apologize to her and then make a plan together rather than acting like her superior.
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Old 12-05-2015, 07:11 AM   #14
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Whew, I think you've gotten some good advice here already.

Here's the thing, though: you all decided this course a very long time ago. It is hard to change the rules this late in the game. You really can't make demands on her out of the blue.

Couples counseling would be a good start, honestly.
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Old 12-05-2015, 07:46 AM   #15
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Forget it. She'll be pi$$ed and your sex life will be over.
Yes, I have achieved work / life balance.
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Old 12-05-2015, 07:49 AM   #16
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As a nurse manger, I can say comfortably that if your wife has been out of the nursing field for over 19 years, there is no way she would be employable without doing a nurse refresher course, at minimum.
Google the replacement cost of SAHM, puts it at over $113,00/ year. She has made a valuable contribution to your household and finances for 19 years.
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Old 12-05-2015, 08:07 AM   #17
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What was your wife's understanding of her role once she was no longer needed at home for the children? Are your current expectations a surprise, or were there previous agreements that she would return to work? What were the long term plans?
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Old 12-05-2015, 08:09 AM   #18
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As soon as I read the OP, I said to myself "This isnt going to end well" and closed my laptop and went to bed.
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Old 12-05-2015, 08:13 AM   #19
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I'll chime in as I've had a similar experience except I The DW, became the sole breadwinner 10 years by choice. He gave up his very good job to support me on the home front. To say he doesn't work is a joke. He handles all the housework, yard work, grocery shopping, finances, cooking etc. He jokes that I'm already in assisted living. Now that I'm nearly retired, I dread taking over those tasks again. Maybe the OP should spend an afternoon in walmart to see how much fun it is. I have mentioned him working some part time to cover frivolous expenses and he just laughs. The only way I could get him to go back to work is to show him financially the benefits. But him working a part time job for 12k a year doesn't mean dips@&t this late in the game. now if he needed it to earn SS quarters, he'd be all over it. And as a marriage partnership, we both have to agree on a path forward. I'd rather work a little longer and keep our happy status quo than to rock the boat, especially when I can make that 12k in a couple months. On the other hand, there are a lot of part time at home jobs that can bring in some extra money, she just needs to find them herself rather than being pushed into it. And one more thing, menopause can be a bear, so tread lightly or the claws will come out!
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Old 12-05-2015, 08:23 AM   #20
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To the OP, I think you are looking at the wrong side of the equation. instead of focusing on "forcing" your wife to go back to work (which will not end well for your relationship), focus on what you can do to better save/cut back in your present circumstances.

My DW has been a mostly a SAHM when we started having kids. This we discussed before marriage, and were in agreement even though she has employable skills she has maintained . We are also on the same page regarding finances - and based on that, she has decided to go back to work periodically. Now, with a "college" empty nest, she has not worked full time for several years and not at all the last year. From a financial standpoint, her working would certainly add to our nest egg and maybe accelerate my RE, since we are already FI. However, I value our relationship more than money. So I let her decide if she wants to work. She greatly appreciates this.

Again, it works because we are on the same page regarding finances - when we were not comfortable with our financial position, she was happy to go to work. Are you two in sync on your family finances? Perhaps that is the root issue?

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