Dear Life Matters,

My wife works six days a week and I only work one or two. I’m trying to find a more steady gig, but in this economy I can’t seem to get work. This has put a strain on our relationship.

What should I do to make our relationship better? I don’t want her to be so angry with me? There is real tension in our relationship and things seem to be souring fast.





Dear Under-employed,

It is no secret that employment can be difficult to come by for many people in this terrible economy. California has been particularly hard hit, but the good news is that the economy does seem to be improving. In the meantime there are all kinds of variations on this theme amongst couples.

Traditionally it has been the man that works more outside of the home and the wife who works less or stays at home to raise the children. This has been changing for some time and most couples find that two incomes are required and these days often the wife works more or is the only one working.

However, this really is not news so I am wondering why she is so angry with you?

Does she feel that you have not tried hard enough to get work and if so, is she correct? Do you have children and if so, who does the majority of the childcare and household chores?

If you are one of those men who feels like it is not manly, somehow a threat to your manhood to do what has typically been “women’s work,” this could be a major problem.

As we end 2012 and enter 2013, it is quite realistic to think of househusbands and/or men helping with the grocery shopping, household chores and work that is related to the children. Cooking dinner, or being responsible for it, if she is the one working three times as much as you, is definitely something you should be doing or considering. Doing the grocery shopping on those days when you don’t work and helping with bathing the children, getting them to bed, driving them to school, helping with their homework are all things that men tend to share and do these days.

In the eyes of most women, it makes you more of a man, not less of one when you step up to help out and are not locked into some traditional role that says you are not masculine if you do what you think of as women’s work. It is the insecurity in a man of his own masculinity/manhood that actually makes him less of a man and often unattractive to today’s modern woman.

Having said this, it may be truer here than in other parts of the country because there are surprising differences in how people think and feel in different parts of our country.

I am assuming you are in Los Angeles and what I am saying here is certainly true for most folks both here and in other major metropolitan cities across the country. However, if you are from another part of the country or both you and your wife are from different backgrounds and have different expectations about your marital roles, then this is surely part of the problem.

Again, I am very curious about why she is so angry with you. It cannot be for no good reason. You must have very different expectations and it sounds like you are not able to really talk these through.

Many couples these days find themselves in financial and employment situations that are not ideal, but they are able to recognize the economic climate and because they love each other and talk it through, they come to some type of understanding that serves them for the time being.

You really need to ask yourself why she is so angry with you. What can or should you be doing differently? Are you trying hard enough to get work? Do you care that she works more than you do? If you care and can’t get equal work, are you doing enough to help with work around the house?

Are you doing what you can to be empathic and helpful to your wife or are you in some kind of standoff or power struggle?

Don’t let pride get in your way. If you truly want to have your wife be less angry, try to understand what is going on and talk with her. Apologize if you need to and ask her what you can do to help things be better between you.

And I certainly wish you more work, if you want it. Hopefully better days are ahead for all of us.


Dr. JoAnne Barge is a licensed psychologist and licensed marriage and family therapist with offices in Brentwood. Visit her at or send your anonymous inquires and responses to Have something on your mind? Let us help you with your life matters, because it does!

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