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Ask Stavroula: My Husband Devalues My Job

The National Herald Archive

Dear Stavroula, 

I am married and 45 years old and I have a very good job. I have to work long hours and often miss some time from my family but so far this did not seem to be a problem in my relationship with my husband. Unfortunately, last summer, with the crisis brought by COVID-19, we were forced to close my husband's business and the family income was greatly reduced. Naturally, the burden shifted to my own job since I was able to keep it and continue to support my family financially. But my husband’s behavior changed. He constantly complains that I am away from home a lot, he denigrates anything that has to do with my own job and despite the fact that he is currently unemployed, he does not contribute at home with any of the chores. The times I protested, there was a big scene. He accused me of only caring about my job, that I don’t take care of the children and my family as much as I should. I feel very frustrated, because I am really fighting with all my strength to support our family financially. And while I would expect a word of praise from my husband, I face his criticism almost every day. How can I deal with it and improve our relationship? 

Sevi 

Dear Sevi, 

Although we live in the 21st century, and we have struggled to achieve equality between the sexes, it seems that some perceptions are rooted in us and still need a lot of effort to overcome. The image of the man as the breadwinner and the woman in charge of the house and the children is still dominant in the mentality of many Greeks. Many still believe that the man is the one who must financially support his family to be considered successful and valued, while the woman is valued through her role as a mother. 

So when a family's financial situation is upset, it is very difficult to maintain balance in relationships. The man who remains unemployed has to face two very serious problems at the same time: One is to provide for his family and the other is to maintain his self-esteem. Having lost his role as the family breadwinner, he often feels useless and inadequate. This makes him angry with himself and many times this comes out as aggressive or ironic behavior towards his environment. 

Something similar may be happening in your family. Your husband seems to find it difficult to accept your new financial situation, the loss of his job and your prospects in your career. 

At the same time, he experiences an internal conflict within himself. While he wants to help his family, the only way he can contribute right now is to help at home. Unfortunately, this shows not only how he is not used to it but also how he considers it incompatible with his manhood. And when you remind him that he should do this, telling him that he does not help at home, he gets even angrier and reacts aggressively. 

Maybe you could help him if you spoke to him calmly and let him know that you feel the difficulty he is going through and you understand him. Ask him how you could help him in this difficult situation, and show him how much it means to you for him to feel well and for the both of you to work towards a better future. Who makes the money in the family is not more important than who keeps the family emotionally connected or who takes care of the children. Discuss together how you can better organize the situation in your home, so that you are all less tired and happier. Ask your husband to suggest ways, too. Try them and discuss the results together. 

In case of arguments, do not focus on who is right but on how the tension can be eased. Avoid talking about who brings in the money. Statements like "I do everything" or "my job supports the family" have no effect. What can help a relationship in such a difficult situation is sincerity and expressing your feelings. Show your husband that you value him for everything else he offers, for the emotional security, the embraces, the care, and let him know that nothing has changed in the way you see him and your relationship. 

And do not forget to hug your husband often. The warm hug, the caress, the physical contact warms the heart and eases pain.