Entitlement in Marriage

Riddle me this:

Two people are married for a long time.  One spouse works hard supporting the household, providing a nice home in a safe neighborhood, saving and investing and building their combined net worth. The other spouse chooses not to work or works at a low-paying, part-time job.

In the beginning, there may have been good reasons for this decision.  The hard-working spouse was likely supportive of the non-working spouse at first.  But, after awhile, the hard-working spouse feels that circumstances have changed and begins to believe they could make a lot more progress if the non-working spouse could go back to work.  The non-working spouse might say they agree and might even start the process of looking for a job, but gives up easily when the job search or going back to work isn’t as easy as they thought it would be.  They often quit or settle for a part-time job to assuage the situation.

At first, hard-working spouse tries to continue communicating their feelings, but the excuses and lack of initiative becomes tiring and resentment begins to build.  The marriage becomes stale.  Love fades away.

Thoughts of leaving the marriage begin to creep into the mind…

Hard-Working Spouse:  I work 16-hour days to keep this family going.  My spouse doesn’t work and spends too much money.  The house isn’t even clean when I get home.  All I want to do is sleep, but my spouse expects sex.  If I say yes, I will not be into it and my spouse will notice and be mad.  If I say no, my spouse will still be mad.  It always ends in an argument.  I should just get divorced.  But if I choose to divorce, half of all the assets will fall to the non-working spouse.  I feel trapped and helpless.  My misery is in a tailspin with no end in sight.

Non-Working Spouse:  Every time my spouse talks about me getting a full-time job, I feel controlled, even though the solution ironically is within my own power.  I hate this marriage, but I will never leave because then my net worth would be cut in half, I’ll lose my nice home and lifestyle, and I’d have to go to work.   Best of all?  I don’t even have to put out!  Yep, that’s right.  I have more excuses for not having sex than I do for not working.  And if I’m really on top of my game, I can demand sex and start an argument when my spouse says no.  Win-win!

Not too pretty, eh?

The options are few:  to remain in a stifling marriage or cut losses and move on.

I know several couples* who are living similar stories right now:

Steve and Jane:  Steve is an engineer, Jane stays home.  They have a lovely home worth about $250k in a great school system.  Steve initially thought Jane would go back to work once the boys started school.  They’re in high school now.  The oldest can drive.  Jane still has not gotten a job.  Rumor has it Steve has a lover that he visits on while business trips.

David and Teresa:  David is a finance guy, makes about $150k a year.  Their house is worth $500k and their net worth is nearing $1 million.  Their daughter is in college.  Teresa works part-time in the evenings as a receptionist.  David’s favorite saying:  “Cheaper to keep her,” as he flirts with the neighbor lady across the street.

Danny and Nancy:  Danny is a software engineer making about $120k a year.  Their house is worth about $325k in a fantastic school system.  Net worth is nearly $1 million.  Nancy works as a crossing guard most mornings during the school year.  They take 1-2 fabulous vacations every year.  For the last 15 years, Nancy has claimed to be sick with an illness that no doctor can identify so she can’t work much and sleeps most of day.  NO KIDS.  NO SEX.  Danny spends his evening and weekends going out with beautiful women friends while Nancy sleeps.

Loretta:  Loretta complains every day about how she has to live in a run-down, outdated, overpriced house, and her husband is a disappointment because he spends more than he earns.  She had to quit her part-time retail job because she was “too busy to work” and was embarrassed by the poor quality of clothing sold at the store.  I’d love to hear her husband’s side of the story.

Jenny and Lloyd:  Jenny and Lloyd used to live in a $500k house on a lake.  Lloyd lost his job for awhile and struggled to find a new one.  Eventually he did, but they had to relocate to a city closer to his new job.  Now their house is “only” worth $400k with no lake.  They continued their spending and went severely underwater on their house.  Despite having a college degree herself, Jenny did not work.  When their youngest child was old enough, Jenny started working part-time at the school.  She tells anyone who will listen about how she is suffering because they don’t have enough money and has sex with guys she picks up when she’s drunk.  I wonder what Lloyd thinks about all of this?

Elizabeth:  Elizabeth’s ex-husband is a manager of a major retail store.  He divorced her when she found out she cheated on him.  As part of the settlement, he bought her a $275k condo.  She complains because she has to work full-time now for an interior decorating company.  He has asked her to reunite and she is considering it because she misses her $500k house and doesn’t like adulting.  Good thing she is keeping her new boy toy on the DL.

Jessie and Jake:  Jessie was a stay-at-home mom for 7 years, but returned to work once she realized her husband couldn’t provide for their family.  Jake wouldn’t hold down a job for more than a few months, so he started his own business which he ran into the ground.  He lay on the couch for nearly a year while Jessie worked to keep the family afloat.  Their sex life waned as Jessie became weary and resentful.  Jake turned to young girls and escorts.  Once Jessie found out, she divorced Jake.  Today, Jake has moved on to another woman who supports him financially as he continues his old habits of fast cars, young girls, and unemployment.

Jessie and Mark:  Jesse moved on to a new relationship as well.  Mark was loyal and loving at first, but also could not hold down a job.  Eventually, Mark became abusive and Jessie kicked him out.

The couples listed above share a common trait:  at least one spouse has developed a sense of entitlement.  They complain constantly about how unhappy they are and that nothing is ever “good enough.”  They claim to be the victim and that they are “owed” a better life, a bigger house, a nicer vacation, a new car, more sex, more sleep.

All of these relationships have become lopsided.  It changed from what may have started out as a temporary, consensual agreement into a burden that the other spouse did not agree to carry forever.

These mountains that you are carrying, you were only supposed to climb ~Najwa Zebian Click To Tweet

I do know relationships where one spouse does not work and the marriage has not suffered – my parents, for example.  My father was a farmer, and my mother’s job was to run the house and family.  Once the youngest was old enough, she went back to work part-time while continuing to run the house.  My parents were both born in 1931 – not an unusual scenario for their generation.

The big difference between happy marriages and marriages that are distressed?  There is no entitlement in marriage.

In case you need it spelled out:  STOP COMPLAINING!  You are not entitled to anything.  If you want something, you have to take action to get it and stop relying on someone else to provide your happiness.

There.  I said it.

It makes me so sad to see all of these unhappy people struggling in relationships that make them miserable.

Can you imagine what all of these people could accomplish if they would channel their negativity into something positive?

Can you imagine if the entire world did this???

If I could give one gift to this world, it would be to turn all of the negative into positive… Click To Tweet

*Names have been changed, of course

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