Friday, January 30, 2015

Ask Firangi Bahu: "My husband doesn't like that I make more money than him"



Sharing a letter from a reader....


"Hi MM, I am writing to you today because I need help from you or your readers regarding a marital problem that has been weighing heavily for quite some time now....

Much like you, I met my husband in college and we fell in love. But midway through, I got pregnant with my first child at a young age. It was only reasonable that since I was the one giving birth and breastfeeding, I would be the one to take time off school, while my husband continued to work and finish his degree. During those years, I got pregnant two more times and suddenly we had 3 kids under 5. It was a handful! Sometimes I don't know how I did it all by myself. I didn't have time to think or even breathe, and our relationship suddenly morphed into these 1950's gender roles that I always swore I would avoid. The children became my sole responsibility while he got to focus on his career. I know now that I am partly to blame because I LET this happen, but at the time we couldn't afford to put the kids in daycare so I became the logical choice to take care of them full-time. We had no other option. I always dreamed of finishing my degree after the kids got older and pursue my own dreams. I never wanted my life to end after having children, my husband knew this and always encouraged me.

By the time I was pregnant with my second child, my husband already graduated college and got a good job. He was earning steadily and got many promotions because he is so good at what he does and he is so ambitious. I looked up to him. I felt guilty for not finishing my degree so I started to do college classes at night after the kids were asleep, and years later I earned a PhD in Computer Engineering. My husband was so proud of me that I did it while looking after the kids. In some weird way I think my PhD was like a status thing, because he was always boasting about it at family gatherings how smart I was. With the kids in school full time, I was finally have availability to get out in the workforce and this year I landed myself a once-in-a-lifetime job opportunity. Now I am earning more than my husband. I never thought this would be a problem especially since we have always supported each other.

Since I have accepted the job, my husband has started making belittling comments to me at every chance he gets. Saying that I don't take care of the kids. Saying that there's not hot food ready when he gets home. Saying that I don't give him any attention. I do all these things and more, as I have ALWAYS done, but now he constantly nitpicks everything I do. It all came to a head over the weekend when he got drunk and told me that he feels emasculated by me being the breadwinner and that it's my fault I accepted the job. Then he said he might accept a promotion in another city, basically to punish me. Ever since I accepted the job, it's like I repel him. 

We have never had marital problems like this before, except for normal bickering here and there. I never had any problems with his family either, they were so accepting right from the start (they hail from New Delhi, BTW). I always thought they were really modern to accept a foreigner so easily, considering how many problems other people have marrying into Indian families. But in my husband's family, all the women don't work after having kids. Every single one of them, and many have even more degrees than me!!! I always thought that maybe they just didn't want to work, but now seeing how my husband is behaving, I am wondering if maybe it's because their husbands don't want them to.

I really don't know what to do. I supported him for all these years, why can't I have some support?!?! I never accused him of not taking care of the kids when HE was studying or working late. I don't know how much "culture" comes into play here. He wants the societal status of saying his wife has a PhD, but then he doesn't want me to accept a higher paying job for fear to make him look bad???

Please help....I don't want my marriage to end but I don't want to quit my job either. I love my job and I love my husband but I feel like I am being forced to choose....it's a lose/lose situation for me right now."

------

Dear readers, what advice can we give to this fellow Bahu?
Have you ever been the breadwinner in your relationship?
Have you ever taken a break from your career to raise kids and then returned to it?


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18 comments

  1. I'm sorry but your husband is being a dick here and not thinking straight. I don't care if my wife earns more, I'm all for bringing more money into the household. Yes I am an Indian man and yes, traditionally women in my family haven't worked after marriage but with changing times you gotta change and anyway ought to always support the dreams/aspirations of your spouse. You put in half the effort to reach out, they put in their half, you both meet halfway.

    I would have said have a heart to heart with your husband but I suspect you already had that talk and he didn't budge. If that's the case you have a choice to make. I don't understand his stance here. By making you sit at home, he's going to have to live with a miserable/unhappy wife.

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    1. Completely agree with the above ^^. Im so sorry to hear you are dealing with this. My husband and I just read this together, he is Indian and I'm american. We have always agreed that whomever brought the most money in would be the one to work, given that it is their choice and they are happy with their job, and the other would be flexible to accommodate children and the household. He is not being fair to you! The only suggestion I have is to speak with him, tell him how you feel because communication is the key in any relationship. I would mention to him just as you wrote above, "I supported him for all these years, why can't I have some support?!?! I never accused him of not taking care of the kids when HE was studying or working late." I hope he understands and learns to except your decision. I wish you all the luck. Please let us know how things turn around.

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  2. This is going to sound a bit strange, but when you have this talk with him, may I suggest that you check in with him about whether he is getting any grief from his family about your working? You say that the women in his family do not work after having kids, so if that is what they are used to, they might be given him critiques which he is then taking out on you. It by no means justify such petty behavior, but it might explain his sudden change of heart about your working.

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  3. It is weird that a family that hails from one of the biggest cities in India would have a problem with the wife working or making more money than the husband. I think this is not about the culture, but more about the husband's attitude. It seems as if while he loves you, he loves the idea of a stay at home wife better. My husband and I are both Indian and I make more money than my husband - but he is proud of this fact. I think that is how a supportive husband is supposed to react. Isn't he happy about just having more money to spend, buy a better house etc? I feel like you have talked to your husband and are writing here as a last resort. If so, you have two choices - give up your job and and go back to being a stay at home mom and resent him for the rest of your life or keep your job and tell him to suck it up or leave you. I understand it is hard to break up a family, but you have to ask yourself if it is worth being unhappy for the rest of your life being stuck with an un-supportive husband. Good luck with everything!

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  4. Of course it is a societal thing. Folks here want educated bahu only as an achievement to boast in front of others but on reality she is expected to be subservient sacrificing and aspiration less. Relatives pick on family. Family pick on husband n he picks on you. With changing times it all really depends on how your husband able to handle this.
    It is better to hav a heart to heart conversation with your husband to understand where the real problem is. Is it the family because he himself was so encouraging in the past. Is it the simple fact that you earn more than him? This can be handled by him switching over to a higher paying job. With his qualification and experience this would not be difficult. Or is it his family upbringing that he is adamant that you too follow the tradition. In this case you need to make him understand how much this means to u. U always chose family first before your dreams ànd only when you r sure that u can handle this additional responsibility too that u ventured into this. This might take some time but I am sure he will come around as he seems a very understanding n encouraging man. Wish you all the very best.
    MM

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  5. First of all, you should be very proud that you accomplished so much on your own! It's no mean feat to complete a PhD while taking care of 3 young kids!
    I am at a loss as to what to say to someone who is so unreasonable and so unfair! I feel like perhaps marriage counselling is a good option though I don't know whether your husband would agree to this!
    I'm really sorry that you have to go through all this considering you have been so supportive..it just isn't fair!

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  6. My hubby has never minded when I've been the one making more money, the only time he ever struggled was when my time was not available. When I went through river guide training 5 years ago I went from being a SAHM to being gone insanely long hours, returning home physically exhausted and barely being paid in compensation. (such is the tourism business) He really struggled not having me home to do all the wife stuff. He worried I would be wooed away by the men I was working with who shared my interests in the Outdoors, Adventure and Fitness. He was worried I would change. He was worried I would leave him behind. And honestly I think those are the worries most men honestly worry about when their wife suddenly has a career much more then just the monetary issue.
    -J

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  7. I agree with J's comment. It seems like her husband is probably dealing with some deeper issues here than just his wife making more money. He's probably afraid he'll lose his wife to her new ambitions and career. I think she should try and find out if there's a deeper issue than what he's picking at.

    Before reading others comments, it crossed my mind that there might be financial issues. Not in terms of having enough - but of being in-the-know with the figures. Maybe the husband and wife are not planning out how they're going to spend that money together. I think that married couples should have joint bank accounts and make a budget and a financial plan together--no matter what your income level is. That way each person in the relationship, regardless of who is the breadwinner, will know that the finances are not just for one person, but the entire family and that the husband and wife will make joint decisions on where that money goes.
    -M

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  8. I would leave the culture out of the equation here. I have seen that same kind of jackass behaviour in couples that do not involve Indian culture. A lot of men around the world are sadly still believing that they are the breadwinners and women shall only work if it doesn't interfere with housework. These men's are being giant dickheads in today's world. India included where life in metros have become so expensive that dual incomes are starting to become a necessity for many.
    In the case of your husband, I suspect he has some identity issues, and feel threatened not being the one "at the top", he probably come from a family where men were put on a pedestal and told to earn good money and your working, has threatened that. I think the best in your case would be councelling.

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  9. Hi Alexandra,

    I had left a comment on this previously was very surprised to see that it was not published. I was wondering if you found the comment disrespectful or offensive in any way?
    please let me know.

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    1. Hi Sahana,
      It must have been a glitch! This is the first comment I am getting from you on this post....can you try again? Sorry!

      Delete
  10. Dear letter writer. I marvel at your story. You are one hell of a winner!! Kudos on your doctorate. The bitchy side of me wants to tell you ........... you could get another husband but why risk the job!!
    But on a more serious note, wish you find your way in a joyous manner. I am sure things will work out well for you. Please do know you are the best. You have got your education without sacrificing a mother's duty and that's fantastic really!!! I hope you do realise your own worth darling. Sending you oceans of love and hugs.

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  11. I would sit with him and watch this old movie called Abhimaan. Its an old Bollywood movie starring Amitabh Bachchan and Jaya Bachchan. The story is about how the husband who is a famous singer marries a girl who also sings well, and he launches her career. Her career skyrockets and he is left on the side, and his ego (thats what Abhimaan) can't handle it. It talks about how the husband finally realizes his mistakes and tries to make it better...There is a lot more to it...but don't want to give it all away. Hope this helps him to understand.

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  12. Here is another story from the BBC about a British-Indian couple
    http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-31064322

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  13. Hmm.. i find this a complicated issue. Congratulations on your job and PhD - doing this with 3 kids is no joke and more power to you for that :)

    My first thoughts were that you guys got into a certain pattern in a relationship and there will be discomfort when you try to change patterns. You guys would have to talk it out and work through this. Also, you did not really know how he would behave in a situation where you would earn more because he was habituated to you being dependent on him all the time.

    I would really have a long talk with him (schedule it rather than bring it up at a moment when he or you are tired) and try to understand where all this insecurity comes from rather than going into blame mode.

    Is there any aspect of life your husband feels ignored like in terms of romance/time together now that you have started working? Also, how much are you focusing on your self care. Are you running around constantly without rest?

    Talk all of this out and see where all this insecurity is really coming form and really listen with compassion.

    If your husband really loves you and you tell him how much happiness this job gives you, I do not see why he would want to see you unhappy. I mean, would you be happy if your kids are sad?

    If despite all this, he does not relent and you guys cannot come to a middle ground, you really need to take a long hard look at your marriage - is it really an equal partnership when one member is always compromising? Also, it is up to you to decide what do you want to choose.

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  14. Kudos to you for having achieved all this while tending to all other responsibilities which you took upon yourself.
    I think your husband suffers from a low self esteem.He feels threatened by your evolution because he thinks he will slide down in worth in comparison to you.Just try to reassure him about how you value/appreciate him and his achievements.A compliment here or a thank you there could mend the fissures.
    Yes you may object to this demand but then,you want to save your marriage and improve relations.It is a small price to pay.
    I might be wrong but this is my interpretation.Wish you luck.

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  15. What a difficult situation to be in, especially after being married for so long.
    I feel like your husband has really gotten comfortable with the roles you have both been stuck in - with him being the main financial provider - seeing you being a top earner must really be throwing him for a loop. It most likely is related to his family upbringing (ie. never seeing women work after marriage; AND there also could be a few people teasing him). Either way, he is feeling insecure, which really has more to say about him then it does about you. I wonder if he is also unhappy at work...?
    The one thing that I know that works with men is encouragement. Talk about all the positives that working will bring to your family - I mean, it is a no brainer! You will be bringing more money to the table which will benefit the entire family - you can buy a bigger house, go on a fabulous trip to India, or help put the kids through college. The good certainly outweighs the bad, especially in a nearly worldwide recession!
    And yes, I think he really needs some counselling to change his mindset and pattern of thought. And hat's off to you for your achievements....it is really an inspiration!

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  16. hi dear ..please dont worry .. u r so brave .. u have done ur PHD and handeled 3 kids ..its really great ..luv u lot ... i will give u few advice :
    1. If u feel dat ur husband is not behaving properly ..first u dont angry on him ... u listen his talk ..i know u will get angry in no time but control urself ..when he is in good mood .. sit with him and talk to him with love ... dont tell dat why r u saying bla bla .. u just plan with him ur future ... ur kids future ...
    2. dont tell like mine money ..mine car , not use me/I use .. our ... and behave like u r still down to earth person ...
    3. give lot of love to him ... if he is not helping u in house hold works ..dont irritate or dont blame him ..i m d person doing all job of home ... u just do it ..after some time he will definetly feel for u dat she is managing home n job n kids avery thin and he will help u ....
    4. talk to him ... talk to his mom dad ....
    in short ..if husband is not doing much attention/create problem ... in india ..we ladies give our more try to handle our relation ship ... when u give ur best from u ...u will definitely revert d same ... and u have to always be postive in life .. u have 3 children .. u have to manage ur life in ur best way ....

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