Downsize love

Joey Garcia

My wife lost her job 18 months ago, not unexpectedly, but she won’t look for work. Meanwhile, we live like we have two incomes. She says she wants to stay active in the lives of our two children instead of working. Our kids are in middle school and don’t need her for seven hours each day. Since I pay the bills, money is all I can think about. She asks me why I am so withdrawn and unhappy. I am depressed about her lack of motivation. We have had two honest, emotional conversations about how I feel the life we have built over the last 15 years is slipping away, because she is no longer interested in helping out financially. I have explained that we built our lifestyle on two incomes, and she isn’t holding up her end. She said she has never liked working, and that perhaps I didn’t marry the woman I thought I was marrying. My love for her is vanishing. I’m not ready to give up, but I don’t know what to do next.

Ride the horse in the direction it is headed, at least for a while. Resisting your circumstances has only resulted in deep unhappiness. You will feel empowered when you take charge. Begin by recognizing the profound shift in your marriage. You are now the breadwinner; your wife, a homemaker. It’s a viable relational structure, if both members of the couple have agreed and work together to make it so. But you suffer because your marriage has shifted away from a partnership model and into a traditional marriage without your consent. The illusion of a union rooted in a shared vision and values is over, for now. Your wife is not who you thought she was; she does not want the lifestyle you hold dear, and you are left with the responsibility for figuring out how to create the life she wants to live. This is the death of your old dreams, and you are in mourning.

So, what do you want? Has your wife’s abandonment of her career inspired a secret wish within you to do the same? This is the time to be really honest. Sit down with poster board, scissors, a glue stick and a stack of magazines and create a vision board of the life you hunger to live. It may be one constructed on two incomes, and, since you cannot control your wife, you will have to take a second job or divorce her and search for someone who mirrors your financial expectations.

Of course, there is another option: downsize. Sell everything that requires a second income, cancel credit cards except one needed for emergencies, limit the amount of money in the checking account to only what is necessary to pay bills (stuff the rest in savings), and dole out cash sparingly for groceries and gas. No dry cleaning, no manicures, no $50 haircuts, no $5 coffees and no meals out. Cancel cable, reduce all electronics (one television, for example) and get cheapo cellphones. Live simply. Exiting the material world is liberating.

I dated a girl for two months last year who I still really like. We had a disagreement, and she told me not to contact her anymore. She said she would call me after the first of the year. I sent her a text a few days after that, because I was thinking of her. She didn’t respond. January is nearly over. Should I call her?

Absolutely not. She set a boundary (“Do not contact me”), and you violated it. By doing so, you were announcing that you cannot be trusted. Spend some time with a therapist, and find out why you behave as you do.

Meditation of the week
“It is a preoccupation with possessions, more than anything else, that prevents us from living freely and nobly,” wrote Henry David Thoreau. What kind of radical notions would you embrace if you spent more time in nature?

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