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Dear Emuna: The Bread Winner
Dear Emuna

Dear Emuna: The Bread Winner

I resent my wife for spending money that I’ve earned.



Dear Emuna,

I have a lovely wife who makes a beautiful home for me. My only complaint (but it’s a big one) is that she doesn’t bring in any money. I don’t like to be the sole bread winner and I’m resentful when she spends money that I’ve earned. As you might imagine, this has caused some serious struggles in our marriage. She finally got a job and I am cautiously optimistic that our relationship will improve when she starts paying her way. Do you have any advice for me?

Tired of Going it Alone

Dear Going It Alone,

Yes, I do have some advice for you. I think that you really will be going it alone, God forbid, if you don’t change your attitude soon. I am tempted to ask if you discussed your expectations before marriage but I recognize that it is a moot point now.

The more important issue is how you are making your wife feel. While you acknowledge that she has created a beautiful home for you, your letter seems to suggest that isn’t what you find valuable. That’s a shame. A warm and welcoming home is no small thing – and creating one is the essence of a Jewish married woman’s job.

Additionally you seem to have developed a confused notion of marriage. This isn’t a business partnership. In most relationships, each spouse brings something different to the table and the other side values and appreciates their contribution. Rarely is it limited to money. And while I have heard of his, hers, and joint accounts, your resentment about her spending “your” money seems to cross a line.

Although you are the one earning the income, the money, in general, should be for your shared use. Likewise if, under some altered circumstances (as have become more common today due to the recession and other phenomena) she would be bringing in the bigger salary, I’m sure you would like her to take care of you.

Marriage is about lifting out of ourselves and our self-centered existence to attend to our mate; it’s about accessing and developing our more giving nature. If you hoard what’s yours, not only are you missing one of marriage’s most important growth opportunities, but you are putting real distance between you and your spouse, distance that will not be easy to bridge in the future.

Until you start appreciating what your wife does for you, until you start giving to her with an open hand, until you recognize that this is about the two of you and what you are building together, I’m afraid I can’t share your optimism.

-- Emuna

Dear Emuna,

I had a very close relationship with my youngest son. He was actually not an easy child to raise but his troubles ended up bringing us closer. Thank God, he grew up to be a lovely young man and he got married about a year ago. I have tried not to be over bearing or hold on too tightly, but my daughter-in-law refuses to have anything to do with me. She seems to be afraid I will take him away from her. I wanted to take the whole family on a vacation together but she refuses to come. She wants to control the circumstances under which we get together. I really feel like I’ve really lost a son…

Mom in Mourning

Dear Mom,

As is often the case with these letters, I have very little information to go on. It’s certainly possible that you just got a real lemon of a daughter-in-law and you have to make your peace with it. But that is rarely the case.

My guess is that your daughter-in-law recognizes the intensity of your connection to your son and feels she needs to create some boundaries in order for them to bond and build a strong relationship. You can help by being very respectful of those boundaries and clearly and explicitly giving them the freedom to choose when and how they want to spend time with you. No demands, intrusive phone calls or guilt trips.

I also recommend that you focus your energies away from your son and onto building a relationship with your daughter-in-law. Notice her good qualities and praise them. Give to her. Look for ways to spend time with her or to help her. Tell her cute stories about your son as a child (but NO cooking or housekeeping or marriage tips unless specifically requested). My guess is that the more time you spend together, the more you focus on her virtues, the more you reach out to her, the closer you will become and the more you will appreciate the wonderful girl your son has chosen. You will have a new cliché to recite, “I haven’t lost a son; I’ve gained a daughter!”

-- Emuna

Dear Emuna,

I am the youngest girl in my family. I’ve been dating a man I like for about six months now. We are starting to talk about marriage and I would like to move forward but my family is giving me a very hard time. They say he is too rigid and controlling, that it always has to be his way. I don’t see him like that. To me he is a principled man with strong convictions. Am I missing something?

Eager to Move Forward

Dear Eager,

Not knowing this man, it’s obviously hard to me to know. There are so many possible scenarios and psychological factors at play here that I don’t know where to start! So I’m going to keep it simple by just focusing on the basics.

Ultimately, you are the one that has to live with him, not your family. Whether these qualities (rigidity or principled) are something you can appreciate is up to you and you alone.

That said, assuming your family has your best interests at heart, you might want to ask yourself why they feel so strongly. Are they just overprotective of their baby sister? Is no one ever good enough for you? Or are they seeing something you are missing? Is it a legitimate concern?

What do your friends think? Have they responded positively or noticed the same issue?

Marriage is a big step. Do you have shared goals? (Does he expect you to carry your weight financially?!! I normally wouldn’t ask that but after letter number one…) Is he kind, honest and loyal? Does he try to get along with your family?

You should weigh their considerations carefully. It sounds like you are a close family and you don’t want to lose that. But, as mentioned earlier, in the end, only you can choose. In the end, you will be the one living with the consequences of your choice – either way.

We don’t only pray to the Almighty for what we want; we pray for guidance and help in achieving clarity in our decision-making. This would be a good time to take advantage of this opportunity.

-- Emuna

March 11, 2012

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Visitor Comments: 40

(30) Anonymous, March 29, 2012 7:53 AM

Mothers in law.

I am blessed with 2 wonderful daughters-in-law with whom I have great relationships. The secret: Mothers in law wear beige and Shut Up ( no advice unless specifically asked)!

(29) Anonymous, March 22, 2012 6:03 PM


Thank you for your response. I am like that man's wife. When we first married my husband said he did not want me to work. LaterI learned he heavily resented my not working, but I was never aable to find more than parttime work which was not enough for him. We are old now, and I cannot begin to tell the pain I have felt all these years by his remarks both private and public. I thought I was the only one. Todah rabah

(28) JB Destiny, March 19, 2012 7:23 PM

Alone, don't breathe a sigh of relief yet!

"I don’t like to be the sole bread winner and I’m resentful when she spends money that I’ve earned" ----These are two different complaints, really. There are many reasons you may not like being the only source of household income, some of which are "legit" -like planning for the future- and others less so. But feeling resentful of your wife is cause for concern. It's not likely to be helped by her pulling in a paycheck, because the problem, as far as you've described it, isn't financial; it's emotional. Even assuming you give up your resentment rather than change the excuse for it ("now that she has her own job and money, she doesn't care for me anymore"), it's not unlikely that she will now resent you! Emuna is correct that this is something that you two should have discussed before marriage, but it's not too late now. You need to tell your wife (and yourself?) why you have such a strong emotional response to her spending your paycheck- the real reasons. And you need to make sure that she is not holding a grudge against you for insisting that she "pay her own way." And then, as a practical matter, you both need to define what constitutes spending the other person's money. Just how separate do you want to keep your funds? For example, if your car breaks down, can you use her cash to fix it? How much will each of you contribute to rent/mortgage and other bills, or will some communal expenses come out of one income and some from the other? You two still have a LOT to discuss, and though it's a sensitive subject, you should do so openly and respectfully, and understanding that there's no "right" division of income, other than whatever will preserve your marriage. Good luck to you both!

(27) alton, March 18, 2012 1:52 AM

I've been there!

to, Tired of Going it Alone, I've been there, Done that, and lost my shirt! reduced to living in my camper on the jobsite for 9 months! Something (good) did change in me tho!!!! I lost my appetite for $$$. that was 18 years ago. Since then I have put my trust in my God and his resources. I make more today than I ever have and give lots away. I am convinced that the $$ we make is not just for us! The Booty that the Hebrews left Egypt with was not to spend at the mall, but to ordain the Temple!!! I have heard that ones checkbook register is like barometer of their faith, ask yourself this, Who or what is your God? a good marriage begins with the best foundation!!!! Emuna gave you GOOD advice!!!!

(26) Anonymous, March 16, 2012 5:09 AM

Going it alone- good advice not given well

I agree with what Emuna said. Marriage is not a buisness. I wish her response would have been less judgemental and more empathetic towards the husband. I would have been cringing if I were him while reading the response and would have felt defensive. I know Emuna means the best but being straightfoward without the judgement would have been kinder. He doesn't want his marriage to fail, he is asking for advice, and he grew up in the same twisted western world with all these non- Torah ideals like most of us. I hope that he changes his point of view (one of the hardest things to do!) and that he and his wife speak openly about what they think THEIR money should be spent on and what may seem frivolous. Marriage is about giving and becoming one, and I hope they are able to reconcile their problems. All the best.

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