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Should I divorce my chronically unemployed husband?

July 16, 2013, at 8:55 AM

Dear Starshine,

My husband just lost his job for the fourth time, hasn't earned a paycheck in three months, and doesn't see any urgency to get employment; he's just waiting to find a job he wants. Am I wrong to want to dissolve my marriage? I always end up taking the brunt of the financial hardship — using up my paychecks and dipping into my 401(k) to make ends meet. He's unable to collect unemployment because he was fired, but continues to spend money as if we still have two incomes. The last three times, I tried to work with him to deal with the financial obstacles, but the results are always the same and I become more resentful each time. He only seems to be upset at the fact that I have no physical attraction toward him (he's always asking if I would care if he cheated). I do the cooking, cleaning, and laundry because we have two children, ages 14 and 11, who need tending to. I'm probably an idiot for putting up with this for so long; I've been doing it for the kids. But I'm at my wit's end. As the saying goes, I can do bad all by myself.

So I was willing to cut this guy a smidgeon of slack. After all, the economy's lousy, marriage is a give-and-take thing, and I feel for a guy who can neither provide for his family nor start his wife's engine. Ouch.

But am I to understand that this dude is depleting your savings while awaiting his dream job and leaving all the housework for you? And then wondering why you don't come purring into his lap each night?!

Honey, as the new saying goes, he can do bad on a friend's couch.

Your husband should stop threatening to cheat — he's already cheating. Taking hoggish advantage of a hard-working wife is relationship fraud, and it's happened too many times to excuse it as the one-off tantrum of a wounded male ego.

More importantly, though, I don't like the example either one of you is setting for your kids. Right now you're teaching them that a partnership should feel like a vacation to one partner and a trap to the other — and that household chores are a woman's job even when her jobs also include paying the rent, buying the groceries, and not getting fired.

First order of business: Start requiring your kids to help with the cooking, cleaning, and laundry. They need to learn what their father never did: how to contribute to a fully functioning family. Besides, you'll need their help more than ever if you kick Jobless Joe to the curb (come on, as an able-bodied adult, the guy's got to be good for something: Lifting heavy things? Killing spiders? Signing for UPS packages?).

Only you know if there's something worth salvaging with your spouse — something past the money, beyond the sex, on the other side of the resentment. In all honesty, divorce probably won't help your finances. But it'll really cut back on your laundry.

Send me your dilemmas via email: ToughLove@TheWeek.com. And follow me on Twitter: @ToughLoveAdvice.

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