Help! My Husband Thinks His Job Takes Precedence Over My Dreams

I have been in individual counseling for a year after experiencing depression and stress when our daughter had her first psychotic breakdown and was diagnosed with a major mental illness. I really feel counseling has helped me heal, learn to take care of myself, set boundaries, and voice my feelings. I was a "stay-at-home" mom for some time and eventually got jobs that fit into me being home when the kids were home. In counseling, I began to think more about what I wanted out of life and decided to pursue my desire to get my master's degree and follow my dream career. I still work full time and go to school three nights a week in a part-time master's program and am loving it. My husband says he is supportive, but he does not show interest in what I am doing. Recently he lost his job of 26 years. It was real blow to him. He immediately started looking for new jobs and voiced to our friends and prospective employers his desire to move overseas. (I moved with him to Japan and Australia years ago.) I was upset about this since I have started my master's program and it will be another two years until I finish. He had said I could stay here and complete it and then move with him if he went overseas; this would mean me not working in my new career. I said no. He then started looking at jobs out of state, and I again made it clear I would not move now or later since it would impact my career plans, education, and having to leave our friends and support network. Recently he went ahead and interviewed for an out-of-state job. When he got back home, he said he was likely to be offered the job and that it would be a great job, and asked how I felt about a commuter marriage. I lost it. He does not understand why I am so upset. I am more hurt and upset that he does not take me into consideration and has no empathy even though I made it very clear many times that I did not want to move out of state or overseas. I suggested he go to therapy or we go together. He is willing, but still does not see why I am upset. He says my therapist has been harmful to me and is not good for me. My husband states he is just trying to provide for us. He has been unemployed for only a month and has a one-year severance package, so he has plenty of time to look for a job here. I guess I am hurt that he thinks nothing of asking me to give up everything to move with him even after I have made my feelings very clear. It feels to me like his job is more important than our marriage or my dreams that I have put on hold for so many years. He has always worked long hours and completely focused on work, leaving me to raise the kids. I am 50 and he is 53. Do you think couples therapy would help him to try to even understand why I would be hurt? He keeps saying he does not understand why I am so upset. —Back-Burnered Betty
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Dear Back-Burnered Betty,

I can absolutely feel your pain and frustration. It sounds like you have successfully worked your way through some very challenging times. You are now in a place where you are able to focus on yourself and what is best for you for the first time in a long time, maybe even for the first time ever. Just as you are hitting your stride in graduate school and learning how to cope with your daughter’s condition, your husband’s employment change threatens to upend what you have worked so hard to create for yourself. The hurt seems to run even deeper since you don’t feel understood by your husband.

I think couples therapy is a great next step for the two of you. What’s more, I think it is possible you two could be in better shape than you might believe. The fact your husband keeps saying he just doesn’t understand why you are so upset, coupled with the fact he is willing to go to therapy with you, suggests that he might like to understand what you are experiencing. The fact you wrote in for help and are open to going to couples therapy tells me that you are probably also interested in coming to a deeper understanding about what is going on between the two of you. Therefore, it seems to me that you and your husband are both willing and invested participants. That is perhaps the most critical ingredient in couples therapy.

You and your husband have come to an impasse in your relationship. It happens to most couples at some point in their relationships, and when it does, it can be tremendously helpful to find a therapist to help you sort through where you are, how you got there, and how to move forward. A couples therapist can help you and your husband break through this impasse, and create opportunities for each of you to really understand and appreciate where the other is coming from.

The process of coming to truly understand each other’s experiences can help you to develop empathy for one another and increase the intimacy in your relationship. This process can really strengthen the relationship and make you feel like a team, which is a great position from which to tackle the kind of significant, life-changing decisions you are facing.

All my best,
Sarah

Sarah Noel
Sarah Noel, MS, LMHC is a licensed psychotherapist living and working in Brooklyn, New York. She specializes in working with people who are struggling through depression, anxiety, trauma, and major life transitions. She approaches her work from a person-centered perspective, always acknowledging the people she works with as experts on themselves. She is honored and humbled on a daily basis to be able to partner with people at such critical points in their unique journeys.
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  • Julie

    Julie

    November 29th, 2013 at 4:21 PM

    I agree that it’s kind of selfish of him to be thinking of doing this with failrly little regard to how you feel about it- it’s as if he has his mind made up and that’s just the way it’s gonna be. But maybe he is also truly thinking of providing for you and the family and to him this is the best answer available. If that is really the case then I suppose that what he is doing is the right thing for all of you. Can you really complain about that? At least he wants to nwork, may have a job in hand which is more than lots of people can say at this time. So that’s a good way to look at it.

  • crash

    crash

    November 30th, 2013 at 5:11 AM

    Have you looked into online coursework or the possibility of transferring to another school closer to where you would be living?
    It may not be the most ideal, but it could address one of your major sticking points.

  • AnDrEw

    AnDrEw

    December 2nd, 2013 at 5:02 AM

    At this point, I don’t think that your husband thinks that his life takes precedence over yours; i think that in his mind it does. He sees what he does as more important than what you do and your dreams and he is going to do what he wants whether you go with him or not. Are you willing to axxept that?

  • Juliette

    Juliette

    December 3rd, 2013 at 4:58 AM

    How is she supposed to find a therapist to help them when he goes around saying things like the therapist has been harmful to her?! It sounds like he has already made up his mind about what he wants to do and to him she either is along for the ride or isn’t but no matter he is all in and not ready to make some changes.

  • kathleen

    kathleen

    December 12th, 2013 at 3:48 AM

    Please don’t take this the worng way, but this sounds very much like this pattern of you giving and him taking has been going on for a very long time. This is what he is accustomed to and probably thinks that if he continues to push then eventually you will give in and do what he wants anyway. Is that what will happen again?

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