Ask Amy Amy Dickinson, Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.

DEAR AMY: My husband of 29 years has been working as a contractor for the past nine years. His last stable position was in 2007. He finished two graduate degrees in the next couple of years, but that was when the economy had a downturn, and he never could find a job that would pay him adequately for what his degrees gave him the expertise to do. He’s very diligent about applying and interviewing. When he does work, he makes two to three times what I make, but only once in the past nine years has he worked all 12 months of the year. When he’s not working he does all of the housework. He cooks. He’s a wonderful husband and father. I’m just so resentful that he has four to six months off a year, and I don’t know how to get over it. I’m sure it’s no fun for him not to be working and to worry about how long he’s been out of work. He recently took a position with a company that will sell in a year, so even this job will end abruptly. Since I can’t depend on him to keep steady work, we’ve had to move out of our rental home after 11 years and into a mobile home. When we were talking the other night I told him that I’m always waiting for the other shoe to drop. He said that I was being nasty and that I say mean, horrible things to him all the time. I don’t think I do. He always does his best and I’ve been supportive and very logical, but his income isn’t steady. He doesn’t appreciate the fact that I’m not big on working, but have always worked more than 40 hours a week, year in and year out. But he doesn’t understand that I’m in my 50s now and that I just feel this isn’t what I signed up for. I wish we had money for counseling, but we have to save up what he earns, and he doesn’t want to spend any extra when he could be out of work in a few months. What to do?

Tired and Anxious

DEAR TIRED: You say that your husband “always does his best,” and yet you obviously don’t think this is his best, because you also say you resent him for having “four to six months off each year.” But — if your husband pulls in two or three times what you make when he’s working, and does all the housework and cooking when he isn’t working, then it seems that he really is pulling down an equal income and does more housework, cooking and parenting than you do.

There is no question that his work pattern is stressful for the entire household, but you seem to think that what you “signed up for” is a husband who should work harder outside the home than you do, and who should make more than you.

In short, your assumptions are that your husband will basically support the family, while your income will be supplemental.

You are the primary and steady breadwinner in your household. This might not be what you signed up for, but you should be proud of your own role, and perhaps more aware of how you cast your husband’s relative success. You both sound responsible and successful. I hope you can find a way to give yourselves — and each other — a break.

DEAR AMY: I burst into tears upon reading the devastating letter from “Feeling Alone in the World,” the woman who was raped by her father as a teenager. She was still conflicted about the estrangement from her family caused by this trauma. I cannot wrap my mind around the circumstances some of us are forced to endure just in order to survive. When I read brave and honest accounts like the one from “Feeling Alone,” all of the petty issues most of us wrestle with recede into the background. I’m so glad you told her she is a hero. I’m cheering for her.

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Inspired

DEAR INSPIRED: I have kept in touch with the person who signed her letter “Feeling Alone in the World,” and I’m convinced that the compassionate and emotional responses to her bravery are definitely making her feel less alone. She told me she is very grateful. She has many people in her corner.