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Carolyn Hax: Before you share, hear his plan

Wed., Jan. 13, 2010

Dear Carolyn: My husband has been offered a job (hooray!) with a decent salary, but he doesn’t want it. I’m trying to be sympathetic: It is a step down and it really doesn’t capitalize on his incredible skills (Ph.D. plus years of cutting-edge research). He’s awfully bummed this is his only option. He’s considering not taking the job.

I want to be empathetic, but I just feel anger. He’s from a privileged background and never had the awful minimum-wage job. I know that through his eyes it looks like stepping down, and there’s a bit of an identity crisis here; I see his reaction as entitled and smug.

If I share these feelings with him, I think he’ll feel wounded and pressured into a dead-end job. If I don’t share, I feel like I’m being dishonest. I want to be supportive, but I also want to give him a swift kick. – No name, Calif.

You don’t say whether you and he can afford a long unemployment, and that’s too bad. It’s really everything here.

By your account, you and your husband have two very clear, very different motivations: He wants fulfilling work, and you want security. Before you push to have your emotional need filled, it’s only fair to see whether he can realistically get his need met, too.

If you guys have the savings to manage it, his holding out for a job that offers more prospects, fulfillment and money might be worth the extra months of lost income. In fact, this “dead-end job” could hurt your security more in the long run if it slows his career and/or drains his soul (and consequently strains your marriage).

Find out what he’s planning, right down to the details of where, how, for how long and for how much he expects to seek this more suitable job. If he has ideas and money and discipline, then he deserves your faith and support.

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