Dear Fox Foxerson,
I was the breadwinner of the family until a car accident made it impossible to earn the income I once made because I now use a chair. My wife went to work, and there was definitely a power shift. I started to see a ugly side of my wife—the control with money, and her whole attitude. When I took care of everything, I never treated her that way. I need to know how to approach this without making things worse.
Dear Injured Hubby,
First let me say I am sorry about the accident. That has to be devastating.
Money is power. It can definitely dictate how a family functions. But it shouldn’t determine how people treat each other. We all have jobs in relationships. I love that you think that when you were the breadwinner you “took care of everything.” My guess is that she took care of some things. Maybe? Was there a meal cooked or a run to Target or a dish washed? No? You did all that? That’s amazing.
Now is different. SHE’S doing everything. When one person out of a couple becomes ill or is injured or someone loses a job, when there is a seismic shift: It’s the other person’s job to step up. Except there are no rules in love and war. And stress breaks open all the minor cracks that were once covered up by routine.
My hunch is your wife is extremely stressed out. Why, you ask? You are the one in the chair. You have gone through all the pain and suffering and time in and out of the hospital. If you knew her “why,” maybe she wouldn’t seem so mean and ugly. Once you start listening to her, you might find her state isn’t so different from yours.
Like you, she is grieving her old life. She has a right to be mad and sad and feel helpless and worried. My guess is that she is working her ass off. She may be a little bitter. If money is the one thing she has control over, I can see why she wants to keep control.
Appreciation can go a marathon distance. When was the last time you told her that you thought she was beautiful? If you two are the kind to say “I love you,” or “thank you,” now is the time to do it. Going back to communication, the harder, deeper explorations can be eased by expressions of appreciation and gratitude. Tell her how you’re feeling—not just with regard to her, but about how you are feeling about your struggle.
If she understood your “why” she might have more empathy and relinquish some funds. Perhaps you should dig deeper and try to work on the marriage itself. You two have been through a lot of trauma and that needs time and work to heal.
May the both of you find joy in each other’s company.