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My husband isn’t working and it’s affecting our marriage

Dear J.T. & Dale: My husband has been out of work for a year. He was always the main breadwinner in our family. In the past decade of his career, he found himself getting laid off two times in a row. He was at both jobs only two years when he had turned them around so much that they didn’t need him anymore and thought they were overpaying for his services. As a result, he is really defeated. At this point, I am the top earner in our family and I absolutely love my work. That said, I’m feeling a little angry with him. All he does is exercise and pursue his hobbies. We’ve both worked our whole lives. When our kids were little, I even had a part-time job while I was the stay-at-home parent. So, I find it quite annoying that he is getting all this free time off, and I do not. I told him he has to get some type of job. It’s getting to the point where it’s affecting our marriage. Any suggestions? I think he’s going through a midlife crisis! – Kathy

DALE: Your resentments are understandable. There was a time when working was optional for women, but that’s never been true for men. Years ago, I heard someone say that while woman could think about whether to stay home or work part time or work full time, for men there were two choices – work or prison. And that’s still mostly true. There was a brief house-husband movement, but it didn’t stick. Indeed, I believe the current zeitgeist is to look with suspicion on anyone of working age who isn’t working. The good news is that the definition of work has become less rigid.

J.T.: I don’t think your husband’s situation is a midlife crisis so much as a midcareer crisis. Your husband built up his skills and specialties to the point that he’s really only needed on a project basis at an organization. Once he gets everything situated, they can make do with less expensive employees. Even though he was a full-time employee, he really was a consultant, and his assignment essentially ended. Which is exactly what I would advise him to do – he should consult with companies and charge them a great hourly rate. He would have to work only a few days a week and probably be close to the same pay he was making before. That way he can keep the flexibility and lifestyle he’s currently enjoying and make you happy too. There are a lot of online organizations now that are offering contract work like this. One in particular is called I recommended this website to lots of people in his situation, and they’ve been quite successful in landing gigs. This could be exactly what he needs so that he can find a new level of work-life balance at this phase of his life.

Dear J.T. & Dale: About a month ago, the owner of my company bought himself a new car. It’s expensive. Today, he held a meeting and announced we missed our quarterly earnings and there were no bonuses. People were seething. Is it right to speak up and mention the optics of the car in the wake of this information? – Andres

J.T.: I wouldn’t say anything. Just like how you choose to spend your income is your business, the same goes for your boss. I realize the optics aren’t good, but being the one to tell him that won’t do your career any favors because he’ll likely assume that you are bringing it up because you feel that way too.

DALE: Yes, it’s not like the boss is going to give back the car and apologize. If confronted, your boss might even say that he’s providing “motivation” to employees to work hard and succeed. So, instead of talking to him about his car, I’d suggest that you ask him to mentor you, offering to be one of the employees who comes up with ideas to insure that the team exceeds the next quarterly goals.

Jeanine “J.T.” Tanner O’Donnell is a career coach and the founder of the leading career site Dale Dauten is founder of The Innovators’ Lab and author of a novel about H.R., “The Weary Optimist.” Please visit them at, where you can send questions via email, or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803. (c) 2020 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.