Dear Prudence

Dear Prudence Uncensored: The Wife and the Job

Every week, Danny M. Lavery and Nicole Cliffe discuss a Prudie letter. This week: the wife and the job.

Daniel Lavery: I know I can sometimes throw around the term “red flag” easily

so I’ll call this something else

let’s say, “a very serious indicator that your wife is not safe to be around”

this does not strike me as a communication issue on the level of “We’re having a really tough time talking about it, can’t see one another’s points of view, how can we argue better”

this strikes me as an intentional threat and a means of control

she only deploys this threat when you talk to her about work, and she demands that you shut up about money because it makes her “too angry” to speak about it

Nicole Cliffe: Oh boy, I am certainly worried about this dynamic

this is not healthy, it’s very controlling, it’s EXTREMELY “my way or the highway”

Daniel Lavery: she’s only talking about suicide in this one context, to control you

Nicole Cliffe: I would ask the LW if this is a pattern in your arguments or disagreements

oh absolutely

You have only been married six months! this should not be happening. not that it should if you’ve been married sixteen or sixty years, it’s just such a bad sign so early on

Daniel Lavery: I think this is something you need to talk to people outside of your marriage

rather than try to persuade your wife to see your point of view

Nicole Cliffe: And I would start with individual counseling before broaching the idea of couples therapy

Daniel Lavery: and in conjunction with the message that she needs to stop this right away, and forever

I’m just concerned that the LW seems to think this is a quirk or a case of not being able to be open-minded and not as an abuse tactic

Nicole Cliffe: I think they need to hear how not okay this is

Daniel Lavery: The danger here is underreaction

I’m not worried the LW is going to overreact to this

and I can imagine there would be some pressure along the lines of “Well, we JUST got married, and I’m sure she wouldn’t ACTUALLY kill herself, and maybe if I just try asking in a different way, she’ll listen”

and I really want the LW not to feel like they have to justify or minimize this

it’s really quite shockingly bad!

Nicole Cliffe: Yes. This is the sort of person who might self-harm, make threats, have untreated mental health issues, and you will not be able to fix all that by doing what she wants

Myself, at six months in, minus very very effective mutual conversations around this, I would bail

I appreciate that is not everyone’s reaction

I just don’t want this to happen when you have two kids and a dog

What were the “difficulties” that got her kicked out of her program?

This is a pattern

And a bad one

(That’s all I got)

Daniel Lavery: I don’t think of it as bailing

It’s “you need to stop this right away and get a handle on your anger or I can’t be in this marriage”

Nicole Cliffe: Right

That’s a better framing

Daniel Lavery: it’s so much pressure, both emotionally and financially, and it makes her suicidality your responsibility to manage

and that is so wrong, when anyone deploys a threat of suicide in order to coerce you into doing something for them or to stop asking them about something important

it’s very different from a vulnerable person sharing suicidal thoughts, even if they do so imperfectly

it’s tactical, it’s strategic, it’s isolated to this one topic

she’s doing it on purpose

Nicole Cliffe: It’s never ever acceptable

Daniel Lavery: and if part of you feels like “oh, I can’t tell my friends or family about this, they won’t understand and they’ll really judge her for it”

that is a sign that you need to tell them right now, before you get in the habit of keeping secrets to protect her image