Dear Prudence

Help! I Got Laid Off, and I Think I’d Like to Live Off My Spouse’s Job Forever.

What if I’m just happier hanging around the house?

A man sits on the couch looking at his phone against a background of job ads.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Getty Images Plus.

Dear Prudence is Slate’s advice column. Submit questions here. (It’s anonymous!)

Dear Prudence,

I was laid off a few months ago. We haven’t had any financial problems because my spouse makes a very good salary and even received a promotion. The more I’ve stayed at home, the more I’ve realized I don’t want to go back to work. But my spouse insists that I should.
They’ve taken to showing me job ads and talking about volunteering. It sounds awful, but I just like watching TV and taking the dog for walks. Am I a monster for feeling like this? Should I take any job I can get? I’m beginning to feel depressed not about being unemployed, but about what people think about me. Am I a bad person for not wanting to work?

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— Not a Good Job Seeker

Dear Not a Good Job Seeker,

You’re not a monster at all. In fact, watching TV and walking the dog sounds fabulous and enjoying that more than working is very relatable. But surprising your spouse with the decision to never make money again is a pretty big deal. Sure, you’re not having any financial problems at the moment, but this isn’t just about survival. Your decision not to work means you’ll have a lot less money—which means less in your retirement account, or in an emergency fund, or set aside for recreation or vacations or to leave any children you might have. That’s a big deal, and it’s a big decision for you to make unilaterally, without any kind of conversation or agreement. Perhaps your spouse would have liked to retire into a life of dog-walking too! Maybe you could have both gone part time. But you didn’t communicate.

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So sit down and have a serious talk, and by all means make your pitch about how you’ll still be okay financially and better off mentally if you’re not working. Include something about how you’ll contribute to the household beyond dog walks, in ways that might benefit your spouse, too. And then listen. This has a much better chance of working out if you make your spouse feel included in the decision. She or he is going to be resentful if you commit to this path without any input or consideration for how it affects you as a couple.

Oh, and your concerns about what people think are legitimate. They are definitely going to judge you for randomly deciding not to work. If you can’t be at peace with that, cancel the talk and start looking at those job ads.

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Dear Prudence,

My husband thinks it is wrong that I communicate with my 20- and 17-year-old kids’ father. He even went as far as to tell me it was cheating, and I would have no further communication. I have never cheated on my husband. Where is this behavior coming from?

— Tired Wife

Dear Tired Wife,

This behavior is coming from:

• Insecurity
• Jealousy
• Control issues
• The patriarchy
• Immaturity
• Irrational thinking
• Lack of respect for you
• Poor character
• Abusive tendencies

I know for sure this isn’t the only time these qualities have reared their heads in your relationship. Bounce this and other incidents off some good friends, or ideally, a therapist, to get some perspective on how poorly you’re being treated and the fact that you deserve better.

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Dear Prudence,

I’ve been seeing this great guy. He’s smart, thoughtful, and emotionally available. We have similar interests, and he definitely wants to be in a relationship with me. The problem is his lack of sanitation. His kitchen is covered in grime, and his bed is a mat of pet hair. His house is so disgusting that I can’t go in it. To make matters worse, I’m somewhat of a clean freak. I really like him, but I don’t know what his lack of cleanliness means for a future together (I cannot imagine sharing a house with him right now). I generally don’t like to ask people to change because I feel like it’s not sustainable and can cause resentment. Is it better to walk away now or give him a chance?

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— Disgusted

Dear Disgusted,

This is tough. I think you’re very smart not to go into a relationship expecting someone to change. But getting this guy to step up when it comes to cleanliness might be worth just one try. There’s a real possibility that he doesn’t know how filthy he is because he was raised in a dirty house or never taught to clean. Since you’re open to ending the relationship anyway, why don’t you have a blunt conversation with him. I’m not saying it won’t be difficult and awkward. But what if you were to just say “I know we’ve talked about being in a relationship and I really like so many things about you but I have to be honest. There’s just one thing I can’t get past—I’m a clean freak, and your place is really dirty. I don’t know if it’s my place at this point to ask you to change, but I just wanted to be transparent about the fact that that’s what’s keeping me from seeing a future for us. What do you think? Is there any room for you to keep a cleaner home?”

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If he’s open, offer to clean it up together, using that process to show him what would meet your standards and offering some tips about how to maintain it. Then sit back and wait for a month or so and see if he keeps it up. If he’s serious, he will. If he doesn’t, you can part ways in peace knowing that you avoided a life of sleeping in a nest of dog hair.

Catch up on this week’s Prudie.

More Advice From Pay Dirt

My wife’s grandfather just died. His estate was broken into two pieces: his wife’s (my wife’s grandmother) and his. Over the past 10 years, he had started living with a new, younger woman and decided to leave his estate to her. He didn’t have power to leave the grandmother’s share to her, so he gave it all to my wife’s brother’s wife, with the ask that she give it to her kids and to her second cousins (not closely related). Our read on this is that he wanted to disinherit everyone he could, but could only go so far due to trust language. He completely ignored the wishes of my wife’s grandmother, who wanted it to be split evenly. Instead, he left it all to my wife’s brother. We asked him for our fair share, and his response was that granddad wanted his kids to have it, so it’s his. Are we justified in cutting ties with him?

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