The Fight That Made Me A Better Wife

Breadwinner-one-income-family-marriage-advice

Mr. Breadwinner’s Burden…

My husband grew angry and threw his phone at me.

It felt like a punch in the gut.

It didn’t hurt much but the surprise felt like a slap in the face.

My husband is a sweetheart; that is a fact. Jared has never and I highly doubt will ever raise his hand in anger to anyoneIf there was 1080p footage of him robbing an old lady, I would tell the police to rinse their eyes and watch it again because there’s no way it could be my Jared.

But today, I need to embarrass him a little in order to advance this story.

For his story of triumphant glory and accidental wealth, go here instead.

This phone throwing business happened 1 AM in the morning almost a month ago. I was in bed and on my phone, doing my usual late night Internet binge. My husband was in heavy slumber next to me. Then our Airbnb guests at the rental messaged us to increase the heat but that required a security code. I didn’t know it so I shook Jared awake and asked him for the code. Half asleep, he grabbed and checked his phone, muttered the code and fell back asleep. Then 30 seconds later, he suddenly woke up, completely agitated! He screamed that I expected too much from him in the middle of the night and he threw the phone he still had on hand at me!

In a brilliant throw, the phone hit and bounced off me, just to hit our poor sleeping doggy in bed with us too. Grace immediately jolted up and ran for the door. Smart pup. I was so taken back at his anger. I sat there in bed with my eyes and mouth open, like a fish’s face, gulping for air.

It was 1 AM and my husband just threw his phone at his two favorite girls in the world. He swung at the bedpost and stormed out of the bedroom.

“Wow. @_@ He really doesn’t like being woken up.” I thought to myself…

Let me tell you if I didn’t feel guilty about waking him up in the middle of the night for a code I should have known already, he would be dead.

Just to clarify, if someone were to slap me, I would slap them right back. I inherited my father’s temper, remember? I’ve gotten into physical fights before and I never regretted standing up for myself.

But I did sense something wrong (beyond waking him up at 1 AM). This was extremely out of the ordinary behavior for my overly timid and soft-natured husband.

In other words, he went postal.

I have given Jared so much more grief than just waking him up at 1 AM. For example, when we were first dating, I use to constantly burp in his face by tricking him in for a kiss. Feel free to laugh here.

He has never gotten this mad at me. My wifey red flags went off which stopped me from going off on him in retaliation for this unprecedented violence and anger. I remember sitting in bed and contemplating the two choices of either screaming back and escalating the fight or just letting it go for some shut-eye. He had work the next day and I woke the poor guy up.

I chose to let it go.

He volunteered to sleep on the sofa in the living room. Our living room is right above the garage that isn’t insulated and the room is always freezing cold. I asked him to come back to bed to sleep where it’s warm. I was mad but I didn’t want him sleeping on the sofa. We both had long days ahead so when he came back to bed, I snuggled up to him and let him slide on his biggest infraction to date.

The Next Day…

I was still asleep when he left for work in the morning. He came home that night and he immediately apologized for throwing his phone and losing his temper. I accepted his apology and asked him why he did it. That I had to know, it was (once again) so out of the ordinary.

“My project at work didn’t go over well…”

*Tears welling up in his eyes.*

“I spoke to my manager and he said I’m moving slower than others. Unless I improve, I think they just might put me under performance check.”

“It’s OK, that happens, it’s alright honey.”

“They replaced me with another guy as team leader because I wasn’t doing a good job.”

“Ohhhhhhhhhhhh, that makes sense now…so they replaced you with someone else?”

“Yeah.”

“Who?”

“Jared.”

“Ouch!”

grace-frugalpup
“Oh is that what it was? I thought something off. Tsk, tsk mom you need to pay more attention.” -Grace

Background note: so there are 2 Jareds on the same team. As if it wasn’t competition enough to share the same name – they both have the same job, rank, facial features, hair, build, age and float around the same social circles at work. The other Jared is more well-rounded (according to my husband’s description of him on occasions.)

By the way, that should be a strike against overly common boy names for expecting moms out there…🤔

Anyway, now my husband’s sitting on the sofa, teary-eyed. I’m holding in some remorseful laughter and reached out to hug him.

My poor baby. He’s been holding all this in for almost 2 weeks. This was weeks old news and he never told me about it!

Oh…wait…I remember now…do you know what he actually told me?

His exact words of what he considers as telling me were they added more people on to my team.

I remember him coming home one night and muttering something like that in a sad tone. I thought to myself, “ok, they added more people, that’s interesting…I guess.

Adding more people to the team is drastically different from the real version of “hi honey, I was replaced by my friend with the same face, hair, name, and job as me.”

So you can see how sensitive hubby is on this topic. Oh, my poor honey, to carry such baggage, my heart hurts just remembering it.

The male ego can be very sensitive – especially when something at work doesn’t go right. My Jared is no different from other men. He defines himself by his work. He has pride in what he does and genuinely wants to succeed in his career without compromising his style of execution.

He accepts and regards that he is the family breadwinner and main provider. With that responsibility internalized, he takes his failures and setbacks seriously. I have also unknowingly contributed to this internalization by putting our finances out in the open.

We are a one income family. I try my best to hustle for some chump change on the side, but Jared is the real bacon bringer here.

It’s an unspeakable amount of pressure that he has to deal with. It’s understandable now how he could be in so much pain when something at work simply doesn’t go right.

Besides Airbnb, we are a one-income family. The pressure for him to perform better at work is much higher because of that. We have two mortgages and double the liabilities. Although I think Jared makes great money, our dynamic is still that of a single income family. The bottom line is we depend on his talents to get paid properly so we can pay others properly.

It’s not easy being a breadwinner. While I have observed his stress now, I will never see it from his driver’s seat. Nor do I ever want to. I just want him to understand that it’s not his responsibility to be perfect. A good spouse stands behind the success of our significant other just as much as their failures. It is not his responsibility to continuously make more and more money!

No self-respecting human being with two brain cells knocking together should ever put that kind of monetary pressure on their significant other.

Related: 3 Profound Things I Wish I Knew Before Adulthood

Being A Better Wife…

The amount of pressure on him and the 1 AM explosion gave me a critical peek into his world. Underneath that happy-go-lucky-guy hides, a man who feels traps and I bet that’s the majority of men out there too. I was actually offended that he couldn’t tell me this earlier! I’M YO WIFE DUDE. We’ve been married how long? I’ve screwed up SO much, in fact, I’m still screwing up!!! You can’t hide dirt from me, we’re equaled!

Related: Top 5 Sorry Ass Financial Mistakes Of My Early 20s

Even though Jared is a fantastic engineer and problem solver, he is also extremely limited in his communication skills. There are days where I’m lucky if he gives me more than two emotional descriptors other than “good” and “not good.” I don’t want that to happen to him so we had a long talk that can be briefly summarized in my public service announcement below.

Public Service Announcement to All Husbands / Breadwinners:

Marriage-Advice

Your love ones will not think any less of you for setbacks at work.

You will always be a good provider and you will always be deserving of genuine love. A bad day, a bad week, or a bad year at work does not define who you are as a man. You are loved and you are appreciated.

It’s important to not bottle these feelings up. Because failure is one of the most important aspects of life. You cannot be expected to be good at everything and you cannot be expected to be the best at everything.

Even in your darkest time you should be able to turn to your wife and tell her how you feel. A good wife will understand. A good wife will accept any proposed failure with kindness and alleviate you from guilt and stress. And if your wife can forgive you for throwing a phone at her then nothing is going to change her mind about how much she loves you (and mark my words that’s the only time that you’re allowed to do that you stupid penguin.)

The best way to feel better as a man is to confess like a man. March home to your wife and look her in the eyes and go “honey I screwed up royally at work, can we talk?

You talk it through and that’s how you start to build a stronger marriage.

For bonus reading, check out my friend Ember’s enlightening post on why it’s good to fight with your husband.

[I recorded the audio of this raw with Google keyboard for my husband so fit it any way you like for you. Thanks BOAS for the audio idea.]

I’m your wife, that’s a mighty high title, you’re supposed to be able to tell me things without fearing judgement. We are a team, we are the same person. Remember when I was going through a very similar situation with my blog? I tried really hard to grow my stats but they were stuck at that number. It’s the same feeling of never being able to measure up to someone else who may simply be better, like how you feel about the other Jared.

See?

We just connected. So the conversation in a few sentences not only alleviated the stress but it brought us even closer in our pain. The whole fighting could have been avoided if those feelings hadn’t been bottled up. So here is what we’re going to do…

The rest of our conversation evolved into plans for FIRE (Financial Independence & Retiring Early) which I will get into in below. Have a restful weekend everybody!

Related: Our plans for FIRE (Financial Independence & Retiring Early)


Are you the family’s breadwinner? Are these feelings common for you and/or your spouse? Have you ever misdelivered bad news to your significant other out of embarrassment?



45 thoughts on “The Fight That Made Me A Better Wife”

  • While we both work, I am the breadwinner and make more due to the job types (I say this because Mr. Adventure Rich likely works harder at his job than I do at mine… but he is in an industry that pays a lot less…).

    We have a pretty good understanding now since this has been the case from the day we met, but it has taken time and communication to make sure we are on the same page and comfortable with how we bring in, manage, invest and spend our money.

    You hit on a very important topic for couples here… thank you for sharing!
    Mrs. Adventure Rich recently posted…Adventure Challenge #7: Embrace the Chill

  • We both work (and make identical salaries…how convenient), but my husband definitely defines himself by his work so much more than me. I have to remind myself when he is stressed about something at work it will carry throughout his day. When I’m stressed out by work, I (typically) can separate myself from it on the drive home. I try to remain sensitive to our differences, and he tries to not obsess about talking about work in the evenings.

    Great points in today’s post!
    Mrs. Kiwi @ KiwiAndKeweenaw.com recently posted…Save Your Scraps! Frugal Vegetable Stock Recipe

  • This is such a sweet and honest post, Lily! I’m glad you guys worked things out in the end. I can somewhat relate to Jared’s stress and pressure since I was once the breadwinner when Mr. FAF was in school. I was constantly stressed out about money, whether Mr. FAF was making any progress in his program, and whether he could even graduate and get a job one day. It caused a lot of tension in our marriage.

    After he got a job, I feel more relieved. But I think Mr. FAF now feels the pressure of being the breadwinner. Sometimes he would come home and say things like: “I think I’m going to get fired. I couldn’t solve a problem at work today.” Sometimes he’ll be like: “Work is good. I will try to get promoted next year.” I think it really depends on his mood and performance on a certain day.

    When he said he was going to get fired, I just told him “Ok, I will be the breadwinner. You can stay at home to take care of our son.” He just smiled. I think he knew it would be ok for him to lose his job (not really but still) bc I have his back.

    I think you made the right decision by not escalating the fight. I inherited a bad temper from my dad too. I tend to escalate a fight, and it can get ugly. @_@
    Ms. Frugal Asian Finance recently posted…Is My Husband Frugal Or Cheap? I Can’t Decide.

    • Yes!! Jared too! Sometimes he has a bad day and think they hate it but other times, he’s like *hey works fun* – I think they care and that’s why they’re so emotional. I doubt Google would put him on performance. He just wants to Jared.

  • Awe thank you for sharing this story- men do out a lot of pressure on themselves I think whether they are the primary breadwinner or not. My husband out earns me and also places pressure on himself- he feels more responsible to be able to provide for our family now that we have a little one. It’s good that you connected with Jared and grew even closer from this fight- since he was bottling it up.
    GYM recently posted…A Tale of 4 Maternity Leaves: Comparison Between 4 Countries

  • Thank you for sharing this. I’m also the breadwinner at home. Not that my wife couldn’t be if she went back to work as she was very successful in her career also. For now, we decided that it’s best for her to raise our kids. The pressure on me as the sole money maker was more than I had anticipated. It led me down this path to optimize my finance and then to start my blog. Please let your husband know that he’s not alone feeling that pressure.

  • As the bread-winner it was really tough for me when I got laid off. I made about twice as much as my wife and we had a lot on the line – including our wedding and our house.

    It sucked, but I was open and honest with her because there was no point in lying about it or not talking about it. We needed to come up with a plan and change our spending habits to deal with losing 60% of our income while lining up a 2017 that would more than double our usual spending.

    It can be tough.

    At the same time I think that the other side of the equation deserves discussion as well. Kristin struggles constantly with the fact that I earn so much more than her. She’s jealous of my career path so far and what I’ve got ahead of me in my career. There’s this sense of pressure she feels to earn more to be more in-line with what I make, even though she makes decent money and I’m proud of her.

    Just because someone isn’t a breadwinner doesn’t mean that they’re immune to these pressures. The key is figuring out why those feelings exist and what you can do about them.

    I’m really interested to see how your conversation panned out and evolved into FIRE…
    Dave @ Married with Money recently posted…How We Dropped 35lbs For Our Wedding

    • Yes!! I remember reading that on your blog when you first joined the Rockstar community, great story and mad props for handling it like a pro!

      That is such an insightful point Dave! I feel so jealous of Jared sometimes, that’s why I side hustle so much. In my mind, I can try to help. Airbnb takes a lot of time and physical energy but it’s important for me to do it – to feel like I’m contributing.

  • So our situation is kinda similar, I work full time and I’m the sole breadwinner. My wife stays home with the kids but works part-time and we have some side hustles (like blogging) to help supplement. I don’t hate my job but I have bad days and when traffic is tough I can be pretty cantakerous when I get home, though I try to purge it from my system before I walk inside.

    Understanding and empathy are key. She doesn’t really understand the stress and pressure on me to support my family and I don’t really understand her frustration of not contributing as much and relying on me for so much. But we just have to remember that we’re partners and keep communication lines open. Holding everything in just leads to resentment and that’s not a healthy way to live.
    Mike from Budget Kitty recently posted…Spend Less Than You Earn

    • “I try to purge it from my system before I walk inside.”

      Totally get that, my husband told me he takes an extra walk around the block before he gets home after a bad day. Communication is a really big deal Mike because you know you love each other. I have to pry everyday with my husband but it has to be done or he will bottle it up.

  • You’re always so good at writing something that I’d both highly entertaining to read but with a deeper message. I don’t know what it is about husbands not being able to express themselves beyond two words.

    We do go on walks with our son everyday so it helps us have a chance to talk with one another. It helps me pry the info out of him and be on the same page.

  • Dang, this was a ROLLER-COASTER post of emotions!

    Your overall point is absolutely spot on. (I.e. “Your love ones will not think any less of you for setbacks at work.”)

    SO true, and great story today Lily 🙂

  • Great post. As the breadwinner in my family, I certainly feel to pressure. And after having my job eliminated, then being retained, then finding a new job, I can say the stress of all that over the past year and a half has been high. My wife has been soooo supportive. I don’t know what I would do without her. So your advice is spot on!! Keep loving and supporting. Thanks for sharing. 😀

  • Wow, Lily – I can strongly resonate with Jared. I like to think I’m a good problem solver and also good at my job. I’m a pretty decent communication with work related items, or really any items where emotions are not involved.

    However, I do struggle communicating with my wife on emotional topics or with describing how I feel when I’m not happy. It ends up making situations worse because I struggle communicating these types of emotional topics, and i know if I just communicated better it would make things easier… I guess I’ll just have to keep working to get better!

  • Lily!! First off, thanks for the shout out to my argue with your hubs post 🙂

    Second, I was tearing up a bit from all of this. Because I totally feel you! My husband is the same, full of stress to provide for our single income family too. And stress gets to guys so differently, and they tend to just hold it in until it pops out in anger. You are an amazing wife! Even after 10 years together and 8 married (almost….) we still struggle with similar things at times.

    I think men are designed to be the breadwinners, but I think we are equally designed to be the support they need to do it. We can’t do one without the other successfully. And you are definitely a huge reason he is successful in his career. I bet he would say the same thing.

    Love this and your transparency and heart. I hope we get to meet IRL one day!

    • AH me too! FinCon 2018? Over Micky Mouses waffle head at Disney World? If I could be so blessed…! Man you guys have stuck together for a long time! We’ve only been married for a couple of years. I totally agree that we can’t do it without the other’s support.

  • I’m glad you were so understanding. It must have been really hard for Jared to open, as it seems like he doesn’t really show his emotions. It must be a TON of pressure to work at a high-profile place like that. I almost got a job at hot startup but I turned it down because I thought it would be way too much pressure. It was also a time when the startup was just becoming popular. Now it’s basically a household name!

    Anyway, my husband and I both have jobs that are relatively chill now, and I count my lucky stars for that. If we decide to have kids, I’m not sure if I would stay at home or not. My dad didn’t work when I was a kid so now I have this chip on my shoulder like I can’t depend on anyone.

    • Wow Luxe! Interesting point. I always thought you were super independent and strong. That makes sense – but if you choose to have kids someday, they’re gonna be the most fashionable tots ever.

  • Oh, I have so many feels about this topic.

    I am the breadwinner in my household. When my fiance was working sixty hours a week, he made about a fifth of my salary. Now he is unemployed.

    There was a time, particularly when he was underemployed for a couple years, doing Lyft and part time work, when this would have added strife to our relationship. I had just purchased our place, was constantly stressed I was going to be fired by my new corporate overlords, and now was the only one of us earning money. He was depressed for not being able to contribute, I resented being the only one working. It was a rough time all around.

    During that time we fought and talked through our finances together. A lot. It was the first time for us as a couple. I talked about how stressed I was being the breadwinner, he talked about how he felt ashamed, like was failing to pull his weight. And once we understood each other, we were able to help each other better. I talked him through his career aspirations (since he really did need to find a job) and he offered emotional support when I had a bad work day and picked up the slack on the domestic front. We became much better at communicating and working as a team.

    Flash forward to now: fiance is back to being unemployed. It still isn’t all sunshine and rainbows; we’d both like him to find work soon. But unlike the last time, we’re on the same page. We don’t fight or feel resentful. Neither of us is worried this is a relationship ender. We have each other’s backs. And better yet, we can trust in that knowledge. Which has made all the difference.

    • Communication is HUGE in a relationship. It sounds like you guys did a great job banding together. A relationship is never ever rainbows and sunshine. Fighting shows the other person that you care. As long as the core is good and communication is good, nothing is an ender.

  • I oddly feel very little pressure about bringing in money. I get stressed at work but have never once worried about losing my job. I am young and motivated and always knew that I would come out fine if it ever did happen. I have actually fantasized about it as it would be the kick in the pants to go for excellence and not settle for “doing all right”.

    Love the honesty of this post.
    Grant @ Life Prep Couple recently posted…You Don’t Have To Be Frugal To Be Good With Money

  • My wife and I have been married close to 15 years now and it hasn’t always been an easy road. Communication is key and we try hard to let each other know what’s going on in each other’s lives. Once a week or so, after the kids go to school, we will have face time at Starbucks to just talk about whatever. We both tell each other when we are worried about something or feel insecure about work. Just verbalizing it relieves a lot of the pent up frustration. If it’s held in too long, any small event will trigger an explosion. best of luck.

    • Yeah that’s basically what happened to us. I’ve been busy with blogging so we skipped our usual dinner dates on the weekends. Need to bring that back.

  • Good for you for not flipping out in the middle of the night. Pressure at work can really get to you and affect how you behave at home. I am usually a good communicator but sometimes I just don’t want to bring it all home but then eventually I blow up (like my recent lay off) . Communication is key, you are spot on.

  • Lily-

    I love how you have opened yourself up to your readers. I am the main breadwinner in our family (and a woman so guess how that can F with your emotions at times). All of this rings true. And now that I have become obsessed with the FI of FIRE, I can get frustrated with my hubby-to-be if I feel he isn’t putting forth as much effort towards our goals as I am. It’s tough, but having these conversations and allowing yourself to be exposed is so helpful in reaching the compromise conclusion!
    Heather @ bizewife recently posted…DIY Design Hacks: Crafting a Custom Closet on a Budget

  • Wow this was so insightful! I always feel my boyfriend is really stressed about work and I’ve never understood why. I mean I understand that he wants to do a good job, but I do too. Reading this made me realize the different expectations we were raised with. I think boys are more often brought up with the huge looming responsibility to be the breadwinners and protectors of the household so there’s way more pressure! For me, I just want to be good at my job, but I feel no where near the same amount of pressure that actually has to do with having my household survive! Even though we work in the same industry, I feel my attitude is pretty relaxed towards work.
    Jing recently posted…Question Your Values, Save Some Money

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