Chronically unemployed husband - WWYD?

I’m at my wit’s end with my husband.  Of the 13 years that we’ve been married, he’s held about 15 jobs.  He’s been sporadically employed.  Most recently, he left a private sector job he held for about 15 months for a government job from which he was let go during probation.  It’s been 8 months since he held that job; he is currently unemployed.  Thank goodness I am working a stable job with good benefits, but the Bay Area being what it is, I don’t think it is sustainable to live on one income alone.  Anything beyond the basics (food, mortgage, etc.) goes on the credit card.  I’m racking up intolerable levels of debt.  We have gone to counseling but that has resulted in him getting angry at me for raising the concern that there is a pattern to his unemployment.  Neither of us is perfect, but I have a strong hunch that it is not bad luck but poor job and interpersonal skills that plague him.  I have tried to talk to him about seeing a pattern in these jobs that he’s lost: there’s a rule he has trouble following, there’s a middle-aged woman who catches him not follow it.  Or, there is the boss that’s out to get him and deliberately makes his life hell.  He has said that it is hard to get a job in his field.  Part of me believes this because he may have burned so many bridges that he’s radioactive to a potential employer; another part of me doesn’t buy it because I have heard that employers are having a hard time finding workers.  I would definitely like a divorce.  We have a middle school-aged child and own our home.  What do you think?  What would you do?

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I highly recommend counseling for yourself if you aren't already doing that. If your marriage is otherwise a good one and his work is the key issue (and it is a big one!), would you consider downsizing or relocating so that it would be easier to live on a single income? Some people are just not temperamentally fit to hold a stable job and that's not a crime, though it may seem like one in this highly competitive, workaholic region.  Might he be more successful taking care of the home, or working part-time or in a less-demanding "clock-in, clock-out" kind of job? I'm sure you feel massive resentment, as I would in your shoes, especially since single-income families seem like a rarity in the Bay Area, but if he is otherwise a good husband and father, I think your family is worth fighting for. Just my two cents based on what you've shared.

I don't have any specific advice for you, but I do sympathize. It's hard enough to live in the Bay Area with 2 incomes but the stress of being the sole bread winner must be unbearable. One thing you should consider with respect to divorce. CA is a community property state. If you have been married to your husband for more than 10 years, it is likely that you will owe your husband spousal support indefinitely. (Note - the court will retain jurisdiction and if your situation or his situation changes, this can be modified depending the circumstances)  Its also worth noting that he may have the right to claim half of your social security benefits upon retirement. [ please speak with an attorney about this to get specific legal advice ] 

I know the feeling..A couple of things I have learned along the way...Always prop your partner up. after threats of divorce and nagging, I've had to change up my approach and turn  conversations with my partner into a positive one. ie. talk about what type of work environment he sees himself in and how much does he think he can realistically make. And we're talking about a guy that has always worked for himself and has a ton of pride. with his line of work, it was always feast or famine, which doesn't always work when you have a kid. It's a touchy subject because there is a male/female breadwinner dynamic, so I would approach the situation as if he was your teammate and not take the "I'm higher than thou" approach. As least for me, taking the better-than-you stance never worked.

I can empathize with your struggle.

The reasons we got married, the reasons we eventually chose to have children, and the reasons we have to stay married at the moment all were very different and at different points in our lives.

Right now, I'm in a mostly equal partnership where we are co-raising our kids and living in the same place, but my romantic feelings for him faded over the years that I struggled to make ends meet because he worked at jobs that didn't supplement our income just because he thought they were "fun" or he liked his co-workers better than the full-time job with benefits. Or he didn't work at all because he "needed a break" or his boss was "out to get [him]." There was a period of time after our youngest was born, when it all seemed to really start, where we were making so little that we qualified for food stamps. At that point, I gave him an ultimatum, which was effective. In fact, I was surprised by how shocked he was that I said he needed to contribute. 

But that's not how it works for everyone and I don't know how much longer I intend to stay committed. My husband is a really good dad, he's just not been a great spouse, if that makes any sense. He doesn't have any mental health issues and he's never been remotely abusive or cruel; he just has an inflated sense of self worth that makes him believe that if things don't go his way, the problem must be with someone else. I got so tired out of doing everything that I ended up resenting him so much and I guess I fell out of love with him as a result.

You're going through worse than I did, it sounds. I don't know that I can give advice one way or another except to suggest that you weigh the pros and cons of continuing this relationship and perhaps to go through a list of questions he might ask so that you're prepared to answer.
What is he providing for your family?
Is there anything he could do that would change your mind?
Does he need or would he benefit from therapy? 
Do you think couples counseling would help to resolve anything?
How long would it take for you to be convinced things have changed?

If the negative outweighs the positive (as it sounds like you're saying), then the burden likely falls on you to manage the separation as well. Honestly, this is part of the reason I am still around in my relationship; I don't think I could afford an attorney, nor the apartment we have, on my own. Good luck to you.

I empathize with what you're going through, having been there myself. My former husband was chronically under-employed, and several major work set- backs (he was in real estate) ultimately led to the end of our marriage. When I finally asked him to leave, I found that I had the courage, skills, and persistence that he lacked. Yes, I ended up having to sell the house, but my life is now rich and full in a way it was not when I was married. In retrospect, I wish I'd taken the leap sooner, rather than continually waiting for my ex to get his act together. I've done well financially over the past 20 years, I'm in a healthy relationship, and my kids have resilience that they do not regret earning Best of luck! You can do it. 

Growing up this was my dad. He was in a similar position and struggled to find employment. At the end of the day it really depends on what’s important to you and if you’re interested in managing the situation. If you are not and financial independence is the most important thing then divorce. Here’s what my parents did: my dad became a stay at home dad and did all of the social things and when he had a job great. And when he didn’t my mom didn’t let it bother her. We moved to places we could afford and lived frugally. My mom was a nurse and would cash all her bonuses and keep the cash in the house. When he’s lose his job we’d live off of that additional money. She just accepted him for who he is. 

We all want to be around people who believe in us and don’t like it when people put a lot of pressure on them. It’s stressful and doesn’t lead to more success. You can make a decision to not take on that burden and just focus on yourself and keeping your stress as low as possible. Or together you can create a plan to enter another career that is more flexible or has higher employment. But there are many options depending one what kind of work you want to put into restoring your relationship. 

Have you considered that he is on the ADHD spectrum? My husband has a very similar pattern and while he is in a field that makes it easy to find jobs, I have lost count how many he's had in the last 20 years, there were also long gaps of unemployment in the middle. For us, a good therapist has made a big difference, somebody that specifically works with ADHD spectrum adults. A lot of the interpersonal issues seemed much better for us even though my husband was never officially diagnosed. What helped me was to learn about the condition and to understand better what he is going through. However, it is never "easy" and there has to be willingness for change from him. Sending you the best of luck.  

That is a tough call for anyone to make. It has to come from you and only you. The problem is when you have a child involved it makes it that much more difficult. I personally would sell my house downsize and try to get him some kind of counseling. Also, you would need to provide alimony and how would he survive without you. Patience is a virtue. Remember your vows. Meditate on that. I wish you the best of luck. Its not easy. 

It's not going to get any better. You need to divorce this guy. My employment situation is similar and my ex was similar, although maybe more feckless and less toxic. While the immediate cause of the end of the marriage was something else, it didn't take me long to realize that the whole thing was highly disfunctional, that his dependence on me was a kind of endless adolescence, and that I deserved better, that I deserved to be with someone who was an actual adult. Marriage is many things, but in part it is an economic partnership, and frankly, each person has to be a contributing partner. Your husband is not contributing, and right now, the whole weight of the family is on your shoulders. Divorce him, let him deal with his own messes, don't bail him out, and watch the burden slowly ease off your shoulders. Life is hard enough here without having to carry everything and him too. 

Y'all should just move somewhere where your income will keep you afloat. Or downsize so that same. There's no changing someone like this, and if you divorce him, you'll have to pay him alimony because he's the unemployed one. 

As for the truth of his assertions -- that there are no jobs for him -- it may be true if he is high-level enough, but then headhunters should be available to find him new jobs. If he's not high-level, then in order for employers to be in need of him, he has to be great at something like coding or engineering. It really depends on what it is that he does. At any rate, he could get a job at Trader Joe's or Costco if he is burned out on his chosen career. If he's not even doing that, and isn't taking over as the stay-at-home parent (or if that isn't necessary, you didn't mention), then you're stuck with him and have to figure out how to limp along with his dead weight; the courts will just punish you for divorcing someone who doesn't have their own income. 

Has he been checked for ADHD? My husband wasn't able to hold a job for long and running his own business was a disaster. When he got diagnosed,  he felt such relief and got on meds. What a difference! He still had issues at work but nothing like before. I was frustrated because everything was on me, but luckily I made more than enough to not run up debt. We never got divorced but I sure thought about it and went to therapy a lot. Adding money issues would very possibly have changed the outcome. I wish you luck. You are in a very hard position. 

OMG ... I could have written your post! I got divorced and it was the best thing I could have done for myself and my children. HOWEVER, it is very difficult getting a divorce from this type of man without paying alimony TO HIM! When my attorney (Margaret Gannon) told me I would probably have to pay alimony to him because we had been married for 20 years and I was now making more money than him, I almost lost it. My ex was chronically unemployed for the last 10 years of our marriage. He probably worked 5 out of 10 years. Losing his job was never his fault in his mind. In reality, he had a problem dealing with women, especially as his superior. He does not take responsibility for anything in his life and the job situation is no different. As he moved from job to job, his pay declined and each job was worse than the previous one. I mean how can a man not monetize an MBA and earn six figures?! I think he doesn't even put it on his resume anymore because his job is so menial. So how did I extract myself? Some of it was my good fortune that he lied to all his friends about his work situation. They all kept telling him to try to avoid PAYING ME ALIMONY. So we separated. I took the kids and everything except the master bedroom furniture. I insisted we sell our house. I could not be financially tied to this man any longer. And then I waited for him to get a job. While he was feeling flush and excited with the new job, I wrote our settlement agreement saying we would both give up our claim to alimony. His friends thought I was an idiot and encouraged him to sign the agreement. We shared legal custody of the kids but I insisted on 100% physical custody. My children were 11 and 16 at the time of our separation and have never spent a night at their father's home. He doesn't even have room for them. I figured my job was to take care of myself and my children. I couldn't let him drag all of us down with his unwillingness to be employed and take care of his family. To his credit, he gives me money monthly to cover some expenses, but he doesn't contribute to the cost of housing and feeding our kids. About the debt ... you might want to contact a bankruptcy attorney. It's not the end of the world and might be your only option. I spent several years agonizing about what to do, worrying about destroying my children's lives, wondering if I could make it on my own. Once I finally made a decision to DO SOMETHING, I felt like a huge weight had been lifted. I could breathe again. I was finally moving forward. My children and I are SO much happier. We are all hopeful. My ex is not and probably never will be. Don't be afraid to take a leap of faith. You deserve to be happy and you deserve to be with a person who wants to be your partner and who wants you to be happy. You deserve so much better.

My BFF just divorced a guy just like that, and she's glad to not be supporting him anymore. There was no more love and fondness after so many years of lies and unmet expectations. Can you get 5 sessions with a therapist to get very clear with yourself if you're doing the right thing? 

I had a very similar situation.  My husband wa chronically unemployed, though very well-educated.  He just couldn't keep up and would be cut when layoffs came to pass.  I think he always felt like his position was tenuous, even in the best of times.  I divorced him.  It was tough with teenage kids, but we made a conscious effort to be our best selves.  We stuck to that mantra and truly wish the best for the other.  We are on very good terms, much to everyone's surprise.    I think if you can envision the future you want, you can make it happen, though it may feel impossible when you're in it.  I've never been happier and I think he's grown and developed in ways he couldn't have with me at his side.  The kids understand that you don't need to stay in a bad situation. and you can be a better version of the same family. Communicate, wish each other the best and go for the life you want to live.

If you get a divorce, the money problems just get bigger. You’ll end up paying him alimony and child support, half your retirement savings too. Not to mention tens of thousands to lawyers. So if this is the only problem, it’s worth it to find a way through — continue in therapy, get yourself individual therapy, pay for career counseling or a job coach for him, etc. (Not to minimize your concerns - I’d be angry and turned off too.)

I’m no therapist nor have advice on how to handle his job record. I imagine his confidence is shot and he needs some lifting up. But I hear your challenge. And I saw the words you wrote loud and clear... “I definitely want a divorce.”  Marriages eb and flow. If you think he’s worth sticking it out for, you might want to try being more of a cheer leader and building him up to try to go pound the pavement again. If you don’t see it changing, be true to yourself. Good luck!!