My wife and I have been married three years. I work full time for another company, but one-and-a-half years ago we decided to start a home business. It is Internet based and its growth is slow, yet I see the potential for it to be our sole source of income someday with some to spare.
I limit my work on our home business to two evenings per week so I can keep a healthy home life. We have no children. Though we've talked about it repeatedly, my wife wishes I would close our business. She hates watching me work on it. She thinks I'm wasting my time and she'd rather . . . I just . . . I don't know what she wants. Do nothing? Have no projects at all?
At the same time, my wife dreams of finishing school and doing the Eco Challenge and other fitness competitions, just like I have dreams of building our home business. She has already finished two-and-a-half years of school and will resume in the fall of 2000. I've tried to talk to her about how there is no difference between our dreams and that I fully support hers, but she feels that hers is a worthwhile pursuit while mine is not.
I feel she doesn't realize that having my own business has been a childhood dream of mine. I would love to not have to be at the mercy of a boss and to be able to provide for my family with my own business.
Currently our business breaks even and carries a debt of $3k. We have a one-year plan to pay it off, even if the business doesn't take off. I don't feel I'm asking a lot to continue pursuing it.
Please help. I need another opinion besides my own and my wife's. I love my wife very much and I have no desire to "rule" in our household. I want to have a happy marriage and for both of us to feel good about the other spouse - but at what expense?
As I read your letter I asked myself, "What are they really arguing about?"
Married couples often have unwritten contracts between them such as "We'll spend Thanksgiving with your parents so that we can spend Christmas with mine." All goes well until Christmas comes and the husband announces that he has booked the tickets for visiting his family. The wife explodes and says, "I thought we agreed that we would spend Christmas with my family. After all, we saw your family at Thanksgiving."
The husband replies, "We didn't talk about this." He's right about that. In this case the contract really was in her mind but she thought that it was understood.
Anger often follows when one person has perceived that the other has changed the terms of the contract. What unwritten contracts are at work in your marriage?
Perhaps your wife needs you to have a regular job with a steady income in order to feel secure. Maybe something in her background is making her especially anxious about your developing a home business. Maybe she saw a friend or family member take a big risk like that and lose money. You need to explore her feelings with her.
On the surface, it doesn't appear that either of you are asking for too much. The cost of your wife's schooling and other interests vs. the start-up costs of your business seems to be equal, or at least manageable in your current situation. You mentioned that you don't have children. I don't know if this is a permanent choice or merely deferring the start of your family until some later point. Is having a family part of the discussion? In your letter, you outline her goals and your dream, but what goals have you set for yourself as a couple? A large house, a vacation, a family, early retirement? You sound like you are trying hard to balance the marriage with your new business, but starting a new business involves enormous investments of time and energy. Does each of you make time for the other person?
It is clear from your letter how important being self-employed is to you. To give up your dream at this time would lead to anger and resentment, but is there a time in the future when it realistically won't make financial sense to continue? Maybe this isn't clear to her and you need to sit down with pen and paper and outline your plans with her. The subtext of this letter is about change, and change is scary.
When one person in a couple begins to change, the other person often sends out the message, "Change back. I liked who you were. I liked the way things were." You two need to reopen lines of communication as the situation at the moment is being framed in a way in which someone gets what he wants while the other doesn't.
I would suggest a few sessions with a therapist to discuss the dynamics that are beneath the surface of this conflict. Maybe there is a member of clergy who could counsel you, or a weekend workshop for couples that could help you to develop your communication and negotiation skills.
Your marriage is worth the investment of guidance with this important issue.
Dr. Louise Klein,