My wife is mean to me

Hi Cary,

When I married my wife, I started my own business (Web development). And since our wedding day, that business was modest and grew slowly, but surely. But never beyond being a modest business.

And we were happy.

The key, however, was that I worked from home and spent a lot of time with my wife I otherwise would not, and I knew when we had kids, that meant spending time with them too.

We are now married for 11 years, and sure enough, I spend every moment with my children (except while they’re in school) and I love that about my life, i.e. it went exactly as planned.

What’s different is that along the way, besides my company, my wife and I decided to invest our saved money in real estate, and while that too has gone wonderfully, it was frustrating (for my wife especially), to work with Realtors. So, my wife decided to become a Realtor herself. And she loved it!

And I loved that she found something she loved!

In fact, she’s so bright when it comes to business (she started her own business as a teenager!), she ate up as much knowledge as possible, and within three years, became a real estate broker. And it didn’t stop there. She added on association management, and now if you look at her business card, without exaggeration she has at least 20 designations. She is even a notary for practical reasons. She has married about five couples. If you were to read her Zillow reviews, what people say about her is nothing short of spectacular.

It’s gone so well that her business long ago out-earned mine, and as a result, she suggested I too get my real estate license.

I did.

And slowly but surely, I put my business on pause to help with hers. We became your typical husband and wife Realtor team.

And even though this meant me becoming No. 2 and literally dumping all praise and focus on her (I’m just not as good a Realtor as she is), I was more than happy to do so!

Combined, her business makes a lot more than mine, and our family has never been so financially stable.

To take things a step further, I started to become a kind of Mr. Mom, too. Because since she is the “star” of the real estate operation, it’s important she court clients, etc., and her presentation is perfect. I especially love the part about how passionate she is about her work, and how much she loves what she does. And I love that part because I love to hear that she’s happy.

Even if it means being the one who takes the kids to jiu jitsu classes, guitar lessons, school, etc.

I honestly don’t care that I’ve swapped my web development day-to-day for a Mr. Mom day-to-day, with real estate as a backup for when she needs me. I’m taking one for the team and I am only too happy to do so.

But then, all of a sudden, especially when I show how happy I am, she starts with things like “I hate being the bread winner,” or “I hate having the pressure of earning all our money.”

And sometimes it gets nasty as in, “Why don’t you do something productive with your life?” or “Why don’t you be a man instead of jerking off all the time?” (metaphorically speaking of course).

This has built up over the past three years. And honestly, I am less than happy now. I am starting to get extremely upset about it.

I thought sacrificing my career for the greater good was being a man. I thought it was being provider. I thought I was doing a really good thing.

But because there’s no salary on the other end, I get no applause. And applause isn’t even what I want. All I want is this nagging to stop.

Appreciation would be nice, but just for the cheap shots to stop would be enough for me.

So, now I look at my life and I ask myself what do I want? I want that autonomy back.

I obviously don’t want to be a Realtor anymore. When I work in real estate or try to, she, as my “boss,” insults me. And often times in front of other employees, which is extremely humiliating.

The worst part is she never apologizes even when she admits to others she was wrong to behave that way. It’s as if she doesn’t want to give me that satisfaction to see that she was wrong.

Is there anything I can do to get her to stop? If I talk to her she has the knack for twisting my words and making everything about her and my fault, and I just can’t compete with her in that department.

We tried therapy, which was working. The therapist sided with me on a lot of things. But then it was getting expensive (according to her — she’s a little frugal, too), so we stopped and now she doesn’t want to go back.

So I am all alone. No one to speak to, no one to help me. I am trying to get out of this rut, but can’t.

Completely Confused: Thought I Did the Right Thing

Dear Completely Confused,

You have lost your mojo. You need to get it back. You can’t get it from your wife. She doesn’t have it.

Where could it be? You have to go look for it. Is it in your pants? Is it in the forest? Maybe it is in your hair. I don’t know where it is. But you have to find it.

Do you know what mojo is? It is the life force. It is the thing you have when you’re getting born and fighting for a breath. It is the survival instinct thing, the love of life thing, the thing that feels pure beauty, that loves water and sky and rain, that dances, that cusses and sings, that says no to bullshit.

There are ways to look for it. Sometimes people go out in the desert. There’s mojo out there. I don’t know why. There is also mojo in garages and in car engines. And in guitars. When mojo departs, it tends to go to places like that. But it depends on what kind of mojo you have. So you need to remember who you are and why you love your wife. You love her for some reason other than the money. The money is bullshit. Forget the money. You could live on sandwiches if you love your wife. You could feed your kids on nuts and berries. They’d get the hang of it. If they saw that their daddy had his mojo back they wouldn’t care about the berries.

What I mean is you need to get down to fundamentals. That’s where your mojo is.

Your wife doesn’t have your mojo. She can’t give it back to you.  She didn’t take it from you. She just noticed that it was gone and became irritable and unpleasant. She’s not behaving well but if you play into that you’re in a losing game. She has to sort herself out. Steer clear of trying to fix her. That’s what got you into this mess, thinking too much about her.

One guy I read about leaves the house for an hour if his wife spews venom. You might try that. While you’re out, have a hamburger. Having a hamburger will tell your mojo that you’re ready for it to return.

Mojo does not like to be treated poorly. That’s why it left you in the first place. If you let yourself be treated poorly, your mojo goes out to the desert or into the engine of a car until you find it again and coax it back.

You might have to go all the way back to being born. Or maybe you only have to go back to when you got married. It depends.

I could say a million things about therapy and family systems theory and cultural models and sexism and our peculiar cultural moment but I have a feeling all that is just thinking and you can’t afford any more thinking. Thinking and trying to do the right thing is what got you into this mess. The only thing that will get you out is to find your mojo.

One more thing. When you find that mojo, keep it close to you at all times. And don’t put it in a jar. That will make it moldy.

6 thoughts on “My wife is mean to me”

  1. Wow!

    I am the original poster and I am so happy to see Cary reply and all of the other great comments too.

    But I do need to clarify a couple things I think:

    As per @LouisaFinnell comment about “getting a job”… I have a job! 🙂

    When I said I “paused” my business, I think I should have said I let it “Plateau” instead. By paused I actually meant I don’t have the time in the 9am-2pm to keep it growing if I am also expected to be a Realtor AND Mr. Mom from 2pm-7pm… I only have the time to keep in steady. And by steady, my business earns close to 6-figures. But she earns 3 times that 🙂

    So it’s still active and earns me/us money. I don’t just do nothing from 9-2 🙂

    I also think it was confusing when I quoted her saying she hates “earning all the money”.

    This is her turning what I earn into $0, because she out-earns me. It’s her way. She rounds down and always does this. But I definitely produce more than enough, and if we had to go back to just my income, we’d have enough to live just fine.

    So, I think Cary is right… I lost my Mojo.

    Because it appears the only thing she values is the bottom line. And the sacrifices I’ve made adding on Mr. Mom, and allowing her to be the “star”, goes unappreciated because there’s no salary attached to those sacrifices.

    So what I’ve done since writing, is I’ve tried to get my Mojo back (to use Cary’s terminology now that I read it).

    I asked her to put a value on what I do for her business (Real Estate), and when she said there’s very little value, that what I do in a day she can do in an hour, I quit.

    In other words, if what I do is useless, or is something she can do in a fraction the time, then I am justified to go back to doing what I love to do.

    She had to no answer and obviously had to accept.

    So I started with removing myself from her business world, reinserting myself in mine, and rebuilding my routine around those variables, which includes still being Mr. Mom 2pm onwards, etc…

    My next steps will be to add-on elements to my life that truly define where my Mojo was from birth: I am a musician, I collect vintage watches, etc.

    As time goes on, all of those hobbies are hobbies that will actually earn me money, not cost us money, so hopefully there will be no issues there (i.e. she can’t say “now that you started up music again you cost me money”). And hopefully at the end of that, my Mojo will be restored, and she will appreciate me as she did before she started being “the star”.

    But we’ll see… one day at a time, but thank you all!

  2. I think the answer is in balance. This couples to do a power/money/housework/dominant/submissive re-equalisation. They probably have them on spaceships somewhere.

    So much in relationships and families is about roles. For happiness, I think the roles need to remain flexible and interchangeable. Top/bottom. Carer/provider. Protector/protected.

    Oh, and by the way, those people who have a million things written on their business cards? I always think it’s Sign that’s Something’s Up.

  3. Dude, your kids are in school. Get a job! Even if your wife makes enough money to support your family, she doesn’t enjoy bearing all this responsibility alone. Hanging out with the kids is great, but it doesn’t make you Mr. Mom. What do you do when they are in school? Are you doing all the housekeeping and shopping and laundry and cooking? Are you rewiring the electrical? Upgrading the kitchen? If you are, that isn’t coming across in your letter.

    You aren’t a true partner for your wife and that’s what she needs. She’s told you that and you ignored her. She encouraged you to join her in real estate hoping you’d step up, but you didn’t have a passion for it, you messed up a lot, and you still let her do all the work. She finally accepted that it would be better for her business if you just went home. She’s feeling a lot of panic about what would happen to all of you if she got hurt or sick and couldn’t work anymore. Maybe she’s tired of being SUPERWOMAN. Maybe she’s burning out. Could she rely on you to support the family if she couldn’t do it anymore or even if she just needed to scale back a bit? Let’s just say, um, NO. Now she understands that there’s nothing she can do to get you off your duff and into a career of your own. You have to do that for yourself, except you won’t.

    When she finally divorces you, what are you going to do then? I suggest you talk to a family law attorney and ask what your life will look like as a newly single man with no job. Think you can live on alimony? Think again. Is this what you want? Because this is exactly where you are headed and it’s your own fault. Wake up before it’s too late. Or wake up because it’s too late. Either way, your life as you know it is coming to an end.

  4. I’ve never seen the ordinary life of a married woman laid out so clearly by a married man. As for the ‘mojo’ search — is that what you would recommend to a woman in the same position? That she abandon her home and children and work when she feels unappreciated, and just walk off the job? Because the problems will all be there when he gets back, nothing will have changed.

    Allow me to interpret ‘mojo’ as it seems to be used here. Superiority. First place. Dominant. Decision maker. Lost mojo seems to mean lost danglies to you. The OP hasn’t lost his mojo — he has discovered what our culture thinks of women — and what his wife (who has bought into the paternalistic culture) thinks of a full partner who takes on the back-up role.

    He’s fine — but his wife needs an attitude readjustment.

    1. IMHO, mojo is not gender based nor gender biased. Its not dominance but it is a power. It’s not superiority but it is confidence. Its knowing your self worth.

      I’ve sadly seen both men and women lose their mojo and it’s not pretty. Though it is beautiful to see them get it back.

      I think Cary is spot on right to encourage people to explore within themselves the source of it and to evaluate where they lost it.

      If your job caused you to lose it, yes by all means, walk off the job. You are more important than the money you earn.

      That said, you’re right, there are times when you can’t just walk away. If you’re a stay at home parent and your kids are sick, you can’t just walk away. I didn’t get a sense that Carey was implying that people be negligent. There is a difference between being overwhelmed/frustrated and lacking mojo though…a person without an inner strength and confidence (mojo) is more apt to be frustrated.

      Bottom line -Mojo is gender neutral. Had the letter been written by a woman, Carey’s advice would have been just as sage.


    2. I agree with OregonBird. This is exactly what is happening. I also agree with Louisa’s, albeit harsh, assessment. And, to top it off I agree with Cary and Kat. Everyone here has a piece of the truth, IMHO. I hope this LW reads all of it, gets it into the balance right for him and then takes action.

      I’d like to add one more thing into the mix: LW’s wife, regardless of whether it’s his doing or not that triggers it, has treated him badly and he has allowed it. That is a boundary issue. The boundaries for both of them are not respected. So if he were to read up on what boundaries are and learn from that, it will also help. Maybe even with the process of finding his mojo again. I’d recommend he go to a book store and brows through quite a few books on the subject because not every author gets it right. He’ll know it when he sees it. All the best, Completely Confused, you’re a good man. You’ve got work to do, but you can do it!

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