My husband is reacting badly to me being the breadwinner


Dear Judy,

I am a woman from Eastern Europe and have been in the UK for more than ten years now.

For about five years I struggled on many low paid jobs while waiting for permission to stay in this country and six years ago I could take the British passport. After this I started to do some courses in customer service and improve my English so that I could find a better job and earn more money which I have now achieved.

The problem is with my husband. He has changed a lot over the last three years, especially since I have been earning more money and he thinks that I am higher than him. He works in building and construction and most of the time he complains that there is not enough work for him. My main concern is with his heavy drinking and when I come home, tired from my day at work, we end up arguing because of his complaining about me being out at work all day.

On the one hand he needs my money, but on the other hand he doesn’t like the idea that I am out of the house for so long and providing financial support for the family. Our communication has become very strained. I try to communicate with him and make him feel good but he offends me, and he does not open up with me. Sometimes this happens in front of our two children (13 and 14 years old). I don’t like the idea that we argue in front of them and I don’t know how to avoid it. What do you suggest to try and make this situation better?


Do your best to re-open the lines of communication.

Judy PiatkusDear Danette,

Congratulations. You have emigrated to a new country with your family. You did not speak the language well. In spite of that you have persevered and have now gained skills and a position in the workplace where you are able to earn an improved salary. You have much reason to feel proud of this achievement.

Nevertheless when a woman achieves more in the workplace than her partner, it is always a delicate situation which needs to be discussed honestly by both husband and wife with sensitivity and tact. Firstly, you need to understand your own feelings and you need to be honest with yourself and consider how you really feel toward your husband.

He has clearly not succeeded in this new country in the way you have. Is there genuinely insufficient work for him – or does his drinking prevent him being offered work? What are the problems and challenges that he has had to face which, unlike you, he has not succeeded in overcoming? What are the good things that he has brought to the relationship in the past? Some men can feel emasculated when their wives start to earn more than they do. You must carefully choose your time to begin to gently explore what your husband really wants and how you can help him achieve it? Be prepared to listen carefully. Do not be accusatory. Talk to him in the way you would like to be talked to if you were feeling insecure in the relationship.

Discuss with him that you are concerned about his health and his drinking and the effect it is having on your family when the two of you argue. Do you need to make more decisions, especially financial decisions, together? Try to create opportunities for close conversations, perhaps away from the house. Do your best to re-open the lines of communication.

It may take some time and several conversations but if you want to stay together in a relationship of mutual respect and pride in one another, it will be worth it. If, after this effort, you feel that the situation is not changing – that you are not able to reach a point where the partnership feels more equal and where you both are contributing – then you may need to seek professional help to decide the best course for the future.

JudJ Piatkusy