Skip to content

Ask Ellie: Can my relationship survive a househusband?

When a couple stays close and loving, their “differences” can become a unique bond

Dear Ellie: I met my husband nine years ago and we fell in love, though we’re so different.

He’d worked steadily in a young company, and had a decent salary. I’d built my own team in a thriving profession.

We were extremely happy when our son was born six years ago. But something uncomfortable has arisen in our relationship, and I’m unsure how to handle it.

A U.S.-based company bought the company where he worked, but didn’t hire my husband. I worried about him, but he suddenly said he’d be happy to become a full-time father.

He insists that we don’t need our hired nanny as this is the job he wants: Being close to our child, something he didn’t have from his own parents.

He said he’d do all the driving to and from school, sports activities, etc. He’d attend all parent-teacher meetings (I’ve had to miss some), study the curriculum, also get involved in our community so he can inform all three of us about what’s going on or needs changes, etc.

But how will this affect us? I love my husband and fear it’ll drive us apart. With me as the big earner and him as househusband, how will we stay connected as equals?

Fearing the Future

Fear is a control reaction. You want to say “No” without giving him the chance to make it work.

That’s unfair. He won’t be the first househusband, or the last.

Being “the big earner” is getting in the way of your response. Your husband’s saving nanny costs, and he’ll be giving your son (and you) the benefit of family love and involvement as a daily reality.

Give it a chance, discuss how it’s going. There are two of you to work out glitches and an important love relationship to protect.

Dear Ellie: I’m 49, a single mom working long hours in health care. I have three young-adult sons (two living at home, one at university).

I see my partner of four years on weekends. We don’t live together.

My mother, 77, also lives with me. When her health started deteriorating, I began caring for her. She contributes to the rent, and I wanted her “final years” to be with family.

It’s been hard on both of us — three years with many health issues and she never leaves the house unless I’m taking her somewhere.

When I go to my partner’s home, my mom guilts me for leaving her lonely. She’s also constantly reporting to me what my grown kids are doing wrong.

When I’ve tried talking to her, she cries and guilts me. I keep telling myself and the kids that someday she won’t be around and we should treasure the time we have.

She says that formerly, “the daughter looked after parents without complaint. That was her job.” I’ve said I’m entitled to my own life.

How do I talk to my mom without her guilting me about wanting my own space and time?

Dutiful but Tired Daughter

You made a caring decision about looking after an aging parent. Yet, these are difficult years for you both.

You: Single, in a demanding job, with three grown sons living in and out, and a needy, lonely, health-compromised mom. She: trying to be a significant elder in a changed world.

Yes, you’re entitled to your own life. But she’s been handed her dependency on you.

Try signing her up for a periodic day program for seniors. Or, since she has her own funds, hire a caregiver for when you’re with your partner.

Ellie’s tip of the day

When a couple stays close and loving, their “differences” can become a unique bond.

Send relationship questions to [email protected] or [email protected]. Follow @ellieadvice.

push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks