I am writing to you to help my relative. She is a teacher barely making ends meet. Her husband is self-employed and working very hard. He spends all day working on the computer and all night watching TV. For five years he's been working to make his business succeed and he has not a penny of income to show for it.
What should my relative do? She is 47 and he is 50. They have a seven-year-old son and a $750 a month mortgage payment. She is very upset with him for not looking for a salaried job and doing something to help the family finances. She also has $20,000 in loans. Please help!
Concerned About Relative's Financial Problems
The situation you describe is indeed a difficult one, and your relative is lucky to have such a caring person as yourself in her life.
It would seem that the husband is unable or unwilling to accept the fact that his business has failed. It is very painful to invest years of your life pursuing a dream only to discover that the dream has become a nightmare. His self-esteem is on the line and it's tough to come to grips with that. Perhaps his TV watching is his way of escaping from this painful reality.
On the other hand, your relative's resentment is very understandable. They are faced with serious financial problems for which they must find an immediate solution. He must come out of hiding to deal with reality.
For them to cooperate, your relative must understand how painful this is for him. She must tell him that and be sensitive when approaching him. Criticizing him won't help. I suspect he already feels bad enough. It will only drive him further into his hole. In order to preserve his self-respect he will feel driven to prove to her that his business will make it. This destructive pattern between them will only lead to greater financial problems.
You might suggest that she write him a letter expressing her feelings. She should start by acknowledging how hard he has worked in his effort to make the business succeed. After doing that she should solicit his help in solving their financial problems. Be sure she doesn't blame or criticize.
Good luck to you.
Naomi L. Baum, PhD