Tell Me About It: He grouses about his job, does nothing to change

Posted: May 24, 2013

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Question: My husband has been unhappy in his job for more than five years. He refuses to take any of my advice about changing it - won't see a career counselor, won't go back to school, won't talk to his boss about a position change, won't visit a therapist - and wants to complain about work all the time.

I would understand 15 to 20 minutes of grousing and off-loading each evening. But he would go on for literally hours if I let him.

I've tried everything I can think of, but it's gotten to the point where I become annoyed literally as soon as the words my job come out of his mouth. It feels like he asked me to watch The Wizard of Oz with him every night. And I did. For a long time. But now I have seen it thousands of times, and I want to scream as soon as Toto comes on the screen.

He says I'm unsupportive, and he's probably right. I hate the way I snap at him. But I just can't handle it anymore. What should I do?

Answer: The Oz analogy is great. And I think you should sit down with your husband at a noncharged time, a weekend maybe, and use the analogy to explain why you don't want to listen to his complaints anymore.

You can also say: "So, yes, you're right. I am unsupportive. (The validation is important here.) I don't support your refusal to take any action to improve your job situation. If you choose instead to take such concrete action, then I am all in - you can count on my help.

"Alternately, if you choose to accept that this is your job for the foreseeable future and to find ways to deal with it besides voicing the same complaints every night, then I'm right with you there, too. I'll even listen to 15 minutes of grousing. I just won't let it be the only topic we talk about, because it's my home too . . . and there's no place like home." (Sorry.)

This isn't about his job so much as it's about coping skills, yours and his. Replace the snapping with acting, by offering this clear statement of what you will and won't support. Your choices lay a clear path for him.

Question: If all goes right, I will be eight weeks pregnant at a family gathering. My first prenatal appointment is a week later. I'm having trouble deciding if I want to spill the beans to my immediate family while we're all together or wait for the all-clear from the doctor.

I'm leaning toward sharing the news. What do you recommend? I'm really excited and might have trouble not talking about it, but so far only my husband knows.

Answer: Congratulations! I don't believe in the must-wait-till-12-weeks approach. That whole benchmark came about because people who tell everyone about a pregnancy sometimes have to go back and, painfully, tell everyone about a miscarriage. If you'd share bad news with immediate family, then there's no reason not to share the good.


E-mail Carolyn Hax at tellme@washpost.com, or chat with her online at noon Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com.

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