My High Salary Almost Ruined Our Marriage, but We Found Our Way Back to Each Other

Relationships
7 months ago

From the very beginning, Mike’s mother predicted that our relationship would not last. She listed several reasons why we were doomed to fail. She said I did not iron socks and underwear properly. She said I did not know how to make dumplings the right way.

She said I needed to braid my hair. She said I wanted a girl, but their family tradition preferred a boy. She did not expect that the real trouble would come from a different source. After our child was born, I began to earn a lot of money, and my husband felt insecure and emasculated around me.

Mike and I were dating when I had a job, and he was still a student. I remember we once went to a fancy restaurant and had a nice meal. I secretly gave him some money to pay for it, so the waiters would not think he was a freeloader.

“It’s important for me to feel like a man,” he said. “I know, I know,” I replied, not knowing any better at 26. I didn’t understand what a contradiction was.

My mom was earning more than my dad. After she nursed me, she focused on her career and supported us financially. My dad did the cleaning and cooking and gave her all his wage. We had a good life. So the issue of income difference was not a big deal for me until the moment Mike and I decided to get married and see how strong our bond was.

After the wedding, I moved to his town and settled in the apartment that Mike’s parents had given us. As soon as I stepped inside, I was greeted by a pile of helpful tips from my mother-in-law. She had made me a priceless gift — she had decided to share her wisdom with me.

She said I had to do everything around the house by myself. She said I had to cook fresh and hot food every day. She said I had to iron the shirts from bottom to top, and the socks from top to bottom (or was it the other way around?).

Mike, feeling the pressure of his new role, suddenly looked three years older and declared, “I will bring home the bacon, and you will cook it.” At that moment, I was so exhausted from work that I agreed without hesitation — sure, bring me the bacon.

I spent days cleaning the house and using the money I had saved to make it cozy. I cooked two or three meals every day. I learned how to iron curtains. And after five months, I realized that I was burned out from the dull routine and the lack of work. I ignored it and decided to be a smart woman, but six months later, my savings ran out.

My husband’s salary barely covered the bills and the groceries. Then he started to complain, “Honey, why are your pills so expensive?”, “What do you need so many pads for?”, “Why are we having potatoes again? Where is the money going?” The bacon he was bringing was thin and had hardly any meat on it. One day, I mentioned that I needed boots for winter. My husband rolled his eyes and suggested a thrift store. I was shocked. I desperately needed a job, but when I brought it up, he slammed the doors.

And the next day, my mother-in-law would show up at the door. She would kick the cat off his chair, sit on it, and begin her usual lecture, “A working wife is a disaster for the family. Do you want to lose Mike? One of Mike’s friends got a mistress when his wife started working. Stay home and take care of your husband.”

No matter how hard I tried to be obedient, I still found a remote job and did it...secretly. I worked when no one was watching, and in the evening, I said I was tired because, for example, I had cleaned the house all day. Mike didn’t notice anything because he had a rare skill — he couldn’t see dust (or his socks lying around, or the overflowing trash can, or his dirty cups all over the house).

And then Maria was born.

Did I mention we were short on money before? It turns out that was just the beginning. With the birth of our daughter, our marriage hit a financial crisis. Thanks to my parents for helping out. I even tried not to mind my MIL when she showed her passive aggression, “Oh, is that the onesie that I bought you for $30? I’m glad I did it because you can’t,” “I got you some good diapers since you don’t have any spare cash in the house.”

I did have some money. But it was only a small amount, not enough for anything. One day, I gathered my courage and announced that I would look for a full-time job. The smart me left this world at that moment. Mike was silent for a minute and then said, “If you can manage it with the housework, then go ahead.” He was tired of seeing his paycheck disappear on payday.

I reconnected with old contacts, borrowed some money and started to learn a new profession. I landed a great internship. I worked 12 hours a day, plus 2 hours for commuting. The house and the child, as far as I could tell, took the same time. So I slept 4 hours less than I needed. It turned out to be possible, but my hair was falling out a lot. But I got promoted.

After three years, I realized that I no longer needed to worry about money. My husband couldn’t afford to renovate both the kitchen and the bathroom — I just hired a crew and paid for everything. I enrolled my child in private daycare. I finally fixed my teeth. I bought new clothes for everyone and started going to beauty salons. However, unfortunately, my posture could not be fixed. I think it was because I always carried heavy burdens on my back: work, cooking, cleaning.

But I must have inherited some audacity (or insanity?) from my ancestors, and it showed up. I told my husband, “Either we split the expenses and the chores in half, or we divorce.” And that’s when things got ugly because he didn’t want to divorce (“No one in our family has ever divorced! Marriage is for life!”). Here is one of the conversations we had:

— Let’s get a dishwasher, I’m tired of washing dishes.

— How many dishes are there? You can wash them by hand.

— But I’m the only one who does it!

— Then buy the dishwasher yourself.

— You’re using the dishes too!

— You want it, you buy it. You’re such a big shot now, you’ll want the fanciest model to show off.

— Then don’t you ever use the dishes in this house again!

Or here’s another conversation we had.

— The car needs to be repaired.

— Good luck.

— The parts are expensive, and you make a lot of money here, so chip in.

— It’s your car. Why should I chip in?

— But I’m driving you to your errands!

— So I’ll be taking a cab! You could start earning more money. Or are you incapable?

My MIL would pour oil on the fire.

“My mom also earned more than my dad. And they lived well, Dad did a lot of things around the house,” I said, when my mother-in-law started to argue with me that no woman in the world should earn more than her husband.

“And tell me, dear, when did your mom have you?”

“Almost 40, why?”

“Well, then it all makes sense,” my mother-in-law laughed. “Your dad just realized that your mom couldn’t have any more children. Even having you was a miracle at that age. And he lost the motivation to support her, he couldn’t feel like a man around her, and she lost the purpose of being a woman. And Mike is losing his attraction to you too. No one in our family has ever divorced, but my heart tells me that he will leave you.”

My mother-in-law advised me to lie and say that I was paid less, bring home a “reasonable” salary, and hide the rest of the money. “Then you can just buy something expensive for your daughter. Or get some nice travel vouchers for all of you, and tell Mike you got them from a promo,” this wise woman suggested. I couldn’t help myself, “Where do you get these crazy ideas? There’s no logic in them at all.”

So I made a decision — that’s it, enough is enough, I’m leaving. I had already mentally divorced him, moved with my child to my hometown, got a dog, rented a 3-bedroom apartment in a new building, and learned to play the ukulele. But then the universe threw me a curveball.

Mike was suddenly fired, and he became depressed. He would lie on the couch for days and constantly cry, “I have achieved nothing in my life! I have achieved nothing! My wife earns more than me, and now I don’t even have a job!”

I thought I had fallen out of love with my husband, but to divorce him at such a time seemed cruel. Sometimes I wondered if he was losing his mind and becoming part of the couch. It looked like his face would soon be swallowed by the cushion. I felt sorry for him and decided to support him a little.

I was working, taking care of my daughter, doing the usual things. I spoon-fed Mike. In the evenings, I would sit next to him and listen to him in silence. After three months, I had to talk to him too.

I asked him why he was so upset that I made more money. Mike’s ghostly voice answered, “Because I have lived all my life in the patriarchal system and considered a woman an accessory to a man. And an accessory can’t be better than the main device. Besides, by earning more, you’re taking away something that boosts my ego.”

I’m joking, of course. He didn’t say that. It was a fantasy in my mind. In reality, it went like this.

“Well... A man has to earn a lot of money.”

“Who does he have to earn a lot of money for?”

“His wife, his kids. So they can live well.”

“If everyone lives well because the wife earns a lot of money, that’s not the same, right?”

“Kind of, yeah.”

“What’s the difference between money earned by a man and money earned by a woman?”

“If you put it that way, nothing.”

“Why do you feel better making me earn less than you do than earning more yourself?”

He looked so stunned. The beliefs in his head were collapsing. I decided to leave him alone and went to my room.

In the morning, I realized I couldn’t take it anymore. After a few days, I took my first vacation in years, grabbed my daughter and left for another city for a month. I didn’t call my husband but asked my mother-in-law to keep me updated if anything happened. Of course, she didn’t approve of my actions and said, “How could you do this to my son? I told him from the start that he shouldn’t marry you.” And then something unbelievable happened.

When we came back, we saw Mike, who looked as bright as a coin that had been dirty but had been polished. After hugging our daughter, he took me aside and started his speech. His tongue could barely keep up with his brain, so confused was he.

“I got a new job, I’ve been working for two weeks! The pay is great, but it’s a lot of work. I also ordered some food and hired a cleaner. A nice woman who comes once a week. I still have some money left, I put it on the nightstand. Why don’t we start putting our salaries in there, and you can decide what you want to spend them on? You can keep your money separate, it’s none of my business. And tell me what I can do around the house. Huh?”

A sarcastic answer flashed in my mind, “Help? Does that mean I’m the housewife, and you will be occasionally helping me?” But I, surprising myself, replied, “Let’s give it a try.” My husband’s words, his tone and his warm eyes stirred something in my heart chakra, which had been closed for non-payment. He was holding on to our relationship, after all. Maybe we won’t mess up this time?

Oh, and I’ve been saving a big chunk of my salary in a secret account for a while now. Is that a new achievement?

I think it’s time for many people to let go of old patterns and outdated stereotypes. For example, why does a mother have to feed the whole family in the morning? Family life can be arranged in such a way that even children can make their own breakfast and help each other.

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