Dear Dr. Yael,
I am an avid readers of your column and am reaching out in the hope you can help me.
I have been married for six years and, Baruch Hashem, have three children. Unfortunately, parnassah has been an issue. Over the past few years, my husband has had six different jobs. While there is always another reason he gives me, it usually revolves around there wasn’t room for growth or they aren’t paying enough.
In my opinion, my husband has some bad work ethics. By that I mean he goes into work late very often, takes a “sick day” every 3 weeks or so and sometimes has a bad attitude. I am disappointed and upset with my husband for not being a good financial provider. (I should mention that he has the same lackadaisical attitude towards davening, but that is a whole other issue.) I have already come to terms with the fact that he is not a businessman, right now I would just like for him to hold down a job and be a responsible provider.
We are now moving to the same city as my parents, and a friend of my mother has offered him a job.
My questions are as follows: 1) Is it possible for a person with such habits to change? 2) I am a very firm believer in making a solid home for the kids with two parents. I want to do everything I can to make this work for the sake of my children and myself (deep down I know I love him), but if this doesn’t work, at what point would it be ok to say goodbye? Should I warn him now that if he messes up I will have to make decisions?
Yours is a hard situation to address in a column, however, I will do my best to give general answers.
Can a person with bad habits change? Yes, but it takes a lot of hard work. The key is how much your husband wants to change. Does he think there is anything wrong with his behavior? Does he know how much your situation bothers you?
You might want to consider sitting down with him, calmly, and telling him that you love and care about him. That he and your children are very important to you and so you are concerned about parnassah. Empathize with how difficult it has been for him to find the right place and position. Ask if there is something you can do to help him in this new company.
Be sure not to do this when he is upset, hungry, tired, etc. It will only backfire.
From what your short description of your husband, I truly believe that only positive reinforcement will work. Praise him for the positive things he does and in a loving manner brainstorm how you can work together to make things successful in this new city. If he feels that you don’t respect him, he may become insecure and get defensive, which will only make things worse.
As to when or if you should leave him – you say that you love him and want to make it work, so please try what I suggested. Getting divorced is never simple and brings with it a new set of complications and heartache.
Make a list of all the reasons you love your husband – think about what it was that brought you two together and figure out how to raise his self-esteem. Once he sees that you love him and are on his side, he will want to be successful for you and will probably try harder to have a good work environment. I wish you hatzlocha and encourage you to take the positive and supportive route!