How To Stop Being Taken For Granted By Your Spouse Once You’re Rich

Getting taken for granted in a marriage sucks.

Being taken for granted sucks. Let's how to stop being taken for granted by your spouse once you guys have gotten rich.

Next time you go out to eat, notice who digs in first, who refrains until others have their share, and who decides to serve others before eating.

The person you want to marry is the person who helps everybody first, and then helps herself. They are so rare that if you find someone with such thoughtfulness, never let them go.

Chances are high that everybody will help themselves first at a restaurant. This is the default setting in America. Nobody can fault someone for feeding themselves first before others. It's a survival instinct that is ingrained in all that we do. Me first. You second.

I want to share a reader question about how he feels his wife takes him for granted now that he makes a lot of money. She used to be the one who helped others first. But now, it doesn't seem like she cares anymore.

My Wife Takes Me For Granted

Jim writes in,

“Dear Sam,

Now that I earn a sizeable income, I feel like my wife takes me for granted. We met 11 years ago and were college sweethearts. She was a freshman and I was a junior. We got married five years ago, and over the past several years, things have totally changed for the worse!

When she first got out of college, she had a tremendous amount of passion for pursuing her music career. She'd practice until the wee hours of the morning and constantly apply for gigs, large and small. Back then, I wasn't making much money, so we were both kind of struggling to just get by.

Three years ago, I was able to win some big clients for my small business. My income went from $70,000 a year to around $500,000 a year. Like you, I still drive an economy car, don't buy designer clothes, and constantly look for ways to save more money because I never know when my business income will end. I'm in unchartered territory here! Maybe I'm cheap. I don't know.

Unfortunately, as soon as I started making multiple six figures a year, I noticed my wife no longer seemed to have the same passion for music. She stopped applying for smaller music gigs. After my first year of making big money, she stopped applying for gigs altogether.

She also began getting up late because she'd be out partying with some of her underemployed musician friends the night before. Meanwhile, here I was waking up hours before her to work on the business. Oh, and she also doesn't remember the cost of things when I ask her how much she spent. Isn't this a sign of not giving a damn about money?

I feel very distraught because I feel my larger income has corrupted her desire to pursue her passions. She has no desire to make money anywhere. I'm starting to wish I was back to making only $70,000 a year. She makes me not want to get up early and hustle anymore.

Why bother if she's not? I don't really need to earn this much money. I'm a simple guy. I've also lost some respect for her. I hate being taken for granted. What should I do?

– Jim”

Taking People For Granted Is Inevitable

The problem with being with people you love is that eventually you always take them for granted. Having money ruins people who don't have a strong appreciation for what it takes to make money. It's kind of like eating until we're obese because we have no clue there are millions of malnourished people in the world. If we did, more of us would be fitter.

Read: Spoiled Or Clueless? Try Making A Minimum Wage Job As An Adult

Here are some of my suggestion for you, Jim. I hope the community will share their own suggestions as well.

1) Tell her exactly how you feel. Sharing a feeling is an absolute and your feelings are real. It's important to tell your spouse exactly what is making you feel terrible. Do not let resentment build up. If you are afraid that your business might one day disappear, tell her. If you feel her inaction is causing you anxiety, speak up. Explain to her about your own prior financial difficulties and how you feel it necessary to work and save as much as possible when times are good.

2) Explain to her exactly what you do to earn. Ever since we were kids, it's felt incredibly annoying to work with someone who doesn't pull his or her weight, especially if you go above and beyond. It's imperative you tell her exactly how much work you do to provide a better life for the both of you. The more she knows that you wake up at 6am every morning to speak to East Coast clients about business, the more she should appreciate you. If she continues to wake up hours after you with no idea what you do, then she can't be faulted. Send her calendar invites about your events or share your entire schedule with her so she is more aware.

3) Show her exactly what you do. Sometimes, explaining things is not enough. If it's not, take the next step and show her exactly what you do. Take her to work and introduce her to your colleagues. Take her to the gym to see how much you sweat. The more you can make her part of your life, the more she will understand what you have to go through. Seeing is believing.

4) Encourage her to play for you. An artist needs to be read or heard. Tell her how much you love her music and ask her to give you a show. The more you can compliment her on your music, the more motivated she will be to make more music. As a writer, I feel down when nobody shares my posts or comments. But the more people share and discuss my work, the more I want to write. I am absolutely sure she will feel the same because we artists constantly get rejected. At some point we don't want to try anymore because rejection hurts too much.

5) Sacrifice even more to make her realize her good fortune. The best example I have about how to help sway someone to appreciate you more is the story I tell about a client who to motivate his son, started driving part-time for Uber while maintaining his full-time job.  Prior to Uber, his son lacked perspective because he lived in a million dollar home, attended private school, and all his classmates were rich. After seeing his dad slave away for several hours until midnight, his son suddenly realized how hard his dad worked to provide for his family. Overnight, the son started getting better grades and stopped getting in trouble.

Relationships Take So Much Work

A good deal is when both sides feel like they're winning. If you constantly feel like you're losing, then you'll eventually break up. Therefore, if you truly love someone, you'll at least put in as much effort as it takes to make the relationship feel even.

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Related posts:

How To Get A Rich Man To Be Your Husband

The Average Net Worth For The Above Average Married Couple

Marrying Your Equal Is Better Than Marrying Rich

Recommendation To Build Wealth

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92 thoughts on “How To Stop Being Taken For Granted By Your Spouse Once You’re Rich”

  1. As a woman who wasted her life being the one who always served others first, I would have to disagree with the underlying suggestion that women should act this way to attract a partner. I’m now old enough to have witnessed many many relationships, marriages and divorces, and there is a pattern that I wish I had known when I was younger. Women like that will get ignored for the bitchy, demanding, abusive women. Men (as a general rule) will date and marry the abusive types, then spend a decade or so complaining about them. Even if they are surrounded by single women they could date that would contribute to the relationship as an equal rather than like a spoilt brat, they will still stick with the women that take advantage of them. I’ve seen it far too many times to count and listened to the same complaints over and over again from the husbands when they treated me like a therapist. I saw most of the men in my family do the same thing, some more than once (when they really should have learned from the first divorce).

    So any younger woman reading this thinking that playing nice will land you a good man… unfortunately it won’t. At least not until the man is way into his 50s/60s with a divorce or two under his belt and finally aware of his mistake. And by that age you will likely be so accustomed to living alone and with most of your life behind you, that there will be little benefit in trying to find a partner other than as just another friend.

    ‘Nice’ doesn’t get you anywhere. Once you’ve actually found someone to marry and settle down with, then you can afford to tone down the attitude and spoilt brat behaviour and it’ll be a surprise for him.

  2. The fact that she “forgets” how much of your money she spent, and generally go out late and sleep in instead of helping, is very telling.

    “I’m starting to wish I was back to making only $70,000 a year.”

    You can. Tell your wife you lost your biggest customer and that you’re back to a modest income.

    Only put 100k-ish (or other amount) on the joint account, put the remaining 400k in investments. Solves all the problems :
    – She’ll spend less, she has to or the 100k will run out.
    – She’ll be more motivated to play gigs again
    – She’ll realize what you brang to the table
    – You’ll have a big safety mattress in case business genuinely slows down

  3. the peacock

    Hi Guys. My husband and I have been married for 13 years and have 3 young kids. From a woman’s perspective: Communicate with her….give her time to think on what you said and listen to her after you are done talking. Either she gives a damn or she doesn’t. Then you know where you stand. Don’t expect this to be fixed over night…but if you are willing to put in some effort and you see that she is putting in effort too then you guys should be fine. I think this sounds like somebody in the relationship was taking more then what they were giving. Probably on both sides. I can relate to your story. It can happen…we live in a world where no one has enough time anymore and can easily get burnt out.

  4. This couple just seems to have different outlook on money, that’s all. She’s not taking him for granted at all. She just sounds as thought she’s enjoying the additional money and the lifestyle it affords. If he resents her not working as hard or spending too much, then that’s an issue he’ll have to deal with.

  5. Once I started making big money I started taking my wife for granted. After all, if I’m making this much money I must be very important. Her job of raising our daughter and taking care of the house was nothing compared to the stress and aggravation I faced on a daily basis. I’m a big shot! just look at my bank account.

    It took a couple of years to realize the only thing that changed was my ego. We have a beautiful, well adjusted, self confident daughter. This didn’t happen because I made a lot of money. It happened because my wife made it happen.

    Her contribution to society far outweighs mine. She raised a great kid and takes care of her husband. All I did was make a lot of money.

    One of the best ways we’ve found to avoid resentment creeping into our relationship is this. My wife treats me like a man!!! She thanks me for providing for her, she acknowledges my sacrifices, she stokes my ego. In return I don’t care if she ever makes a dime. I will protect, provide, and cherish her forever.

    I challenge the stay at home moms who are married to men who are as selfish as I used to be. For one week treat him like a man. Once we feel appreciated we begin to appreciate all that you have sacrificed for us and will treat you accordingly.

    Thanks, Bill

    1. the peacock


      This gives me a lot of insight on how a guy might think. We are all humans and some of us actually thinks they are aliens (something extra-ordinary) just because they make lots of $$ and are able to provide material items for the fam. These things are nice and lovely to look at and play with. But like people say, there are some things money can’t buy. A real women’s perspective.

      Men’s Pride needs to be appreciated. Women need a whole lot more. It’s really complicated…especially when they hit the 40’s. lol

  6. Curtis Alexander

    Problems – whether marital or otherwise – are often two way streets. My recommended steps would be:

    1) Get Yourself Dialed In First. Your obviously doing stellar in the financial department. But how is your overall health, your appearance, demeanor, confidence? Do you workout? Do you have a beer belly? How is your posture? Do you have interests outside work and your wife?

    As odd as it sounds I’ve known men who made plenty of money but dressed like slobs or let themselves go physically (much more common).

    What I’m saying is as a man your natural role is to lead. A woman will not want to follow a man who is not willing to lead. You must be able to provide (check), be fit, confident and have interests outside of your wife and work.

    I had a bad habit of trying to ‘fix’ and verbally communicate what I thought was wrong with my wife for years. It wasn’t until I simply focused on being the best ‘me’ that I could did my wife notice and began to follow.

    Ironically, these are the same traits that attracted her to me in the first place.

    2) Do NOT Get Her Pregnant. You’re in a bad place right now. Too many people think that the ‘solution’ is kids. It never is. If you have problems – having kids will only compound them. Unfortunately the kids are the ones that end up paying for it.

    3) Get Mentally and Physically Prepared For Worst Case. This can be going on during the first step but get all your ducks in order if divorce ends up happening. That includes speaking with your attorney and using the coming months to mentally prepare for the ‘what if’.

    Also, perhaps her behavior is a sign that she is having an affair? At this point it may not be a physical affair but an emotional one. Perhaps a private investigator?

    Granted, these are unsavory things to think about but considering your situation I think they’re warranted.

    4) If you’ve done step 1 right and become the best ‘you’ and leader that you can be I’ve found this to be very effective because your wife can ‘see’ the changes rather than you simply trying to communicate with her.

    Ironically, your actions also communicates to her that your marketplace value – for lack of a better term – continues to rise. If she is going to continue down her current road she now has a lot to lose.

    I also find that if this step is done correctly there is no need to communicate your ‘feelings’ with her. I find that to be a point of weakness for men which often leads to arguments. Instead, with your changes women often open up the conversation themselves. Sometimes it’s friendly (‘wow, your really look good) sometimes not (‘why do you have go workout this morning – you make so much noise) or (why do you have to spend money on that stupid gun range, etc, etc.).

    There’s so much more I could comment on this one but there is a leadership vacuum with men today and – whether spoken or not – wives end up resenting that.

    At the end of the day if you can look at yourself and know that you are continually working to improve yourself mentally, physically and financially wives often instinctually follow that.

    If she doesn’t and you end up terminating the marriage you are a better man for it and will find someone who will definitely appreciate you much more.

    Note: I’ve been married 16 years this summer with two sons. My wife describes our marriage as ‘great’. It wasn’t always that way. It turned around when I put in action step 1. I also know many other men who turned their marriages around by doing the same.

    Whatever your decision best of luck.

    1. I love your advice on being the best person you can be. You’re definitely right that all of us can work on being a better version of ourselves. Once that happens, I think good things follow and we attract more appreciative and better people.

      I’m off to get some exercise! Thanks for the motivation.

  7. Ouch, that sounds as if you’ve lost track of each other a long time ago ! You’re working as much and as hard as you can to earn a (very) good amount of money and your wife seems to be adrift. Do you even have a common goal that you share? Before doing anything else I would take Sam’s first advice: talk! Get back on the same page.

    If that fails you could indeed use the other advices and persuade your wife to make her contributions again. Although I don’t like the fact that it takes the same approach you would use to explain the value of money to a child to get your wife on board, this shouldn’t be necessary if you’re both grown ups. I’m not sure I would have the patience to do that to be honest, but that could very well be me.

    This is truly a consideration of mine by the way. Me and the Mr. have stood together so well during the bad times, what will we do when good times arrive? I hope it doesn’t change us too much.

  8. How about separate bank accounts and each spouse paying for their own discretionary spending? All family expenses can be taken out of a joint account to which each spouse contributes equally (or in some other fair proportion). Each spouse would be free to slack off and overspend, as long as they were willing to keep working years after their spouse had achieved financial independence. It seems to me like the source of this problem is that one spouse is treating the other like a child rather than an adult. Swooping in to the ‘rescue’ whenever someone fails (in business or anything else) doesn’t really help them to grow. As they say, teach a man to fish and don’t just give him fish!

      1. That seems to be the whole problem here, though. Why/how did Jim start ‘paying for everything’? They were both not making much to begin with so I assume she was contributing a decent amount when they started (she was working hard on gigs etc.). If she was contributing nothing even then, I suppose that Jim has himself to blame for starting everything on the wrong foot. She is not a stay at home mum, homemaker, or disabled in some way. What is her excuse for relying on him to pay the bills? Also, even though his business is doing well there is no reason for his (or his wife’s) lifestyle choices/living expenses to immediately expand as well. If so, this would leave him large amounts to keep in his own account and invest/save. At least he would not feel that his wife is wasting his hard work.

  9. I dunno…I’m finding it hard to sympathize with the guy who’s now making 500K per year. It sounds like a first world problem to me. If you’re wife is just with you because of the money you are making it’s time to course correct. It’s easier said than done I know but you might be doing yourselves both a favor by cutting her loose. Ask yourself if she’d still be around if you were just making 70K? If the answer is ‘no’ then you know what you have to do.

    1. the peacock

      Ideally if I can’t make sense of another person situation it would seem pretty ignorant of me to give advice at all. Some people can only see there own problems and not take into consideration that we are all human beings and have the same wants and feelings no matter how much we bank. Ideally if you have been in a…let’s say 10 year marriage you could definitely relate to this guy’s story. No judgment.

  10. FS, sorry to hear. This has gone to the point where the answers won’t be found in a blog post, or the responding comments. Expectations are too different for the two people; issues and solutions can no longer be implied.

    Wishing both parties well. Agree, that ‘communication’ has been lacking. An unbiased PROFESSIONAL party would be a good start, for both mates to discuss their issues safely, and with an observer. Keeping good thoughts for all involved.

    1. Don’t underestimate the power of a community of intelligent folks who’ve gone through similar situations and have worked things out! Such community is the reason why the internet is so awesome, and a great equalizer between the haves and the have nots.

      1. How about reaching out to Jim/Jerry, and soliciting a letter from his wife? We are only hearing his dissatisfactions. With the 360 perspective, maybe the community can provide something actionable?

  11. I don’t understand number 5 at all. If you are having problems with your marriage, the last thing you should do is spend more time away from your spouse. It sounds like you are trying to teach your wife a lesson which is condescending.

    Also, I don’t see why you would consider how a person eats to be a way to measure of a good spouse. This sounds like something you would find in an issue of Cosmo. Some better examples of desirable behavior in a spouse are: being supportive during difficult times, working towards similar goals, being faithful, ect. What kind of man is such a big baby that he can’t even serve himself a meal?

    Don’t get me wrong, I’ll occasionally serve my husband food, but that is a stupid thing to judge an entire relationship on.

    1. What you say here “being supportive during difficult times, working towards similar goals, being faithful” is already a given, and well understood by everybody.

      What I’ve proposed is an example of thoughtfulness, where you think of others before yourself. And as I write in the intro, most people won’t get it, because most people serve themselves first as you agree in your comment.

      How’s your relationship? How do you work out your differences?

  12. Some women just want to be taken care of. I hope to God they have kids at least it would validate her staying home somewhat….Although, this could just be a case of him starting to earn 500k a year and becoming a huge douche. Hard to really say.

    My wife stays at home but we have 4 young kids. When they are older she is going back to work. Ill give her this time but once they are all in school we need to start aggressively making progress toward FI.

      1. I think people just give up rather than working through all of the hard stuff. Kids certainly don’t fix existing issues, if anything issues are compounded by less money, time, sleep, sex. This increases fighting as a result. If you aren’t committed it is definitely easier to give up. Some people can’t handle the responsibility and can’t handle putting themselves second or third, or in my case 6th.

        When you have a spouse that stays home it adds a new dynamic as well. They have an extremely hard job but don’t get paid. That creates the potential for resentment on the other spouses part. I know, I have felt it myself. The only way I have been able to get through it is with a strong commitment to making a marriage work for the long haul, that and I keep telling myself this is temporary. Our kids will grow and things will and do get easier as a result.

        Also, I think expectations are high in general for the spouse that stays at home. The working spouse expects to do no housework, and for dinner to be on the table at 6pm. When that doesn’t happen resentment comes knocking again. It just creates a unequal playing field, without you meaning for it to, it makes you think of your spouse as a dependent and not a partner. On one hand you have chosen a traditional family, but on the other, you have a spouse that doesn’t hold up their end of the deal.

        So I guess what it boils down to is are you strong enough together to get past all of this. That’s not something you really know until you have been tested. That being said, it is a hard situation to plunge yourselves into, albeit temporary.

        From personal experience, its been great for my kids, and great for my wife. For me its a mixed bag. It benefits my kids to have their mom at home, but for me, I don’t know. Let’s just say I don’t know that I would willingly accept that my wife chooses to stay home if we had it to do over again. It was a very rocky road. Now that we are nearing the end of her time at home I honestly feel relieved. The pressure of being the sole breadwinner is suffocating at times.

        1. You nailed it. Although with both parents working, sometimes these expectations still exist for the mother which also adds resentment. I sometimes think I’d be able to devote more of myself to my kids/husband/marriage if I didn’t work (and I only work 30 hrs/week at the office and sometimes in the evenings). But then I’d be dealing with what you’ve listed above. It’s a hard balance to strike no matter what.

        2. This is a wonderful comment. Thank you. Resentment can’t be helped it seems!

          Your last sentence is very seldom talked about. I’ve written fun posts called “Stay at home men of the world, UNITE!” to address such a topic. Maybe I’ll try again.

          I’m not sure if people who aren’t the breadwinners truly understand the pressure.

        3. Nuclear Real Estate

          Tagging on to Sam’s recent post about how valuable passive income is, this pressure of being sole breadwinner is certainly something passive income helps with as well.

          Dual income relationships offer some insurance policy that if one gets laid off, or wants to take a career risk, you have the other’s income as insurance. In a one income household you don’t have this.

          My wife and I both intend on working, but we’re very focused on building up our passive real estate income so that if life events dictate one of us wants to stay home, we could do so and still have the “insurance” of the second income that would be coming in from real estate.

          1. One of the best things is actually having the non sole breadwinner maintain the various income streams like rental properties. That is a huge win in my book, and something my of my consulting clients do.

        4. the peacock

          I can relate to everything you are saying. And definitely appreciate everything you wrote above. Thank you! I am a stay at home mom and the appreciated is taken for granted. A lot of people think and expect a stay at home mom to just do it all..kid activities, be with kids 24 hours a day, have fun and play with kids, all housework, balance check book, budget and everything else and more. And moms(all) get stuck into feeling they have to be the stereotype and feel pressured to do just what everyone thinks. (Imagine: A ghost (forgotten and invisible) going around the house(working in or out) completing all the tasks above during the day, going to bed at night and waking up the next morning doing the exact same thing for years.) I definitely imagine my future self in these shoes exactly as this…I can’t explain it any better. I just want men and women to try to understand. There are pressure on both sides so do not to be so quick to judge, especially your spouse because as soon as you do you might has well have been the one to start the fire yourself. Your wife is a reflect on who you are, vise versa, support them no mater what.

      2. Sam, having children is both incredibly rewarding, but also incredibly exhausting and stressful. People talk about that, but non-parents really have ZERO idea.

        I liken it to one (or both) spouses being investment bankers, and working 100+ hour weeks. The majority of the population who isn’t doing that, or isn’t married to someone who does that, has no idea. There’s a reason that career path is infamous for destroying marriages as well.

        The constant sleep deprivation, massive time sink into either watching the kids, or driving them everywhere, the massive extra costs (I pay upwards of $50k per year just for preschool for two); it all adds a tremendous amount of stress to the relationship, while also taking away from the opportunity to spend time together and bond as a couple.

        1. Great analogy.

          But in the end, it’s all worth it right?

          I’ve never heard a parent say they regretted having children, unless the children becomes a terror to society as an adult.

      3. People change after having kids – sometimes both couples change together, other times they change separately. A lot of people just get divorced after around 7 years (“7 year itch”) which also happens to coincide with kids at that age.

        With regards to the orig post -He’s probably spending less time with her than he was now that he’s successful and small business requires working a ton (usually). Also – I get a little nervous hearing she’s out late drinking all the time with friends…odds of cheating are astronomically higher. My experience it is *usually* (although plenty of men with expensive toys) the women who want more, more more and husbands push themselves at work to pay to make the wife happy.

        My wife and I started dating when I was making $25k/yr and got married when I was < $50k/yr so I know she didn't marry me for my money. Sometimes I don't think she's grateful for how much I work to provide but most of the time I think she is.

  13. So on a completely different and related note can we hear more from Jerry about how he went from $70k to $500k?

    Thanks for sharing this.

  14. Sam, I’m trying to understand where you are going with this. A few years back you posted about this girl you met (I think her name was Amanda?) who was essentially a gold-digger. Surprisingly you didn’t reject that sort of behavior, you actually seemed to approve of it given she was attractive. Then you wrote “How to get a rich man to be your husband” which happens to be linked at the bottom of this post. As much as I love your blog, I hated both of those posts because I think they’re terribly shallow.

    And now you’re writing about the other perspective, how to not be taken advantage by your spouse once you are rich. I don’t get your train of thought….why are you advocating both sides of the coin? Are you concerned that you will wind up with (or are currently involved with) a woman like this?

    To answer your question in this post, I don’t really feel like any of these tips would help since this couple appears to be drifting apart. She seems to value spending time with folks other than her husband while he’s engrossed in work. And all the while he doesn’t get why things aren’t they way they used to be. I’d add #6 “Do things to remind yourselves why you committed to each other in the first place.”

    1. Maybe I’m crazy? Or maybe I’m sharing different perspectives (a reader’s in this post). Or maybe a sufficient amount of time has passed in between posts where lives have changed.

      Are you in a relationship? If so, how’s it going? How do you work out your differences?

      1. Yes I’m married with 2 young kids, and I work part-time (30 hrs/wk) while he works full-time. We’ve been together over a decade and we’ve had ups and downs but luckily none of it has to do with money or spending. I’m not a big spender and neither is he, but we use our “fun” money for nice experiences (like vacation). We’ve always enjoyed eachother’s company and I consider him my best friend. I selected the 2nd option above.

        Before we met I worked many years in a very challenging job working long hours with not-so-great pay. I owned my home back then so I understand the value of money. He makes more than I do currently and we invest a big chunk. We are not at the point yet where we can live off passive income, but that’s the goal.

        Sources of stress for our relationship have been 1) his family’s meddling early on in our relationship, and 2) I’m more of a disciplinarian with the kids and he’s more of a coddler. With the former, that’s gotten better over the years because we’ve been vocal with them. And with the latter, we’ve just come to accept the difference in our ways and that there is value in both.

  15. From the post above it seems to be mostly a communication issue. Also from what I read it seems more like taking the money for granted not Jerry himself (unless he has not specified where she takes him for granted). .It just seems that he resents her spending the money while he has to work hard.

    Like some of the others have said it is better to discuss this in the open

  16. Man these situations are always tricky and without seeing it in person, it’s hard to diagnose them unfortunately. I read it and came to different conclusions… it could be he’s spending so much time on the business that SHE feels like she’s being taken for granted. Maybe he’s not showing enough appreciation of her so she’s trying to fill it with people who will (her musician friends) or things she buys that will.

    I’d argue that you don’t become a musician for the money, it could be that money isn’t on her mind and she’s lost her energy for it because she’s been at it so long and now she’s alone.

    1. Really interesting perspective in the different comments. But I tend to agree with Next Life. It’s really hard for any of us to judge here with only one side of the story. Hope things work out. It helps when both parties are rational! My wife and I don’t agree on every single little thing, but we make it work. :)


  17. Great comments all around. I would also add that it sounds like they need a household budget! Spending at will is NOT an option for a-n-y couple if they have financial goals. My husband and I are looking at retirement in the next 2-4 years and we make our financial decisions together as a team. I also take offence at an earlier comment referring to SAHM as “moochers”. I gave up a lucrative career to stay at home to raise our only child with my husband’s full support! For many professional jobs, babies don’t mix well. I could no longer do the flying, late nights and weekends, etc. My staying home left my husband free to pursue his career without the hassle of the juggle. We didn’t waste money on babysitters, nannies, take out food, etc. AND we both had time to work on our side business. I ran the home, homeschooled for 22 years, cooked, cleaned and did other things like manage our rental real estate. My kid is in the final year of graduate school and will graduate DEBT FREE. I can’t say that it didn’t bother me when I first came home because I felt vulnerable as I had worked all my life and had the child late in life. I have trusted in and honored my husband these 38 years and put him and my child first. MANY highly successful professional men made their fortune On Their Own and didn’t expect their wives to juggle both the home and family And a professional job. We’re an immigrant family as well. . .and did it Without extended family. Not EVERYONE is as disciplined and interested in high net worth as those here. My advice—–choose your spouse wisely and ALWAYS get a pre-nup! Good luck!

    1. Mary, that’s great that it’s worked out so well for you and your husband. Sounds like you both did everything right. Just a quick question for you, and if it’s too personal, feel free to ignore it, but I’m curious about how couples work out pre-nups if one parent stays home to raise the children. Did you and your husband figure out some formula of what assets/alimony you would end up with if the marriage ended up dissolving 10 or so years in?

      I wonder because I so often hear about pre-nups for couples who marry late in life and both halves of the couple have their own assets and income that they’re bringing to the marriage. Because both individuals are self-supporting, they generally sign pre-nups that just put everyone back in the same place they were in before they got married, i.e., no alimony, all separate property goes back to the person who owned it before (without any claims that the property has been transmuted to community property), and any community property is divided down the middle.

      But with one stay-at-home parent, the terms of the pre-nup are obviously not so simple. The stay at home parent sacrifices a ton from a career standpoint, and that can set the stay-at-home parent back years, or even decades, in earnings and asset accumulation. I’m just wondering if you figured out some other formula, and if so, how you decided upon it.

      1. We were both quite young when we married (I was 24) and we were both poor so we didn’t come to our marriage with much in assets so no pre-nup for us. We waited as long as we could to have children because we were building wealth. In our business I have seen a pre-nup for a wealthy couple who were each marrying for the first time. The woman held international real estate. In that pre-nup the property and monies that the woman held before marriage reverted to her and in the event of children there was to be alimony until the child was through university or 21. And their community property was to be divided equally. I hope that was helpful to you!

        1. Thanks, Mary! I’m glad things worked out for you and your husband so you haven’t needed a prenup. :) Interesting solution that the other couple had. Alimony until the kid graduates, which would hopefully give the stay-at-home parent enough time to ramp their career back up to be able to support themselves.

    2. Sorry for offending you Mary on the “moocher” comment. Of course one parent sacrificing and staying home to raise a family is not mooching…it is actually the way I would prefer as that is how my family was structured growing up. None of us know all of the details here, but I just think it is critical this couple lays the cards on the table sooner rather than later. It is a sore subject personally though because I’ve had two very close friends who’ve had their financial lives ruined by spouses who didn’t share their same fiscal and hard work philosophy.

      1. I understand and thanks for your clarification! Women who come home need to understand that their job is not only homemaking but to have their husband’s back at all times. To be his personal assistant, running interference for him to free him to maximize his success. To do the time wasters so when he IS available he has “alone” time, leisure time, dad time. Even though we view ourselves as a team HE has the last word about what we spend and how we do it. All major purchases were made with his permission—-he doesn’t care. He trusts me but it is out of R-e-s-p-e-c-t for him that I insist that he approve the purchases. Even “little” things like beauty/spa trips I run by him. Whenever I took my homeschooled daughter some place special (a lunch or special field trip, etc.) I reminded her that if not for dad working so hard this special moment wouldn’t be possible. At the risk of sounding old-fashioned and behind the times, modern women need to Honor their men and treat them as Men, not as fellow competitors. Love, honor. . .and let them have the last word. It would make both a lot happier.

    3. The one thing I STRONGLY believe is the priceless value of a stay at home parent. It’s definitely a $100,000+ a year job.

      It’s because of situations like yours where I have NO PROBLEM when assets are split in half during a divorce. It’s clear one spouse gave up his/her career for the other. It’s one team.

      1. Sam, I think current divorce law is so skewed against men that today’s young turks MUST protect their assets before entering into a relationship. And that goes for ambitious women too. It has nothing to do with trust. As we’ve seen with these fascinating comments people can change, go through stuff, and those crises can ruin a lifetime of work and sacrifice. It need not be so. WONDERFUL post btw!

  18. Jerry took the first step towards a solution by recognizing his feelings. I think a lot of people in relationships deny or suppress their true feelings until one day they explode or things just drag on for a long slow death.

    I think a lot of people rush into marriage before working through hard conversations and bumps in the road. It seems like Jerry and his wife were happy when they first got married and only recently started having issues so they could very well work things out. Having a heart to heart should be next on his agenda even if it’s not going to be an easy conversation.

    There’s a reason the expression goes “marriage takes work.” If both people can work together towards similar goals, mutual respect, open and kind communication (ie sandwich method), support and happiness, the future is bright.

  19. Eric Bowlin

    My wife and I are equally dedicated to our business together. I find all the ways to make money, but what she does keeps that money coming in month after month. I’m like the fisherman and she’s the person that guts it, descales it, ships it, processes it, cans it, and delivers it to the store. She does the hard work, and I focus on finding bigger and better fish.

    11 years is a long time and at some point a musician has to know they aren’t going to make it big. There are a lot of musicians who work jobs and then take up a side gig once or twice a week because they enjoy playing.

    At this point she probably isn’t very employable simply because there is no resume. I say you find a way to include her in your business. It will force her to work and make her feel productive. It won’t just be you earning all the money because she will have some influence in that.

    Plus, she will actually have some money to spend however she chooses. When her drinking money is gone, then it’s gone.

    Just my two cents.

  20. My wife doesn’t make much money, and though she’s frustrated at work and applies to other jobs, I feel that my high income does hold her back from reaching her full potential because there’s no real need for her to get a better job. I don’t feel like I’m being taken for granted per se, but it does breed a little bit of resentment that if only I married someone with the same career drive as I had, I could already be FIRE instead of 3 years out.

    That said, she does more than her fair share around the house and we’re planning on having kids soon, so in some ways her not having a high income makes things easier when it comes to her transitioning into a SAHM role.

    1. VERY interesting viewpoint I had not thought of before: having a higher income earning spouse to help get both of you to FIRE sooner, rather than later!

      There really is something to be said about “marrying well.” Marry well can be a super shortcut to financial freedom in a HURRY!

  21. I think this is a struggle on some level, most people who marry their high school/college sweethearts will go through. People change as they grow, and before you are in your late 20’s, you are still really growing and understanding who you truly are.

    Your wife grew and changed. We are all a result of the environment/people we are exposed to. For your wife, being exposed to musicians ” still chasing the dream” (aka not quite talented enough, so unemployed bums), AND access to a lot of money is going to mess most people up. Just look at former child stars.

    I would go into counseling ASAP. See if you can work through it. Your original wife is still in there somewhere, and hopefully with the right help you can both get through it.

    1. People change is exactly right. A lot can happen in 10 years. Is professional counseling really necessary? Let’s see if the tips I offer can help them out first and save some money.

  22. You hit it right on the nose. Communication is the key to keeping a relationship alive. This is a bit one sided and I’d love to hear from the missus too. I’m sure she has some issues with Jerry too.
    Maybe try to get her involved in the business and work for the money a little bit?

    1. Dr. J @ MedSchool Financial

      Maintaining a good line of dialogue is definitely key, people as well as relationships evolve with time and communication helps maintain the vision.

  23. All great suggestions Sam, but I agree very much with Allan’s comment above that it takes two to tango: It’s easy to see the fault in your spouse, and just sit around and hope that she will change without contemplating whether or not you’re doing anything to promote the change. Perhaps you’re even inadvertently encouraging her behavior?

    And I say this not to preach, but out of personal experience. Always start with yourself, and then communicate. Those two steps will sort out so many relationship challenges.

  24. Funny, I have moved on from a number of relationships because I’ve found myself with this type of person. This is definitely one of the challenges of getting married really young, people sort of evolve a bit into who they are going to be as an adult. I agree with all of Sam’s steps above, communication is the key, but STEP 1 is absolutely make sure you don’t have any kids before this issue gets worked out. I hate to say this but the relationship is most likely screwed, but you signed up until the whole “’til death do you part” thing so fight like hell to make it work. Obviously there are great things that attracted you to her in the first place, but forever is a hell of a long time and the last thing you want to do is become increasingly resentful as the years go on. Oh and the best part is that when you have children, of course she will stay home to raise them…and influence them to be moochers as well that only can attend private school and wear the latest fashions (all as you slave away driving your 1994 Toyota corolla to provide the life she & they are “accustomed to”). Take action quickly young man, solve the issue or bail before you wake up 50 years old, single, and broke after a lifetime of making great money like a friend of mine finds himself (who married this same type of woman).

  25. These are some tough issues, and I have to admit that my boyfriend and I have some of the same issues. Not to the same extreme as what’s written here, but he is a low income earning musician and I’m a much higher income earning attorney. It puts some strain on the relationship because I earn so much more than he does.

    Our biggest saving grace, I think, is that we have separate bank accounts. There are still a lot of things that I pay for that he doesn’t chip in for, but if he wants to go out to eat while I’m at work, or if he wants to buy clothes or needs to get his car repaired, that’s on him. We live in my house that I pay for, including all utilities, but he pays for our cell phone bills.

    It’s a struggle because I do work much harder than he does, and sometimes I get resentful that he’s basically home all day hanging out with the dogs, working out, and tanning himself on the deck. He does try to work on his music, too, but it’s not something I see all the time, in part because I’m at work.

    I have to remind myself that I work harder than he does because I care more about money. He would be perfectly happy living on $50k per year, while I’m pushing ever harder toward $200k or more and saving aggressively for a really sweet retirement. Does he benefit from my earning/saving? Yes. Is it fair for me to force my goal on him, though? Not really.

    One thing that also helps us is that he’s grown more and more willing to pitch in. He’s doing more around the house than he was when we first started dating, and he’s trying to learn basic repairs so he can do them at his rental property (his former residence), and he’s started coming with me sometimes to my new rental property to help out (although sometimes he just thumbs through a magazine and I have to give him specific tasks to keep him moving).

    I feel bad for he guy in your post, and I wish there were easy answers to these things. We struggle with all those same issues nearly every day.

    1. Oh man, I was in a relationship like the one you’re describing and it did not have a happy ending. I think it is really hard for this to last, as over time you’ll lose respect for this guy, and once respect is gone, attraction will probably go as well. I’m now dating someone who has it all together and the difference is night and day. But … we’re all different and love is elusive.

      On the other hand, I feel like I have to speak up for my mom, as I think there is a huge difference between an unmotivated partner and a stay-at-home mom – I had a really wonderful childhood, and both of my siblings and I now have good jobs and generally happy and productive lives, and maybe even more importantly, my parents are still very happy after almost 40 years of marriage. I think the way my parents structured things worked well for them. I also think my mom’s job was much harder than my dad’s, and the situation cannot even be compared to the couple in the post.

      1. I hear what you’re saying, and I think in a lot of relationships with unequal work and pay there is a real risk of losing respect for the other person. A bit of that happened in my former marriage, actually. He wasn’t an artist; he was an auto mechanic/whatever-job-he-could-find who had difficulty holding down a job for more than six months at a time. Last I heard, he was selling popcorn at Costco. Poor match for me, intellectually and otherwise.

        This guy is a great match for me intellectually. He’s right-brained (and I’m pretty solidly left-brained), but his musical intelligence is just off the charts amazing. He toured for 14 years with the same group, and then was unceremoniously dumped because one guy was trying to take over the group and steal from the other guys, and he was the one who stood up and said no. Since then, he’s been struggling to find work, because yeah, he’s a musician, and even the really great musicians have a near-impossible time finding full time equivalent work.

        It’s hard to say how this will turn out. It is frustrating for me sometimes to see him putting in less effort than I do, or prioritizing other things (like working out or relaxing) over finding paying work. Then again, he is renting out his house (trying landlording for the first time) and he is working a pretty miserable job driving to a church about 60 miles away every Sunday morning just so he can collect that $100 per week paycheck.

        If he wanted to continue working less than I do and earning less than I do, but he insisted upon combining all of our money so he could spend half (or more) of our combined income (like my former husband did), I would have a huge problem with it. But we keep our finances separate, so that helps a lot. if I’m okay with working as much as I do, and if that means that I get to drive a nice car to work every day, and he’s okay with working less and driving an older, cheaper car, then that’s one way to make things more balanced.

    2. I think your biggest fix is equalizing the work ethic between you two. If he worked just as many hours on his craft or whatever, even if he still makes much less, you would probably resent him much, much less. It’s when one partner doesn’t try as hard that really brings a relationship down.

      That’s pretty cool he gets to live in your house for free! Musicians and artists need this type of support! Otherwise, their lifestyles would be much worse off.

      At least he’s still fit and tan yeah?

      1. Nuclear Real Estate

        Agree entirely on level of effort. My wife is finishing up her PHD and will be making 10-15% of what I make in her post-doc next year.

        That said, she hustles like mad, we view money and spending very similarly, and are aligned on our goals.

        What is interesting is that the larger disparity in income as my income has grown from 70 to 200+ over the past 5 years has actually made things much easier. Neither of us are spenders by nature, saving 70+% of my W2 income, but it is mush easier to encourage her to splurge on things we’ll both enjoy (like a new dress or getting her hair done etc for a night out) now that I make more money.

      2. It would be helpful if he spent the same amount of effort as I do, and we are working on getting closer to an equilibrium there. I feel like it’s gradually getting better. One thing that’s taken me a while to wrap my brain around is that creative work (like composing or arranging music) isn’t the sort of thing that always lends itself to a regular 9-5 schedule. There are some days that go by where no “work stuff” gets done, and then there might be 36 hours in a row where he gets the creative bug and starts working straight through. So it’s hard to get a sense of when he might be working as much as I am and when he’s not.

        He has stepped up his efforts around the house, which I appreciate. At first, he did very little around the house, because he was used to living in near-squalor (long time single guy), but gradually he is getting better about things like noticing that the trash is overflowing and taking it out, or, if I have to remind him that it’s time for us to take the trash out, he gets up and helps without complaining about it or stalling until I give up and just do it all myself. He does unload the dishwasher like clockwork every time after I run it.

        I don’t know whether it’s totally fair to expect exactly equal work, either. If I work between 50-80 hours per week on regular work, tax work (during tax season), rental property work, and my blog, and he’s more of a “normal” person, isn’t that reasonable? If he were a total slacker, it would not be okay, but if he’s putting in about the same effort as most people (40 hrs per week), is that enough? We have separate finances, so apart from my house payment (which I would be paying anyway, whether or not he lived there) and me paying for most of our dinners and groceries, there’s really not that much of a negative impact on my life. He buys his own clothes, car, insurance, etc.

        I’m curious to hear what you guys think about this. If he’s a laid-back sort of person, and doesn’t care if he drives an older car, versus me who works harder and wants nicer things, isn’t that okay? If he brings other things to the table, it seems like an okay trade to me, but we’ll see how it pans out over the long term. It’s already been nearly four years.

        1. It’s all about expectations when it comes to work. I have been told I have higher than normal expectations, but that’s because I would rather not be average. If you expect a lot out of him, you might be disappointed. So if you can expect 40 hours and whatever output that comes out of it, that’s all that really matters.

    3. Your story is my past. “He” evolved from a lovely Peter Pan into a worthless narcissist…time and compounding will create entitlement/chauvinism . Your ongoing success may cause slacker’s contempt. Boyz become very not attractive with time. Keep your assets separate, never marry the guy, don’t have his kids and insist upon cohab contracts.
      Find a better lover.

  26. I really like this post a lot. I like the way that you provide practical solutions that can be used in a respectful way to get a spouse to see the other person’s side. It would have been easy to take one side and cast blame – I see it all the time on various articles and blogs. This approach may even save a marriage.

    Well done!

    1. Thanks. I like to talk things out and have rational people come to rational agreements. Communication is key, and I’m a strong believer most things can be worked out.

  27. Vistahermosa

    Sam- u forgot piece of advice No.1: DIVORCE HER ASAP (unless he has kids and then he is screwed). There are 2 types of people – producers and parasites; he got stuck with a parasite. I had a wife who was a parasite and have a wife who is a producer. Life is far less stressful when ur partner is a producer. If u dont plan on having kids, maybe not so bad to have parasite– this is relatively little damage she can do as long as u have a pre-nup. But there is no more direct way to poverty than to have kids with a parasite.

    1. I totally agree! I am actually amazed that most people’s replies so far seem to be extremely positive, while my first instinct was “he’s married the wrong person and needs to get out asap!”

      I’ve also gone from double digits to triple digits over the past 5 years, although not in the same proportions that “Jim” has. My wife is pulling her weight: she knows how much we spend and is extremely frugal, she takes care of the kids and the house. She doesn’t need me to tell her that I’m hustling a lot or “show her what I do”, because she trusts that I’m not out having fun when I come home late.

      We have our issues as a couple, but I think such a disconnection on the subject of finance, as described in Jim’s case, would be toxic. Seems they went different paths 5 years ago and I would not even try to fix such a different personality trait.

        1. This is my first wife, yes. I’d say our main issues revolve around choices for kids’ education :)

    2. Sounds pretty harsh. People change over time. Don’t think it’s as clear as being a producer or a parasite. How do you see current American society curious to know?

      Also, how much does one have to pay in income taxes and other taxes to not be considered a parasite?

      1. Vistahermosa

        Sam – I think most of us r cooked by early-mid 20’s. By then, u r comfortable with others paying for u or not and u have the “eye of the tiger” — the drive to succeed — or u dont. To me, society is made up of producers- people who produce and dont (and never will) rely on the gov or spouses for sustainance and parasites – those who dont produce enough to look after themselves and rely on gov or spouses to survive.

    3. Been There, Be Wary

      I can attest to this from first hand experience.

      When we married both myself and my (now ex) wife were each making six figures. Then she started neglecting her business, meanwhile spending more and more. I tried to provide a positive example by scrimping on my needs and demonstrating self sacrifice, hoping this would set a good example. But by then it was too late. She was filling rooms full of things we didn’t need and I was donating expensive items that were barely used just to clear the clutter. After several failed attempts at counseling I finally suspected that she had a serious problem and realized we were heading towards a financial abyss. Turns out she was also hiding money, squirreling it from my income into her own accounts. I finally drew a line in the sand.

      I prepared myself over the course of a few months first because I knew how she would react. Sure enough, she acted outrageously. She had changed completely from the person I knew when we first married. Her antics only made me realize that she was so far gone that I had to get out fast before she took us all down with her. Fortunately this forced us to sell our house at the top of the market just before it tanked. I had wanted to get out for a while anyway, smelling the housing bubble way in advance. We were the epitome of that household using the home as an ATM, on track towards financial ruin. The divorce put me into a big hole, but I worked myself out of it and am back on track.

      Years later my decision was proven correct — she ended up doing the same thing to her second husband, resulting in a second divorce, eventually and tragically going off the deep end for good. I ended up with full custody of the kids. My single income is now actually able to save money even though my expenses have increased (inflation is alive and well people). Whereas beforehand our double income household was bleeding red ink.

      My kids have had a stable home life since than and now have a much healthier attitude towards money and possessions. They can also look forwards to a good university education. Previously, we were all on track to bankruptcy, BEST CASE. It isn’t easy being a single income head of household with kids in school and engaged in all the usual extracurriculars. My kids emerging unscathed and ending up well adjusted after all is PRICELESS.

      I would suggest you nip this in the bud ASAP. Worst case your spouse has a serious problem that needs to be addressed before it becomes irreversible. For her good as well as yours.

      1. Thanks for sharing. I’m glad things worked out better.

        Why do you think she changed so much since you first married her? Do you think you changed or facilitated change as well? Seems like your income stayed pretty stable all this time.

  28. Apathy Ends

    Personally, I can’t relate to the income imbalance between spouses in this story, but have seen it happen to a family member – also a small business owner that worked a ton of hours while his spouse stayed home – long story short she has a drinking problem.

    I think your advice to encourage her to play music will get the best results – I am reading Dale Carnegie’s book “How to win friends and influence people” – Surprisingly it has a lot of examples on dealing with personal situations (not just business interactions) and would be worth the read if Jerry hasn’t read it.

      1. Apathy Ends

        Looked over what I read so far and a few things stand out “instead of condemning people, let’s try to understand them. Let’s try to figure out why they do what they do”

        “The deepest urge in human nature is the desire to be important”

        “Arouse in the other person an eager to want”

        Maybe not having a career or method to feel needed is eating away at her motivation. Or music doesn’t interest her anymore and she doesn’t have an outlet to show her worth.

        Just some thoughts – I am by no means an expert

  29. Distilled Dollar

    I couldn’t agree more with Sam’s recommendation #5. Leading by example sets the tone and it is often more effective to speak with actions instead of words. This is not to say you can avoid the difficult conversations about how you perceive the situation and how she feels about this new found success. There are likely factors at play that each of you are unaware of because the communication in your relationship has not progressed at the same rate as your new business.

    In my relationship, we recently broke through a wall because we both realized we felt guilty about our material success and how it made us happy. We each had parents born overseas and my girlfriend herself even grew up overseas before moving to the US. It was hard to celebrate an improvement in our lives when we knew we already had it much easier than our parents.

    After multiple long talks, we broke through the resistance we were facing, realized what was causing our stress, and we both focused our perspective on appreciating our growing ability to care for our parents and families.

  30. I don’t know if it’s just me, but hopefully not. As always, it takes two to tango. There needs to be open communication between the two of them. Maybe the reason that his wife is not doing what she was doing before is because he doesn’t give her attention or vocally support her with what she was doing before.

    Communication is key to everything. I believe that it’s for their best interests to sit down and talk things through. Only then will they know what’s really going on. Maybe there are other underlying reasons that cause his wife to stop playing, start partying, and getting up late.

    I like your suggestions #4. That’s exactly what I would have done, if I were in his position. Doing this shows that the husband is still interested in what the wife was doing. Often times, encouragement for a loved one can trigger the passion of those who lost theirs.

    I can’t help but wonder if the guy was too busy building his small business that he forgot to pay attention to his wife. All I understand was the wife was like this and she became this. I didn’t see anything about the husband and how he has changed (i.e. attitude and behavior) once he got more clients and started earning multiple zeroes.

    Again, it takes two to tango.

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