Mr. Breadwinner’s Burden…
My husband grew angry and threw his phone at me.
It felt like a punch in the gut.
It didn’t hurt much but the surprise felt like a slap in the face.
My husband is a sweetheart; that is a fact. Hubby has never and I highly doubt will ever raise his hand in anger to anyone. If there was 1080p footage of him robbing an old lady, I would tell the police to rinse their eyes and watch it again because there’s no way it could be my Hubby.
But today, I need to embarrass him a little in order to advance this story.
For his story of triumphant glory and accidental wealth, go here instead.
This phone throwing business happened at 1 AM in the morning almost a month ago. I was in bed and on my phone, doing my usual late-night Internet binge. My husband was in heavy slumber next to me. Then our Airbnb guests at the rental messaged us to increase the heat but that required security code. I didn’t know it so I shook Hubby awake and asked him for the code. Half asleep, he grabbed and checked his phone, muttered the code and fell back asleep. Then 30 seconds later, he suddenly woke up, completely agitated! He screamed that I expected too much from him in the middle of the night and he threw the phone he still had on hand at me!
In a brilliant throw, the phone hit and bounced off me, just to hit our poor sleeping doggy in bed with us too. Grace immediately jolted up and ran for the door. Smart pup. I was so taken back at his anger. I sat there in bed with my eyes and mouth open, like a fish’s face, gulping for air.
It was 1 AM and my husband just threw his phone at his two favorite girls in the world. He swung at the bedpost and stormed out of the bedroom.
I thought to myself…“Wow. @_@ He really doesn’t like being woken up.”
Let me tell you if I didn’t feel guilty about waking him up in the middle of the night for a code I should have known already, he would be dead.
Just to clarify, if someone were to slap me, I would slap them right back. I inherited my father’s temper, remember? I’ve gotten into physical fights before and I never regretted standing up for myself.
But I did sense something wrong (beyond waking him up at 1 AM). This was extremely out of the ordinary behavior for my overly timid and soft-natured husband.
In other words, he went postal.
I have given Hubby so much more grief than just waking him up at 1 AM. For example, when we were first dating, I use to constantly burp in his face by tricking him in for a kiss. Feel free to laugh here.
He has never gotten this mad at me. My wifey red flags went off which stopped me from going off on him in retaliation for this unprecedented violence and anger. I remember sitting in bed and contemplating the two choices of either screaming back and escalating the fight or just letting it go for some shut-eye. He had work the next day and I woke the poor guy up.
I chose to let it go.
He volunteered to sleep on the sofa in the living room. Our living room is right above the garage that isn’t insulated and the room is always freezing cold. I asked him to come back to bed to sleep where it’s warm. I was mad but I didn’t want him sleeping on the sofa. We both had long days ahead so when he came back to bed, I snuggled up to him and let him slide on his biggest infraction to date.
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The Next Day…
I was still asleep when he left for work in the morning. He came home that night and he immediately apologized for throwing his phone and losing his temper. I accepted his apology and asked him why he did it. That I had to know, it was (once again) so out of the ordinary.
“My project at work didn’t go over well…”
*Tears welling up in his eyes.*
“I spoke to my manager and he said I’m moving slower than others. Unless I improve, I think they just might put me under performance check.”
“It’s OK, that happens, it’s alright honey.”
“They replaced me with another guy as team leader because I wasn’t doing a good job.”
“Ohhhhhhhhhhhh, that makes sense now…so they replaced you with someone else?”
Background note: so there are 2 guys on the same team with the same first name as my husband.
As if it wasn’t competitive enough to share the same name – they both have the same job, rank, facial features, hair, build, age and float around the same social circles at work. The other Hubby is more well-rounded (according to my husband’s description of him on occasions.)
By the way, that should be a strike against overly common boy names for expecting moms out there…?
Anyway, now my husband’s sitting on the sofa, teary-eyed. I’m holding in some remorseful laughter and reached out to hug him.
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My poor baby. He’s been holding all this in for almost 2 weeks. This was weeks old news and he never told me about it!
Oh…wait…I remember now…do you know what he actually told me?
His exact words of what he considers as telling me were “they added more people on to my team.”
I remember him coming home one night and muttering something like that in a sad tone. I thought to myself, “ok, they added more people, that’s interesting…I guess.”
Adding more people to the team is drastically different from the real version of “hi honey, I was replaced by my friend with the same face, hair, name, and job as me.”
So you can see how sensitive hubby is on this topic. Oh, my poor honey, to carry such baggage, my heart hurts just remembering it.
The male ego can be very sensitive – especially when something at work doesn’t go right. My Hubby is no different from other men. He defines himself by his work. He has pride in what he does and genuinely wants to succeed in his career without compromising his style of execution.
He accepts and regards that he is the family breadwinner and main provider. With that responsibility internalized, he takes his failures and setbacks seriously. I have also unknowingly contributed to this internalization by putting our finances out in the open.
We are a one income family. I try my best to hustle for some chump change on the side, but Hubby is the real bacon bringer here.
It’s an unspeakable amount of pressure that he has to deal with. It’s understandable now how he could be in so much pain when something at work simply doesn’t go right.
Besides Airbnb, we are a one-income family. The pressure for him to perform better at work is much higher because of that. We have two mortgages and double the liabilities. Although I think Hubby makes great money, our dynamic is still that of a single income family. The bottom line is we depend on his talents to get paid properly so we can pay others properly.
It’s not easy being a breadwinner. While I have observed his stress now, I will never see it from his driver’s seat. Nor do I ever want to. I just want him to understand that it’s not his responsibility to be perfect. A good spouse stands behind the success of our significant other just as much as their failures. It is not his responsibility to continuously make more and more money!
No self-respecting human being with two brain cells knocking together should ever put that kind of monetary pressure on their significant other.
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Being A Better Wife…
The amount of pressure on him and the 1 AM explosion gave me a critical peek into his world. Underneath that happy-go-lucky-guy hides, a man who feels traps and I bet that’s the majority of men out there too. I was actually offended that he couldn’t tell me this earlier! I’M YO WIFE DUDE. We’ve been married how long? I’ve screwed up SO much, in fact, I’m still screwing up!!! You can’t hide dirt from me, we’re equaled!
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Even though Hubby is a fantastic engineer and problem solver, he is also extremely limited in his communication skills. There are days where I’m lucky if he gives me more than two emotional descriptors other than “good” and “not good.” I don’t want that to happen to him so we had a long talk that can be briefly summarized in my public service announcement below.
Public Service Announcement to All Husbands / Breadwinners:
Your love ones will not think any less of you for setbacks at work.
You will always be a good provider and you will always be deserving of genuine love. A bad day, a bad week, or a bad year at work does not define who you are as a man. You are loved and you are appreciated.
It’s important to not bottle these feelings up. Because failure is one of the most important aspects of life. You cannot be expected to be good at everything and you cannot be expected to be the best at everything.
Even in your darkest time you should be able to turn to your wife and tell her how you feel. A good wife will understand. A good wife will accept any proposed failure with kindness and alleviate you from guilt and stress. And if your wife can forgive you for throwing a phone at her then nothing is going to change her mind about how much she loves you (and mark my words that’s the only time that you’re allowed to do that you stupid penguin.)
The best way to feel better as a man is to confess like a man. March home to your wife and look her in the eyes and go “honey I screwed up royally at work, can we talk?“
You talk it through and that’s how you start to build a stronger marriage.
For bonus reading, check out my friend Ember’s enlightening post on why it’s good to fight with your husband.
I’m your wife, that’s a mighty high title, you’re supposed to be able to tell me things without fearing judgement. We are a team, we are the same person. Remember when I was going through a very similar situation with my blog? I tried really hard to grow my stats but they were stuck at that number. It’s the same feeling of never being able to measure up to someone else who may simply be better, like how you feel about the other Hubby.
We just connected. So the conversation in a few sentences not only alleviated the stress but it brought us even closer in our pain. The whole fighting could have been avoided if those feelings hadn’t been bottled up. So here is what we’re going to do…
The rest of our conversation evolved into plans for FIRE (Financial Independence & Retiring Early) which I will get into in below. Have a restful weekend everybody!
Are you the family’s breadwinner? Are these feelings common for you and/or your spouse? Have you ever misdelivered bad news to your significant other out of embarrassment?
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