He Plays But She Has to Pay

Q: I'm a nurse and my husband is an electrician. Together we pull in an income that I would think should be able to support our family. What he does, though, with all good intention, is surprise the girls with books and toys. He'll bring flowers home, surprise us with tickets for the movies or take-out food. There is no discussion ahead of time whether these things are in our budget for that month, and so we always wind up scrambling. I feel guilty because he does these things with a full heart and he tells me not to worry because we always seem to pay the bills. I write the checks for the house and am filled with constant anxiety. I know he's a good guy but I want to strangle him. I don't know what to do. — Marianne, 42

Dr. Susan: Your husband needs to take your anxiety much more seriously. Point out to him that, as you write the checks, you're in a better position to know the after-effects of his "generosity." Clearly, your guy wants to be the good guy in the family while letting you be the worrier, the long-term planner, and, occasionally, the spoilsport. And that's just not fair. He's acting a little like a kid himself, rather then sharing the feeling of responsibility.

I have to let you know, however, that some individuals just aren't built to take on a feeling of responsibility, but they can learn to act in a more responsible way. Sit him down and insist that he take your constant feelings of anxiety, anger, and resentment seriously. Your marriage, and the kids, will be the better for it.

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