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Husband won’t commit to a business venture, allows wife to carry financial burden

Carolyn Hax

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn:

“Ken” and I have been married five years, together nine. Ken is an amazing person; he’s upbeat, handsome, charming, and thoughtful, but can’t seem to stick to a job. He has a master’s in a high-paying technical field that cost his parents a fortune, but he hated it so much he lasted less than a year in that field. Since we’ve been together, he has participated in seven different business ventures.

He gets super enthusiastic about a “new” thing, spends a lot of time and money doing the fun and exciting part, but loses interest when the tough, mundane reality of running a business hits. I’ve had to work lots of overtime just to keep us solvent, we can never save, and can’t even think about having children.

When I talk to him about finding something steady, he tells me he’s still looking for his passion but when he finds it, things will take off faster than I can imagine.

I guess I could accept the status quo and love Ken for who he is, or admit love isn’t enough and divorce him. Since I do love him, but want a stable life, I’m looking for advice that finds a middle ground.

— Overtime

My little voice was screaming “ADHD! ADHD!” but neither I nor my little voice is credentialed, so consult a professional if you think there’s something to this.

Otherwise, there’s no middle ground without buy-in from Ken.

And there’s no magic fix for someone a-OK with watching a spouse work “lots of overtime” just to keep things afloat despite his having no plan of his own. You’re not carrying the weight while he, say, grinds through law school or works a thoroughly investigated business plan or pursues one concentrated shot at making a creative vocation pay. You didn’t volunteer to be sole breadwinner. You’re working while he plays.

Did you get to look for your passion, by the way? Does your work already fit that description?

So, yeah. You either decide he’s a househusband and see whether there’s a happily-ever-after in that, and if there is, then you restructure your lives to fit into one income — certainly partners are more than their paychecks, or else what happens when one can’t work, is home with kids, or is just really great at and satisfied by running a home? Or you say no, this is not an arrangement you can abide, because the resentment it generates — from the physical fatigue of extra work to the mental fatigue of being broke to the chafe of his draining you to indulge himself — outweighs the good.

Re: Ken:

Yes, it could be ADHD, but you are now your husband’s mother. It’s a miserable, miserable way to live. Please, don’t go 20 years with him before reaching your breaking point like I did. You can’t have children with someone who can’t carry their share of the load.

— Been There

Re: Ken:

We do folks such a disservice by propagating the myth that their vocation must be a passion to be rewarding and worthwhile. Maybe your vocation funds your passion. Or, maybe there is great satisfaction in excelling at a job, providing for your family and not burdening your partner.

— Anonymous

Amen to both, thanks.

Email Carolyn at [email protected], follow her on Facebook at or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at

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