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Q. As an artist, my husband doesn't have a steady income, so we rely mostly on my salary to get by. Now times are hard, money is tight, and I'd like him to get a more stable job so we can build up our savings. But he keeps accusing me of trying to change him into something he's not. How can we resolve this?
Susan Heitler, Ph.D., a psychologist in Denver and the author of The Power of Two: Secrets to a Strong and Loving Marriage (New Harbinger Publications, Inc.) and its companion workbook, answers:
A. I can see why you're upset: You two had a deal -- spoken or unspoken -- about your careers and earnings. But as the economy nosedived, and your needs changed, you feel that deal should be renegotiated. However, consider your husband's feelings, too. After all, you knew you weren't marrying a CEO, and he may feel hurt or betrayed at any suggestion that he give up the work he loves.
Keep telling and showing your husband how much you love and respect him and his goals; we all need to feel admired and cherished by our spouses. At the same time, you must make your own feelings and needs known. Try using the magic words "yes" and "and." For example, you might say: "Yes, I am trying to change you -- to try something you haven't done before, which could be very positive for both of us." Or: "I'm very proud of your work, and I'd like you to brainstorm ways you could earn more money so we'd be financially secure." Emphasize what you "would like" to see happen, rather than a litany of things you don't like. The bottom line: Keep the dialogue going. Empathize with his feelings, ask thoughtful questions and, at the same time, gently let him know what you need.