I’m a working mom with two kids. We have a comfortable lifestyle, no major financial problems — just the typical mortgage and monthly bills — and I just got a big raise at work. Still, my husband seems stressed about work and frequently mentions his worries about layoffs. I don’t understand why he’s so concerned — after all, it’s not like I don’t bring any money to the table!
I understand your frustration — if you earn enough to support your family, why doesn’t your husband just relax and appreciate that you’re contributing to the family income? As with many relational conflicts, however, it’s just not that simple.
What’s going on is probably a result of your husband’s need to provide. Providing is a very strong drive for men. For your husband, it probably is more than a slight desire — it is an emotional need and a burden that presses heavily on him and never lets up. And because it is deep and emotional, it doesn’t change just because you make a great salary. It may sound old-fashioned, but your husband wants to know you depend on him, even though he also knows you’re more than capable of providing yourself. In my research for For Women Only, 78 percent of men said they would feel a need to provide for their family even if their wife earned more than enough to support the whole family! And if your husband is like most men, this “provider burden” is constantly on his mind. In fact, to him, to be a man probably means to be a provider. It is also probably one of the main ways he tries to say “I love you.”
As a result, the idea of failing you is excruciating, which is why he worries out loud about layoffs. It’s emotional torture for a man if the worst happens and his family has to endure financial challenges. Again, it may not seem logical to you, but knowing and recognizing your husband’s emotional need to provide can help you to be kind when he talks about his fears or worries instead of feeling like he’s discounting your contribution (since he probably isn’t!). In fact, many men told me how much it meant to them when their wife said things like “Thank you so much for working so hard to support the family.”
By recognizing both the intrinsic need of men to provide and your own mate’s unique personality and ways of expressing his love for you – and affirming him as a provider – you will actually find your marriage growing stronger and your own appreciation for him growing. This does not lower your own worth as a partner; it shows you want to selflessly support and encourage your husband so he knows you respect and affirm him as a husband and as a man.
Do you want Shaunti to share these life-changing truths at your church or event? Inquire about Shaunti speaking, here. Shaunti Feldhahn is the best-selling author of eye-opening, research-based books about men, women and relationships, including For Women Only, For Men Only, The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages and her newest, The Good News About Marriage. A Harvard-trained social researcher and popular speaker, her ﬁndings are regularly featured in media as diverse as The Today Show, Focus on the Family, and the New York Times. Visit www.shaunti.com for more. This article first appeared on Patheos.