Thursday, July 31, 2008

A Man Who Gives All for Family...Is it Worth It?

I have a male client who's married to a stay-at-home wife. To fund her big-spending ways, he's had to take a job that few people would describe as inordinately rewarding, especially in today's market: He sells real estate. Not surprisingly, he's having a tough time making a living at it, a cause of great stress: His wife is hounding him to make more money lest they lose their suburban mini-mansion. He tries ever harder because "What do you expect? I have to support my family."

His wife had a child from a previous marriage who has "issues:" This 24-year-old sits in an apartment smoking pot all day. waiting for her boyfriend to come home. My client spends large amounts of time trying to help his stepchild. He's a kind, patient man, and his drugged-out stepkid yells at him for "not giving me space, and coming down on me." He continues to try to help. He says, "What do you expect? It's my family."

Now, it appears his sister, who has been a lifelong professional student and hoarder/pack rat has decided to move near my client. He says, "I'll do the best I can for her." I ask him, "Do you really need to do that?" He says, "It's family."

Yesterday, he thought he was having a heart attack. It turned out to be a false alarm, but I'm betting he's at-risk.

What is his wife doing to help reduce his stress? Is she getting a job to help share the financial burden? No: After his heart attack scare, her response was, "I think you should take out more life insurance." Is that what a family member should say?

This client is one of the more extreme examples, but I have found many men who give it all to family, including paying the ultimate price, and derived far too little in exchange. Especially for many, although certainly not all men, I believe family is overrated.


Anonymous said...

As a wife, I would NEVER treat my husband that way. Family is about reciprocal love. (If they asked him to murder someone if he loved them, he would say no - that should include himself!) That life insurance comment was horrible.

I'm glad he's your client.

Anonymous said...

This can easily happen to women as well. I know of a couple of women in similar situations who won't rock the boat because "it's family."

I'd guess that your client was raised to believe that family is more important than anybody else and/or the man is the provider for the family, so it wouldn't surprise me that he'd work so hard for them, even if it appears so many are taking advantage of him.

If he has a son, he could very well be learning the same things, just like the stoner daughter learned so well from her mother. And that's even worse, that these destructive behaviors are repeating themselves and might continue to do so for generations.

Most of the time, there's nothing you can say to people like this. You can give your advice to him, but your client will keep on saying "It's family" until he can't say it anymore.

Anonymous said...

Family is not overrated if the members look out for each other. Then it is gold.

The stay-at-home wife? She's not only overrated, but she should be kicked to the curb for her unruly son and life insurance comment.

Please note that I am referring to this woman specifically and not stay-at-home wives in general.

Anonymous said...

You really tell it like it is on men's issues.

I was married for five years myself. 99% of that time, my wife didn't work(at one point, she had short-term part-time job). Even when we were really struggling financially. We had no kids, but she always had a million excuses for not working (not being able to find the right job, not liking the careers available to her, not wanting us both to be busy, etc.)

Now, I'm divorced, happier than ever meeting new people and dating. I have no intention of ever getting married again. I am not rich, but I also have no dependents (such as a non-working wife) so that has reduced my costs greatly. My ex-wife is now working full time -- sometimes overtime! It's amazing how fast she found a job when she had to. She constantly contacts me saying she misses me. I miss her too sometimes (she was not a bad person), but don't miss being with someone who looks at me as just a source of income to fund not working.

I have a few married male friends whose wives don't work. They are too busy they say, but the wives always have time for plenty of fun (and expensive) hobbies, vacations, friends, etc. Meanwhile, the husband is always busy with work and family, sometimes working two jobs.

So I definitely agree that family is overrated for a lot of men, including me.

Really enjoy your blog and radio show!! You are a rare voice on many of these issues.

Grace said...

This is not just a man's issue.
It is a self-esteem issue.

We teach people how to treat us.
This man's family is ignorant - but their awful behaviors continue to be reinforced.

This man must understand that he cannot be all things to all people, and he can't give the family what they really need (guidance, love) when he is dead.

Dave said...

"This can easily happen to women as well."

Rarely, Anonymous. The days of Maggie Thatcher and big shoulder pads are long gone. More and more women are retreating from the workforce, because they don't feel like working.

Anonymous said...

To Dave:

As Grace said, this is a self-esteem issue. It is not gender-specific. If Mr. Nemko's story had featured a woman as the overworked breadwinner instead of a man, I'm certain he'd still conclude that "family is very overrated."

I'm aware that increasing numbers of women are opting to stay at home. That does not mean that there aren't plenty of women who are still working, sometimes overworking, along with men.

But no matter who is the major breadwinner, nobody should have to come home to an ungrateful family. I'd rather come home to no family at all than a family that didn't show at least a little caring and appreciation.