is my husband’s chronic unhappiness at work really about him, not his jobs?

A reader writes:

When it comes to employment / job stability, my husband and I are seemingly polar opposites. We have been together for almost seven years now (married for almost one year), and in that time, he has had six jobs.

Of those, the longest he held the same one was for three years. It required overnight travel two nights a week, every week. I could see the windshield time was wearing on him, as well as the drama that can come from small, family-owned companies (my husband wasn’t related to any of his coworkers; however, it became evident that those who were in the family were definitely treated at an advantage over every one else). Everything came to a head after they wanted him to move to a new city. He chose to leave that job rather than move, and that’s when our whirlwind really began.

The next two jobs he held were disasters. Poor planning and minimal due diligence on my husband’s part left him unfulfilled, frustrated, and more or less in the same position he was in with the first job: bad bosses, little guidance, terrible sales territories, and constant travel. The first job he left after five months, and with such a short tenure he was told not to even put it on his resume or use them as a reference. The next job: eight months, but it paid so little and was jumped into so blindly due a desperate situation that it quickly soured. The next job lasted a little over a year. But his boss was incredibly verbally abusive, and my husband started dreading work: he couldn’t sleep, was withdrawn. As much as I needed him to keep his job, no job is worth your health. He was fired in early March, and it was terrifying; my employment alone could not keep us afloat.

Luckily, he found his new, and current, job, after only three weeks. And now, after five months, a familiar pattern is starting to emerge: burn-out, a terrible boss, and anxiety on my end.

Here’s where my question really starts: how can I be supportive when I’m starting to suspect the problem isn’t the jobs, but my husband? Sometimes I want to grab hold of him and say, “Get ahold of yourself! Suck it up! You will never get anywhere if you keep leaving jobs and/or are let go.” I let irrational thoughts creep into my head: “My life will never be stable, we’ll never be able to start a family,” etc.

For additional info that might play into your answer, I’ve been at my current job for six years. While the work can sometimes be tedious, I truly love my coworkers, the culture, everything. They are my second family. I plan on staying here until I retire!

Meanwhile, I feel like I’m having to be a constant cheerleader to my husband, telling him to please stick it out, do good work, prove that asshole boss wrong! What, if anything, can I do to help my husband see his potential and do good work, and not fear him getting the boot every day? Or, conversely, tell him to look within himself, recognize his own behavior might be leading to incredible job dissatisfaction, and do so without being a horrific person? I feel like I’m always waiting for the other shoe to drop. My husband is such a natural born salesman; he’s never met a stranger, can make connections so effortlessly. I just don’t know where to go from here.

There are three possibilities here:

1. For some reason, your husband can’t stay in jobs long-term. He has unrealistic expectations and so gets demoralized and burned out by things a reasonable person would be able to roll with. Maybe he sees mildly bad management as terrible management, or maybe he needs a really specific type of management to thrive, who knows. (But he did have that earlier job for three years, which is a respectable tenure.)

2. He picks bad jobs. He’s so desperate to get out of a bad situation that he leaps too quickly, without screening employers rigorously enough, thus ending up in new situations that are equally bad or worse, and then he keeps repeating the cycle.

3. He’s had really terrible luck.

It’s possible that it’s #3 … except that if this was all just bad luck, then I’d expect him to have noted at some point during this cycle that his job history was getting choppy enough that he was going to need to commit to staying somewhere for a solid chunk of time unless something was truly unbearable. (I’d put that abusive boss in the “unbearable” category, assuming he truly was abusive.) If your husband hasn’t been saying things like that — if he doesn’t seem to recognize that his job history is becoming pretty problematic and that he’s going to need to just tough it out somewhere to give himself a work history that will make it easier to get a good job in the future — then I suspect #2 is the more likely explanation.

I’m also inclined to think it’s #2 because there’s a lot of “he felt desperate and needed to get out quickly” in your account of his history, and that’s when people are most likely to take the first thing they find without much vetting. Which is understandable — but you can’t do that more than once or twice or you will mess up your work history.

Have you two talked about why this keeps happening, and what he needs to do about it now? Does he agree that this pattern is going to make it harder and harder for him to find good jobs, especially if it continues? Does he recognize that he’s keeping himself caught in a cycle of taking an unvetted job, becoming miserable, and then taking another unvetted job because he urgently needs to get out, and then repeating the whole thing all over again? Does he think that’s a problem? Is he willing to consider whether his standards for bosses and jobs are realistic?

And what are his thoughts about what to do from here? Does he feel like he needs to get some two-years-or-longer stays on his resume, and if so, can he see committing to stay someone for a few years even if he doesn’t love it? Or does he not think it matters? And is it possible that he’s in a field where it truly doesn’t matter? (There are some of those, although they’re rare.)

If you haven’t had that conversation with him, that’s where I’d start. I’d frame it as “I know you’re really unhappy at work, and it’s got to be especially upsetting since this keeps happening. Can we talk big-picture about what might be going on? I hate seeing you so unhappy and I wonder if there’s a different way to look at all this that might help.”

It’s also okay to talk about the impact on you — about the instability it brings to your lives together and your hesitance to start a family in the middle of this. You want to be careful not to sound like you’re kicking him when he’s down, of course — but these are things you’re allowed to talk about, as long as you do it sensitively.

Speaking of which — in doing this, keep in mind that you’re in a very unusual and lucky position with how happy you are with your own job. I can imagine your husband feeling like you won the job lottery and can’t necessarily understand how hard things have been for him. That doesn’t mean you can’t talk to him about what’s going on, but make sure you’re sensitive to the difference in your situations.

Read an update to this letter here

{ 352 comments… read them below }

  1. Hills to Die on*

    Sales is a rapid-turnover environment so multiple year-or-two-stays are kinda normal for that industry. Obviously, your huband needs to sort this out a bit but he is closer than some other industries.

    1. Sometimes Wallflower*

      This is so true. I worked as a sales assistant for over 10 years before getting out of that field (and never looked back) and it’s extremely common to have periods in your career where you’re only at a company briefly because it isn’t a good fit. (Extremely related, sales is also notorious for abusive bosses, grueling schedules, and lack of support.) Unfortunately, sometimes you get a series of bad experiences — there are a lot of bad eggs out there.

      Another angle you may need to look at it from (and this sounds very likely): your husband may be a natural-born salesman, but if he’s miserable because of virtually every other aspect of his sales job then maybe he should start looking at other careers that provide more structure and are less emotionally demanding. (And yes, sales is very emotionally demanding, even without the awful bosses, nepotism, and constant travel.) There are TONS of fields where having a natural sales aptitude and an ability to network gives you a huge advantage even if you aren’t actually selling anything — or if it’s a soft sell situation like dealing with internal customers or service partners or that kind of thing. And lots of people transition from sales to other fields successfully — I know many who got burned out on sales, even though they loved it, and moved on to other, more rewarding jobs. It might be worth thinking about.

      1. OP here*

        I’m so sorry just now responding! You are so spot on about the sales world. I am totally with you about exploring other fields that while not directly involved in sales, use his natural talents as a salesman. Thank you!

        1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

          A natural sales personality is worth a lot in many industries (everyone in my family has one except me, the lone introvert) and if he can write a good cover letter emphasizing how good he is with people, why he is looking to switch industries, it could be an easy transition if done right.

          Or perhaps a different type of sales that requires less travel and oversight? Cars, furniture, boats, houses? I have family members who sell each of those things and they make very good money (people without the right personality could do very badly at it though) and the right company won’t have the kind of high pressure that corporate sales has.

          1. Specialk9*

            Software as a solution is usually done remotely, and the sales and tech folks are usually separate so you don’t necessarily need to be super technical.

            1. woc in tech*

              Second vote for SaaS! And it’s booming right now, so there’s a good chance of finding someone hiring.

        2. Bambam*

          I would say project management could be a very good fit- from what you’ve said below, the interaction with customers becomes interaction with stakeholders, contractors, and no day is ever the same. I’ve honestly never had the same day twice since transitioning from sales to PM, the motives of success and the rush of a ‘closure’ or end result are the same, project management just takes a big old chunk out of the stress, pressure and inability to say ‘I can’t do this right now’.

          1. Hills to Die on*

            And absolutely the need to sell executives on the need for the project. So much!

            1. Bambam*

              Also the added benefit that the scope of project management is almost as wide as sales; almost every industry has an element of PM so with a bit of fine tuning, you absolutely don’t have to compromise your interests and experience to find a fulfilling role. A new skillset might be required, but your knowledge of another aspect of teapot repairs/llama hearding/etc from the front line is, if anything, a massive bonus!

          2. Thlayli*

            PM does use some of the same skills as sales, but there are also many other skills a PM needs that a good salesperson night not have (and vice versa). The most obvious thing a PM needs is the ability to be really organised. The letter doesn’t really paint the picture of a very organised man. Project Management night not be the best fit.

            I think the suggestion upthread is switching to a different type of sales with less travel is a good one.

        3. College Career Counselor*

          Fundraising/Development (for an organization, a cause, an educational institution, etc.) have a strong sales component to them in that there are relationships to be created, fostered, and managed. You are, in a sense, selling the mission of the organization to a prospective donor. If your husband has any background in nonprofit work, it might be possible to switch over.

          1. Junior Dev*

            And if he’s not able to find a job in that field right away he would easily be able to find volunteer opportunities to build his resume

          2. WellRed*

            Oh, great suggestion! I was gonna suggest real estate but fundraising or development positions sound great!

          3. StudentAffairsProfessional*

            Yes, I was going to comment the same thing. I work in a University alumni association and we work alongside fundraisers. They are all total salespeople!! Charming, chatty, warm – a lot of things that make you good at sales will make him a good fundraiser. Especially at a University, there are tons and tons of fundraising jobs with different focuses (the arts, athletics, specific programs, etc). The benefits are very good and the pay tends to be better than program coordinator/admin jobs. There still is a good amount of travel but maybe he could find something with a strong regional focus. Sometimes the jobs are posted as “Development” or “Advancement” rather than fundraisers.

        4. Geoffrey*

          So you know, you are not alone. My wife and I have been going through the same thing for the last several years. I started in what I thought was my dream job, with a non profit sales role at a youth program non profit. In reality, it turned out the organization was plague with problems that weren’t easily visinle from th outside. They had a horrible culture, lots of deep inefficencies and backwards policies, and some super abusive supervisors.

          After getting canned during an extremely poorly run merger (combining our area with several other nearby regions), I was a wreck. I tried retail, as a stop gap thinking I could use the sales and customer service skills there. But so many retailers are struggling, an cutting costs in all the wrong places. So, after a couple super low paying jobs, and an abusive boss or two, I felt like I was at the end of my rope.

          What finally reversed the situation was going into business for myself. I started a small renovation company.

          It was/is tough. While I could fix almost anything wrong with a house, I had little idea how to bill or how much to charge. But, I have been figuring it out. As I have, I have also been happier by and large. It’s still stressful; when things go wrong, I have no one else to blame. But I can determine my environment, and have more control over my fate. Plus, my boss is a swell guy.

          What ultimately got me through all of the roughest parts, and over the largest wounds from my firing, and gave me the opportunity to push forward for myself was the support I received from my family and friends. (And therapy). The constant financial pressure, my wife’s anxiety attacks about unborn kids and money, the endless flood of suggestions from my parents–all of these only ever made things worse, made me feel less worthy. What I needed was people reminding me that I have worth, that my skills have worth, and that I would make it through.

          So yeah, while mine is certainly still a story being written, things can turn around. So long as we keep moving forward, times are bound to improve.

          1. Katherine*

            Your boss sounds like a fantastic guy – all the best to you for starting your own business. I wish I had your courage.

        5. GlitsyGus*

          If he does generally like sales, it’s mostly just the travel and such that he hates, he could try looking for more inside sales positions rather than outside, cold-call type sales. They do tend to be a little more structured and in-house by design.

          I also second the person who suggested Project Management. It uses a lot of the same skills as sales.

        6. Tiara Wearing Princess*

          My son is a natural salesman and does well but he HATES it. He’s a stand up guy, fair, honest, but he can’t take the back stabbing, the ever changing sales goals and the douche-y bosses. I can’t count the number of times coworkers have tried to undercut him and steal his sales. He worked for a huge software company, and brought in a client they’d been chasing for years. Client agreed to try their product in one division ($80k commission for my son). 6 months later he is happy with the product AND the service my son provided, and told his management so. 3 weeks before client was due to decide whether to move forward with purchase for other divisions, they let my son go. The only explanation was that they didn’t want to pay him huge commission on incoming orders.

          Company starts with a “O” and they are notorious for doing this.

        7. Anonymeece*

          OP, I thought I had written this letter!

          My partner is almost identical: lots of short-term stays at places, abusive bosses, and natural born salesman. We were still unpacking the moving truck for our new house and he already knew the neighbors. In his case, he’s an Army vet, so rather than sales, I thought he’d do great working at a VA office at a school or fundraising for a non-profit he’s involved with.

          It sounds like your husband naturally gravitated toward sales because he’s good at making connections, but I want to echo there are a ton of jobs out there where making connections is important, but still have the structure and stability that your husband may need.

          Best of luck to you!

      2. Hey Nonnie*

        Perhaps also worth considering is if he could work as a consultant instead of an employee. There are pros and cons to this, and this wouldn’t necessarily be THE escape hatch from bad bosses (aka clients). But it would give him a bit more control over how he works, and it might suit him better than having his work dictated to him by a boss. He could also — within reason — be more picky about who he’s working for, since he could fire an abusive client and still be working in his business. So there’d be no resume gaps, and as long as he’s not putting all of his eggs in one basket, he’d still have some income coming in.

        Some people work better with more autonomy, so it might at least be worth asking the question of whether it’s feasible.

      3. Solo*

        One thing that comes to mind here is recruiting, especially if OP’s husband has an aptitude for (or background in) technical fields or executive environments. Good technical recruiters or executive headhunters are hard to come by. I have no idea how easy or difficult it is to break into that field, but that kind of networking and loyalty tends to follow you regardless of your current employer.

        1. Mad Baggins*

          Seconding recruiting. You still need that ability to connect with people quickly and be able to suss out their needs. Plus still requires lots of phone calls, fast-paced work, clear concrete targets like sales. But usually recruiting requires less travel. Might be a good fit!

      4. lapgiraffe*


        I can’t tell you how many people I advise against getting into sales, having relationship building abilities doesn’t prepare you for figuring out how you’re going to hit your numbers or plan an open ended day (outside sales here!) or push you to pick up the phone again or just make one more stop instead of calling it a day. The personality is one of several aspects that gets you in the door, and can be a key aspect of maintaining ongoing business, but it has little to do with the planning, execution, and allllll the follow up required.

        I have a friend who reminds me of your husband but she’s a teacher, and she’s starting in her sixth school in 9 years any day now thinking it’s going to be the one that changes everything! But it won’t, because she hates teaching, not the actual students or the material, she hates the day to day nitty gritty. She wants it to be Dead Poets Society, and her passion and knowledge would make that possible in a dream world, but that’s just not the reality of teaching.

        As said by others, with sales it takes some churning and burning to find the right role, but your husband’s story reminds me so much more of my teacher friend rather than any of the numerous sales colleagues calling and complaining about work, and I think he could benefit from some soul searching/career coaching to pivot and readjust course.

    2. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      That’s what struck me. Maybe he’s in the wrong *career*, not just the wrong jobs.

      1. I'll think of a clever name later...maybe.*

        I was coming here to saw the same thing. My husband worked in mental health (residential treatment) for a lot longer than everyone else he started the field with. He took a series of bad jobs, in the same field, convinced it was the boss / company that was the issue. Every job was the same. Just about six months ago things were so bad that he went for an interview for a company completely, 100% unrelated to his field. It was less money, earlier hours, and a lot more physical labor but he took it. It’s the happiest I’ve seen him in about 8 years. Our kids told him that he looks like he’s in color now, now gray and unhappy like he was at the other place.
        Has your husband thought about looking outside of the field?

      2. justsomeone*

        This is what I was going to say. It sounds like sales just isn’t the right career. Or at least this KIND of sales.

    3. Burnett*

      I second this. I worked in my first insurance sales job for 4 months, my second for a year and change, and my third for another 6 months before ultimately leaving for my current HR role. I’ve been here nearly two years and have no plans to look elsewhere at the moment. Sales, especially traveling sales, is a difficult, thankless business. I was a very good salesman, but stories like LW’s husband’s are the reason I decided to leave the industry.

      It could be that he needs to think about transitioning careers into something more stable. Some people are okay with the constant ups and downs of territory sales, but for others, that stress is just that: stressful. The good news if that’s what he ultimately decides is that a lot of sales skills are transferable to other industries.

  2. Antilles*

    Um. Can I mention that he might have selected a really bad industry for him? Like, if a lot of travel isn’t his thing, sales almost certainly isn’t a good fit. It takes a very specific breed of person to love traveling away from family and friends and your bed on a regular basis…and everybody else tends to fall on a scale of “meh, fine” to “ugh”.

    1. Lizzy May*

      That’s what I was coming here to say. Maybe it isn’t the jobs as much as the industry. Most people are going to hate sales. It takes a very specific personality to enjoy and excel in that industry. Can he maybe consider transitioning into something else that fits his personality and lifestyle a bit more?

    2. OP here*

      hi! I will say his current job has *significantly* less travel – usually only once or twice a month. But, agree with you – I could never have a travelling job.

      1. Kathlynn*

        He could look for in town sales jobs, like car sales. Yes, there is significant desk time, but lots of standing and walking too. Or things like coffee/pop/food delivery (though those are generally mixed with out of town deliveries)

    3. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Not all sales jobs require travel so if the travel piece is causing issues, he could potentially find something in inside sales.

      But sales tends to be a high pressure, high stress, rapid turnover kind of field.

      1. Specialk9*

        The software sales guys I work with tend to stay put for awhile. It seems like a more stable job.

      2. doreen*

        Even outside sales doesn’t necessarily require “away from family and your own bed” travel. My husband never travels overnight – he works for a company sells paint supplies, building materials, hardware etc to local retailers. His travel is from customer to customer during the day but never overnight.

    4. A username for this site*


      I really identify with the husband in this letter, except imagine writing it from my own perspective, ex: Is there something wrong with me that I’ve ended up in some of these dysfunctional jobs?

      Having been in that situation, what happens is that what is abnormal at work has started to feel normal. So a job that’s a bad fit feels like a good fit, because he’s used to being the bad fit and that’s the role and path that feels familiar to him. But once you’ve been the “bad fit” so many times, you start to question if you’re being unreasonable for finding something is “off” about a situation, and by the time you get that wake up call and realize that you’ve been putting up with WAY too much, it’s too late to do anything but jump from the frying pan into the first fire that’ll have you, because hey, fires are festive and warm and cozy!

    5. Dust Bunny*

      Same. It seems these are sales jobs? When I die and go to Hell, it will be an eternity of sales jobs, punctuated with occasional word problems. There is basically no job nor boss in that entire industry that could make this bearable for me over the long-term because I am simply not suited to it. It almost sounds like he keeps going back to these because he’s done them before and either feels it’s all he can get with that experience, or is comfortable there despite hating it because it’s mostly what he’s done. He needs to look for a way in the door to something that isn’t sales.

      I confess, too, that I will forever be hesitant to work for small or family-run companies. My personal experience (and a lot of AAM seems to back this up) is that they’re too unstable, hire too incestuously, and are too prone to favoritism, to be viable long-term employment unless maybe you’re the favored relative who is going to inherit the whole shebang.

      1. Persimmons*

        When I die and go to Hell, it will be an eternity of sales jobs, punctuated with occasional word problems.

        *runs screaming into the hills*

        But, yes–agreed. He either needs sales without travel, travel without sales, or neither. Figuring out what his “hell” looks like is an important first step.

      2. Amber T*

        “When I die and go to Hell, it will be an eternity of sales jobs, punctuated with occasional word problems.”

        I see we’ll be in hell together. Cheers!

      3. Been There, Done That*

        It was my misfortune, back in the day, to work for a number of family-owned companies. The conventional wisdom was that small companies were the best places to look because that’s where most of the jobs were (maybe because employees keep running for the hills). Such a learning experience. When I die and go to Hell, I will become the devil and poke them all in the bum with my trident.

    6. designbot*

      That’s what I was wondering too! I can tell that my husband could never do my job, and I could never do his job; we’d both go crazy. Try to find what the fundamental thing causing most of these issues is, and then honestly question whether that’s something he can reasonably expect to change. Maybe yes, maybe no, maybe only at really specific unique companies but not at most.

    7. Dram*

      There’s that. And then there’s the OP’s job too — if things are so desperate he has to take every first job offered, is OP in a career? Or working at miminum wage (or worse, below that at a restaurant with no savings no health care no retirement etc). I’m just putting it out there that maybe this also needs to be part of the discussion and why he is going for so many jobs that don’t work. (He has little choice but to take everything he can get as soon as he can get?)

      1. Antilles*

        To be honest, I don’t think that sort of speculation is particularly helpful to OP. If OP could go out and get a much higher salary in short order, she’d *already* have done that; very few people actively decide to take a salary significantly lower than they could get elsewhere. I mean, I guess it’s possible that she’s chosen to refuse promotions and raises to stay in her same role, but that’s quite rare.
        Also, while it’s not specifically stated, the fact that OP says she’s been at the same place for six years is likely indicative of the fact she’s in a career-type job not a minimum-wage restaurant job. It’s just a sad fiscal reality of modern America is that there are a depressingly large number of full-time, career jobs which don’t pay particularly well.

        1. LJay*

          I mean I don’t think that she has been there for 6 years is indicative of anything.

          Every job I have ever had, including retail, including working in a pizzaria on a college campus, including seasonal work at an amusement park, has had multiple people there who had worked there for over a decade.

          I have no idea how some of then survived on the wages they made, or how they tolerated some of the frustrations day in or day out, but they did and the majority of them enjoyed what they did.

      2. OP here*

        Hi! I am lucky to be in a career position, well above minimum wage, and with benefits! It’s somewhere I want to stay for sure.

        1. Indoor Cat*

          I’m sympathetic for sure. I’m not sure where Dram is from exactly, but where I live, most people with careers can’t support an unemployed person on their own and make ends meet well.

          I have a career and I can support myself decently, but I couldn’t support myself and an unemployed adult (let alone kids!) Median wages have stagnated for decades now while cost of living has gone up and up. That’s just a fact of the current economy.

      3. Formerly Arlington*

        This is assuming every couple should be able to provide for a family with just one breadwinner. Depending on where you live, both members of the couple might need to be gainfully employed. It’s certainly like that where I live.

        1. media monkey*

          absolutely true where i live as well, but i also picked up a tone of panic from the OP when her hubby was laid off and they had to survive on one salary, and think that might contribute to the lack of vetting of new jobs that alison mentions. if there’s no option to take more than a few weeks to find a new job in the event of one not working out, i don’t see how to stop this cycle continuing. i really hope he finds his perfect (or at least bearable!) job OP!

  3. Marzipan*

    Is he really a natural-born salesman, though?

    I’m not saying I don’t believe he’s gregarious and good at making connections with people, but there are many other aspects to sales and I suppose I’m questioning whether these are making it not the field for him (or, not in the types of roles he’s doing now). Are there other types of work that might use his natural ability to connect in ways that would feel more fulfilling for him?

    1. OP here*

      I really think he is. He has said often that a job being behind a desk all day would not be right for him – he loves interacting with people, and especially building relationships with clients. I think right now, he’s facing a learning curve of what he is selling, and that is discouraging to him. As I pointed out in my letter, I want him to give himself grace and time, but also work his butt off.

      1. Aitch Arr*

        I am the HR BP for a sales team and I can tell you the ramp up for my most successful reps is at least a year.

        He’s bailing in the middle of the learning curve.

        Is it possible to have him talk to a career coach?
        Does his current employer have an EAP or does he have access to a Career Center at the college he went to? The latter often extends some services to alumni.

        1. Mpls*

          It does sound like he needs to readjust his own expectations about what it takes to learn a new job. If he thinks it should only take 3 months to feel like he’s got a handle, then 5-6 months or longer to ACTUALLY be fully ready is going to feel like a failure.

          It’s absolutely hard to go from a place where you feel competent and know how to get things done to a new opportunity where you have to relearn all those things (who to get supplies from, who makes a decision on this thing, what’s the best way to ask X question). Most of us are not very expereienced at starting new jobs :)

      2. Mockingjay*

        What about a career as some kind of workforce trainer or course instructor? He would have to initially invest in training himself for the process, certification, or product. After that, though, he would have the social interactions he likes in a classroom, along with a defined structure to support him (instructional materials are probably already available), and still be able to develop client relationships.

        There would be travel to client locations, but a week in the same hotel with a conference center or hosted in the client’s offices is better than being on the road nightly.

      3. Escapee from Corporate Management*

        ” I think right now, he’s facing a learning curve of what he is selling, and that is discouraging to him.”

        Hi OP. Your comment feeds into my question: how does your husband generally handle adversity? There is adversity no one should face (the abusive boss, for example) and adversity that should be expected with the job (learning curves, negative feedback, travel, etc.). For the latter, it is crucial employees develop coping skills since this type of adversity will happen again and again. Answering this question can help you decide if this a case of a series of bad situations that are impossible to fix (Alison’s situations #2 and 3) , or mediocre situations where your husband may need help developing skills/expectations to cope. Keep in mind that he may need mentoring or advice to develop these skills.

        Good luck! I hope you can help your husband become happier in his career.

        1. OP here*

          Hi! Normally he pushes through as best he can, but when setback after setback happens, it’s very easy for him to shut off, so to speak. I LOVE the idea of a mentor / career coach, but wouldn’t know where to start. He does have a diverse network of many people ( I suppose the one perk of his job hopping!) so maybe best to start there.

          1. Escapee from Corporate Management*

            I hear you, OP. It took me about 10 years too long to learn that mentors are crucial. A good mentor can help your husband in his job search (if he is making poor choices) and dealing with setbacks. A great mentor will also assist him when he is doing well, by identifying how he can take the next step up (which is why even people happy in their jobs–like you–should always have mentors). Here are a few ideas where to find them:

            A more senior colleague from a past job
            A former customer who knows the industry (always great for people in sales)
            Professional societies (which are also great for finding jobs)
            If he want to college or university, many schools have alumni mentoring programs
            Professional career coaches, but they require payment

            The key is that all of these will require him to make a request. Please encourage him to do so.

          2. Elle*

            Don’t forget, that we are what we are in the present, not what we were in the past. He may have been great at handling adversity, but after many setbacks he is not so great at it anymore. Its completely understandable why, but its still behavior that he will need to fix to move forward. It seems like he is taking every negative experience as “oh no, here it goes again” instead of letting it role off his back like he might have in the past.

            Escapee had great advice. I was having such a hard time with this myself until I read a book about grit, and decided I was going to become someone who was good at working hard despite adversity- I let my ability to handle adversity be the goal, not avoiding the adversity in the first place.

            Mentorship is a great idea- maybe someone from his 3-year job. He can also work to regain his grit by reading the right books (Jocko Willink- Extreme Ownership and his free podcasts is a great start), or even talking to a therapist who can help give him back the tools he needs to succeed.

          3. irritable vowel*

            I think it’s super-important for him to talk with someone other than you about this, because you are not an impartial party – you are directly affected by his actions, and it is going to be very difficult to separate this conversation from your relationship. Speaking from experience here. Career coaches can be kind of sketchy (there’s no qualifications required, so basically anyone can say they’re a career coach) – would he consider an appointment with a therapist, if that’s covered by your insurance or is otherwise affordable? Or a clergyperson, rabbi, someone like that if you belong to a faith. Even a trusted friend or relative, someone who he thinks will not be judgmental or try to force their own philosophy about work on him.

        2. fposte*

          Wow, this is a really wise comment. I’d never seen it broken down like this before.

          I also think there’s an unfortunate circularity–bad experiences can make you deal less well with either kind of adversity, which leads to more bad experiences, etc. I’m wondering if hubs has an idea of what success might look and feel like that isn’t just “like my wife and her job” and can give him some short term victories as well as longer term satisfaction.

          Career coaches might be a good plan, but a therapist could be useful in the mix as well to sort some of that out.

      4. Dust Bunny*

        There are lots of jobs that are people-heavy but not sales, though, and don’t have the travel requirements, etc.

        1. uranus wars*

          winner winner chicken dinner! I was in a sales job once & I actually like meeting the people and even the travel was ok with me…but man did I hate every single thing about the sales process. I do much better in positions where I can help people and foster relationships but not sell a product or service.

          1. Gaia*

            That is me. Being around people is critical to my happiness (I seriously once took a second job at a restaurant because my day job didn’t allow me to interact with other people. I was lucky enough to not need the money, I needed the socialization). Sales in any way, shape, or form will kill that happiness immediately and brutally. And I’m GREAT at sales. I just cannot do it. I have mad respect for those that do, but it is not now, nor ever, for me.

        2. Lora*

          In my field lots of people who want to get more customer interaction go into tech transfer and customer support – they’re out in the field, talking to people, but they are training customers or fixing a problem, not selling anything.

          1. media monkey*

            this is what my husband used to do (he has moved into a special projects team to re-design a lot of internal systems/ processes and train the company in using them now). in various companies it has been called Sales Support or Customer Service or Customer relationship manager. the external sales person made the sale (for commission) and hubby (not on commission) created the contract, arranged for the delivery/ installation/ training, fielded ongoing queries and questions and helped with additional sales. so lots of customer contact and still a sales type role without the travel and pressure on having to sell sell sell

        3. Aitch Arr*

          I also support a robust Client Relationship team that works hand in hand with both sales and clients, but no travel, quota, etc.

          Maybe this is something for your husband to look into, OP?

      5. Bea*

        I wonder if this is due to sales jobs being so all over the place. Everyone needs a sales team but he needs to sell something he cares about. If you don’t care, making yourself learn about doodads and whirly parts is next to impossible for some.

      6. Hamstergirl*

        Has he ever considered getting into realty? If travel burns him out but he loves building relationships with people, hates just being behind a desk all day and he excels at sales, that might be a good route for him to pursue. If he can stick out a job long enough to live comfortably while getting his license that might be an idea?

        1. Breda*

          I was also going to suggest this! It can have a long ramp-up period, but it requires no overnight travel almost by definition, it is done largely outside the office, and it’s very people- and connection-oriented.

        2. Persimmons*

          Read that as “reality” and thought this was extremely snarky…the actual wording is an EXCELLENT suggestion.

          1. boo bot*

            On the other hand, if anyone is in touch with a reality salesperson, please tell them to look me up! I could use some extra.

      7. voluptuousfire*

        He’d likely be a good recruiter. Most recruiter roles don’t require travel and can even be done remotely. Recruitment involves relationship building and sales skills and a good overall ability to read people.

        That may be something to consider.

      8. General Ginger*

        OP, this is so incredibly similar to my ex’s situation, down to being in sales — except he stayed in one of the jobs he hated, and dreaded, for far too long, which really did not help him (or us).

        I very much second the folks who are saying he could use a Come to Jesus talk with an unbiased mentor. I do want to add, though, that it can be really clear really quickly how toxic a new job is, and how it’s exactly like the previous job, especially if the jobs are all in the same industry. When my ex quit the job he was absolutely burned out at, and moved to another, he realized it had the same internal issues, but felt compelled to stick it out, because he didn’t want to be a job hopper, and we couldn’t afford for him to quit without something else lined up, anyway.

        Also — kudos to you for reaching out to Alison and trying to think of solutions. I was not as understanding as you are being, because I’d just spent so much time hearing about his horrible job, helping him as much as I could, finally saw him get out, and then immediately started hearing about new horrible job. I did try to continue to be supportive, but I didn’t give him anywhere nearly enough benefit of the doubt, and he knew it, which only compelled him to stay in the awful job longer.

        If he’s not having any luck reaching out to his network in terms of mentorship/candid talk, is there an EAP at your husband’s current employer?

        1. Specialk9*

          I had the same situation – the perpetual cheerleader as he was always miserable. (Later I realized how toxic our relationship was, and how thoroughly he tried to level up by tearing me down rather than trying to get himself to a better place. So that part may not be applicable.) But it just gets very wearing.

      9. JeanB in NC*

        How about development? That’s definitely building relationships and interacting with people. Development is basically sales, anyway.

        1. JeanB in NC*

          I’m not sure it’s clear – I mean donor development like at a non-profit or university.

        2. Detective Amy Santiago*

          I’d say Development is even harder than sales because you’re trying to get people to give you their money and they don’t get anything tangible in return!

          1. Mike*

            University development can be a difficult field to break into, but it’s far less stressful than corporate sales. And the perks of working for a university can’t be beat.

            1. Specialk9*

              The one person I know in University development made $21,000 a year and he had a kid, in an expensive city.

          2. Emily K*

            On the other hand, the most successful sales pitches are ones that provoke an emotional response, and when you’re raising money for a good cause you have the immediate advantage of having an inherently emotional pitch to make. I’m in nonprofit fundraising and marketing and attend a lot of general marketing conferences and networking groups, and my peers in the for-profit companies often tell me they envy that I get to sell a better world while they are stuck selling a better printer.

      10. Another Allison*

        Ive worked in sales for 5 years and my father has worked in sales for over 25 years and I would say that these jobs are notorious for bad bosses. Sales managers are very goal oriented and there can be some right down abusive bosses that will do anything say anything to hit goals. Now there will be amazing bosses too but it does take time to find them and sometimes the job has to be worth the crazy boss. I would say if he loves sales then he should stick it out with the current job right now and be looking for a sales environment he likes in his job hunt, I would also say he needs an outlet to let out all the stress and frustration that come with a sales job. My dad does crossfit and boxing to relive stress and I do yoga and weight-training, it might help him to do something like that to let out his frustrations

  4. Office Curmudgeon*

    Is it really true that most people dislike their jobs? My own has its ups and downs, including a situation where a malicious coworker tried hard to get me fired, but I really do love it. I have a job and a career and a passion, all in one. Am I just lucky?

    1. Bea*

      I’ve left any job I didn’t like. And taught my partner to afford himself the same luxury, even if it means we lean on me and incur some reasonable debts if necessary.

      My parents work(ed) 20-35 years at the same place and like(d) their jobs. My dad loved being a laborer because he didn’t bring home any work in the end. Mom just craves being busy and buzzing around.

      My mentors have been business owners and their hard working spouses. My closest one loves her job/company but is simply just tired because of her spouses health.

      We are lucky but sometimes people create their own misery tbh.

      1. Office Curmudgeon*

        I think that’s at least partly true for me, too. There are a few places locally (maybe 10? or so) where I could work, one of which I’d describe as dysfunctional to the point of toxicity. I’ve been with my current employer for 5 years and have just recently been made permanent. So I chose my employer, but I think that’s a luxury, too.

      2. Clare*

        A lot of people don’t have that luxury though. They might not have a partner or other family members to lean on while inbetween jobs; or even with a partner it isn’t always affordable. So if they don’t find another job, there is no other option but to stay to collect a paycheck.

        1. Bea*

          I’ve paid all my own bills since I graduated from high school. Nobody cushioned me but myself. So I have sympathies but this pov still reeks of an excuse to me. Life happens. I get it. I’ve got one of those too.

          1. Amber T*

            I think someone’s situation can suck while others’ situations might suck more or in a different way. It doesn’t have to be a contest of who has it worse, so everyone else should suck it up.

    2. Russian in Texas*

      I don’t say I hate my job as a whole, just the customers, and the low pay, and the crappy owners, and phone calls…
      What I was saying? I forgot.

      1. General Ginger*

        Maybe this is a Russian thing, because I was just about to post the exact same comment :)

    3. CMart*

      Job AND career AND passion? Yeah, that’s pretty rare/lucky.

      But I don’t think “hey, this job is fine” is out of the ordinary. I’m just a lone data point but I’ve worked a variety of jobs in a variety of industries (retail, bartending, broadcasting, accounting, teaching) and I’ve only disliked two of those jobs–and they were very much workplace specific.

      I do think it’s unusual for someone to have a string of 6 terrible jobs. My inclination at that point is that something is a bad fit.

      1. Office Curmudgeon*

        I had a similar string back in my twenties, and I ended up tweaking my career trajectory by pursuing another degree. That helped a lot. But when you’re in the middle of a freefall it’s hard to think clearly. It took me about three years to get sorted.

      2. Emily K*

        Agreed. I consider myself very lucky to have the job I do have. I would say maybe 15% of my work hours annually are spent on something I am truly excited to work on and can’t tear myself away from. 10% is spent on crap I’d rather not be doing so I procrastinate to the last minute and give myself anxiety over it. The other 75%…I feel pleasantly neutral about. It’s challenging enough to be interesting but at the same time I can do it well enough that it isn’t a source of stress. I generally like everyone I work with–although like anyone I have a short list of peeves I could read off about a few coworkers, none of it rises to the level of making me unhappy or interfering with my working relationships with those folks.

        Even though it’s only 15% “passion” work, I do feel like I won the job lottery because only 10% of my work is actively bothersome to me. I’ll take “pleasantly neutral” over a poor fit or lousy boss/coworkers any day.

        1. Office Curmudgeon*

          That sounds similar to my situation. There are a few things that have to be done, irksome though they are. I get irked, then put my head down & power through.

          Mind you, as I move up the food chain, there do seem to be more things to get irked about…

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      I think normal is neutral-to-like. Not wild passion, not misery. It’s in some part a tradeoff you make because you like food and shelter. Kind of like your house–if someone handed you a massive trust fund you might move to a beach house on Bali, but that doesn’t mean you loathe your current house.

      An insightful comment on a past thread was that if poster came into money and didn’t have to work any more they would probably still do their job, because it was very rewarding–but they wouldn’t do it the same way. Much lower hours, more travel, no longer making tradeoffs where the more boring parts were worthwhile for the engaging parts they made possible.

    5. Antilles*

      Is it really true that most people dislike their jobs?
      I don’t think so. I think it’s basically something like this:
      >A few people absolutely love their jobs.
      >A slightly larger number of people hate their jobs and count the clock every minute.
      >The vast, vast, vast majority of people are in a more middling range from between “up and down” to “meh, fine”. It’s not necessarily the Most Favorite Thing you could possibly do with your life, but it keeps you fed and sheltered and funds your lifestyle for the other 128 hours/week.

      1. Decima Dewey*

        Depends on which day you ask. I love *my* job and being second in command at the branch is part of the job. I have been Acting Branch Manager several times (so have almost two-thirds of just plain librarians in my system), enough to know I don’t want to run a branch long term.

      2. many bells down*

        I like my *job* but I don’t like the place I’m working. I’m a speech instructor for a private school, and while I love teaching speech and debate to kids, the school itself is disorganized and frustrating.

      3. doreen*

        Yes, there’s a real difference between not loving your job and actually disliking it. My husband and I had to make very sure our kids understood the difference and that most people don’t love their jobs, because for a long time we both had jobs we loved and we didn’t want them to have unrealistic expectations.

      4. Thlayli*

        Yeah this is peobably accurate. There’s a huge grey area between “I cant wait to get into the office” and “I am miserable every second I’m at that desk”. Most people fall somewhere in between, and like some aspects of their jobs and dislike others.

        Ultimately, most people work to live not the other way around and there are very few people who would continue to work at their current job if they won €100 million!

    6. Anon Today Anon Tomorrow*

      I think you are lucky. I don’t dislike my job, in fact, I quite like a lot of it. I like the people I work with. However, if I won the lottery tomorrow? I wouldn’t go back. And I think I’m lucky that I have a job I like.

      1. Gaia*

        Same. Same. Same. I like my job, I even like my company and my coworkers.

        If I won the lotto tonight? None of them would ever hear from me again after I sent in a resignation email.

    7. Gatomon*

      I’ve liked pretty much every job I’ve had, from janitorial to retail to food service to admin assistant to IT. (With the exception of a brief stint as a barista!) I would say I’m passionate about whatever I’m doing at the moment. I can think of more tasks I dread in my IT job than tasks I dreaded as a janitor or retail worker, and I’d probably go back to that line of work if the money was equal.

      Now my true passion is to do nothing but whatever I want and never have to worry about money… that dreamboat keeps getting lost as sea though!

      1. uranus wars*

        I often dream of my bartender days – if this old body and the benefits/pay were better/more consistent I’d be tempted to go back. There’s something to be said about doing a job, laughing a lot and then just leaving. Every day was just a new day.

        1. CMart*

          My “if I won the lottery and never had to work again” plan is to return to bartending. The freedom to work the hours I prefer, not have to worry about healthcare, and not have to feel like I have to put up with abusive management or customers would be the keys there. I 90% loved everything about bartending, but the 10% (the instability, mostly) was untenable for the long term.

          I do dream of bartending at a bowling alley someday, as a retirement activity. That was one of my favorite gigs, and perfectly suited for when the body can’t quite handle the rigors of a busy restaurant or neighborhood bar. Plus the free bowling employee perks!

          1. alice*

            This is so interesting to me. I was a bar server during college for a couple of years, and it was the most stressful thing I ever did. The hatred I had for the general chaos of it was actually what kept me focused on studying and moving onto better things.

            1. CMart*

              For whatever it’s worth, serving is so different than bartending. I also enjoyed serving, but I certainly wouldn’t keep doing it if I didn’t need to.

              Something about a) being behind the bartop and therefore kind of a “master of your domain” with a physical separation from The Public and b) actually creating the cocktails (or simply pouring the beers) is much more empowering that being a gofer in an apron.

          2. Amy*

            my dream is to be a commercial cleaner, I used to clean when I was in college very early in the morning before anyone else was up- without the hassle of dealing with other people- and have the rest of the day to myself and I still get a lot of pleasure from cleaning my house – but apparently I am too qualified to clean….

        2. Marion Ravenwood*

          My hotel bar job is still my favourite job I’ve ever had. I think a lot of that was down to working with really good people (at least behind the bar), but it also had lots of stuff I know I like at work – being (mostly) on my own but with the opportunity of a chat, and being able to help people out.

      2. GG Two shoes*

        I’m the same. Either I’ve been crazy lucky (which is possible) or I just have a positive outlook and no toxic jobs. I worked with kids a lot, though, so that helps. I was a dishwasher, waitress, retail, janitor, camp counselor, admin assistant, camp director, youth director, and now a manager. I can find joy in lots of things. I’m just happy to have a job I guess.

      3. Emily K*

        Haha I like to tell my friends, “If you hear about any unicorn jobs that have a 6-figure salary, minimal responsibility, and flexible hours, send it my way!”

    8. Mr. Cajun2core*

      If you are lucky then so am I. While I hate my current job, I my previous two jobs.

      The first one, was for a great company, great co-workers, and I really liked what I did. I worked there for 7 years and only left because I got married and moved across country (wife’s job).

      My second job, I would say that I loved it. Small company (15 people), no bureaucracy, I loved what I did, really liked my co-workers, and the customers. It was truly a “dream job”. There were times when I actually wanted to return to work from vacation – but mainly because I knew that my co-workers could not take as good care of my customers as I could. I was laid off with about 1/5 of the company that day and more later.

      So, if you are lucky, I have been lucky too but I am not so lucky now.

    9. Silicon Valley Girl*

      All in one? Yeah, that’s lucky. I’ve had jobs that were a career, jobs that were a passion, & jobs that were jobs.

    10. Long Time Reader, First Time Poster*

      It’s a pretty privileged position to love your job. Many (most?) people view work as a necessary chore, something to get through. It’s sometimes harder to realize this if you are surrounded by people with higher end professional jobs, but folks that are just churning work day in/day out for a paycheck — a lot of them don’t love it. And those folks make up a great deal of the workforce.

      1. Office Curmudgeon*

        There are definitely aspects of my job that I like better than others. Some parts are amazing, others are a slog. Maybe my job has more variety of tasks?

        1. Escapee from Corporate Management*

          I received great advice: there is a difference between your role and your job. Your role is what you signed up to do (director of marketing, lab scientist, plant engineer, etc.). Your job is that plus all of the other tasks required (filling out forms, answering email, travel, etc.). In a perfect world, your role and your job almost exactly overlap. In an awful world, there is zero overlap. Most people live in-between. How much in-between is often the difference between loving your job, hating your job, and tolerating your job.

    11. fposte*

      I think most people don’t love their jobs, but that’s not the same thing as they dislike their jobs. There’s good writing, Alison’s among it, on why “find your passion” has been really destructive advice for a lot of people. “Find your I-can-do-this-and-there-aren’t-too-many-assholes-and-my-life-looks-okay” might be more useful advice, and I think people who come with that expectation are likelier to be content with non-passion jobs than those who were hoping for job romance and ended up with job FWB.

    12. Frankie*

      Mmm, it took me probably a decade to get from jobs that were either toxic/boring/awful/underpaid to jobs that were more fulfilling. Some of it has been luck, and some of it has been learning what I like/I’m good at/I’m suited for along the way, and selling myself better. But I do think a fair amount of luck as well.

    13. Dust Bunny*

      I like my job. It’s not my identity and there are aspects about it that push all my favorite buttons but on the whole I would not describe it as a passion. I consider myself luckier than many.

    14. Free Meerkats*

      I can’t say I love my job, but I really enjoy most of it. If I were lucky enough to have unknown uncle Lannister die and leave me a cavern of gold, I’d wrap things up and quit. Then start consulting in program development in my field. That’s the part I like most; creating a viable program, not the day to day of keeping it running.

      But that’s not likely, so 1501 days until I’m eligible for full SS (not that I’m counting or anything.)

    15. Specialk9*

      I loved my old career passionately. I made a big career shift, not really willingly, and then after I sorted through and got trained, I love my new career. I think I focus on getting things done and helping fix problems for people, so that helps me feel happy in what I do. But also I have a lot of autonomy and that works for me too.

    16. JM60*

      I not sure if most people dislike thier jobs, but I would be surprised if it weren’t true that most people dislike doing their job. There’s a big difference between the two.

    17. beth*

      I think that the people who truly, deeply dislike their jobs are probably in the minority…but so are the people who truly, deeply like their jobs. I think most are probably in the boat of “I need a job in order to access the things I actually value in life. At this job, the good days are good, there are some bad days too but it averages out on the positive. It may not be my life’s passion but it’s worth it for me.”

    18. TK*

      I really love my job – I think we are some of the lucky ones! I have smart & warm co-workers who are a joy to see each day. challenging and fun job tasks (mixed in with some boring ones), and a fast pace of change in the industry that helps keep our day-to-day work interesting. My only wish would be more vacation time to spend with my spouse, but that comes with tenure, so that’s even more of an incentive to stay in this great position.

    19. boop the first*

      I’ve straight up disliked every job I’ve had (despite staying too long in all of them) to the point where I could honestly say I’d rather get hit by a truck than go to work tomorrow. Part of that IS a “me” problem: I have poor self esteem and thus don’t really ask for things that normal people would ask for (ie: days off for appointments, vacation time, useful scheduling). So I get tired of having my entire life controlled by some man.

      Not sure how to feel about my current job though. It’s the closest to neutral I’ve ever been. On one hand, I absolutely hate it because it was a bait & switch (schedule wise), I’m in constant pain and stress over it and I have a lot of suicidal ideation. On the other hand, it’s a job that sounds kind of interesting “on paper”, which I’ve never experienced before and that aspect is kinda neat.

  5. Bea*

    My partner had a rocky career path behind him. It was due to desperation and acceptance that “this will do for now” but “for now” can fizzle quickly once drowning in poorly managed crappy positions.

    We fixed it by giving him time to look and digest this last go around. However this is due to my ability to float two people for awhile. Now he’s the happiest I’ve ever seen him and flourishing in his job.

    I think it’s also about expectations though. My partner likes working, he’s not too fussy about what you want him to do but routine, respect and reasonable management is critical. That was what kept him in a tailspin for so long.

    Then there is my brother. He needs a new job every 12-36 months but thankfully is in an industry of drifters. It’s only hurt him in his younger years before he had his network patched together well.

    My aunt told me she was the same way in her younger years. Only age made her settle down and accept she’ll never be completely happy once the “new” rubs off.

    I hope you can get to the bottom of what is causing your husbands issues. His health is of utmost importance but he has to find the balance. Since this ping pong action is now taking its toll on your health. You both have to be happy and healthy or resentment will tear your home apart.

    Has he used a therapist? Both alone and couples may help him piece himself together and find that sweet spot to harmonize your home.

    1. OP here*

      I wish it were! We both currently enjoy the benefits of being employed by companies (health insurance, vacation, bonuses, etc). Anything on the side for us are really just hobbies / side hustles.

  6. President Porpoise*

    OP, we might have started as # 2 issue, but what if, after having two really short term jobs and then working for an abusive boss and getting fired, he’s internalized the abuse and feels like doesn’t deserve a good long term job, and is clearly not goo at what he does? Post-bad-job-trauma response it totally a thing; I’ve experienced it and it took me almost two years in a great job to get to the point where I didn’t feel like a total loser/imposter who was incompetent. He may need a serious confidence boost.

    If this is the case, I don’t know a quick and easy way to fix it, but you should be loving and supportive. You should certainly encourage him to stay in his current job for at least two years, so that he gets a long stay on his resume. He may also begin to regain confidence in himself and stop feeling desperate and under the gun. Celebrate his work victories, even small ones. Be his cheerleader.

    It is soo hard to be constantly worried about stability, and as it stands you can’t guarantee it going forward. It may be hard or impossible in your circumstances, but try to downsize or conserve and build a savings account; ideally, you want to get to the point where you could technically support yourself on one income if it came to it.

    Best of luck to you and your spouse.

    1. OP here*

      Thank you so much for your kind words! I am totally with you. My very first job out of college was horrific to say the least: Sunday evening’s would roll around and I would work myself into a panic about what I would screw up, who would yell at me, etc. It was demoralizing to say the least. Now that I am (several) years on the other side, I can see that it did take me a long time to get over that feeling of helplessness and inadequacy.

      I am the first to admit I want our savings to be a better priority for us. As our family’s designated “banker”, I see where our money goes and watch it like a hawk. We’ve often talked about one day, both of us still working, but living on on salary.

    2. Specialk9*

      I would caution that ” you should be loving and supportive” can also be a trap, especially for women. I was my own most effective jailer, because of this belief.

  7. Bones*

    Not wanting to armchair diagnose, but sometimes this type of impatience/restlessness could be a symptom of ADHD.

      1. Bones*

        Do you think it’s possible? Any family history? I have ADHD and reading your husband’s story made me think maybe he has it too.

        1. OP here*

          It definitely could be. It would certainly would be worth having a seriously convo with him about looking into that possibility. There’s no shame in it!

          1. Justin*

            He should talk to someone professional either way, I think. I am not in this situation but once was (underemployed from 2010 to 2013), had bad jobs etc. No spouse to help, though!

            But talking to someone who was able to frame things professionally would have been great. I got extremely lucky (I was offered a stable, nice job whose first paycheck was literally the day I would have been unable to pay rent otherwise).

      2. mrs__peel*

        It’s very much worth looking into, if he’s willing! My partner was only just recently diagnosed with ADHD in his mid-50s, and he said it was like a light bulb suddenly going on in terms of explaining issues that he’s had throughout his life (especially around managing his emotions). Starting medication has been great for him.

      3. nonymous*

        As a non-ADHD person married to one, I would also say that the management tools that CBT teaches work for run-of-the mill disorganized people too. While one of the goals is to implement systems to deal with the hyperfocus and distractability elements of ADHD, those systems work just as well for someone who is circling due to emotional crisis or just dealing with poor short term memory.

    1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      I don’t want to declare myself Chief Hall Monitor, but there’s an explicit rule against armchair diagnosis here.

      1. fposte*

        I’m usually up on the hall monitor thing myself, but I think this is an actionable comment for this question in a way it usually isn’t, so it seems reasonable to raise.

          1. fposte*

            I think when it’s got a personal slant here it’s different than work stuff and it’s different than CA, but that’s just my two cents.

            1. Bones*

              Yeah, it’s one thing to say so-and-so in a story (aka not an OP) has something based on nothing clues, but this seems pretty directly relevant and not that far out.

            2. Ex-Academic, Future Accountant*

              Yeah. The CA thing is specifically about making excuses for people who are abusive or otherwise behaving badly, which isn’t the case here.

              If “he should get his health checked out” isn’t an acceptable response to the question, then that leaves it as kind of a false dichotomy, in my opinion. The problem may be fixable, but only by some other method than just toughing it out.

      2. Les G*

        This. And, honestly? A college freshman who read the Wikipedia article on ADHD so they didn’t have to read their psych textbook could get “ADHD” from this post. Let’s not insult the OP’s intelligence.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Please stop with the personal sniping at people. I’m far more concerned about that than I am about armchair diagnosing, frankly (and agree with fposte that it’s different in a letter that already has a very personal slant to it).

          1. Bones*

            I assumed (perhaps wrongly) that the “no armchair diagnosis” rule was more applicable to a situation like the time when commenters assumed the bird-phobia guy has some kind of something going on that *maybe* explained his behavior, and not a letter like this where ADHD could be a plausible answer to a fairly direct question. Did I misunderstand?

              1. Bones*

                I was referring to something in addition to the bird phobia. IE Aspergers, bad experiences, anything else under the sun.

            1. Elsajeni*

              I think the main difference here is that the OP actually is in a position where saying “Hey, have you considered that you might have ADHD?” to the person she’s writing in about would be appropriate, so it’s the rare case where “maybe he has ADHD” is actually actionable for the OP rather than, like, “if I could talk to the coworker you wrote in about, I’d suggest that she get screened for ADHD, but there’s nothing you can do about that either way so it doesn’t meaningfully change what YOU should do.” Because, of course, you get to bug your spouse about going to the doctor, or suggest possible solutions for what’s going on with them, in a way that you don’t have license to do with your coworkers or your employees.

        1. AMPG*

          Plus I’m reading the tone of a lot of these comments not as “Your husband has ADHD – have him see a doctor and your problems will be solved,” but as “These descriptions are familiar to me, a person who has experience with ADHD. You might want to consider this as an avenue of exploration.”

          1. Specialk9*

            Yes, people sharing their experiences is one of my favorite things about this blog. “I had this thing, maybe it might be helpful” is different from “I’ll bet they’re bipolar / autustic and so…” etc.

    2. OldJules*

      My spouse has ADHD and is happy as clam where he is at. He has been there for years and I couldn’t pry him away if I wanted to, haha. I don’t have ADHD and I move every few years. To be fair, they are for better/stretch roles but I know what I want and go after it.

      1. Morticia*

        I am not going to diagnose, but I am going to say that it is worth having the OP’s husband talk to a professional to see if the lack of satisfaction is based on an underlying, undiagnosed condition. I have seen where an inability to stay in a job for any period of time is a symptom of a condition that should be addressed.

  8. AnotherSarah*

    Ooooh this could have been me writing in, though my husband is in a different line of work. Lots of problem bosses, lots of burnout.

    I worry a LOT that this is something about him (and that this *something*) will also come out in our relationship. I can say that he suffers from anxiety and depression, and that seeing the forest for the trees when things get tough is not his strong suit. So that plays into it. And he really has had terrible bosses–not family businesses, but the sort of non-profit nuttiness that is based on a culture of self-sacrifice. But part of it is him, for sure–not just on the mental health end but also that toughing something out at work is not something he feels like he has to do–it’s a sense of self-righteousness that he shouldn’t have to deal with something. He’s right, he shouldn’t, but still–sometimes you just…have to.

    ANYHOW, I want to recommend listening to the latest podcast episode. I realized while listening to it that my husband has never really gone to his boss and said, “look, here’s the line, I cannot do the job I’m supposed to do because it is really a job for two people” or really laid out how bad work situations are affecting his work and output. I wonder if something similar is happening with your husband, and if that sort of advice might help.

    And fwiw, though I have my ears up for possible ramifications (beyond financial) in our relationship, I don’t see them happening. Husband can apparently tough out *really* hard relationship things, stick around, work on it, and push through, so I guess these unpleasant quirks can be limited in realm. Good luck!

    1. Mmm dysfunctional nonprofits*

      “I realized while listening to it that my husband has never really gone to his boss and said, “look, here’s the line, I cannot do the job I’m supposed to do because it is really a job for two people” or really laid out how bad work situations are affecting his work and output. ”

      I’ve spent a lot of time in dysfunctional nonprofits, and I’ve been advised the same thing. If you do that, you just get cooly, “Maybe you’re not the right person for this job,” or some equivalent nonsense about you not being competent or a team player. I’ve even seen people who were clearly victims forced to go over how they’d contributed to the abuse, how they would avoid upsetting the abuser going forward, and apologizing for their actions. Then, there may be retribution towards not just you but your team, ex: drive-bys by higher ups looking to fire one of your employees for some silly infraction, budget cuts or equipment losses blamed directly on you, etc., so there’s motivation to put up and shut up because speaking up results in someone else being hurt.

      1. AnotherSarah*

        Oooh yeah, and really, I think this would have happened at his old job. He was the head of a program–but he was also the only person who worked on it, so he was also the administrator and fundraiser, so he never got to…implement programs. I was also in that world a long time. It’s terrible. But I do think that perhaps it was also a little bit of projection on his part, the idea that nothing could change therefore he wouldn’t speak up.

        1. Mad Baggins*

          Agreed, and honestly as a last resort it doesn’t hurt. If the worst case scenario is you get fired, might as well ask for help before you plan to quit anyway.

  9. Jam Today*

    I’m realizing, pretty late in the game, that I can’t stand the corporate environment. I’ve had jobs that I’ve more or less enjoyed from a hands-on perspective (the tasks I did on a daily basis, my clients, etc.) but man coming into an office and sitting in a cubicle and dealing with politics, meetings, more politics, and an endless series of PowerPoint decks is really breaking me. I am depressed all the time, and my Sunday nights are now a source of immense anxiety. I’m in my mid-40s so wholesale career change is a perilous prospect but the idea of doing this for another 20 years…oh my god.

    1. Specialk9*

      I’m in corporate, and that sounds very little like my job. We have meetings, for sure, but I feel like we’re driving hard toward good changes, if imperfectly. Not to say you’re not right about your situation, but that maybe you are over generalizing from a job or a few jobs, to a whole huge category.

    2. MM*

      Yeah, I finally realized one day that the issue wasn’t the subject matter, or the type of work, or whether the work was making the world a better place: it was that I simply cannot do a job where I have to show up and sit in an office from 9-5 (or 9-6…7…) five days a week. Or rather, I can, for maybe about two months. Then I’ll start a self-sabotage spiral because I can’t face staying in that type of environment.

      Turns out if I can manage my own time, decide where I am while I work at least part of the time, and there’s variety to the rhythm of my days, I do great. My last job was basically a combination of event planning/design, admin, writing, and research, which I did mostly remotely, and it was the best fit I’ve ever had. I stayed there the longest (by far) that I’ve ever stayed anywhere. There are jobs that can work for you if you can’t stand office life.

      1. Jam Today*

        The jobs I’ve really loved, which involved lots of hands-on investigation and management of discrete problems (think “product operations”), have been essentially taken away from me because — I kid you not — I was really good at them, so they moved me into management which I hate and am terrible at. There’s a pernicious attitude in corporate America that everyone needs to constantly be striving for “more” — in whatever form that takes — and that people who are really happy doing what they do are somehow defective and need to be “transitioned out”. I’ve never understood that. If people are good at what they do, and they really like doing it — wouldn’t you want to keep them around (and pay them well so that they stay)?

        1. Suekel*

          Welcome to The Peter Principle, where TPTB promote people out of jobs they are awesome at until they reach the level they are not good at, at which point they languish in misery.

  10. The Rat Catcher*

    Are you me? My husband’s stays at his jobs are getting shorter and shorter and I suspect his expectations of management are too high (he thinks it’s unacceptable to have supervisors who are less capable or intelligent than their workers. While it annoys me too, I just mentally roll my eyes and move on.)

    1. Dust Bunny*

      I am most likely smarter than my supervisor, but he has a lot more experience in the field and a different skillset in terms of handling people. That’s why he *supervises people* and I do not. I’m better at a lot of things than he is, but I’m not better at managing.

      1. The Rat-Catcher*

        This is part of what I have tried to explain to him – that there are a lot of things that go into being a supervisor/manager, raw intelligence not actually being the most important one.

    2. Bea*

      In my experience people who think they’re smarter than just about everyone are not as intelligent as they believe. It’s a crutch and an excuse because you have an authority issue.

      1. Lora*

        Yup. The smartest person in the room doesn’t actually want a target on their back labeled “please stab here”…

      2. Specialk9*

        Exactly. That person who’s SO SMART is either secretly afraid that their incompetence will be revealed, or has a serious personality disorder. Either way, that’s not good.

      3. The Rat-Catcher*

        I don’t know. We have frontline supervisors at my place of employment that can barely put together a coherent email, which were the ones I was describing rolling my eyes about. (And yes, email is a big part of our job.) If he’s dealing with that, I can’t blame him. But I do think managers get paid to look at things from a broader perspective, so if something occurs to you about a specific situation that doesn’t occur to them, it doesn’t make them incompetent.

    3. Les G*

      Ah yes, the old “I’m too smart to work for anybody else” syndrome. My wife has a touch of this too. Sometimes it helps to ask her if she just thinks I’m an idiot. She never answers, but it reminds her that smart people can and do happily hold down jobs, even when they’re not the boss.

      1. The Rat-Catcher*

        Glad someone else feels my pain! I have always had great supervisors (with one notable exception, and that was at Big Box Store so it wasn’t shocking). This is part of why I’m reluctant to approach this – because I’m aware the message might be clouded if I don’t acknowledge how lucky I have been in this area, kind of like OP with her long job stay. Maybe my priorities are just different – I care about having the flexibility to take off when I need to, being able to grow professionally, and having someone listen when I have an issue and helping me work it out – all of which takes a certain type of intelligence.

    4. Amber T*

      Hi Mom, didn’t know you read AAM. Say hi to Dad for me.

      With my dad, EVERYONE is an idiot and he’s always the smartest in the room, but yeah, his boss (all of them he’s ever had) is always the biggest idiot. He’s a contractor by choice, so his longest stints are 2 years maybe, but he averages 1 year-18 months. He claims he has a duty to do what’s best for the company, which is almost always the opposite of what his boss tells him to do, because his boss doesn’t understand anything about anything. (Then he jokingly asks me if there are any openings in my company, and while I love my father, there is no way in hell.)

    5. many bells down*

      I was married to a #1-type. He’d take on a new job, sure that people would recognize his *brilliance* and *gumption* and that he’d be the boss in no time. Then after 3-5 months of actually having to WORK, he’d decide that his supervisors were all jealous of his amazingness and he’d either quit or get fired.

      I think in the 2.5 years of our marriage he held upwards of 12 jobs. It was exhausting.

      1. Specialk9*

        Lois McMaster Bujold’s book Komarr painted this situation so perfectly. I read that whole series regularly, and I adore the character of Ekaterina, and the budding romance, but man her first marriage to someone like this is always a bit triggery.

        1. Cotton Headed Ninny Muggins*

          Bless you and your knowledge of one of my favorite books (and series) of all time. And I agree!

    6. Been There, Done That*

      Shortly after I started this job (I transferred from another department), it got back to me from one of the sales reps that the boss was afraid I’m “too smart” for the job. I am too smart for the job I’m actually doing, and if I’d known the truth I would’ve passed on it. It was presented as a much higher lever, more responsible job I would’ve relished. But I’m smart enough to know that money doesn’t grow on trees and I like the company. My boss *isn’t* stupid but she seems to have issues with people who really are the smartest in the room. She fired one, some others went to competing firms. She dissed one who went on to her own company.

      1. The Rat-Catcher*

        I think it can be really hard to say that you’re too smart for a job without ruffling some feathers. But sometimes it’s true and you make the decision to stay anyway because you like where you are. I’m in that boat too.

        1. Been There, Done That*

          yes. I realize I might’ve sounded snotty but ’tis true. I spent most of today doing a baby-level task that a middle-schooler could have done. I occasionally do something that takes a few brains; otherwise it’s the same handful of tasks over and over…and over…and…

  11. Dealtwiththis*

    I just came here to remind you to be careful with how you approach this with your husband. He will remember what you say. I left my first job out of college after a year when I realized that it wasn’t the field for me. I then landed in an incredibly toxic job and called my mom in a complete panic about 3 weeks into my new job to tell her how miserable I was. I will never forget the way that she responded. She told me that she thought that I just didn’t like working and that I was proving to be lazy like my aunt. I was so incredibly hurt by that comment and so determined to prove her wrong that I stayed in that job for 3 years. Now that I’ve been out and can look back, I was right that the job was incredibly toxic and I wish that I had left much, much sooner. That comment from my mom still hurts and makes me angry to this day, nearly 10 years later. Whatever you decide to do, approach it with kindness and consideration for your husband’s situation. He may be upset with the way that things have turned out as well.

    1. OP here*

      100% with you. I am incredibly sensitive, and can remember words/conversations that have hurt me years later. While I would never want him in a job that he literally dreads, I guess I am hoping that he can recognize and differentiate between that extreme and”this job kind of sucks right now, but it’s tolerable and I have an opportunity to succeed if I bust my tail.”

      1. PersonalJeebus*

        Hi OP! I say this with sympathy and a wish to be helpful (as I have a spouse with coping problems and a history of quitting jobs abruptly). But I’ve now seen you say two or three times that you think part of the solution is your husband “working his ass off” etc at his current job. That might be counterproductive and too much pressure. Of course we all know the value of being a hard worker, but if he pours himself too much into a job that is genuinely and objectively crappy, or even just subjectively crappy for him, it could contribute to him burning out earlier rather than improving the situation. Plus he’ll have less energy to devote to figuring out a long-term plan if this career path isn’t the right one for him no matter how great a salesman he is–and I think you should both be seriously considering that possibility, since lousy workplaces can be endemic to certain industries and/or certain job types like sales and call centers.

        I get that you’re most likely thinking of the need for him to build a great reputation to counteract the job-hopping, and you think “busting his tail” can help him do that, but throwing himself into a job that makes him miserable isn’t likely to increase his longevity at that job. That strategy may work for you, but it’s not for everyone. He should do some mental calculations about priorities: how important it is for him to perform super well at his current job, vs. how important it is for him stretch out his tenure there, how important it is to figure out what he needs in a job and how he can get it, yadda yadda. His energy is finite, and there are benefits to saving one’s strength. Maybe he needs to scale back how much he’s giving at work in order to last longer there and prepare for his next move, so that it can be a good move.

        1. OP here*

          I definitely see your point. I want him happy, first and foremost. You’re totally right when you said “I get that you’re most likely thinking of the need for him to build a great reputation to counteract the job-hopping”…that’s really the gist of it all, at least for me. So much good advice from every one today, I’m truly grateful.

        2. Mad Baggins*

          +1 Maybe putting 100% of himself into this job can make him great at it, at the price of his happiness and energy. Or maybe he can put in 50% on tasks at work and 50% finding a mentor, studying up, networking, figuring out how to talk to his boss about what he needs, getting support, finding happiness outside of work so he’s less dependent on getting his needs met at work, etc. He’s still “busting his tail” because he’s focusing 100% on improving his work situation, it just might be different than what you imagine.

        3. listen up*

          I noticed the exact same thing you pointed out personal jeebus- that OP (keeps) on unintentionally suggesting that her “working his ass off” to salvage his job. I am in a similar situation to the OP’s husband in my 3rd Job and hating it so much, but what makes it that much more difficult to handle is my husband constantly telling me to work my ass off when I am already doing that and exhausted – it really comes across as dismissive and insensitive.. I would like to think that if the roles were reversed i would be very sensitive to him … I suspect that what he needs is time and a break to figure out what works for him as is the case for me… but financially this may not be possible now…

          1. PersonalJeebus*

            I’ve been where you are, and I hope it gets better for you soon! Years ago, after working hard for about a year in a job that wasn’t right for me, with a manager who didn’t/wouldn’t “click” with me no matter what I tried, I kind of gave up on my dream of being a rockstar in that job and starting putting my energy into planning a switch … and lightening the mood at home. I didn’t beat myself up anymore if I was a little late to work, or if I made a fixable error, or if my boss had no reaction to something I did well. I focused on maintaining good relationships with coworkers I did get along with. I put a extra effort into the work I produced for people I knew would appreciate and remember it. Those are the people who were useful to me later in my professional network.

    2. Delphine*

      I had a similar experience. I did end up leaving, but I know now that if I ever experience similar misery at another job, I won’t be sharing my feelings with the person who told me that I needed to suck it up when I was at my wit’s end…

    3. oxygen*

      My story is similar.

      My first job after university was awfully toxic. And I actually expected it to be awful before accepting the offer since my then boss-to-be showed me during contract negotiations that he was insane. But I had no alternatives so I accepted. I was much better educated than the rest of the team and I was bullied. I quit after 3 months and an extreme amount of stress. This experience taught me you shouldn’t apply for jobs where your background or level of education would differ dramatically from the rest of the team. I was diagnosed with depression in this period.

      My parents told me to just endure. But what I found most depressing was the reaction of my long-term friend. We had known each other for many years. He basically told me after I described my situation in maybe 3 sentences that it was my fault and I shouldn’t take it too seriously. He didn’t even know what had happened. I wrote him an email explaining why he hurt me and that I didn’t want to have anything to do with him anymore. It was 4 years ago and I still think it was a good decision.

      I then had another job, in which I stayed more than 2 years.

      And now I’m back where I was back then, after university. A horribly toxic job with a large turnover. Most of my coworkers left or were fired since I joined. I was as careful as you can be when interviewing, asked my boss about his management style, etc. But the whole environment is horribly toxic and the position has nothing to do with what I applied for. I’ve endured almost a year. I’m applying like crazy, but can’t find anything.

      And yes, I have asked myself one million times whether the problem is in me. I’ve tried changing my behaviour, etc. But it just doesn’t work. I can try to convince myself as much as I want, but I won’t accept being shouted at or punished for imaginary errors on a regular basis. No exchange or constructive discussion is possible.

      I don’t need anybody to ask me whether I don’t think I’m the problem. I’ve asked that myself plenty of times.

    4. Reba*

      Regarding a careful approach to how you word your concerns, OP, I do want to push back a little on your own characterization of your worries about the future as “irrational thoughts”! They sound highly rational to me, and those worries are not in the same class of uncharitable thoughts (like “Get a grip dude,” which I know you wouldn’t say). His work history, like his happiness, affects you both. You sound really caring and compassionate. But your needs are a part of the picture here, too.

      I think it would make sense for you and your spouse to talk, together and collaboratively, about your goals for the future and what kind of work is going to support them, or if those goals need to be rewritten, or if the plans for work need to be rewritten.

      1. Specialk9*

        Thank you, yes. He’s half of the marriage but it sounds like he sucks up 95% of the emotional support in the relationship. Which can work for a couple years, but just can’t work over a longer time. I really recommend the “Have you filled a bucket today” book which talks in simple terms about soul food and soul drains.

  12. Kathlynn*

    I think that there is a 4th option, that is a combination of 2 and 3, where he isn’t doing his best to choose a good job because he wants out of his current job asap. And has the bad luck of getting not just bad boss’s, but horrible boss’s.
    Could he try getting on at a temp agency, while looking for a long term job.

  13. osrapla*

    I can totally related to your husband, OP. I have the same problem! I’m in my 3rd job in as many years after grad school. My problem is definitely #2, and as another commenter mentioned above – I’ve been hopping around to jobs in the wrong industry. What has turned it around for me is being honest with myself and identifying the industry I do want to work in and taking small steps to make myself more marketable in that field. For example, I’m doing a part time, year-long fellowship/residency on the side in addition to my full time job. Knowing that once I’ve completed the fellowship I can start applying for jobs in my desired field has made it so much more bearable to stick it out in the field I’m struggling in.

    It’s also helped that I’ve had a boss that I can be really candid with about my unhappiness in this industry. He’s aware that I’m working toward something else and that’s what’s keeping me motivated here. Good luck!

    1. Overeducated*

      Yup, same here, in 3rd job 3 years after grad school and not loving it. I’m trying to make and follow a pretty concrete road map to get experience and training from this job to make me competitive for where I want to be in another 3 years or so. I need at least 2 years to get there before i can be a really strong applicant, which feels painfully long some weeks, but realistically I know if I leave this job for anything but a truly amazing opportunity I’ll be hurting my future self.

  14. McWhadden*

    This sort of pattern is less unusual in Sales than in other professions. Even if someone is really good at the actual selling part it can just be a very toxic industry. Everyone is so focused on the next quarters sales and that’s all that matters.

  15. Jennifer in GA*

    OP- this was my husband from 1999-2004. Multiple jobs. Incredible stress. The only difference is that we had two small children and I was a SAHM.

    What finally broke the cycle was a conversation with someone my husband respected and trusted who was a bit removed from the situation. In the south we call this a “Come to Jesus Meeting”. ;)

    He finally accepted that his job issues were about 75% his fault and 25% bad luck. He made some long term goals and gave up some unrealistic expectations. He ended up going back to school (at a technical college, because traditional college had not worked for him in the past) and found a mentor who helped him in so many ways.

    It didn’t happen over night, but he was finally able to find a balance between working a job that was occasionally frustrating and being happy with his life in general.

    Good luck!

    1. OP here*

      Thank you! We are southerners, so I know Come To Jesus quite well! I absolutely think someone to talk to who is unbiased and slightly outside the situation would do wonders for him…..

    2. GG Two shoes*

      I had a similar sit down with my husband a few years ago. He was bouncing around a lot (4 jobs in 5 years I think). We decided he needed to go finish school as he has started 3 times not finished for one reason or another. This time, he went to a code school. He finished and 1. loves his job 2. makes more than he ever has 3. has great benefits and room for growth 4. Feels challenged every day.

      All this to say,OP, your husband can turn this around. I think looking outside the sales industry- even tangentially- would be beneficial for long term growth.

  16. Nita*

    As others are saying, maybe the nature of his industry is playing into it. He may also be massively burned out from a string of bad jobs. It’s possible that taking more time to search out the next job would help, and maybe he should be trying to break into a new field. That said, it’s easy to give advice, but if he’s not willing to consider it… there’s only so much you can do.

    My family has a very similar dynamic. I lucked into an intense, but interesting job, and my coworkers are amazing. The fact that I had financial support from my family in college helped too. My husband, on the other hand, had a lot stacked against him from the start. No financial support or good advice from his family. He put himself through two local colleges. After that, he tried two different lines of work but his choice was limited by the fact that he needed to be employed and could not sit around waiting for the “right” job. So he ended up in an industry that’s thoroughly wrong for him. He was actually in his second job for more than ten years, but it turned toxic when new management came in. In this industry, once bad management comes in, there’s precious little anyone can do. It spreads like wildfire. He left three years after the new boss came, but his new job is in the same field – less toxic, but still a big dumpster fire for very similar reasons. He wants out again, but both of us know that as long as he’s in this industry he’ll run into the same issues anywhere he goes.

    His qualifications are kind of… open-ended and very specialized at the same time, not a good combo for making a lateral change unless you have great connections. I’ve been telling him for years that he needs to go out on a limb and start from entry-level in a different field. He refuses because he’s worked really hard to have a decent salary, and he’s understandably unhappy at the thought of giving that up. I feel bad for him, but in the end it’s his decision and I cannot do his thinking for him. At the least, we’ve managed to accomplish one big thing – he’s gotten much better about separating work stress from our home life. It’s still terrible that he’s wasting his time with dead-end jobs when he’s a very capable manager, but at least he’s only miserable at work, not at work and at home…

  17. Collarbone High*

    LW, I’m relating so hard to this. My childhood had a lot of moves and periods of poverty because my dad couldn’t hold a job, and I once ended a promising relationship when I saw my partner following the same patterns. I’m glad I did, because Ex has changed jobs at least a dozen times since then.

    So with that in mind – do your husband’s complaints have themes of “I could run this company better,” or “everyone but me is incompetent” or “I’m single-handedly propping the place up and nobody recognizes or appreciates that”?

    It’s normal, I think, to have moments of exasperation where those thoughts pop into the brain, and obviously in some situations, that might be true, but if that’s his constant mindset, things are not going to get better unless he re-evaluates his thinking, possibly with professional help.

  18. embees*

    May I also, gently, suggest you look at if this is also a pattern in other parts of his life? My spouse has some similar complaints/issues about employment, but it also manifests in handling (or not, ahem) personal relationships, hobbies, household responsibilities, etc. So working through it in those types of instances, where it’s not be “just a work” thing, means addressing it is beyond “just” finding the right job.

    1. Les G*

      Came here to say this. Your husband may have a work problem. But if this work problem is causing stress in your family life, then what you’ve really got is a relationship problem.

      Maybe it’s because of the individualistic career culture in the U.S., but I’ve noticed some folks are pretty bad at understanding that their work choices affect other folks. Take my wife. Her dysfunctional job wanted her to move to another country’s HQ, 15 hours away by plane. She’s been burned so many times that she said yes! I had to convince myself it was okay to ask my own wife not to take a job that meant only seeing me four times a year. Spoiler alert: it was okay. Ask your husband for what you need.

        1. Specialk9*

          That she would accept that, esp apparently without talking with you. Not eek that you spoke up that it wasn’t cool.

  19. Anon Today Anon Tomorrow*

    I suspect it could be a combination of #1 and #2. But, I know several people who have never been in the same job for more than a couple of years. And a lot of it is because they have unrealistic expectations and they get desperate to exit their current situation so they tend to make poor decisions.

    No job is perfect. And I do think that people who have high expectations are destined to be disappointed, and then make hasty decisions, starting a vicious cycle.

    1. Dino*

      Can we not have multiple comments suggesting mental illness or processing differences for every single letter? It’s wildly unhelpful and repetitive.

      1. Les G*

        Yup. Folks love to armchair diagnose as though there’s no way the OP has ever considered that [x extremely stereotypical symptom of a common disorder] might be a symptom of [widely-known disorder]. It’s condescending.

      2. Engineer Girl*

        But in this case it is worth exploring.

        Please let Alison police her own blog. It isn’t your job to do it for her.

  20. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

    I don’t think this is the right venue. The issue at hand is how an anxious wife can successfully communicate with her husband about his work problems (and hopefully support and help him deal with those problems). Sounds out of scope to me, but I wish the OP the best of luck.

    1. Jen ID #89123*

      I’d think the fact that Alison chose to answer it automatically makes it “in scope”.

    2. WellRed*

      Alison did address a few broader aspects of working and her husband’s potential areas to consider. Plus, it is often the questions that are more relationshippy or personal that are often super interesting.

  21. Narise*

    I am in a similar situation in that I love my job and have been promoted twice in five years. My husband accepted a job after we moved here and he had been out of work for 8 months. He was excited to go to work again and gave it his all. He really thought long term it would turn into a larger opportunity for him. I could see that it wasn’t going to however and my BS meter usually works better than my husbands. I didn’t say much because he was happy being at work again and I knew that he had struggled to find this job. Now five years later he realizes he needs to move on but he’s five years older and he’s burnt out from the job and a job search almost seems like too much right now. Right now I’m just working with him day by day but it’s not easy to have an unhappy spouse.

      1. yasmara*

        My spouse’s unhappiness at his last 2 jobs lead to 1) a move across our metropolitan area and three years later 2) a move across the country.

        Luckily, he really likes where he ended up this time and the company he left to move across the country ended up imploding very shortly after (and all the good people followed him out the door), so it was the right move. Meanwhile, I’ve been at the same company for 17 years!

  22. Wakeens Teapots LTD*

    I love sales with all my heart. <3 I mostly run things instead of sell things nowadays and boy do I miss it. So, from the perspective of someone who loves the profession:

    Churning crappy sales jobs until you finally get to the good one is pretty much what one does. Good buddy of mine just churned 4 in 18 months trying to land (laid off after a 20 year career, stellar record, he still had to churn 4 to get to the 5th which is sticking).

    I am sorry that is so stressful for you, and I am sorry you guys are having all of these issues. I can't promise that it will all work out, but, if you think your husband is truly talented, it probably will work out if he doesn't just throw his hands up in the air and say forget it one day. A good salesperson can make a lot of money & be very happy in the right spot (but only as happy as the last sale made him – you won't find a lot of zen sales folks)

    1. OP here*

      so much this. I know he has the potential to make very good money in his current position. In fact, this current job has paid the most out of all his sales jobs (a $1k/month car allowance, good commission structure, on top of salary etc.). I think deep down he knows he needs to stick it out, it’s just a matter of getting past this threshold of tumultuous waters.

      1. Wakeens Teapots LTD*

        yeah I wish I knew your husband because I can’t tell how much of this is not sticking something out long enough (sales takes awhile to ramp up) and how much is cutting losses that need to be cut. Because of my circles, nearly all of my work friends assembled over 30 years are in sales, so I have a million stories.

        If you are in a bad spot, get out now, it is not going to get any better by staying and you are just costing yourself money you are not making in commissions and bonuses.

        One thing that helps in our industry is reverse references. I am very frequently called by circle of friends to ask about potential XYZ employer or ABC boss. I waive my friends off of overbearing nutjobs or dysfunctional organizations or places I know churn reps. It is relatively easier to avoid bad jobs if you stick to the same industry and know people who know people.

        Rooting for you!

        1. PersonalJeebus*

          I love seeing these perspectives of successful sales people who truly like sales!

          OP, maybe part of what your husband should ask for from mentors and other folks is his network is how to differentiate between a good sales job that just has a learning curve, and a crap job that won’t get better.

          This really struck me: “If you are in a bad spot, get out now, it is not going to get any better by staying and you are just costing yourself money you are not making in commissions and bonuses.”

          The trick is knowing what a “bad spot” really is and how to, um, spot it. Your husband may not have enough information yet to know the difference, since he’s never been happy in a job. A trusted friend in sales might have the answers.

          1. Wakeens Teapots LTD*

            A lot of it is about resources and expectations.

            How are leads generated? the answer to that question could be everything between “here are the Yellow Pages” to being given a flow of qualified leads weekly.

            How is the product and the customer support for the product? sometimes, a sales rep is going to have to put out fires after a sale, but that should be a small part of your time. In a bad place, it is all of your time.

            I have seen semi-bad places expect a sales rep to fill a call log with in person visits to their company accounts five days a week, 4 appts a day. This literally CAN’T be done in our industry, that is totally nuts. You have to at least 1 office day where you are dealing with the your client base without rushing between appts, and 4 appts a day is not at all sustainable given the distance between accounts. (btw you know what happens in place like that? sales reps then lie on their call log and hope they don’t get caught)

            If you are selling a good product at a nice enough company with reasonable expectations and decent service, that is about as good as it gets, as long as your compensation package is good also. :)

      2. Bea*

        Are there peer groups he could become involved in to give him some extra support? A spouse’s support is pivotal but yet the people in the trenches with you can really help.

        My bosses have always been in groups so they’re surrounded by people who know their struggle and can often cut the shht with them if it’s a “this is you not the job.” moments.

  23. animaniactoo*

    OP, I have a few recommendations based on what you’ve said here:

    1) Plan your budget right now so that you’re living as frugally as you can without making yourself completely crazy, and bone up on your savings. Note, these are not going to be long-term savings. They’re going to be getting over a hump savings.

    2) Be prepared that your husband may not stay in this job, BUT use the cushion above to be able to give him some breathing space to look for a GOOD job and do more vetting and stuff before he jumps into the next one. So that he’s not leaping out of desperation for the paycheck, and isn’t just thinking “Okay, I can do what they’re asking, and we need the paycheck” but rather is thinking “I like their setup and I would like to work in that environment for my paycheck.” It sounds like in particular, one of his key focuses when interviewing should be asking what onboarding and training on the product(s) he’s selling looks like – how do they handle that, and how quickly would they expect him to be up to speed?

    It may be that just having that option is enough to let him calm down and settle into the one has now – knowing that he has support and if he’s out of this job it doesn’t mean “failure” or that he’s not “pulling his weight” for your partnership. In which case your savings block can be the base of a different goal. But don’t expect it to happen, just be happy if it works out that way or that he manages to find a job that he is better aligned with.

    3) Ask him to start with taking an online ADD/ADHD potential assessment, there’s a decent one here at “www additudemag com/adhd-symptoms-test-adults/” (put the dots back in), and see what comes up. If it comes up as a strong possibility, explore seeing a therapist to develop some coping strategies. If he resists doing that, ask him for a deal. You’ll do 1 & 2, but if things are still problematic in a year he’ll look into the possibility.

    1. OP here*

      “It sounds like in particular, one of his key focuses when interviewing should be asking what onboarding and training on the product(s) he’s selling looks like – how do they handle that, and how quickly would they expect him to be up to speed?”

      YES to this. Obviously as I’ve never been present in his job interviews, I’ve never really questioned how they’ve gone / what kind of questions they’ve asked or he’s asked (never questioned beyond, ‘how did you do?’ :) ) I’m 100% with you about the savings – we use everydollar dot com to budget and it has been a lifesaver. It’s sometimes nauseating to see what we spend on frivolous crap.

    2. Specialk9*

      Yes this. Why didn’t I think of this before?!

      OP, lots of people really like Dave Ramsay for help getting finances together — there are plenty of critiques too, and good ones, and he goes heavily Christian, but nobody does emotional fulfillment for the hard work of financial independence like Dave Ramsay.

      On the other side of the spectrum is Mr Money Mustache, a foul-mouthed super frugal blogger who makes people really rethink all the assumptions one makes. (Is a car really necessary? Are you putting your money where your real priorities are?) His commentariat can tend to be absolutist and ableist, but I usually like his posts.

  24. Plague of frogs*

    You can’t change your husband; you can only change yourself. Get a job that can keep you afloat/reduce spending so you stay afloat more easily. Best of luck to both of you!

    1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      While I agree that, in general, you can’t change other people, the rules are different within a marriage. The OP loves her job. Her husband is the one who needs to make an adjustment — whether of industry, expectations, behavior, etc. — not the OP.

      1. PersonalJeebus*

        Yes, I agree. My spouse has trouble sticking with jobs, although I believe for different reasons than the OP’s husband. In my wife’s case it’s largely about coping skills and learned helplessness (although to be fair some of her jobs were objectively crappy). Even if my professional skills put me in a position to make enough money to support our family (in the lifestyle my wife wants), I’d strenuously resist taking on that responsibility, since I believe it would only enable my wife to avoid doing the work she needs to do on herself internally.

        That said, married people should have individual savings when possible!

    2. Pollygrammer*

      She isn’t trying to change who he is. She needs him to reevaluate his behavior and priorities.

      Hell, he needs him to reevaluate his behavior and priorities! The path to fulfillment in a job isn’t as plain as “shop around until you find something you love right off the bat.” But there are ways to pursue a fulfilling job–sometimes it’s lowering your expectations, grinding through a tough learning curve, adapting, or sticking it out while gaining the skills and tenure that will open better doors. Helping him come to terms with that isn’t trying to change him.

  25. SDSmith*

    So I have (and am currently in) the OP’s shoes with my husband. Some of it due to luck, some of it due to bad managers (with over sold expectations at the time of hiring) and some of it due to his own attitude. He is lucky enough that he is a disabled Vet and will be going to school to learn more valued skills that will help him get into better fields, but that takes time, and in the meanwhile, will need to suck it up.

    More than once have I wanted to just tell him to do that. Because I had a job I hated, and was doing just that, until I found something else. But, I know that in some ways, he is much more sensitive than I am. I know that his job really does suck, in a lot of ways, but it’s what he has for now, until he can get school started/completed. But I also know that in my case, he needs to work on his attitude about it, and that’s not something I can fix.

    I am not sure you will make it down this far- OP- but has your husband ever considered commercial insurance sales? It’s a more stable section of the insurance sales field, doesn’t totally lock you in an office, and with the right company, could provide the stability and connections you’d both love for him to have.

    1. OP here*

      He hasn’t, but I feel like he could explore it! Many commenters have pointed out sales doesn’t have to be all travel, all the time. There are lots of ways to connect with clients and not have to be behind a desk.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        If he doesn’t want to be behind a desk, he could look into doing outside sales for a staffing company. Most of those focus on their local geographical area, so while he might be in the car and driving around a lot, he’d get to go home every night.

  26. I See Real People*

    If you can afford the cost, I would suggest a career coach for your husband. I’ve heard good things happen in a relatively few sessions with a good coach!

  27. Snickerdoodle*

    I second the notion of a therapist. A therapist can help him understand his expectations and how to manage them and why he’s unhappy in his jobs, why he chooses bad jobs, etc., not to mention any other related issues.

    1. Engineer Girl*

      I was going to say this too. At a minimum, it may rule out problems. At best, it could give appropriate expectations and coping strategies if there is a condition.

      As far as abusive bosses go, it could be so many things:
      • self selecting bad bosses due to desperation, bad self esteem, or mental health issues
      • bad luck (the more this happens, the less likely it is bad luck)
      • it isn’t abuse but your hubby is calling it that due to unreasonable expectations. For example, my bipolar sister regularly calls me abusive for having appropriate boundaries on her bad behavior. Many times you see bipolar, BPD, passive agressive people screaming abuse when they are smashing boundaries. You know your husband.

      1. Les G*

        Bullet points one and three seem like biiiiiiiiig stretch. And a tad bit victim-blamey, to boot.

      2. Bea*

        Your last bullet point shook me a bit. I ended a friendship with someone who was talking badly about me and it finally got back to me years later. I pulled the ripcord and she tried to tell me that “well we’re all bad friends to each other!”. When no, no we weren’t. She then tried to diagnose me with an assortment of mental issues because she wanted us to bond over both being bi-polar.

        Looking inside another person’s perception of reality can be a wonderfully enlightening thing that will free you from a lot of things. So yes. That’s such a real thing to keep in mind.

        1. Snickerdoodle*

          Yeah, I ended a friendship with someone whose answer to everything was autism was because she was on the spectrum. There was enough projection there to run every movie theatre in town out of business.

      3. leslie knope*

        what exactly does bullet point 3 have to do with anything besides crapping on the mentally ill?

        1. Engineer Girl*

          The point is that the “abuse” may not be abuse. It may be a perspective problem. That in turn would cause of the unhappiness. If that’s the case, then no job will work out for hubby. At least not until he reforms his perspective and comes up with coping mechanisms.
          The OP would have a better chance of knowing what is going on. Has she seen the interactions between hubby and the boss? What kind of demands is the boss making? What are the expectations? Are they in line with the industry?
          We can’t know what is going on. But the question needs to be asked so that the issue gets examined.

  28. Llamasong*

    Wow. I could have written this myself. OP, I see you and I understand what you’re going through. My husband and I havent reached the light the end of the tunnel yet but I wish you luck.

  29. AnonAcademic*

    Oooh, I could have written this question a year or two ago! My partner works in IT, and has had several toxic bosses which caused both of us a ton of stress. In two of his prior 4 jobs over 7 years, he had reported problems with his bosses that led to them getting fired. In his case it really was just terrible luck and industry dysfunction (the tendency of technicians to be prematurely promoted to management especially). However, as his experience grew and he developed more marketable skills, we were able to move to an area with a better job market for him and he finally found a job he likes. Of course, that job is at a start up, and after a great year and a half there they got bought by a larger company! So who knows what will happen…

    The key thing IMO is if you’re in a high turnover industry, you need to sock away money to cover employment gaps so that you don’t take bad jobs out of desperation. Easier said than done, but it’s the only thing that changed the pattern for us. My partner has had a 6 month gap (with 2 months severance from a layoff) and a 3 month gap in the last 4 years, but landed higher paying jobs each time so it compensated for the temporary dip in income.

  30. IncognitoForThis*

    I can relate to this also. My partner is struggling to work out what to do career wise and has been job hopping in between prolonged periods of unemployment. Wildly varied roles in equally varied industries and environments, with problems ranging from outright racist/ homophobic abuse, to a long, steady drip-drip of performance issues that eventually culminated in a formal disciplinary and depression. They are back in work now, but neither one of us can see this new job working out in the long run either, and it’s frightening.

    It’s so difficult to watch from the outside because you as a partner don’t know 100% what’s going on for them, and it’s not that you don’t trust their reporting, but, as you say, their perspective may be warped. They may overly avoid certain types of job because of prior experiences (ie writing off working for any family business because of favouritism issues) or may overlook potential red flags because other bad experiences have normalised certain toxic elements, or made others seem not so bad in comparison. It’s hard to tell sometimes because all you know is what your husband tells you.

    From the sounds of it, the reasoning behind his having to leave hasn’t always been the same, which suggests this isn’t entirely a ‘husband’ problem and at least a portion of the issue is stemming from the jobs themselves. I wonder, how does your husband perceive the problem? Can he identify any patterns as you can? Any differences? It may be that if he can identify the sources of some of this biggest stumbling blocks, he can then either take steps to avoid that type of work/ environments if appropriate, or work on his own coping mechanisms in order to deal with particular aspects of work better (such as the planning issue you mentioned which affected his performance). He may benefit from therapy or career guidance in order to better understand his dilemma and gain a better perspective on the kind of opportunities he could pursue, and what he can do to improve his performance as a worker, or even just to talk his concerns out with someone impartial.

    1. OP here*

      so, so true about not being able to 100% “get it” , just from being on the outside of it alone. I want to be as supportive as I can be, without putting him on the spot. So much good advice has come my way today. Thank you!

  31. gquaker*

    I was a chronic job hopper in my 20s and for years have struggled with workplace stress and burn-out. It has definitely put a strain on my significant other and our relationship.

    It helps to ask “What do you want from work/life?” and see if you can help build that as a couple. For years, my significant other offered an endless list of alternative career options ranging from dog groomer to executive, which only made me doubt my decisions even more. Our couples therapist recommended asking this type of question/response instead. It led to small changes in our relationship that helped increase my satisfaction at work. Things like having him come to our super terrible office Christmas parties, practice interviews with me (without feedback) and taking on more of the housework when I started my side hustle helped a lot. Good luck!

  32. MLB*

    I think regardless of the reason, the bottom line is that it’s on him. He’s either making bad decisions out of desperation (I’ve been laid off twice so I get it) or not doing his due diligence, he has unrealistic expectations of a job, or he’s in the wrong field. You could compare it to someone who can’t maintain a relationship – you could say she picks the wrong guys, but there’s one commonality in all of them. Not saying your husband is a bad person in any way, but I think he needs a supportive reality check from you to figure out the root of the issue and be able to move forward.

    1. Les G*

      There’s a cliche about the first date who won’t shut up about all their crazy exes. And there’s some truth to that.

      1. Snickerdoodle*

        Yep. Just as it’s a giant red flag when someone calls their exes crazy (what’s the common denominator?!), companies side eye patchy job histories because it indicates the problem is with the applicant. And, just as with dating, maybe the person doesn’t outright blame all the jobs (maybe they don’t outright call their exes crazy), but they still find a way to blame everyone but themselves. I’m not saying that’s what the OP’s husband is doing, but that is how it is likely to come across to interviewers, which means only companies who don’t flag that kind of pattern are likely to hire him, thus repeating the cycle.

    2. kab*

      I agree. When I see patterned behavior, I assume that there is usually a common denominator – not to sound mean, because there can be various reasons behind the issue.

      1. WellRed*

        I used to feel sorry for the coworker who always had computer issues. But three laptops later, I think maybe (definitely) the problem is her.

        1. Snickerdoodle*

          I had a coworker who couldn’t figure out how to copy and paste, attach a file, save a file to his desktop, adjust the page breaks in Excel, etc. Several “Oh, I’ll show you/fix it” conversations later, I assumed it was learned helplessness because he just wanted me to do it for him.

  33. epi*

    I went back to school partly to get out of a toxic job, and my husband is currently searching for a new position because the one he has is grinding him down. He doesn’t travel but he logs a huge amount of on-call time on things that should never be on-call level of priority. However, we both stuck/are sticking it out. I think you have to have a future orientation do that– understand what you are getting out of this job, how long you really need to do that for, and what you will get out of eventually leaving on your own terms.

    Your letter kind of sounds like your husband gets job after job because he needs to have a job. There is nothing special about any of them, like being in an industry he likes or paying great benefits or not having to do one of those responsibilities that most people don’t like but that usually just come with that type of job– like travel or taking call. It’s hard to get invested in a job like that, and hard to put in the effort to keep a particular job if they’re all interchangeable.

    I would be asking my husband lots of open-ended questions in this situation. How does he feel about this string of jobs? Does he have concerns that these employment terms are becoming common in his role or in this region, or does he think they were just a string of bad luck? Does he see himself staying in sales a long time and how does he feel about that? Are some of the things he wants, like minimal travel, competitive to get and does he feel competitive for those types of positions? Does he want to become competitive for them? What do friends and mentors from work say? Your husband is probably already thinking about this stuff himself, but it doesn’t hurt to support him while being oriented towards making a plan.

    Sometimes it can be good to consider your sunk costs into the job you have, and understand what you get out of building even more longevity there. My husband is in an industry where people are really compatible with him, get him, and love him, and if all else fails it is only a matter of time until one of those people can hire him somewhere else. Nothing gave me as much satisfaction as leaving my terrible job on such good terms, they all thought I loved them back. Those are the kinds of things that help you smile back at your terrible boss every Monday.

  34. Delphine*

    LW, what makes you suspect your husband is the problem? Is it only that he’s had a string of jobs that have made him miserable? You mention that his behavior might be the cause of his dissatisfaction–what behavior?

    From what you say in the letter, it sounds like your husband is in the right industry (he knows what he’s good at and what he likes to do). It also sounds like he’s had legitimate reasons to leave each job that he’s left. You said in the beginning about one job, “poor planning and minimal due diligence on my husband’s part” and you also note that he ” jumped into” another job “[…] blindly due a desperate situation”. And now he’s found another job three weeks after being fired. I imagine that your husband understands how important it is to have and keep a job. On top of that pressure, it’s also possible that he can sense how this instability is stressing you out. He may just be taking any opportunity that falls into his lap.

    Maybe the best thing to do is to find a way to give him a time cushion, so that he’s not jumping into the first job he gets, but is instead able to take the time to do his due diligence.

    1. Les G*

      Are you blaming the OP for the husband’s job hopping?

      Folks leave details out because if they explain everything, their letters are 7 unreadable paragraphs and everyone’s eyes glaze over by paragraph 3. OP says her husband didn’t do his due diligence on a job that might be a nightmare; let’s believe her.

    2. Pollygrammer*

      So you think every issue he’s having is just bad luck, exacerbated by OP putting too much pressure on him?

      1. FaintlyMacabre*

        I don’t think Delphine is blaming the OP, simply pointing out that something they could do together is create a cushion of money and understanding for the OP’s husband’s next job search. Having been in a position where I moved for a boyfriend and then got into a string of bad jobs due to money pressure (and personal pressure, both from myself and him), if we had come together as a team and said, “Okay, we have X amount saved up, so we have breathing room for you to spend Y amount of time looking for a job” things would have been so much better. Instead, I got a terrible temp job, followed by truly hideous permanent job- both of which I knew would not be good, but I didn’t feel like I could ignore giant warning signs. But I needed a job, any job, in the short terms, even knowing it was going to be bad all around in the long term.

  35. Career Change*

    If your husband enjoys the sales aspect but wants more stability, mortgage lending may be a good fit. You need a sales mentality to succeed at being a loan officer. There’s also stable employment, an office, freedom with your schedule. Travel is between local offices and an occasional conference.
    Good luck!

  36. SixyStyx*

    It’s like this letter writer took a walk through my anxieties yesterday. I have the same issue her husband does except in the Office/Admin field. My jobs rarely last for just over a year without a company going bankrupt/laying everyone off/me having to go to the police and hire a lawyer.

    I feel a lot of empathy for her husband. Bad jobs are frustrating, and people around you DO wonder if it’s you. It takes a lot of love and delicacy to say to someone “Hey, I know it stinks wherever you go. Can we explore what may be on your shoes first, then move on to how that factors in with the other aspects of the bad jobs?”

    Sometimes we get so caught up in how much our jobs are starting to suck that we forget that that mindset shows in our work when we’ve had our craw full and begin actively contributing to more suck on the job. Maybe we become less tactful and diplomatic. Maybe the resentment shows and people don’t want to be around the negativity. It happens, and it can be surprising when you see yourself from someone else’s point of view.

    Don’t be afraid to talk to your husband, OP. Sometimes it takes outside perspective to help us realize what we need to do, and you only have his best interests in mind.

    1. OP here*

      I’ve been amazed at the number of commenters who have said “this is me”. It really helps me not feel so helpless. Thank you for you kind words – I am wanting to support him no matter what (for better or worse, amirite). I definitely feel armored with wonderful conversation starters to have an open, honest conversation with him.

  37. NoLongerSleepDeprived*

    This is something that is hard to give advice for. A career coach might be helpful but has your husband considered talking to a therapist? A therapist can help give him tools for coping with his stress and anxiety. Just talking to somebody who is objective and removed from the situation can be beneficial. Burn out can lead to depression. My last job led to burn out. One day realization set in, I was starting to get depressed. So, the decision was made to leave my job, best choice I ever made.

    We all have expectations about work and it can be hard when faced with reality. It’s okay to talk to a career coach to figure out what you wan career wiset or a therapist to help come up with a set of coping strategies. Sometimes, we just need to talk.

  38. lizzyloohoo*

    I really relate to this. I’m one of those people who puts a lot into my work, and it’s a huge part of my identity. It also means that I have an unhealthy (bordering on obsessive) fear of being unemployed. Which is why, when my husband one day just quit his job out of frustration, I was terrified. This came after he’d been effectively let go from a previous one. Now, I see him in his new job, where again he’s complaining about his boss, and the amount of work he has to do. My salary can keep us afloat though, so when I tell him to quit before he burns that bridge like he did his last one, he gets all fatalistic, like he can’t and he’s just stuck there in this shitty situation. He’s one of those people who works because working is necessary, so I think he’s already predisposed to have a bit of an antagonistic relationship with work from the get-go.

    In his case, I think it’s a couple of things, but I think his self esteem actually plays a big role in this. He struggles with it (we both do), so negative situations really hit him hard, and whereas I have a tendency to turn that inward (I’m awful! etc) he has a tendency to turn it outward (They’re awful! This job is awful!, etc). Any chance that’s something you see? Does he have a habit of pointing externally when he’s frustrated? If so, then perhaps like my husband, it has very little to do with the job itself.

    In our case, it’s a work in progress, but we did sit down and have a lot of conversations about our joint future. By not making it about work, but rather about how we were going to use work to achieve the joint goals we have, it’s made it easier for him, I think, to not see work as such a consuming thing, and to compartmentalize his frustration. He’s also seeing someone to work through his feelings, which is important. But lastly, I just wanted to say that it’s completely legitimate for you to point out how this affects you and your stress level. Yes, you want to be supportive, but in my (very personal, not saying you have to feel this way) opinion, marriage is in part about two people coming together in an arrangement that improves their overall quality of life. If that’s not working for you, I would make that clear, and ask him to come to the table with some solutions to address this concern. More so than anyone, he’s the one who has the best insight into what’s happening here. Good luck – I really feel you, and know how stressful this is.

    1. OP here*

      oh I DEFINITELY thinks he projects outward. But I also don’t think he has an over inflated view of himself, either, if that makes sense. I agree he could massively benefit from speaking with someone impartial (career coach, even a therapist). I only hope he would be receptive to it.

  39. Mrs. Picky Pincher*

    Man, I could have been reading about myself on this one. I’m in marketing and I’ve had similar experiences with work. I think the longest I’ve ever had a job was two years. A combination of poor due diligence and jumping into new jobs blindly (hoping to escape from a collapsing company and/or toxic culture) led to the same vicious cycle.

    Honestly, I’ve only recently found the answer for myself. I’ve been doing side work for three years, and it’s grown to where I’m making full-time money with it. I plan to jump off and be my own boss by 2019.

    After thinking it over, I realize I just don’t do well in the majority of companies. I DO perform very well when I’m working for myself. I’m not sure if this will help OP’s husband, but some of us aren’t built for the 9-to-5 environment.

  40. LW1111*

    This sounds so much like my now-retired dad (who is the same type of “natural born sales guy”). His entire career, aside from a part time gig he’s had the last decade (and still does on Sundays), I think the longest he ever stayed in a role was 7 years. Everything else was between a few months and a couple years. He’s had so many different sales roles at so many different companies. He went through a stretch like your husband’s starting around my junior year of high school, when that long term job ended after the company was sold. He had a job he hated, followed by a straight commission job that didn’t pay enough, followed by a company that went bankrupt, followed by a small business where the poor owner had a heart attack and died following a television expose on one of his employees, followed by a job where he just didn’t think the product was beneficial for the customers, followed, finally by a really lucrative gig he stayed at for a few years until they changed his territory. Sales is such a rough career. I know it was really hard for my dad to not feel like he was providing enough just as I was about to go into college and it was tough on my parents marriage too. My dad is one of the most hardworking, intelligent and positive people I know, so I don’t think it was him – I think it was partly bad luck and partly the nature of sales jobs. I think what really helped my dad was switching to a larger, well established company, instead of family owned firms or startups. He thought the flexibility and built the business to its potential part of those businesses was really intriguing and interesting but it also made them a lot more turbulent.

  41. Ali G*

    I’m going out on a limb here to suggest your husband take some stock of what he likes, versus what he believes is good at. Because there is a disconnect here somewhere. He is good at sales, but does he like the types of sales jobs he is taking?
    Late last year I left a toxic job and decided on a career change – but it’s HARD.
    One thing that helped me was to figure out not only what I wanted to do, but how, where and with whom. Sounds weird right? I’ve had a career for 15 years, so I would just do that – but no it wasn’t that easy because my last job and destroyed my last nerve on that type of work.
    I was working with a recruiter and they suggested working through some exercises that put aside the topics of getting a job for a moment, and thinking more about what you value in a job.
    So for me, I value autonomy, variety, trust, respect. Others may want to be leaders, or need a huge salary or want a lot of appreciation. If you take some time think about what a good job for you looks like, you can start to see the job hunting process as more than finding A job, and finding A RIGHT job for you.
    Full disclosure – these exercises will not get you a job! These are for you to understand your motivations, skills and values so you can find the right job.
    Google University of South Carolina Career Center and the Stanford University Career Development Center.
    I hope your husband can stick this one out long enough to invest some time and energy into getting a job he really wants, working for people he can respect. But that won’t happen if he jumps ship into the next available thing without thinking about why he is leaving and what the new job can offer the old can’t.

    1. Ali G*

      Oh! And I want to thank you for being so supportive of your husband. As the person in my relationship that feels like she is not holding up her end of the bargain right now, I know the internal stress that is probably also plaguing your husband. I know my husband supports me and knows that I need to be happy in my job for us to be happy (he’s lived through too many nights of crying and angst) together, but it still weighs on me that I’m not “pulling my weight.” I want a good job, just as much as he wants me to!
      So, even if he hasn’t said anything, I suspect part of his stress and maybe even feelings of inadequacy in the new job is the internal strife of him not feeling like he is good enough right now (and worried you feel that way too).

    2. OP here*

      a seriously wonderful idea (but maybe that’s just because I love lists). That would be my dream for him – and us – that he can hang on and really give this a proper go so that, if after he gets through it, it’s still not what he wants, he’ll have a solid idea of what he will and will not tolerate in a job.

  42. Callie*

    I agree with those who have suggested that your husband see a therapist, but not just to see if there’s an underlying problem. Maybe he has a condition like ADHD that has contributed to the job-jumping, maybe not— but this amount of stress and failure would be enough to make anyone depressed, underlying condition or no. And then it becomes a bit of a vicious cycle, because it’s hard to make good decisions or perform at your best when you’re depressed.

    Good luck to you both!

    1. Bea*

      I want to stress that therapy isn’t always about something being wrong. You don’t need to have ADHD or depression or crippling anxiety to need help understanding your inner workings. Sometimes we just need to learn to unravel why we do things.

      I learned a lot about myself and am relatively anxiety free after figuring out a lot of “whys”. Here I thought it was chronic when no, it was just like Drop Dead Fred’s ending. I needed to see some childhood difficulties were stunting my growth!

      The stigma around therapy is still so difficult. Especially if you add a heaping dose of masculinity to it.

  43. Doloris Van Cartier*

    Just want to start out that you sound super supportive and that can make a huge difference!

    Even though I generally stay at a job for about 2-3 years, I totally understand how he is feeling. I’m really working hard to not leave right now as I’m not sure my next path and don’t want to get stuck in another job that I’m lukewarm about. Something that I’ve been talking with my therapist about is creating a life outside of work that makes you happy. When I’m struggling with my mental or physical health, everything at work seems it’s on fire (even it is not). When I’m happy in my personal life, have a fun hobby or am practicing self-care; some of those work things fade away. Obviously abusive behaviors from a supervisor or an unsafe environment wouldn’t but some of the stuff that may happen at any job like personalities that aren’t your favorite or policies that are annoying.

    Maybe your husband needs to find a project or something to focus on so he doesn’t feel like the biggest thing in his life is a job that he’s not happy at. As they say happiness breeds happiness and I think that if he’s feeling successful or fulfilled by other things in his life, he may feel a little less burnt out by his work.

    1. OP here*

      thank you so much! I definitely am on your side about a fulfilling hobby! He has an intense love for craft beer, and will often go to our local whole foods and hang with the menagerie of regulars at the bar! (See? A network right there! Mostly young dads and a few older guy). Maybe some beer brewing on the side? I like to paint and it has definitely helped ease any stress I have – not to mention brings in side income for our family when I get commissions after shamelessly self promoting :)

  44. HRM*

    I have similar feelings about work as your husband does, and especially did when I was younger and first starting out in my career. Working with a therapist has helped me immensely. Not arm chair diagnosing here but for me it was a symptom of my borderline personality disorder and the way I was feeling was VERY common for those with BPD. Regardless of exact diagnosis (or lack thereof) my therapist was able to provide some concrete strategies for coping with the stress of work and mitigating relationship conflicts with bosses and coworkers. It’s also been extremely valuable for me to have someone to vent to about work who is not my partner as it can be anxiety inducing for a partner, especially one you live with and is financially intertwined with you, if you’re constantly venting/stressed about work – it becomes a cycle where you’re just laying that emotional burden on your partner, and I didn’t want to do that to my boyfriend anymore.

  45. Frankie*

    I think I can identify with some of your husband’s, as I’m reading it, impatience with jobs that aren’t the best fit. Particularly earlier in my career I had stays of maybe 1 year to 1.5 years, and often left dissatisfied (sometimes because the places were terrible, tbh).

    It wasn’t until I had some longer stays that I really realized how it can take a good year just to get going in a higher-level job. I just hadn’t had that experience, and he may not realize it, since you mention he’s leaving jobs mid-learning curve.

    I’ve also found a good fit in project-based work, so there’s always something new and different to learn in my current position, which helps me cope with how slowly organizations can move/change otherwise.

    I’ve also gotten much better about work/life boundaries. Environments with dysfunction and major inefficiencies really used to stress me out to the max and I’d obsess about problems and how to solve them, when it would have been much better to figure out a way to detach. Maybe your husband could work on that a bit. Understanding that certain problems really weren’t my responsibility to solve helped me focus more on my own work and how I could excel at it in spite of any other workplace problems.

    Maybe look at the 1-year “rule” as a motivation for the next job?

  46. Archaeopteryx*

    Agree with encouraging him to consider non-sales jobs, but also, because of this pattern it becomes especially important to make sure you have an emergency savings of about six months’ slaty stored up, so that with the next transition he won’t have to just leap into something. Sites like Mr Money Moustache and The Financial Diet can help in finding room for this much savings/investments, but not only will that provide stability when he does need to job search, it would hopefully ease the pressure on your family planning.

  47. AMT*

    I had problem #2 for a couple of years. I liked my first job out of grad school, but it didn’t offer much opportunity for advancement and had one or two aspects that I hated, so I jumped to a job that was better in some ways (pay!) but turned out to be even more dysfunctional. After nine months, I accepted a job somewhere that was less dysfunctional, but still totally not right for me, so I resolved to stick that one out for a year and apply somewhere else. Finally, after a year and two months at that job, I found my lovely current job — but I made damned sure to vet the new place within an inch of its life and talk candidly to people who had worked there about what they did and didn’t like. I learned that if you’re going to jump ship, you should make damned sure that your lifeboat isn’t full of holes.

    1. OP here*

      “I learned that if you’re going to jump ship, you should make damned sure that your lifeboat isn’t full of holes.”

      I need this framed in our house. So, so true.

    2. AMT*

      I just realize that I used the phrase “damned sure” twice in that paragraph. I think that officially qualifies as a verbal tic. :-)

  48. Jake*

    The is no reason why it can’t be a combination of the 3.

    I haven’t moved as much as him, but I left my first job because of 1, second job because of a combination of 2 and 3, my third job because of 3, now I’m on job four in 7 years.

    2 is the one I think OP can help the most with. Next move make sure the is a nest egg and be involved enough to know that he is truly vetting the job thoroughly.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I thinking you are right, Jake. There is more than one thing going on here, because if it was just one thing, it would have been apparent and he would have fixed it.

      This is why marriage can be so hard, OP. I think that lining up several tools is your best bet. Early in my working years I went through a few jobs. I felt like I was adrift at sea just floundering. It was so hard, it tugged at myself esteem and my sense of identity.

      Is there a person around the two of you who your husband thinks very highly of? My husband adored my father. (yeah, I was lucky) He would talk things over with my father because my father would get the importance of conversations even if the subject was rather simple. (If you can handle simple subjects people bring you tougher and tougher subjects. And this is what happened with these two men.) Maybe you can nudge him toward this wise person OR nudge the wise person toward your husband.

      Next . Take walks together. It is the simplest and most therapeutic thing couples can do, my opinion of course. Use these walks to help your bodies deal with stress and use the walks as time to reconnect to each other. Key point, reconnect OFTEN. This means walking as often as possible. Things like this can tear at a marriage because both parties are so impacted. It does not have to be long, 15-20 minutes? But do it often. Tell him that you don’t want you both to lose each other in the midst of this, you want the two of you to feel connected.

      Another tool and this can be said with a humorous tone. Tell him that he is actually outstanding at acing an interview. This means he should be careful where he applies because he probably will end up with a job there. Tell him to ask himself “do I actually want this?” If a job is an endurance contest on the first day (“I need a job- any job”) it will not improve over time.

      Last, for your thoughts only, take a look at his family. What do you see? Don’t answer here, of course. But our families directly and indirectly teach us a lot of things about jobs and workplace. Some of it is right annnd some of it is wrong. Stories here can be key. Most people like stories. Talking about workplaces and situations can actually help guide a person through their inherited misconceptions and move them forward. Stories can also inspire people to find creative solutions for their own settings.

  49. caryatis*

    OP–if you want to stay with this person, you will need to be prepared to live on one income. You obviously can’t count on him staying employed–regardless of what he says, his past actions are the best predictor of his future actions. Therefore, educate yourself on personal finance. If you have a full-time job, it should be quite possible to live on your salary alone, although that might mean sticking by a budget and not buying as many luxuries as you might like. You should also have a year’s expenses saved to tide you over during the next of those very predictable periods of unemployment.

    All that is *if* you want to stay with the guy you can’t count on and don’t have children with. Wouldn’t it be great to find someone who wasn’t a constant source of anxiety?

    1. OP here*

      I can appreciate your point of view, but he’s my husband. I love him and will stick by him. I’m confident we can make it through this together. I just want him to value himself but also hold himself accountable when he needs to. Yes, this is a anxious season of my life, but I’m confident it won’t always be this way. I just needed ways to approach the topic without him thinking I was jumping down his throat.

      1. Girl friday*

        I would just focus on yourself and try to find things to take your attention off of him. He might think of himself as having a career in sales and everything else is just the day-to-day stuff, whatever that looks like for him. If he gets unhappy enough, he’ll change. Hopefully in a good way.

    2. Bones*

      This is completely inappropriate. She wrote a work advice columnist, not a relationship columnist.

      1. Adele*

        And the work advice columnist answered with work advice. The commentariat are free to range a little further.

        Caryatis is a little harsh but actually the financial advice is sensible–for anyone. Lots of unexpected things are thrown our way. My sole-breadwinner father nearly became severely and chronically ill at age 43. My mother thought, “I have five young children, a sick husband, little savings, and no life insurance.” My father was able to go back to work but at a less-stressful, lower paying job and we scrimped for a few years while my mother went back to school for a teaching degree (she already had a BBA), which worked better with the demands of family life than if she had returned to working in business. Once my mother started working she could have supported us–very frugally–if my father couldn’t have continued working.

        Also see Old Manager Lady’s wise response further down. OP having a low-paying-but-I’m-happy job might not work best for this little family unit.

    3. Bea*

      WTF. This is gross to say to someone.

      Divorce is also expensive. She has limited finances already. She could end up paying alimony since she’s the main bread winner as well.

    4. mrs__peel*

      “If you have a full-time job, it should be quite possible to live on your salary alone”

      That is BY NO MEANS a given these days. Wages in the US have been basically stagnant for decades, while the costs of housing, higher education, health care, etc., have exploded.

      Plenty of couples need two incomes just get by and cover basic expenses, especially if they have student loans or any health issues.

      1. ABK*

        YUP!! Depending on where you live and what other expenses you have going on, living on 1 income alone isn’t always possible! (speaking from experience :( )

  50. linnette hollman*

    I am going to say something that may get me smacked.
    Is it possible for you to make enough money to support you both for a while or things you guys can cut down on so that you can live on your paycheck?
    I have been in both your husbands shoes and in your shoes with my husband.
    It is real hard to take to time to do any self examination or planning when you are in panic mode of trying to keep food on the table. Both me and my spouse have had to, in our almost 30 years marriage, give each other the opportunity to take time off to do self examination and career planning/training.
    You love your job, yet you don’t make enough to support you and one other person.
    That is a lot of pressure to put on the other person in the relationship.
    That other person could be a child until they are an adult or your husband while he delivers pizzas and goes back to school, or whatever.
    If he is making enough to support himself and one other person and you are making enough to support yourself and one other person, then career fluctuations, while painful, shouldn’t put you out on the street.
    As it is, he knows you love your job but don’t make enough to pay all the bills and you have no intention of willingly changing. He loves you, so he has to make up the difference.
    That means he cannot be unemployed.
    That means he has to power look for another job, research and do interviews while being a bright and shiny star at a job he hates. Oh, and he also needs to figure out how to sneak in networking and training.
    Like I said, I have been on both sides of this.
    I have stayed in soul sucking jobs much longer than I should of while bringing a bucket load of resentment home each day along with a paycheck, because he needed to follow his low paying or no dream (his dream eventually paid off.)
    I have been the person going back to school, taking a risk on a new field and only able to work minimum wage or not at all because of my course load. His dream job becoming a nightmare to him because he now had to accept EVERY assignment that came his way to keep the roof over the heads of our expanding little family. My going back to school paid off.
    At least me and my spouse could flip flop the bread winner role as needed.
    OP, it sounds like that is not an option on the table in your relationship.
    Like I said, people are going to want to smack me on this.
    You are happy doing until retirement, a job that doesn’t pay all your bills.
    You want him to get a good paying job and keep it regardless of if he is happy there and be the main bread winner so that you can keep working at the job that doesn’t pay all your bills.

    You have only been married one year.
    You have no children.
    Now is the best time to have this problem and work out a solution or decide if this is a deal breaker.
    Like I said earlier, It is real hard to take to time to do any self examination or planning when you are in panic mode of trying to keep food on the table.

    Old Manager Lady

    1. OP here*

      I can definitely see the double standard you laid out, and don’t disagree with you. I’m confident that with the job I have, I will continue to make more in the coming years (while my actual salary hasn’t increased in about a year and a half, my bi-annual bonuses have increased upwards of 250% each year). I have wonderfully supportive bosses with one who said (via email) ” You’re doing a very good job and becoming more and more valuable. Nothing will make me happier than your income to continue growing, because that means you’re doing well and [my company] is doing well. Those two should events should be mutually occurring.”

      Basically, I want this for my husband, too. I don’t know how I could leave the environment I’m in currently..maybe I’m being selfish.

    2. Are we the same person?*

      I will second this advice, as far as trying to make ends meet so you two can survive off of one income at least temporarily. While my husband was waiting for his immigration status, I had to support us both and that definitely affected my decisions on the apartments we could afford, bills we could take on, and where I shopped (mainly big box stores and dollar stores). It was rough, but we made it. Didn’t do anything fun or eat out much and we’ve never taken a vacation. But we paid all the bills. If you truly can’t both live off your pay and you can’t currently rely on your husband to help out, I strongly suggest taking a hard look at your budget and trimming the fat, so to speak. It’s not easy to live off one salary, but it’s not impossible and it will reduce some of your stress if you at least know you can keep you two afloat.

      1. Linnette Hollman*

        Hi OP,
        It sounds like you and your spouse have a good chance at this marriage thing.
        There has been a lot of good advice passed around.
        I’ll add some suggestions that worked for us.
        1. together set a budget mainly based on your income alone. Then figure out the minimum he needs to bring in from a part time job to keep you afloat. Pizza delivery, security guard, urber driver, dishwasher, swing shift worker, are all jobs that would free up his days for classes, interviews, networking groups, etc.
        2. set a time limits together.
        A time limit how long you think it will take you to get a livable rage at your current job.
        A limit for how long he has to get and keep a full-time job and the amount of money he needs to be making. Hint Hint, your goal should be to each one of you to eventually be able to cover living expenses for your family.
        Also, without a time limit, this becomes the new normal instead of just a phase you two have to work through as a team.
        3. Plan out steps together of what needs to be done. All companies need sales people. Just like a lot of other posters have said, he may be in the wrong industry and just need a class or two from the local JC to switch to the right industry. He may need to network and volunteer to meet the people he needs to meet to get the job he wants. He may need to take time to investigate companies cultures.
        For you, you may need to find out what your boss needs from you to get a raise. What steps you need to take. Even just asking for a raise would generate this information in most cases. As a woman, I will tell you something. A lot of companies would happily tell us we are wonderful and then pay us less then they guy sitting next to us asking us how he should do his job. We are bad at asking for money. We are afraid to negotiate and rocking the boat. Get over it. The grocer isn’t giving you a discount just because your a woman. Employers shouldn’t either. Do the math. Is it cheaper for them to give you the plaque and the bonus than to give you a 20%?
        Make sure you include transportation, birth control and dry cleaning in your budget.
        4. Rules-have some. Each of you need an allowance to spend on whatever you want. It could be as low as 5 bucks a week. But, that 5 bucks will keep you from going budget crazy and blowing a 100$ in one week on junk.
        Whoever works part time, does the majority of house hold chores, shopping errands, etc.
        5. Schedule regular check-ins with each other. You are a team.

        These skills will help you save for a house (living off of one income, while saving a down payment.)
        Prepare for children (childcare is expensive and can take a whole pay check in a two paycheck family. Plus in most cases, maternity leave is not at full pay.)
        Planning for other career changes.
        Unplanned expenses
        I think you get the idea.
        You are a team.
        I wish you the best.

        1. Linnette Hollman*

          Sorry, when I said 20%, I meant 20% raise. I have actually seen this in my life. One person getting all the plaques, employee of the month parking spot, gift cards, bonuses for campaigns, etc. The other guy doing the same job getting more money every paycheck because he negotiated for it. She worked her tail off going above and beyond for every extra cent above her paycheck. He came in and worked hard. Was always in the top 10 producers of a large sales force but still quietly made sometimes the same or more money then her.
          We women need to do better about asking for better pay.

        2. OP here*

          Thank you SO much for your kind words. We are lucky that there are some thing sin our fiscal lives that are good: neither of us has any student debt or loans (count that as *incredibly* lucky), we have local family who have our backs, and we actually are homeowners (almost 2 years this November!) I work in the financial / wealth management world, so trust me when I say what can happen when you don’t budget / save / etc. I recently paid off my (relatively small) credit card debt (less than $4k total) using Dave Ramsey’s debt snowball plan. We are getting somewhere, slowly but surely. Checking in with each other is absolutely crucial.

  51. Adele*

    If you and your husband conclude that sales, for whatever reason, isn’t the right fit, he might consider if a corporate training position would work to his personality strengths and would provide a change from some of the things that did not work for him in previous positions: travel; difficult hours; small, family-owned business; chaotic management (though one can get that in any size business). From what I can see from our in-house HR development classes, the trainers have many of the skills a good salesperson does: outgoing, personable, good communicators.

    While it can be high pressure depending on the organization, your born-salesman husband might also consider working in a university, hospital, or (large, established) non-profit development or donor-relations office. Similar skills, different environment.

  52. Beentheredonethat*

    OP – I have been in your shoes. My husband and I have been together for 16 years and he has had more than 16 jobs. Some for a couple of years, but most a lot less than that. Some of it had to do with the recession and lay-offs, but most were due to “horrible” bosses, bad working conditions, feeling undervalued, etc. and he made every job sound so unbearable that I would finally give in and give him my blessing to just quit and he would, and the cycle would repeat. We cannot live on my salary alone either and he knows this. I finally realized (and told him) that he has unrealistic expectations and that when they don’t pan out, he looks for an exit. I have also told him that he will continue to start over at the bottom and will continue to be frustrated unless he can figure out a way to muddle through, just like everyone else does. I have worked in the same industry for 33 years and have had three employers. I don’t understand his way of thinking BUT I have decided that I cannot fix him. So basically, you need to decide if you can live with this forever. If you can’t, get out now because he will never change. My husband will also probably never be able to retire, but I will. Yes, it’s unfair and yes, it is probably the most frustrating thing you’ll ever deal with, but YOU can’t fix him. He has to decide to fix himself.

  53. J.B.*

    OP – My husband had two jobs in a row that he walked away from, a good job from which he was laid off when things blew up in 2008, a temp job that I made him take which ultimately worked out for a few years, and now the job he’s been in for 6 years or so. It is REALLY HARD to have that kind of disruption in your house. In his case there were a couple of really bad bosses and some behaviors of his own that he needed to work on (and did once bosses gave him real feedback. Although since the feedback was “you’re really defensive” it was def. touchy!)

    There’s a balance between being supportive and pushing your spouse into something. I made him take the temp job 3rd on the list because he was sliding down and needed structure. At the same time he really did have an awful experience with boss from #2 and won’t consider working at the company where boss #2 landed.

    I think that at this point a conversation about – you want to leave, but don’t jump straight into the next thing just because. What is it you want? How can we get there without so much chaos? If he’s going to leave this job, is there some other way he can get income? Can he have a goal of leaving this job by x date and save everything you can until then? If you both want kids save up until you could get by for a while on one income.

  54. Argh!*

    I have a friend who took time off between jobs & his wife is supporting the family while he thought about what to do and eventually started training to start a career in a new field. That might be the recipe for your hubby.

  55. Empty Sky*

    Just speculating here, but does your husband have a tendency toward optimism? Especially when it comes to evaluating new jobs. It’s something I struggle against myself as I tend to get excited about new opportunities and imagining new possibilities, to the point where can I start projecting and miss a lot of the things that are really there, especially the not so positive ones. The employer is generally trying to portray themselves in the most positive light, so it can be quite easy for me to fall into the trap.

    One thing that might help would be to do a debrief session for each of the bad jobs he’s had in the past. Is there a way he could have known what the job was like in advance? Looking at it in hindsight, were there any signs that he missed? Are there questions he could have asked during the interview process that might have allowed him to figure out the real situation? What do third party review sites like Glassdoor say about them? Anybody in his network that might be able to offer inside info?

    Then as part of the interview process, make a point of putting on the black hat and asking all the necessary questions. Maybe he does all this already and has just had bad luck, but if not then I think it could be a useful skill for him to develop (and also a constructive way in which you might be able to help, if you felt so inclined and he was amenable to the idea).

  56. Jaybeetee*

    Yeah, my hunch is that a) he’s taking any job he’s offered out of desperation to get out of the last place, and b) it’s possible he’s just in the wrong industry.

    With this new job…based on what you’re saying in the comments, this one sounds less as if it’s a toxic or terrible environment he needs to get out of, and more that he’s just not catching on as fast as he’d like? In that case, probably the best way forward is to encourage him to stick it out, because that kind of thing does get better.

    A couple people in the comments have already suggested this, but one thing you might want to focus on with him is building up his coping skills so that he can cope with the job and the anxiety isn’t spilling over into everything else. I had years of temping and jumping around, as well as some jobs that were toxic or just really bad fits for me. There were one or two cases where for the sake of my mental health, I did just have to get out of there. But there were other cases where the better approach was for me to learn to “wall it off”, take solace in other aspects of my life, and try not to bring it home with me.

    Assuming this job isn’t a GET OUT NOW situation, encourage your husband to find ways to leave work at work, and encourage him to develop other parts of his life. When you get stuck in a cycle of ruminating and obsessing, your mental health just unravels.

  57. About Vacation*

    Hmm… Well, I can say that it certainly is possible to have a spate of bad luck. That sort of happened to me during the recession from 2009 until 2014 until I finally landed somewhere for 3 years. It was just constant places closing, layoffs, part-time gigs and some horrible bosses. At times I did think it was me. And my husband experienced similar, working at all these small light construction and family run places.
    But I also think some of this is your husband rushing his job search, or aiming at too-small companies. My only suggestion is he stick it out until he can secure a job at a larger company with more structure perhaps.
    And I don’t want to sound sexist, but I think us women will tend to put up with a lot more shit at work then most men do out of fear of losing our jobs. I know I have.

  58. Are we the same person?*

    I’ve been dealing with this with my husband too. He left a job he had been at for five years, then had a string of jobs in the same field that he left within weeks to months. At first I believed that it was the job/bad luck and not him, but after a certain point a person has to accept that most jobs are far from perfect, and if you have a tolerable one you’re better off than most. It felt unfair that I felt stuck in a pretty crappy job myself because I couldn’t rely on him to keep a steady job during that time. Add that to immigration stuff and it was very stressful and I got pretty resentful. Well my husband recently got a new job with a great company, in a new field. His job isn’t great, but there’s potential to move up. He seems to be ok, but when I start hearing the same old talk (complaining that he works harder, others are rude or unfair due to jealousy, etc.) I now stop him and say “You need to work on how YOU are looking at this situation”. I tell him that the “slacker” that’s been there for several years has a reason he’s still employed, and my husband needs to be respectful and mindful of that. I tell him no job is perfect. I think he’s doing better, he seems to be, and I sure as hell hope so! All that to say, maybe your husband should consider a career change? Therapy? Something to change his perspective. Good luck OP!

  59. Cath*

    I went through a similar situation with my spouse. I reached a point where I was done being a cheerleader, done being stressed over money. I basically told him “You need to figure out what you’re doing that this keeps happening.” Once or twice might be bad luck, but the common denominator in all your problems is you, y’know? So we talked about having realistic expectations, not being as aggressive, etc. Sure everyone SAYS they want feedback on how to make the department better, but if they’re not acting on it then they don’t really want to and you’re branding yourself as “difficult.” I think he was taken aback that I wasn’t being comforting and reassuring, but sometimes you just gotta have a “come to Jesus” with people.

  60. Cecilia Y*

    Another option I haven’t seen:

    5) He’s depressed.

    A visit to a career counsellor is a great idea as he may just be in the “wrong” career (for him). But maybe a visit to a therapist might help him see things more realistically. When you’re depressed, everything seems bad and anything can irritate you. How is he regarding other aspects of his life?

  61. TAG*

    I’m in sales and I’m a high performer that struggles to get along with jerky bosses. Finally someone reminded me to think about my interactions with bosses more like I do with clients/prospects. Think about their objectives, their preferences, tailor communications to try to achieve a win-win, and always be “on” when interacting with them. It’s kind of exhausting but effective.
    This might help your husband endure a bad boss for long enough.
    Also, I’ve been drying to see a sales specific thread so I can’t wait to read all of these comments.

  62. eemusings*

    This hits SO close to home for me. Mine has been through a couple layoffs, a few temp jobs, a couple of truly toxic jobs, he just has a very spotty history and always got bored/annoyed a few months into any job and I think bought too much into our generations kool aid of Do What You Love (despite not really having a clear passion to follow…)

    I think the main difference in our case was, I progressed in my career by moving jobs and increased my income over time, which led to him kind of … coasting even more, and a lack of urgency in his most recent stint of unemployment. (That was when I walked away and set an ultimatum. Because no way could I buy a house or could we start a family if he didn’t get his act together. House – not something he cared about but kids, he’s wanted forever)

    Since then I would say he’s done a bit of reflecting and realised the role he played in the issues he faced – there were definitely ways he self sabotaged/could have done better but that was a realisation he had to come to on his own and I’m not sure he could have gotten to the stage where he could admit that any earlier, sadly. Yes he had a lot of bad luck (SO done with dysfunctional small companies esp without HR….) but also poor personal EQ, chafing at authority etc did him no favours at work. I think he also finally grew up a bit and accepted that work is work and you have to suck up and deal with a lot of things you don’t like day to day. Seems basic but ‍♂️. A mindset shift was needed.

    He’s recently ventured into self employment and despite the challenges it seems to have made a world of difference, so far. Again I think the reality is bit more than he bargained for but the autonomy is a big big thing for him. I think the one takeaway is You Cannot Fix This For Him. I definitely learned that while he worked for employers and I’m doing my best to maintain that now and not fall back into that trap now that we have a business (which yes I have input into but it is not Mine To Run as I have a FT job and am busy growing a human).

  63. Kate*

    Is it possible that some of this comes down to your husband not “managing up”? Like some bosses truly suck and there’s no helping them. But there are some who aren’t always great communicators, or full of empathy, or problem-solvers, or understanding about their underlings’ job duties. Those bosses can often be managed!

    Say the boss says, “I want this done by end of day today” and you’re the underling who knows that deadline is kind of impossible. You can either be the person who half-asses it, the person who stays super late to finish it, or the person who says to your boss, “I want to be able to tell you that I can get it turned around by then, but I think that in order to do as thorough a job as this project requires, it would take me till about noon tomorrow. Would that be okay?” The first person gets himself fired/laid off, the second burns out, and the third has a fighting chance at sticking out the job long-term.

    Since OP’s husband is often in a position of taking jobs out of desperation, or maybe feeling insecure about his job-hopping past, he probably is person #1 or person #2 more often than person #3, because rocking the boat with even a reasonable request can be scary when you’re nervous about surviving without the gig. It becomes this weird, self-fulfilling prophecy if you can’t communicate with your boss and go to work feeling stressed every day that you end up failing in the job, even if you’re an otherwise capable person. Self-sabotage as mentioned in other comments.

    Anyway, that’s my two cents. I might suggest a career coach for OP’s husband or even a therapist so he can work through whatever residual baggage he has from the past professional missteps.

    1. OldJules*

      Thanks for the perspective. I really appreciate you sharing the 3 types of people and I typically didn’t even think about option #3.

  64. The Other Katie*

    Possibility #4: He’s ill-suited to sales jobs at all, and should consider looking for some other kind of work. Sales jobs aren’t for everyone, and if you’re not a salesperson it’s a special kind of hell to try and work in a sales job. (I speak from experience.) Maybe he should consider looking for a different kind of job altogether.

  65. Didi*

    I know a few people with similar work histories. It’s ALWAYS about them. No matter where they go, their bosses are idiots, their coworkers are lazy, their IT and facilities suck, on and on. The job-hopping eventually bites them in the butt.

  66. Gloucesterina*

    In addition to the great advice about locating a more experienced mentor, I would also highlight peer mentoring as something potentially valuable to pursue That is, a mentor doesn’t have to be someone who has more background in a field than the “mentee,” they could be more like a same-level fellow person who just offers another perspective and is good at making sense of their experiences. In my field of training, a fairly dramatic amount of upheaval is the norm–it’s super common for people to have a series of short-term jobs before being considered for longer-term positions, and all those jobs often require moving house from year to year, loads of job applications, etc. So we lean a lot on our peers going through the same or similar (or different, for that matter) experiences to process all the questions you’d expect given our employment landscape–do I want to keep doing this? Is this the right job for me to take? Do I want to take my work in a different direction? What would that look like? Asking and answering these types of questions is a skill that requires practice just like anything else.

    It could also be good if the network extends to people who are no longer in field X, and to be able hear about why and how they made that shift, whether or not that’s ultimately right for the mentee.

    Best of luck to OP and family!

  67. Lady Bird*

    OP, I just want to say you are not alone and I have asked myself the same questions. I too feel like I’m always waiting for the other shoe to drop, and it’s not a nice feeling. So far my husband and I have been able to handle the ups and downs of his job situation in our marriage, but I’m realistic enough to know that could change, so I have made sure that financially I will be all right regardless. In addition to our joint stuff I also have my own retirement and bank accounts — it gives me some peace of mind. Good luck.

  68. mousemousemouse*

    Can I just say how much I hate the fact that it’s almost a requirement to stick it out in a job that you’re miserable in just so you’re more “hire-able” in the future? I spend the majority of my waking hours at a job I am absolutely miserable in, but I’ve already job hopped a couple of times (1 year or less at a place) and know that if I move again it’ll make it even harder for me to get a different job in the future. I am so so so miserable here to the point that “toughing it out” is unbearable to even consider, even though I know it’s what everyone would advise me to do. I guess I don’t have the right frame of mind that everyone else seems to have when it comes to this, but I hate the idea that I have to essentially punish myself for a couple of years just so I may be able to move on to something slightly more bearable in the future

    1. Thlayli*

      you can still keep looking, it’s just likely it will take you a while to find something.

  69. chickaletta*

    I can see there’s already advice about whether he’s in the right industry, so I’ll skip that.

    My ex-husband was always changing jobs too. I felt the same way as you – how would we ever settle down and feel comfortable? We moved to three states in the first four years of our marriage due to his job changes, so I was forced to change jobs too. Sometimes I was fine with it, but a couple times I was really sad to leave my job. And obviously, it affected my resume too – having to explain all that moving around.

    We took a leap of faith and had a baby during this period, I was a few years north of thirty and felt like the time would never be perfect so we just went for it.

    My ex-husband also dealt with a lot of travel and mental issues during this time. It was not fun for either one of us.

    We finally settled back in our hometown and I helped him rewrite his resume, his cover letter (thanks to a lot of advice on this site), and he finally got a job he really liked.

    You probably noticed I’ve been referring to him as my ex. We got divorced about a year after he got that job. It had been going badly for us for years, but him having that job gave me the peace of mind that he would be OKish.

    Good luck. Support him and get him where he needs to be. This kind of thing can take its toll on a relationship. I know. And take care of yourself too. :) Hang in there.

  70. NeedClarity*

    My husband has had a stable job for many years. I on the other hand feel that the last 2 years have been spotty. I quit and left my full-time job in 2016 due to a change in mgmt where I ended up with the worst narcissist manager. Since then, I have had 3 6-month consulting gigs. Opportunities were great. Last one, I was promised to be converted to a FT employee. Sadly, it never materialized. So, I decided to take a long hard look at what I wanted to do. After some soul-searching, I have put my energy in finding the right job for me and not jump into something, because I am desparate. I think that’s the main reason why I ended up with consulting gigs going no where. I needed a job and money. So, now, I have been interviewing heavily, been close to a couple. There are ups and downs, but it’s nice to have support from my husband. Personally, it does hurt when he doesn’t understand why I can’t just take any job, because I have been offered contracting and consulting gigs. Now, I am almost close. I have more interviews for full-time roles and have submitted more resumes. Why it’s taken me a long time to land a job, I want a long-term full-time job not short-term contracts or consulting. Plus, AAM and other readers have helped me recognize red flags in a bad boss and bad environment. I will keep you all posted. I am waiting to hear from two companies where my onsite interview was successful.

    So, OP and others, please be patient with your spouses, a good support like “your almost there” will go a long way. A hug would be great, too.

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