I’m really uncomfortable with my husband’s work set-up — and how it could affect us both

A reader writes:

For many years, my husband has been working at a job where his direct boss is his childhood best friend. This is dysfunctional in the extreme for a lot of reasons, including but not limited to screaming matches, work calls at all hours, and the expectation my husband does work-work but also helps his boss move, put together furniture, walk his dog, pick up his food, and cover for him when he’s MIA.

I’ve come to accept that I can’t change this dynamic. My husband doesn’t see it as abnormal and enjoys the “perks” of this situation.

However, the “perks” are also destructive and creeping into our marriage and any sense of normal work conventions. He has a flexible start time that he abuses, going in as late as possible every day. Sometimes, he sleeps through or turns off his alarm and then his boss has to call to find out where he is. He doesn’t have a dress code and refuses to wear anything other than jeans, sneakers, and t-shirts. He stays at work well past when his shift is over multiple times a week because he spends so much time during the day goofing off with his boss (who then yells at him for being slow). He never gets performance reviews so assumes he’s doing great. But his boss screams at him on the regular at work and over the phone while he’s home, and he’s never had a raise beyond cost of living.

He has no concept of workplace norms or acceptable behavior. These “perks” prevent him from even considering work elsewhere. I know I have no sway with his boss and can only keep out of it as far as he’s concerned. But regarding my husband, I’m tired of having to ask him in the morning if he’s going to work today. I’m tired of trying to explain that there’s a whole world of professional clothing that isn’t a suit. I’m tired of the fear that the next straw will be the last and he’ll get fired. I’m tired of trying to explain that no other employer would put up with any of this.

I guess what I’m asking is, how do I get him to understand that this situation is so far outside the range of normal and will eventually blow up, impacting both of us? His boss is abusive and takes advantage of him. But he takes advantage of the friendship he has with his boss by going in late and wearing whatever and turning in things late. Despite being very good at what he does, if my husband’s boss died tomorrow, my husband would probably be let go and he would have difficulty finding another professional position in the same field with no advancement to show. And if he ever did work elsewhere, I think he would have a difficult time adjusting to standard workplace rules, because this situation is all he’s ever known. If for whatever reason, he loses this job, he and by extension we will be screwed because we can’t live on a single income.

If this information helps, we’re both in our late 30s. I’ve had professional positions in two different fields after college, but other than retail, this is the only job he’s ever had.

I can see why you’re aggravated and concerned.

I think it’ll help to divide all the issues here into two separate buckets: (1) things that are aggravating but ultimately don’t affect you, and (2) things that affect you or could affect you in the future.

Things that are aggravating but doesn’t sound like they really affect you:
* the expectation that your husband will help your boss with non-work projects like moving or walking his dog
* your husband’s start time/lateness
* what he wears to work
* how much time he goofs off during the day

Things that affect you or could affect you in the future:
* screaming matches that you’re stuck overhearing
* work calls at all hours
* calls that you have to answer from his boss to find out where he is
* his ability to get other work at whatever point that’s needed
* his work ethic — that’s to some extent his call, but it’s very much your business if it means you’re constantly worried about him getting fired

Things that I’m not sure how to categorize:
* unexpectedly long hours caused by goofing off — maybe not your business, but it could be if those last-minute late hours impact your plans
* no raises in years — potentially your business if it means more financial burden falls on you than it should

Let go of everything in that first bucket right away. That stuff is his business, to handle as he sees fit. (That said, it’s certainly true that his decisions in some of those areas could affect your respect for him, and if there’s a danger of that, it’s worth trying to understand his perspective better before that happens.)

The other bucket though … that’s stuff you can and should talk about.

It’s reasonable to say that you don’t want to be woken up by late-night work calls. (Then, ideally you’d let him decide how to handle that — whether it’s muting his phone or telling his boss not to call after 10 pm or whatever.) It’s reasonable to say that you’re not up for answering calls from his boss looking for him in the morning, and to stop doing that. It’s reasonable to say you’re unhappy about him canceling plans at the last minute when it could have been avoided (if in fact that’s the case). You have standing to speak up on all that.

The bigger, and harder, thing here is your worry about his ability to pull his weight financially in the long-term. Have you two ever talked about that openly? If not, I’d start there. Tell him what you’re worried about and why, and see what he says. It’s possible that some of your assumptions here are wrong (like that he’d have trouble finding another job in this field, or that he’d have trouble adjusting if he did) and he’ll have a perspective on those things that’s reassuring to hear. But if his answer is “yeah, those things are true but I like this set-up well enough that I’m willing to take that risk,” then you’ve got to move into a conversation about how you each see the role of work and financial contributions and long-term planning and risk in your marriage, and what is and isn’t reasonable to ask the other person to be okay with — and beyond that, what each of you really is okay with.

Ideally after you talk it through you’ll find there’s room for compromise in here — like you might end up deciding that this isn’t the work set-up you’d ideally want in a partner, but he’s happy with it and you can deal with it as long as he’s doing more to network in his field or asks for a raise or socks away more money (or who knows what). I’d love to be able to write “or he hears your concerns, recognizes there’s cause to be freaked out, and agrees to start looking at other professional paths” … but the truth is that might not be a very likely outcome. But opening the conversation will help you figure out what outcomes are even possible, and then you can decide how you feel about those options.

If you’ve already had that conversation and nothing has changed, then the bigger issue is: Why is he blowing off your very real concerns? Does he think you’re wrong? Is he bad at dealing with hard situations? Does he feel stuck, like he won’t be able to find another job that pays as much as this one? Or is he just prioritizing his current situation, which he likes, over your very understandable discomfort with what the future might hold?

Ideally you have some decisions to make together, if he’s willing to listen in good faith. (If that’s not happening: couples counseling, because at that point it’s not really about his job.)

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 438 comments… read them below }

  1. Emi.*

    I would go to couples counseling now if you can swing it, because it sounds like you’ve had some version of the same conversation over and over again, and external guidance can help you get out of that rut.

      1. MommyMD*

        I think this is more a Carolyn Hax question. Less about work and the real problem is the personal dynamic. Husband just doesn’t care about the toll it’s taking and doesn’t see the total dysfunction. It’s going to take a third party to open his eyes, if there’s any hope.

        1. AnnaBananna*

          I don’t think we should assume he doesn’t care. I think it’s more likely that he doesn’t know how to change, is scared of change or is unwiling to change. I’ve married this person and been this person myself. It’s kind of a way to bury yourself away from anxiety as much as possible. Why change at all if this works for him?

          I do agree that strict boundaries need to be put into place so the LW isn’t hit with the shrapnel of his decisions. Frankly I’m not sure it’s even worth going to couple’s counseling – I think it more likely that he needs counseling all by himself. There are patterns here that have been here for a while. If he’s codependant on his best friend, how likely is a therapist and his spouse to to crack off his barnacle-like dependance?

          It’s going to be a rough road for the LW either way.

    1. CountryLass*

      Definitely. To my mind this also impacts on what sort of life ‘partner’ this man-child is going to be. Can he not see that this will cause very large, very real issues if they start a family together?
      Is he just expecting that OP will be there to pick up the pieces of whatever fall-out there is when this unsustainable work situation implodes?
      I would be having to think long and hard about if this is how I wanted to live my life. In the same way as a relationship with an alcoholic unfairly impacts the partner, she will have to recognise that it is extremely likely that one day this will blow up in her husbands face, and she will be the one who has to try to pull them out of the mess he created, as she is right that it will be very hard for him to find, and keep, another job with these habits.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Yeah, I’m 100% agreed on this. Does this devil-may-care attitude toward his work really not spill over into any other areas of his life?

        1. MommyMD*

          It has to spill over into personal life. And Boss is wrong for screaming but he’s probably fed up as he ll. I think this guy’s job is hanging by a string.

          1. GreenDoor*

            This makes me wonder if the boss is out there typing a letter to AAM along the lines of “He’s my best friend but he takes advantage of me. How do I fire him and still keep the friendship?”

            And maybe that’s an angle for OP to explore. If he really cares about Boss as a friend, imagine what kind of position he’s putting his friend in. How often does friend/boss have to cover for him with other bosses or clients? Does his friend/boss view these perks as perks…or is he feeling taken advantage of? Has husband thought about the extent to which friend/boss will fear for his own job security and cut her husband loose to save himself? What matters more – the friendship or the “perks” he’s getting?

            I suggest this because in my own extended family it’s a weird thing where we married folks tend to blow off our spouses concern as “nagging” or “complaining” or “bringing that up again” but when the same situation is framed from a different perspective – like the effect on a personal friendship – all of a sudden we see the light.

      2. Busy*

        Even to dovetail on this dovetail lol, if I worked with OP’s husband, I would never EVER network with him. Ever. I would never ever encourage his employment where I work, and if he is as bad as she says while at work (poor behavior, chummy with boss, lateness), I would ACTIVELY discourage anyone I know from hiring him.

        In other words, he is not networkable right now. His peers are likely counting the days him and his boss are fired (assuming no one else has this same relationship with boss).

        I used to report to a manager here who moved his best friend underneath him into a management role friend knows nothing about (he wasn’t very good at the other role he was in either, but that is another story). Everyone now hates this guy – and while he is quiet and even seems nice enough – him not responding to emails, showing up to meetings, assisting other department managers, showing up on time to work, or controlling the (poor) behavior of his department. And since he knows so little about this type of work in general, he can’t even effectively tell the people who report to him HOW they are tanking customer relationships or even understand HOW he should. I would never ever ever ever recommend this guy. Ever. And he isn’t even having screaming matches with his best friend/boss. But his boss and others think he is AWESOME (he is not haha at all – and I am about to hand him that wake-up call.)

        Just something I would keep in the back of my mind if I were the OP.

        1. Sloan Kittering*

          I’m wondering if some of the comments are coming from more traditional professional backgrounds (like working at a bank or a lawfirm) versus startups / small businesses? It doesn’t seem as weird to me that this dynamic could in fact be fairly sustainable if they’re basically self-employed. Sure, they could be better positioned if they were more professional, but depending on the field they also may be able to make a decent income for as long as they want to do this? Am I nuts? I am perhaps from a more blue collar background, as I knew many folks who were small shop mechanics / handymen / screen printing business that seemed to roll along over the years, never wildly successful but never flaming out.

          1. Lance*

            That all depends on how he handles himself… and if he thinks that yelling at anyone in any sort of work environment is acceptable, I wouldn’t particularly count on him getting far. That, personally, is the thing sticking out the most.

            1. Sloan Kittering*

              For myself in my own white collar career I completely agree, but I know many places (restaurants, construction) where it seems relatively common. Never *good* IMO, but not a harbinger of disaster either.

              1. JSPA*

                My reaction was, “oh, yeah, another of these. They’ll likely as not still be doing the dysfunctional abbott and costello / beavis and butthead routine in 20 years.”

                That presumes LW is not hiding from signs that spouse is a people-user, and friend is being used (and is angry and boundary-crossing primarily because he’s tired of being used). But if they in fact both happily operate on a 4-going-on-14-going-on-40 level, that’s a marriage counseling issue, not a work issue. As in, if it’s working for the spouse, then the question devolves to, “my husband is not as future-employable as I want him to be.” And…that’s not a work problem. That’s an, “I love(ed) you, now change” problem.

                I also note here the lovely guidelines that Captain Awkward has instituted for her column:

                If your question maps out as “I am a ladyperson of some ilk, asking a question about how a man in my life can best handle his interactions with [his family][his friendships and social connections][his coworkers][his mental health/feelings][his ability to set boundaries with others]” = “He” should probably ask me himself. It’s not that I don’t have sympathy (I have SO MUCH), it’s because in my experience, it’s extremely likely that at least 50% of the problem is that he’s outsourcing this whole deal to you, which leaves us stuck playing guessing games without understanding how he frames and views the problem, and leaves you with the work of convincing and informing him. Since 2019’s plan is Do Less Work, let’s let the person who needs to do the work do the work of typing up the story and the question.

              2. Louisa*

                Yup. I had a former friend who worked in steel, and he told me it was perfectly normal for two of the guys to go out the back of the factory and have a fight (as in throwing punches, not words). Not only that, but the floor manager would openly encourage this as a way of resolving bickering in order to avoid tensions in the potentially dangerous workspace, ie”don’t come back til you’ve got this out of your system”. He framed this as a class/gender difference. I have misgivings about that, but that’s a topic for another time.

            2. Cobol*

              I’ve noticed people’s interpretation of yelling is really all over the map. A lot of times it doesn’t even mean raising voices, just harsh talk. If that’s what OP is talking about husband’s behavior isn’t necessarily unacceptable.

              1. Cobol*

                FYI OP answers this below that it is definitely screaming (and that it affects their husband)

            3. I hate coming up with usernames*

              I don’t know about that, sadly. My father in law spent twenty years screaming at his employees, somehow without tanking the business. (One particularly bad day my husband – yeah, family business, ugh – quit on the spot and walked out. Which turned out to be what it took to change the behavior.)

          2. AKchic*

            That’s what I’m thinking, too. I could 100% see this set-up in a construction or landscaping industry. Especially if one is the “office / marketing / digital” person while the other one is the “financial / face / hands-on” person. Both do their respective things, and they hire people to do the labor (who actually are punctual and professional), but otherwise… the office is generally a mess, but as long as the assigned person can find what they’re looking for, nobody really pushes too hard because they don’t want to be the one to clean it up. (I’ve been that person who’s had to come in and clean it up, it’s not exactly fun, but it can be done, and doesn’t cost as much as you’d think)

          3. Quill*

            My first job in a salaried startup style role came with irregularly scheduled screaming matches and let me tell you, NO PLACE like that is functional long term, and the resulting anxiety will mess up your performance at the next job / your job search after you get fired for finally refusing to do a favor on a Saturday.

          4. Myers-Briggs fan*

            The only “problem” with this setup is that LW’s husband seems to be an extreme “P” (perceiver) on the Myers-Briggs scale, whereas LW is a “J” (judger). This site dwells a lot on the extrovert-introvert dichotomy, but the other personality variables are important, too. Sometimes a lot more important. And this is one of those times.

            “Judgers” tend to be methodical, organized, punctual (often early-birds), into planning, and so on. “Perceivers” tend to be more casual, spontaneous, free-wheeling, care less about time, etc. It seems to be an article of faith that Myers-Briggs variables are descriptive — we shouldn’t assign normative value judgments to them. (Put differently, we don’t equate “extrovert” with “good,” so we should equate “judger” with “good,” either.)

            That rule may oversimplify things, of course. An extrovert is probably going to do better than an introvert in a sales role that involves a lot of one-on-one customer contact. And if you believe “proper planning prevents piss poor results,” your organization may run more efficiently with an army of judgers. (Emphasize “may.” A lot of great entrepreneurs are perceivers. Take David Neelman, founder of JetBlue Airways, who attributes his success to ADD.)

            So some businesses get structured in a way that Ps can thrive.

            Here, husband has found a job that is able to accommodate his extreme perceiver traits. And LW doesn’t like that. That’s the fundamental clash here. The absolute worst thing LW could do would be to try to “change” her husband into a judger who dresses to the nines, rises and shines at 6am, and comes home at 5pm sharp. That’s not a role he’ll excel in. If she has a problem with that, it’s a *relationship* problem, not a work problem.

            I’ve never actually done much research into whether Myers-Briggs opposites attract or repel each other when it comes to relationships. It may be that LW has a fundamental relationship problem, and that if punctuality, dapper dress, and so on are that important to her, she should have married a fellow judger. (You do see this a lot between partners when one partner says the other is a slob who leaves dirty dishes undone. The other partner doesn’t care, not because she wants to irk her spouse, but because she doesn’t see dirty dishes as a problem. The neater partner always ends up doing more cleaning, or the relationship Faces Problems.)

            Would I love the fact that the company seems to be stingy with raises? No, but if otherwise the working conditions suit the husband well, so what? Plenty of people accept a trade off between salary and working conditions. I like what someone wrote above: LW should ask whether this situation would be acceptable to her in one year and five years. If not, a re-think of this marriage might be in order. (I’ll add the caveat that I am not a psychologist; I’m a business academic that studies the impact of personality on organizational behavior.)

            1. Devil Fish*

              1) The Myers-Briggs is pseudoscientific nonsense (at best) and shouldn’t be given any more serious consideration than the results of a Cosmo quiz. It’s gross and lazy to categorize people based on personality type or horoscope or whatever else instead of evaluating them by their actions.

              2) You’re attempting to personality-type 2 people based on a letter written by one of those people. That’s not how the Myers-Briggs works: even if it was valid in any way, this isn’t how it works.

                1. Michaela Westen*

                  You removed my defense of Myers-Briggs. I don’t think it’s fair that comments insulting a system that has been helpful are allowed to stand here without debate.

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  There’s a pro and a con and I’m stopping it there. I’m not interested in allowing more off-topic comments in the interest of “balance” when it’s off-topic to begin with.

          5. Devil Fish*

            “I’m wondering if some of the comments are coming from more traditional professional backgrounds (like working at a bank or a lawfirm) versus startups / small businesses?”

            Probably? It struck me as odd that LW mentioned the jeans and t wardrobe along with all the other blatantly unprofessional behavior but didn’t say what the industry is or give any indication that what her husband is wearing is inappropriate for the office, other than it being casual dress.

            I’ve worked at offices where the dynamic mentioned was common and a lot of the time at least half the employees were wearing their pajamas to work (non-client facing of course). Management hated it but they hated being understaffed more and the only “perk” they were offering was “roll straight out of bed and show up if that’s what it takes to get you here I guess wtf.”

            1. yala*

              Yeah, that part seems to be a little Fool Eating Crackers. If it’s accepted at his office culture to wear a t-shirt and jeans, then it’s kind of odd for LW to stress about him not wanting to dress business casual.

              Now, if that’s not the case and he’s just “getting away with it” well, then, that’s different.

          6. Busy*

            I come from blue collar. I work in a blue collar type job, and I have worked with suppliers who were small. A lot of people I know personally are like this as well. And yes, it is more common, but again I will reiterate – any of them who behave this way? I would NOT recommend them anywhere ever. At all. End of story.

            Lets also not forget that literal funds have been made to help women in these environments fight backa against sexual harassment – so what is “normal” or has “always worked” doesn’t always mean its right or that you continue to let this behavior slide.

            1. JSPA*

              That’s a problematic comparison.

              Dress only matters in that we’ve invested certain clothing with the tag of “professionalism,” and other clothing, not (and the details change hugely over time).

              We sometimes use “ability to recognize and respect professional norms regarding dress” as a proxy for “respectful behavior towards others and the ability to internalize other, deeper professional norms,” but that’s frankly lazy; predators can and often do choose to dress very well and present an impeccable image.

              I worry more that the spouse’s primary interest at work (as presented by the LW) is “getting away with things.” Either that doesn’t speak well of their actual moral compass, or else it’s LW who is not distinguishing between “flexibility plus give-and-take” vs “getting away with things.” If spouse wants to work in an informal setting with great flexibility, that’s not necessarily immoral nor bad nor something that runs contrary to getting a future job. If spouse wants others to always have to take up their slack…that’s a bigger problem than this one job.

              Ditto if LW always comes second in any planning at any time of day and any day of the week (which, reading between the lines, is pretty central to the complaint). Nobody likes to play distant third wheel to their spouse’s best buddy, nor to their workplace, and certainly not to those two things combined. But short of going back in time and not marrying the guy–there’s no easy answer to this one. “He’s happy with a life I hate, and comfortable with a future that scares me” is a pretty deep bit of incompatibility, no matter how many other things have brought them together.

              1. Former Hotel Worker*

                Re “getting away with things”: if spouse has been on the receiving end of frequent yelling and personal insults, he may well have pretty poor self esteem and think he’s no good at his job. Or he may be performing badly at his job as a result of the environment. Either way, it’s possible that he has now thinks he NEEDS to be in a workplace that lets him “get away with things” (ie this one) because he wouldn’t survive in a different one. (This is a similar psychological game to that which is played by abusers to get victims to stay because they think they don’t deserve better.) It’s a very debilitating mindset, and unfortunately very difficult to disprove until a person is ready or forced to make the move.

          7. MsMaryMary*

            I was wondering more size of the business and how high up in the hierarchy the boss is. If the boss is fairly senior or a rainmaker in some way, no one will care about his management style or his staff as long as his results are good. I don’t think it would matter if boss and husband are selling insurance, making craft beer, or putting in landscape.

          8. AnnaBananna*

            I’ve also seen this in academia, which is another gray field that puts up with a lot in order to foster ‘progress’.

          9. TardyTardis*

            This is true. I knew a tree trimmer who never sent out invoices for his work till his wife got mad at him for not having any money (handwritten ones, too!).

      3. GreyjoyGardens*

        You said exactly what I was thinking. Alison and the readers talk about bad habits learned from a toxic job spilling over into future work situations – all of the habits LW’s husband is learning on this job are bound to carry over if he finds another one. And of course it’s going to affect their marriage – how could it not?

        Couples counseling, stat and ASAP.

      4. Persephone Mulberry*

        Can he not see that this will cause very large, very real issues if they start a family together?

        They are already a family, and IMO it sounds like this is already causing very large, very real issues.

        1. AKchic*

          This. Very much this. Children do not magically create a family. Living in the same household and living as a family is what creates a family. We really need to stop this narrative that the only kind of family out there is the one where you bring kids into it.

          1. Clorinda*

            Kids raise the stakes, though, no matter how those kids enter a family. Other things that raise the stakes: major shared financial commitments, such as mortgages and other debts. Also: One partner becoming dependent on the other, such as for example by losing his job and being unemployable.

      5. Anon 4 Aug 6*

        I had to pull my family out of a mess that my husband’s devil-may-care attitude around money and responsibility caused and it was not pleasant or easy, so I also suggest couple’s counseling if that is an option.

        It took me six years and a lot of money to fix the problem he caused. Couple’s counseling saved our marriage but he does not get to handle our money. He gets an “allowance” and if he runs out before payday, he has to figure out how to swing it.

        1. pancakes*

          I can’t get my head around the idea of treating someone that way / seeing a need to treat them that way and simultaneously being attracted to them. It sounds more like a parent/child relationship than a romantic relationship.

      6. Artemesia*

        The lack of raises is a giant red flag here. Over time, he is less and less able to contribute to their long term success and security. Sometimes you make that sacrifice e.g. the partner is a social worker or teacher and knowing that there will never be much money is balanced by your respect for the work they do. But I’d have a lot of trouble facing a less secure future in order for my husband to goof off, sleep in and fail to do what is necessary to advance in his profession. Contempt is the death of love. There is a huge risk here, perhaps already attained, of contempt overtaking anything good in the relationship. I could not stay married to someone I had no respect for and it is hard to respect this.

        1. Sarah N.*

          I think this is an important point. It’s one thing if your spouse’s earning power is limited by their entire FIELD — like, no one is becoming a millionaire through working as an elementary school teacher. It’s different if your partner is limited in earnings solely through thier own lack of work ethic.

        2. AnotherAlison*

          + another.

          While my sister’s husband doesn’t work for a buddy, this whole post reminded me of them and has me fired up more than I should be. She works 2 professional jobs (1 in claims for an insurance company, and then PRN as an RN). He has had a series of jobs and is currently unemployed and “going back to school.” He’s 34 and taking gen eds at the community college with no actual plan for a career path. I know it’s not my business, and if she has respect for him, fine, but I am biting my tongue on a lot of opinions all the time. I think someday she will wake up and be as angry as the OP.

        3. Parenthetically*

          Straight. Up.

          My husband works full time while I stay home with our kids and earn a little money tutoring. He AGONIZES about the fact that he’s not making a ton of money AND not really able to move up in his current company, but we’ve decided it’s best for him to stay for now. If he were in the same position but also screwing around and being cavalier about job security I would be LIVID.

          Counseling has to be priority 1.

        4. Kt*

          Agree. I am right now leaving a job where I realized I’d never get more than cost of living raises… And it *is* in education, in a field my spouse and I both respect. But I felt like I was being left behind, treated poorly at work by the administration, and stymied in professional development in other ways, and I don’t want to see that contempt from my spouse (when he figures out how little progress I’ve made) or myself. So I’m switching fields. For me it’s about a different kind of self respect.

        5. Kiki*

          Yes, a million times yes to “contempt is the death of love.” It also sounds like the LW is kind of getting to “bitch eating crackers” territory with their husband and his job. A lot of LW’s criticisms are completely valid, but a few of them are definitely the sort of thing that are only bothersome because the LW is rightfully mad about other things (LW being bothered by their husband’s casual wardrobe is one BEC thing that jumped out at me). Couple’s counseling AND individual therapy sound necessary.

        6. JSPA*

          That said, we mostly don’t judge people who, for work-life balance, decide to work part time, or take a lower stress job, or stay home with their kids, or whatever. LW seems pretty clear on the fact that spouse is happily employed, by his own criteria. I want to make sure we don’t start making gendered assumptions here.

          Also, here’s one way this letter could be written, by the person in the job. I’m making it gender neutral. Picture it at many ways as you can:

          “I’ve spent years in a job working for and with an old friend. There’s nothing we can’t say to each other–and we do. It’s loud, boisterous, and because we’re both the sort of people who take a long time to get started and get down to business, we often end up working late for hours together, without minding. We also call each other outside of work, and hang out and help each other out on weekends. I have terrible problems working “normal hours,” so even without great pay or advancement opportunities, this is, maybe in a strange way, my dream job. The problem is, my spouse cares more about keeping a certain standard of living and setting aside a greater nest egg than I do. I get some pressure from work, and then a lot more pressure from home, about work. Do I have to give up a job where I feel understood and my quirks accommodated to make the money my spouse wants, and be the sort of professional they want me to be? This has been presented to me as “time to grow up.” But we don’t all grow up the same way. It’s not like I’ve never considered approaching life and work differently–I have–but is it so wrong to have found my niche?”

          1. Mari M*

            And I would ask that OP, “Have you sat down and discussed this with your spouse?”

            Buddy sounds more important than spouse in this scenario — and more compatible with OP. Not good.

            1. Joe Blogs*

              “Have I discussed it with my spouse? Whenever I try, she nags me about getting up early, not wearing jeans, and to get a new job.”

          2. Avasarala*

            I appreciate the concern for gender bias–we don’t want to unduly pressure OP’s spouse for wanting to take a professional step back because he is male–but your letter removes or glosses over the problems from the letter, namely the screaming matches outside of work hours, the fact that his boss has to call him to find out where he is. We would give very different advice to your LW because it’s describing a different situation. We can only go based off the details that the LW provides, and removing or recharacterizing those will of course impact our impression of the situation.

      7. Mama Bear*

        I had a job where things were loose and to an extent it was fine, but when the peons were constantly having to deal with the manager not being on a client call (or being late), it affected everyone. Who wants to extend a contract to a company that is so unprofessional? It was one of my reasons for leaving.

        I also suggest that the LW inquire about any other issues that might need to be addressed – has he been evaluated for ADHD? Does he have a history of depression? If so, is he getting properly treated? It may be that he managed OK before but needs to consider new therapies now. This letter reminds me of my grandparents – he was Jack of All Trades, master of none. The family kept afloat because my grandmother worked, even when that wasn’t common for women. As an adult I wonder if there was untreated ADHD at play in his inability to keep a job. The chaotic nature of the LW’s husband’s job may actually play into some need for excitement and he may get an adrenaline rush out of these intense interactions with his boss. Doesn’t mean it’s healthy, though, for anybody. I wonder if he’s an adrenaline junkie in any other aspect of his life.

        LW and her spouse are also in their 30s, so well old enough to have and discuss retirement planning. Is he taking the same attitude about their retired futures? If so, LW has a much bigger problem than this job and this boss.

        I agree that counseling may be necessary. If he won’t go, she should go on her own.

        1. AKchic*

          Oof. All of that.
          I know we say “don’t diagnose”, but you aren’t. You’re giving good suggestions here with great practical examples. Many of us elder Millennials and Gen Xers are undiagnosed ADD / ADHD because, as my grandmother so adroitly phrased it, “we didn’t have those kinds of problems back then.”
          Oh yes we did. We just didn’t have a name for the problems other than “your kid needs a good swat to the behind!” Now we are learning to do and be better than our parents and grandparents.

          1. Liz*

            i agree and relate to this so much! I can remember kids back in school who were labeled as troublemakers because they couldn’t sit still, listen, were constantly acting up, and getting into trouble. More than likely, it was ADD/ADHD or some type of learning disability or whatever, but you didn’t talk about it or bring it up, and there weren’t the resources we have today. I personally have to wonder if I have ADD/ADHD to some degree, because of some of my difficulties as a child, and even now, as a 50-something adult who’s been in the workforce for the better part of 30 years.

          2. Dancing Otter*

            Don’t stop with Gen X. Children in the 1960s were being diagnosed in the schools, and their parents refused to believe there was anything wrong with their little darlings.
            I babysat for one of my mother’s fellow teachers circa 1969. The mother knew good and well (The whole school knew.) that her son had ADHD, and wasn’t being medicated for it. When I arrived to babysit, the father told me to “take a belt to” the child if necessary.
            So it wasn’t that children weren’t being diagnosed earlier. Nor do I think that attitude among some parents has completely disappeared, even now.

        2. Double A*

          So, my husband has ADHD and depression, diagnosed and treated. And it because of those issues that he NEEDS a non-traditional job. Frankly, this set up sounds like something adjacent to what would work for him. A diagnosis and treatment doesn’t mean you’ll suddenly be a square peg, it’s just that you understand you’re a round peg and have different needs.

          That being said, my husband is the boss and worked with his best friend in a small machine shop, and his friend does have untreated mental health and addiction issues and things did blow up spectacularly.

    2. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

      Sometimes it takes the rewording of a 3rd party to really make what you are trying to say make sense. I, too, think counseling is the first step here.

    3. animaniactoo*

      I think that could be a very bad idea. I think LW needs counseling by herself first and foremost. She needs a better ground under her feet for what she can control, what she can influence, and what she may need to accept and start looking at those possibilities BEFORE getting to couples counseling. Some of what she’s resolved about might change once they go to couples counseling (if she felt it were worth trying to save the marriage at that point, and hopefully she would), based on feedback that she gets from him and the counselor in that setting. But right now she’s floundering and I suspect that he won’t even hear her about couples counseling until she can pull back to some boundaries on her side that are more reasonable to be invested in. And right now, I think there’s a good shot that she is SO invested that she can’t pull back if somebody tells her to in front of him and he gets to have an “Aha! I told you that you were making too much of this!” moment. Which is a very normal thing to struggle with when somebody has been dismissing your concerns for a long time. She probably needs practice in saying “Yes, I understand that I hammered on about that and it was not truly necessary. I am dropping it (or I’m willing to drop it). However, the fact that I was wrong about that doesn’t mean I’m wrong about everything and I think it’s still important to figure out issues X, Y, and Z which DO impact me and our partnership, so can we talk about those now please?”

      It doesn’t have to be long – maybe 2 to 3 months of regular weekly sessions to help her sort through what she’s looking at, what she’s tried, and what dynamics might be in play. At that point, she’ll have a firmer idea on her end of what she wants to get out of the couples counseling and can talk to him about it on that basis.

      1. fposte*

        I think this is really wisely observed, a.; I agree. This is the kind of friction that, as Sloan Kittering talks about downthread, really strikes at your core notions of values, and it can be helpful to sort through the assumptions from the choices there.

      2. Joielle*

        Yeah, I think counseling is definitely the answer, but I do think LW should go by herself first. She needs to get her own boundaries clear. What can she absolutely not tolerate, what can she live with, what does she think they can compromise on?

        The conventional wisdom is that you shouldn’t go to couples counseling with an abuser, and while I don’t think LW’s husband is abusive (based on the info we have in the letter, anyways), I think he is manipulative – maybe on purpose, maybe not. But the risk is similar. While some couples’ counselors could suss out that dynamic, others wouldn’t be able to recognize it right away. The worst outcome would be for the husband to think the counselor is on his side and double down on his refusal to change.

        1. Kristen*

          Or maybe that’d be a good outcome because LW knows what’s up and can get the hell out of this marriage.

          1. animaniactoo*

            The point Joielle is making is that unless the OP is pretty firm herself on what she needs/wants/is reasonable to ask for, she won’t take him thinking the counselor is on his side and refusing to change as a sign that she needs to get out of the marriage. She’ll wander around in a stage of essentially having been gaslit into thinking that her concerns are not reasonable or that her need for something different may not be reasonable within the partnership, and that the primary goal should be trying to save the partnership rather than putting what she needs as equal to what the partnership needs to survive. It would be too easy to convince her that she has to change what she wants and beat herself down within the marriage in order for it to survive, while he has to do very little if anything for the partnership to survive. That should not be the goal. The goal should be a healthy partnership that fulfills her, not one that simply functions on some level because they’ve managed to find a way to co-exist that largely depends on her giving up on the idea of more stability than they currently have for day to day life and long-term. If the counselor is not on top of looking out for this kind of dynamic – particularly when one party is a more reluctant participant than the other – and able to call it out to them together and her individually if there’s no progress on his part, she could come out of couples counseling worse off than she went into it.

            Doing some solo work would help the OP not fall down this rabbit hole (or another version of it) because she’d be starting from a more centered sense of herself and what she needs and can live with going into the couples counseling to sort out how to co-exist if possible.

      3. Observer*

        It’s not either or.

        I think the OP needs BOTH – assuming that husband is amenable.

        The two things are not mutually exclusive. The key thing is for the OP to see a counselor for herself who has nothing to do with the couple’s counselor.

        1. animaniactoo*

          ? I wasn’t saying that it was either or, but rather that it should start at one and then proceed to the other. But that the individual should come first because not doing individual first could create a different set of issues for her in terms of what she goes into the couples counseling looking for, and therefore taking it straight to couples counseling could be a bad idea.

          1. NothingIsLittle*

            Just popping in to say that my aunt is a psychologist who works with a well-respected counseling service and her whole company recommends individual therapy first for at least a session so that it can be determined whether there are other mental health factors that are impacting the relationship and so that each individual can come into couples therapy with a realistic expectation of the outcome. Something like Borderline Personality Disorder (which my best friend has) can have a huge impact on how you view your relationships and could be difficult to identify during a couple’s session. They’re not mutually exclusive, but they should be sequential to some degree.

            Also, please screen your counselor! There were a number of underqualified individuals in my area growing up and a bad counselor can do more harm than good. Some GPs will recommend counselors and most clinics in my area have their employees’ credentials easily accessible on their website.

            1. Michaela Westen*

              It’s not just credentials though. The worst therapist I ever tried had a PhD and a lot of specialized training.
              Part of the screening should be:
              Are you comfortable with them?
              Do they make you feel bad about yourself?
              Do you feel less confident around them, or more?
              Are they supportive of your needs, feelings and goals?
              Are they organized and comfortable with what they’re doing?
              Do they understand and clearly explain what’s going on with you and what your options are?

    4. Sara M*

      Yes. Couples’ counseling was amazing for my husband and me (who love each other but had an Issue and we couldn’t communicate). The counselor served as sort of a referee and made us hear what the other person was really saying, not the layers of meaning we invented to put on top. A great counselor might do wonders for you.

      It’s a cliche that couples get divorced after counseling. Some do, sure. They were heading that way anyway. A good counselor will either help fix the marriage, or (if it was going there anyway) help it end more amicably.

      Our marriage was always strong, but now it’s even stronger and happier after only six months of counseling and discussing the Issue which we think we have now solved.

      1. Sara M*

        PS if he won’t go, you can insist. Tell him to commit to six sessions. If he’s listening, a good counselor will help him see why you insisted. (in reality, you will need longer than six sessions, but that amount might convince him to try).

        1. Observer*

          Well, no the OP really cannot insist. Husband is an adult and the OP can’t coerce him.

          What the OP CAN do, is to see a counselor herself (regardless of whether husband agrees to couple counseling) and decide if refusal to go to counseling is a deal breaker or not, and how to go forward with this very important piece of information about her husband.

      2. wittyrepartee*

        I’ve heard the thing about couples counseling leading to divorce. Sometimes divorce is a good thing! My aunt got divorced after her husband blew off couples counseling and the therapist was like “you’re the only one trying here”. It was a good thing for her and her family.

        1. EH*

          Yep. My ex-husband and I split after doing couples counseling for several months. It made our issues really clear to me in a way my individual counseling didn’t, and made it VERY clear that until he was willing to own his part of the problem, nothing was going to change. He wouldn’t own his shit, and it was destroying me. Our therapist was completely unsurprised when I announced I was done with the marriage.

          My partner and I have done a couple rounds of couples counseling and each one has made a MASSIVE positive difference. I feel like we’ve leveled up several times and are becoming a better and better team and support structure for each other.

        2. KTB*

          Hard agree. My husband and I went through couples counseling relatively early in our relationship to fix our communication issues. We just celebrated our 10 year anniversary this year.

          On the flip side, I used to have a boss who I heard just recently got divorced. He and his wife had been going to couples counseling for something like six years, and they’d only been married for seven. IMO, the only things keeping them together were their kid and the counseling. It didn’t seem super healthy.

      3. Bend & Snap*

        I got divorced after counseling, but I was done going in. The counselor helped us break up a little more civilly.

      4. Foreign Octopus*

        My personal opinion is that couple’s counselling should be treated like an MOT on your car. Once a year – or every couple of years – just to touch base and reaffirm that there are no cracks in the foundation. I’m aware that most people see counselling as the last chance saloon, but I do wish that the rhetoric around it would change as I believe it can be very beneficial.

        And as Bend & Snap says, counselling can end in divorce because the parties are already done going in.

        1. Parenthetically*

          Yep, this is how we have done counseling! Married for almost four years, did premarital counseling and then a few sessions after we were married (we had never lived together since he’s from another country so we appreciated the help navigating that stuff), with 2 or 3 “checkups” since then.

      5. many bells down*

        Seconding (thirding?) this. We really learned better ways to communicate when we were frustrated or unhappy. It didn’t stop us from ever arguing again, obviously, but it certainly made disagreements more productive.

    5. wittyrepartee*

      My partner and I just started going to couples counseling for something that has affected his ability to find work, but actually runs deeper than that. Things have been so much better for our relationship and his career prospects since we found a good counselor.

    6. just trying to help*

      I would caution you about approaching couples counseling carefully. This can work wonders if both of you realize the need for it, and both of you admit that change needs to happen on both sides. However, he might get the impression you and the counselor are ganging up on him, and I think that is the last thing you want, him getting defensive.
      He might be comfortable with his current situation. He might be stuck or even feeling stuck and not know how to express it or talk about it. He might be afraid he is stuck and does not know how to make a change, if he has the goods to go somewhere else, or learn something new. Clinging to the familiar feels easier.
      Getting him to talk about what sees for the future with you two, what career goals or plans he has, and what he foresees financially and what dreams he may have which can’t be fulfilled with today’s salary.

      1. Artemesia*

        I think she should get individual therapy first and then perhaps proceed to couples counseling or divorce if that is what she comes to realize will make her happier. Couples counseling is very tricky and someone dragged to it who sees no problem being like this husband is not likely to benefit from it.

    7. boo bot*

      Yes, I think counseling is a really good idea, and I also agree with anamaniactoo that the OP might want to do some individual counseling beforehand just to get her thoughts in order.

      This sounds kind of like having a close friend who’s in a terrible relationship, or a spouse with a controlling or volatile family member: you’re standing right there, seeing just exactly how badly this person you love is being treated (and the ways in which they’re not making great choices in response). But, you can’t do anything about it, because it’s not your relationship to fix (or end).

      In the OP’s shoes, I would just feel so exhausted by having to be on the sidelines of this dysfunctional relationship between the husband and his boss.

  2. Det. Charles Boyle*

    My take is that this is how things are and he’s happy with how things are. If you’re not happy, and he’s not willing to make any changes, it might be time to take a look at whether this is the right relationship for you, long term. If you decide you want to stay in this relationship, then you’ll have to learn how to set firmer boundaries and live with the uncertainty of his work situation. Therapy can help with that.

    1. Justin*

      They’re married. It’s a bit more serious than that, I would think, since you keep calling it a “relationship.”

      She does need to be direct with him on the topics Alison mentioned, and ideally they can work towards something that will benefit both of them as the status quo isn’t just “making him happy” but decreasing her quality of life, which matters in a marriage.

      1. Wallis Simpson's ghost*

        “Married” does not need to be a permanent state if it’s not working for both parties — particularly if there are no children involved. And it hasn’t since the days of, oh, Wallis Simpson.

        The bulk of what LW writes about is none of her business, at least insofar as it relates to her husband’s job. Jeans, T-shirts, and sneakers are acceptable attire at some companies — not all, but some. I even know of one law firm where they’re acceptable (the attorneys keep a suit in their office in case they need to appear in court). They’re de rigeur in some fields, like video gaming or startups. If you think your husband is a slob, by all means, file for divorce on the grounds of sartorial abuse, but don’t pretend this is a work issue.

        As for screaming matches and work calls at all hours — I don’t like “screamer firms,” but they exist. That’s part of the culture in some workplaces. It’s up to your husband decide whether that works for him. And work calls at all hours definitely exist, particularly in this globalized world — someone need to speak to you from Delhi, that means one of the parties is going to be calling outside of work hours. Stop answering the calls. They’re for your husband, not you. You shouldn’t have to wake up for them.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Yeah, I would HATE being in a screamer firm. But for some people it’s “Yeah, Bruce gets tetchy and blows off steam.”

          I think this letter mixes “Stuff that would bother me, and so should bother my husband” and “Stuff that really is a sign he will have a really tough time finding another job.”

        2. Artemesia*

          Ahh but he isn’t at one of those companies and getting huge raises every year. I know people who have what I consider terrible work ethics but who are geniuses at what they do and are paid very well and their behavior is tolerated for the contributions they uniquely make. This guy is not even getting raises. What is she getting out of this marriage? There didn’t seem to be a bunch of ‘love him to pieces and we have such great times together and he is prince at home — you should try his frittata’ — it is all ‘he is slovenly, lazy, and in a job where he is the gofer for an old friend and goofs off a lot and they haven’t given him an actual raise in years and his boss calls at all hours and I have to chase him down or get awakened late by these calls.’ What is good about this life for her?

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            The letter is just about his job. Outside of the job impinging on home–having to listen to the yelling phone calls, the late hours–she doesn’t say what he is great about doing or terrible about doing at home. For all we know he’s great about doing his share of the housework, and the laid back personality that lets his boss’s slights roll off is a benefit in a lot of ways.

            In my experience, people who do one thing in situation X do not repeat the exact same steps in every context under the sun–they can be a reliable friend and a flaky lover, and so on. Honest about things at work and quick to go to the small lie to smooth things with their mom.

          2. Eukomos*

            You can’t judge someone’s entire life based strictly on their description of one problem they have in a letter to an advice column.

          3. Librarian1*

            Yeah, she really doesn’t seem to have much respect for him. I really wonder what he was like when they got married or if they were on the younger side when they got married and she’s changed and he hasn’t.

        3. BethDH*

          I think some of the other factors can be relevant beyond just OP’s annoyance, though. OP seems particularly concerned about the husband’s lack of awareness about job-related norms that prevent his marketability, and depending on the field, that could be one, rather than just a generic “this bugs me and affects my respect for him” comment.
          I get the feeling that the problems boil down to two, both relationship problems that are visible through the job:
          1) worry about the stability of his job and his long-term career (and the financial and emotional impact of that worry and fallout)
          2) not respecting the choices he’s making and not trusting his reassurances as a result of that. Small things like the clothes become bigger because they are part of a pattern where she can’t trust his evaluation of his current job or future prospects.

        4. Archaeopteryx*

          Wallis Simpson aside, when people swear an oath to remain with each other till death, many people do take it seriously. Pretending that divorce is as casual a decision as a standard breakup is kind of disingenuous. Yes it’s technically possible but not something to be so lightly suggested.

          1. Le Sigh*

            To suggest the LW give some thought to what she wants long-term and whether this marriage is working for her doesn’t automatically mean people consider divorce a casual suggestion, nor are they suggesting it lightly. The LW has clearly invested a lot in this situation–sometimes you get so lost in the muck of trying to fix something, you forget to stop and ask if you *want* to fix it anymore and if this is something you still want, if the good is outweighing the bad, if fighting this fight is healthy for you. You can forget to check in with yourself. (Which is not say any of that is how LW feels, just giving examples.)

            The answer might be someone decides they want to stay but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t think about it. In LW’s case, it could help clarify why she’s choosing to stay and clarify what she needs to change. That can actually help a person feel better about their choice and outcomes.

      2. Cascadian*

        Marriage *is* a relationship, and it’s not permanent, it’s an ongoing negotiation between the parties involved.

          1. Mellow*

            I agree with you, JustMyOpinion, and I’m not even married. Marriage is “an ongoing negotiation”? “Not permanent”?Just…wow…talk about cynical…

            1. Jadelyn*

              Gods forbid people have a different approach to marriage than you do, I suppose. If you disagree, just say that, there’s no need to get into the judgmental “that’s really sad” and “talk about cynical” comments.

              And for the record, look at the divorce rate: marriage is clearly not an inherently permanent state. People can and do get divorced all the time, so why you feel the need to call someone factually acknowledging the potentially-malleable nature of human relationships “cynical” is beyond me.

            2. Devil Fish*

              What? No. You’re arguing against a realistic and healthy view.

              All of my friends who’ve been married multiple times have that “til death” attitude and I’ve always thought it’s incredibly naive to stop trying or giving a shit about the other person’s wants or needs after you’ve Won Marriage—this is why they keep getting divorced. And my friend who’s been married for 8 years is miserable because he got married too young to someone whose wants/needs don’t line up with his at all … but he promised to stay with her forever, so that’s a done deal as far as he’s concerned.

              Marriage isn’t static: it takes work to maintain. Nothing wrong with acknowledging that.

            3. Grapey*

              Do you not compromise in your relationships about anything? How else do you get there without negotiation?

              As for cynicism…you’ll find that people in happy marriages aren’t the ones that make cynical “ball and chain/marriage is miserable” ‘jokes’. I’ve found there’s nobody more cynical than people that find themselves in a loveless marriage because they think it has to be permanent.

          2. Le Sigh*

            Not necessarily. I took my vows seriously. I hope it’s permanent and have put in the hard work for that. But that also makes it incumbent on both of us to live up to those vows or “negotiate” — to back each other up and support one another. To take care of ourselves (mentally, physically, emotionally) so that we can be present and there for one another, and share our live and goals together. To be open to different paths in life, taking on challenges together, and being willing to adjust to new goals or dreams or plans, as much as we can.

            That doesn’t guarantee everything works out. But at least then we know that we did far more than say vows on one day. We showed up every day or week or month for one another, and owned our vows by supporting each other, doing little nice things for each other, listening to each other — everything a marriage or long-term relationship entails.

            I’d rather try and live up to that challenge than chain myself to someone who, once married, knows it’s permanent and I’m stuck with them no matter how they behave or what they put me through.

          3. Jadelyn*

            …and how did this advance the conversation in any way? Disagree if you disagree, sure, but keep the condescending judgments to yourself.

    2. Claribel*

      I think your assessment of him being happy with how things are is spot-on. He gets to go into work when he wants, wear what he wants, work with his friend, get yelled at and turn stuff in late but somehow never get disciplined or fired, and must make enough money to live on (the OP hasn’t mentioned them struggling for money). The husband has no incentive to change anything.

      1. Perse's Mom*

        She did say they can’t survive on a single income, though. That’s a large piece of her concern – if he gets himself fired and if his track record of personal behavior and learned office behavior means he has a difficult time finding another job and then staying employed there… they WILL be struggling for money.

        1. gilthoniel*

          yes, this is about what to do about a husband painting himself into a corner, career wise.

    3. KWu*

      And part of the boundary setting and living with the uncertainty could be that you work towards a lifestyle that could in fact be supported on only one income, whether that’s in your living situation, cars, travel, kids, etc. No job is guaranteed future income, but this definitely sounds like it’s on the low end of the spectrum for expected future stability.

      1. Marmaduke*

        I agree that budgeting could make this situation less anxiety-provoking, but I’m not sure I’d include kids in the list of negotiable factors if they have them (though I may have missed somewhere in the letter where OP specifies that they don’t?). Once kids are born, providing for their needs is pretty non-negotiable.

        1. Jadelyn*

          Even then there’s some room for flexibility. How are you defining “needs”? Is private school a “need”? Extracurricular activities, which usually come with costs? Tutors? Sports? Yes, you need to provide for your child’s needs, but whether that means “a new outfit for every day of the year” or “go shopping once or twice a year on a strict budget” is up to the individual parent.

  3. Hey Karma, Over here.*

    Let the calls from his boss go to voice mail. Every time. This is their dynamic. You don’t have to be sucked into the vortex. If you see boss and asks you why you never answer, call him back or pass on messages just tell him you thought he called the wrong number because he was looking for husband. And then stop talking. Don’t get into it. If your husband tells you that you need to give him messages from his boss, you can tell him that he needs to call his boss before it gets to that point because you are not getting involved in his work.
    Or not. Because the reality is, that Whim Boss can take your unwillingness to play their game as an insult and mistreat your husband for it. But hey, a girl can dream.

    1. Eulerian*

      I didn’t get that the boss was calling the OP – just the husband, but sometimes at their home. I don’t get the sense that the OP is directly affected at all (but indirectly affected a great deal!).

      1. Zahra*

        I’m assuming that they don’t have a “home phone” (less and less people have one) but each have a cell phone. And, in that case, yes, let calls go through voicemail and tell your husband that his boss needs to call him directly, because you’re not his sitter or his mom to keep track of where he is and whether he’ll be on time to work.

      2. Librarian of SHIELD*

        If the boss is calling a land line instead of OP’s cell phone, that gives her an even better excuse for not answering when he calls. “Oh, I’d already left for work by that time, I didn’t know you’d called.” But yeah, OP, if the friend-boss is calling your cell phone, you can tell him not to do that anymore and to call your husband directly. And tell your husband that being awake to answer calls from his boss is now 100% his job because you’re not doing it anymore.

      3. Hey Karma, Over here.*

        I think you’re correct. I misread/misinterpreted the line as “calls me to see where he is.” But yes, if there’s a landline, or she’s trying to do something and husband’s phone is blowing up because he’s not answering, that’s a different kind of annoying – and actually harder to address. “Tell your boss not to call you ten times.” “Answer your phone when your boss calls!” are not things said in a healthy relationship.

        1. Samwise*

          Some years ago my husband was doing some basic tech work for his dept (he is self taught, it was fairly low level stuff) and his colleagues called him constantly about tech problems. Constantly. At night. On weekends. He works in a big dept, too. We had a landline and it drove me crazy — the ringing at all hours, yes, but also my husband’s willingness to take the call and talk his colleagues through their tech problems. None of which were crises, none.
          I made many attempts at asking him to tell his colleagues to hold the calls for work hours. Finally, I said, “You need to tell your dept that you will not take calls after 5 pm or before 8 am.” “I can’t do that,” he said. “OK, then,” I said, ” *I’ll* do it, starting with the very next call.”

          He told his dept not to call him after 5 and before 8.

          1. Random obs*

            “I made many attempts at asking him to tell his colleagues to hold the calls for work hours. Finally, I said, “You need to tell your dept that you will not take calls after 5 pm or before 8 am.” “I can’t do that,” he said. “OK, then,” I said, ” *I’ll* do it, starting with the very next call.” He told his dept not to call him after 5 and before 8.”

            I’m glad it worked out for you, but that wouldn’t fly in a lot of industries (consulting, banking, etc.)

            1. Beth*

              If it were really a job requirement, her husband could have chosen to handle it by rerouting his coworkers to a pager or cell phone instead of the family landline (which generally have a pretty loud ring and can be disruptive throughout the house, especially if it’s the middle of the night). Roles that require being on call 24/7 also are generally compensated a lot better than that guy who happens to be the de facto office tech support.

              1. TardyTardis*

                This is certainly true–we are plagued with robocalls to our landline and if it wasn’t for the two of us wanting to talk to people both at the same time we might well get rid of it. (yes, I know, there are ways to conference call with cell phones, but I don’t know how yet, ‘k?).

            2. Glitsy Gus*

              Every time I’ve been in an on-call job, and I’ve had a few, there were still expectations about the level of emergency and the mode of contact that was used to reach me during “off hours.” So, they would either call my cell or a pager, never my home line, and it was expected that the issue will be of high enough importance that there is no way it can wait until the next business day. When folks abused the on call privilege, I was totally allowed to tell them that this was not an emergency and I will deal with it in the morning.

              Yes, there are some industries where “emergency” is a looser term than others, but those jobs generally make that clear from the get go and compensate the employee appropriately.

    2. Thornus*

      Unfortunately, that might be a bad idea. She’s likely listed as the emergency contact (and I could see the boss justifying all of these “where is he” calls under that dynamic). Then, if OP is screening calls from the boss, an important actual factual emergency call may be missed.

      1. nonymous*

        This is what visual voicemail is designed for. Assuming that Boss is calling OP directly, under the guise of “emergency” she should forward him either directly to vmail (assuming her phone has visual voicemail capabilities) or to a google voice number. Then she only needs to check the transcripts (looks like a text message) on her schedule.

        Of course she will still miss the case when Boss catching her in the moment lets him pass the phone to her for dying declarations of love or kicks start a search party just in time to save his life, but for most of life’s emergencies seeing any info within 15mins and being able to call back will be sufficient. And she can share how the need to keep Boss from interrupting her day leads to this risk.

      2. Observer*

        Which is just the way it’s going to have to be.

        She should point this out to her husband – unless Boss stops calling her phone, she’s going to start screening the calls, which will mean that he effectively does not have an emergency contact. He needs to be the one carrying the burden of this issue, not the OP.

  4. Colette*

    Jeans and t-shirts are normal work clothes in some industries, so I’d let that go. I wonder what impact his irregular hours has on you. Are you stuck with more of the household work/childcare than you’d like? Does he cancel plans due to work? Can you never make plans because work comes first? Or do you just think that he’s being lazy or being taken advantage of? Plenty of productive people like starting work late and working late; that’s not necessarily a sign that he can’t work elsewhere. And ultimately the part that concerns you is how it affects your life with him, which includes the way it impacts your schedule as well as your finances.

    Have you had a conversation about what would happen if he quit or lost his job? What is his plan for your financial future?

    I agree that couples counselling is a good idea.

    1. Lizzy May*

      “I wonder what impact his irregular hours has on you. Are you stuck with more of the household work/childcare than you’d like? Does he cancel plans due to work? Can you never make plans because work comes first? Or do you just think that he’s being lazy or being taken advantage of? Plenty of productive people like starting work late and working late; that’s not necessarily a sign that he can’t work elsewhere.”

      Even if none of that is impacted, I think the OP still has a right to be upset about this pattern. People get married because they like being together and they’re not spending time together because the husband is spending time with his friend/boss during work hours and then working in the evening. Even if there is no real impact in terms of events missed or extra housework picked up, it still stings to have your partner choosing to be absent from shared time together.

      1. Claribel*

        “It still stings to have your partner choosing to be absent from shared time together.” Yes, this, especially when it’s because he prefers to sleep in on a morning instead of going to work and coming home at normal times.

        1. RabbitRabbit*

          This. My husband has very early work hours, while I have a salaried position with a semi-flexible schedule and a lot of latitude. My grandboss mentioned to me that we have the option to work 10 hours 4 days a week, and I opted not to as I would never see my husband during the week as a result. As it is we only get a couple hours together each night before he needs to get some sleep, but it’s something.
          I opt to go into work earlier in the morning and leave earlier, to maximize our time together.

        2. Keep on truckin'*

          You’re only calling these “normal times” because (1) you have a privileged perch (ever heard of working class folks doin’ the night shift?, and (2) you’re one of those people who thinks morning larks are inherently superior to night owls. Cut it out, please.

          1. Claribel*

            Well, that’s a bit rude. The husband is working a professional job according to the OP, and these tend to have more standard hours.

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              A professional job with flexible hours, even. In which case it’s normal to adjust them so either a) You are covering childcare stuff, if you have kids (so one person might leave home at 9, and the other be home by 4) b) You are seeing your spouse when they are awake.

              She’s not complaining that he has a job with late hours, but that he has a job with flexible hours that he often causes to be really late because he doesn’t want to get rolling out the door in the morning, or to get rolling on work stuff once at work. Like if I goofed off all day at home because eeeeeeeeh this project, and then once my spouse was home was like “sorry hon, no interaction, gotta work work work.”

          2. MizShrew*

            Yes to what Keep on truckin’ said. While it sounds like the husband here has a crappy work ethic, that does not mean that everyone who starts late/works late does. Sometimes it’s a child care/elder care thing, sometimes that’s just when some of us are more productive. I tend to come in later/leave later, and believe me, I get a lot more done that way.

            That said, my boss knows my schedule and I meet my deadlines. Husband just sounds lackadaisical and a bit immature. But not everyone with a “nontraditional” schedule is.

          3. TootsNYC*

            and I took it to mean “the hours that his employer is in normal operations,” whatever those are.

            if he did shift work, and was staying after he was supposed to be done, it would be cutting into his home life.

          4. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

            Part of the thing here is that he’s not working consistent or predictable times, either. One person working 9-5 and another noon-8 is more likely to work well than one person working 9-5 and the other nominally working 11-7 and in practice working from “sometime before noon, maybe” to “I don’t know, I might be home for dinner.” It doesn’t sound like LW’s husband is in a position to tell her the night before, or even at noon, whether he’ll be home at 6, 8, or 11.

            When my husband sometimes had to work long hours, it helped that I usually knew whether he’d be home for dinner when I was making my own plans. I didn’t mind grabbing dinner on my way home after going to the gym, or making a dinner I like and he doesn’t, as long as I knew that was the plan. That’s very different from not knowing when I got home whether I was cooking for one or two, or suddenly finding out that the person who’d planned to cook that night was having pizza with his coworkers, sorry.

          5. Róisín*

            I work the night shift. My best friend works the night shift. My girlfriend works the night shift. And we all call day shift / 9-5 hours “normal time”. Normal means average across a group, not morally better. Calm down; don’t get rage-y on behalf of people who don’t really need it.

          6. Gazebo Slayer*

            Yeah, I am so tired of the unacknowledged white collar/permanent/benefited privilege that is so prevalent here. Speaking here as a part-time/irregular shift retail worker and a low-level, low-paid freelancer. Alison is usually so great, but her refusal to meaningfully address this is a huge blind spot that’s hurtful to me and to many, many other readers who already get enough of our society telling us we don’t count, don’t matter, and don’t deserve anything.

            1. feminzagul*


              Love many parts of the blog but seriously, this. So much of the advice and information here means nothing to people not working a permanent office job with benefits. A huge swath of the workforce has 0 ability to negotiate anything and many of them don’t have managers (app/gig workers).

            2. beckysuz*

              Well in fairness to Alison the things she addresses here are in her area of expertise. I don’t think that’s a judgment of shift or retail work as lesser. She and this blog can’t be all things to all people. And I’ve found the language of her scripts to be helpful in many areas of my life. I often use “can we agree moving forward that this behavior/attitude etc will change?”…with my teenage daughter :)

          7. Koala dreams*

            As a night owl, I took it more to mean normal in the sense of a normal amount of work hours, not a comment on which shift he works. Presumably the problem is that he spends his time goofing off with his boss, which makes him stay at work many more hours than necessary in his line of work. It would be much easier to accept that he works the evening shift or the night shift because that’s how the job is. And in that latter case, he would still have a decent amount of time for doing things for his family.

          8. Princesa Zelda*

            As a night owl who works the evening shift, I always call standard 8-5/9-6 type hours “normal” and so do most of the people I know. Leaving work at midnight like I generally do is not, in fact, the experience of most workers, including shift workers. Normal does not and should not be confused for “morally superior”.

      2. Colette*

        Sure, if that’s her concern. If she’s out doing her own thing during the time he’s working, that’s not a problem for her.

        But if her concern is that she’d like to spend more time with him but can’t because he’s working, that’s what she needs to focus on, not what he’s wearing or what time he goes to work.

        1. Parenthetically*

          Yeah, and I think Alison did a good job of nailing down the distinction — there are some things in here that are really problematic relationally and with regard to Husband’s future job prospects and current job security. And there are other things that are emotionally wrapped up with those, but wouldn’t actually be a concern apart from the relationship/career prospects/job security stuff.

      3. Jadelyn*

        Yeah – my partner and I wound up on opposing shifts for awhile a couple years back. His job needed to move him to second shift, so suddenly he was working 2pm-midnight, getting home around 1am. I have a standard-hours office job, so I had to leave for work around 7:30am and didn’t get home until 5:30. For about six months, we basically only saw each other on the weekends and during the week only talked via text messages – it was practically a long-distance relationship where we just happened to sleep in the same bed. It sucked. If he were adopting that sort of schedule *by choice*? I’d have been pissed.

    2. many bells down*

      I mean, I get the frustration with the jeans and t-shirts, I do. My spouse is a game programmer. His “interview suit” is jeans and a polo shirt. He owns about 50 video game t-shirts and hoodies and that’s 98% of his wardrobe. I recently pointed out to him how much he likes it when *I* dress in something he likes when we go out, like a skirt or a dress, and that made him much more willing to make an effort to wear a nice shirt.

      If I were wearing a Galaga tee and jeans every day of the week he’d be disappointed. I think it’s only fair. But I am also not his mommy and I’m not going to dress him for work. Even if sometimes I want Tan France to appear and make him over for me.

  5. I should be working*

    No offense… but the husband sounds like a pretty reckless, stubborn, and immature sort of person. I would wonder how these tendencies boil over into other parts of the relationship. I obviously do not wish that he would be fired because it would impact the writer a lot, but damn, this guy needs the firm kick in the rear end that only something that serious can bring. I don’t know how you’d go about making that happen but best of luck.

    1. RC Rascal*

      It is significant the LW & hubs are in their late 30s. At that age it becomes very apparent that there is a delayed development both professionally and personally. This is also the age successful, responsibility peers start tool get real authority and make bank. Past a certain age this stuff isn’t cute anymore. The counseling is a wonderful idea. At some point this arrangement will blow up and the longer in coming the more painful it will be.

      1. Jadelyn*

        “This is also the age successful, responsibility peers start tool get real authority and make bank.”

        That’s…one hell of a wild assumption, there. Like, I’d love to believe that everyone who’s responsible and hardworking gets into management positions and starts to “make bank” in their late thirties, but that has, to put it mildly, not been my experience. (And that’s not even getting into folks who aren’t ambitious and aren’t trying to climb the ladder, and who have a different definition of “success” than you clearly do.)

        There’s such a messy stew of unexamined assumptions underlying that statement that I just feel like that John Mulaney gif – “Now we don’t have time to unpack all of that…”

  6. ZSD*

    1) I third the couples counseling suggestion.

    2) Is there any chance he’d be open to looking into a part-time job with regular hours and office norms, and staying in his current position part-time? If he can find a place where he’d work, say, Mondays and Tuesdays, and then the rest of the time he can work for his current boss, that would be a chance to experiment with office norms and build a better resume without giving up all of the “perks” he sees in his current job. (But I don’t know if he’d be open to this.)

    3) Can we please get an update in a few months?

    Best wishes, OP. This sounds stressful and frustrating, and I hope you and your husband are able to come to a happy solution.

    1. Keep on truckin'*

      “2) Is there any chance he’d be open to looking into a part-time job with regular hours and office norms, and staying in his current position part-time? If he can find a place where he’d work, say, Mondays and Tuesdays, and then the rest of the time he can work for his current boss, that would be a chance to experiment with office norms and build a better resume without giving up all of the “perks” he sees in his current job. (But I don’t know if he’d be open to this.)”

      Why, pray tell, should he do this? He’s found a job he enjoys, working for a boss that he has a good relationship with, and with working conditions that work well for him.

      1. MissBliss*

        Presumably because ZSD thinks he might care about how seriously his partner is perceiving these as issues? ZSD is just suggesting a possible solution. Also, I wouldn’t say he’s working for a boss he has a “good relationship” with– regular screaming matches, lack of respect on both sides, and never getting a raise doesn’t sound like that to me.

      2. Joielle*

        Because his job is negatively impacting his spouse? It could be his dream job, but if the hours/pay/whatever are hurting his spouse – the person he loves most, who he vowed to love and cherish for the rest of his life – then he should minimize the impacts as much as he possibly can and at least consider other options. To do otherwise is selfish and a real a-hole move.

      3. Formerly Arlington*

        They might be working well for “him,” but this is a “them” situation, and it means he doesn’t see very much of his spouse, which is not working well for her. Long-term, if this marriage ends up splitting up over this, it won’t have worked well for either of them.

      4. Antilles*

        Why, pray tell, should he do this? He’s found a job he enjoys, working for a boss that he has a good relationship with, and with working conditions that work well for him.
        IF the company continues to exist *and* he can remain employed there for the next three decades of his life until retirement, then sure. But what happens if that’s not the case?
        ZSD’s suggestion is a way to help get better prepared for the unknown future and to put him in better shape for when he needs to look for a new job.

        1. fposte*

          And this, tbh, is where whether he’s making $300k or $20k affects my answer. If he’s making bank at this job and they’re socking it away, he may end up ahead of where he’d have ended up from a more predictable job all those years even if it ends. If the pay is unremarkable *and* he’s cutting off future prospects, that’s a different calculus.

          1. Armchair Expert*

            The OP says that he’s never had a pay rise except COL, which suggests the latter. I mean it’s possible that he started on $300k, but I doubt she’d mention it as an issue in that instance.

      5. Parenthetically*

        None of this letter says to me that he actually enjoys the job (given how much he screws around and shirks his responsibilities and goes in as late and little as he can get away with), just the “perks,” nor that he has anything like a good relationship with his boss. Getting into a middle of the night screaming match with your boss is… completely bonkers and 100% dysfunctional.

        1. Cobol*

          A lot of this is really from OP’s point of view, which is fine. It’s their question, but there’s no mention of the husband saying he’s in any way dissatisfied with his job.
          All indications are husband and boss/friend’s relationship works for them, but not for OP.

          1. Parenthetically*

            Yeah, I mean I get that, but “this arrangement doesn’t work for my family” has to be an important work consideration, IMO. And I still share OP’s concern that this is having an impact on Husband’s job security and future prospects, so while it may “work” for Husband to get into shouting matches with his boss on the reg, a) a decent husband cares that his wife is sick of him bringing home his weird boss-friend crap at all hours while being away from home WAY more than he needs to be, and b) it may not work for him long-term if he has a reputation for unprofessional behavior within his own company — there’s no guarantee Boss stays forever, and no guarantee Boss doesn’t snap one day and sack Husband.

            1. Cobol*

              I absolutely agree with this. It’s a problem because it’s causing OP hate. There’s a great thread below about worriers and nonworriers that gives more nuance than I ever could.

          2. Marmaduke*

            It’s also possible that boss and husband have a great personal relationship that is blinding husband to just how dysfunctional their work relationship really is.

      6. Escapee from Corporate Management*

        Look at this from the husband’s perspective: he (1) shows up when he wants, (2) wears what he wants, (3) gets to hang with his buddy, and (4) goof off at work. The trade-offs are (a) yelling, (b) late night calls, (c) no raises, and (d) no career progress. I wouldn’t want that, but my views don’t matter. OP definitely doesn’t want that and her views do matter–they are partners. This is why Alison’s advice is spot-on. The husband has made choices that benefit his desires, but completely contradict those of his partner. Any advice about new jobs, etc., won’t matter if the two of them cannot reconcile their divergent needs.

  7. Anony*

    My Dad worked for a close family friend for over 10 years. It was very dysfunctional with the lines of friendship and business intertwined uncomfortably. A lot of was expected of him out of the realm of the job because there was always the friendship with the family to think of. It was uncomfortable for my Mom and I. My Dad saw nothing wrong with this because my Dad thought he was a valued member of the family friends family.

    Sh*t hit the proverbial fan about 8 years ago when they wanted to cover up some shady dealings. Their friendship with my Dad and our family was dispensable. It involved years of court cases and money my parents frankly didn’t have to settle things out of court.

    I’m not a fan of working for a friend, because if things go south, they hit harder than they would otherwise. And with the lines blurred it makes things, even daily tasks difficult for everyone involved in my opinion. But I could be biased given what happened to my family.

    1. eplawyer*

      yep, yep, yep. You need to sit down with your husband and talk through how this all is affecting the marriage. That is the one part you have standing to discuss. If he wants to throw his career away then that is his business. Only you know if want to stick around for it.

      You need to talk to him not in a “OMG, you are ruining your life” kinda way. You are not his mother, you are his partner. Bring it up as something that you are both in together and want to work through — together. If he listens to your concerns, great. If he seems to be listening but not quite getting it, couples counseling. If he blows you off, go to counseling yourself.

      But this is very much not a work issue. His job is fine. He has a work situation he likes, even if you don’t. It’s what is going on in your marriage, that is manifesting itself as concerns about his work situation that you need to address.

    2. Kimmybear*

      This. At what point does your husband’s flawed perception of the “working world” start to impact how you relate to each other. When you share about your day, does he get it or is he viewing it/responding based on his dysfunctional experience?

      1. Anonym*

        It seems very possible that he has unrealistic ideas about what other working environments would be like, and that’s causing him to overvalue dressing casually and undervalue not being screamed at, etc. I’d wager that there’s also some fear of working in a different situation and failing. With the friend he has a sort of safety net: it may be obnoxious, but the friend seems less likely to fire him than a normal boss.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Really, I think he’s just got a twist on “My office has a few bees, but I understand them and their habits. Other offices would have different bees, and I wouldn’t understand them and their habits and would get stung and I would hate that.”

          He’s not necessarily wrong to value “wear whatever I like” and “start whenever I like” over “have to shrug and let manager’s latest fit roll off my back.” Lots of people value the first two, or are able to view the last as blowing off steam rather than a personal attack.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            That’s an interesting question. Does he really have a flawed perception of typical workplace norms? Or does he realize he has a unicorn job, and is happy to accept the pitfalls in order to enjoy the benefits? And would he easily adjust if he had to?

            1. Cobol*

              Our even a bit in between, where it would take a bit to acclimate, but it’s not the end of the world.

        2. Observer*

          Yes. How many times have we seen letters here where people say things like “I know there are issues, but it’s not going to be that much better elsewhere”, while describing workplaces that are SUPER dysfunctional?

      2. AKchic*

        From personal experience – fairly quickly. Trying to talk about your respective days is a minefield. My husband works retail. Honestly, I have tried to get him to move out of retail for the majority of our relationship. He won’t. There’s a lot of baggage to unpack there, and frankly, I’m not willing to fight that battle any longer. My salary is good enough that I can support our family for the most part, so hey, it’s what I’m used to anyway.
        It got to the point I had to flat out tell him that I didn’t want to hear about his work stories or complaints about work in general. He wasn’t going to take my advice, he wasn’t going to attempt to leave the toxicity, and he certainly wasn’t doing anything to change his prospects, so I couldn’t keep hearing the same problems (and this was after 3 years of complaints about the same employer). What ended up happening was he got so complacent and felt that because he was friends with low-level management that he screwed up. He ended up getting fired. Nobody wants to hire a nearly 40 year old man who’s spent his entire life working in retail. Now he’s finally recognizing that he has no real marketable skills, and our teenagers are making the same amount of money in their first jobs as he is as a 20 year worker.
        To say that I loathe the position he’s put me and our family in is an understatement. There’s a lot of resentment. When we had money for him to be retrained, he saw no reason to be retrained. We were “fine”. Things were “fine”. “Don’t worry about it”. When things were tight, we didn’t have the money “to waste” on retraining according to him (note that I’m the one that handles our finances, not him). At this point, I openly look at everything he does with the opinion that he actively avoids bettering himself and advancing in life; partially due to codependency and partially because of his parents.

        My advice to the LW would be individual counseling immediately, and looking at how she can extricate herself from all of this. It sounds like she has made her concerns known and he’s ignored her. He will probably turn down couples counseling. Sometimes, you just need to know when to swim to shore.

        1. Boobookitty*

          I feel for you. The three sisters in my family were all married to men who either wouldn’t work, continued getting fired, or spent thousands of dollars trying to start businesses that failed, over and over again. My ex did all of those, and it was incredibly stressful having to handle all the family finances and be responsible for bringing in the money to keep a roof over our heads. I realized I am co-dependent and no longer trust myself to pick a life partner.

    3. Rainy*


      I will say though, OP–I lived in a state of absolute and constant financial and housing instability for some years due to my first (late) husband’s fecklessness, irresponsibility, and impulsive spending behaviours. We never actually lost our home but we came incredibly close multiple times. That set of experiences had some really profound effects on me that, even 10 years after his death, crop up in weird ways. I may never escape some of the emotional sequellae of living for a decade never certain if I’d come home and discover that he’d drained all my bank accounts and spent all of both our money on some bullshit and I’d be unable to pay bills.

      Whether you stay or go, whether he agrees to couples counseling or not, you need individual counseling, and I’d suggest starting to build a private nest egg he can’t access in case he loses his job. You’ve already been living with this for too long. You need some help.

      1. Me*

        Is it though? I mean it is a career problem for him, but he doesn’t see it that way and he’s not the one asking for help with their problem.

        For the LW the issue is her husband and his choices in how he wants to behave and it’s impact on their marriage, life, and family.

        1. ArtsNerd*

          It’s both in that many of the things OP views as [objective] problems aren’t necessarily that — just different priorities and/or values, and different work cultures, so having a conversation about that part is helpful in navigating frustrations and concerns.

          It’s also the opportunity for a more nuanced discussion on what boundaries are appropriate in terms of a spouse’s work environment and career than we’d get to have on a letter about someone wanting to talk to their partner’s boss or what have you.

      2. Joielle*

        It’s both, but the husband problem is the only one LW can do anything about. If he likes the job, fine, but if LW can’t put up with it, then he has to decide if he likes it more than the marriage.

      3. ErinFromAccounting*

        I mean, it’s the husband’s career problem (although he doesn’t seem to see it as a problem…), but he is not the one writing in for advice. On OP’s end, it’s really a relationship problem because her husband’s bad work habits are leaking into OP’s life.

    4. Suzy*

      My EXACT thought!!!!!

      This isn’t about the job. This is about your husband. I think its time to ask, what is keeping you in this relationship? I have a hard time believing that you are having all of these issues, but in all other aspects of your relationship there are no problems. If you wrote in to a different non-work advice columnist, they would be talking with you about setting boundaries, figuring out what you want, and considering leaving if this isn’t working.

      1. Blobola*

        Yes! This! If my husband was deliberately sabotaging our entire future I would be weighing up bigger questions than what he wears to work. OP what do you want in your future? And realistically can this situation change for the better?

        1. Cobol*

          This is a harsh take. See ArtsNerd’s comment above. This is a problem to be solved because OP is writing saying it is causing them much stress. But the husband were to write in he could present an equally plausible scenario where the problem was not the job, but how his spouse was reaching to it.

        2. Observer*

          There is nothing to say that he’s deliberately sabotaging anything. I do agree that he’s taking some fairly big risks with his future, but from what the OP says it’s quite plausible that he’s either genuinely ignorant or in deep denial.

    5. CheeryO*

      Yup. The question is not “How do I get him to understand that his workplace is not normal?” but “What behaviors am I willing to deal with, how do I communicate my deal-breakers, and what am I going to do if nothing changes in X years?” Individual therapy would probably help LW separate the stuff that actually directly impacts her from the other nebulous stuff that seems to be causing her a lot of general anxiety.

  8. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

    Uf da.

    Alison’s given a good, measured answer, OP — but I can completely understand why this is causing you so much concern, including the bits that are in the “not solvable by you” bucket! In your place, I would be constantly anxious over the inherent insecurity of your husband’s career dangling by this single, volatile thread. The fact that it’s fundamentally his problem to solve, not yours, makes it worse — there’s a sense of powerlessness there that’s giving me the heebie jeebies on your behalf.

    At this point, I would say — follow Alison’s advice on trying to remediate the situation, but as much as you can, start taking some steps to look out for #1 too. Build your f**k-off fund. Your husband is willing to put up with this nonsense as an alternative to doing the hard work of developing professional… anything, really. Habits, wardrobe, standards, you name it. But his willingness to gamble his income on his boss’s continuing to not be either fired or hit by a bus doesn’t mean you have to be willing to place the same bet.

    Take care of yourself. Good luck. I hope that the catastrophe you’re dreading never hits.

    1. CountryLass*

      I second (and love the name of) the f**k-off fund. After I lost my job, I started trying to squirrel money away for if it happened in future, and I wasn’t the main earner at that point. When my husband lost his job a couple of years ago, that took a chunk out of my savings and scared me a lot, so I have not only been doing a normal savings account, I have got two long-term savings and investment portfolios in place, just in case.

    2. Sloan Kittering*

      Yes, I’ve seen this work in relationships where one person is a big dreamer / risk taker and the other is not. It can work out! A lot of them keep finances separate because that gives the non-risk-taker permission to “let go.” 1. Be clear and upfront about what your financial boundaries are – what are you willing to do with your hard earned finances if their plan falls through? 2. Make a couple plan for retirement that anticipates one of you having an instable income – maybe they contribute a higher percentage of the paycheck they DO get, maybe they agree now to a lifestyle reduction at retirement. 3. What does the (potential) non earner plan to commit to the relationship in lieu of money? Child/elder care and domestic work are work, after all.

      People do manage to afford all the things they need (kids, a house, college, medical bills) on one income all the time, but it helps if you know that’s the plan.

    3. AnotherPerson Here*

      Again, for the people in the back: Build your f**k-off fund. Put (serious) money away *for you* that hopefully, you never have to use.

      1. Alexander Graham Yell*

        Exactly – and it doesn’t have to be just in case you have to leave your partner (I always run into this resistance when I preach the gospel of the f**k-off fund). Imagine being able to leave a toxic boss and know you have your ducks covered. Imagine if you had to move on really short notice. It gives you the freedom to quite honestly f**ck right off from whatever situation you need to. It’s financial magic.

        1. Alexander Graham Yell*

          Ducks in a row. Bases covered. Not sure what you’d do with covered ducks, but please upload the video to YouTube for us all to enjoy.

          1. Camellia*

            OMG I actually heard someone say ‘rocket surgery’ the other day and thought they had just misspoke. Is this a ‘real’ saying now? Maybe from a source like a TV show or movie? Any context you give would be great!

        2. MsMaryMary*

          I had (still have) a f**k off fund and I did use it to leave a toxic job. It’s not just about having emergency funds to get out of a relationship. If you’re lucky enough to be able to build up a rainy day fund, go ahead and use it when it’s raining.

          I’m thinking about renaming my fund the f**k it fund. “F**k it, when else am I going to have a chance to go to Paris for a week?” “Oh, f**k it, my house needs a whole new air conditioning system.” Unfortunately, only one of those statements is true for me and it’s not Paris.

          1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

            Right, the f**k-off fund means f**king off from whatever — not necessarily from a marriage, but from a job, a housing situation, whatever the need may be.

  9. Sloan Kittering*

    This reminds me of a dynamic I see in a lot of relationships, where one person is a preemptive worrier – anticipating difficulties that might come up later – and the other person doesn’t like to live this way. Their attitude is, “if that comes up, I’ll deal with it, but I’m not going to spend a lot of time stressing about something that might never happen.” There does seem to be a bit of a gender dynamic in this. Perceived risk can also vary, in terms of how likely you each think it is that some bad is going to happen. I tend to think the worst case scenario is more likely to happen than it really is.

    As a worrier myself, I’m trying to get better about being respectful to people just don’t operate this way.

    1. Claribel*

      You’ve just described my relationship, haha! I’m definitely a preemptive worrier and my partner lives completely in the moment (has no savings, long-term career plans, anything like that). I’m trying to get out of the mindset that my way is ‘right’, theirs is ‘wrong’ , and we just have different approaches to life.

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        It can be a strength for a couple, for sure! I can be too fixed on the worst case scenario so that I never stop to enjoy my good fortune in the present – or I overestimate the likelihood of bad things happening so I’m automatically operating out of fear / defensiveness. That is equally faulty logic as operating only on hope/optimism!

        However, it’s also good to have clear boundaries – for me, retirement saving is non-negotiable in a partner, because there IS optimism in the idea that I would like to stop working some day and enjoy at least some golden years of travel and leisure :D

      2. Jules the 3rd*

        Mr Jules and I started out pretty far apart, but we were able to agree that there are some basics that need to be covered. I could not have stayed with him if he hadn’t agreed that ‘financial stability and savings’ was something worth working towards, but it works ok for us to set targets together (eg, $x in retirement; trip to Y) and then I put together the financial plan that gets us there.

    2. AnotherPerson Here*

      It’s great to recognize that people don’t all have to live the same way, but I don’t think that’s the problem here. The problem is that the letter writer is in a legal and economic relationship with someone who isn’t willing to do a reasonable risk assessment regarding their career.

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        I don’t know, I think the OP’s husband would say that he’s successfully secured an income (that he, at least, is satisfied with) for many years. And if someday he loses his job, he will adjust at that point, but right now this is working for him – and has for a long time. It’s not like he’s unemployed and napping on the couch expecting his wife to do all the childcare AND bringing home the bacon. She just wishes his job and his approach to his career were different.

        1. AnotherPerson Here*

          He’s not napping on the couch, but he is putting his livelihood, their relationship, and their well-being at risk. These are not the actions of an adult:
          his boss has to call to find out where he is in the morning
          he spends so much time during the day goofing off that he has to work late

          It is reasonable to expect that legally bound partners will consider their future and plan accordingly.

          1. hbc*

            Yeah, but I would argue that once you’ve established “for many years” that sleeping late, working slowly, and wearing t-shirts aren’t going to get you fired, it’s irrational to worry that the 340th late arrival will result in job loss. He can make up for slow work with errands and late shifts. And he *clearly* does not have to wear nice clothes to work there.

            There definitely are things the husband can and should be doing better to make himself more employable should this codependent nightmare of a working relationship fall apart. But whether he puts on chinos for the next job has zero to do with whether he can get away with jeans at this job, and any time spent on that will undercut the OP’s message.

      2. fposte*

        I think it’s part of the problem here, though. Lots of people married to Peter/Petra Pan types don’t worry about their clothing.

    3. Filosofickle*

      Yeah, I’m a worrier and my partner is NOT. I can suggest or occasionally nudge…but then I have to back off and let him do things his way in his time (unless it impacts me and our future in a significant way). I’m actually kind of jealous that his brain doesn’t front-load anxiety the way mine does.

      1. 5 Leaf Clover*

        SAME. And the things I worry about are usually not the things that actually end up happening!

        1. Sloan Kittering*

          True, it’s not like all my worrying has really protected me from most of the bad things that ever happened to me. There’s a fine line, where SOME preparedness planning (what would I do if I lost my job? Maybe I should save more) is good, but it’s also good to just be heads-up and nimble and reading the actual signs in front of you.

          1. Naomi*

            I think that’s the key here: it’s okay not to stress about things that might or might not happen, but it’s still a good idea to prepare for those things, just in case. In this case, it might help OP stress less about her husband’s job if they can get a contingency plan in place for if he loses it.

        2. Filosofickle*

          Yep, much of my fears (wrt my partner, who’s had some big stuff in the past couple of years) did not come to pass. It’s a daily practice to remember to let go: I am not responsible for everyone and everything in the universe. My way is not the only way, or the right way. He’s capable of taking care of himself and picking himself back up when things go wrong — he has decades of experience at it. My fretting means I don’t trust him to do so, which isn’t healthy or fair. I hope he never knows how much I was underestimating him! I’m sure I’ll still fall into that trap from time to time (ok, all the time) but am hoping to get faster at cutting myself loose.

      2. Sloan Kittering*

        “front-loaded anxiety” – that is such a good term for it! That’s exactly how the other half sees it, too :P

      3. Joielle*

        Ha, this is my marriage to a T. Luckily, we’re on the same page as far as long-term goals and values and we have a fairly similar approach to life, but sometimes I’ll be super anxious about something that may or may not happen and he pretty much thinks I’ve grown two heads for how foreign that is to him. Brains are weird!

    4. fposte*

      That’s helpful in naming something I was seeing that went beyond the direct impact–that the OP is really invested in having her husband agree with her about things like wardrobe at other jobs, when it’s a moot point because her husband doesn’t have those other jobs. Not worrying about this doesn’t make him wrong. The OP sounds like she’s trying to front-load his adjustment to other jobs before it has to happen, and that’s not requisite or necessarily even helpful.

      That doesn’t mean there’s no problem here, but I think couples counseling is a really good idea for helping clarify the difference, as Alison addresses and as you intimate, between what is somebody living their way and somebody whose decision is making it impossible for you to live your way.

      1. ArtsNerd*

        Well put, both fposte and Sloan! Part of this is simply a matter of different modes of operating — both are neutral in and of themselves, and it’s just a matter of navigating the differences in their marriage.

        Only part of it, mind you! But it’s a helpful framing when your partner’s priorities and choices don’t align with the ones you would make yourself, and focusing on the parts that have a directly negative impact on you.

    5. LW in the House*

      I plan on making a longer response a bit later, but I wanted to say I’d never seen the term preemptive worrier and it struck a chord. That’s me. I try to think 10 steps ahead in a dozen different directions. My husband is definitely not this. Not being a boy, I’ve never been a Boy Scout, but my personal motto is still “be prepared.” Are Anxiety Scouts a thing? Can I make them a thing?

      1. fposte*

        Oh, I’d definitely report for duty there. Dibs on the Everything That Might Go Wrong with the Camping Trip Squad!

      2. Sloan Kittering*

        I think it can be a good thing, and sometimes it pays off spectacularly, but I also think it’s a defensible strategy to just not do this haha. (beyond the obvious, like having some savings and reasonable insurance etc).

        TBH I think most of the time we all end up playing the ball as it lands anyway.

      3. Liz*

        if you do count me in as a member! I am the QUEEN of preemptive worrying. And sometimes not even worrying but planning. Drives me nuts that i can’t ever just be spontaneous. No. I have plan everything out. in great detail.

      4. Quill*

        I have a LOT of badges in the anxiety scouts.

        I mean, some of it came honestly (great depression grandparents that never threw anything out that wouldn’t rot, overpacker mother,) but almost all of my useless badges are in “I can’t ask any questions about this because if I don’t automatically know everything I’ll be fired!”

      5. BethDH*

        I manage anxiety by planning. My spouse definitely does not. We’re working on a balance where I decide what a reasonable level is for planning and agree to stop there. He’s much more amenable if it’s clear where I will stop planning and that we won’t still be discussing it at Plan N subsection 16, and he’s been less obstinate about planning and sharing plans himself as he’s built trust that I’ll really worry less if we do that.

      6. Kat in VA*

        I try to plan for every possible way that Things Can Go Wrong, so when the one thing I did not plan for happens, all the other Things are under control. It’s miserable.

    6. plastic roller coaster*

      This just came up for me about 3 hours ago. As the worrier, I find the other perspective absolutely irresponsible. There’s a line from Walk The Line that I always think of, her saying to him: things don’t just *work themselves out*. Other people *work them out*.

      By refusing to plan for the future, it’s dumping the work on someone else. Things don’t just all work out fine all by themselves. If someone loses their house tomorrow, sure, they still have their life! They may be okay in five years! But what’s going to happen NEXT?

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        I mean, I respect that it can feel that way, and for sure it can play out that way sometimes. But I also find that sometimes us anxious types want to drag everyone into our prognostication and feel superior about “being prepared” when it’s just as likely we’re spinning out of fear. And putting a moral judgement on people who don’t chose to operate that way (they’re “lazy” or “irresponsible”) isn’t going to help in the case of a relationship where the goal is for two people to harmoniously the way they are.

        1. plastic roller coaster*

          Yep, for sure. I don’t push it on people, I just get it pushed on me by my brother, who is the source of every problem in my life this week ;)

          (A solution to one of his problems that he created himself? Share my hotel room! That I’ve paid for! And don’t want to share!)

          1. Marmaduke*

            I have a family member who frequently posts memes on Facebook along the lines of, “Don’t worry, be faithful!” and “Things have a way of working themselves out!”

            I and other family members have frequently bailed this person and her children out through savings and other resources we planned ahead for.

            It’s great to not be a worrier! But also, prepare. Take concrete steps to be prepared. Because when others are constantly stepping in to save you, a carefree attitude looks more like a selfish one.

            1. Devil Fish*

              All good points. I don’t begrudge people who are willing to take stupid chances on big life decisions (I’ve done it too!) or who calculate the potential risk/reward differently than I do, but self-awareness counts. It counts for a lot.

              (I also have one of those family members who owes literally everyone thousands of dollars that they will never ever be able to pay back because they refuse to take the steps to even start doing that, whereas I go into an anxiety spiral if I don’t have enough in my savings to cover bills for at least a couple months “just in case something happens.”)

    7. Rusty Shackelford*

      Or, as Mr. S sometimes says, “why do you worry so much when nothing ever happens?” Well, maybe things don’t happen because I worry and prepare. You can say it’s not necessary to lock the door because we’ve never been robbed, or you can say maybe we’ve never been robbed because I always remind you to lock the door.

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        Yeah, to me this comes down to boundaries and dialogue. We all have things we need from our partners to feel safe (the door must be locked at night, so I will be the one to lock it but please don’t unlock it behind me – we must have retirement funds / emergency savings, and here’s my plan does this seem right to you and something you can agree to? Can we talk about how to get there?). But it doesn’t mean that our partner has to agree with you that it is extremely likely that a murderer is about to break in any second, or leave a job they enjoy because you wish they earned more, necessarily. It’s tough. I don’t do a great job at any of it myself.

    8. Frankie*

      Thanks for pointing this out. I’m definitely a worrier and my husband is the opposite. There are times he is too chill and should have been worried and wasn’t, but there are just as many times I am worried over things that are very unlikely to happen, and “spend” a lot of our mental energy and happiness on them when I don’t need to.

      I definitely think this job situation is a bit more objectively in the “should be worried about” category, but I do see those two approaches in people. I think if you combined that “sort itself out” perspective with distorted workplace norms, the husband’s behavior makes more sense.

    9. Observer*

      This is true. And there does seem to be a bit of an element of that in what the OP says. The problem is that what she’s describing seems to go much further than the typical “I’ll cross that bridge when I reach it.”

      So, the OP needs to figure out what really are issues that are legitimately problematic and irresponsible, and which ones she needs to let go.

    10. Vienetta*

      I agree with both Sloan and fposte here. I feel like this conversation resonates with me a bit, as my spouse has (until recently) worked as a freelancer in a creative industry for all of our relationship and I’ve been the primary breadwinner with a highly stable career. I’m also very much the front-loaded worrier and tend to come to him with issues about “if your check doesn’t come through by this date we’ll have to put X bill on the credit card, and then what will we do?!?!??!” and he just can’t really process things that far in advance. Our values and goals are the same, but we have very different ways of getting there and thinking about them, and I have to respect that his way isn’t wrong just because it’s not mine; in fact, before we met he did just fine using his approach.

      So we’ve had lots of discussions about what he needs and what I need and how our approaches are sometimes in conflict, and what can we do to get what we need without driving each other crazy. It…can be challenging, but we try to listen and respect our varied perspectives, and communication is really the key. So I really want to hear more from LW about what kinds of discussions the two of them have had about these issues so far, and how they’ve gone.

  10. BradC*

    Is your husband being underpaid for his role/experience level in his industry? Perhaps the idea of a significant increase in pay by going somewhere else might give him something to weigh against the “perks” of his current workplace.

    But I have to say that some of those qualities (dress code, casual nature of the office) were definitely a factor in my choice the last time I was searching for work. I feel lucky to work in a jeans-and-t-shirt shop rather than a shirt-and-tie shop.

    1. Jimming*

      Yeah I agree with Alison’s advice to let go of the dress code. Lots of workplaces are okay with jeans/t-shirt/sneakers.

      1. Gumby*

        Indeed. I have worked in 2 industries post-college at 4 different companies and most coworkers’ wardrobes have tended towards jeans and a t-shirts. I had a manager at one who wore only shorts and t-shirts (we asked what was wrong once when he wore jeans). So this is really, really industry and also location dependent.

    2. ArtsNerd*

      Agreed! I used to worry about my lack of professionalism in terms of morning punctuality (it’s not unheard of for me to arrive at my current employer close to noon – yikes), goofing off (executive dysfunction hooray!) and lack of wardrobe polish (at least this has improved over time)

      I assumed that I wouldn’t be able to get away with it in future jobs and had a lot of anxiety about my ability to conform to traditional office norms in these areas when I needed to.

      Yet this is my third salaried position where none of this has been an issue, without even touching my freelance experience. I also have a friend working in a much more conservative field who shrugged and told me that she will frequently arrive at her office at 11am because the culture allowed for it and it fit her productivity patterns better.

      We are both high performers who do put in late-ish hours and get our work done, and OP mentions that their husband is also super good at his job when he does get work done. That goes a long way, so I hope they can let go of some of those anxieties.

      Side note: His current work norms sound like many tech startups from what I can glean from talking to friends in that world. Which would be a nightmare for me, but he might actually thrive in those workplaces. Something to consider if that’s his skill set.

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        Yeah if the husband keeps this job for ten years, then goes freelance, he may find that … this works out for him okay. Maybe it could go *even better* if he would listen to OP, but is that even his goal?

  11. Jennifer*

    “Why is he blowing off your very real concerns? Does he think you’re wrong? Is he bad at dealing with hard situations? Does he feel stuck, like he won’t be able to find another job that pays as much as this one? Or is he just prioritizing his current situation, which he likes, over your very understandable discomfort with what the future might hold?”
    Great questions to think about and discuss with your husband. If he isn’t open to listening – well, then I think this is bigger than a work problem. Best wishes.

    1. ArtsNerd*

      And THIS is the part that worries me the most for OP. Things like his self-imposed hours cutting into their time together and other practical effects are very real, and I don’t want to minimize them — but if the underlying issue is that he’s not willing to respect OP’s concerns and communicate about them in a real way, I don’t see them being able to navigate this successfully.

      Nthing the couples counseling recommendation. Not everyone has developed the introspection, self-awareness, and emotional intelligence to openly discuss their underlying concerns when they run deeper than the superficial.

      I’m thinking of the article “She divorced me because I left dishes by the sink” by Matthew Fray. It wasn’t until his marriage was over that he finally understood that it was never about the water glass — it was about her feeling disrespected. It’s a very helpful read if you’re caught in a similar dynamic and have trouble articulating what’s happening.

      1. Parenthetically*

        “if the underlying issue is that he’s not willing to respect OP’s concerns and communicate about them in a real way”

        YES. And also a big yes to the dishes by the sink article.

        1. Rainy days*

          Yes. This. Plenty of these behaviors on the part of the husband aren’t inherently bad. However, the fact that they are problematic for LW makes them something he needs to attend to—if not by changing then by understanding her concerns and seeing if they can come to a compromise. You marry someone you deeply trust and respect and that means that if they’re concerned, you start by assuming the concern is valid.

  12. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

    If you don’t have one, get a separate bank account. Close down the joint one, or at least try to keep your money out of it. That way, you’ll at least have peace of mind that your money is safe. Protect yourself first, however you can, and turn to friends and family to help you out. I don’t mean to sound all doom-and-gloom, it’s only that this scenario is far too common (husband being irresponsible, wife spending all her time, energy and money trying to keep everything together) and you do not want to be left with an even bigger mess to deal with. That being said, I do hope everything improves and works out, and I’m wishing all the best!

    1. Dancing Otter*

      Yes, I third it. Not just a separate bank account, but close any joint credit accounts as well.

      I knew a woman whose husband kept getting fired for insubordination and losing his temper at work. (Throwing tools at people, FFS.) She finally got fed up and divorced him, after years of being the responsible one, working her tail off to make sure the bills got paid and such. He tried to force her to continue supporting him.

      This isn’t to say that OP ought to dump him, necessarily. But there does appear to be a decidedly non-zero probability of this marriage ending. “Be prepared” isn’t just for Boy Scouts.

  13. Person from the Resume*

    Despite being very good at what he does …

    Heck, I’d question this statement. We know the boss it putting up with a lot of unprofessionalism (and contributing to it), maybe he’s also putting up with subpar work from the LW’s husband.

    Mostly I think Alison’s answer is right to a very tricky situation, but I do wonder about the assumption of husband’s skill level. Maybe husband (rightly) fears he cannot get a job anywhere else. The unprofessionalism and lack of dependable reference will likely be a problem. I agree with the LW, though, that the solution might be to start looking for a new job while still employed by friend. I mean time off for interviews should be a breeze to get. But I also suspect the husband simply likes the cushy job where he can show up whenever, wear whatever he wants, and goof off a lot of the time with no consequences.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      Husband simply likes the cushy job where he can show up whenever, wear whatever he wants, and goof off a lot of the time with no consequences.
      And he would hardly be the first person to feel that way about a job. Pretty frequent question here is whether being bored to tears at a job is worth the stability and good benefits. But that’s asked by people who don’t stop at “I have a stable job with good benefits: I’m going to stay put and buy some jigsaw puzzles.”

      1. londonedit*

        On the other side of the coin, I once worked for a highly dysfunctional employer, but I convinced myself it wasn’t highly dysfunctional because of all the ‘perks’ (like getting to leave early on a Friday, everyone buggering off to the pub for the whole afternoon on a regular basis, the boss seemingly not really caring what we did as long as we got the work done). I can totally relate to the feeling of ‘I’ll put up with some of the rubbish bits because I’ll never find another job where I can wear what I like/leave at lunchtime on a Friday/come in late and no one cares/etc etc’. I can understand how the OP’s husband might be in that sort of ‘Well yeah some of this sucks but at least I can goof off and still get paid/at least I don’t have to work in corporate hell and wear a suit every day’ mindset.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      We should take the OP at her word about the facts in her letter (particularly when not doing so means insulting someone she loves and doesn’t change the answer).

      1. LW in the House*

        Thank you, Alison. While my husband and I aren’t in the same field, I know enough about what he does to identify high quality work. And I know that some will speculate I’m only saying this because we’re married. But it’s also a field where he absolutely would not be able to get by under any circumstances with sloppy or careless work output.

        1. Devil Fish*

          Thanks for commenting to say you can identify high quality work in his industry, that’s good to know.

          Fwiw, I had assumed you were taking your husband’s word for the work quality and I’ve worked with plenty of people who were convinced they were enough of a rockstar to have earned rockstar-level slacking off privileges, but … they weren’t (and I was supervising them).

          1. LW in the House*

            Yeah, I should have said something to that effect. Some people can get by their whole careers doing half-assed work because the stakes are low. But bad work in his field would dictate termination no matter who he was friends with.

  14. Eulerian*

    Your husband is putting his wishes ahead of your own, and making decisions based on what’s best for him, not what’s best for the two of you.

    That’s a huge issue.

  15. Tye*

    If the OP is a woman and needs to hear it, I’ll say it: You don’t have to mother your husband’s career for him in order to be a good woman or wife. If you can’t make him wear the right clothes and go to work on time and focus and succeed, you are still a worthy and valuable person. I hope, if your husband won’t go to counseling with you, that you’ll seek it out on your own and work through what your life might be like if you didn’t bear this burden for a man who either expects you to, or who genuinely doesn’t care if you do or not.

    1. Keep on truckin'*

      Likewise, if her husband has a different definition of what constitute “the right clothes” and his workplace agrees, and he’s able to negotiate non-standard hours when he works late, that also means he is a worthy and valuable person.

      1. Tye*

        Well, the husband didn’t write in, and this letter is by, for, and about the letter-writer, so I am not sure el husbo, who per the information provided seems very happy with his arrangement and feels very worthy and valuable, strictly needs to be reminded of his worth and value.

        1. Eukomos*

          It’s not a bad thing for OP to keep in mind that her husband’s informal clothing does not dictate his worth, though, given how much it appears to bother her when we have no indication it’s a problem for his boss or his industry.

  16. Justin*

    Couples counseling ASAP. Lots of work needs to be done (mostly on his side but if you try to send him alone it won’t work).

    Good luck. I remember feeling selfish when I was happy in a lower-paying job, but it was never as bad as this.

  17. Anonforthis*

    I agree with the advice about having the conversation with your spouse, and also about couple’s counseling. But it would also be beneficial for you to potentially seek out some individual counseling for yourself. It can be really helpful to get an objective third party perspective that is intimately familiar with the details and trained to help you process those things and guide you towards implementing healthy relationship behaviors/break negative habits. Regardless of what path you choose to address those issues, it sounds like you care deeply about your partner and your future and you want better things for him. I hope that the two of you will be able to communicate and reach a level of understanding in your partnership.

    Also – I’ve seen a few pretty negative comments already about the marriage, and I just want to say — we don’t know anything else about the OP’s marriage/partner other than this particular facet that the OP made us privy to. This is one aspect of their relationship, not the whole story. It isn’t helpful to extrapolate and make assumptions about the rest of their relationship dynamics based on this, since we don’t have those details. Everyone’s relationship priorities and tolerance are different, so we shouldn’t project onto OP, or make sweeping statements or judgements about her marriage based solely on this.

  18. Sloan Kittering*

    I think OP could examine what is at conflict here, because I think partly it’s VALUES. OP sounds like she values discipline (going to work on time, dressing professionally) and hard work not just as a way to achieve material goods, but as goods of their own. Does the husband also feel this way? It sounds like he values his own time and freedom more than the abstract concept of “being professional.” It’s important to clarify because in a relationship you don’t want to cross the line between not liking your partners ACTIONS versus having contempt for their VALUES. And it’s easy to start thinking of someone as “lazy” or “flaky” if you’re judging them by your own moral code.

    1. fposte*

      Agreeing with you again here :-). I get it, because it always shocks me to the core to find out that what goes without saying to me could even be a point of contention. I think that the OP is focusing really strongly on “this is abnormal” as if that were a problem requiring resolution on its own, and I suspect her boyfriend’s response is basically “I know; isn’t it great?”

      If I knew kids were in the picture or hoped for I might answer differently, and some of my response depends on the financial soundness of the couple and how they feel about it. But there are plenty of financially okay and happy couples with one member in a creative profession, or precarious industry, or unemployed entirely. That doesn’t confer any obligation on the OP, of course, but I think it would help to drill down a little on just where the frustration is focused and whether actions like his coming home earlier on the regular could be sufficient for a decent compromise.

      1. Isabel Kunkle*

        Yeah, this. And it’s okay to want A Partner With A Stable Long-Term Job, just as it’s okay to want A Partner Who Wants Kids or A Partner Who’s Monogamous or whatever, but I feel like that’s a thing you need to be upfront about going into a relationship, not try and change people to get, and definitely not ever frame it as for the partner’s own good, because that’s obnoxious.

        I agree with Allison about sorting out the issues, and would say to go further: state what you need *in the relationship*.

        “I need you to be home by X 90% of the time and not pick up the phone for work after that.”
        “I need you to have a financial plan in case this job falls through: a savings account with six months’ expenses, leads on other jobs you know you can stick with, etc. If you get fired, I’m not paying your way.”
        “I am not going to answer calls from your boss, and I need not to overhear or hear about your fights.”

        If he agrees, give it six months and see if he follows through. If he puts up a fuss, or doesn’t do what he says…time to see a lawyer.

        1. fposte*

          Oh, it is absolutely okay to say “This is not what stable family life looks like to me, and I can’t stay for it.”

        2. Sloan Kittering*

          For sure! And OP may realize she needs a partner who shares her values. But it’s not necessarily that she’s “right” to have the value Hard Work Is Its Own Reward and husband is WRONG/lazy/immature to have the value “My Freedom is Worth More Than Money.”

          1. Decima Dewey*

            OP says they couldn’t manage on just her income. And if something happens to the job or to her husband (accident, illness, all manner of things), she doesn’t think she could carry the load alone. I suspect she’s worrying about the way he dresses, his taking advantage of his flexible hour, etc. so that she doesn’t worry about what they’d do without his income.

          2. Isabel Kunkle*

            Exactly! I’m in the second camp, myself–recently took a 5K a year pay cut because the work was entirely remote and that’s worth a lot to me–so it’s definitely more a “these are not compatible people, maybe” thing than “one of them is wrong.” (If he pushes back in a “but you just don’t understaaaaaaand me” way or agrees and then doesn’t do it, he’s Wrong and Bad, but that’s because of the approach to relationships, not work.)

        3. Colette*

          Absolutely! She needs to express what she needs and trust him to figure out how to do it, not try to micromanage what he’s doing so that she gets what she needs. And that starts with defining what she needs, instead of getting caught up in his dress code and how late he sleeps in the morning.

    2. Joielle*

      Yes! Your comments on this letter have been so insightful, Sloan Kittering.

      The LW might want to read the book “The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work” by John Gottman. My husband and I did some couples’ counseling sessions before we got married, and the therapist recommended it. It specifically covers things like contempt in a relationship and overcoming gridlock when arguing. It’s great!

      1. fposte*

        *Love* Gottman. I believe he’s one of the two most recommended schools of therapy for couples counseling.

  19. voyager1*

    What kind of work does your husband do?

    Seriously this sounds like the work equivalent of Animal House meets Office Space.

    I am in a disagreement with AAM, pretty much all of this impacts you. But I do agree with her couples therapy is good place to start.

    But honestly I am left with more questions of how you deal with this crazy train LW. I hope you can work this out. I do think your concerns are very valid.

  20. Erin*

    I beg to differ on the start/end time lateness. If she gets home at 6pm, and he stays until 9, it affects their time together, and if it’s something he can change, it tells her something about his priorities.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      This is true and it affects her evening routine. It’s hard to deal with split shifts in general but when it’s due to the fact someone just isn’t going in early enough, it grates nerves even more so. Since then it’s a choice on his part.

    2. ArtsNerd*

      I would feel the same if I were OP, but I suspect he doesn’t tie those two together. I’ve spent plenty of time twiddling my thumbs waiting for a guy to make time for me and it’s such and awful feeling. But the guys never realized this was happening, in a way.

      If I’m correct in that inference: in his mind, the fact that he can go in late with the tradeoff of staying late (which I definitely do myself) is NOT a sign that he prioritizes lax habits over his partner. If OP laid this out in those terms, that it indicates he doesn’t value or respect her, he might start to understand the gravity of what’s happening here.

      There’s a communication disconnect / emotional intelligence issue at play.* It is very well be one that can be resolved. I mentioned it above but the article “She divorced me because I left dishes by the sink” is a great insight into the masculine perspective on this dynamic.

      *I’m 1000x over emotional labor, but it’s worth keeping in mind that many men and masculine folks were raised in such a way that, at worst, actively discouraged these kind of introspection and empathy skills, and it does take time and practice to hone them.

      1. readWhyDoesHeDoThat*

        this guy has a boss that screams at him and threatens to fire him often, but has managed to stay in the job for quite some time. so the husband is actually highly adept at anticipating, evaluating, and managing emotions; he just chooses to devote this time and energy to his boss instead of his wife.

        it’s a bizarre myth that men are less emotionally intelligent than women. the same guy that seems so oblivious to the fact that he’s kept you waiting for hours is VERY well aware of the fact that if he did the same to his brother, father, or boss he’d experience unpleasant consequences.

        that “she divorced me because i left the dishes by the sink” article tells the story of what happened when the husband CHOSE to start empathizing with his wife’s emotions – because he experienced severe negative consequences (she divorced him, or threatened to) when he continually chose not to.

        literally the entire last half of that article is about how men need to “choose to love” their wives and acknowledge their wives’ emotions as valid even if they don’t think the emotions are justified or “logical” – the author is very clear that men have to make the choice to empathize with their wives or nothing will change.

        your life will improve exponentially once you stop thinking of men as little children that need to be taught how to be human beings, and start thinking of them as they are – adults who can choose to be good whenever they feel like it.

      2. Marmaduke*

        I wonder if that particular issue could involve a disconnect in love languages. My husband feels loved when people perform acts of service for him, so he was spending a lot of time doing household chores, maintaining my car, working overtime to buy me a spa day, etc. I was miserable! I need quality time to feel loved, and felt like he was putting everything else before me.

        I recommend putting some serious thought into your own emotional needs, not just your tangible ones, and sharing that information with your spouse. It really helped my marriage.

    3. Colette*

      She doesn’t mention that as a concern. Maybe it is, but that’s not part of the letter. If he’s dropping responsibilities on her, or if she wants to spend more time with him than she is, she can raise those issues – but she would need to raise them as issues, not complain about his hours. This could be a situation where she thinks “married couples spend their evenings together” and he doesn’t have the same worldview, but he should not be expected to read her mind.

  21. Falling Diphthong*

    It sounds like he was like this when you married. And is still like this. Which… really isn’t surprising.

    People do change over time, but predicting it will be in this one way (will get more serious about work, will disentangle from current toxic entanglement, will decide to become a large animal veterinarian) rather than the 100s of other ways they might change is a crap shoot.

    To borrow a Cap Awkward question, if you knew it would be exactly like this in 1 year, would you be okay with that? This is more a “can you be happy with this marriage” question than a “can you get your husband to change into a different person than the one he’s shown himself to be” question. (And that last bit isn’t sarcasm–sometimes you know that someone listens to you, reflects on your advice, and will sometimes enact permanent changes based on that advice. But that doesn’t sound like your husband.) On the flip side, if it’s still like this in 5 years is that okay? Not your dream, but you can let go of wanting to manage his work life and accept that this is what he chooses?

    1. fposte*

      I think that’s a particularly interesting question in this situation, in that there’s a version that goes “Okay, if you knew this would never change so he always stays in this job and never has to find another one, what do you want to do?” IOW, if you take away the concern about career security, how much does this still frustrate you?

  22. Czhorat*

    I’d argue that goofing off during the day DOES affect the family if it makes the husband late getting home. He’s essentially trading family time for free-time midday.

    That’s not thoughtful or fair.

    1. Certified Scorpion Trainer*

      Thank you for mentioning this as well! I mentioned it below but hadn’t seen anyone else do so. Yes, if my husband stays at work late all the time because he’s been busy goofing off all day on top of getting into work late as possible? Damn well it does affect me as his wife and partner and contributing member of the household.

  23. 5 Leaf Clover*

    To me these worries about his ability to get future jobs seem like concern-trolling in the context of wanting to have so much control over your husband’s life. You seem really stressed that he won’t act the way you want: wear different clothes, wake up at a different time, and on and on… the “and this is my business because of some uncertain future scenario that might affect me” just rings false to me. I agree that where things DIRECTLY affect you (getting woken up at night, having to change plans), it’s fine to assert your needs. But otherwise… He likes this job, he likes this life. I would spend some time in therapy thinking about why it’s so important to you to change him. There must be something more going on there than merely worrying about hypothetical unemployment, and I bet you’d get some real benefit from finding out what that is.

    1. Sloan Kittering*

      I think I actually agree with some of this. I’d like to see the OP learn to ‘let go’ a little more. And it sounds like she’s the one who has a problem with the hours and the way he dresses, but is saying “other employers in the future” are going to agree with her. Depending on the field, we don’t know how employers would feel.

    2. Anonymeece*

      Respectfully, I disagree. I’m one of those people who constantly worries about what will happen if X emergency happens. It’s not that I want to control my partner, but he sees things more in the short-term, and I think in the long-term and emergency situations. Hypothetical unemployment is something to worry about.

      I agree, things like the clothing? OP can let go. But things like going in late constantly and getting screamed at by the boss for goofing off and that? That’s not just “hypothetical” unemployment, that’s more like “imminent” unemployment. If you had a partner who was told numerous times at work that they were going to be fired if they came in late, and they kept coming in late, it’s reasonable to worry about them losing their job (which could mean you losing your house, your car, etc). Yes, they may not get fired. It sounds like husband has been doing this for a while. But it’s reasonable, and not controlling, to wonder, “Is this going to be the thing that breaks the camel’s back? Can we afford it if that happens?”.

    3. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      I don’t think it’s concern trolling: it sounds more like risk assessment to me. Job loss is always a possibility. Asking someone you’re financially entwined with “okay, if you get fired tomorrow, what next?” (especially when they clearly enjoy pushing the boundaries of what their employer will put up with) is not unreasonable.

      I don’t disagree that the OP would be well served to spend some time contemplating what is really of concern for her versus what isn’t, but I don’t think you need to accuse her of acting in bad faith.

      1. Academic Addie*

        This is pretty much how I feel. If my husband were telling me about constant unhinged screaming matches, I would be worried. If his boss was calling just to make sure he was up in the morning, I would be concerned. If my husband didn’t seem to be acknowledging that this is weird, I would be concerned.

        Even if that is the dynamic they’ve “established”, it doesn’t sound all that stable. And how many letters have we read here about unlearning toxic habits from prior workplaces? I don’t think anyone needs to be controlling or acting in bad faith to be concerned about the immediate financial impact, and about the impact on future employment this job will have.

  24. remizidae*

    Time to start living on a single income, OP. Consider downsizing your home, selling a car, cutting expenses, canceling subscriptions. If your husband’s job is this precarious, you can’t afford to be spending everything you make.

    1. Devil Fish*

      This is a good thing for OP to at least think about: if you can’t make it on one income, what will you have to sacrifice to make that work? Look at the budget and see where the money’s going and whether some of it can be redirected.

      If you are able to make the decision to cut back, don’t you dare let Spouse take that as a sign that his full income is now “pin money” to spend however he wants—he should still be helping out financially in whatever way you’ve agreed to so you both have the opportunity to put some money in savings/investments/retirement/etc even if the budget is only based on one income.

  25. SheLooksFamiliar*

    Oh, OP, I feel for you. My sister had/still has similar issues with her now 62 y.o. husband. He works for a longtime friend in a niche industry, and they are not well matched on experience or temperment. Like you, my sister deals with the fall-outs and follow ups and missed goals and laziness. She got fed up to the point of issuing an ultimatum: We get couples counseling and you get career counseling, or we’re done.

    He agreed, and took vocational and aptitude tests, the whole works. Surprisingly, the findings from those tests opened my his eyes a bit. He realized wasn’t right for his friend’s business, and admitted he’d been unhappy at work but didn’t know how to break out of his 10-year rut. That’s a huge admission for a man who has never admitted to being wrong in his life.

    There’s more counseling in their future. My BIL is still working for his friend and working on repairing things. He’s also looking at other job opportunities, and found some good options. The friendship is strained, and that’s to be expected. But my sister tells me she’s breathing a little easier now.

    Please keep us posted, and be kind to yourself.

  26. Anonymeece*

    Hmm. One thing I’m seeing is something that I admittedly struggled with. Basically, I have sleep problems, to understate, and had trouble getting to work on time. That made it harder to lay boundaries elsewhere, because I would feel guilty that I wasn’t coming in on time, so I would take on all sorts of requests that would “make up” for the fact that I wasn’t doing that thing. Basically, maybe your husband knows he’s getting those “perks”, so the trade-off is that he’ll do the other stuff.

    That being said, there’s not really anything you can do about that, other than pointing it out to your husband or feeling him out to find out if that’s what’s going on. He may not want to say “no” to last-minute work calls because he knows that’s the only reason he isn’t being let go.

    The truth is, though, this might offer some insight into your husband’s habits right now, but there’s not a whole lot you can do about it. Quite frankly, this sounds like a husband problem, not a work problem. I would work out an exit strategy. You don’t have to put it in place right now, but have it there in case: can you live with someone if you separated? Is there somewhere you could cut expenses to start socking away an emergency fund?

    Again, I’m not saying you should break up with your husband or anything, but just in case, you should have a plan in place. I do recommend couples counseling, if this is really bothering you, and I do feel for you. I am a long-term worrier: I wonder what will happen if a pipe bursts or we need a new car unexpectedly. My long-term partner is more of a short-term worrier: do we have money for the next mortgage payment? Well, then we’re good! You’re thinking in the long-term, if your husband loses his job, but he’s thinking in the short-term (“it’s okay right now”). A couples counselor can help your husband understand your concerns, and can also help you learn to let go of things that you don’t need to worry about. An exit strategy or emergency strategy will also help allay some of those fears for yourself.

    1. ArtsNerd*

      As I mentioned elsewhere, I’m doing a lot of the things that concern OP (and am still successful in my chosen career) and I’m not sure I’d be able to move into a more formal workplace for those very reasons.

      At the same time, the underlying reasons for this is a lot of mental and physical health stuff (depression, sleep issues, ADHD et al) that I’m still troubleshooting with my medical providers.

      In terms of managing OP’s frustration with their husband, it’s worth considering whether all of this is a choice and whether any of it is a symptom

      1. Kt*

        The choice vs symptom dichotomy is indeed useful…. and, LW, if it’s a relationship deal breaker that he can’t change, it’s still a relationship deal breaker. I’ve seen to many relationships founder on the rocks of “oh she/he can’t help it”. Symptoms too can be managed and a good faith effort is necessary.

        1. ArtsNerd*

          Oh for sure! It’s just a framing to help identify next steps — in no way do I endorse using health issues (PARTICULARLY mental health issues) as a reason to shut down conversations or refuse to change problematic behavior.

      2. Azure Jane Lunatic*

        ADHD, anxiety, and delayed sleep phase reporting in! With bonus respiratory woe. I have extreme difficulty in sleeping during Normal Sleep Hours, and difficulty staying on task for certain things. It’s been a mixed curse, and has kept me out of many jobs that I’d otherwise be good in.

  27. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    I’ve never had a job that I didn’t wear jeans and t-shirts to, just something to keep in mind. I think you’re focusing on some wrong things in that aspect.

    I agree that this needs to be done in couples therapy, since his work ethic is very much something that’s draining on the relationship. I’d lose my mind if I were in the same situation as well, one thing that bonded my partner and myself was our POV on work being important.

    I think a lot of this is to detach yourself and stop being emotionally invested in his behaviors. I don’t think he’s really going to lose his job or anything like that, his boss/friend seems to just be accepting it.

    1. Sloan Kittering*

      ” I don’t think he’s really going to lose his job or anything like that, his boss/friend seems to just be accepting it.” I’m so intrigued now because this was really my read too, but throughout the thread other people seem just as positive that the husband is imminently about to be fired and everything OP imagines is about to come true any second. I guess none of us know the future. Certainly it would reassure OP to know there is a plan for either scenario that she can live with.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Well, he’s not exactly doing anything to make himself a desirable employee. To me, he sounds like the first piece of fat that’s gonna get trimmed the moment the company decides it needs to slim down its budget. Him and his boss both.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Ah I think that’s where my read turned the corner from everyone else, I had to go back and re-read. I see this is his “direct boss”. I had it in my head this was the bosses business but yeah, if heads rolled, I can see it being exactly like that.

        2. Rusty Shackelford*

          Or, his boss is going to leave one way or another, and there will be no one who likes/respects her husband enough to keep him around. (Is a thing she’s worried about, not necessarily a thing that is true.)

        3. Parenthetically*

          Exactly my read on it. “Best Bros” hire, rolls in last, screws around all day, gets into shouting matches with his boss? His name is second on a list under Boss’s name.

        4. Shan*

          Yeah, this is absolutely how I see it. Being tied to one person in a workplace is a double-edged sword. I’ve worked in places where one person is hired for an executive role and brings along their selection of favourites. But if that person gets cut, often most of the people they brought do as well.

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Yeah, it could be the lens I’m looking through as well.

        I have seen this play out before, a person who is so involved with the boss that it’s just a forever peeing match day in and day out.

        I’ve had a couple of bosses that took some utter nonsense from a few employees for various reasons. They weren’t best friends from childhood, but short of laying hands on him or someone else or being caught stealing/pawning tools or something, they were totally let to do-their-thing. Some even “quit” randomly and then would essentially re-hire themselves back a few months later when they decided they wanted the job again.

        This isn’t the traditional work setup that the professionals on AAM are used to. They assume that goofing off and not showing up are destined to be fired because that’s how regular setups do work! But when you’re in this tangled web of emotional connections on both sides, nobody gets fired.

        In the days when I had to fire people were all people who the bosses never had a chance to know and they burned their good-will before they could worm their way into the owner/manager’s hearts, you know.

      3. designbot*

        Even if it’s not imminent, I just wouldn’t count on him keeping this job forever. And in a sense, the longer he stays the worse it gets. Because what’s worse than being a 35 year old with no sense of office norms? Being a 45 year old with no sense of office norms!

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          You should never assume job security that’s for sure. I’ve seen too many businesses to go over to suggest that!

          But I think that there’s too much focus on “office norms” because really, I don’t ever buy a “can’t teach old dogs new tricks” mentality. Some people refuse to change or adapt and that’s a different ball of wax.

          1. designbot*

            oh, I didn’t mean it in an “old dog, new tricks” sort of way. I meant more that hiring managers are going to have certain expectations around this sort of behavioral issue, and the older and more senior he gets the more shocking his idea of workplace behavior is going to be to people outside of this dynamic. Even just the issue of seniority becomes more of a thing—someone who’s been at the same company for ten years and never gotten a promotion raises an eyebrow, someone who’s been at the same company for fifteen or twenty and never advanced sends up red flags.

            1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

              I find it really interesting [I’m not being snarky, I’m serious!] that it’s a red flag for someone to work in a job for all that time and that it’s a red-flag that they never got promotions.

              There are a lot of jobs where movement is limited and people don’t move around much at no fault of their own. It’s not because they aren’t good enough to be promoted, there just isn’t room for growth. So if someone was say a basic level customer service rep for 15 years at Spaceships Inc, then put in a resume here for our customer service opening, I’m not going to go “Oh dear, they haven’t grown at all in their last position, so that’s no good!”

              We actually need people who are content to just do the same job with only limited growth options around here because there’s no where to go unless they want to learn a completely new skillset and take over someone else’s job as their promotion.

              1. Devil Fish*

                This is why I appreciate when the people who write in include their industry. Since AAM readers skew white collar, a lot of blue collar and service industry “normal” behaviors are seen by commenters as obvious dealbreakers when they’re generally accepted within the relevant industries.

                Even when the behaviors can be admittedly problematic and should probably change, context like knowing that yelling is pretty standard in food service, there’s not always a way to get promoted in factory work and rolling in at 2pm in your jamjams is a thing in some call centers can be useful information to have before giving advice based on your own experience.

              2. designbot*

                That’s definitely an industry-specific difference then. I’m in design and as you work you learn, you become more valuable, and able to handle higher and higher level problems. If someone with 15 years of experience were doing the same job they were on day one, it would signal that they had not learned anything, which to me would make me wonder whether they were smart enough to handle the complex problems I need to be able to throw at them. Junior designers are tiresome, require an enormous amount of my time and attention, and I really want everyone to grow out of that phase ASAP.
                But you make a great point, and I’m clearly making some assumptions about the type of work environment he’s in based on my own industry’s norms.

  28. OhBehave*

    Yikes! This will blow up sooner rather than later. Talk to him using Alison’s advice. In order to protect yourself, start a savings account. Stash money in this account because you will need it. I think you are correct in believing he will have a hard time getting a job. He’s coasted along doing the minimum amount of work possible. His boss yelling at him doesn’t phase him at all. I wonder how he would deal with criticism should he get a new job. Hubby needs to stop behaving like a college kid (insulting to some college kids, I know) and wise up. He’s happy with the status quo. It will be hard to change him.

    This sounds like a horribly stressful life you have. Couples counseling, yes. Go by yourself if he refuses.

  29. Justin*

    There are a ton of people here saying, “oh, find a way to be at peace with your chill husband” and everyone else saying, “go to counseling together.”

    The fact is, it’s making her life worse, and he, unless she is lying to us, has not demonstrated any care for how it affects her, be it finances or time or emotionally. That is the root of the issue and why many suggest counseling. (Not a bad idea for her to go on her own, but the folks implying it’s all just her being judgmental, no.)

    He could be chill-man-dude if he demonstrated compassion for her needs. She of course could be direct in ways she isn’t (there’s always a way one could). For now, though, he does need to make a change and she needs to prepare in case he doesn’t, can’t, or won’t.

      1. Justin*

        Fair enough. Admittedly I am easily frustrated with the obstinately chill types as the anxious type. But I do not claim objectivity.

    1. hbc*

      Possibly, but if the needs that have been expressed are a mixture of “I need to not hear screaming matches” (legitimate) and “I need you to put on better clothes for this job because some theoretical future job may not like your current wardrobe” (illegitimate), that’s a decent reason why he hasn’t been making changes. Most of what she’s actually complaining about in the letter is how abnormal the situation is, and I don’t think “abnormal” necessarily means bad.

      I think a counselor would help them tease out whether this is basic incompatibility, or they need to tweak some things. Say, Wednesdays and Friday evenings are sacrosanct (whether that’s accomplished by going in on time or putting in a 4 hour day), she hears no more fights and takes no more calls, they put $X into a “this can’t last forever” fund per month, and he does some sort of job hunt prep every other week (resume writing, networking event, salary comparisons, etc..) He might be able to keep his dream job while limiting the impact on her

      1. Justin*

        I agree with all of this, though I wonder if “some of what your saying I can dismiss so I will dismiss all of it” is an excuse, as I know it would be easy to construct it that way in one’s head. We have no proof of his subterfuge though, so anyway, I agree.

        1. fposte*

          It’s tricky, because on the one hand you shouldn’t have to state your legitimate need in a perfectly perfect way to elicit spousal compassion, but on the other hand, it’s understandable that perfectly human partners can’t always manage to look beyond what could feel like a personal attack to the statement of need.

          Gottman, mentioned above, is really good for stuff like this.

        2. Eukomos*

          It’s not a good excuse, but it’s a really, really easy one to talk yourself into when you want to.

  30. Reality.Bites*

    Having watched every episode of Riverdale it’s clear to me LW’s husband and boss covered up a horrible crime committed by a role-playing-game cult smuggling jingle-jangle and, having been sworn to secrecy, are locked in a hellish bond of mutual abuse that will never end till their 30-something teenage kids solve the mystery and bring the real criminal to justice, which, sad to say, is almost certainly letter-writer’s father.

    But the good news is, you don’t have to worry about him losing his job.

    1. AnotherPerson Here*

      This is so obviously what’s happening that I can’t believe Allison didn’t address it in her letter.

    2. LW in the House*

      Damn, you nailed it. I mean, I was trying to be discreet about specifics, but phew… (Seriously though, thank you for the laugh.)

  31. Mop*

    If your husband is over the age of 25 (being generous here), he is not going to change his immature behavior. And why should he? It’s working for him. But you’re going to carry his burden the rest of your marriage, and a lackadaisical approach is probably not the best for kids or even pets, let alone retirement planning.

    My friend had an immature wife who was like this; it was a relief when he divorced her and he was able to remarry a fellow grown up.

    I wouldn’t worry about the tee shirt and jeans thing, though.

    1. it's me*

      Yes, I was assuming/hoping he was in his early 20s until I read he was in his late 30s. Going to be challenging to get him to change.

  32. Lilysparrow*

    From one whose spouse works a completely unpredictable schedule due to his inability to manage time, I’m going to dispute the idea that this only “might” affect OP.

    Never knowing when or if your spouse is going to be home, and being unable to make ordinary social or household plans, absolutely affects the way you live, the way you communicate, and the way you function in relation to the rest of the world.

    In my case, we have reached a balance point where he’s proven he will show up for things that really matter, and he accepts that if he wants input on a decision, he must make himself available to be consulted & give a timely answer. Anything I have to do on my own, gets done my way. And I’ve grown a thick skin about the rest.

    It works fine for us now, but it wasn’t an easy road to get here.

    1. Lilysparrow*

      Oh, and OP – part of my coming to terms with my husband’s way of working was indeed to remove myself from as much of the situation as possible. I realized that I couldn’t be his wife and his mother, and it only bred mutual resentment.

      1- I do not ask him if he’s getting up and going to work, unless it impacts my own plans for the day (i.e., I was going to vacuum the bedroom, or we need to play car Tetris, or coordinate who’s picking up the kids, etc.) If he oversleeps and misses a deadline, that is his problem and I will allow the consequences to fall on him. He has never been fired from a job, so I realized my fears about that were overblown.

      2 – We have each been the majority breadwinner at different times. Right now, he makes more and has the health insurance, but due to our work histories I know it would not take long for me to compensate for that. It would involve me switching back into a career I greatly dislike, but I would do it if necessary to support myself and my kids. He remembers how that career affected me and our marriage, and he is deeply emotionally invested in preventing that situation from recurring.

      3 – I do not act as a communications proxy for him with anyone. If someone calls me to reach him (other than someone I already have a good personal relationship with), I just ask if they have his cellphone and tell them to call him there. If we have a personal relationship, I will make personal chitchat and mention to him at some point that they called, but I make no promises about giving him messages, and I don’t take any responsibility for whether he returns the call.

      4 – He doesn’t have the toxic/abusive situation your husband does (thank goodness), but he does tend to be overworked and underpaid. I set a limit on how much venting about work I will listen to. He gets a few minutes of attentive/sympathetic listening, and then I check out and/or tell him, “We’ve talked about ways you can change that. Do you want help brainstorming solutions?”

      The main thing that has helped us overcome the tensions around his job stuff was me really considering worst-case scenarios, deciding what I could do about them, and gaining confidence that I could do what would need to be done. (At one particularly point, that included the possibility of kicking him out. We’re in a much better place now, because he’s proved many times that he is 100 % there for me and the kids in the most important ways.)

      Good luck to you!

    2. Third or Nothing!*

      +1 for uncertain schedules messing up the ability to make plans. My husband used to work for a company that would frequently require overtime, but we never knew when or how long until the day of. It sucked. I never knew if I could buy tickets for a show, have people over for dinner, or even make travel plans! Not knowing if he’d be able to attend the birth of his first child was the last straw. (There were a thousand other issues with them but that was the most egregious for us.) Thankfully he’s found a new place and life is much better.

  33. Michael Valentine*

    I’m not sure if my marriage is very different from everyone else’s, but I would consider just about all those things to be my business.

    Couples counseling is great, but both parties have to participate for it to work. I’d consider solo counseling first to further work out how to approach communicating with your husband. There’s just not enough info here for us to know whether this relationship is a terrible one or not or one that even deserves to be saved.

    1. Observer*

      Why would you consider them your business? Why do you get to tell your spouse how to dress for work, how to deal with their boss aside from the stuff that actually comes home), etc?

  34. Utoh!*

    I haven’t read all the comments yet but OP please think about how you are involved in the situation and remove yourself from it. Make plans anyway, even if your husband can’t join in, don’t keep tabs on your husband for his boss, and tell hubs in no uncertain terms that boss can’t call after a certain time. This is absolutely a situation I would not find in the least bit tolerable. When I was planning on moving to another state to be with my now husband, he was working third shift. I told him two things, I am not moving unless we are a) engaged to be married and b) you change shifts. I knew what the deal breakers were for me which I did not think were outlandish at all and were for the good of our relationship. I was willing to say up front what those were because I knew if those were not agreed upon right up front, I was not picking up my life and moving. Happy to say we are now 20 years down the road and still working *together* to find out what works and what does not for the BOTH of us. A relationship can’t just be about the wants of one person. Something that does happen with my husband is he needs the corroboration with a third party (usually a male friend) about things we discuss where my husband just can’t take my word for it. Thankfully it’s usually about things that aren’t very serious or important but it’s still annoying. I let him do his confirmations, but also know I was right to begin with! ;)

  35. designbot*

    My husband is a bit like this, minus the best friend dynamic. He’s been in the same job for 15 years, no advancement, lots of flexibility, and he’s fallen into some really bad workplace habits. I call him on them when I hear them, but the one thing that’s made real difference has been him going on a couple of interviews. He felt like he did horribly, picked up on the fact that he wasn’t representing well, and is taking a class and doing a bit of reading to try and improve. So I’d encourage your husband to interview a little, just to see what’s out there and make sure he’s keeping his knowledge of the market current. If he has the same experience mine did, then he’ll get feedback from within his own industry that supports your take on this.

  36. techRando*

    One thing that sticks out to me is that… the “perks” he talks about don’t sound like they’re worth much? I don’t know his industry, but if it’s a tech job, he could easily find another job with casual dress and fairly flexible hours.

    I’m currently wearing jeans, t shirt, hoodie. A specific coworker literally wears basketball shorts every single day. These are fine here.

    I only need to get in in time for my morning meeting, which some teams have at 10am or even later. I can WFH when there’s a problem getting into work for whatever reason- road conditions, health, need to let contractors in, etc.

    People also do goof off to some degree. My current job doesn’t seem to have this anymore, but there used to be a team that would have a daily nerf battle at 3pm, on the dot basically. They still left at a normal hour.

    The goofing off would be addressed if you were bad at the work, but for a lot of us, the breaks are actually really helpful due to the type of work. Trying to work non-stop on a technical task past your natural ability is really not good for productivity, both short term and long term. You might expect someone to do like 4 hours of head-down coding/designing work, in one to three bursts, and then spend the rest of the day on meetings, discussing problems/ideas with other coworkers, code reviews, and yeah, some goofing off.

    We DO have performance reviews which are, tbh, very nice to get. We get CoL raises as well as merit raises based on our performance. People who are not basically on the edge of being fired basically all get at least a small merit raise.

    All this to say: his understanding of how jobs work probably can’t be trusted because he’s putting up with so much toxicity. If you guys do couples counseling or if he seems somewhat receptive, asking him if he’d be willing to look for another job that DOES have the same perks he cares about, without any of this toxicity.

    1. LW in the House*

      Yeah, this is part of why I don’t understand why he likes this situation. I know everyone’s different, but I’d gladly give up flexible start times and a lax dress code to work with a boss who wasn’t verbally abusing me. My heart rate goes through the roof when friend-boss starts screaming at my husband over the phone and I’m not even the recipient.

      1. Tinker*

        I mean that makes sense, and yet also if I were being actively verbally abused in this way I don’t think I’d have the emotional resources to be able to put it like “I could give up flexible start times and a lax dress code to get not being screamed at” rather than something more like “right now I apparently merit being screamed at by my boss and friend; what if some new person who doesn’t know me wants to scream at me at 8 in the morning while I’m wearing a tie?”

      2. Former Hotel Worker*

        If this job has been his main/only experience of work, it’s possible he has an unrealistic view of what other workplaces will be like. I was in a toxic workplace for years that played the “we’re like family” card. I too was a perpetual latecomer (because I hated the job and didn’t want to be there) but was told by my manager “no other workplace would put up with your shit” and “9-5 jobs don’t exist anymore”. As a result I was very reluctant to look elsewhere, too intimidated to leave. I just figured I would be facing the same problems but would wind up getting fired because they wouldn’t be as “supportive” as my old boss. Your husband is possibly perceiving all other jobs as stuffy, inflexible, brutal environments where he wouldn’t be able to handle things, and is thus backed into a corner by his abusive boss. The abuse is perhaps the price he feels he has to pay in exchange for a work environment where he feels he can get along. (This is just my perspective, based on similar circumstances.)

    2. Azure Jane Lunatic*

      I’m another tech industry experience, Silicon Valley area. Jeans were on the formal end of the scale unless there was direct client contact planned, in which case jeans were the informal end. I was on a pretty collaborative team, so most of us were in the office by 10am. It mostly didn’t seem to matter whether you were face to face in any given meeting or dialed in. My team did prefer 80-90% in the office but one of my friends on another local team worked from Australia half the time and he’s been there about 10 years now.

      1. techRando*

        Yeah, I’m not even on a coast. I’m in a large, very corporate office. I think as long as you stay out of finance, most places have lax dress codes for tech people now.

  37. Cucumberzucchini*

    It’s one thing to have a created a serious issue that rightfully upsets your partner and another to not be willing to address it.

    I found out about some debt my husband had been hiding from me because he was embarrassed and it was very disappointed in him, hurt and it was a real problem in our relationship. If effected how much I was attracted to him. However, we talked about it and even though he was very resistant at first did let me put him on a budget and now years later he manages his money well and feels much better about his finances. He made the change I needed him to make. If he hadn’t have been willing to address the issue I wouldn’t have stayed married because for me being reckless with finances is not something I can deal with or be attracted to. Luckily it didn’t come to that because my husband does care about what’s important to me and doing his best to work on our marriage.

  38. Lime Lehmer*

    1. I might argue that walking the dog and helping with a move do affect the OP since it probably happens outside of regular work hours.
    2. I work for a university and have never gotten more than a cost of living increase, unless I changed positions. So just COL raises are not a red flag, but the husband’s work relationship with Boss sounds toxic.

    Also, OP’s husband seems really immature.
    A conversation is long overdue, and I heartily agree that couples counseling is necessary.
    I might add that OP needs to move to treating her husband like an adult and a partner and not an errant child. Stop trying to tell him how to dress and when to get up.

    If he can’t be an adult, you need to decide if you can continue to live like this.

  39. Archaeopteryx*

    At the very least, you need a much larger emergency savings fund than most people, in case he does find himself unemployed (and unemployable). Also, please update on this one!

  40. Quill*

    Sounds like you need Captain Awkward as well as Ask A Manager, because this is a boundaries issue as well as a job issue, in that your husband and his friend/boss/emotional abuser have none.

    1. OhGee*

      I immediately thought of the Captain’s frequent question: “If nothing changed, how long would you be willing to continue? Another month? Another year? Another 6 years?”

      1. Quill*

        The Sheezlebub principle would have saved me from my own job from hell… or at least convinced me to quit instead of waiting to be fired.

        Of course, so would anxiety meds so I could actually do something about the JFH after panicking about the Sheezlebub principle.

  41. ErinFromAccounting*

    I’m wondering if part of the problem is that OP’s husband’s work behavior is changing how OP sees him and feels about him. If I know my husband was doing his best at work and sometimes had to stay late due to workload, I would not be bothered. But if my husband was staying late at work and the reason was that he was showing up late and goofing around instead of working… I would quickly lose my patience and probably start losing respect as well.

    I agree that OP should start focusing on the things that directly affect them, but the other parts should not be ignored because they are contributing factors.

    1. designbot*

      Exactly. He’s choosing to push the boundaries of his workplace for whatever reason, in a way that winds up taking time away from the LW. He’s valuing this grudge match or whatever sort of tension it is over their time together.

  42. HarvestKaleSlaw*

    There is so much tangled up in this one.

    One thing is values. It sounds like the OP values neatness, punctuality, and career ambition, and their husband values thing differently.

    Another is financial stability. The OP’s husband’s job seems precarious to the OP, even after ten years, and is not well paid. The OP is wondering whether they have the financial stability to have kids. It’s hard to say from the outside whether this worry is founded.

    The two things are hard to disentangle. There are industries where the husband’s behavior would not be out of the norm, but the OP is going to see his career prospects through the lens of their values. And value differences that you can maybe live with when you are younger and child-free are suddenly much more fraught when you are worried about having the income to survive child rearing and retirement. You might find someone’s carefree behavior quirky and charming at 23 with fewer responsibilities, more energy, and lots of sex. They can be a whole lot less charming when you are 55 and exhausted with a job, kids and a mortgage.

    1. LW in the House*

      Oh no, children have never been part of the equation. We’re child-free by choice. It’s just the two of us, which is still a family unit that needs consideration beyond the individual.

  43. Iris Eyes*

    OP focus primarily on what you can control. What steps can you take today to start planning for one of you to be less employed than you are now? If he were to be fired what expenses could you cut? If he is unemployeed for 3 months what kind of levers could you pull? If he couldn’t find a comparable paying position for 6 months or a year what kind of actions could you take today to make it less painful and what could you do then to help things stretch?

    Alleviating the financial worry side of things will allow for you to have less fear motivating you. Rather than running from disaster you can start moving toward a brighter future. The more of a handle you feel on that aspect, when you aren’t worried that you will lose everything based on a normal and temporary set back you will have a much better chance about focusing on him as a person you love rather than an unstable business partner who might just drive you into the ground.

    Best of luck.

  44. Bigglesworth*

    One of the attorneys I work with could have almost written this letter with a few changes (law school best friend and we wear business casual here). I work at an extremely small firm – two attorneys and me. The partner and firm founder has never worked anywhere else and doesn’t know how to really communicate in a work environmental while also reigning in his temper. The associate plays phone games all day long and, although he’s had other legal jobs and complains about how this one compares, isn’t willing to do any job hunting whatsoever. His wife had to find a better paying job because he barely makes more than I do and they can’t live on that. Although I have a job offer to stay on at the firm after law school, I worked for several years before and recognize a toxic environment when I see it. I’m putting out feelers for after law school employment and hope to have something nailed down soon. Business casual clothes and semi-flexible work hours are not enough to keep me here and I don’t have the friendship tie to the boss to make me feel guilty when i leave.

  45. MoopySwarpet*

    I’m not in this particular kind of situation, but I think there are many parallels to situations I have been part of, either personally or second hand. While his behavior is alarming to many commenters for professional and life reasons, in the end, none of that really matters to the collective us. We don’t have to live it.

    In addition to AAM’s very practical advice of talking about it, I think you have to do some soul searching and make decide what you are and are not willing to live with. You don’t say how long you’ve been married or how long you dated prior, but it really sounds like this just is who he is. I’ve made a lot of compromises I never imagined in the name of love. And I do not regret a single one. So . . . some general advice:

    1. Know where your lines are and really explore why those are your lines. Some of mine were based on what other people thought or what I thought they might think. Some of those lines moved. Some of them will not.

    2. Figure out which things you are willing to tolerate because the love of your life is doing them. And then tolerate them. Become ok with them. If you decide the clothes are no big deal, then don’t give the side-eye, don’t comment on them, etc. (Unless asked, of course.)

    3. Don’t give him an ultimatum, but if there are things you talk about that he agrees to fix, have a deadline in your head. If he’s not making strides by that time, really look at what your next steps might need to be. By the time the deadline comes around, you might even decide they aren’t as big of deal breakers as you thought.

    4. Really start working on figuring out how you can be able to support yourself without his income. If you leave, you’ll need it. If you stay and he does get fired/quits, you’ll need it. If it turns out you don’t need it, more money in the bank (savings, retirement, trips, whatever). In the meantime, while he does have this job, work on getting to a debt free point.

    Good luck! If you love this guy (and of course you do, you married him) you’re going to have to find a way to be ok with who he is. Some of that may be simple reframing. Some may be just letting go of some things for your own sanity. Some may be setting up the household finances in a way that minimizes risk for both of you. Some will be results from serious conversations.

  46. Jules the 3rd*

    I wonder if the screaming has something to do with the ‘delaying going into work’? Is there any chance that your husband knows how bad this is but doesn’t want to admit it to you / himself?

    The way I’ve found around this is to say my full perception once: “Screaming at someone, keeping them out at irregular hours, criticizing them for being slow when you’re asking for their attention, [other bad behaviors of your choice] – these are not normal and are not ok.” Then don’t replay that scene again, but do consistently 1) talk about your work and how it goes and 2) say “that is not normal and not ok” when hearing about the boss’s bad behaviors.

    I was able to help a friend get out of an abusive relationship with this + encouraging counseling. Took a year, but so so worth it.

    1. Jules the 3rd*

      To be clear, I didn’t talk about ‘my work’, I talked about ‘my relationship’, and with my partner’s ok, talked about ‘oh, we had this problem and then we talked about it (instead of screaming insults) to find a solution.’ I was consciously and regularly sharing conflict and healthy ways to resolve it; the work version of that would be maybe, ‘oh, Bob keeps pulling me away from my real work, so I [set up a regular meeting time to up date him / tell him I have to focus on X right now / etc ]’

      1. But Make It Data*

        Model the behavior! I wonder if this may be something LW’s done in the past unintentionally. Does LW’s boss ever call him? etc.

  47. Frankie*

    So…I think OP is right to be concerned (and I would be for sure in the same situation), but I also get the sense that the replies here are forgetting that it’s really, really easy to develop distorted workplace norms, particularly with less varied job history. And it’s really easy to think about a lot of jobs, “what I’ve got is a good thing going/is acceptable” when you don’t know what else is out there.

    I think the big thing to shift any of this would be exposure to other work norms/environments, however that might be managed. There was a response above asking if he would be open to part time work in a more typical type of job, which could be one avenue. Volunteer work is tricky because I feel like those are open to some really weird dynamics, too.

    But until he’s really seen other work environments, it just may not really click with him how dysfunctional this situation is.

    So then I guess, OP, you do end up with determining what you can control, what you can’t, and what you’re willing to live with. But some kind of exposure to other workplaces feels pretty crucial to any real change happening.

  48. NothingIsLittle*

    I hope I’m not overstepping by asking, but OP are you working a job with standard hours right now? (There is an argument up-thread about this type of language, so to clarify, I mean standard as in they are the same for you every day.) When you talk about asking your husband if he’s going to work, it makes me think that you might not be or that your hours start relatively late in the day and, in turn, that your morning routine might be decided by his decision to wake up before noon or not. If I’m not misreading the situation and you’re either work-from-home/a stay-at-home spouse/late shift, it might help you to develop a morning routine that is entirely independent of his choices. Wake up at the same time every day and leave the house, or go to a room he’s less likely to stumble through on his way out. Don’t answer your phone if his boss calls (and that won’t be a problem for you). Do the same thing every morning and make sure it requires just enough mental energy that you aren’t thinking about his work. I have found that my anxiety disorder was greatly exacerbated by a lack of routine and it may help to mitigate your anxiety to disengage from thinking about when he’ll get to work.

    That said, I agree with the other comments that you should try to get to the root of what’s bothering you. Is it that you don’t have any time to see each other because he’s always working late? That’s a valid concern that you should talk to him about. Is it that you have to overhear the shouting matches and it’s causing you anxiety? That’s a valid concern and you would be within your rights to ask him to have those screaming matches in a different room. Is it that you’re worried about what might happen if he loses this job? That’s a valid concern, but it sounds like you’ve already spoken to him about this and he’s written it off; if you can afford it, you might want to develop an emergency fund to give you peace of mind. Is it that you respect him less because of how he’s handling his job? There are a few points where it seems like that might be the case (or it could just be that you’re exasperated with him and the little things are making it worse, it’s hard to tell through text). If that is part of the problem, then I think you might want to do some soul searching about why it bothers you, because some parts (like how he dresses for work) really aren’t your problem and you should probably let them go for your own well-being.

    1. NothingIsLittle*

      Based on the comments OP has made, I no longer think it looks like she respects him less because of how he’s handling his job. It sounds more like she’s a compulsive worrier (understandable) and all the little things are just adding to the anxiety surrounding his current employment. The rest of my advice still stands.

  49. LW in the House*

    Hi everyone – LW here! I really appreciate Alison’s response and the thoughtful and thought provoking things many of you have said. I just wanted to clarify some stuff and also note that there are things I can’t speak to for privacy reasons.
    1. I struggled with whether or not to write to Alison. Is this a job issue? Is this a relationship issue? Is it a bit of both? I think when you share your life with someone, job issues to an extent become relationship issues. One will effect the other.
    2. I do appreciate concern over my mental well-being. I do see a counselor on my own, and couples therapy is in the works, not because we’re headed toward disaster but because sometimes you need an outside perspective. Which is also why I wrote to AAM.
    3. Alison is right – there are things I have to let go of. There are things out of my control. There are things that have no direct impact on me. That doesn’t mean I don’t still want to tear my hair out on occasion.
    4. I commented above that I would like to start a new organization for adults called Anxiety Scouts, where the motto is “Be Prepared for Everything Always.” I worry. A lot. My husband doesn’t. My anxiety over this situation wasn’t always so bad. I married into this work situation. I knew what I was getting into and it used to be a manageable thing. But in the meantime, I went through a layoff for things completely outside of my control and the time it took to get back to work drained every penny we had – saving money has been next to impossible until recently. The last couple of years have also seen a general society-wide devaluation of both of our professions. So, despite the weird stability/non-stability of my husband’s situation, I have a constant underlying fear of job loss and the difficulty of finding new work that might be irrational under other circumstances or in different national financial times.
    5. I can only speak in part for my husband. In some ways he is happy at his job, and I respect that. But the screaming is… toxic, to put it kindly. No one should treat their employee like that. And it crosses an extra line by going beyond work into personal belittlement. I’ve heard it, even though it’s on his phone. It *is* screaming. It hurts my husband and it hurts me to witness someone say cruel things to him, especially when my husband would never return the cruelty. It hurts to know that I have to stay out of it. And it hurts to see boss-friend socially where he behaves like nothing’s wrong.
    6. Finally, a plea. Please keep in mind that people are complicated as hell. If I had written the entirety of this situation with all of the details, it would have been a book. And violated some privacy. No one in this situation, not myself, or my husband, or boss-friend, are a complete angel or devil. I guess, try to give advice without jumping to dire conclusions. I really just needed an outside perspective on a tricky situation. Alison and a lot of you have given me much to think about, and I thank you all for that. Already, I see that with some of this stuff I have to look inward and examine my own expectations and sense of normalcy.

    Oh, and the Riverdale comment – priceless. Thank you for a much needed laugh.

    1. Jules the 3rd*

      Yeah, the screaming is what got me. Your husband’s boss is abusing him in a *ton* of ways – economically, emotionally – the whole ‘boss yells because Hubs is slow but Hubs is slow bcs boss sucks him into socializing’ is *CLASSIC*. It is *SUPER HARD* to leave abusive relationships, and no one can do it except the victim. You can’t do it for him, which is also super hard.

      Some ideas:
      If you haven’t yet, read _Why Does He Do That_ by Lundy Bancroft
      Model healthy workplace interactions for him – talk about conflicts or persistent coworkers.
      Send Hubs here or to Captain Awkward to read the archives?
      Build up the f*ck off fund as fast and hard as you can. Refi any loans you have, hold off on retirement savings for 6mo, put it all away. Consider a part-time / weekend gig through xmas.

      1. AnotherPersonHere*

        Why should LW consider a second job and put off saving for retirement when her spouse is the one refusing to look for work outside his current toxic environment?!

        1. President Porpoise*

          …because marriage is a partnership, and we help each other out rather than just cut loose because someone is in a bad place?

          1. AnotherPerson Here*

            The partner should be the one picking up the slack here. Telling someone to stop saving for retirement because their *partner* might lose their job is bad advice.

            1. President Porpoise*

              Nope – and it goes double since LW was laid off recently and relied on her spouse during that bad time, and I’d bet strained any existing savings. You prepare for the day when the spouse finally is able to leave the company but can’t get a job, or is fired, so that you don’t lose your house/car/ability to buy necessities. If OP can save a substantial fund without stopping her retirement savings, that’s obviously better – but you use the flush times to prepare for the lean.

            2. Jules the 3rd*

              Very short term stop, until the safety fund is back up. Abusive situations can explode with no warning, you really want to have survival resources on hand for it.

        2. PollyQ*

          Because she can’t change what her husband does, only what she does.

          IF she decides she doesn’t want to be married to him anymore, that’s one thing, but as long as she’s of the opinion that, overall, he’s worth staying with, there are concrete steps that she can take on her own that would likely help with her anxiety about the overall situation.

    2. fposte*

      Thanks for writing in, LW; I think this was a situation a lot of us would struggle with, and I hope you find a way through.

    3. Colette*

      There are a couple of things I see here that might make you feel better (but have nothing to do with your husband):
      4. I’ve been laid off 3 times, and I have the opposite reaction to you – I am not worried about it happening again, for two reasons. The first reason is that it taught me how adaptable I am (every job I was laid off from was different – I was tech support, a software developer, and developing processes for call centers) and if I got laid off from my current (different) job, I would also be OK. Can you identify what skills you have that would transfer to a different line of work than you are in now?
      The second reason is money. I have an emergency fund and no debt, and I know exactly what expenses I can cut if I need to. You say you’re now in a position where you can save money; if you keep that up, some of your anxiety will hopefully ease up.

      5. Do you have to see the boss socially? I agree he’s behaving horribly, so why do you have to see him socially? Can you minimize your contact with him even if your husband isn’t willing to do so?

    4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I have your back 110% on the screaming. That’s my one true “I will eject myself from this job right this GD minute” deal-breaker. It’s not healthy or acceptable. It’s not a communication style, it’s abusive and bad for the nerves all around.

      I do have a background where one of my bosses communicated with a couple staffers with LOUD VOICES but they were yelling at each other like naughty school boys tossing around their weight on the school ground. So it wasn’t a power dynamic involved or threatening even, it was just a bunch of hot air being released at any given time. So I can see the difference when it arises. Calling and screaming at someone, nope nope nope never.

      And I have a construction background, it was yell to be heard over machinery or yell to tell someone they’re in danger, never yell to call people names and diminish them nonsense.

      1. ArtsNerd*

        Yes I’ve been active elsewhere in the comments with a “but showing up late can sometimes be ok” perspective, and I didn’t address the abuse / screaming at all.

        I don’t always type out my entire train of thought, and accidentally elide over important parts, so this might be a good place to clarify that my point was that LW’s husband may very well find another job that won’t care about how casual he can be toward office norms. Not that staying in his current job is helpful or healthy for either of them. (Of course LW can’t force their husband to resign.)

        LW: thanks for chiming in! Glad to hear you’re already in therapy. Finding out that your father is a heinous criminal is too much to process on your own.

      2. Filosofickle*

        It’s a deal breaker for me, too. Once I observed my boss yell at someone, and soon after I went to his office and quietly said, just so you know if you ever do that to me I walk. Kind of a risky and perhaps unnecessarily preemptive thing to do, but I wanted to be clear. My old office had a CEO who yelled (and pushed everything off of people’s desks from time to time) and I didn’t want any part of that.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          I make it known in interviews now, I’ve always had a way to bring it up since most places will ask you what you expect or need in a boss, etc. And my response is just “I need a clear, calm method of communication. I do well with just about every personality, I’ve had a lot mixed in over the years but I don’t do screaming/yelling/explosive personalities. I will and have left for that kind of behavior.”

          And every one who hears that is taken aback and starts fish-mouthing in that “Of course we aren’t going to yell at you, what kind of savages act that way!?” [Just one in my past, I quit within the first week and went back to my old job because the lady was unhinged. She was screaming by day 3 at a crew member, just drug him right outside and started berating him out front. Nope. I can deal with some pretty weird behavior, like how she wanted to have her coffee poured for her, whatever but don’t ever raise your voice. Ever. It’s inhumane.]

          So I’m thrilled you told your boss what was up immediately! If someone pushed everything off a desk at me, I would come over the table at them. Don’t start a fight you don’t want. I’m not intimidated, I just don’t want to listen to it and I don’t do “bullying” behavior.

      3. LW in the House*

        Yeah, the verbal abuse is what causes me the most anxiety, and maybe I should have focused on that in my original letter. I didn’t simply because it’s not something I can control. And maybe “matches” is the wrong word because it’s one-sided. Personal belittlement isn’t okay ever, and very not okay at a job. I just feel that if a boss were to ever yell at an employee the way boss-friend does to husband, the employee would have had to do something terrible like steal a crap ton of money, harm another employee, or burn the building down. Boss-friend manages others but doesn’t do this to them, so it’s personal and he knows he can get away with it because if husband ever went to HR boss-friend would know. And husband internalizes it, but would rather deal with the devil he knows.

    5. President Porpoise*

      Hi OP,

      I know that there’s very little you can do to get your husband to consider other work, but I wonder if the cruelty from the boss is part of why he’s having trouble getting up in the mornings, motivating himself, etc. If you do go to couple’s therapy, or if your husband goes to therapy on his own, it might be helpful to explore this aspect of his work life. It is so hard to leave a job if you feel like you barely deserve the one you have – and I think his boss may be intentionally manipulating him into not leaving and not pushing for raises by demeaning and belittling him. He needs a healthy job, for his own mental wellbeing, completely aside from how it impacts your shared life. Try to counter his boss’s harmful words, if you’re able. I’m sorry if I overstep, but you presumably love him, and see value in him – make sure he knows that.

      1. Lilysparrow*

        Yes. Some people (particularly those raised as men with traditional or unexamined gender role expectations) have their self-esteem merged with their work identity to such a deep level that they can’t separate them at all.

        If your husband feels crappy about his work life (even if he likes the work itself, or likes some aspects of it, like the “freedom”), then he is probably feeling crappy about himself, which could very well have knock-on effects of depression, avoidance, denial, etc.

      2. Tinker*

        Another thing I am thinking along these lines… hrm.

        If part of the problem here is that the demeaning and belittling he’s experiencing at work is causing this guy to believe that he is not capable of being employed outside his current abusive environment, beating the drum that he will not be capable of being employed outside his current abusive environment unless he first reforms his dress and schedule habits is not likely to motivate working toward an exit.

        I kind of have both an internal Chaos Muppet and Anxiety Scout so I’m somewhat sympathetic to the worrying about “but what if change doesn’t happen when it’s needed, or it happens too late, or et cetera”; I’ve also had to intentionally turn away from that kind of dialogue to something focused more on adaptability, because responding to catastrophization consumes resources which are then not available for more immediately relevant uses.

        There’s value to advance planning, but sometimes that advance plan needs to be “I will cross that bridge when I get to it, rather than all possible bridges long before”.

    6. halfwolf*

      thank you for writing in, and thank you for updating! i have previously felt similar levels of frustration with my partner’s work situation (though not for the same reasons) and the way it affected me. we ended up having a fight about it – a big, important fight that ultimately we really, really needed to have. of course i don’t enjoy fighting with someone i love, and had i been more upfront early about my worries then maybe (maybe!) said fight could have been avoided. one of the things that i’ve been trying to do lately with my partner (on the advice of my own therapist) is to be very direct and upfront about what i need. not to demand that they bend to my every will, but to state clearly and plainly what i need so that they can tell me what they need and we can work together to figure out the best course of action. please forgive me and disregard if i’m being presumptuous, but i hear echoes in your letter of my own need to be heard and validated by my partner, even if nothing changes about a given situation. if you’re searching for a place to start, that wouldn’t be a bad one. i’m rooting for you both.

    7. Eukomos*

      I can see why your experience of getting laid off and drawing down all your savings would cause enough worry to leak into other things like that! It sounds like that, and concern about your husband being yelled at and insulted, are the core issues here. It’ll be easier to talk to him knowing that, you can say screw the argument about the jeans and focus on your financial stability and his emotional well-being. I bet if you sit down and ask him to address those two issues with you then you’ll make a bunch more progress, maybe you’ll be able to come up with a plan to reinforce your financial stability and he can reassure you about how he feels, or he’ll realize you’re right and he deserves a friend who treats him better and take steps to free himself of this guy.

      And in the meantime, is there anything you can do to reassure yourself about the financial side of things? Is there a certification in your industry you could get to improve your employability should something go wrong at the current job, or a healthier part of the field you could start to move into? There are few things that will make you as miserable as fast as money troubles, so anything you can do to improve your control over that will help.

    8. Quill*

      Much support, LW. I’ve been in the toxic job situation due to fear, and I think we should definitely make badges for the Anxiety Scouts.

    9. Damien*

      Hey OP – as someone else said in another comment thread, i too think you need to take this question over to Captain Awkward as well as AAM. It’s a great advice column-style site with lots of helpful info and regular posts answering questions people have written in with. CA won’t just tell you to ditch your husband and wave you out of the queue, she’ll actually empathise and give helpful suggestions on how to deal with this, and to work out what is actually yours to deal with so you don’t have to stare at the whole mess and think you’ve got to do it all alone.

      1. LW in the House*

        I’m appreciating all of the suggestions to read Captain Awkward because people gravitate toward certain blogs over others and while I’ve seen Captain Awkward on occasion, my husband reads it regularly. Maybe I should too :)

        1. valentine*

          Her theme this year is ending toxic relationships. Maybe your husband will take her advice and realize his boss is the “With friends like that” type.

        2. Jules the 3rd*

          Have your hubs write in to her, and/ or post on the Friends of Captain Awkward blog. He needs to hear that being belittled is not normal or ok from more people – that site will say it. A lot.

        3. Damien*

          Definitely have a look at it! The letters and responses are organised into categories with a tagging system, so you can read several letters on a similar subject for a wider view of the advice given. Maybe your husband might like to write in, or you could write a joint letter together – I’m not sure how long it takes to get a reply, but the site updates pretty regularly so it shouldn’t be too long.

    10. Observer*

      A couple of thoughts.

      Google “sick systems” – look at it and encourage your husband to look at it. It would help you understand the dynamic a bit better and possibly help your husband understand a bit better what may be going on here. Because I believe that what the others have said about the possibility of Boss being deliberately cruel to beat him down is on point.

      I still think you can and should distance yourself from a lot of this. But when talking to him about this stuff, it might help if you can articulate that you see the boss as responsible for his own misbehavior – and that this is really not normal in most workplaces. If he thinks that bosses who yell are pretty much par for the course, it’s going to be hard for him to motivate himself to think about other jobs.

      1. Quandong*

        I also highly recommend checking out Issendai Sick System, for anyone trying to make forward progress when stuck in abusive relationships, including at work (or trying to understand what happened in the past).

    11. BetsCounts*

      thanks for the additional info OP. I am sending kind thoughts to you and your husband as you deal with this.

    12. animaniactoo*

      Hiya OP, thanks for checking in. I do think that one of the things that you can bring to the table in terms of “this is the issue I’m having, how can we look at ways to address it” is to say “I know this was in place when we got married, no argument there. The thing that’s happened for me is that I had always thought that we were adaptable and survivable, so the past couple of years have been a major setback – far larger than I had ever thought we would be facing – and it has me scared now. Maybe some of that is irrational, but I don’t think that all of it is and I would like us to look at what we can do together to make ourselves more secure going into the future. Because I’m looking around at what’s happening and it looks like this struggle that we’ve just been through is a kind of cycle that can be repeated and if that happens, we’ll keep rebuilding savings only to lose it again on another cycle. I’m okay with the idea that our savings can take a hit. The part that scares me is the part where we end up with practically no savings – again.”

      Basically, you’re presenting the idea that what’s changed here – and is worthy of looking at and being held equally important – is what you have lived through with him, and how much of a bigger deal it was than you thought it would be to handle. And that you want to look for solutions to it together, not simply talk about what he needs to do different. Because while he may not want to change a bunch of the job stuff – he might be open to looking at other solutions that he may think of or you figure out together, just on the basis that he gets where you’re coming from, and wants to help you feel like you’re more stable. Even if he doesn’t think it’s necessary, but willing to do it because he cares for you.

    13. Jackalope*

      I would add that everyone has given you good advice about the main issues you raised. While dealing with those, however, don’t forget other things. In particular, I would add that it is appropriate to set some boundaries around what you are okay with handling yourself. So for example you might want to say that you will never be the go-between again. If the boss-friend is calling at all hours and waking you up you might say that he needs to stop or the sound needs to be turned off on the phone. If you are holding dinner forever getting hungry waiting for your husband to get home from dog walking, set a time you will eat and don’t wait later than that. If he keeps flaking out on plans then stop inviting him and just invite a friend. Whatever the areas are that are affecting you the most, set boundaries there. Your husband may choose to stay in this job, but he doesn’t get to decide that you are permanently exhausted, hungry, etc. Some of these things you mentioned and some you didn’t, but maybe take a bit of time to brainstorm what YOUR deal breakers are if your husband stays in this job. It may not be as huge as “my boss-friend can’t yell at me anymore”, but it is important that your life becomes more workable too.

    14. Alexander Graham Yell*

      LW, I had a boss like this – somebody who, while I didn’t see socially, thought of me as a friend and also verbally abused me in the office to the point of tears on more than one occasion. Literally the only thing that got me through was therapy. I hope your husband is seeking out individual therapy. It gave me the tools to see what I could change and what I couldn’t (I was my boss’s only direct report, so it would have been obvious if I’d gone to HR and he never yelled at me when anybody else could hear, so I know he knew that on some level he was doing something Not Okay).

      The biggest thing for me was the power – control – responsibility triangle. These three things go together, and problems happen when we try to separate them. In my case, my boss felt like he was powerless and the only thing he could control was me, so he put the responsibility for our department’s continued existence (and thus, his employment) on my shoulders. But really, he had the power to deliver and he had control over whether he did it or not, so it wasn’t my responsibility. Just knowing that made it a lot easier to tune out some of the abuse – it wasn’t about me, it wasn’t anything I could change, I just figured out the noises he wanted to hear and made them while mentally going to my Fortress of Solitude.

      I also didn’t realize how terrible my situation was or my reaction to it until seeing my therapist be visibly horrified by things my boss said to me AND hearing her say, “I’m really glad to see you this week, I was honestly scared for you last week and I’m glad you’re back and feeling a little better,” when I was struggling the most.

  50. Observer*

    OP – A few thoughts.

    Firstly, all of the people who are telling you to get into counseling are 100% correct.

    Secondly back off. Some of these things are just none of your business. Others are things that are your business, but your husband is an adult and needs to deal with them.

    What you should do is figure out a way to extricate yourself from situations. So, you stop taking calls from the boss trying to track your husband down; either insist that he go out of the room or house when an argument with boss develops, or you walk away regardless of what you guys are doing (I prefer the former); stop trying to manage his schedule or getting him to work.

    Also, I’d say start making some changes to your finances. Do what you can to enable you to live on one income (and if husband doesn’t like it, let him know you’re going to keep doing this till his behavior changes enough to make him more employable.) Start saving as much money as you can. And start disentangling your finances a bit. Hopefully your marriage will survive this. But unless and until something changes in his behavior, you really want to reduce your risk posed by his behavior. Making some of your income and assets unavailable to him is one way to do that.

    1. Reality Bites*

      Communication is a big problem here…. thus, I disagree with your recommendation to steamroll OP’s husband and make financial decisions on their own without having a……. conversation. (Remember? Communication is the problem). If OP starts to make decisions in isolation, they can’t expect the husband to act any differently. Marriage is a partnership and all aspects should be treated as such, especially when it comes to finances. Everyone needs to be on the same page.

      1. Observer*

        I’m not suggesting that she “steamroller” him. I’m suggesting that as long as he walks on the edge, she take reasonable precautions. And, I’m suggesting that she take those measures in the context of better communications, couples counseling and letting go of the things that really are not her issue.

  51. Way anon for this*

    OP, I feel you! I am in a somewhat similar situation – my husband works for a guy who only hires friends and family, regardless of whether they have any experience or acumen.

    My husband is the only person in the whole company who has any professional experience or skill in his area (other than his boss, who is a great guy, but not a leader/manager). The rest of them are a shambles. Hubby gets extremely frustrated with the lack of leadership and procedures, and occasionally vents at the team and at his boss.

    I’m so nervous that (1) this company won’t last, given that no one is at the helm, or (2) the rest of the team will get tired of hubby’s constant anger and he’ll get fired.

    The principal perk of this job for hubby is that it is 100% remote. But it is soooo stressful that he is learning a bunch of bad habits from working at this place, and I don’t know how long it would take him to get another job if they go under, or worse, if he is fired.

    I had a talk with my husband and laid this all out – we don’t see eye to eye on this really so I am making sure I have savings in case I need to support us for a while. Hope your conversation goes well! Sending you good vibes and a lot of empathy.

  52. Certified Scorpion Trainer*

    i have to disagree with the things that “don’t really affect” OP:

    Things that are aggravating but doesn’t sound like they really affect you:
    * the expectation that your husband will help your boss with non-work projects like moving or walking his dog
    – this affects plans with his wife (OP) and family, free time, etc
    * your husband’s start time/lateness
    – same as previous. if he’s in bed and not at work, he goofs off and stays later and has less time to be a good husband and contribute to the household etc
    * what he wears to work
    – this one i can let slide, but only slightly. he should dress to look like he cares and like he tried (even though this is debatable)
    * how much time he goofs off during the day
    – same as before, the more time he goofs off, the longer he stays at work and the less time he spends at home with his wife and family.

    and if he slacks off this much at work, we can only imagine what else he slacks off on outside of work. it may be that he’s using his “late hours” at work to avoid going home to the responsibilities of being a contributing adult and husband.

    1. Colette*

      If the OP is unhappy with how much time she is spending with her husband or how much he is contributing to the household, the problem is not his job.

    2. Isabel Kunkle*

      “he should dress to look like he cares and like he tried (even though this is debatable)”

      Why? And why is that a partner’s concern when they’re not going to be around the person in question?

      I’m not all “oh, grooming shouldn’t matter” hippie girl in my personal life–a guy shows up for a nice date in beat-up jeans and a sweatshirt, I’m contacting my friends for Emergency Velociraptor Call, and if a partner starts letting himself go when I’m around, I’ll reconsider the arrangement posthaste–but for work? Eh, dude’s not around me, it’s none of my business.

  53. Reality Bites*

    In addition to the great advise re: couples counseling, you also need to work on establishing an emergency fund with at least enough money to cover expenses for six months, should something happen with your job or his. That way, you will not ‘be screwed’ by being forced to temporarily live on a single income.

  54. Aphrodite*

    I know I couldn’t stay in a marriage like yours because I’d be sick all the time with worry about loss of income and knowing how difficult it would be for your husband to get a job elsewhere. If he refused to see how it at some point it might explode and spread enormous damage far beyond himself I’d leave fast. And separate the finances ASAP.

  55. Beth*

    Alison is right that your best bet here is to focus on the impact these things are having *on you*. If you haven’t done so already, take some time to talk these out with your husband from that perspective. “I don’t like you working late, stop it” is a really different conversation than “Because you stayed late without notice, I had to do all the meal planning, grocery shopping, cooking, and cleanup yesterday, which was a lot to handle after working all day. Also, I missed spending time with you like we usually do in the evenings. How can we prevent those problems in the future?” Similarly, “Your workplace is way out of line with professional norms” is just a statement–and one that’s making him respond with “So what?”, it sounds like–but “I’m worried that when you do hit a point where the situation changes (if we decide to move, say, or your friend moves on and the company culture changes in a way you don’t like, or you just decide you want to try something new), your lack of advancement over the last few years and your unfamiliarity with more traditional environments will make it hard for you to job hunt” is at the very least something that can be discussed and planned for.

    If you’ve done this and your husband just dismisses all your concerns, then I suspect the actual issue here isn’t your husband’s job–it’s his disdain for your needs and concerns. But if you haven’t really articulated why these things matter to you, then that’s the first step.

  56. Some name here*

    Oh, this could have been us two years ago! Complete with my worries about my own career. But now he has a very good place somewhere else (imagine!) and he is still friends with the previous boss, but that friendship has moved into a unabusive space. What changed was DH’s valuation of himself, and I helped with that by patiently noting all the times he was being work-abused, and reminding him that he was worth better treatment, both from a boss, and from a friend.

    I didn’t choose the loudest things, like the screaming or the off-hours calls, because DH had already accepted those. I pointed out that other companies don’t expect travel-based employees to travel without a company credit card, effectively making short-term loans to the company. Other companies allow a usual amount of sleep when they give employees their next driving destination, because they understand no next sale is worth losing a founding employee that can do nearly every job in the plant (yes, really!). Good friends don’t push you for your evaluation of an opportunity you found, and then move on it before you can, pushing you out. I built a case of distrust of Boss-Friend. And I showed my distress, worrying about him (not us – difference), and being hurt for him when Boss-Friend stomped all over him.

    Boss-Friend also helped inadvertently by overstepping obvious bounds (a major paycut 3 months after we moved states at his request???). That was the final straw, and thankfully DH applied and got TWO offers in TWO WEEKS.

    What has also changed, which you might explore together, or with a counselor, is that DH’s “person” has shifted, from his friend to his wife. We are partners against the challenges of the world, we have each others’ backs. When we married, he was part of a decades-long guys’ club (that company) that provided him that emotional security. I had to show him that I was truly on his side, I wasn’t picking him apart, I wanted better for him than he even knew. That he’s shining at the very good company is reinforcing everything I said all along, and we’re stronger than ever. (Funny, though – he’s now doing the same treatment to me, as my present workplace has some serious flaws. Be ready.)

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Thank you for sharing this! I hope that it gives the OP a glimpse at the fact that this can turn around and get better, this is refreshing from the doom and gloom of “Get ready to divorce!” that’s being thrown around.

      This is very true. It’s been known to work my life as well, it’s all about a team effort and being the backup.

    2. Devil Fish*

      “I had to show him that I was truly on his side, I wasn’t picking him apart, I wanted better for him than he even knew.”

      Jfc this is so sad. How do guys like this get married in the first place? Why do women become devoted to men who objectively treat them like shit? What are we getting out of this?

      That “Bros before hoes!” mentality is so high school and we shouldn’t be rewarding this behavior in high school, let alone from (supposedly) grown adults who I guess don’t see women as people.

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        It doesn’t sound like that’s the dynamic Some name here is describing. If she had approached her husband with ‘Why do you put up with that? He’s a jerk!’ that might have led to defensiveness born out of feeling that she was attacking his choices, as though she were saying, Why haven’t you stood up to him? Are you some kind of weakling? Which then leads to his reply, “It’s not so bad! We’ve been friends forever–that’s just how he is.” (This is the way of toxic relationships.)

        What OP’s husband needed was for her to point out that the boss’s actions were not normal for a business, that other companies value their employees more–and that Husband deserves to be valued that way himself. There’s no sign that OP’s husband treated her badly at all.

  57. Brian*

    There is so much good advice here, i’m not sure I can add much. I would encourage you on a few points however.
    1) you are only guaranteed to change the things under YOUR direct control.
    2) Change is very difficult, often even when we see the need.
    3) It’s ok to say “blah is a problem for me, is there some way I can help so that happens less?”
    4) be very particular about what you consider unacceptable behavior. These should be things that could end the marriage. refusing to get a job, ever… probably on the list. dressing lousy for work, probably not.

    Finally pressure of any sort risks creating resentment, too much resentment and “bad things” happen.

  58. MissDisplaced*

    I wish you luck with this OP, it’s a difficult situation.
    At best, if you do nothing else about the job situation, is to cut costs where you can and save up at least 6 months to 1 years worth of husbands salary. Make this a goal for both of you. It will give both of you a little piece of mind should things go south with his job. And if that never happens, you have it for other emergencies.
    The only other thing you might try to have him try to do is at least make an effort to moderate his work hours to a somewhat more predictable schedule. Even if he starts late, fine, work 10-6 or 11-7 or whenever he’s productive, as long as it a little more consistent. And don’t cancel or change your own plans, it may be you’ll have to accept he will show or he won’t, but go out w/friends or whatever and don’t put your life and activities on hold waiting for him. Perhaps you guys will find a compromise in at least some things you can live with.

  59. big X*

    He was like this before and he will stay like this because he seems relatively happy with the arrangement. Everyday is a big ole party at the office. I agree with Alison about the first bucket – it’s all whatever there, just small concessions that would naturally follow if the the ones in bucket 2 are addressed.

    Does this guy know how to create boundaries? Because that’s the crux of the issue with this friend-work situation. It’s like your partner is constantly saying “You’re not the boss of me!” and sticking his tongue out when his friend is his literal boss, who probably has a boss who is wondering where your partner’s work is (the phrasing makes me think friend is not the business owner – which is also why the dress code thing is very leave it be because that’s clearly just ok at their work). Is there not some grandboss that’s pulling at his collar when he sees two of his employees goofing over so much they have to stay late enough that their partners are affected? Does your husband realize if his friend leaves for another position that he can’t keep this up? Is he the type that can transition when he sees “oh I can’t get away with this anymore”/does he even have a modicum of self-awareness that this is so unprofessional?

    When reading your letter, however, I get the feeling that the job isn’t the only issue here. I would recommend individual therapy before couple’s because I think it’s important to organize one’s thoughts and feelings first.

  60. Just stoppin' by to chat*

    Not sure if anyone already said this, but this seems like a question for Carolyn Hax. It doesn’t seem like a work issue as much of an interpersonal issue between a couple. Glad Allison also recommended couple’s counseling. Good luck to the LW since this does not sound like a tenable solution.

  61. YoungTen*

    When you do talk to Him, try as best you can to use “I” statements instead of “You”. like I feel concerned about the work dynamic, future work prospects and financial future moving forward. Instead of you’re not moving up and making the money we need and you need to fix this. The first statement lets him hear you, the second will put him on the defensive and he’ll probably shut down.

  62. Trixie, the Great and Pedantic*

    The problems run way deeper than your husband’s career or lack thereof. Get ready to cut the cord and run like your pants are on fire.

  63. Anonymuss*

    Time for divorce.

    I’m half-joking, though my judgement may be off because I’m pretty much aromantic. When you have to ask that many “why” questions, the entire relationship becomes a problem. I personally don’t see the appeal in trying to fix a whole other person.

  64. charo*

    Couples counseling! The answer was right re: dividing this into categories, some are not your issues — but I really see a lot of personal couples issues here.
    He’s disrespectful to you and immature. Protect your own assets and don’t depend on him more than he can handle.
    If he has to leave this job, he’s not fit for anything else w/these work habits!
    It’s like he’s 15!

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