Will We Ever Be Able to Take the Time to Enjoy the Fruits of Our Labor?

You have watched your husband work hard for years. You have done everything you were supposed to do. You have raised your children. You have been a steady, consistent support to him and his role in the business. You think the time has finally come to buy that condo in Palm Beach or take that trip to Paris. Your husband, however, cannot switch his focus from working long enough to talk about it, let alone to commit to it.

If this situation sounds familiar, it doesn’t mean that you have to wait around; unable to make any kinds of plans because of your husband’s need to stay planted in the business. Here’s what you can do:

Plan A: State Your Case

You can tell your husband that you understand that he lives and breathes the business because that is who he is, but you still want to spend time with him and share your life with him. You can point out your concern that by the time he is ready to devote less time to the business (including overseeing the new decorations on the fourth floor bathroom) one of you may be too old and/or too sick to go anywhere or enjoy yourselves. Express what makes you happy and fulfilled. If you want to spend time in a condo in Palm Beach, whether it be sitting on the beach, joining a bridge club or doing some decorating yourself, let him know that you want to go there, even if it means being by yourself some of the time, and that whatever time he can spend there would be wonderful.

Stating your case to your husband may threaten him, but it may also help him acknowledge his mortality. The thought that he might only have ten or fifteen years left may prompt him to ask himself questions, such as, “What is it all about?” “What have I been doing with my life?” “Am I truly happy and fulfilled?” “What matters to me?” Most likely he will realize that what he cares about more than anything is his family and that part of the reason he has worked all these years is his sense of responsibility to them. At this point in his life, the best way to serve them may no longer be by continuing to work hard every single day, if by doing so, his wife, children, and grandchildren don’t see him or spend time with him the way they want to.

Plan B: Do It Anyway

If your husband doesn’t respond to conversations about what you want for yourself and your relationship with him; if he still cannot tear himself away from the business to spend quality time with you, you can go anyway. If it is something you want, need, have earned and deserve, think about taking the trip to Paris or renting a condo in Palm Beach, even if it means going without him. It is not that you want to create a crisis in your family; you are looking for a way to get your needs met.

By being proactive and not assuming that it’s all up to your husband, you are once again setting limits. In the same way you told him that you weren’t moving to Podunk when he doubted his capacity to succeed in the business, or when you informed him that you were cooking differently because you both need to improve your diets, you can let him know that you are researching condos in Palm Beach. It is another way of saying you are moving on.

If you are daunted by the prospect of behaving so assertively, recall who you were when you first got married. By and large, successful men marry strong, independent women because they don’t want to worry about them and the business. The two of you probably started out on an equal footing. Over time, as you took on the role of wife/mother/care taker, your sense of autonomy may have dissipated. If you say to your husband, “Hey, the heck with you. Guess what? I’m going to Palm Beach,” it will remind him of the person he originally married. He will remember how much fun the two of you once had, and he will want to have it again.

In the end he will most likely follow you. How many weekends will he remain alone, working and working? He will get lonely. He will think, “I’m coming home to an empty house, while my wife is enjoying herself without me. What am I doing here?” And once he takes the plunge and buys the condo, it will be an asset he won’t want to waste. Once he shows up for a weekend, he’ll think, “What’s so bad about this?” And with today’s technology, he can stay in touch with his business through his blackberry. He can be obsessive and crazy if he wants to, but at least he is with you.

Patricia Annino is a sought after speaker and nationally recognized authority on women and estate planning.  She educates and empowers women to value themselves and their contributions in order to ACCOMPLISH GREAT THINGS in the world – and in so doing PROTECT THEMSELVES, those they love, and the organizations they care about.  For more visit:  www.patriciaannino.com


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