Hard to Say is This Recording’s weekly advice column. It will appear every Wednesday until the Earth perishes in a fiery blaze, or until North West turns 40. Get no-nonsense answers to all of your most pressing questions by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I have been married to my wife Julia for over four years and we have a daughter together. I love her very much and although things have not always been perfect, I believed our marriage was solid. Recently my wife has been confiding various doubts she has about our relationship. Many of her problems relate to where she is in her career — she feels like having a family has hampered her ability to improve her standing in her field. (I work full-time, and she hasn’t been able to do so yet, although our daughter will soon be entering school, making this more possible.)
In addition, in her current position, her co-workers are eight to ten years younger than her and she has been interacting with them a lot, leaving me at home.
I want to be supportive of Julia, but at the same time I feel like I am a very giving husband and challenges in life are just part of what’s going on. I am there for her, but I don’t want to feel like I am catering to a delusion, and it brings me down to hear her complaining about her life. What can I do to get her out of this funk?
It sounds like your wife needs to meet friends of an appropriate age. Having these younger people around, who have different priorities and goals is going to put her in their mindset. I would do anything you could to get her a better job, or send her back to school. Changing her path in this area sounds key. It is easy to think you are a good husband, and I’m sure you are doing what you can to improve your wife’s situation at home.
Still, counseling is a good way to make sure of this. If your wife is not in therapy, she should be. There are inexpensive, or at least more inexpensive options for mental health treatment.
Lastly, we all go through phases in life, and your wife may be in one right now. Try not to overreact to anything (or everything) she does. Operating with a certain amount of space may be the best thing for her.
I have been dating a guy for a few months. He has said that he is very serious about our future together, and I take him at his work. I haven’t clicked with someone like this for a long time, if ever.
One thing that does trouble me is that we seem to come from very different religious backgrounds, and he has made a point of saying he expects his children to be raised in his faith. (His family is Jewish.) I am more of an agnostic, but I don’t know if I would be comfortable suddenly becoming religious. How should I approach this?
There is a large divergence in the Jewish community about exactly what being religious means to an individual. It is impossible to say what this really means: it could mean more casual observance, but the obeyance of certain rituals and traditions. It could mean that he plans to move you to Brooklyn and your family will never see you in shorts again. It is probably best to clarify his exact intentions.
Some people insist on these traditions because they want to please your family. If you are deeply against taking your life in this direction, it is not something to gloss over. There are some wonderful things about religion, but by and large fashion is not one of them.
Illustrations by Mia Nguyen.