In this marriage, actions spoke louder than words.
What can you do if someone you love is doing something that’s bad for him, bad for you, breaking agreements that you have made, refusing to acknowledge that there’s anything wrong, and blaming you, telling you that you’re crazy for calling the problem to his attention?
Marilyn was faced with such a dilemma. Six weeks earlier, she and her husband were both delighted that he had completed a major project. The project had kept him too busy to allow him to spend much time at home with her and their two small children for several months,
He was planning to take some time to figure out what he really wanted to do with his life and start working toward a career change. They were also looking forward to spending time together to renew their relationship.
Suddenly, without consulting her, he started a second low paying, full time job. He was working 80 hours a week; he had decided that they needed to save more money. He cut her household allowance and her access to emergency money, She felt helpless and victimized!
Her support group helped her decide that she needed to help her spouse become as uncomfortable with his decisions as she was. The group helped her figure out what would make it worth his while to pay attention to her.
She was already refusing to make him lunch and refusing to alter her schedule. She discussed and discarded the possibility of getting a new charge card and spending money on things she wanted because of the negative impact on her and the family. We suggested she go on strike and not take care of the house, but she decided that would be unpleasant for her and the children.
She also ruled out refusing sex because she enjoyed it so much.
Finally, Marilyn came up with an extremely creative solution. She brought home a fifteen-pound bag of dry navy beans, showed it to him, and told him that if he didn’t listen to her concerns and focus on finding a job that was meaningful and appropriate for him (instead of acting like a workaholic), she would serve him bean soup every night for dinner until he went back to their mutually agreed upon objectives.
The next week she came to the group ecstatic. He did listen. He had already put in several applications for the kind of job he really wanted and agreed to quit his second job in a reasonable period of time, He also stopped trying to control her access to money for appropriate expenses.
The beans stayed visible on the kitchen table. She did not put them away until he had completed his part of the agreement about actually spending time with the family.
Back in the group, Marilyn reaffirmed her own power to refuse to accept victimhood just because her husband tends toward workaholism.