My Ambitious Husband

My husband has a great deal of ambition and works long hours. I know that he is doing this for our future but I feel like we have no life to speak of at present. How do I deal with these feelings?


Dear Karma,

Without knowing you, your husband or more details, this is one of those questions where we can do no more than raise discussion points and questions.

First, we’d like to make a few general comments. You and your husband are both fortunate. In today’s day and age, many males have been emasculated leaving them with neither ambition nor persistence. It is wonderful that you are married to a man who wants to provide well for his family.

At the same time, cultural propaganda teaches women that everything that goes wrong is the fault of men. Unlike you, those women would not ask how to deal with their own feelings but instead they would immediately castigate their husbands.

The first step is for each of you to appreciate how you are both contributing to your marriage. Your husband is taking his role seriously and you are wise enough to recognize that what you see as his relentless focus on work could crack the foundation of your relationship. Getting on the same page now can yield immense results.

You don’t mention how long you have been married. Let’s say, for example, that you married a man to whom you were attracted because he was in law school or in the midst of establishing a business. In that case, he is continuing on a path that was clearly laid out but you are recognizing that you didn’t plan for how little time you would have together. That is a very different case than if he is now doing something that is entirely different from what was in the works when you married. Another scenario might be that your financial needs have increased as your family grows and he is tackling that need alone without the two of you sitting down to figure out how best to do that.

Is this a problem that will last only a limited time? Do you expect his long hours to last for a limited number of years and then ease up? Or is he exhibiting a type-A personality and you see this leading to ongoing years of similar stress? What support system of friends and fulfillment do you have outside of marriage? Do you both make the most of the time you can spend together? Are you, consciously or not, worried that he is throwing himself into work to avoid being with you?

In other words, you’ve given us very little to go on, but it sounds to us that although you both want to be mature and supportive, there has been a communication breakdown. Too frequently husbands and wives each assume that the other party knows what’s in his or her head. Sometimes, not wanting to be a ‘complainer’ or simply not seeing down the road means that when a crisis is reached it is too late to repair the damage.

With sensitivity to work deadlines or personal commitments, we urge you to set a number of times when you and your husband can speak openly and respectfully to each other. Elaborating on the big picture – where you see yourselves one year, five years and ten years down the road – can help you strategize how to deal with the present. Most probably, you need to have a number of smaller conversations rather than one long one so that you can each digest what the other says and brainstorm. If you find that you aren’t understanding each other’s views better when you tackle this issue it is possible that a pro-marriage, wise third party might help facilitate discussion.

Meanwhile, perhaps a carefully crafted loving letter from you to your husband outlining your feelings and concerns could get the ball rolling.

We wish you Heavenly help in strengthening the bond in your marriage,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

11 thoughts on “My Ambitious Husband”

  1. Dear Rabbi and Susan,

    Thank you for your well thought out responses. I did make the question simple for a very simple reason. I am newly married. We had been married for six month when the opportunity arose for my husband to work extra and pay off 3/4 of our debt. I understand the worlds views on marriage and the climate of disrespect the world in general has to a man in marriage. He is always in the eyes of the world wrong when stacked up against what a woman wants in a relationship. This is a goal he set out to accomplish and began too. We discussed my feelings after an amount of time had passed and I began to feel sad and lonely. I felt that the first year of marriage was a crucial time of development i.e. the foundation of our marriage. He is so ambitious that he cannot see past the opportunity. I know that sometimes my feelings however permanent or fleeting will be at odds with what is best for my family. I did turn to wise godly pro marriage counsel and was not satisfied with the answers I received. All of which seemed to blame my husband. So I turned to you and Susan. Your carefully thought out response reminded me that sometimes you have to do all that you know to do and then turn around and do it again…and then stand. Since I had posted my original question things have gotten remarkably better. Through prayer and patience we have both made concessions. If he is out late more than a few nights a week I go to him, help him and he calls me more from the road, tells me more of his feelings.
    Thank you both for your kind consideration in this matter as well as your prayers.

    My warmest Regards,

    1. Karma, thank you so much for following up and we are thrilled that you are seeing blessing. What a smart thing you said, “…sometimes you have to do all that you know to do and then turn around and do it again.” You are absolutely right that the first year is foundational as we know from the Torah exempting men from going to war (in some circumstances) during that first year. You and your husband sound to us as if you are being meticulous in laying a sound foundation. May God be with you.

  2. Rabbi,
    You answered this rather sketchy question with remarkable finesse, as you had noted there wasn’t much information to go on. I would also add that some men’s self esteem is so tied into what they do for a living and how successful they are, that it can become obsessive and take precedence over spouse and family. As you have pointed out, it is time for the lady to address her concerns rather than continue to take a back seat as it continues to grind away at their relationship.

    1. Mark, as we said, she is fortunate to have a husband who is ambitious. One of the benefits of two people in a marriage is that they balance each other. Alone, we would be pretty destined to reinforce our own mistaken thinking.

    2. Dear Mark. Its not a sketchy comment /question. It is an intensely personal question with much at stake for me and my husband , whom I love. In sorting through my feelings it is the baseline that all other feelings run too. In wishing to respect both my husband and truth I kept the question simple. -Karma

  3. 30 years ago, I was briefly involved with a Multi-Level Marketing company. I had only been married for four years (still married). They always claimed to be pro-family, but also beat the “delayed gratification” drum. After seeing the impact on the families of my up-line distributors, I decided that “delayed gratification” could easily result with having children who grow-up hating their mostly-absent father, and possibly sink my marriage. My wife hated what I was doing, and that prompted my decision to not renew my membership. It’s wonderful for single adults, but needs to be balanced, if you have a family.

    I agree with what you said, and would definitely advise women to talk with their husbands before it’s too late (and vice versa, of course).

    1. Tim, your story is a good reminder that looking down the road at others who have passed that way is important for seeing where you are going. Even if you stay with the path, it makes you aware enough to plan for the pitfalls.

    1. Thanks, Michele. As you know, over the course of a marriage so much changes (hopefully not the foundations) that you need to keep on making sure that you are still working together.

  4. I love that sentence in your reply…”find a PRO-MARRIAGE, WISE third party…”
    Such wise biblical advice, should theirs even come to that, given the preceding part of the answer is also wise.
    And as a fellow Jew tell us: “…and let us run with patience the race that is set before us…”
    I think, if we are blessed enough to HAVE a long marriage (some don’t have that opportunity due to early death)- it is rather like a marathon…it requires patience and sweat and determination and grit and sometimes even agony – and ALWAYS God’s help. But, to win the race, to gain the victor’s crown is so sweet – the rewards of God-ordained marriage are so GREAT, they are truly worth every pounding step.

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