My husband is holding me back

Dear Rabbi and Susan,

We have an opportunity to increase our family income by double. We currently make about 40K a year between my husband and I.

I was accepted into a one year program that would give me the skills and connections to make between 50-80k a year myself excluding my husbands income. We would have to move about 500 miles away from our families and where we were both born but only for a year and then we could decide where to go after that.

My husband doesn’t want me to accept. He isn’t one for change and hates California, he doesn’t want to live there even for a year… I want to honor him and I understand that making more than him could cause some strain on our marriage… am I wrong for wanting this? I’m trying not to be bitter… but I’ve always been a bit ambitious and the idea of turning this opportunity down has caused me some internal struggle.

Cynthia S. 

Dear Cynthia,

You sound like a sincere and sensitive woman who is trying her hardest to cope with a difficult challenge.  Our usual disclaimer applies even more to you and your dilemma:  Since we don’t know any of our ‘Ask the Rabbi’ letter-writers personally we can hope only to raise discussion points that will be helpful along with perhaps a few considerations that you may not have yet contemplated.  We also have great confidence in our readers and know that they often contribute valuable comments.  We always read them with great interest.

You clearly recognize many of the valid concerns involved, including some that conflict with one another. You are aware of the need to respect your husband and of the potential threat to your marriage that earning more than he does can impose. You are also aware of the importance of every individual, man or woman, making the most of his or her talents, abilities and opportunities.

A number of things are unclear from your letter.  You mention that between you both, you earn $40K.  Is that half each?  Or is it mostly your husband’s earnings or mostly yours?  A joint income of $40,000 doesn’t go very far these days, yet you don’t suggest that you are struggling. Is your husband on a path to higher earnings or is he content with things as they are?  Do you feel that you are more ambitious than he is?

You don’t mention children. Are you young newlyweds, an older couple without children or in some other category? Is your husband’s reluctance to move related to family issues (perhaps an ill parent) or simply a matter of personal preference?

Was your husband aware of and supportive of you applying to this program in the first place, or does he feel blindsided by you having been accepted? Do you feel that his objection is based mostly on geography or do you feel that he is also reluctant to see your earnings increase?  What is the basis of your relationship and what attracted you to each other? All of these are important questions to explore.

One more matter to establish is the legitimacy of the program itself.  How much will this program cost you?  Are you really sure that it will trampoline you to earnings of between $50K and $80K a year?  We don’t want to sound negative but our antennae were set jangling a bit by the term you employed in describing the benefits of the program, “skills and connections.”  Let us urge you to be very certain about this program.  You see, Cynthia, we just don’t know any educational programs that in only one year can qualify you for a job paying quite so much.  If it is indeed on the up-and-up, it must have a very long waiting list of eager applicants; in which case you are indeed fortunate. But if it is not, then all the other questions raised are irrelevant. 

Once you have satisfied yourself and your husband that this is a truly viable course of action, you have to arrive at a decision.  Like so many other questions that arise in married life how you arrive at a decision is far more important than the decision you reach.  The process of discussion that brings you to a decision can either grow your marital relationship or harm it. There isn’t a global right or wrong answer, only one that will be right or wrong for the two of you at this time in your marriage. You would both need to have Solomonic wisdom to handle the necessary discussions between yourselves alone. This is one of those times that we would certainly advise you to consult wise counsel. The catch, of course, is that the person whom you consult needs not to have an agenda of his or her own. That is harder to find today but it is crucial.  You should seek someone who can help the two of you understand and value each other and your relationship to a greater degree as you move toward a mutually acceptable decision. 

We wish you a bright, fulfilling, and prosperous future,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

23 thoughts on “My husband is holding me back”

  1. Dear Cynthia,

    Like others, I too can applaud your zeal for wanting to better your position financially. However, I find myself alarmed by the words, “Skills and Connections.” What I see in this is the high possibility of your being pulled into a prostitution ring. Please investigate into this company and/or the people with whom you have had contact. You might contact the Better Business Bureau, the county or state licensing dept. to see if they are a legitimate business. If you have their address, check its location on a Google map. Is the address a suite address? Again, please be very careful. If you go, have your husband go with you. Don’t trust people you don’t know anything about. Investigate, investigate, ask questions, lots of questions. God has given you a husband to be your personal protector and shield. Be sure to bring him into this quest. Ask him to help you make up a list of questions, so he doesn’t feel excluded. Remember, Satan had his way with Eve because she acted independently from Adam. Be bold, this is your life and your husband’s. If they insist on meeting with you alone, dump the idea. May God fill you with all wisdom and insightfulness. Blessings, Harold

  2. Hi Cynthia,
    If I could add just one more bit to hopefully not add to your confusion it is to read the little book, “Acres of Diamonds.” It was that essay that taught me to “Bloom Where I’m Planted!”
    The best to you,

  3. John S. Miramontes


    please also consider the costs of living in California from a man born, raised and living in California. We pay almost double if not triple on many of the essentials of life including gas, groceries, houses, etc and I will not even mention the taxes, the traffic jams, etc.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Dear Warren,
      Obviously no state enjoys a monopoly on scams but I think that perhaps the biggest and most shameful scam in California might be located in Sacramento and operates under the name California State Government.

  4. At the risk of appearing unoriginal, I should like to affirm Rich’s comment. The cost of living of the area can quickly rise to gobble up one’s ‘earnings.’ When I was younger I received a likewise grand opportunity to work in a government agency just outside DC. But an experienced comrade took me by the hand and gently advised me: ‘On your salary, in that area any house you can afford will be miles and miles away from your workplace. Moreover, any place you can afford to live in will be a dump.’ Thank God, I listened to him.

    In 1995 a great friend wanted to move back to California under intense pressure from his wife, to rejoin her family. So they moved back and purchased the same calibre of house they left a decade before. But fate engineered a nasty surprise: California socialism had raised taxes, sent inflation skyrocketing, and they could no longer afford a big house with a pool. Worse still, my friend was a craftsman and the California socialist government had levied a tax based on the number of square feet on his workbench, taxing even the water he drew from his own private well! My friend is now planning to become a refugee. When my Dad retired and opened a furniture store offering manufacturers’ seconds, he reported that his best customers were ‘refugees’ from California who could no longer stomach the rampant tax burden of the socialist machine. If I were Cynthia, I would listen carefully to the objections of her husband, for the state of taxation there has become insurmountable, and also it reflects the values and deepest convictions of their ruling political class: echoes of Marxism, to wit, the redistribution of wealth from those who have to those who have not, few questions asked. In fact I have heard this state called The People’s Republic of California, to coin a phrase.

    1. James, the problem is that people who leave certain states because they have become intolerable tend to keep the voting patterns that made those states intolerable.

  5. I hope the following will be helpful. It is my own experience. I am a single, never married woman so I am a little hesitant. I had serious vision problems from birth and was always sheltered growing up. I had to fight for independence. In doing so, I managed to earn two masters degrees and a law degree. I was very proud of my independence and self-reliance. Too proud in some ways. As i’ve grown older and retired many who were emotional supports in my life have died or moved away, or, most recently, I moved away.

    I’ve had to reassess not only who I am but who I want to be. In the course of that re-assessment, I discovered that there was one I could always rely on to be there for me and to be totally honest with me – my Heavenly Father. I am also learning to rely on him as married women rely on their husbands. I can go to him and ask him for wisdom and understanding on great things and small things, and He is faithful. I think it is a manifestation of His chesed, His loving kindness, though the word means a lot more than that .

    So in seeking a trustworthy councilor, go first to your knees and ask your Heavenly Father for wisdom and discernment and also for understanding of the important implications in both your and your husband’s concerns. You may find that the issues are less thorny than you think. May you and your husband be blessed as you seek together to resolve this and future issues.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Just to add to your worthy thoughts, Joyce,
      A good way to find a trustworthy adviser or counselor is to realize that it doesn’t have to be a ‘credentialed’ professional with a title of ‘psychologist’ or ‘therapist’. It could be a successful business professional locally trusted and admired. He or she might not have any academic degrees but would have developed a pragmatic sense of what works and how to resolve disagreements. It could be the pastor or rabbi of a congregation comprising individuals you look up to. It could be a wise older relative that both husband and wife trust. These kinds of people, I’ve discovered, are nearly always generous with their time and understanding. What is more, you’ll find that each time you lay out the problem you’ll gain a little clarity. It’s as if your soul, upon hearing your own lips and tongue articulating the problem steps in and brushes aside the curtain obscuring clarity.

  6. Dear Cynthia,
    My heart went out to you and your husband after reading your email. I applaud your desire to improve your standard of living. It seems as though the program your are exploring involves the sales profession in some form or another. I call it a profession because in my opinion in its best form that is what it is. If that is the case you do not have to move to California to gain many of the skill sets that you will need to succeed in that profession. There are many very excellent tape programs as well as books which can give one a head start in that profession. My friend the late Zig Ziglar, Tommy Hopkins, Brian Tracy or if you want to go way back my mentor J. Douglas Edwards are just of a few excellent sales trainers whose information is available on tape and in print.

    I looked at a map and tried to imagine where you might now reside. Five hundred miles from the San Francisco Bay area where I reside would put you in the West with a couple of exceptions (ski areas like Vail) in areas where the cost of living including housing is from one third to one forth what the cost of living is where I live. I should think that just the cost of housing alone should be one of the concerns that you might want to consider before relocating. I’ve met people who work in the “Bay Area” who live a 3 1/2 hour commute away because they couldn’t afford to live closer.

    I wish you and your husband the best and good luck in your due diligence in researching this opportunity.
    Rich Flink

    1. Rich, you are so right about being able to access so much material without leaving home. Cost of living is a real concern. Even if the program turns out not to be a good one, the issues raised in the marriage still need to be addressed. But the time pressure would be off.

    2. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Dear Rich–
      I just want to heartily endorse your description of the noble profession of sales. It’s an incredible profession when one is properly trained and the teachers you describe are the best of the best. Too many aspiring sales professionals are handicapped by the false belief that sales is a win-lose. When I make the sale, I win and the customer lost. Nothing could be further from the truth and my book Thou Shall Prosper devotes several chapters to helping the reader overcome this problem. Zig Ziglar was a regular guest in our home and he did me the honor of quoting me several times in his books and speeches.

  7. At the outset I want to emphasize that I’m no authority on such issues, and I also hadn’t considered the possibility of your point, which is whether the opportunity out of state is a genuine one or not. However, presuming it is, I have to say that my sympathy is with the woman in this case. I like her ambition, flexibility, drive, and desire to financially improve their situation, although I realize that that is not everything in life. And, coincidentally, I just heard an interview with someone the other day (sorry, I’ve forgotten who—too much media!) who was explaining how there are a great number of good paying jobs in some areas of the country that are going begging because there are not enough people to take them, and that is due to a new demographic trend whereby many people in areas where there are a lack of good jobs don’t want to move to where the better jobs are. This strikes me as a puzzling break from the historical American pattern of pulling up stakes and going to where the opportunities are. “Go west, young man!”, etcetera.

    1. That is a fascinating point, Mark, about how people used to move to better themselves and may be less likely to do so today.

  8. As being a man also I guess, at first I was completely on the husbands side. After realizing and reading Rabbi’s response I did not have all the information I then felt real bad for siding with him so quickly. My Main hopes are that you have a healthy and happy marriage with good communication and this experience and the decision you both come to helps you to even help it grow fuller as you follow Gods will.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Thanks Lee,
      This was certainly a very challenging question but there are so many unknowns.
      Just one little point: you probably aren’t consciously aware of it, but Susan and I grapple with these questions in tight collaboration and then we write and rewrite and edit our answer working closely together all along. I mention this only because you wrote “Rabbi’s response” and these Ask the Rabbi columns are as much “Rabbi’s response” as our children are “Rabbi’s children”. No offense taken or anything like that, I just wanted to make sure everyone is fully aware that we are a team. We’re not always a smooth-running, well-oiled juggernaut of efficiency but we are always a team! There’s nothing I do or accomplish that isn’t also Susan’s doing.
      I’m so happy you wrote and gave me the opportunity to clarify a fundamental aspect of our work here.

    2. My question to Cynthia is if she believes in the power of prayer and if she asked God about this matter? And if yes how did He respond? 🙂

      1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

        Dear George,
        While appreciating the sincerity of your comment, I want to caution you about thinking of God in terms of a magic eight ball. If He always answered the life questions of the faithful, no God-fearing believers would ever make mistakes or have regrets. There actually isn’t a lot of difference between asking Him for life advice and asking Him for a Ferrari. Most often, He speaks when we least expect it. Not to be trivial, but Abraham didn’t ask “Hey God, any thoughts on whether I should stay here or relocate to Canaan?” before God famously said “Get going, leave your land…” (Genesis 12:1)
        A further problem is that most of us have difficulty distinguishing between what God really said and what we wish (or even project) he said.
        He did however, provide us with the Scriptural tools by means of which we can and should analyze our dilemmas. Those are what we try to bring to bear while answering your questions. And we certainly pray for His blessing of wisdom. (Proverbs 9:10)

        1. Dear Rabbi Lapin and Mrs. Susan,

          Thank you for such a solid response. The playfully appropriate illustration of the ‘magic eight ball’ is so right. Prayer is a construct of our creator. He didn’t make prayer because He was curious what is going on. My belief is that He designed prayer as an accountability process. When we make our life decisions ‘in private’, we tend to lose sight that He sees and wants to be the ultimate arbiter of what those decisions end up as. Prayer is a way of bringing those decisions out of the closet and laying them on a table in the daylight. God doesn’t point some magical finger to the proper direction. He stirs in us through our learning of His will and His Word and our own subordination of our personal desires TO His will to make decisions that are in alignment with what He desires for us. Just like a good parent whose child lays opportunities before his parents and explains to them how he believes a direction honors them and therefore is the direction he will choose to pursue.

    3. What an honest comment, Lee. In marriage, there is not really a “husband’s” or “wife’s” side. There is finding out what is best for the marriage which in turn is best for both spouses.

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