Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The seller's contacted our agent this morning and said that they would not be making a counter-offer and our counter-offer was rejected.

We knew this would happen, and it's OK. Less OK is that my husband informed me (as of 1AM last night...when everyone should make all their important decisions) that he does not want to buy a house. That's fine, too, because we have this argument every few weeks, and so I keep searching rather passively, and periodically I get him to visit something, and then I go further forward with it if he says that he wants to. And only if. I've never twisted his arm to do anything other than visit. (Although after he said he wanted to put an offer on this house, and I told our agent, and he drew up the paperwork, and we had an appointment to sign it, he asked, "Why are we doing this? We don't want to put an offer on this house," and I put my foot down, because seriously, we are adults, and we don't do business with people in that way.)

We are, of course, in the perennial debate: which (or neither) of the following ways will we burden our finances - my DH gets a (third) degree, or we buy a house? The tie-breaker is "neither," and I can work with that, because it just means I get to buy a house later (although it annoys me, so I shop for more things to put in the tiny house we are now renting, which is OK too, I guess). My position on this subject is fairly well-documented. Buying a house means moving forward with adulthood and with the maturing of our financial position, and from the decades-long perspective, will ultimately be profitable to our asset/liability ratio. Getting a (third) degree represents regressing in adulthood and financially, takes on a substantial financial burden that will not mature into an asset, and very likely will be a net financial loss no matter how many years in the future you do the math.

I recognize that I need to learn some sort of wifely submission at some point. However, I think that sort of general principle is somewhat compromised by other facts. My husband suffers from PTSD and survivor's guilt. Since long before I've met him (and very markedly throughout the time I've known him), he has been motivated by a desire to do something "special" with his life to justify the fact that he is still here at all. While I (and most people) also feel that drive to something "special," in my case I mean that I want to do something that God has picked out for me personally as being profoundly worthwhile for me. It doesn't really matter if it's scrubbing floors (naturally in my daydreams it would be something more exciting).

For my DH, the primary characteristic of this "special" thing is that it has to be extraordinary, and better than what everyone else is doing. It's not vanity - it's not that he wants other people to see or think that what he's doing is better (and it doesn't make him feel better that many already do - I've tried this angle). He just has to be able to see that it's better on a comparison - with everyone else in the world. Of course, happiness does not lie in that direction. It's not difficult to project your existing unhappiness toward that kind of solution - "if only I were doing X, then I wouldn't be so miserable" - but all of us who've given that sort of thinking one try (usually in adolescence - whether it was making that team, or winning that prize, or dating that boy, or getting into that college, or even having that dress) learn that it produces a significant initial high and then a HUGE crash. Because it takes apart an entire belief system - we define happiness that way, we attain it, we are not happy, and we are lost.

So I know that if he got this degree, and then he got the consequent job, he would dislike the job within 6 months and truly hate it within a year. Because it had been built up way too high, of course; and because in any case, all jobs are jobs. Everyone has some aggravating coworkers and some demeaning tasks and some slow days and some days when they are overworked and some memos from corporate that cause them to question whether anyone in the entire outfit has an IQ above ten. Jobs do not create earthly happiness. The right job for you might give you an opportunity to serve in a way that utilizes your gifts and gives you something important to do with your life, but that fulfillment would come from you, not the job.

I also know that if he spent all this time and money and energy getting this additional degree that he wants, it would have a limited statistical effect on him getting the kind of job that he wants. (Though he tries to rein in his phrasing around me due to my criticism, in his eyes, as I can plainly see, one master's degree [keep in mind he already has a JD] is the difference between a nearly 0% chance at getting his favored category of jobs, and a virtually 100% chance of getting them, maybe with a little patience. In my fair moments when I consider the question carefully, I'm thinking the difference is maybe 35% versus 40%, and while that is an improvement, it has to be weighed against the cost. And it does not outweigh the cost.)

Also to be considered is the fact (and he admits this) that he has not spent so much as five minutes on the internet looking into scholarship opportunities for a master's degree so that it would cost less, or found the schedules of local universities to see whether he could work and go to school at the same time. (If he could do it with zero net financial loss, I would stop arguing; not because I think it would be any real use to him, but because, in view of its virtual uselessness, I am unwilling to compromise our financial position.) This degree isn't a career move; it's a talisman. It's something he can argue about that represents why he is unhappy.

It is also a severe aggravation to me. He attempts to counter my criticisms and concerns with grand gestures intended to show his generosity of spirit - "you should stop working and get another degree at the same time," he says. Probably every 2-4 weeks for the last year I have told him again, "I do not want another degree. I have several, and I am done with school. Also, you have not explained how two lost incomes and two sets of tuition payments would cancel out the problems I see with one lost income and one set of tuition payments." (No, I have never received an answer.) The fact that I have to restate these responses continually indicates that he's not trying to offer me something he thinks I actually want or need; he's just trying to demonstrate to me that he's not selfish, trying to live off of me. So what? Financial ruin can come with good motives or bad. It's the financial ruin I'm concerned about. I've made that as clear as it could be to anyone who is listening.

My husband does not want us to be financially ruined either. (In fact, we have constant arguments over his desire to pay our low-interest student loan debt off rapidly; I want us to pay it steadily and keep other funds on hand as savings or investments. I know that my position is objectively superior as a matter of financial planning; it's not a matter of personal taste or preference. I have told him why. His repeated raising of the specter of the remaining debt makes clear that he has an emotional objection to it. Why, therefore, his desire to take on much more debt before our current debt is even half repaid? Exactly.) If it occurred, he would be very unhappy indeed. The problem is that he is not able to project realistically the probability that ruin will occur. The need to do something to justify his existence occupies his entire field of view, and nothing else can really be seen around that. I could win this entire argument by letting him get his degree, demonstrating that it won't help his job potential that significantly; and then that when he eventually gets the job that he won't like it; and then ten years later by a look at our balance sheets - see, we'll never come out ahead. Obviously, only a lunatic would want to win an argument that way. I like winning arguments, but I'm not crazy - not that crazy, anyway.

I know that this is all a product of his deeper issues, which, blessedly, he is working through. The fact that they manifest themselves as a massive warping of our ability to plan the basic logistics of our marriage is a heavy cross indeed, however. Any marriage with two rational and unselfish people is going to have serious disagreements over finances, plans, careers, what-have-you. We have those as well. And then we have this. So I'm his wife, supposed to have him as the head of my household (further complicated by the fact that he is nearly an atheist now and proceeding full-steam ahead), and I'm forcing decisions my way on an almost daily basis just to keep us from plunging our finances into destruction.

I need to contact that therapy guy again...


  1. I am so much like you when it comes to these matters that I am having a difficult time being sympathetic to your husband. And believe me, I’m trying hard. You are right in that it does sound like he is projecting on this something else that is a deeper problem. A job is a job. My husband (who worked some crazy jobs before his current profession) always says that. Happiness/fulfillment/purpose comes from your family, community, ministry, etc. Your job is what you do so you can do those other things. You are in a tough spot, no doubt, but handling it well and with a good perspective.

  2. Wow...a lot to think about. I do understand your point though. It would be easier to say yes if there were scholarships available.

    I also know that the beliefs of your husband are weighing on you. I am praying for him for you.

  3. Crud...i just wrote a lot and then accidentally deleted it! ugh.

    I can imagine that being very difficult. I can understand with you that it would be better if he searched for scholarships. I will focus on praying for your dh and his faith. I can imagine that to be weighing on you.

  4. I agree with Ann...that type of fulfillment comes from family. I'll pray he continues to work through these issues.

  5. This is a difficult thing to wrestle with, for sure. (good thing the rest of your life is so easy, ha ha ha). I think it's very encouraging that your hubs *is* going to therapy, and I hope it comes up there and he can work through what will really bring him happiness.

    I've been re-reading Ste.phen Co.vey's 7 Hab.its of Highly Ef.fective People, which has alot of good things to say about defining your purpose in life and working on where you can make a difference, etc. I wonder if it would be useful reading to your hubs ?? Just a thought.

    My dh is pretty nearly an atheist too :( I know what you mean about the "head of the house" not being on the same page faith-wise.

    Sending you hugs ...

  6. Is it a consolation that I agree 110% with you? Buying a home is clearly the better choice!

    It is so hard when our mates are so ridiculously stubborn. I'm the planner of the couple. I worry about investments and money. I think constantly about our debt and how it impacts us (well really, me since my husband thinks thay we're rich when we're not).

    Wonder if we could get a therapy group rate. It's been that kind of January...

  7. Sorry you didn't get the house. :(

    In my marriage, I'm the planner, too, while DH is spendy. I feel the pain. (Although, honestly, I did jaunt off to get an unnecessary degree so I won't cast the first stone in this debate. lol)

    I hope you two can come to an agreement - sorry for my cliched 'blog comment' - but I really mean it. It's tough within a marriage to see such an important thing so differently.

  8. One thing about marriage is that it doesn't necessarily get easier over the years - I think you just learn more about yourself and your spouse. How you each tick...and how you can communicate with each other despite your shortcomings. Not that understanding how your spouse thinks always makes it easier when you think they are being unreasonable...
    I think the scholarship idea makes sense, and may be a good compromise on that score. I'm with you on not wanting to rack up more of that kind of debt - my SIL (or is she now my ex-SIL?) got two masters' be a teacher. My husband was so annoyed with her b/c there is no way her future salary would justify that kind of debt...but my BIL didn't seem to care. (Or maybe he did, after all.)
    I definitely think a house would be a good investment in this market. Prices will be going up, so as long as you're planning on staying put for a few years you should come out ahead. As much as I wish we could go back and undo the buying of this house...I remember all of the years we spent in military housing and crappy apartments, and how miserable we were, and we were so incredibly happy to FINALLY own our own home.

  9. I can appreciate your practical financial sense and your ability to look at this from all the various angles. I don't know if I would be so calm and collected given the same situation. Given that he has a JD - is it possible to use that in some way to do the "something big" - like advocate for the poor and underpriviliged...or are there JD specialities and he doesn't have the appropriate type to do this...or frankly, I probably am missing the boat and he is already doing this and wants to do more.

    Either way, prayers coming for wisdom and guidance in this matter for both of you. Oh, and I am very sorry about the house...I was really hoping that would work out for you guys.

  10. We haven't seriously looked at buying since shortly after we started TTC. (We'd been trying to find a larger apartment before we go pregnant - oh the irony, but ultimately there was a mold problem in the old apartment and we had to move and are happy where we landed.) It may never make sense for us to buy - not that we invest what we have lying around - but although our situation is decent now, we could have real trouble finding new jobs if we had to and would be unlikely to sell quickly. I do have to admit that makes me a bit jealous of the gorgeous homes that you are looking at and others are buying.It's another thing that makes me feel like I'm effectively still a teenager in my mid-30's. I feel for you and your struggles with dh and his faith. I am in a similar situation with hartmut, but I knew it going in, whereas for you, it's considerably less "fair" - you did all the right things and it hasn't worked out _yet_. In addition to your impeccable (sp?) aesthetic sense and your writing ability, I think the head on your shoulders is among your many gifts. Its amazing that at least here, you can keep a bit of perspective on all of this. (I know dh is finished law school - but I thought of you when I saw this the other day - )
    oh and in response to your question - yes, the friends I have to contact are those far away.