Dear Q: Bleeding Heart

Dear Q,

I’m newly married and a new-age man. I’m a “house husband”, having left my job to join my wife in Beijing. This city was totally foreign to me but now I’m starting to appreciate the good things. Just as I’m settling in my wife wants to take time off from her job to pursue her “dream”, setting up an NGO to help rural poor Chinese. Her ambitions are admirable and I feel proud when people compliment her selflessness. But these people also don’t have to live with her and think about practical things. My wife complains that I’m not being supportive, but I’m just fretting over losing our housing subsidy, health insurance, and pension. How can I convince her to go back to her job or to only take one year off (balancing our personal interest with that of Chinese farmers)? Or should I just be happy that she’s working for a great cause?

Signed,

Married to Mother Teresa

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Dear Married to Mother Teresa,

Kudos to you for breaking the gender stereotype (and for snagging a do-gooder for life). Your wife’s compassion is commendable. So is your willingness to make career compromises for the sake of your relationship. Since your wife has pulled out the “dream” card we know this NGO work is incredibly important to her. But your marriage is about making both sets of dreams work together. What is your dream? Is it to get your career back on track? Or do you want to have children and coach them soccer in the backyard? Whatever your life goal is, grand or microcosmic, it’s worthy of your spouse’s support. You have the right idea in backing her karmic good work for a year. Frame this discussion in the context of a longer life plan, using language that she can relate to (cue word, “Dream”). Talk about how each of you envisions the next two, five, and ten years so you can both decide which cards to trade today. Will she take three years of your unquestioned support in exchange for moving elsewhere to further your career afterwards? Or would she rather have one year off without having to give up living in Beijing any time soon? Talking things through now will help you avert the “I’m married to a starving bleeding heart” scenario.

Cheers,

Q

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