Author Topic: How to get spouse to see reality? Fighting for a "career" that doesn't exist  (Read 35258 times)

Spondulix

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Long thread, but big problem. I was just reading this old thread:
http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/ask-a-mustachian/'trailing-spouses'-how-to-not-feel-guilty-about-underemployment/
I'm on the flip side of this, where I'm earning almost 4x what my spouse makes. It really bothers me. Maybe I'm wrong and it's a matter of perspective, but I feel really taken advantage of, and I'm not sure what to do to change it.

Short story: I've worked like my hair was on fire for 10 years, being freelance or having side businesses for most of it. DH has been freelance for 5 years. He makes poor business choices, which I know he wouldn't do if it weren't for my income (he admits to it). A lot of his decisions are in the name of "career pursuit", but it's a dying career path. I think he sees it but is in denial. It's starting to feel like the uncle in Napoleon Dynamite who played football in high school, and still dreams about the pro-football career he should have had.

The details [edited:] We both had minimum wage jobs out of college 10-12 years ago (standard for the field). 7 years ago, I quit a full-time job for freelance because I landed a huge client. We agreed that I'd use my off-days cooking, errands, etc. I never felt guilty for being the low earner cause I knew at some point, we'd be in the opposite situation. A couple years later, DH decided to quit his job and go freelance. The first year his total income was around $10k. The following year I think it jumped to $20k (he was "really trying"). This year he's going to hit $45k - but with over $20k in business spending.  "The talk" about his business earnings comes up every year around this time.

We had the same agreement about him doing housework in the off-days, but usually that turns into him taking a week or two off (sometimes with paid work waiting) to take on house projects (it's that poor planning again - good intentions, but bad implementation). We've talked many, many times about alternatives (part-time job, full time job, pursuing more clients, school, etc) - even if it's just temporary to build up his business as a side gig. He says that most gigs are below his standards (which they are) even if they pay well.

As you can probably guess, I want to face punch him every time we talk about it. It sort of feels like I'm parenting a teenager who's spending all his money on a hobby. Ultimately, I don't think he has the right personality and self-discipline to build up a sustainable business (and there's nothing wrong with that - it's not right for everyone). He probably would do better in a structured environment of a job and workplace, but I don't know how to encourage that. That's the killer in all of this is that a lot revolves around this dream that he's going to get the job that he went to college for (those creative side gigs that pay $3-10/hr). I've seen this year that his identity is really tied up in that, and it's just never panned out.

What we've done:
  • He has his own business account that he manages (and I'm managing personal). He's great at staying on budget and following earnings when he's in control of his own money. He pays a portion of our home bills from that account, too, so he is being held accountable.
  • I use his home office and equipment for my own side work, so there is a financial benefit to him maintaining that. A lot of the expenses this year were from upgrades that we needed to do.
  • I'm stashing a lot of my take-home income (maxing my 401k, Roth, index funds, emergency savings). That's helping some of the conversations because the money just isn't around.
  • He has hired an assistant (to work with his stable clients when he has side gigs). He bills full-rate and pays the assistant lower. It helps, but it's a band-aid to the bigger problem.
  • Therapy. This was starting to help, but now he doesn't want to go. (But he's right that it's expensive)
  • I'm encouraging him to spend more time around people who do that dream job (we know a few). My hope is being around them more, he can see the reality of what they do, the crappy parts of the job (and the crappy gigs that they have to take sometimes)

Any suggestions? I really think he's going to have to see the reality of this on his own in order to move forward. I just don't know how to help (or if I can help) along that process.
« Last Edit: April 14, 2015, 02:57:22 AM by Spondulix »

GizmoTX

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What career is this?
Do you both have goals for the family & agree on them?

Cassie

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I would try to get him to go back to therapy so you guys can discuss it there in a safe place.  It sounds like it will be cheaper in the long run then a divorce.  These types of things tend to build up into a lot of resentment.   Good luck:))

TerriM

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Out of curiosity, would you be happier if he were tending to the home (i.e., cleaning/making dinner/doing repairs) every day and taking the side gigs as a hobby?  Ie, how much do you *need* him to have a higher income vs. *need* him to take up the slack at home if he's not going to have that higher income?

sheepstache

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It sounds like you're just as frustrated by the behaviors leading to the financial situation as you are about the finances. I hear you on that.

Is the issue that he's not paying half of the joint expenses? Or can he manage that but not to save any money / pursue FI?  If the first, have you talked directly about your frustration about that? What about downsizing your lifestyle so that he can afford 50% of the costs? Maybe he would prefer that, if you would be open to it. This would also be a time to discuss that you would be happy with your higher earning power if he were doing more of the housework (the balance issue makes it sound like that's not working out right now).

At some point though, you may have to be satisfied that you're adding more concrete value than he is. For all that we support the stay-at-home spouse here and recognize that their contributions matter, if you're earning $100k and he's earning $20k, he can't do $80k worth of housework (imagine if that hypothetical income doubled, he can't start doing $180k worth of housework). Might be worth your going to a therapist on your own to sort out what's not working and what would work for you.

Do you two have a shared goal or are you the only pursuing FI or....?

Elderwood17

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I have earned over 90% of the household income since we were married, and 100% most years.  We have never had an issue with it  The amount of income one or the other person makes isnt the issue but being on the same page with it and feeling like a true partnership exists.  It strikes me there is more of a relationship problem versus a strictly money problem (although money is the focal point and lighten rod for the problems), so I encourage you to get counseling and focus on that.  Sounds like he needs to grow up in a lot of areas and if he does the job/career parts will grow up too.

Good luck to you guys and hope it works out well!

swick

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Out of curiosity, would you be happier if he were tending to the home (i.e., cleaning/making dinner/doing repairs) every day and taking the side gigs as a hobby?  Ie, how much do you *need* him to have a higher income vs. *need* him to take up the slack at home if he's not going to have that higher income?

This is a really good point to consider.

Another one, if you are in similar businesses, would it work for you to team up and work together? You probably both have strengths and weaknesses that the other would off set, and if you took more the "management and business development" side of things, he could work on some of the more "creative" side and free up some of your time on the tasks that you need to do that are "necessary" but not necessarily the highest income generating.

It is possible from your post (although I don't know what field he is in) that your hubby has more of the "artist, creative" brain and less of the logical, analytical business side. This is pretty common among artists  and creative types (I have coached and worked with a lot) So much of what seems obvious to you, planning ahead, time management, business sense might be a struggle for him or he might not know how to do it (even though he feels he does, or should know) or has a different learning style. Creativity and artistry are assets and liabilities - you have to work to figure out how they will work for you. It sounds like a lot of your frustrations/communication issues and such are a result of different learning/working/communication styles.

Miss Prim

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Most of my working years I made more than my husband.  It never really bothered me when we
were both on full-time because we were basically working the same number of hours.  When he took a buyout from his job of 20 years (major downsizing, he could have stayed but kids were young and we didn't know what shift he would be on or if he would have to work 12 hour days), I had been working part-time and went back to full-time.

 He never did find another job making as much money and went through a few jobs that didn't pan out, until he started his own office cleaning business.  Now he makes more per hour than me, but works less hours.  It was a big cause of resentment with me until we were in a position that I could work part-time again.  He has always done a lot of cooking and as much child raising as I did, so he wasn't lazy, he just liked working a few hours a day!  Drove me nuts until I finally had to change my thinking as we were fine with our saving and spending levels and on track for retirement.  Luckily we are both very thrifty! 

Maybe you wouldn't resent it so much if he did most of the housework and cooking.  It would give you more free time outside of work.


Spondulix

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Do you both have goals for the family & agree on them?
Yes, and no. I'm in a place where I'm transitioning from work being priority to family (and we're talking baby). He says he's on board with that, but there's a conflict that it's going to interfere with his career aspirations. I have no problem staying in my job (I'm the one providing insurance anyhow), and I'd love it if he wanted to be an at-home parent. But I think the way he sees us having kids is that we would pay for daycare so he could be at home and take these $10/hr gigs.

Out of curiosity, would you be happier if he were tending to the home (i.e., cleaning/making dinner/doing repairs) every day and taking the side gigs as a hobby?  Ie, how much do you *need* him to have a higher income vs. *need* him to take up the slack at home if he's not going to have that higher income?
Absolutely, 100%. I just want him to own up to the fact that he's got a part time job and an expensive hobby. But that's more denial... no one wants to be told that's what their career is (especially a 37 year old who's been in the work force for 15 years). If he wants to pursue it, fine, but that would take owning up to the fact that I am taking care of him financially. That's where this is getting touchy as a relationship - I think in his mind he really thinks he's meeting me in the middle, contributing to chores where he's not financially. The reality of it is that I'm spending more than that on mortgage and utilities than he is netting this year.

To Sheepstache's point - I'm not expecting him to do $80k worth of work, cause that's just unreasonable. But, if he's only earning 25% of our net income by choice (by refusing to consider a higher paying job or a part-time job), then maybe he should be responsible for 75% of everything else. That's part of my concern here - am I forcing enough accountability for him to realize that his hair should be on fire a little right now?

Is the issue that he's not paying half of the joint expenses? Or can he manage that but not to save any money / pursue FI?  If the first, have you talked directly about your frustration about that? What about downsizing your lifestyle so that he can afford 50% of the costs?
 Maybe he would prefer that, if you would be open to it. This would also be a time to discuss that you would be happy with your higher earning power if he were doing more of the housework (the balance issue makes it sound like that's not working out right now).

Do you two have a shared goal or are you the only pursuing FI or....?
I have no problem being the breadwinner, and it wouldn't bother me if he didn't pay half if he was doing more to make up for it (Funny thing is today he's out doing a ton of errands while I'm at work, which is super awesome, but not the norm). He lives like he has that $70k full-time job, and that's one part that's driving me crazy. For example, I'm the high earner and bringing peanut butter sandwiches for lunch (cause I'm all about FI), and he's going out to eat almost every day! I'll ask for help with housework, and he won't get it done because he has to do computer stuff or unpaid research for some new gadget or whatever that he wants to get for work. He has offered to give me more to pay for bills every month, which I might just take him up on. I'm just getting tired of being the spending police.

I have earned over 90% of the household income since we were married, and 100% most years.  We have never had an issue with it  The amount of income one or the other person makes isnt the issue but being on the same page with it and feeling like a true partnership exists.  It strikes me there is more of a relationship problem versus a strictly money problem (although money is the focal point and lighten rod for the problems), so I encourage you to get counseling and focus on that.  Sounds like he needs to grow up in a lot of areas and if he does the job/career parts will grow up too.

Good luck to you guys and hope it works out well!
Thank you! I think you nailed it on the head - for many years, we were both very career driven, so we both were on the same page. Now, I'm moving more towards family and he's still geared towards career path (which usually the breadwinner spouse is the one who stays career-driven). He still wants to spend $2k on a gadget or piece of gear, and I'm looking at that money as a nice vacation.

Cassie

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It would be best to get this all sorted out before having a baby. Otherwise you will end up doing all the work & resenting it. Paying for daycare is stupid & expensive when he could be doing it since he is not earning much. 

MikeBear

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Leave this thread open on your pc, where he can see it and read it.

That should wake him up.

Spondulix

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This is a really good point to consider.

Another one, if you are in similar businesses, would it work for you to team up and work together? You probably both have strengths and weaknesses that the other would off set, and if you took more the "management and business development" side of things, he could work on some of the more "creative" side and free up some of your time on the tasks that you need to do that are "necessary" but not necessarily the highest income generating.
I know what you mean about the relationship types where one is creative and the other is more practical (we're in the entertainment industry in LA, so know a lot of those types of couples :) We're both fairly equally logical/creative (maybe too equal, sometimes). I think he finds something very personally fulfilling in those creative gigs that he doesn't get in any other way. I get it - my day job is with a corporation, so to balance, I try to spend my free time doing creative stuff. The difference is that I don't need to validate my creativity through my work, and I don't need to get paid for it (which I used to... that's one of those bad beliefs I picked up from getting an arts degree). He seems to think if he can achieve this gig he wants, work will be fun, creative and fulfilling. So what happens when it's not?

I've tried to pinpoint what it is that he finds fulfilling in those gigs- he says it's solving problems. I told him I know plenty of jobs he could get (and get paid well) to solve problems. There's something more to it that he can't identify.

We've talked many times about joining up as business owners, but honestly, I'm looking for more life-work separation. Plus, the type of work we do is generally sole-proprietor; I use the word "business", but very often we are hired as contractors into jobs where we really should be employees. Outside of accounting, finance, etc, there really is very little I can do because I can't interface with his clients (and vice versa). But, if an opportunity came up to start a business outside the industry I would certainly explore it. I'm ready for a new challenge, and he's full of ideas.

It would be best to get this all sorted out before having a baby. Otherwise you will end up doing all the work & resenting it. Paying for daycare is stupid & expensive when he could be doing it since he is not earning much. 
I completely agree!! That's part of why I'm trying to push forward this whole conversation (or figuring out how to push it forward faster). I don't want to be having a baby at 38 or 39.

Leave this thread open on your pc, where he can see it and read it.

That should wake him up.
lol... that is not a bad idea.

MikeBear

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IF you do it, and I did really mean it, DON'T be the first one to bring up anything about it afterwards, unless of course he never mentions it after a week or so.

Let him internalize it all by his lonesome. It's a whole different dynamic versus you just telling him, as you have already done. If he see's it bothers you enough to ask advice from people you don't even know, it might wake him up as I said.

I'm a firm believer in the "3 strikes and you're OUT" theory of life management... I'm also now 56 years old, married 33 years, worked my butt off since I was 18, and I CAN'T understand men that are like your husband, IF he's capable of doing better.

If seeing the thread doesn't cause him to understand and make changes for the better, then you know where you stand on his priority list.
« Last Edit: January 02, 2015, 06:32:34 PM by MikeBear »

Hey It's Me

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Leave this thread open on your pc, where he can see it and read it.

That should wake him up.
lol... that is not a bad idea.

Totally agree. That type of thing is more likely to hurt him and build resentment than if she took a less passive aggressive route. OP: this is a relationship question, not a financial one. It seems like there is quite a bit of animosity in the relationship over money and money management. I'd urge you to revisit therapy - it's cheaper/better than either a stressful relationship or a divorce in the long run.

MikeBear

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Leave this thread open on your pc, where he can see it and read it.

That should wake him up.
lol... that is not a bad idea.

Totally agree. That type of thing is more likely to hurt him and build resentment than if she took a less passive aggressive route. OP: this is a relationship question, not a financial one. It seems like there is quite a bit of animosity in the relationship over money and money management. I'd urge you to revisit therapy - it's cheaper/better than either a stressful relationship or a divorce in the long run.

She's already done the "less passive aggressive route" and it's gotten her nowhere. Time for shock therapy.

TerriM

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Spondulix, this all is very interesting to me.  It reminds me a bit of my husband.  NOT the side gig problem, because he has a full-time job that pays quite well, but that he sees his job as his career as something he loves doing, and when he asks me what I want to do when the kids are all in school (I'm a SAHM right now), I say "whatever pays the most and isn't immoral" and he doesn't take me seriously.  I'm not even joking!  As far as I'm concerned, I'll do whatever pays the most and allows me to pick the kids up after school and stay home during the summer.  But he doesn't get it because he doesn't see his job that way.  He's talked about changing jobs to something that pays less, and I just feel like "WHAT?????" but he sees his job as something he should love doing not as a means to maximizing income.   He certainly cares about where the money goes and that we're saving for retirement, but sometimes I don't understand him.

I think you need to have a real heart-to-heart regarding all of this.  For me, my husband has asked me to go back to work to pay for a house--we passed up houses that we could afford in 2010 and are now completely priced out of the market.  I hold a lot of resentment regarding this because I feel that what he did was impractical and probably will cost us about $200-300K in the long run.  We have had in the last couple of years a lot of small discussions regarding splitting the chores, and he agreed to pick up half of the chores and half of the sick-leave for taking care of kids, but recently he told me if the kids were sick for a long time, he'd just hire someone to care for them.  As far as I'm concerned, he renigged on what he was agreeing to, and it upsets me.  I know in truth, that the best situation is for him to focus primarily on working and me to focus primarily on home/child issues so that our household functions best.  I see his offer to take half the chores and half the child care as jeopardizing the financial security of our household because the more he's free to focus on deadlines, the more secure his job is.

I think you need to sit down with him and tell him that you're happy to support the family if he's willing to be a stay-at-home dad, but the current arrangement where he's passing up high paying jobs to do what he loves is not practical.  If he wants to do it as a hobby or in his spare time, great, but he's got to be a stay-at-home dad, because you guys won't have the luxury of operating on "I want" mode, but "I have to" mode.  If he wants to be the breadwinner, that's fine too, but as the breadwinner, he MUST take the highest paying job always regardless of what he wants to do. 
« Last Edit: January 03, 2015, 08:42:12 AM by TerriM »

Chrissy

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This is about maturity.  In the time you've been together, you've gained maturity.  He hasn't.  He won't earn more money, won't do the housework, won't raise the baby.  Sounds like you do the financial planning, too.  When you try to get him to do more housework, he takes the time from his best clients, destroying the thing you're after to spite you.  Anyway, that's how it reads to me.


If he wants to pursue it, fine, but that would take owning up to the fact that I am taking care of him financially. That's where this is getting touchy as a relationship - I think in his mind he really thinks he's meeting me in the middle, contributing to chores where he's not financially. 


So his identity is tied to his "career" but not to the fact that he's living off his wife?  I'm sure "in his mind" he IS meeting you halfway... until you bring up that he's not, and then you're the horrible wife.


That's part of my concern here - am I forcing enough accountability for him to realize that his hair should be on fire a little right now?

You're not his mom, and forcing accountability is not your job.  Get the two of you back to counseling.  If he doesn't want to go, take additional measures.

mozar

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I think you need to back off and think about whether your needs are being met in life. It is likely that he thinks that he is doing more than he is. I recommend reading the 7 principles of marriage by john gottman. He is an adult and telling him how to live his life will lead to resentment for both of you.

DCJrMustachian

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If you are earning 40k, and he is earning 25k, that should be plenty of money for you both to live life on your own terms that are fulfilling and frugal.  If you guys can't make it and be happy on $65k, time to look at your spending.

Spondulix

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I'm a firm believer in the "3 strikes and you're OUT" theory of life management... I'm also now 56 years old, married 33 years, worked my butt off since I was 18, and I CAN'T understand men that are like your husband, IF he's capable of doing better.
That's the thing - I don't understand people (men or women) who think that it's ok when they are capable of doing better, either. That's part of why I'm so baffled by this... And maybe where I'm going wrong in my expectations. I just never would have expected when we got married that we'd be having these kinds of conversations about effort and money because we were always on the same page about our financial and career goals. We purchased our house based on the numbers that we could live on one of our salaries, if needed - and now that doesn't even seem to matter. Regardless of me shifting priorities, I really expected he'd still be pushing harder than he actually is, but it's more like he's settling for mediocre results.

Maybe that's part of my reaction here is because I would never take a handout from anyone without being really appreciative of what I'm getting, and probably feeling like I need to do something in return. I know he's sad at times about his career not going how he wanted it to, but that's no excuse to ignore (or forget) my support - financial or other.

Spondulix, this all is very interesting to me.  It reminds me a bit of my husband.  NOT the side gig problem, because he has a full-time job that pays quite well, but that he sees his job as his career as something he loves doing, and when he asks me what I want to do when the kids are all in school (I'm a SAHM right now), I say "whatever pays the most and isn't immoral" and he doesn't take me seriously.  I'm not even joking!  As far as I'm concerned, I'll do whatever pays the most and allows me to pick the kids up after school and stay home during the summer.  But he doesn't get it because he doesn't see his job that way.  He's talked about changing jobs to something that pays less, and I just feel like "WHAT?????" but he sees his job as something he should love doing not as a means to maximizing income.   He certainly cares about where the money goes and that we're saving for retirement, but sometimes I don't understand him.


I think you need to sit down with him and tell him that you're happy to support the family if he's willing to be a stay-at-home dad, but the current arrangement where he's passing up high paying jobs to do what he loves is not practical.  If he wants to do it as a hobby or in his spare time, great, but he's got to be a stay-at-home dad, because you guys won't have the luxury of operating on "I want" mode, but "I have to" mode.  If he wants to be the breadwinner, that's fine too, but as the breadwinner, he MUST take the highest paying job always regardless of what he wants to do. 
Thanks for sharing your story, Terri. I've read about an expectation change in relationships in the past 25 years and I wonder if the same thing is happening in our job expectations. 100 years ago, we needed a spouse for survival. After insurance came along, we married for companionship. This generation is looking for self-actualization - that a relationship will fulfill us being able to discover who we are, what we want in life, etc. I see the same thing in career pursuit, where some people are looking for fulfillment through the job (even if it means a less stable environment, no benefits, etc) over a secure job that might be considered boring. I spent the first 8 years of my career seeking fulfillment, for sure. My mom had a medical emergency and I quickly realized that there was more to life than my career. I feel lucky have realized that in my 30s, and not in my 50s or 60s, cause that was the path I was on.
« Last Edit: April 14, 2015, 02:59:24 AM by Spondulix »

danny9m

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How could your husband be doing this when this is should be you slacking?  Btw making 40 k with expenses of 20 is is making 20k.  You have it good, my wife doesn't work at all.  I'm implementing the mustahian ways but she thinks the gravey train will run forever and the train is not going to want to be slaving on commission forever.   


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DeltaBond

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There IS a difference between a spouse being leaned on financially and just having a higher income.  You're posting here because you're upset that things are out of balance.  When you're leaned on, you start feeling like a parent or a roommate and it can really suck the relationship out of the marriage.

Leaving this thread up on the PC is passive aggressive and I'll never encourage that.  Were you both going to therapy or just him?  I'm sorry if I missed that in your post there.  I keep seeing threads on here where one spouse is really not on board with the financial goals of a marriage, which is extremely important.  This is more than just a money issue, and I wish you luck!!!

DeltaBond

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Your husband has got it way too easy...

While you're worrying about life, finances, family and all of that, he's following the grade school mentality of "What do you want to be when you grow up?". By that I mean he knows that his income is pretty much not needed and therefor he can pick and choose what he wants to work on in order to feel "happy and fulfilled". That's a load of crap and would drive me crazy if my wife ever did that.

He needs to work his ass off to make as much money possible, just like you, and on his free time find the work that will fulfill him. I mean, right now he's living the life that all of us here are looking for. Like seriously think about it, he's FIRE. He doesn't have to worry about money. He takes weeks off work. He picks and chooses what kind of work he wants to do and YOU carry all the weight of the relationship.

He needs a good wake up call...
If you talk to him, don't hold back, you are being used - plain and simple - and he KNOWS it.

One last thing, if he responds with "Well I need to work on something that makes me happy", tell him that's what weekens are for and Monday - Friday, he works on whatever make the BOTH of you, the most money possible in order for the BOTH of you to be able to live the life he's currently living.

You took my post, and worded it about a thousand times better.  I'm glad I'm not the only one here who views this type of situation like this.

DeltaBond

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Make those chocolate strawberries at home!

Zamboni

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^  :-)  That's a good idea!

I agree that he is living an unearned life as a FIRE person, and you are the source of his mustache.

OP, I have an aunt and uncle who have lived your life.  She has always worked full time, really really hard, and he has always puttered around with failing creative business ventures.  Yes, he is a somewhat entertaining person to be around because of his creative stories, but he doesn't help with the cooking or cleaning or even any of the heavy lifting.  In my opinion (and I even felt this way as a child) he is just lazy for not really attempting to pull his own weight.  She did not have your high earnings, so they struggle year after year, but he was still unmoved.  They are retirement age now, and it is painfully obvious that she resents the hell out of him.  I only see them every year or two, and each time it seems even worse than the last.  So, do something now to address this in a real way; please don't just let it fester.

Peony

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Deal with this before you have a kid. After that, you will be well and truly trapped and maybe even paying alimony if things don't work out.
« Last Edit: January 03, 2015, 08:10:09 AM by Peony »

begood

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Deal with this before you have a kid. After that, you will be well and truly trapped and maybe even paying alimony if things don't work out.

+1

It sounds like he doesn't want to be a stay-at-home dad. It sounds like he doesn't want any curtailment on how he spends his time, and nothing curtails time like staying home with a kid. I agree that you would probably end up with a kid in daycare and a husband at home working on his projects, and you'd be not only bringing home the bacon, but frying it up, and then washing the bacon grease out of all your clothes. And taking care of the baby/spending free time with the kid because you'd feel guilty for leaving him or her in daycare all day instead of home with a parent.

I've been a "trailing spouse" my whole married life. My husband worked for a multinational corp that moved us a bunch. Sometimes I made money, sometimes I didn't, but I didn't spend money to make money, and I kept the household running smoothly. It sounds like all the life responsibilities are falling on you and your husband is... what? Doing whatever the hell he wants? That's not fair.

If it were a one-time thing, shrug it off. But it sounds like a pattern. A pattern that bringing a child into will not improve.

pbkmaine

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 Tell him that counseling is cheaper than divorce.

Noodle

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First of all, I am so sorry. This must be a tough position to be in.

Secondly, I think this is primarily a problem of how you feel about your marriage and secondarily a financial one. It sounds like you are very upset about the situation, and that there is a lot of contempt in the tone of of how you write about your husband and relationship. (That's not to say that it's unearned, or that your husband is innocent of the same behavior!) But since John Gottman's marriage research shows that contempt is very highly correlated with divorce, it's really concerning if you want this marriage to last for the long term. There's another thread going right now with a similar husband (details a little different)...wife is the primary wage-earner and currently pregnant, husband is a very low earner with unsuccessful freelance business and no success job-hunting. Husband has been heavily criticized by posters for not stepping up earlier and more intensely to find paid work. The difference is that in this case, the wife thinks he's A-OK and that his contributions to the marriage feel fully equal to her.

Really, you've got just a few choices here. You can state your feelings clearly about the situation and your needs (may need a therapist's help to do it) and see if he changes. It's probably not going to be a 180, so how much change would satisfy you? Or you can change your feelings on the subject, a la the wife above. There are plenty of marriages where there is a big income disparity but the high-earner  sees the value the low earner brings to the relationship in other ways. Or you can choose not to be in the relationship if you don't think he does bring you value. But I don't think specific tactics are going to make much progress until you get the big picture figured out for yourself.

Good luck. We will be wishing you well.
« Last Edit: January 03, 2015, 08:56:51 AM by Noodle »

TerriM

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Honestly, I think he really needs an 8-5pm regular job.  The work is for M-F and weekends are for the hobby suggestion is a great way to separate out the needs from the wants, but he still needs the self-control to do it.  The best way to do it is to go back to work in an office environment where he has no choice about what to work on.

The behavior he's showing indicates no pressure on him, and his interests are priorities are completely jumbled.  To work from home, you have to be 2x better at managing your time than you do at work because you have to separate out the home jobs from the work jobs from the hobbies.  I've had these problems myself.  I've seen students have these problems--our house never got cleaner than one when person had a lab due after spring break.  It's a lot of avoidance of things you don't want to do, and sometimes you have to be separated from the things you do want to do to do them.

Ask him, though, whether he wants to be a stay-at-home dad.  What's his thoughts on that?  That may just set him completely adrift, or he may feel relief at being able to be set free from the work he doesn't want to do.  Some guys love the idea, and some guys would hate it.

2ndTimer

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Something to think about.  Some people are just not meant to be parents for whatever reason.  If he is not able to take the responsibility, do you want him in the mix?  Time to figure that out before you are trying to have a baby at 39.

lifejoy

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Hi, I'm the OP from the question you linked too. Time has passed, and these are things that have worked for us lately:

DH is a doctor. He will always make more money than me, even if I make GOOD money. I went through a small period of time thinking, "why should I work at a job I hate? For money we will be FINE!". Last year I worked at a job I hated and made good money but I was depressed all the time. Is your husband happy usually? Could you handle it if he brought in more money but was depressed? It's not fun to be around someone that is feeling so low.

Anyways, I found that making less money made it hard for me to feel the cost of things. I needed a budget. Our budget gives each of us $200/month of fun money. Fancy haircuts, lunches out, new shoes - all of it comes out of my fun money. This has helped me control my spending, and there is no judgement if my DH buys his lunch every day, that's his fun money! Would your husband be open to a budget?

When I got a new, un-fun job, we brought the fun money up to $200/month each. It used to be $125/each. Bringing in more money = more fun money. Perhaps that could be a motivation for him?

Remember that if you're a team, that means success for either of you is success for BOTH of you. Could his dream job actually become a reality? Is this like a no chance in hell thing, or a if he works hard enough it could happen thing? Maybe find a way to make it happen?

Anyways, good luck! And props to you for achieving such a high income :D

Sid Hoffman

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Leave this thread open on your pc, where he can see it and read it.

That should wake him up.

Do you want to get divorced?  Because that's how you get divorced.  Passive-aggressive attacks on your spouse never end well.

Source: Have been divorced from a woman who regularly waged passive-aggressive attacks on me.

crispy

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Hi, I'm the OP from the question you linked too. Time has passed, and these are things that have worked for us lately:

DH is a doctor. He will always make more money than me, even if I make GOOD money. I went through a small period of time thinking, "why should I work at a job I hate? For money we will be FINE!". Last year I worked at a job I hated and made good money but I was depressed all the time. Is your husband happy usually? Could you handle it if he brought in more money but was depressed? It's not fun to be around someone that is feeling so low.

Anyways, I found that making less money made it hard for me to feel the cost of things. I needed a budget. Our budget gives each of us $200/month of fun money. Fancy haircuts, lunches out, new shoes - all of it comes out of my fun money. This has helped me control my spending, and there is no judgement if my DH buys his lunch every day, that's his fun money! Would your husband be open to a budget?

When I got a new, un-fun job, we brought the fun money up to $200/month each. It used to be $125/each. Bringing in more money = more fun money. Perhaps that could be a motivation for him?

Remember that if you're a team, that means success for either of you is success for BOTH of you. Could his dream job actually become a reality? Is this like a no chance in hell thing, or a if he works hard enough it could happen thing? Maybe find a way to make it happen?

Anyways, good luck! And props to you for achieving such a high income :D

It sounds like the OP is trading her happiness for his happiness and that is not a fair situation.  She is making all the compromises, all the money, and all the sacrifices while he is out having fun and seeking fulfillment.  He needs to grow-up because there is an imbalance.

I supposed I would be a trailing spouse also since I quit my job to be a SAHM when my oldest was born and now only work part-time now that they are in school.  The difference is that my husband and I chose this path together, and we have a balance that works for us.  That means I do the meal planning and cooking, take the children to school, clean the house, pay the bills and manage our money, etc. 

OP, I would encourage you to seek marriage counseling.  This situation is not really about money, but more about your husband's unwillingness to grow-up which leaves you shouldering everything. 

Peony

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I could be completely off-base, but one question that pops into my mind is whether husband isn't being passive-aggressive himself, punishing OP for being more successful than he is in the field they both work in. Sorta like, 'I may not be able to make it professionally, but I AM powerful -- watch me pull you down personally/emotionally/financially, Miss High-Earner.' If that is the unspoken or unconscious dynamic, I sympathize with the OP, because that would be devastating. Still, it's reasonable and right to protect yourself and the children you hope to have.
« Last Edit: January 03, 2015, 10:54:44 AM by Peony »

Pigeon

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Your husband has got it way too easy...

While you're worrying about life, finances, family and all of that, he's following the grade school mentality of "What do you want to be when you grow up?". By that I mean he knows that his income is pretty much not needed and therefor he can pick and choose what he wants to work on in order to feel "happy and fulfilled". That's a load of crap and would drive me crazy if my wife ever did that.

He needs to work his ass off to make as much money possible, just like you, and on his free time find the work that will fulfill him. I mean, right now he's living the life that all of us here are looking for. Like seriously think about it, he's FIRE. He doesn't have to worry about money. He takes weeks off work. He picks and chooses what kind of work he wants to do and YOU carry all the weight of the relationship.

He needs a good wake up call...
If you talk to him, don't hold back, you are being used - plain and simple - and he KNOWS it.

One last thing, if he responds with "Well I need to work on something that makes me happy", tell him that's what weekens are for and Monday - Friday, he works on whatever makes the BOTH of you the most money possible in order for the BOTH of you to be able to live the life he's currently living.

I don't exactly think he has an obligation to earn the absolute most money he can earn, but he needs to do a hell of a lot more than he is doing. I don't think people should stay for years in jobs they loathe but pay a lot, but neither do I think a healthy adult should be able to blow off real work because it isn't creative enough. Your husband seems to think he is a special snowflake.

I agree with the poster who said he should look for a full time job working for a company. He isn't self disciplined enough to work for himself.

There is no way I would put up with his irresponsibility.
« Last Edit: January 03, 2015, 11:32:32 AM by Pigeon »

lizzzi

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It's astonishing how much the OP's story sounds like my DD and s-i-l. I mean, the OP's husband and my s-i-l sound like clones of each other. DD tried everything, but has given up and filed for divorce in Sept. 2014.

Zarya

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I agree that if the situation is as described, the marriage is actually already teetering on the brink. Without serious commitment to work on it from both partners I don't foresee a happy future. (I realize the bio clock is ticking, but please postpone the child issue until things get worked out!)

As to the suggestion to go into business together, I also have a word of caution regarding that. I've been married 24 years to someone very compatible with me (and we're co-parenting three kids pretty harmoniously, too), but one thing that has put significant strain on our marriage is going into (a freelance consulting-type) business together, which we did 8 years ago with a third business partner. It has forced us to deal with each others' weaknesses both as spouses and as coworkers, which can really make you feel fed up sometimes with little things you'd be willing to ignore otherwise. It also makes the balance of power extremely explicit, which can be tough. (It doesn't feel like warm and fuzzy teamwork when there's a deadline and one person's working harder than the other!) I certainly don't think that going into business together would solve this couple's problems.

dandeliongirl75

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This seems somewhat familiar to me. I had been earning (though much less than the OP) and my husband went back to school - initially for 2 years....he had saved money for school and was going to live off of that but somehow I ended up paying for most things. It was not as bad as the OP and there was an end in sight - though school kept dragging out.....when he finished he would have a much higher paying job and we would both be more comfortable.

I put all my savings / 401k contributions on hold during this time....now....3 months before he finished school, he left me as "there was something missing from our relationship"...so I am left with a house I bought (fortunately that I can afford on my salary) but would not have if I was going to be alone...and several years of not saving while he went to school...and he is going off to start his high paying career......

we are still friends, I try hard not to be resentful, it was my choice to support him....but.....

My point being, if you are feeling taken advantage of (and I would certainly say your husband is taking advantage of you from my perspective) it needs to be fixed through therapy at the very least....and if he won't address it the long term future of the relationship needs to be considered though that is very hard to do. I sympathize with you but you need to look after yourself somewhat.
(sorry, I hope I do not come off as just bitter - I am mostly not...I just get mad when I see similar things happening to other people)


TerriM

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You guys, I think the point isn't the money inequality, but that OP wants to have kids, and she doesn't want to be holding both the full time job, the full time parenting, and the full time cleaning.  She doesn't mind him being a stay-at-home dad, but she wants him to either be that, or be the full-time wage-earner so that she can be home with the kids.  Daycare isn't going to cut it for her (and I understand that--that's why I'm home).  She doesn't sound like she cares which way SAHM or SAHD it is as long as she's not all of the roles.

So the question is how to push things one direction of the other.  How does she get him to be a full-time full-wage earner so she can stay home with the kids or get him to be the full-time dad?

Cassie

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I totally agree Terri but I don't think she can push him either way.  He has to want to make changes.

lhamo

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The fact that he isn't willing to continue therapy when it seemed to be having a positive impact is a huge red flag for me.  What is his reasoning?

Agree with those that suggest you should postpone adding kids to this mix until you have things worked out between you and are on the same page in terms of life/career goals, division of responsibility (which should be leveled considerably before kids come into the mix to establish a better long term pattern), management of finances, etc.

It also sounds like you both would benefit from getting better at "difficult conversations."  The book by that title is awesome -- I've just started reading it, and am getting a lot out of it.


TerriM

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It also sounds like you both would benefit from getting better at "difficult conversations."  The book by that title is awesome -- I've just started reading it, and am getting a lot out of it.

Thanks for the tip on this.  Looks like a book I could use as well.

feelingroovy

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I have a different perspective.  There are many similarities here to my marriage.  Really, I feel your pain.

From my experience, I would say that it's not that he's immature, irresponsible, or being passive-aggressive.  He just has different goals and values than you have.  And, I would guess, a different personality.

My husband and I are also similar in logical/creative, but I am much more practical and he is a dreamer.  He's now in his early 50s and has never had a job for more than about 5 years.  He has started numerous freelance businesses, none of which have ever made more than $20-30k.  He actually has programming skills and has in that time had well-paid jobs here and there, but he HATES it.  He's just too much of a free spirit.  He too has quit jobs spontaneously (when we had a newborn) and started businesses without thinking them through.

To make a long story short (I could go on for hours, and have), I have over the years alternated between being very resentful and realizing that this is just WHO HE IS.  He was already in his mid-30s when I met him and he was still living with 3 housemates, eating canned food (doesn't cook), and loving spending hours writing philosophy in coffee shops.  I knew this about him when I married him.  I had no idea how it would play out as we got older, bought a house, had kids, but even so, it's what I signed up for.

We've been together 20 years, and though I can certainly come up with things to complain about him, I still love him dearly.  He's an amazing father and he reminds me to focus on the joys in life, not just the practical side. 

Wanting to do work you love could be naive, but it's not a bad goal.  FI isn't the only reasonable goal (though it's mine too).  It's not like he wants to sit on the couch and drink cheap beer and watch soaps all day.

What I've had to do is realize that my needs/goals are not better or more important than his needs/goals.  I have had to remember that his behavior is not about enjoying the fruits of my labor out of laziness--he's just working toward different goals and has different needs.  I need the security of saving for the future; he doesn't.  Would he like it?  Sure, but he doesn't need it.  He needs to have opportunities for self-expression.  Would I like that?  Sure, but it's not a need.  (fwiw, I don't quite get it either.  But it's not wrong or irresponsible).

Have you told him you want him to spend less or earn more?  I assume if you were FI all this wouldn't be an issue.  What saving level do you have to be at to get there?

Do you tell him you feel resentful? Have you brought up the day care/SAH issue over and over again?  Can you try to find a win-win solution?  For example, would it work if he were willing to be a SAHD 3 days a week, get a babysitter for 2 days a week for him to do only the projects he loves, and only if he makes sure they cover the daycare cost.  I think if you went into it as "How can we meet everyone's needs," you'll both be happier. 

Are there changes you can also both make that will help you meet your needs?  Would a play money budget or a certain savings rate make you feel like you're making enough progress?  Could you do something radical like move to a lower cost of living area to reach FI faster so you could be the SAHM? 

I think you can bring up all these things as "how can we make a our lives work with a baby" and not "you are a mooch." :)



MMMdude

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Hmm, I'm going to have to disagree with the majority on here and it's funny because some could say we are in the same boat in our relationship.  I pull in 140K per year and girlfriend probably about 30K net on her photography business that she has been building the last few years.   Big difference I suppose is that I see how hard she works on the business.  She spends at least 40 hours per week on shoots, editing, updating social media, etc  - which is the number of hours per week I work.  In the next few years she should be pulling in 50k or higher although $ is nowhere near her primary motivator and I respect her for that.

There were times I was upset about this arrangement and my thought process was - she is basically at FIRE now and she would not have been able to achieve that without me.  But that is a very selfish view.  So what, she is doing what she loves and plans on doing it another thirty years.  I am glad she is achieving her dream and I'm glad that I enabled her to do so.

The only thing I could see OP being upset about is that it doesn't seem nearly a 50/50 arrangement in this case.  It's not clear how many hours per week he is "working".  If you are busting your ass 60 hours per week and he is working 10 and contributing nothing to the household in terms of chores then yea i'd be pissed too.

Regarding me becoming semi-retired she totally supports that obviously and the goal for us is that she could get into destination weddings whereby your travel is paid for and I would tag along as an assistant.  She has no interest in retiring early since she loves what she is doing and sees herself doing it into her sixties - the lady she shares a studio with is that age and is still working even though she has no need to
« Last Edit: January 03, 2015, 04:53:53 PM by MMMdude »

mm1970

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I guess I don't really see it  much differently than a husband with a SAHW.

I think the problem is that you are working your butt off, and he's not.  And he's enjoying the fruits of your labor.

Well?  What about it?

I'm kind of confused.  Sounds like he has FU money, thanks to you.

Lynski

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Ten years ago, I interned for a guy that ran his own one-man video production company. His wife held down a steady job, while he dealt with the ups and downs of running his own business. He started up a number of other small side businesses that never quite took off in order to stay afloat. In between shooting videos for local commercials, tradeshows and non-profits, he actually wrote, produced and directed a successful web series. Three months ago, he closed the doors on his freelance business and took a regular 9-5 job - not even in the same industry.

He hasn't stopped raving about how awesome it is to have a steady paycheck, and now he can devote all of his free time to his web series. He's no longer wasting his time doing unfulfilling creative work and dealing with clients to pay the bills, instead he can focus on the creative (though unpaid) type of work he loves. He went into the video industry because he loved making videos, but doing it as a job is entirely different. He says he wishes he'd gone back to a 9-5 job years ago.

Don't really know what my takeaway from that was other than encouraging your husband to take a look at what he truly values about his work, and if he could find some other way to pull his weight while still being able to make time for those fun, creative projects that don't pay anything.

Pull his weight toward what, though? I think sitting down and discussing your shared goals would be beneficial. Does your husband feel like what he contributes matters? You're bringing in the majority of the income and taking care of the household responsibilities. Maybe he feels like it doesn't matter what he contributes, and what little he does is fine because you've got everything else covered. I agree with the above poster about framing it around "how can we make our lives work with a baby."

Spondulix

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Wow I wasn't expecting so many new responses. A lot of great things to address, but first I'll tell you all about our talk...

He has come to terms with the fact that he's likely never going to get his dream job. He wants to continue taking those gigs, but with the idea that they are his hobby/use of free time and not putting those gigs ahead of his regular clients (or time with me, for that matter). It was a huge relief to hear he's finally at that point, cause this is something I've heard him talk about since the day we met.

I was pretty straight up that I feel taken advantage of and I don't feel like he's doing his fair share. He said he felt like he worked really hard last year, has been contributing his share, but doesn't look at his earnings beyond the month he's in. In his mind, as long as he's got money in his business accounts (including a savings buffer) and doesn't overspend, he's doing well. To that, I presented the math: if he was really working 40 hours a week at $35/hr, he would have earned close to $60k, not $40k. That means he spent 1/3 of his "working hours" last year not doing billable work (or not working at all). I suggested the option of working less hours and doing more house work, and he said that would be "unfulfilling and boring."  He feels guilty and obviously wants to work harder this year.

I guess it just baffles me. Is it wrong to think that it shouldn't be my responsibility to have to stay on top of these things?? Here's where I think this issue is very similar to other Mustashians who have a SO who isn't on-board (in their lifestyle/spending habits - relationship aside). When it comes to our finances, his attitude is very often "just tell me what to do and I'll do it." Same thing here - it's like he's expecting me to tell him that he's not earning enough, and that's his gauge of whether he's on track. It's tough because ignorance isn't exactly the types of issue I want to leave a relationship over, but at the same time, I can't continue living this way.  If I could teach how to plan ahead, I certainly would (and he'd probably be open to that), but I just have no idea how to do that.

FeelinGroovy is totally right in her response that he's not actively taking advantage because I have a job - he's just absolutely clueless when it comes to time-management, self-management and planning ahead (a horrible combination for someone working alone from home). The analogy that he's basically living FIRE right now is totally right! That pretty much sums up where my resentment comes from. That's the difference between a SAH parent and my situation - a stay at home parent isn't neglecting their kids to go have lunch with their friends or watch a movie in the other room. The earning spouse knows that the SAH spouse has responsibilities while they are home, regardless of whether you feel like it or not. One thing I told DH is that most people in this world don't have a choice what they do for work, let alone earn enough to be able to take a day or week off cause they don't feel like working.

swick

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If I could teach how to plan ahead, I certainly would (and he'd probably be open to that), but I just have no idea how to do that.

FeelinGroovy is totally right in her response that he's not actively taking advantage because I have a job - he's just absolutely clueless when it comes to time-management, self-management and planning ahead

There are a ton of resources out there for learning these things. Check some books out from the library. the 80/20 Rule books would be a simple place to start. Creative Live sometimes has free classes on these topics too.

Zamboni

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Quote
"just tell me what to do and I'll do it."

While this might sound like he's malleable and wants to do well, I think it's just a cop out for him taking responsibility for himself.  You are not his mother or his boss.  He is a grown man and needs to figure out what to do and then do it without you nagging him over everything every step of the way.

My experience with this kind of statement is obviously not positive.