“My In-Laws Won’t Call Us By Our New Married Name!”

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I’m a long-time advice column addict who has been greedily devouring your archives since discovering DW about ten months ago. I love your no-nonsense advice and hope you have some insight for me.

Before my husband and I married two years ago, we informed our friends and family of our decision to legally change both of our last names after marriage, by hyphenating our birth names. It was a way for us to honor both of our families while symbolizing the new one we were forming.

Our families and friends were supportive, with one exception. My husband’s mother, upon being told, only snorted and remarked “doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue.” Our birth names are both one-syllable, meaning the new last name is two-syllables. I should add that it’s common knowledge that we don’t want children, so we won’t be passing this, or any other name, to any grandchildren.

At our wedding, my in-laws presented us with a card addressed to Mr. and Mrs. John Smith. We assumed they’d forgotten, but figured our thank you card, printed on stationary featuring our new name, and signed from Mr. and Mrs. Smith-Doe, would serve as a gentle reminder.

Instead, a Christmas card arrived, addressed to Mr. and Mrs. John Smith. My husband reached out to his mom and asked her if she could please use our new name in the future. She told him our name was silly and brushed off his request as nonsense.

I should be able to shrug it off as behavior I can’t control, but every time I get a card or an invitation from them – the most recent, a birthday card addressed to “Mrs. John Smith”–I feel such rage over the deliberate, repeated insult. I feel like my value as an equal partner in my marriage is being attacked.

If I can’t find a way to stop dwelling on this, I’m going to respond to her in a way that is not helpful. I want to mail everything back to them, marked “nobody by that name lives here,” but I can’t bring myself to sabotage my husband’s relationship with his family. What would you do? — Not Mrs. John Smith

Very honestly, what I would do in your shoes is privately rage to close friends, my own family, and periodically my husband any time I felt distracted by the refusal to address me (and my husband) by our new name. I’d continue to sign all correspondences with my new name, send holiday cards from “The Smith-Doe’s,” and hang a freakin’ sign on my front door saying “Welcome to the Smith-Doe’s” that the in-laws would have to see every time they came over.

But beyond that, I wouldn’t do much else. What would the point be? Your in-laws are not in charge of establishing your value as a partner in your marriage. No one is except you and your spouse. What they think of you, and what name they call you, is so inconsequential to your worth in your marriage — it’s like arguing that a weed that grows in one garden devalues the worth of a flower that grows in another garden several miles away.

Keep tending to your own garden and don’t let weeds that grow miles away affect you. If you have any concern that your own garden isn’t growing as lovely as it could and should, look within it for a way to make it better. Is it getting enough sunlight? Enough water? Do the flowers and plants have room to grow? Is it time to do some pruning? And if your garden is already thriving, then great — all the more reason to not let some damn weed somewhere else concern you.

Sure, you can be sad for the people who have let their garden be overcome by weeds and who aren’t committed to their garden the same way you are, but don’t be sad or mad for yourself. Your garden is still lovely! Celebrate that. Congratulate yourself and your partner for putting in the effort to maintain this expression of joy, this beautiful garden. And then remind yourself: a rose by any other name would still smell as sweet.


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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy​(AT)​dearwendy.com.


  1. SpaceySteph says:

    LW1, I would be very tempted to start sending all their letters back return to sender as in “there’s nobody here by that name.” But alas Wendy is right about taking the high road.
    You should celebrate, at least, that your husband is onboard and he did talk to his mother. You got a good one, apparently despite his mother.

  2. LW1, I don’t think that this is a battle worth fighting. Read some of the archives here about actual difficult sh*t people have to put up with from the in-laws. BOF* never changed her name and after nine years we still get letters addressed to Mr. and Mrs. FLN**

    *Bride of Fyodor
    **Fyodor’s Last Name

    1. Avatar photo Dear Wendy says:

      I didn’t change my name when I got married either and eight years later, I still get mail from both of our families addressed to Mrs. Drew’s Last Name. The pediatrician, my dentist, and a host of other people call me Mrs. Drew’s Last Name. I just shrug it off. The only way it could possibly invalidate or devalue my marriage is if I let it. Drew and I know we’re equals and treat each other as such. The patriarchy needs to be smashed, but any affect it has on my own marriage needs to be dealt with between my husband and me. If it’s an issue that exists outside of us, then it’s an issue that exists outside of us.

      1. I *did* change my last name when I got married (I wanted a much rarer name than my maiden name was), and I still get letters from my family addressed to my maiden name – 11 years into the marriage. My family is all about smashing the patriarchy (or they’re just forgetful…).

  3. LisforLeslie says:

    LW #1 Wendy’s right – take the high road. My mom returned to her maiden name after she divorced my dad. When she remarried she kept her maiden name. Some people gave her grief, she ignored and went on. She has a spine of steel so eventually they either succumbed or just died. Personally, I would be more upset at someone addressing the card to Mr & Mrs John Smith in which my name doesn’t appear at all. At least give me the passive aggressive courtesy of John and Leslie Smith.

    LW#2 – Also agree with Wendy here. If you had identical salaries, does that mean you split everything 50/50? Because let’s face it, most women still have the burden of the household, and the social calendar, and child care… If he gets a raise, do you have to get a raise? A new job? The fact that your happiness is not a factor is HUGE. We all understand financial insecurity… but a combined income of $90K isn’t a bad place to live.

    1. Avatar photo Cleopatra Jones says:

      She has a spine of steel so eventually they either succumbed or just died.

      Haha, your Mom is a boss!

      1. LisforLeslie says:

        She really is. On top of it, her first name and my step dad’s last name rhyme. It would have been akin to “Harriet Chariot”.

    2. Yeah, my first thought with LW2 was also that a six-figure(ish) combined salary can actually go quite a long way in a lot of areas.

  4. Leslie Joan says:

    LW1, I agree with Wendy’s take. I actually have a friend who did the “return-the-mail” routine, but it didn’t win hearts or change minds.

    I never changed my name, and ironically it’s been one of my sisters that has been the most persistent in sending things addressed to Mrs HisLastName, though there are some of his relatives who don’t seem to get it. But the way I look at it is that it’s not a battle: my name is what it is, no matter what anybody chooses to call me. So I just smile and carry on. Remember that it’ll probably bother the old lady a whole lot more if you DON’T get combative, so you can take pleasure in that. She’s not the one in control; you and your husband are. That means everything.

  5. #LW1 its absolutely a battle worth fighting, the fact alone thats its addressed to your husbands name alone is disrespectful.

    You have a first name aswell and it sure aint John.

    Not sure why others think being disrespected by purposely using the wrong name is insgnificant, but I stengly disagree.

    Talk to your husband and ask him how he feels about sending the post back.

    If he agrees that you are not coming between his and her moms relationship, she is!!!

    Names are very important, heck to me its no different than calling a trans person by their preferred name and gender assignment.

    I changed my first name cuz i loathed the name my abusive mother gave me and I would cut anyone out of my life that would refuse to use the correct name (initial mistakes are not counted off course they need time to adjust) thankfully everybody respected my decision.

    This is no different and calling it the high road is hogwash.

    1. Leslie Joan says:

      This is completely different. There’s no history of abusiveness here associated with the joint name change, and there are more tools in the basket here than cutting someone off. HE is being disrespected too, because he changed his last name as well – that’s part of what’s gravelling his mother. Taking the long view makes sense.

    2. dinoceros says:

      This is not the same as misgendering a trans person. I don’t think that comparison is cool at all. Last time I checked, people who change their names after marriage aren’t experiencing high rates of murder and hate crimes, and aren’t having laws passed that allow discrimination against them.

  6. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

    LW1 I don’t think this is anything worth worrying about. This says a tremendous amount about your MIL and nothing about you. Your MIL doesn’t approve. To her it is some strange, incomprehensible and probably radical thing that the two of you did. She is probably embarrassed that her son changed his name. (My God, what will this generation do next!) So she refuses to acknowledge that the two of you have made your own decision and come up with your own name. That is all about her. It says nothing about your worth or value. If you are worried about your value that is all coming from within you. I say this as someone who kept my name and has been married for 30 years and still gets birthday cards from my MIL addressed to me formally, because she is formal, in my husband’s last name. The card also always has a very nice check in it made out to Mrs. MyFirstName Husband’sLastName. I take the nice, large check to the bank and endorse it with my name and underneath that I put AKA (Also known as) MyFirstName Husband’sLastName. In all other ways my MIL is a very nice, kind, thoughtful woman but she has trouble believing that a woman’s name doesn’t automatically change when she gets married.

    I don’t try to force her to think my way. That would be a waste of my time and just cause confrontation. She has one way of seeing the world and I have a different way. The only thing that matters is that my husband and I are on the same page, which we are.

    1. I find it humorous that people who insist on using Mrs because it is traditional often misuse it. Formally, Mrs. Your First Name Husband’s Last Name is incorrect. Mrs. should always accompany the husband’s full name if one is following traditional rules.

      1. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

        My MIL is English and using it as she was taught. She puts the title Mrs. on checks. Something I’ve never seen done here.

      2. Leslie Joan says:

        Mrs HisFirstName HisLastName is the formal way of addressing a married woman. Mrs. HerFirstName HisLastName would be the way to address a divorced woman. Shockeroo; don’t want to be sending the message that you’re divorced; might have to roll in the fainting couch. Lol

  7. My friends both had long, ethnic last names and wasn’t going to damn their kids with either as they knew the lifetime of sniggering and misspellings so they changed both of their names to Carlsen. LOL. Mrs and Mrs Long Last name and Mr and Mrs Name-that-sounded-like-it-contained-a-curse-word didn’t like that but I think they finally got used to it.

  8. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

    LW2 Your boyfriend wants a partner who is a financial equal and you don’t want to change jobs. That means you are incompatible. I don’t think it means he is a bad guy. Everyone has their own dealbreakers and feeling like you are always doing more can create a lot of resentment. There is also nothing wrong with wanting greater financial security. If he already knows that about himself then it is good that he won’t get engaged. The bad part of it all was that instead of acknowledging that the two of you are incompatible he wanted to change you.

    I think your offer to do all cooking and cleaning was naive. That could only last so long. You would be as resentful of doing all of the work at home as he was about carrying the financial burden for both of you. I think this relationship was doomed to implode. You were volunteering to be treated as the inferior half of the couple who must do extra to prove their worth.

    You are better off going your own way and finding a guy who likes you just the way you are.

    1. He’s not “doing more”, though. They both have full-time jobs and his just happens to pay better. My husband makes 3x what I make but we both work full-time. He’s had good luck/more time in the work force. He would never suggest that I “owed” more in terms of child care or housework because my job is less lucrative, because we are a team. There’s nothing wrong with wanting financial security, but you get there through prudent planning and saving vs. spending, no matter how much money you make.

      I dislike the notion that because one person’s full-time job pays more than another person’s full time job, they are somehow “doing more”. I totally agree that she shouldn’t sign on to that concept by agreeing to be treated as the hired help in her own home. This guy sounds like a total dick and she should dump him now.

      1. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

        They were both feeling like he did more financially. He did earn more but who knows what kind of hours they each put in. Her solution was to try to make it up by being the family slave and that would never work. Neither of them would respect her in that role.

        What she was missing was that he was concerned about financial security and her doing all of the housework didn’t address that concern at all. She was saying you do more financially so I’ll do more in the home. He was saying he has financial concerns. She was looking at how much each contributed and was trying to make it equal in her mind. He was wanting more of a financial cushion.

        You can live on $90,000. The trouble with one partner earning the majority of the income is if they lose their job. I’ve had friends in three couples where the husband lost his job and the wife carried the family financially. In a fourth couple the husband needed to find a different job and had trouble figuring out his niche. He had been running a private business doing landscaping but was reaching the point it was physically damaging his body and he needed to change. His wife carried the family financially for about 2 years while he tried a few different jobs and then found the one that worked. There is a huge amount of security in two incomes where each can carry the family by itself until the other finds a job.

      2. It seems though like she could be making more, but doesn’t *want* to because she loves her job so much, which is her right. But I could see how he might resent having to work long hours at a job he doesn’t particularly care for to meet the family’s financial obligations, whereas she gets to pick the job she loves.

      3. She gave up a higher-paying corporate job, likely in a field she got a degree in to take a job she liked more/found less stressful. So… the equality question is this: is she alright with doing the same thing and the two of them living on $60-70K, and half that if she chooses to be a SAHM, or does she expect him to stick with the high-paying job and be in the traditional bread-winner role, despite IT being a field known to burn out many physically and give many carpal tunnel and other physical woes? If she expects that he’ll just tough it out for the big $, then she is being as traditionally sexist as most assume he is being.

        Lots of people have a dream job that they would bail to for lesser $. For most of us, there was a large difference between work and play.

      4. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

        There is this expectation that he should pay the bills so that she can be happy without doing whatever would make him happy.

        I think IT is a field that isn’t secure. Your job can be outsourced. They can switch the help desk to India. You can be replaced for many things by someone who works for less in a foreign country.

        With him in an insecure field and her in a poorly paying field they could expect to keep hitting financial problems.

        He may also know that he wants things like travel and a house in a good neighborhood. He may want enough income to not just get by but to save for a comfortable retirement and to live where the kids (if they were to have them) go to school in good schools with a safe environment. Even if they can live on their combined income it doesn’t mean that they would be able to save for emergencies or lost jobs, medical expenses or travel. Him needing a greater financial cushion doesn’t necessarily mean he is being callous, it may just show that he is being more realistic about living in the real world.

  9. LW2: Run, fast and far away. He doesn’t want you to be happy. What more do you need to know? You’re not saying you want to stay home and watch TV all day; you’ve found a career — an important one, where you work hard — that’s fulfilling.


  10. ele4phant says:

    Hmmm – I don’t know that I think LW2’s boyfriend is a dick, but I do think they are incompatible and probably its best that the break become permanent.

    We have plenty of letters from women who are dating guys that have financial woes, or that they out earn, and generally we don’t come down on them. I think it’s okay to want a partner who is your financial equal. Its not about wanting someone to support you, but about feeling like you’re on a level playing field with your partner.

    Not everyone needs that, not everyone views equality in terms of equal financial contributions, but some do, and that’s okay. The LW2’s boyfriend does. Unfortunately, LW2 has a different perspective, and that makes them incompatible when it comes to how they view finances. So many couples split up over fights about money, that if they know now they aren’t on the same page, and they’ve tried and failed to get on the same page, better they break up now.

    1. Yeah, but someone who’s your “financial equal” now could be your “laid-off spouse in a bear market” or “stay at home parent to a disabled child” or “caretaker to elderly parents” or “layabout drug addict” later on. Making a marriage decision based on current income rather than shared financial values and life goals seems pretty short-sighted.

      1. Ele4phant says:

        Yes things can and do change – but she’s indicated to him this is her career – the trajectory she wants to be on. It’s not her being laid off and finding something to do in the interim.

        Which is fine, admirable even, but it is incompatible with the vision he has for his future.

        Also – they are not married yet. That commitment to stick it out no matter what has not been made. That’s the point, they know they are incompatible now, they’ve identified they can not compromise on this issue – they sadly aren’t right for each other and should move on.

      2. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

        The two higher incomes give you some ability to weather the layoff. I’ve seen it over and over. I think the guy is being wise in knowing what he needs. He needs financial security.

        She needs a job that she enjoys. She is also being wise. A job that suits her is more important than income.

        Neither point of view is better or worse, just incompatible.

      3. ele4phant says:

        Basically – I agree with you you need to marry someone with whom you share financial values, and it is clear that LW2 and her boyfriend do not share financial values. I don’t think either of them is right or wrong, but they are incompatible and applying the standards of marriage to a relationship that is not yet a marriage does not make sense.

      4. ele4phant says:

        And for what it’s worth, my husband makes substantially more than me (although the gap is closing), but we’re on the same page that what matters is we both be happy in our professions.

        If my husband was like the boyfriend, he might not be the guy for me. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it wouldn’t work, just like it’s not working for LW2.

    2. dinoceros says:

      I don’t think this is a situation where the advice has changed because of gender. I think the difference is that this is the other half of the couple writing in. I think it’s also that some of those other letters are not just about financial equality, but about one partner who makes little money and does little around the house and spends wildly. Not all questions about couples and finances are the same.

      1. ele4phant says:

        Okay – let’s say he was the one to wrote in – he has a girlfriend he loves but her chosen profession means that either a) they live paycheck to paycheck or b) he will forever be mostly responsible for the family’s finances. Neither of which he feels comfortable and secure with. To stay he needs a little more of a financial cushion.

        What do you tell him? Do you tell him he’s a self-absorbed jerk.

  11. wobster109 says:

    LW2 – I won’t say whether your bf is a bad person, but I do think he is rigid, immature, and naïve. People and fortunes change. If you took a corporate job, and 5 years later you became ill and could no longer work, would he abandon you? Or conversely, if he were laid off, would he be cool with paying exactly half while unemployed? I would not want to marry anyone who makes the marriage contingent on my earnings.

  12. dinoceros says:

    LW1: I get why you’re annoyed. But I agree with Wendy. I think one of the issues affecting your anger at the situation is that you’re seeing each incident as it’s own slight. But surely after the first couple of times, you knew that their decision was to call you by the wrong name and it’s probably not going to change. Acting/feeling as though they have newly made that decision every time is not going to help. (Also, I’m shocked that your in-laws refer to you so formally. I can’t imagine my parents calling my spouse and me by anything other than our first names.)

    LW2: Your partner sounds like he cares more about his partner’s salary than who is partner actually is. Turn the break into a break-up.

  13. I am going to unsurprisingly say that I think that everyone is coming down way too hard on LW2’s boyfriend.

    1. Y’all are making it sound like he showed up on day and dumped an ultimatum on her without any warning, which is not how it reads from the letter. This reads like a lot of discussions over a period of time.

    2. I think that it’s reasonable for him to not especially appreciate her getting to pick the job she loves and not have to consider the financial impact, whereas he has to work longer hours and value the family’s financial security over his personal fulfillment.

    3. As others have noted, it seems a lot of women write in concerned about their spouse’s/boyfriends’ ability to contribute financially and they aren’t told that their concerns are bullshit and they are selfish for not primarily valuing their partners’ personal happiness and fulfillment.

    In any event they are not a match, so the advice is the same.

    1. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

      I agree with you. It’s nice to think that love conquers all but finances destroy couples. We don’t know how much he enjoys his job and how much he just does it because it gives a degree of financial security. He expressed a need for financial security and that’s fine. There is nothing wrong with knowing what you want to be able to buy and do in life and knowing how much that will cost and looking to see if you will get what you want.

    2. Ele4phant says:


      I think it’s great LW2 has found something that gives her purpose, she should not give that up.

      She does have different financial goals and values than her boyfriend – unfortunately.

      Yes circumstances and priorities can change over a long marriage – but they’re not married yet. You shouldn’t marry someone who you are already fundamentally incompatible with.

    3. LisforLeslie says:

      I also agree. This is more an incompatibility than anything else. Resentment is almost inevitable. He either resents that the lion’s share of the finances are on his shoulders or she resents that she had to give up work she loved for a job she loves less but pays more.

    4. Boo Berry Waffles says:

      Agreed. There’s no bad guy here, they just want different things in life and that’s absolutely fine. I actually have a lot of sympathy for the boyfriend for being upfront about his concerns and needs and explaining the solutions that would work for him instead of just dumping her when it became obvious they were not compatible.

    5. dinoceros says:

      In regard to #3, I think it’s hard to compare because in those situations the higher earner is writing in and in this situation, the lower earner is writing in. Advice changes depending on who is writing in, tone, and other factors.

      I think one of the big issues is that when women write in (on both sides of the issue), a lot of times, it’s them describing a relationship that in no way can continue, but asking whether they should sacrifice XYZ for it. For me, the harshness toward an LW’s partner usually comes from a place of knowing that they probably won’t hear something less insistent.

  14. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

    “I feel so sad that my other half wouldn’t have my back and compromise financially. I would have his back at any time and I have.”

    I don’t think it is stabbing you in the back to express his needs. He could equally feel that you are stabbing him in the back by refusing to change careers to one that makes more money.

    Instead of viewing this as a betrayal, which he could be feeling equally, you need to view this as discovering that the two of you are incompatible. That’s what dating is all about. You not only need to love each other you need to be compatible in many ways, one of those ways being financial. The two of you have different values. You value a fulfilling job more highly than what you could buy with a higher income. He views the higher income as more desirable than a fulfilling job. The two of you have different priorities. Often that comes from your background and your temperament. You might feel comfortable with more financial insecurity than he does. If he knows that he will never be comfortable with this situation it isn’t stabbing you in the back to let you know. He is being honest about his needs and you are in return being honest about yours. Sadly your needs and his needs make you incompatible.

    In the future you should address this much sooner although you may find that while you are searching for financial compatibility you miss some other area that you take for granted but it turns out to be an incompatibility.

    I also don’t think that you doing all of the housework is a real financial compromise. There is nothing financial in the housework and it doesn’t address his concern. There is no real compromise that you can make here.

  15. Avatar photo Dear Wendy says:

    From LW2: “Thank you so much for writing to me and I loved your advice . Some of my friends and family have been saying Similar things to what you wrote to me but I wanted to get some feedback from someone who doesn’t know me and I agree with you. I don’t think we will be getting back together . I don’t deserve someone like that . Again thank you so much , heading your advice made me feel so good inside !!”

    1. Ele4phant says:

      Okay but I would still argue that this isn’t about you being treated a way you don’t “deserve” but that you two are just fundamentally incompatible.

      It isn’t fair for him to ask you to give up something you love and do something that makes you miserable – but by the same token it isn’t fair to ask him to live with a greater share of financial responsibility and insecurity than he is comfortable with.

      In a lot (most) breakups there is no right and wrong parties, no good and bad guy, but two people who aren’t a good match.

      That’s what I see here.

      1. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

        I agree. I don’t think he was mistreating her. They just want different things and have different needs. That’s what dating is all about. Finding someone compatible and moving on when you find someone isn’t compatible. There is no bad guy here. Just a guy who has different priorities and needs. He isn’t mistreating her by having different priorities and needs and expressing them. He would be mistreating her if he married her and then suddenly demanded that she change. You could as easily say she is mistreating him by demanding that he financially support her more than she supports herself and that she is just looking to use him for his money. They are just different. When he tells her that their financial situation doesn’t work for him he is being honest but he isn’t being mean, rude, abusive or back stabbing. He isn’t mistreating her. I think if she can’t see that she is being somewhat self-absorbed.

      2. If the person I loved, who I thought loved me and with whom I was discussing marriage told me that he valued money over my companionship, I would be devastated. That’s basically what he’s telling her. And I think that’s what people are reacting to.

        It would be one thing if she were slacking off or didn’t have a career. Being a nanny is a career.

        He’s not being mean, but I think she’d be dodging a bullet to break up with him. But you’re right, people have their own priorities. He stated his. She can choose to leave. I would if I were her.

        I honestly know very few couples who make close to the same amount of money. Most I know have at least a 15k to 30k spread.

      3. Yes ktfran – I agree with you. I also agree with others that it’s not a sin to want financial security, but you can have work towards that goal even if you don’t make tons of money. Re-reading the letter, I think my issue is in how he expressed this, saying that it would not be “fair” to him to cover more of the bills. No, they’re NOT married, but if you are looking ahead to a point where a person is your life partner and preemptively viewing them as a mooch…it really just rubbed me the wrong way. Particularly as a person whose partner makes significantly more and always will.

      4. dinoceros says:

        I agree, ktfran. Obviously, we only have the LW’s side, but she didn’t note any excessive debt or expenses. Sometimes other LWs who have had concerns about finances have indicated that the person with less money is bringing in catastrophic amounts of debt or whatever. It’s not that the LW doesn’t make any money or is lazy or a heavy spender (at least according to this), so his emphasis on money over being together would feel a little cold to a lot of people.

        I agree about dodging a bullet too. Since it’s very important to him for them to each contribute equally financially, I can imagine this couple would have a lot of arguments and resentments over things like buying a house or other financial commitments.

      5. Ele4phant says:

        Yeah I just don’t see it that way.

        It is okay to want to do better than just get by. It is okay to want to want to feel like your family’s financial future is not all on your shoulders. That’s a lot of pressure that some people will take on happy – for others it is too much. It’s okay to recognize that being with a person that you may love means a lifetime of stress and insecurity for you.

        Just hoping love will get you through the rough times is naive. Life is hard no matter what – it would be foolish to sign up for a life with someone if you knew it would mean a life of stress and pressure. It doesn’t mean you don’t love that person – it means they are the wrong person for you.

        From where I sit – together they would make 90k. Now – I live in a tech hub that has a very high cost of living and maybe where LW2 lives that’s a great salary – but here it would be tight for a family. Buying a home would be hard, saving would be hard, paying for kids would be hard.

        Supporting a family on just 60k would be damn near impossible here (because honestly if they have kids it wouldn’t make sense for her to keep working). If he lost his job (which IT is super unstable it could happen) they’d be in real trouble.

        Honestly if they stay on the same career tracks neither of them will likely make that much more (IT is support staff you’re not going to make crazy dollars like if you were a programmer). This is their financial reality if they stay together.

        It does not make him a bas person if he wants a future in which a home is attainable, retirement for savings happens early, and where they can have a big rainy day nest egg saved up.

        She can’t offer him that. She’s not wrong for pursuing her passion – but she is the wrong person for him.

      6. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

        I think they live in an area that is fairly expensive because she is making $35,000 per year as a nanny. That is pretty high for a nanny and far more than she would make where I live meaning they live in an expensive area where people can afford to pay a nanny $35,000 per year. In our area a nanny would probably make no more than $20,000 and most would make less.

      7. We aren’t privy to all the conversations, but I think that there’s a difference between “can’t” make more money and “won’t” make more money. She could take a higher paying job but basically wants him to shoulder the burden of supporting them and possibly live under significant strain* so that she can have a job she loves.

        *Plenty of places where 85K would make it very difficult to raise a family.

    2. It’s not valuing “money” over “love.” It’s valuing a relationship where people sacrifice equally to support the family rather than dumping most of the burden on one person so the other can have a fun job that she loves.

      1. To be fair, there are so many more burdens than monetary. I prefer to think of a relationship as a partnership and in that partnership, nothing will ever be equal 100% all of the time.

        If she quit the job she loved and went corporate and made more money, would he pick up 50% of the mental load and household chores? She actually offered to pick up all of the that, which is extremely naive.

        You’re making it out to sound like she wants to use him as her meal ticket. From what she posted, I think that’s an unfair assessment.

      2. “You’re making it out to sound like she wants to use him as her meal ticket. From what she posted, I think that’s an unfair assessment.”

        I don’t think that she wants to use him as a “meal ticket” but I think that she feels that her personal fulfillment/job fun should take priority over their financial security/stability. That is her right, but but I doubt that IT is his dream job and I think that it’s reasonable for him to want someone who will prioritize the family’s financial security comparably.

        “If she quit the job she loved and went corporate and made more money, would he pick up 50% of the mental load and household chores? ”

        This is a good analogy. what if he said,”I find cooking and cleaning really boring and unsatisfying and just wouldn’t be happy doing anything other than “fun” parenting tasks like playing catch. If she decided that was a bad arrangement everyone wouldn’t be all “OMG, she is SUCH A JERK for putting free time and domestic life over his personal fulfillment and satisfaction!”

      3. dinoceros says:

        Choosing to play catch instead of doing chores is not the same as choosing a career path that you like over one that has high stress. Stress levels affect relationships, physical and mental health, and the ability to parent kids appropriately. Having to put in a load of laundry instead of playing with toys is not going to impact their lives in the same way as spending years in a corporate job that one hates.

        Also, not everyone is made the same way. Not everyone can stand a desk job in the same way. I know people who care 0% about their work because they only care about their family and free time and will punch the clock to get that. Other people can’t do that. They need stimulation and to enjoy their work. His ability to have a boring job doesn’t mean that he’s putting in the same effort it might take from her to do the same thing. But yes, either way, they aren’t compatible and should move on.

  16. L.W. #2-I lived this and it lead to misery and a reak-up of a near 30 year relationship/marriage. My ex met me when I worked as a display and merchandising person for a large retailer-I made decent money. He loved how “artistic” I was. He worked a nominal job, but soon had a chance to move to a smaller city and use his degree as an English/drama teacher. He asked me to move with him and I did.
    No similar work was available in the new place,so I created my own work. I did free-lance display jobs,made jewelry,worked part-time at shops etc. and in addition-did all of the housework,cooking etc. Plus I created costumes for all of his school and community productions. This was not enough for him and he constantly complained about my income. He compared it to his colleague’s ,where most of them were married to teachers too. Where we live teachers make quite decent money. Even when we had our daughter and childcare was added-he still would complain,berae me and tell me how much money I needed to make to satisfy him. Keep in mind,we lived comfortably and paid off a mortgage in 15 years.
    So,I was made to feel that I had not enough value and everything was compared to money and lifestyle of others. Anyway,this and other issues lead to divorce. Ironically,he had to pay me half of everything in the divorce-he was super bitter,felt cheated etc.
    So,I am much happier,with a great guy and own my own business now ( not a goldmine,but okay) and wished I had left sooner. He knew when he married me,the status of my earning power and things can change in that regard,as people here have pointed out. So,our priorites were not the same and it did not work. I do think no matter if I had brought in more money,he would not have been happy,as he was that “never satisfied” type. Funny,but his live-in girlfriend now, works 2 days a week-lol. Bottom line-you will never be happy with this guy-he does not respect and value who you are. Find someone who does. Good luck!

    1. I don’t think LW’s situation is the same as yours. She could and has earned more, but took a lower paying job she loves. She is willing to do up to 100% of housework to compensate. This is a very traditional assignment of gender roles, in which the male is required to be the primary breadwinner. LW’s bf is not rejecting her because she can’t earn as much, but seemingly because she insists that he be the primary wage earner, so that she can do what she loves. It’s fine for others to say that if he loved her he would want her to be happy in her beloved low-paying job, but it’s not that simple, because by choosing what she loves, she locks him into sticking with the IT time, which can become mentally and physically challenging and very tedious. If she is fine with him also only earning $35K while doing what he loves, then more power to her and I recant all of the above.

      1. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

        It would be interesting if both partners moved on and he ended up dating a woman who made far more than he did and she ended up with a guy who made half of what she did. Would he be comfortable in a situation where he was the lower half of a couple who weren’t financial equals. Would she be comfortable in a relationship where the guy did something he loved but made so little that the two of them would always be in a financial struggle.

  17. LW #1 if this issue really bothers you I think you need to have your husband take the lead and tell his mom one more time about the name and how it is important to the both of you that you be called by your correct name. Every time she does not do so going forward you reiterate that your husband had this conversation wit her and start saying things like “Geez MIL we’ve talked to you about this several times and you still cannot remember. I think you should talk to your doctor about early onset dementia. Forgetting things like this is an early warning sign.” The next time, “Mom we’ve already had this conversation and your inability to remember is really starting to alarm me. I think I am going to talk to dad (or other family relative) about keeping an eye on this for you and see if it is happening in other areas of your life too. You really need to speak to your doctor.” Continue to do this every time each time she does escalating the concern and important need to see a doctor or get tested so she can plan early enough for what life with memory loss will be like, as in special assisted living facility. Make her sweat a bit. At least that’s what the petty in me would do.

  18. Avatar photo Dear Wendy says:

    From the LW:

    Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my question, and for your excellent advice! It helps to know that you and some of your readers would rage at this too, even though it’s not exactly MIL-from-hell behaviour. My husband and I loved your idea about getting a sign for our door and will definitely do that.

    I think your reader dinoceros really nailed it when they pointed out that I’m interpreting each use of the wrong name as a new insult. If I accept that she’s not going to use our new name, I (hopefully) won’t be so affected when cards continue to show up addressed to Mrs. Husband’sFirstName Husband’sLastName.

    As much as I’d love to try AMac’s hilarious suggestion of implying my MIL is developing dementia every time she uses the wrong name, I’m going to continue to take the high road and vent to friends whenever I’m tempted to behave otherwise. Hopefully I will develop a “spine of steel” like LisforLeslie’s mom.

    Thanks again for your (very prompt!) advice, and for reminding me that as long as my husband and I know what our name is, it doesn’t matter what anyone else calls us.

    1. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

      You can’t force her to use your name but at the same time she can’t force you to use the traditional family name. In the end you get the name you want and she can do nothing about it except pretend that it doesn’t exist. You live in the real world and she lives in the pretend world.

  19. This reminds me of the letter where the LW said she was a dancer and chose her job everyday, and was upset she didn’t get a ring.

    I see his perpective– he has a hard job and has to carry the family’s finances, while she would have a fun job without the same pressures, and not be able to ease the financial pressures. I’m sure he would love to get a job doing something he loves, but that wouldn’t pay the bills.

    If this was a question of her making $60k and him making $120k, I would say he is being unreasonable because the family could be comfortable on either person’s salary. But with a $60k+$35k issue, it’s a little different (depending on cost of living, the $35k may not go very far at all).

    Finances are huge. It isn’t going to work.

  20. In regards to LW2, I am older but still a millennial, and I don’t think the (ex)boyfriend’s concerns are at all invalid. Financial insecurity, or even just differences in what financial security means, can be real sources of conflict in marriage, especially once kids come into the picture. They are expensive. It is also quite possible that the boyfriend doesn’t absolutely love his job or find great fulfillment from it but is sticking it out because of the financial stability it provides and the potential upward mobility. If both of you were working jobs making $35K, what would your future as a couple, or perhaps as a family of 4, look like?

    I was making similar to what the LW is making at my very first job out of college back in 2005 as a 20/21-year-old in a midsize Midwestern town and was a poli sci major at a state school, so my job was nothing too fancy. The importance and value of childcare providers cannot be overstated, but right now, their pay is certainly nowhere near on par with the importance of their role in society.

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