My husband won't share the financial burden of conceiving a child. What should I do?
My husband and I have separate bank accounts, with a joint account for bills. Since we make roughly the same amount of money, the bills are split 50/50 through the joint account, and the rest of our personal paychecks are for ourselves to spend as we wish. About two years ago, we happily decided together to have a baby. I couldn't conceive, and the doctors put me on a cocktail of hormones. The drugs are not covered by insurance, neither are the ovulation kits and pregnancy tests. This is an expense I have shouldered on my own. It has added up, and I find myself more and more in debt. My husband has seen how much I spend on all of these treatments, but has yet to offer to help with the financial burden. I've tried to be subtle—I once asked him to pick up a pregnancy test on the way home from work, but he has never done it since—but now I just want to scream at him every time I come home with another prescription and he comes home with another man-toy! It's bad enough that I already feel like it's my fault we haven't conceived, but by not sharing in the financial aspects of this process, I feel even more alone. Am I off base to ask him to help pay for treatments for a problem that is "mine"? Or is it just the overabundance of hormones that make me want to freak out on him?
—Barefoot and Not-So-Pregnant
I hope you are able to start your family soon, but take this waiting period as a chance to rethink your definitions of yours, mine, and ours. There's something wrong with the fundamentals of a marriage if one partner is going into debt over a medical treatment—whatever the malady—while the other is flush enough to indulge his whims. There's also something wrong if the partner going broke feels she has to quietly seethe and hint that something's wrong, instead of being able to say, "We need to figure out another way to manage our finances together." How do you plan to divide the cost of caring for a future child: He pays for everything below the waist (diapers, booties), and you pay for everything above (pacifiers, hats)? When Solomon suggested dividing the disputed baby, he was illustrating that some things simply can't be cut in half. Since handling money and child-rearing are flashpoint issues in many marriages, you two must work on your communication skills and your sense that you're in this together, before you bring home a very demanding third party.
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I am a Dutchman married for seven years to a lovely American girl. All is well, unless we visit my family in Holland, which we do one week each year. Apart from the typical in-laws issues, there is a certain language barrier. Everybody in my family speaks decent English, and as long as the group isn't bigger than four or five, we all talk in English (well, OK, at least 90 percent of the time), but when bigger groups meet, like at dinner with my parents, three sisters, and their husbands, then the "only speak English" rule is quickly forgotten. My wife thinks this is rude, and if the others cannot always speak English, then I, at least, should translate for her. I find this an impossible task, as it entails translation and explanation (who is Uncle Sjoerd?), which means that I can't talk with my family. I have asked—begged—my wife to please learn some Dutch so she can follow the discussions. She can talk back in English, nobody would mind. She feels that, being over 30, she is too old to learn a foreign language. She has tried a few times halfheartedly, but a language is simply not something you acquire by listening to tapes in the car for a couple of weeks. Am I being uncaring, and should I keep translating, or could she make some more effort to learn some Dutch?
—Nederlands Voor Beginners
At the risk of getting in Dutch with the two of you, I think you're both wrong. It's thoughtful of your family to speak English around your wife, but once the room fills and the conversation gets going, it's unrealistic to demand that a lively family get-together be conducted awkwardly in a foreign language for the benefit of one person (or that you should provide continuous simultaneous translation). Your family should be sensitive to the fact that your wife's being left out and engage her one-on-one, but she should accept that for part of every trip to your homeland, she's just going to have to let the discussion bubble incomprehensibly around her. And it's a bit much for you to ask your wife—who isn't good at foreign languages—to spend the year trying to learn enough so that on a short vacation she can start conversations such as, "The dikes look very sturdy," and, "I hope Uncle Sjoerd's digestive troubles have cleared up." However, it would be a gracious gesture on her part if she could at least learn to say, "So nice to see you. I'm so sorry I still don't speak any Dutch" in Dutch. Perhaps, if this issue isn't already too loaded between you, you could be her tutor.
Photograph of Prudie by David Plotz.