A healthy marriage is a support system which gives both members an anchor in turbulent times.
That's not to say they're all easy, however!
On the popular subReddit "Am I The A**hole?" a man using a throwaway account is asking users whether he was in the wrong for telling his wife they might have to rethink their marriage if she leaves him with most of her student debt.
Userthrowaway62 titled his story "AITA for telling my wife she can't have her dream job because I refuse to be burdened with all of her student debt?"
"My wife and I married young, at 23, and now at 27 she's about to graduate from law school. The issue is she has a ton of student debt, around 195k from both undergrad and now law school."
"But over the past year she's completely changed her mind about law and becoming a lawyer. She now wants to teach and do Teach For America after graduating. She told me this past week. We've talked about this at length and she wants to do this because it's her new dream job (previously it was law)."
"I'm upset because if she teaches her starting salary will barely clear 35k in the first few years and we live in a really, really expensive city. She has no intention of going back into law later as well as she says law school was a mistake."
"Last night we were talking about the future and she mentioned our plans to have kids in a few years and how she'd like to be a stay at home mom in a few years as well. I looked at her and asked how she thinks we're going to afford that when we've got nearly 200k in debt on my one income. She got mad and said I'm trying to use her debt to postpone major life events (like having kids)."
"We ended up fighting and I told her she can't just teach if she expects me to be saddled with her debt as a result. I said she should at least work a high paying job for a few years to repay a good portion. She said I'm prioritizing money over her happiness and that she's disappointed in my lack of support when they would be my kids and my life as well."
"AITA to tell her that if she chooses to go down this path, I may need to rethink our marriage? I haven't said anything like this yet but I am thinking it. Based on her timeline she'd only work for 3-4 years before becoming a homemaker. I'd have 200k worth of debt to work through completely on my own and I don't know if I can do it or if it'll completely ruin the rest of my life. AITA to say this?"
The original poster also returned to clarify a couple points.
"So to clarify, our original plan was for her to become a lawyer and to have kids by 29-32. She'd keep working and we'd likely send our kids to daycare. But she has completely changed her mind on law after a bad internship last year and there's nothing I can say to urge her to give it another chance."
"But now that she wants to teach she said it wouldn't make sense to send the kids off because daycare costs could be more than she would make. Which is true. She says she'd want to work again after the kids are older but this could be anything from 5-10 years. So looking at income, she would only be earning for maybe 3-4 years and then for the next 5-10 years at least it would be just me paying off interest and principal. Plus all the costs of raising kids on top." -Userthrowaway62
Many online leapt to the husband's defense despite his harsh message.
"[Not The A**hole] (NTA). 200k of debt, and she doesn't plan to work for more than 3-4 years? Sorry to say your wife has a death wish for you. Ask her if a dead husband by stress-induced heart attack at age 35 fits into her "life plan." She needs to pull her weight." -10487518386
Marriage is about compromises on both sides.
"If she truly said "her happiness" that would be an enormous red flag. Marriage is a we. It is not a cover to continue to be selfish because you think the other person will pick up the slack (and the debris from your bad decisions)."
"Marriage is about compromise for the greater good. And, yes, it sometimes IS about putting money matters over and above one person's temporary happiness. NTA and I would advise marriage counseling because wife doesn't seem to want to be a full time partner in the marriage." -pcnauta
That's before one even considers what massive effect debt may have on the family's children!
"To add to this, shes prioritizing her happiness over reality. It's not a realistic goal to have and I dont think shes thought how the debt will affect the kids, and their relationship with their dad. Best to end up in a position you can afford to have kids instead of rushing into it. Nta." -capoeirapenguin
Many felt the wife wasn't thinking her dreams through.
"Ask how does she expect to have a happy, healthy family when their credit's in the trash and she can't even get a car to take her kid from point a to point b. Housewives also don't have their own health benefits. OP likely has insurance that can cover his family, but it's never a bad idea for a pregnant woman to have her own coverage, and that goes for a woman with young kids, too."
"That much debt (and steep income cut) will definitely impact the kid when it comes to school, extracurriculars, lessons, etc. Sounds like she may be burnt out after law school. If she was considering a career change, she should have done it before finishing law school." -VeryVeryTexan
Having realistic talks about finances can strengthen relationships in the long run.
"NTA. I took out 200k for a degree in the medical field. My wife is in the same field but her parents were well off and paid for hers. Nevertheless, we still had a ton of total debt after marriage, moving, buying a house, etc."
"Even with our higher salaries, the weight of all of our debt was pretty stressful at first. It took us a while to sit down and really discuss our finances. This was the best decision we ever made as a couple. We wrote down all of the terms, balances and monthly payments. We recognized that with our spending habits we had something like $170 each month in 'excess'."
"Together we came up with a plan and completely turned things around. I say that to tell you that without that conversation, we were probably headed to divorce. It really helped us both understand where the anxiety was coming from in the relationship. It helped us recommit to one another as well."
"I could never imagine leaving my wife with our debt or expecting her to carry that load while I did something else, and vice versa. We had that conversation almost five years ago and we should be debt free in the next three years. These conversations are tough but necessary. Try not to make it personal even though it feels that way. Financial toxicity is a very real thing."
"I want to say again that financial toxicity is one of the most destructive aspects of a relationship or just personal life. It doesn't matter how much money you make, everyone should have a real conversation with themselves about their financial situation. Also, no situation is insurmountable. Some may require more sacrifice than others, but all can be navigated with a plan and commitment." -terprxwolv
Even those who sympathized with the wife thought she ought to have some plans to help eliminate her debt.
"Exactly. I can sympathize with the wife, as I too am a lawyer who feels law school was a mistake for me and plans to become a teacher in the next couple of years. But there are tons of things lawyers can do that qualify for Public Student Loan Forgiveness, and teaching qualifies as well. I would never dream of removing myself from the workforce without a plan for eliminating my law school debt." -hereforthecats27
Everyone agreed: it's time for a big conversation.
"This is why internships should happen early on rather than at the end of an expensive degree. Not all law firms are created equal. My SO always used to think Family Law was his jam, but no longer. There are so many different areas of law she may be interested in, some of which are surprisingly a good fit. Be kind, be direct. Many lawyers go through crises of confidence, and if teaching is her end goal, it's not necessarily a No, it's just more of a How is this going to work for us, I think." -AgreeableRogue
Hopefully this couple will be able to work out their problems after a long, honest chat.