Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Salary Difference Causes Marriage Strife

DEAR HARRIETTE: I have been married for about a year and a half, and my husband and I are having problems regarding finances. I make more money -- at least $100,000 more -- than my husband, and I think it bothers him a little. I am an orthopedic surgeon, and he is a general practitioner. While we were dating, it never seemed to bother him as much. Now he is grumpy and angry all the time, and I don't know what to do. It is not my fault that I happen to make more; it is just how it happens to work out. What do I do? -- Off-Balance, Atlanta

DEAR OFF-BALANCE: Do you and your husband have a family budget? Perhaps if you create a budget that includes your vision for your future, you can shift the focus from who is bringing in what amount to what your combined resources can be used to create together.

Talk about your hopes and dreams and strategize about how to make them manifest. Decide how much money will go into what account in order to build toward a particular goal. Perhaps you can both put the same amount into that pot so you are contributing evenly.

Over time, many couples' incomes change. Today you are the principal breadwinner. That may not be the case in the future. If you look at your life as a whole, you stand a greater chance of creating harmony in your marriage.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I have found that raising children is very difficult -- my wife and I have one child already. However, my wife wants another one. Though I love my daughter, I realize I don't really like raising children. My wife and I both work, and since we work at different times, we have to take turns watching her. Our daughter is at an age now where I can play with her and she talks (she is 5), and I love that, but I do not think I can do it again. For me, one child is enough. -- No More, Chicago

DEAR NO MORE: You and your wife need to talk about your feelings and your shared expectations surrounding children. It is also wise to talk about how you are feeling right now.

It may come as good news that after age 5, many children are able to exercise a bit of independence. In other words, it gets easier to care for them. When you begin to experience the pressure lessening, you may feel differently about having another child. Of course, if you do have another, you will have the approximate five-year period of intense engagement again.

That could be fine, too, if you get some extra help. A regular baby sitter can be invaluable. Enlisting family support or that of trustworthy friends and neighbors can ease your stress.

Or you may truly be done with having children. Explore all options with your wife, and decide on what is next for your family -- together.