Providing for a family is a heavy responsibility, especially when just one spouse is bringing home the bacon. Helping out your burdened breadwinner doesn't have to mean generating an income, though. Simply sharing your talents, expressing interest in what he does and reminding him of what is really important can go a very long way.
Offer your talents in areas where he struggles
My husband is preparing to present his research at an international conference. The audience will be comprised of everyone who matters in his field. Add to this the fact that he hates giving presentations, and there's no wonder he's nervous. Fortunately for him, I am a PowerPoint wizard and love public speaking. Together we're going to create a presentation worthy of the venue.
You can help your husband in similar ways. If he's trying to impress his boss and you're an amazing cook, offer to host a small dinner party. If he's getting bored at work and having a hard time focusing, offer to make an upbeat playlist to keep him cheerful on long days. Whatever the case, remember that his work is more than just the name of his field. Those other aspects provide opportunities for you to share your strengths and make his life a little easier.
One caveat to this advice, however, is to proceed with caution. Knowing he can provide for his family is a source of self-worth for husbands. If you aren't careful, you may come across like you are questioning his ability to do so. This could result in hurt feelings and dampened confidence. Instead of pointing out what he is doing wrong and how you could do it better, listen for things he repeatedly brings up in an anxious way.
Pray for guidance on how to help him, and pay attention to how your husband responds to your suggestions. It may be that the only help he needs is your appreciation for how hard he tries. If you're giving that, he probably already thinks you're amazing.
Learn about what your husband does so you can ask intelligent questions
Sometimes your husband needs to talk through his work day - either to let off steam or to think through a problem. Active listening during conversations like this is essential to helping any spouse feel supported, loved and respected.
For me, however, listening to my husband talk about work was turning my brain to mush. It all sounded like gibberish, and very complicated gibberish at that. That's when I decided to read up on my husband's research project. It took me two hours of looking up all of the unfamiliar words and concepts, but by the end of it, I could summarize his work in layman's terms. Now, not only do I understand what he's saying, but I also find it interesting.
You, too, can conduct a little research project of your spouse's field. Ask yourself, "What makes this so challenging?" "What makes it so rewarding?" or even just "What on earth does that word he uses all the time mean?" Then you can tell your spouse about what you learned and allow him to further clarify. This makes for a conversation that is meaningful to him and not just you.
Still not convinced? After I told my husband excitedly about what I'd read, my husband turned to me with a gleam in his eye and said, "It's so hot when you talk like an engineer." Case closed.
Keep asking for help
Sounds counterintuitive, doesn't it? Why would you draw your husband's attention away from work, which clearly requires time and concentration? Because work is not the most important thing and sometimes he forgets that. When you ask your spouse to help you, you remind him that he is needed, that he has valuable insights to offer and that his greatest joy in life does not come from his occupation.
Family advocate Whitney Clayton reminds us that when we marry, we leave behind how our lives worked when we were single because our marriages become our first priority. That means everything else comes after it. When we order our lives this way, we find greater joy in our families than we could ever find anywhere else. By asking your spouse for help when you need it, even though it means pulling him away from work for a few minutes, you make that joy possible. You should of course be respectful and patient, but don't be afraid to proactively get him involved at home.
Make home an awesome place to be
My husband recently pointed out that although he appreciates my willingness to talk to him and my interest in his wellbeing, much of the time all he really wants is to forget about his stressful day. I'd say this is true in many marriages, but it is so hardto just leave it alone when all we want to do is make things better.
If you're struggling with this, consider turning your attention to the situation surrounding your husband rather than your husband himself. Are you cheerful when he gets home? Is there something yummy for your hungry, hardworking man to eat? Would he love it if the dishes were done just a little sooner? By resolving stressors at home, you make it a haven and a place of peace. Wives are an especially powerful influence for good in that regard. With a little hard work on your part, you can help your husband recharge at home and return to work with a determination to succeed.
Marriage blurs boundaries between "me" and "you" so that it becomes only "us." That means both of you have the right and responsibility to share your skills and talents in a way that works best for both of you. There's only so much you can do to help your spouse in the workplace, but being interested, informed, involved and inspired goes a long, long way.