Carolyn Hax is on leave. This column ran previously.)
Q: My wife and I have been married nine years, and it's starting to bother me that she has not begun her career yet.
Following college, she got a master's degree and then started her Ph.D. She's now six years in and has hinted that she may not want to work after she graduates.
This is such a big deal for me because I saw what my mother went through with my father. He was lazy, making my mother work atrocious hours before they divorced. I told myself I would never marry a housewife.
I wouldn't have asked her to marry me had we not agreed that both of us would have our own careers. She now says things like, "What would happen if I don't work?" and "People change." I'm growing resentful. What can I do?
A: Say this to her.
One thing to consider is that "hinting" at a preference for the future is not the same thing as "making my mother work atrocious hours for us to get by." Your emotions might not be able to tell the difference, but don't let your mind conflate the two.
Meanwhile, people do change. Could that just be her excuse for dodging accountability? Absolutely — but it could also reflect a true change of heart that you ignore at the expense of your marriage; "housewife" has no inherent connection to "lazy." Figure out where these nine years have taken both of you.
Then, you talk. Remind her of her question, then ask her if she was serious. If yes, then say you'd like to give your answer: "What would happen is that I'd remain the only one earning money for us both, and I can't say how I feel about that without knowing what you plan to do instead."
Then, listen to her. What she intends to do with her life and whether she follows through constitute the whole story here. Don't react to it until you see where it's going.