Sharing husbands’ burden irks wives
A marriage made in business? While marriage is a partnership in more than one way, many wives traditionally prefer to enter this pact without the prospect of working for their shared livelihood: Women expect their own earnings to be pocket money.
Sometimes a husband needs financial support from his wife to overcome a rough patch. Yet, there are many reasons why women are wary of lending a helping hand to their life partners. Some of them think it would give the wrong message if they let their husbands rely too heavily upon them. Others are afraid that a reversal of traditional roles could cut both ways, in that their husbands start finding fault with their beauty or cut back on their rights. So what are the right circumstances for a woman to support her husband? And what should a woman keep in mind to avoid being taken advantage of?
Some women, most of them employed, told Al-Riyadh newspaper their views about this topic. Ummu Nawaf recounted her bitter experience when she decided to give her husband financial support in a moment of distress. “I borrowed money to get my insolvent husband released from prison. I hoped I could lead a stable life with him and our children. I had to meet the whole expenses of our household, including rent, until he cleared his debts. I also contributed to buying our house. But after some time, I noticed that my husband went abroad frequently on the pretext of accompanying his friend for medical treatment and that he spent large sums on cars. “For about 10 years, he made me spend money for many of his needs, but even then he did not settle his debts. Now I think it was wrong to support him, instead of taking better care of my elderly mother and my children, because even now, after all I have done for him, he lies to me and mocks me for my looks.”
Ummu Ruqiyya says that many husbands force their women to shoulder the lion’s share of household expenses without proper justification. “They use price rises and their low salaries as excuses. Women, especially employed ones, are supposed to spend money to buy home appliances and clothing not only for their children but also for their husbands. Often they are even forced to meet the expense of special dinners arranged by their husbands,” she said. Yet, according to her, a considerate husband should make the daily life of his wife easier and help her lead a happy life.
On her part, Ummu Khaled thinks that a woman’s salary should be spent only on her needs. “A husband has no right to take anything from his wife’s salary without a very good reason. It needs some confidence from women to insist on that, but in most cases what happens is they are simply exploited by their husbands. The men tell them they have no right to spend money on their own free will and the men get away with it,” she said. On the contrary, Howaida said: “I don’t see anything wrong with a woman supporting her husband financially. The way I see it, it is her duty. I am a teacher. So is my husband. Yet, he has my ATM card. I gave him full freedom to use it. I trust him entirely because he is a gentleman. He gives me money to meet my daily expenses and we lead a peaceful and happy life without any problems.” However, Sara, also a working woman, said the strained relations with her husband frequently gave her sleepless nights. “My husband already used to blow my salary on useless stuff, but I am living in a society in which women are forced to yield to men. I supported my husband considerably but he showed his gratitude by taking a second wife. Now I am responsible for meeting his household expenses, too, because he focuses now on taking care of his second house,” she said.
On her part, Areej says that she is afraid of lending a helping hand to her husband. “I always give excuses to not support him or his family. I only pay part of the expenses for my children, because I have to have money for myself and my housemaid, and also to go to work and to the market. I plan to invest in real estate to have some additional income. If my husband asked me to chip in to buy real estate, I would ask my family and his family to witness the deal to make sure he can’t deny later that I contributed,” she said.
Ummu Samah thinks that married life really is a partnership in a moral and a material sense. “What a woman gives her husband in terms of financial support does not diminish his masculinity even if most people seem to think so. As for the requirements of daily life, they cannot be shouldered by a husband alone. This would create problems in the family. If an employed wife shoulders the responsibility of meeting her own expenses as well as that of the children, it is a great help for the husband. He can then meet other expenses, including rent, easily,” she said. And husband and wife, she added, should work out a common saving plan to buy a house or go on an expensive holiday abroad.
Ummu Abdul Rahman tells an entirely different story of her husband. “He is narrow-minded and he is as sensitive as a mimosa. He does not allow me to buy the things I want such as home appliances or clothes for my children. Although he does not earn enough, he would prefer me not working,” she said. Laila does not agree. She pointed out that women should meet some of the household expenses. “We women should cut our husbands some slack and lend them a helping hand to shoulder some of the burden,” she said. Fatima, another Saudi woman, said that employed women should shoulder part of the household expenses. “Employed women used not to contribute at all to household expenses. This, of course, led to tensions in their marriages and sometimes even to a divorce,” she added.