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Theoretically, when a couple gets married, they are supposed to treat each other as equals regardless of income, social status, intelligence, career tracks, and backgrounds.
They should have an equal say in all decisions. In the event of a disagreement, they should compromise to reach a decision that makes both happy.
They should be supportive and happy when their spouse succeeds in their career since they are in it together.
Your spouse’s success and pride is also yours and vice versa.
Reality: I envy Mr. FAF’s intelligence and success.
According to Cambridge Dictionary, envy is defined as “the feeling that you wish you had something that someone else has.”
In the case of spousal envy, that feeling is directed towards your husband or wife.
If you have read my blog for a while, you might already know that I’m honest and open about some of the most personal issues in our marriage.
I do that to fill a void in my life.
Whenever Mr. FAF and I run into a marital problem, I would turn to Google to find stories I can relate to and to seek a solution to our problem.
However, what I usually find is general advice and recommendations from experts.
Such advice is helpful, but I want to learn from a real person who has gone through what I am experiencing.
I want to read something that resembles what I write in this post. Wring about my thoughts and emotions has also helped me understand myself better as a person, a wife, and a mother.
One of the key reasons I started Frugal Asian Finance was also to fill the gap in the personal finance (PF) blogger community – a lack of female Asian PF bloggers. And what’s a better way to continue filling that gap by sharing the experience that I go through but rarely see shared anywhere else?
One thing you may not know about me is that I have spent most of my life wishing I were someone else. Those thoughts crept into my mind when I started elementary school. My mom, though well-intentioned, did what I dreaded every single day: comparing me to other more intelligent kids who excelled at school.
I know she did that to motivate me, but to a little kid, it did damage to my self-esteem. I never felt like I was good enough, even to be her daughter. “Maybe she regrets living birth to such a dumb person like me,” I used to think to myself.
When I was in elementary school, I envied the girl who was the top performer in my class. She got all the preferential treatment from all the teachers. In middle school, I was jealous of my best friend, who did much better in Math and Chemistry than I did.
In high school, I was jealous of pretty much all the kids in my class since they were so smart, especially when it comes to Math, Chemistry, and Physics. And let me tell you, those were not happy thoughts and feelings.
I then realized there’s a pattern to my envy. I’m jealous of people who are good at hard sciences. I am ok with math, but not to the point where I can be a mathematician or a computer scientist. And I’m pretty sure I’m terrible at Physics and Chemistry. I don’t know why, but I just never understood those subjects, and they never understood me.
Ever since I started my first lessons in Physics and Chemistry in middle school and bitterly realized I never did well in those courses, I have always admired guys who excel in Math, Chemistry, and Physics.
The reason is simple: They are good at something that I’m not, so I adore them. They can complement my weaknesses with their strengths. Little did I realize that such a feeling stems from my own insecurity with my intelligence. What can I say, I was young and foolish.
When we met, Mr. FAF was pursuing a PhD in Computer Science. I actually didn’t have any particular impression of him when we were introduced to each other. I was going through the biggest crisis of my life, and dating was at the bottom of my priority list.
It was frugality that actually brought us together as a couple. But I have to admit that one reason I knew Mr. FAF was the one for me was because of his knowledge and intelligence. I was impressed when I got to know him better.
Throughout the past 3.5 years we’ve been in a long-distance marriage, I can assure you there’s no one else in this world (besides his parents) who would want to see him complete his PhD program successfully and get a high-paying job more than I do.
Mr. FAF’s future income, career, and success are so closely intertwined with mine that I do not want to think that he has another option other than to succeed.
It wasn’t until a couple of months ago that my envy towards Mr. FAF began. Mr. FAF was finishing up his PhD program and started looking for a job. He ended up with three offers from three well-known tech firms all of which are among the biggest in the US and the world.
In the months leading to those offers, I just couldn’t sleep well. I kept getting up in the middle of the night to see if Mr. FAF had sent me any updates (we were in two different cities). I helped Mr. FAF prepare for his behavioral interviews and prayed that he wouldn’t miss his flight or get sick during his on-site interviews.
When we got the good news, we were so happy we couldn’t stop talking about it for weeks! I couldn’t feel more proud of my husband.
Then reality set in. When I started sharing our good news with my colleagues and friends, these were the responses that I got:
— “Oh wow”
— “That’s amazing!”
— “Whoo fancy!”
— “He must be making really good money then.”
Their eyes were wide open when I told them about Mr. FAF’s offers. It’s like they were star-struck for a few seconds. One of my colleagues even went so far as checking the salaries at those companies online and accidentally told me about it. They know where those companies are headquartered and always ask me if we’re going to move to those cities.
At first I was flattered. Then I started feeling a bit uneasy and, yes, jealous. When I tell people where I work, a non-profit organization, these are the responses that I usually get:
— “Sorry, what is that?”
— “How do your spell the name of the organization again?”
— “So what do you guys do?”
— “Where is it located?” (I usually have to use a well-known private company nearby as a landmark for people to actually know where it is exactly in DC.)
— “Oh cool.” (unimpressed look)
— “Does your organization have enough funding to pay staff?”
— “I actually don’t really like non-profit organizations because I think they’re not really doing actual work. They’re just taking money from other people.”
Whether the last comment is valid or not varies on a case-by-base basis. I wouldn’t say it doesn’t happen, and there seems to be a certain stigma associated with non-profit organizations.
I just tell them I like what I do and move on with my life. It actually hurts a bit to hear the last two comments above, but I understand why people feel that way and don’t blame them one bit.
But now that I have someone so close to me, my husband, working at a big private corporation, what I do seems to be so obscure compared to what he does – software engineering.
It also irks me to think about how the job at the nonprofit organization that people don’t really think highly of has supported our family for the past two years when Mr. FAF was in school.
You might think I should just enjoy the income Mr. FAF earns and forget about who actually makes it. But I can’t. It’s our money for sure, but Mr. FAF makes it, not me.
How I deal with spousal envy
When it comes to spousal envy, there are three main ways to deal with it:
1. Deny the feelings and move on with your life.
2. Let it consume your thoughts and make you do things that are destructive to your spouse’s success.
3. Try to improve yourself while supporting your spouse wholeheartedly.
I admit that I’m envious of Mr. FAF. But I have never thought about or tried to do anything that will harm his career. I know that if something bad happened to him, I would be the second person (after him) to suffer from it together with our son. I want him to succeed, and I need him to succeed for the sake of our family and our parents.
I know my problem is nothing compared to a lot of the more serious issues that other couples are going through. But I also know that spousal envy has destroyed many marriages just because one spouse can’t take it when their other half is more successful than them.
I don’t want that to happen to Mr. FAF and me. I want to acknowledge the problem so that I can find an effective solution to it rather than letting my envy build up and maybe explode one day.
After Mr. FAF got his offers, I’ve found myself talking to him more about how I will run a successful business one day as the CEO of Frugal Asian Finance Inc. and our future real estate company. I think I do that to mask my insecurity. If I weren’t insecure, I’d just share my plan with him and work hard to make it happen.
Mr. FAF just says “Ok” and smiles. Of course, he doesn’t believe it will happen, which irks me even more. One reason why I work hard on my blog is to show him that Frugal Asian Finance is not a joke, and that I will turn it into a business one day. In other words, I like proving him wrong when he thinks I can’t do something successfully.
I want Mr. FAF to succeed and will do anything I can to support him. But at the same time, I want to keep improving myself to not fall behind. I wan to turn my envy into a positive channel of energy that motivates me to keep learning and working hard.
I need to deal with my own internal conflict: I admire Mr. FAF but also envy him. And I will do that by letting him be the example I want to emulate and exceed. If I can’t do that yet, then I just need to keep trying.
I am by no means a perfect wife or a perfect human being in any shape or form. Sometimes I feel sorry for Mr. FAF because he chose to marry me. Sometimes I doubt if I will ever figure out what I’m really good at in life and can do it well.
I realized that my insecurity is the main reason why I envy Mr. FAF. I admire him for being so good at hard sciences, but I also feel uneasy about him having the kind of intelligence that I don’t.
It is my problem, not his. He has done nothing wrong but try to be the best husband and father he can possibly be. And if I don’t like it, that’s too bad. I have no choice but to look at myself in the mirror and ask myself what I can do differently to be happy with the person that I am.
It’s still a work in progress. But I know that Mr. FAF is and will be an endless source of motivation for me to better myself. That is exactly what I find inspiring and admirable about him. And that is why I chose to be with him in the first place.
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