My Wife and I Have Different Values; Should We Divorce?

Dear Troubleshooter:

I’m a male office worker in my 50s. I’m troubled by the fact that my wife and I have different values. I’ve endured this situation for more than 20 years, telling myself I shouldn’t seek a divorce just because we have different world views, which can happen when people from different backgrounds get hitched.

Recently, however, our values have clashed regarding major life decisions, such as our children’s college examinations, caring for our respective parents and our own golden years.

My wife has been in charge of the family finances over the years, but I recently discovered that she’s struggled to cope with everyday expenses and hasn’t saved enough for our retirement years, which resulted in a major argument.

To put it simply, she lacks vision, makes decisions on the spot and doesn’t understand risk management even when I try to explain it to her.

To a certain extent, I’ve tolerated our different values up until now. Choosing to get divorced would frustrate me, because I’d feel defeated. I’d like your advice on whether I should endure the situation and stay with my wife or stop putting up with her and get a divorce.

— Y, Aichi Prefecture

Dear Mr. Y:

Love nurtures dreams, and marriage nurtures reality. That’s how I see it.

Unlike the days of romance when people are free to dream, you’re now confronted with an ongoing series of real-world, marriage-related problems. People need to cope with the reality of family life while dealing with such issues. During this process, the two of you will discover differences in how you perceive reality and how you cope with problems — something you likely didn’t notice when you were in love.

It’s not always a good idea for couples to think the same way. No organization can develop if everyone has an identical mindset. Organizations can only grow when people with different ideas bring out the best in each other. The same is true for families.

In this light, it seems to me that a wife who can only focus on the present and a husband who can take a bird’s-eye view of situations makes for a good combination. Of course, it’s important to share certain values, but from reading your letter, it seems to me that your issue isn’t so much about differences in values but rather in the approaches you two take in dealing with various situations.

As a third party, I can’t tell you whether you should get a divorce. But I can tell you that I think it’s worthwhile to explore the possibility of mutual help by taking advantage of each other’s strengths.

— Yutaka Ono, psychiatrist