Unrealistic expectations are just that: unrealistic. It is unfortunately common that our expectations don't actually align with reality, and someone has to bring us down to Earth. Ultimately, you want to help your wife adjust her expectations, but this is not an easy thing to do. There is a difficult conversation that needs to be had. As a consultant, I often have to have difficult conversations with clients (often because they have unrealistic expectations). My company has a framework for handling these situations, and I'll walk you through the high level concepts.
The first, and most important step is to establish the conversation in a way that you both feel safe to be open and honest. Since you are married, I assume that you have some baseline of trust, but I know that every marriage is different, and with you being married for less than a year, your baseline may not be extremely high yet. There are a few things you can do to establish safety for the conversation.
- Acknowledge her perspective
- Empathize with how she feels
- Avoid blame
- Avoid judgement
Acknowledge her perspective/Empathize with how she feels
I put these two items together because it's been my experience that they go hand in hand. The easiest way to acknowledge her perspective is to state your understanding of it. For example, you might say
I understand that you want to be able to buy nice things and take vacations
From there you can easily transition into empathizing by explaining your desires in that area. If you have specific reasons why, you can also include them.
I get burnt out from work and wish that I could take more holidays to spend with you.
I often use this speech pattern to set up my conversations with clients. I'll tell them that I understand what they want and why I want that thing too. This helps to establish that you understand where the other person is coming from and that you have a shared goal.
Avoid blame and judgement
It is really important that you avoid blaming her or sounding as if you are passing judgement. Don't mention her not working in conjunction with why her expectations aren't being met. If you were to say something like
I want to do them to, but with you not working we don't have the income to do that
It sounds like you are blaming her, and now the issue has shifted from "we don't have the life we want" to "you are holding us back". Even if you don't intend to imply that it is her fault, she will likely still interpret any mention of her not working as you blaming her, which will absolutely kill any chance at conversing about this. I've made the same mistake too many times to count with my fiancee.
Discussing the Issue
When it comes time to actually address the issue and look for solutions, facts are a good starting point. When talking with a client about why the team can't meet a certain deadline, this is the point where I will bring in data (velocity charts, work estimations, etc). I lay out the key facts:
- We have X amount of work to do
- We have Y amount of time to do the work
- Historically we can only do Z amount of work per week
- We would need to work at X/Y pace to meet the deadline
- X/Y is unreasonable because it is C amount more than we currently do
In your situation you would bring out the budgets. Talk to her about how much money is coming in, what the necessary bills are (rent, electricity, etc), how much is left, how the leftover money is currently being allocated. This is the point where you can help her adjust her expectations. Once you've presented the facts, you can start to work on solutions to them.
Suggesting she go back to work
The obvious solution to you not having the money to do all the extra things you want is (as you pointed out in the question) for her to go back to work. When you get to discussing this option, make sure you acknowledge why she stopped working, and the fact that this is ok.
I know that you stopped working to focus on your mental health. That's a difficult decision to make, and I'm proud of you for recognizing what you need and taking steps to make it happen. Have you considered taking a part time job to make a little extra money to spend on nice things?
When I was dealing with depression and anxiety, I occasionally had to do things because they were the best for my mental health rather than for my life situation or those around me. There was nothing as helpful for me as receiving validation from friends and family that what I was doing was ok even though it made certain parts of life harder. The other thing that is helpful in this situation is to present the idea of her going back to work as a question. This opens a dialog about whether she can or should go back to work. It gives her agency to continue to prioritize her mental health if she so chooses, while allowing you to point out that her taking a job would help resolve the issue of not being able to afford the lifestyle she was used to before getting married without blaming her for not working.