Question:

I have a job that pays me extremely well (a blessing in these times). I hate it; I have hated it for many years, but am now realizing that it is not just the place but the career. I am miserable in this job/career and am lashing out at everyone.

I am very fortunate that my husband does very well and I could stay home with our kids if I chose. But I feel guilty; why do I get to quit my job when my husband still has to work? It's not fair that he has to work longer until retirement because I am miserable and want to quit.

But I am so miserable that I would do anything to quit. My husband and I have started to talk about it and he is (understandably) scared and overwhelmed, as am I. I guess my question is, how do I get past my guilt and feelings of unfairness?

Answer: Recognize that these feelings aren't useful to you - or to your husband right now - unless you respond to them in a constructive way. So, take them as a hint that quitting to stay home indefinitely isn't right for you or your family, and start weighing alternatives.

Training for a new career? A part-time or volunteer job in a field you'd like to explore? A job hunt while you're still employed, in a related but different field, using the skills that are apparently so valuable to your current employer? Keep talking with your husband about realistic, concrete next steps.

It's great that you recognize the fairness issue, but you have to keep that momentum going by making sure you put yourself in your husband's and your kids' shoes at every decision point you reach. Show respect for the power of your self-interest.

Also - now that you've identified the source of your unhappiness, please summon the willpower not to lash out at everyone. Crappy jobs do wear down our defenses, but that's an explanation, not an excuse, especially when you have those zeros keeping you warm at night.

E-mail Carolyn Hax at tellme@washpost. com, or chat with her online at noon Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com.