Hus­band dis­likes time with fam­ily

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - - Good Morning -

Dear Carolyn: My par­ents live fairly close, but my brother and fam­ily are a plane ride away. They will be up at my par­ents’ house in a few days. My hus­band has lim­its to how much time he can spend with my fam­ily – re­ally with any­one, as he is very in­tro­verted – and I re­spect that by not “forc­ing” him to join in any­thing or spend more time at my par­ents’ house than is com­fort­able.

Be­cause we are about an hour’s drive away, I main­tain I can spend the time I need to with my fam­ily dur­ing this visit and he can join when he is com­fort­able. How­ever, he has taken to declar­ing that I will only go at cer­tain times be­cause he should be my pri­or­ity and spend­ing time to­gether should be what’s more im­por­tant to me. Be­cause he is spend­ing time with my fam­ily for a night/day, he says, this is what he is owed in re­turn.

I want to slam my car door and get the hell out of there when he talks like this. But he is so con­vinc­ing about pri­or­i­tiz­ing “our” fam­ily, cur­rently just the two of us, that I have my­self sec­ond-guess­ing. Is this what com­pro­mise looks like? – Pri­or­i­ties vs. Con­trol

No. I was about to type out what I think com­pro­mise does look like, but that’s ac­tu­ally be­side the point. A healthy re­la­tion­ship just doesn’t have the kind of anger, dec­la­ra­tions, or co­er­cion you’re de­scrib­ing here. The whole thing has an awk­ward and dis­turb­ing feel to it.

Two peo­ple who func­tion well to­gether cer­tainly can be at odds in cir­cum­stances like the ones you de­scribe here – want­ing dif­fer­ent things out of your leisure time, hav­ing dif­fer­ent tol­er­ance lev­els for so­cial­iz­ing and/or each other’s fam­i­lies, even hav­ing a dif­fer­ent idea of what “our” fam­ily means - though that is­sue lives right at the border be­tween dif­fer­ences and in­com­pat­i­bil­i­ties.

To make a part­ner­ship work amid such dif­fer­ences, what both halves of a cou­ple need are deep in­vest­ments in each other’s hap­pi­ness and strong bound­aries around their own needs.

So, if one of you has to put up ma­jor re­sis­tance or to deny the other some­thing (seen as) es­sen­tial just to get a lit­tle of what you need, then you’re in trou­ble.

The way it ap­plies here is pretty ba­sic: For this to work, he needs to see your fam­ily time as some­thing you value and en­cour­age you to take it. You, in turn, need to see that his of­fer costs him val­ued one-on-one time with you, and ac­cept it ju­di­ciously.

This works if he gen­uinely wants you to see your fam­ily and you gen­uinely don’t want to abuse his gen­eros­ity.

What you have go­ing on now is the re­verse – you’re push­ing him to get your fam­ily time and he’s push­ing you to cur­tail that time. That’s the un­healthy dy­namic. And the un­nerv­ing part is that, by your ac­count, your hus­band is us­ing ma­nip­u­la­tion tac­tics and out­right as­ser­tion of con­trol to get more of his needs met.

If this is any­thing but a one­time out­burst that he has since re­tracted, then I urge you to see a good mar­riage and fam­ily therapist. Solo. Mar­riage by fiat is not OK.

Email Carolyn at tellme@ wash­post.com, fol­low her on Face­book at www.face­book.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her on­line at noon Eastern time each Fri­day at www.wash­ing­ton post.com.

Carolyn Hax

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