Friday, June 22, 2018
Parenting & Relationships

Tell Me About It: Husband’s ‘compromise’ feels like control

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

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 whatís 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.

Is this what compromise looks like?

Priorities vs. Control

A: No. A healthy relationship just doesnít have the kind of anger, declarations, or coercion youíre 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.

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

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.

What you have going on now is the reverse ó youíre pushing him to get your family time and heís pushing you to curtail that time. Thatís 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, then I urge you to see a marriage and family therapist. Solo.

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