Dear Nothing to Lose,
I must say you are in an enviable position. You’ve been there and done that with life and now you are free to move wherever you’d like. Take a dart and throw it at the warmer half of the US map and see where you land!
By all means, invite your boyfriend to move with you. It would be great if he’s up for the adventure, but I’m sure you know that there’s a chance he won’t be. He might be comfortable where he is. If that’s the case, then this relationship wasn’t about the future. It was about spending an enjoyable two years together. There are new people to meet wherever you’re going. I don’t mean to sound dismissive. I’m sure your relationship is wonderful and it will be sad if you go your separate ways, but it sounds as though a warmer climate has been calling you for a long time. It’s time to do what’s best for you.
Establishing yourself socially in a new place is always scary. The good news is, you’ve already done it. I bet when you got divorced you thought you’d never date again or were squeamish at the idea of meeting new men. But you did it then and, if need be, you’ll do it again.
I’ll come visit,
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I have been married for 10 years. I adore my husband and we have two children. As we have been growing older, I have noticed that he is becoming more like his mother in some not so good ways. For instance, his mother is never wrong (in her eyes) and lately I have noticed that he is taking on that attitude also. My husband used to be more flexible, but now he wants his own way. I guess this is bothering me because I basically hate my mother-in-law and don’t want him to be like her. How can I change him before he becomes her?
A very upset wife
Dear Upset Wife,
I have some bad news. You cannot change your husband. There is a misconception that our marital partners are there to be molded by us, but unfortunately that isn’t much of a marriage based in unconditional love so much as it is a contract based in fickle selfishness. Don’t misunderstand me, I don’t know anyone, myself included, who doesn’t occasionally wish that their partner wasn’t different at times. Still, marriage implies loving the other no matter what. It also implies loving yourself enough to be honest about your perceptions, opinions, and feelings especially when it comes to qualities in your partner that make a marriage difficult. Whether your husband is becoming more and more like his mother or not isn’t really the issue; it’s time to toss that perception out the window, unplug the mother-in-law story from your marriage dynamic, and address the real issues head on. Inflexibility doesn’t work in any relationship. Let’s begin here.
Never being wrong and wanting one’s way on the regular can be quite annoying and depending on your quality of communication and intimacy, it can be much more difficult to swallow at times. I feel for you. It’s important to approach this subject with clarity, honesty, and knowing what it is that you would like from your partner instead. As I would instruct anyone in your position, I suggest you begin by looking within. Do any of these offensive qualities that have been recently surfacing ring true for you? We often see in others characteristics that we cannot see or are unwilling to see in ourselves, our concerns can be steeped in defense. And sometimes our partners are just stuck in a rough pattern, needing a compassionate proverbial butt kicking from their loving spouse.
Is it possible that your husband is struggling with some things he hasn’t yet been able to talk to you about? It is very common for men, especially as they begin to age or transition into new phases of life, to dig their heels in and become more controlling. This is likely due to the realization that there is actually very little that they can control and that can feel incredibly threatening. Fear is a great motivator, but sometimes it forces us to lose site and without being present and grounded we can become self-involved and off-putting to our loved ones. You might find a moment to gently and lovingly tell your husband what you have been experiencing.
Remember those “I” statements. How is his behavior making you feel? What expectations and fantasies about your life together have been shattered as a result of his behavior? Is there anything going on with him that he needs to be supported in? This way of approaching your husband will set the tone and allow the space for a little vulnerability and the potential for organic and healing personal change, perhaps in both of you. It’s possible that even this kind of conversation will anger your husband; remember those defenses and how they like to rear their heads. Don’t worry. Speaking to him will at the very least allow what you are feeling to sink in, even if he needs to brood over things for a while. And having set the stage, you will have lovingly opened the door so that when his inflexibility and pride show up you can start pointing them out, in the moment. We all need practice in the moment!
However you choose to deal with this situation, I highly recommend maintaining focus. Change isn’t really the point. Being two healthy adults with two healthy children in a harmonious union is the point. So, focus on supporting and loving your husband. It seems like he might really need this right now even if he doesn’t know how to ask for it. And while you are doing this, support, love, and advocate for yourself. Being loving, gentle, and compassionate does not mean sacrificing your truth or your own emotional health. Stay present, be vocal when this dynamic is showing up and not just when the fear about being married to your mother-in-law creeps up, and approach your husband in the way that you would want to be approached, with a little kindness, and little understanding, and a lot of flexibility.
You can ask Samara and Caroline questions for the Love & Life Advice Column here at email@example.com.
* The ideas and advice presented here are not a substitute for professional advice. Talk to your psychologist, counselor, physician or health care professional for situations that warrant further analysis.