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The Stifling Marriage

You want to travel overseas. You're married to someone who will not fly.

You want to go back to school. Your spouse says, "We need you here." Here might be the kitchen, the office, the store, or even the bank account.

You want to spend Saturdays hiking. You married someone whose idea of a hike is getting the mail from the mailbox.

Marriage is not meant to be stifling. It is meant to provide a sturdy platform from which you can do more and be more than on your own.

Did you just mutter, "Tell that to the stick-in-the-mud I married"? Your husband, wife, or life partner does not make these decisions for you. You make them. You decide to stay on this side of the ocean, to turn down an education, to sit on the sofa instead of hiking.

You might make the choice to keep the peace or to be more supportive than your mate. Then again, you might make the same choice because there is an upside to going along with what your spouse prefers. Hiking, traveling, and education require us to come up with a lot of cash, to prepare our bodies and minds in advance, and to work hard to reap their benefits. All would be much easier if someone else kicked in part of the expense and cheered us on.

Unfortunately, marriage can feel quite stifling while living someone else's idea of a good life.

If you are ready to make the choice to do something important to you, please know that it is OK. Your spouse may experience great discomfort when you do, but this should not stop you. What it should do is drive you to Find Third Alternatives that eliminate the unpleasantness for your mate.

If you go hiking, the unpleasantness is not what you're doing while you're out of the house. It's the loss of your company or the wonderful things you do for your spouse. Find out exactly what your mate sees as the cost. The find a mutually satisfactory alternative way to replace what you will be taking away.

If you go back to school, it is likely your spouse disagrees because of the financial implications or the possibility of the two of you growing apart. Work together on a Third Alternative way to fund your schooling without denying your mate's dreams. Or find a better way to continue growing together than holding back on your own learning. They exist.

Whatever you do, please do not stifle yourself. It's bad for your relationship and your mental health.

Comments

My wife is a stock in the mud, she likes to stay home and work in the garden and keep the flowers and yard looking great! I'm outgoing, love to talk with everyone, do new things, explore, travel and have fun, she does not! She complains about spending money constantly and we are not rich but we own 2 homes, vehicles and have rental income plus a guaranteed pension and 0 debt! She fights every idea I have, I'm constantly giving in to her I feel like I'm wasting my life!

Some ideas for Third Alternatives, Bill.
1. She wants to garden, you want to explore. You go exploring -- with a friend from work, your brother, a cousin -- while she gardens. You come to ooh and ahh over her hard work and great job of beautifying the yard and to share with her photos and stories of your explorations.

2. You feel you have plenty, she doesn't want to spend money. Make it a much less frequent struggle by creating a savings account that feels safe enough to her, a savings account for her landscaping, and a savings account for your adventures. It will probably be difficult to agree on these amounts, but once you do, you are free to return to loving each other as you spend money.

3. You're outgoing, she's not, but she's proud of her yard. Invite people over. You handle the food and activities and playing host. You invite her to give your guests tours of her great gardens and landscaping activities. If she's a real introvert, you might even schedule an activity with your guests when she knows she can safely retreat indoors for a while to recharge her batteries.

4. You want to travel, she wants to stay home. Join a travel group or a mission or the Red Cross or the Sierra Club or an organization that has gatherings around the country or the world. Travel without her. While you're away, help make her feel great at home with phone calls or pre-scheduled flower deliveries or Skype calls from a tablet computer while visiting something beautiful, especially a garden. It just might change her expectations about traveling with you. But if you need to travel, travel. Just don't do it with a chip on your shoulder, or neither of you will enjoy it.

Neither of you is right or wrong. You're just different. And both of you need to do what you love, even if you can't do it together. When I go off alone to do things my husband doesn't enjoy, he says I always come back happier, and he loves that. If you've been angry about not going and not doing, your wife has no way of knowing that her life will be better if you go and do. So she's probably doing her best to get you to stop even thinking about going and doing, because it's driving you apart.

Much harder to do with kids.
Get along great with hubby, love him, love the kids, am grateful for our life,
BUT early on, I postponed the wedding trying to ggain acceptance of how stuck he is. He Hasn't ever considered moving out of: his job, our small city home,our state,our schedule,his routine. Aaagh!
I did enough alone when single so don't want to do that again, but this is pretty stifling not to have your closest ally unable to step up to some risk-taking with you!
The home, the money, the money, the money, and, finally, "that's just not who I am" are the excuses. Oh,and "our families", whom I do all the work to stay connected.

I hear you, Margie! But when agreeing to stay stuck with your spouse is filling your heart with resentment, your agreeing is harming your marriage.

I was there, doing grave harm to my own first marriage, because my husband's chronic illness limited what he was willing to do.

It wasn't until he very suddenly died from a confluence of side effects of that illness, leaving me the single mother of a nine year old, that I understood it had always been me messing things up. He was doing exactly what felt right to him. I had been using him as an excuse to avoid doing what felt right to me. And it had filled me with more resentment than I had ever realized.

As a widow, I kept discovering how wrong I'd been. I pictured many of the things I wanted to do together as much easier than they turned out to be. I had questioned what was wrong with him for denying them to me, but now I had to work really hard to give them to myself.

Three years after his death, I decided to take a risk, leaving the office I managed on their own during a rough patch in the business to take my son to Europe. I had never been, and I couldn't speak the languages of the countries we chose.

When I told a friend of mine (whose son had been friends with mine since Kindergarten), she begged me to take her son with us, because she'd never be able to do so. Why? Because her husband had a deathly fear of flying and a workaholic personality with a lot of work responsibilities. And that was the reason she gave, too, for not helping me make this challenging trip.

I said, "I was inviting you, not him!" It had never occurred to her to even think of traveling without him. So she carefully broached it with him, and she was shocked by his response.

He also wanted their son to see Europe. And her, too! He didn't just agree they should join my son and me. He jumped in and started helping us plan.

One of his colleagues knew Copenhagen (our first and last stop) really well, so he invited the man over to help us make those stops a lot nicer -- and less expensive, too. He pored over the guide books with us, and when we returned, he was an eager audience for our photos and videos and souvenirs.

Every evening, we made a stop to phone her husband at work with the day's tales and get his goodnight kisses for his wife and son. (Yep, he likes routine, too.)

Years later, their son spent half a year of college living in Paris. But the very next year after our trip, my friend took her aging mother to tour her parents' homeland of Scotland. And left her son home with his father.

It wasn't anything like traveling while single. It was most definitely traveling while married. Just not joined at the hip.

It gave her a lot more respect for her man. He wasn't against anything she wanted. He was just confidently FOR what he wanted. And happy to make her happy by supporting what she wanted, once he understood what that was. Until then, it was simply "not this," which is pretty hard for any of us to stomach.

There are a number of suggestions you might try in my advice (above) to Bill. Personal bank accounts can take the fear out of financial risk. Building a daily routine into your time apart can take a lot of the risk out of doing something out of the ordinary.

This is the third year in a row that my school teacher daughter-in-law has taken their kids for a two-month visit with family in India. My son's job doesn't allow for two months off at a time, but she doesn't let this keep her stuck at home with the kids. And the kids get to see a different side of their mother, handling things on her own during their travels that she would leave to her husband if he were with them.

She doesn't complain to my son that he's not available to travel when she and the kids are free. She doesn't complain that their neighborhood is boring when school's out (even though it is). She just picks a destination she can handle with children in tow. And stays in touch by texting.

"That's just not who I am" isn't an excuse. But it's a prison sentence if you decide you must choose between enjoying your marriage and being who you are.

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Patty Newbold is a widow who got it right the second time...

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