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Today’s Question: My husband is a sweet controlling, possessive guy. He would love to smother me with his helpful hands if I didn't insist on some me time and independence. He has retired and devotes his life to serving me. He has always pinched pennies, but now that he's retired it is worse. I've encouraged him to do something a few days a week, to no avail. He has taken on a lot of my household chores because after a few years of retirement together my relatively mild MS worsened. My right leg is very weak now and I have to walk with assistance.
My question is: I want to take a girl trip with my daughters-in-law and four grandchildren ages 8-11 to Disney World now that Covid is over and the park is re-opened. They will assist me and I want to experience Disney World with my grands. I've saved my money to pay for the trip without asking to take any from the general fund (although I taught school until retirement and earn as much as he does).
Upon informing him of our plans he went into full control mode. “How dare I plan something so expensive without discussing it with him. Why would I want to waste that much money??? He can't bear the thought of his family on the same flight. Too much can happen- terrorism, plane crash, etc.” He has a million reasons why it's a terrible idea. I know if I don't back off, there will be hell to pay, but at my age and disability now, I really don't care.
I see the window of opportunity closing and I don't want to live with the regret that I never took them. My husband doesn't like to travel and I feel I've given up enough in that regard. Do you think I should press ahead and risk wreaking havoc on the home front, or give up my dream and keep the peace?
Answer: This is a decision only you can make. [Tweet “Lucas Scott wrote, “Our biggest regrets are not for the things we did – but, for the things we didn’t do.””]
It sounds as if you really want to take this trip and have already informed your husband of your plans. Your problem arises because this will displease him.
You say he is a sweet, but controlling and possessive guy. It sounds as if he is only sweet when you allow him total say over the finances as well as your life. When you assert some independence or decision-making of your own, his sweetness disappears and he becomes someone else. What’s he like then?
So here is where you have a choice. People please and give in to make him happy or to soothe his fears. OR, be radically committed to facing the truth. Is the havoc you fear from his displeasure at you going against his wishes threatening and scary or uncomfortable and unpleasant? Or somewhere in between? You mention that you have insisted on some independence in the past and when you did that, what happened?
Your answer to those questions will shed light on your wisest course of action. If you fear for your safety once you return home or you fear you are setting yourself up for weeks or months of verbal abuse or punishment through the silent treatment, then you have a much bigger problem than whether or not to go to Disney. You are in an emotionally abusive marriage and you must prioritize your safety.
On the other hand, if your husband can manage his upset negative emotions in a way that when you return, there is no active or passive punishment of you, then what is your hesitation at going? Yes, he will be unhappy, displeased that you went anyway. But consider this: Perhaps as much as he has been possessive and controlling, you have been also enabled these behaviors by being a pleaser and placator most of your marriage.
You may believe or may have been taught that as a wife, your role is to be submissive to your spouse, which may have been interpreted that you have no right to say no or have an independent thought or dream or action. Or you may believe that it’s your job to make him happy and therefore if going to Disney makes him unhappy, you should sacrifice Disney so that he is happy.
But I believe your Biblical role as your husband’s helpmate goes deeper than those superficial descriptors. On the surface, your desire to go to Disney, against your husband’s blessing, may appear to be self-serving. But I also think you can do it in a way that invites your spouse to grow in three significant ways.
First, his whole life revolves around you. He doesn’t want you to go away because then he will be alone. What will he do with himself besides worry about you? That doesn’t sound like too much fun so instead of facing his fears or his boredom or the emptiness of his own life, he wants to manage your life and keep you close.
But reality says that he may have to face a day when you die and are gone. As we age, it’s vital each person in a marriage learn to be more independent and self-sufficient because one of you will likely outlive the other.
Second, your husband needs to learn to trust God instead of depending on his own abilities to control every situation and circumstance so he won’t feel his own anxiety. By demonstrating your trust in God’s sovereignty over your trip, you can invite him to do likewise.
Third, your husband needs to learn to love you, rather than try to own you. When you love someone you want them to do things that bring them joy. I’m sure you have been very clear about your desire to go on this trip and how much it means to you. But he’s not thinking about you, he’s only thinking about himself, but he shrouds it in a hyper concern about your safety. Therefore, I think you can invite him to do the sacrificing for a change and give you his blessing to go even if he feels lonely or uncomfortable with the idea.
Here is a sample conversation you might have with him to communicate this:
“I know you don’t want me to go to Disney because you think it’s a waste of money and you are afraid for my safety. I hear that. But I feel this is a trip of a lifetime. I have limited strength and may never get another chance. I would rather take my chances and go than regret the rest of my life that I did not go.”
Or, “Right now I know you are upset but I would like for you to care about what’s important to me. I have lived our entire marriage showing deference to what’s important to you but this trip is not negotiable. I love you, but I need to take a stand for myself right now and not let you treat me like a child instead of a grown-up woman.”
Or, “I am going to Disney with our daughters-in-law and our grandchildren. We are all looking forward to spending this special time together before I am not able to take this kind of trip or the grandkids get too old that they don’t want to hang out with their mom or grandma anymore. I hope you will respect my right to make that decision for myself even if you are personally unhappy that I made it.
Someday you may find yourself outliving me. I’m the one with MS and I want you to realize that I cannot be your only friend. I want you to take this time while I am away to think about your own life and what’s missing since you retired. You worry about so many things but God is ultimately in control and you can’t add one single day to your life or mine by worrying about it.
I love you, but I also love our granddaughters and our daughters-in-law and I want to spend quality time with them on this trip. I hope you will work through your own unhappiness about it before I return so that we can also enjoy our life together.”
Friend, share your defining moment when you had to say no to someone so that you could say yes to yourself?
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But to me isn’t the hiding and dishonesty similar to passive aggressive behavior that is always talked about as being very unhealthy and damaging?
I’m glad this subject is being talked about because it’s real Most marriages.
I don’t think after marriage we are to “possess” one another but “Love one another and consider each other with respect”.
If my husband did all that with an “innocent mindset and mens trip”and never discussed it beforehand, I would be hurt. I feel distrust and non openness and no unity in the marriage is a core issue. So maybe their problems are a lot bigger. I think being a Strong woman is to talk about uncomfortable things not just “do things” because it’s weird if I don’t. This is an issue we can all relate to in sharing our lives with a spouse and i am 5 years into marriage so it’s good to hear from others.
Hiding and dishonesty in relationships is always a bad sign. But it’s not necessarily a sure sign of passive aggressive behavior. It might be she’s not safe to disclose her intentions. For example, If he knew she had extra money saved for this trip, he might demand that she give it to him. If a Christian husband demands that, a Christian wife is more likely to feel she must “submit”. Then her option to decide to go to Disney is over because she does not have the resources to go. But If the situation was reversed and a Christian man said to his wife, “I’m going to put aside some money for a hunting trip with our adult sons next year” and his wife threw a fit about it and demanded he give her the money and not go….. If he were a healthy man, it is very unlikely he would do it. HE would feel no compulsion to “submit” to her demands. He might ask her why she objects. HE might listen to her feelings wtih empathy (I don’t want to be alone, I’m afraid you’ll get hurt, I’m jealous of the time you spend with our sons and grandkids) and then they might have some honest discussion about solving those problems without HIM having to stay home so she doesn’t feel that way. So I agree with you that hiding and lying is never a good choice. For this woman in our blog, a healthier option would be to say, “I’m sorry you feel those feelings and staying home so you don’t feel that way is not something I can do. It’s important to me to go on this trip and if there is any way I can help you with your feelings, like check in every day with you to let you know I’m safe, I can do that. But I won’t stay home just because you don’t like that I want to go or feel afraid.”
This subject really speaks to me, of how much I have grown. I was in a destructive relationship/marriage for 30 yrs where I never had permission to have my own desires or dreams. Now almost 6 years from the divorce, I do see clearly how a spouse as mine did, considers the other spouse a possession. And like in my case he handled all the money, he got all the control. I couldn’t imagine now not feeling I had ‘permission’ to do something w/o my husbands approval. I even had to hide attending counseling from him, or accept punitive measures. I’m so thankful for all I’ve learned about what a healthy relationship looks like, and how we can learn to have solid boundaries and live free.
I am glad to hear you are free. I have been fearful for many years to “rock the boat” because of punitive actions. My husband left me for a short time because I dared to go on a rafting trip with my co-workers against his wishes. He never wants me to leave the house for any activities. I am really trying to be do what I want, but that fear creeps in often & then you feel like you have to hide when you want to do something…..so I have great compassion for this woman.
I’m wondering why this woman started planning and saving for a trip and kept it a secret? I would not do that to my husband, and I would feel terrible if he had done that to me, seems sneaky and distrustful. So that tells me they do not have a safe relationship. I think it’s a great idea to do a trip like this and maybe invite him to join them and it would give him a feeling of not being left out. If he does not want to go yes he has to deal with his own reasons. Just my initial thoughts.
Invite the husband to go along on a “girls” trip? Are you missing the whole point, Elaine?
The point of the girls trip yes is part of the scenario and what this lady wants to do, you are righ,t but I see the problem being that they didn’t communicate that point from the beginning which causes lots of problems. Putting the shoe on the other foot I would be sad if my husband planned a men’s hunting trip or whatever and was planning it, putting money aside all without talking to me. I would feel distrust towards him and not to say “the trip is wrong” but seems unhealthy if we can’t talk about his desire while living in the same house and sharing an intimate relationship as marriage. So maybe some counseling could help and look to see the deeper roots of why this is so hard.
The key is in her hiding it to begin with. Sounds like she knew from the start that he would be against it. That’s the core issue. Her hiding it is a symptom.
I’m not sure this is the CORE issue. Yes it certainly is an issue – but why does she feel she needs to hide things? In a healthy marriage, you would be able to share you dreams and goals. If this woman desired to travel with her kids and grandkids why would she need to hide this from her spouse? What kinds of hassles has he given her in the past that made her think that it was not safe to share it with him. I’m not endorsing her hiding it, but I think it’s shortsighted to think that she’s hiding it for no good reasons.
Her hiding is a symptom – yes but of what? Her fear of his disapproval? His control over her? Her inability to make a decision for herself without accusation, badgering and spiritual abuse from him? Those might all be in play, but let’s not just focus on the hiding – that is unhealthy for sure, but it is a symptom of a problem (hers – fear or passivity and his – control, fear and posessiveness).
Elaine, the woman who wrote the question explained the her whole reasoning:
(In no particular order:)
1. He doesn’t like to travel.
2. He is super controlling with money. That alone would ruin the trip!!
3. He is super controlling about her activities and she’s tired of being treated like a CHILD. Nobody wants to take a know-it-all on trip. I have HORRIBLE vacation trauma. Bossy people should not go.
Maybe your husband is safe to share with? That would be wonderful. But you can’t assume your situation is the same for other women and judge them if they make different choices.
I love Leslies responses. Not much to add to that. The first thing I heard is this lady wants a girl trip with daughters and grandchildren. What a beautiful desire, and the quality time will likely be a once in a lifetime opportunity due to her health. A loving husband would support this family opportunity, and perhaps even offer to support it financially . I’m all for women to be strong and healthy, and speaking words to demonstrate truth, as Leslie suggested/ YOU GO GIRL💜
How would this be any different then a guys trip to go hunting or fishing?
Seems weird to be if a woman needs permission to take girls in her family on a vacation.
Yes it would be weird. But sometimes we think that once we’re married, then we are possessions of the other.
My computer tells me that this message has 3 comments, but every time I click on the comment, they all disappear.
I love Leslie’s take on this letter. Go on this trip, have a good time, check in with him periodically while you’re away so he’ll know you’re fine. When you return fill his ear with chatter about the trip and let him know that the two of you should plan some time away in the future.
I didn’t see any hiding or deceit. To me, I have made plans with family members when the opportunity arises. Often they have found tickets and discounts that need to be taken advantage of quickly.Then I discuss it with my husband our ideas and plans. Since being retired I know it will not interfere in his life, Yes, he will be annoyed that he did not get to object before I made plans and now he will look like the bad guy..Yes he will be upset that I am a separate person. Many more reasons he will give to be upset…yes none are a concern for me..I like Leslies suggestions. Adult to adult conversation with spouse.