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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.
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?