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I Feel I Have No Control
Over my Life or the Household

QUESTION: I have been married for 5 years now. We have a 2 yr old boy and another one due Sept. of this year. I am looking forward to the second child but I really did not want to have another until next year meaning start to have one. But, my wife wants another because of her age which I can understand. She is 36 and does not seem to think that she can have a good chance of getting pregnant if she waits.

The main thing about this whole thing is that I feel that I have no control over my life or the household. I get tired of her telling me what I should and should not be doing. For example, I know this is stupid for saying this but she gets mad if I shave my mustache off or grow a beard. If I need something for my computer she say "do you really need it?" Maybe I don't need it now, but I will. But when she needs something I don't say anything.

The thing that got me upset this time is that I am changing my job because the job I am now is starting to go under and the place I found wanted me. It is more money and full benefits which I am not getting at the job for which I am in. The thing that got me mad is that she is now telling me this is bad timing to be doing this because of the baby coming. I'm sorry, but I think that making this job change now will help us instead of hurt us. Then when the company tells me that I am hired she starts to tell me to tell them that I can start until after the baby is born. She also tells me to tell them I can only work the hours that she thinks will be helpful. I did not feel comfortable asking them the questions.

This is what I am up against. Maybe it is me and I am being too selfish. Am I wrong for what I feel about this? Thanks for your help in this matter.

Overaccomodation has caught up with you! Are you "going with the flow" only to resent it later? Was this your father's role in your parents' marriage? Or are you trying not to be the overbearing man that he was? Our parents' marriage provides us with our first blueprint for our own marriage relationship. Sometimes we emulate or overcompensate for our parents by reproducing these patterns in full or in reverse with our own spouses...only to feel the pain of this pattern repeated in some way.

Intimacy is based on a feeling of fairness and consideration. You are disappointed in your wife's lack of appreciation for your role as economic provider, but feel you have no right to request or expect her consideration of your needs as a legitimate member of the family.

The purpose of family is to nurture the growth and development of all of its members. This includes you! Find your voice with your wife. Let her know you will consider her feelings, but do not allow her to dictate your actions or behavior. It is her job to say what she would like, and it is yours to let her know your needs and boundaries regarding your work environment. Marriage is a "quid quo pro", a legal term implying that "give and take" must be experienced equally by both partners, if resentment is not to obliterate tenderness in a marriage.

If you do not express your feelings in the relationship, your affection for your wife will begin to deteriorate. Are you really doing her (or yourself) any favors by accommodating her choices while continually ignoring your own? Your responsibility as primary economic provider and a husband requires that you clearly and respectfully communicate your needs, too. The health of your relationship is the foundation for your children's sense of security.

By taking care of yourself, you will be challenging your wife to consider the impact of her desires on your life. This is the conflict you have been avoiding. Why? Do you fear her anger or overreact to her disappointment? You may need to feel an autonomy from her approval in order to express yourself. It is OK for her to be disappointed that you shave your mustache or beard, just as you might feel if she cut her hair differently. Differentiation is a necessary phase of marriage, and follows the romanticism of the first few years which center on "likenesses" rather than "differences". But the endurance of your relationship requires that your marriage mature in order to make room for the uniquely different people that you are!

Do not be afraid to clarify your needs, even if they do not always please. In a good relationship you should expect to tolerate disappointment in your partner up to 30% of the time. However the other 70% can be quite satisfying. Avoiding any disappointment in a marriage can be a signal that you are looking to your partner for unrealistic approval at any cost. This kind of expectation puts unrealistic pressure on a marriage. Approval is not the answer. Love, respect and appreciation are borne out of accepting and tolerating differences. And finding compromises that really work!

Give your wife the opportunity to love you by compromising to your needs equally. Do not put the burden for defining yourself on her shoulders. Instead define what is important to you and require that your needs be included in your family negotiations. By doing so, you will regain your self-respect and your wife will have the possibility for a partnership instead of a soon- to- be- loveless dictatorship.

And remember, you and your wife are the co-leaders of the family. It is your job as well as hers, to steer your marriage in a healthy direction!

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Gayle Peterson, MSSW, LCSW, PhD is a family therapist specializing in prenatal and family development. She trains professionals in her prenatal counseling model and is the author of An Easier Childbirth, Birthing Normally and her latest book, Making Healthy Families. Her articles on family relationships appear in professional journals and she is an oft-quoted expert in popular magazines such as Woman's Day, Mothering and Parenting. . She also serves on the advisory board for Fit Pregnancy Magazine.

Dr. Gayle Peterson has written family columns for ParentsPlace.com, igrandparents.com, the Bay Area's Parents Press newspaper and the Sierra Foothill's Family Post. She has also hosted a live radio show, "Ask Dr. Gayle" on www.ivillage.com, answering questions on family relationships and parenting. Dr. Peterson has appeared on numerous radio and television interviews including Canadian broadcast as a family and communications expert in the twelve part documentary "Baby's Best Chance". She is former clinical director of the Holistic Health Program at John F. Kennedy University in Northern California and adjunct faculty at the California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco. A national public speaker on women's issues and family development, Gayle Peterson practices psychotherapy in Oakland, California and Nevada City, California. She also offers an online certification training program in Prenatal Counseling and Birth Hypnosis. Gayle and is a wife, mother of two adult children and a proud grandmother of three lively boys and one sparkling granddaughter..

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