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Husband Not Supportative of My Dreams/Goals

QUESTION: I've been married to my husband for 12 years. It's beginning to feel like 12 loooong years. I work full time and we have two boys, aged 9 and 6 and a half.

My problem, is that my husband does not want me to run for election to the school board this year. He claims it takes up too much time. It does take up time - an average of 7 hours per week over my full-time job. I love doing it. I mean I really enjoy it. He works shift work and is heavily involved in the politics of the union where here works. I don't begrudge that at all. We went through a very long and bitter labour dispute a few years ago and I understand the importance of the union. My issue is why must I give up what I love.

ANSWER: Your husband's unwillingness to communicate with you is damaging your marriage. However, his intent and declaration that he will sabotage your dreams is even more destructive. Such behavior is deeply wounding to a spouse and borders on betrayal. If he continues to threaten the marriage in this way, it may be difficult if not impossible to repair the damage. If he continues to block communication on this subject, write him a letter expressing your feelings, including your expectations for the marriage to hold space for your development.

Perhaps your husband is jealous of your success. Or perhaps he is mired in traditional gender role expectations and feels threatened by your emerging power in the community. Tell him you are open to discussing any feelings, but that his behavior is causing you to lose respect for his ability to play fair. Let him know that his behavior is causing you to question whether he has your best interests at heart, which is one dimension of love. Marriage is a two way street. Point out the ways you have supported his dreams whether or not he has achieved them.

Be open to his feelings and concerns regarding the effect of your running for office on your family, but require a discussion about possible solutions, rather than a power struggle. Be willing to discuss the impact that time involved in your political endeavor would have. Ask him to contribute to problem solving related to your deep desires that need expression at this time. Ask him what he sees as his and the children's needs in the family. And be willing to consider the possibility of compromise (such as the CGA course) at this time in order to fit time in for that which you love, if it is necessary. But simultaneously, remind your husband that a healthy and enduring marriage is based on "quid quo pro" which is a legal term used to describe the feeling of fairness inherent in a contract. If you feel that the last twelve years of the marriage have meant far more sacrifice for you than for him, your intimacy is already at risk. Intimacy and mutual love flourishes under a sense of fairness and equality. If your husband is able to see his way clear to supporting your deepest desire through problem solving and compromise, he will benefit from the growth of affection you will have for him.

Marriage is a contract between two people. Communication is essential to problem solving. If your husband continues to sabotage you by telling your friends not to vote for you, he is undermining the marriage. Such undermining and inability to communicate, discuss and solve problems is the major reason couples divorce.

Take your feelings seriously. Seek professional counseling if necessary to clearly get the message across to your husband that his method of thwarting you is destructive to everyone. Consider your requirements for the marriage as well. It is easy for women to set their own needs aside when they become mothers. And very often, husbands, too, expect mothers to come last.

Your depression and your desire to get away from your husband at this point may be a sign that your marriage is at an impasse because of a deeper struggle over control and power. Perhaps the success of your marriage has operated on the premise that you do not enjoy equal opportunity for self-development. If this is the case, your marriage may need some serious readjustment. But such realignment, if needed, could prove beneficial not only to you, but to all family members.

Remind your husband that the task of family is to nurture the development of all its members! Naturally this involves negotiation and compromise. But mothers, too are members who need their dreams acknowledged and supported in some manner which will allow them to grow as individuals. This kind of nurturing one another is what causes tenderness, love and appreciation to flourish in relationships.

Encourage your husband to see the value that your happiness will bring the family. How can the two of you work together as a team on this problem? Is there a possibility that your running for office can become a family endeavor which builds closeness rather than division. You should be able to expect your family to contribute to your growth and be happy and proud for your opportunities for success. Is your husband missing the forest for the trees? Or can he visualize the positive potential for family involvement and excitement that your running for office could mean? After all, isn't cooperation and mutual support for growth and development the true spirit of what family is all about!


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 and the Bay Area's Parents Press newspaper. She has also hosted a live radio show, "Ask Dr. Gayle" on www.ivillage.com/music/, 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 Orinda, 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 Berkeley, California and is a wife, mother of two adult children and a proud grandmother.

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