By Joyce Oglesby
Q: His dad expects his mom to work, have his meals cooked and on the table when he walks in the door, make sure the house is clean at all times and laundry always done, wait on him, and never have an opinion. That’s not the kind of home I grew up in. We’ve been married only six months, and things have gone from bad to worse. Now I am four months pregnant. I don’t want to divorce him because I don’t want to be a single mom, but I don’t want to become like his mother. Now what?”
Should I be sitting across the table from you, I would begin stirring the history pot a bit. How long did the two of you date before you married? When did you meet his parents? How many times were you in their home? What red flags did you see in the first months of your relationship? If you had the opportunity to observe his parents, how did their interaction appeal to you?
The answers to these questions, and more, would illuminate the path that led to your situation. Once you’ve addressed these questions, you can start thinking about these next tips. But you will likely need to seek out some sort of professional guidance beyond this point.
‘Like’ and ‘love’ should be assessed. I heard no mention of love, only that you’re not sure whether you like either your husband or his dad. We can love our spouse and at the same time dislike some of his or her mannerisms and character traits. You are beginning to see the value in defining those traits you can live with before you say “I do,” because some can be real game-changers. I will surmise that you surely must love him, or else you wouldn’t have married him. Love will outweigh ‘like,’ but only for a while. Pretty soon the dislikes will become a heavy burden and bring even more imbalance in your relationship.
Overlook what you can. There are some imperfections in a spouse that we were blind to when we fell in love. In marriage, often we have to adjust in order to work around these imperfections. We can adopt a more patient attitude and even sometimes accept those traits that will never change. But those traits that are making life messy for the two of you are definitely worth addressing and working toward positive changes. Again, this could take a professional approach, especially when one party is unwilling to change for the good of the marriage.
There’s no better time than the present to work on your future. Cloning your in-laws’ style of marriage is still a fresh fear. If you have not had the conversation of, “Honey, I ain’t your mama,” today is the perfect time. It will not be an easy transformation because while you are not his mama, he is his dad. Regardless, it will be up to you to change the situation, as he seems quite content to have it take on the feel of “home.”
Expose him to more equitable relationships. It sounds as though he needs greater doses of your idea of a shared home life. Also, develop friendships with young married couples who understand the give-take concept that makes marriage a partnership rather than a dictatorship. It’s not going to be an easy pill for him to swallow. After all, he’s observed a lifetime of marriage modeling, and this is the only way he knows how to do marriage. I love serving my husband. He loves serving me. But our marriage is truly a shared equity, and that’s a big part of why we have been successfully loving one another for decades.
Don’t throw in the towel. Marriage can be wonderful. But it takes a lot of work from both parties to make it that way. I grew up in a home of dominating men, so I know firsthand how difficult the lifestyle can be. But in six months of marriage, neither of you have had enough time to iron out differences. Explain to your husband that the two of you need to create your own idea of what home feels like, a place where both of you can be happy and fulfilled. Let him know how much you desire to please him, but remind him that forced pleasure isn’t pleasure at all.
Remember: you’re pregnant. It’s an exciting time for both of you. But the excitement will wax and wane, and reality will set in soon. Tackle these tough issues now so that the two of you can devote yourselves to the greatest and most challenging gift in life — parenting.