Parent with a partner

Joey Garcia

Last year, I married my soul mate, a woman I’ll call “Holly.” We were both divorced for many years when we met on a blind date. Holly has twin boys. I have no children and have always wanted them. Before we married, I spent considerable time with the boys, both with and without their mother. The problem is that Holly and the boys behave as if I never joined the family. She still makes all the parenting decisions alone. If I discipline the boys, she reverses whatever consequences I’ve given them, sometimes even saying in front of the boys that my punishment would never work. When I talk to her about this, she apologizes and promises to change. Then, sometimes as soon as one hour later, she is parenting solo again. I’m angry. Should I walk?

Yes, walk right through the door of the best marriage counselor you can find, with your lovely wife at your side. Don’t exit the marriage. Your wife is confident in her skills as a single parent because of years of forced practice. She needs support in learning how to trust you in co-parenting the boys.

This is a trust issue. Her behavior masks a deep fear of abandonment, but it’s wrapped in a sense of superiority. For example, she may think that your lack of experience with children means that you do not understand how to discipline them. So, she challenges your authority, which, in this case, sends you messages that you are incompetent and don’t belong. Her fear that you will abandon her inspires behavior designed to drive you away.

Psychological health depends, in part, on a healthy sense of belonging and on having abilities that are desired by our community. Without this foundation, we feel emotionally volatile, especially if there are other times in our personal histories when we struggled with not fitting in. So, it’s important to remind yourself that you belong and are a part of the family, even when your wife’s fears sometimes push her to treat you like a stranger. It is also vital that you both see that single parenting has become such a routine for your wife that she reverts to it even after promising to co-parent. This is not evidence of a deficiency in her love for you; it simply means she cannot change on her own. She needs therapy to help her stop living in the past.

Your “After the election” column (SN&R Ask Joey, December 2) was on target! I am a 41-year-old gay female. Not long ago, I told my gay friends that “gender preference” is a more accurate term than “sexual preference.” They were skeptical about the power of words, but any college marketing student or professional advertising executive will tell you that words impact emotions and perception.

I also agree with you about the “spiritual, not religious” label. As a member of the Episcopal church of America, I believe we must reclaim Christianity’s true spirit: the love of humanity in all its messiness. That is what Jesus really had to say, and that’s why he was killed.

As a gay female, I rejected organized religion because all I heard was that religion and homosexuality didn’t co-exist. I assumed that all religious people would hate me, and thus, I should hate them. After a spiritual awakening, I was amazed to find that I had been wrong. I realized I had never questioned the stereotypes. I found plenty of deeply religious people who were loving and accepting (including clergy). Just as the militant Muslims have hijacked Islam, the Jerry Falwells have hijacked Christianity. The levelheaded among us must reclaim it.


Meditation of the week
A reader responded to my “After the election” column by urging all of us to make amends with our family members in the red states. “Good advice,” I thought. Can you tweak your ego to offer them love (and understanding), and not a war (of words)?

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