My mother-in-law asked how I felt about my husband’s recent vasectomy. I didn’t know that he had one, and I was shocked to discover that he had made such an important decision on his own. When I confronted him, he was really flip and said, “It’s my body, so it’s my choice.” We’ve been married for three years and have no children. We met at a college party and had sex on our first date. I got pregnant, stopped seeing him (without an explanation) and had an abortion. A mutual friend clued him in later, and he confronted me. I told him it was my choice and walked away. Years later we ran into each other, and I apologized for my immaturity. We started dating again. Now, he barely talks to me. What do you think is going on?
Your husband feels powerless in some arena of his life, perhaps at work or with you, and is exerting power where he can, which is over himself. Of course, his decision affects you, but he either doesn’t care or is attempting to establish authority. Sound familiar? What it tells you is this: There is little or no equity in your marriage. Rather than a holistic partnership of two adults, your marriage is a competition between roommates wresting for control of the other’s emotional life.
Back in college, you used abortion as a weapon. It’s unlikely that your husband was the target of your anger. I bet he casually said or did something that subconsciously reminded you of another man. That’s why you, abruptly and without explanation, stopped seeing him. And why you married him years later. This relationship is a dance of much older, unresolved childhood energies. So, as a child, were you under the influence of a parent or guardian who had a compulsive need to be right? Who forced you to submit to his or her view? If you heal those experiences, you will awaken to the subtle ways you treat your husband similarly. You also will understand why he is retaliating (just as you did).
One last thing: The human body is not solely yours, is it? The body is a tension of opposites, a paradox. It’s yours to inhabit, and it is also one cell in the larger body of the universe. Whatever you do to yourself inevitably affects others. The 1970s era “It’s my body, so it’s my decision” argument is terribly dated, evidenced by its defensiveness and emphasis on separation, not unity. Allow yourself to evolve into a more loving approach to life.
My son, who is 19 years old and attending community college, is majoring in procrastination. He lives at home and never seems to get his life together. My wife reads a lot of self-help books that say he needs to love himself, but I think he needs more discipline. What do you suggest?
Give him more loving attention. The practice of postponing one’s own development is serious. Consider this analysis from psychologist Elan Golomb, “Procrastination is a common shortcoming of one whose performance has been attacked. Low in self-esteem, many of us think we should put off action until we feel sufficiently confident. It is an error to believe that we must love ourselves before undertaking a difficult project or relationship. We postpone what we think is beyond our grasp, giving ourselves no opportunity to learn form error. Raised to magnify our limitations, inferiority feelings keep us from the world. We fail at marriage, work, child rearing, and so on. We fulfill our predicted destiny.” I suggest good psychotherapy for your son. For you and your wife, adopt a habit of focusing on his strengths.