My wife schedules activities every weekend with extended family, and she loses it in front of the kids when I tell her that I don’t want to go. She is extremely controlling, never sees it and spins the whole thing like I don’t care about her and our kids. The truth is, I’m exhausted. I run around at work, run around keeping stuff together at home, and I just want time to chill. She doesn’t get it and makes me into the bad guy every time. After five years, I’m sick of it and her. Is there any way to get her to see that she’s completely unfair? Or should I just throw in the towel?
Hold on to the towel, honey. Use it to absorb your frustration. The problem is that you and your wife have opposing methods of replenishing energy. Hanging out with a frothy mix of kids and adults appeals to her because she is an extrovert who gains energy by being around scads of people. You are an introvert who needs time alone to replenish your energy. Unscheduled time on the weekend rejuvenates you. Introverts and extroverts approach life differently, but neither way is superior. The important thing is to take care of yourself in the manner best suited to your personality.
Your wife’s extroverted personality is only a fraction of the equation. She believes that a full schedule of activities with extended family is the right way to live. Her family of origin believes so, too. She may experience their affirmation as evidence that she is right. And instead of understanding that you have a different perspective, she thinks you are wrong.
Engaging in black-and-white thinking is easy for your wife, far easier than facing her internal fears about what others will think if she’s flying solo. She is also afraid that you don’t really love her. In her mind, if you loved her, you would do what she wants you to do. Yes, that means she is controlling and somewhat inflexible. No, that doesn’t mean divorce court is in your future. But you do need to have a heart-to-heart conversation. Explain, in detail, why you require downtime. Tell her how drained you feel when subjected to a schedule full of social activities. Let her know that you love her and want to spend time as a family. Be willing to negotiate commitments so that you can join her on occasion but also have time to yourself. It might be wise to have this chat in the presence of a third party, like a skilled psychotherapist. A neutral third party can help your wife value your needs and vice versa.
One of my co-workers always gives advice to other married women in our office. The thing is, she is on her third marriage. I am single and find it extremely irritating when she goes on and on talking about how perfect her marriage is. What is the best thing to say to shut her up?
Nothing will work. So try it: Say nothing to her. Instead, have a dialogue with yourself. Ask yourself why you stick around to listen to a co-worker’s opinion when you know that the experience irritates you. What is it about being irritated that you enjoy? Why not smile kindly and excuse yourself? Of course, you could also open your heart and mind when she opens her mouth. That’s right, glean any tidbits of wisdom that might appear. After all, it is possible that a twice-divorced woman has something to teach you, but you can’t know until you ditch your resistance.
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“I developed a resistance to authority. Not to discipline—I learned that. But to authority. I like to think for myself. And I like to cause trouble,” said Hal Holbrook. And you? Do you realize that thinking for yourself can cause trouble?