DEAR NATALIE: My husband has been hiding my birth control pills, claiming that he wants to have a baby right now. I keep telling him that I am not ready for children and to stop taking my medication. The other day, I found them in the garbage can. Two months ago, I caught him emptying the pack in the toilet. When I confronted him, he blamed me for not giving him what he wants. I literally do not know what to do. I know he wants to start a family, but this is really upsetting me. What should I do? -- UPSET WIFE
DEAR UPSET WIFE: This is really creepy, controlling behavior. Just so you know, this is not normal. This is a form of abuse. The fact that he’s trying to control your body in such an intimate way makes me wonder what else may be going on in the home. When you mentioned how he was emotionally manipulating you and basically taking what he wants whether or not you want to give it to him is disturbing. Does he contact you throughout the day, demanding to know where you are? Does he obsess over your whereabouts or who you are with? Is he disruptive to other parts of your life? Is he causing you emotional or physical pain? Does he control the money? Take a moment to reflect on your day-to-day interactions with him and see if this behavior is limited to this particular space or if you are now seeing it in other parts of your relationship. Regardless, trying to control your reproductive health is not only harmful to your physical body, but to your emotional and mental state, as well. He does not have the right to do this. Having a family is a decision that you make as a family, and everyone needs to be on the same page. I cannot tell you what to do, but I would recommend that you seek out therapy to find some support. Having a child with someone who is already this controlling concerns me. In the meantime, keep your medication with you so that he doesn’t have access to it. But please find someone to support you. This isn’t your fault and you deserve to have your bodily autonomy respected.
DEAR NATALIE: My boyfriend is struggling. His dad just passed away very suddenly and I am not sure what to do or say to make him feel better. He is really down and with his dad’s birthday coming up in the next few weeks, his depression has gotten worse. Whenever I try to talk to him, he just says there is nothing anyone can do to fix it. But, there has to be some way I can help him. They were so close and I know this is really hard on him, as it was an unexpected death. Any thoughts on how to help him heal? --AT A LOSS
DEAR AT A LOSS: Grief is a complicated emotion and processing a sudden death can take time. Your boyfriend is most likely still in shock over the sudden loss of his dad. There really isn’t any way to cheer him up right now, and those efforts may make him feel worse. Instead, just be with him. Let him mourn in his own way and own time. There are stages to grieving. It sounds like his shock is the first stage, which is denial. It can be hard to accept when someone is gone, like you are caught in a bad dream that you can’t wake up from. He may become angry, which is also a normal part of the grieving process, as is his feeling of depression. What you need to look for is if things don’t slowly progress. If he is stuck in a state for many months or if he begins saying things that concern you, then you might want to encourage him join either a support group or attend therapy that is geared towards working through grief. His life was forever changed by this moment, so be gentle with him. But, remember that it isn’t your job to fix him, only to love him.
Natalie's Networking Tip of the Week: Afraid to start a conversation at an event? Begin with an easy question: “What brings you out tonight?” Maybe you will get a gruff answer from someone not in the mood, but maybe you’ll get a smile and friendly response from someone that opens up the door for a more meaningful interaction. Either way, it’s just good to practice!
Please send your questions to Natalie Bencivenga to her email, firstname.lastname@example.org; or through postal mail to Natalie Bencivenga, 358 North Shore Dr., Pittsburgh, PA 15212. Follow her on Twitter at @NBSeen and on Instagram @NatalieBenci
(This column was originally published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)