DEAR NATALIE: My fiancé and I got into an argument the other night over travel. He wants to do a “guys’ weekend” in Vegas with a few of his friends in September. I told him that was OK, as I wanted to go away with my best girlfriend to a spa for a weekend in October. He was adamantly against this. He said that “it’s disrespectful for me to travel without him.” I was so confused. I told him how hypocritical that was considering he was planning a trip without me – which is fine – with his friends. He said that it was “different for men.” This is absolute nonsense. We argued about it, but he isn't budging. My girlfriend told me I should just go with her, anyway. However, I don’t want to cause issues in my relationship as we are getting married next year. What do you think I should do to smooth this over? –POSSESSIVE PARTNER
DEAR POSSESSIVE PARTNER: Flip this around. Why are you trying to smooth things over with him? He should be trying to repair this. His misogynistic behavior is what caused the argument. This is a red flag. Possessiveness leads to control. Controlling behaviors can lead to abusive ones. Abuse can take many forms. “Not allowing” you to travel is a form of subjugation. I would take this seriously. Do you really want to spend your life with someone who is trying to control how you live? Think long and hard about what you want from a partner. A partner stands beside you. Treats you as their equal because you are their equal. Someone who tries to belittle you and creates a separate set of rules for you is someone who doesn’t respect your personal sense of autonomy. Either work through this so that he understands that he doesn’t get to dictate terms to you, or walk away. Don’t settle for someone who doesn’t trust you, respect you or value you. Remember, control is not love.
DEAR NATALIE: My husband and I have three small children. Housework is something that we divide, but he expects me to do all of the childcare, even though we both work full-time. Meaning, when I get home from work, I am expected to handle all of the kids, getting them dinner, bathing them, and putting them to bed. He works from home and we have a nanny during the workday so he doesn’t have to deal with them. Then, when I get home, he usually just sits on the couch and watches television after dinner while I do all the work. I wouldn’t mind handling the kids most of the time, but it would be nice if I could just have one evening to myself. Whenever I have brought this up, he tells me that this is how he was raised and that “little kids need their mother more.” While it’s true that I breastfed all of my children, they are seven, four and three now. He needs to be more hands-on. How can I convince him of that? –BURNED OUT MAMA
DEAR BURNED OUT MAMA: I find this all very frustrating when some fathers refer to watching their own kids as “babysitting.” It sets up this dynamic that they aren’t a primary caregiver or an equal partner in raising their children. While many of our patterns are established because of what we experienced growing up from our parents, it is never too late to break generational cycles that perpetuate false and negative gender stereotypes. It’s time for a heart-to-heart. Sharing with him how it makes you feel when he doesn’t participate in family life may be a way towards understanding. If he wants a happy home life, he needs to understand that you are a partner, not an employee. You deserve a night to yourself just like he has enjoyed every night to himself. His archaic views on parenting won’t just harm his marriage in the long run, but they will also harm his children; having them grow up with unrealistic expectations of how home life is structured. If he still doesn’t get it, you may need to start scheduling something twice a week in the evening so that you aren’t available. Maybe a yoga class or a date with a friend? At that point, he may have to figure out how to watch the kids for a few hours, recognizing the work that it takes. Life is a lot more enjoyable when we share the work, as it reduces the burden on everyone – and the resentment, too.
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