Dear Readers: This week I am running topical “Best Of” columns while I’m on book tour, meeting readers of my memoir, “Strangers Tend to Tell Me Things,” which is now out in paperback. I’ll be back next week with more answers and advice directed toward a fresh batch of dilemmas. Today’s topic is marriage.
Dear Amy: For years, my husband has been controlling our radio and television programming. When I choose a radio station, he tells me the music is garbage, and he’ll tune it to his station. Until now, I’ve never felt it was worth arguing over.
Yesterday he was out of the house, and I was listening to a station that my daughters and I enjoy. When my husband came home, my daughter expressed her concern that the station was “not one of daddy’s.” She didn’t want to be confronted by him. She went upstairs.
Sure enough, he came in, realized that it was not one of his stations, said the music was garbage and turned off the radio, despite my objections.
He does the same thing with the television. His inflexibility and dominating behavior are obvious to me in other situations that are more important to me (such as the extreme lack of organization in the house and his unwillingness to look for a job).
He is a stay-at-home dad. This was great while the kids were little, but due to instability in my own profession, this is now causing concern.
Unable to Change Course
Dear Unable: You have wrapped many complaints about your husband into one bundle. From your account, he is intimidating and domineering – so intimidating that he has trained your daughter to believe that he literally owns the airwaves.
Imagine the impact of his behavior on your girls’ impression of how men do/should behave.
This is not about a clash of media taste – though I believe that whoever occupies a room first (or is making dinner) gets to choose the playlist (truly tasteless or degrading music and commentary are not for public consumption and – like the Supreme Court – the adults declare that we know where the line is when we hear it).
I agree that he needs to change in many ways for you to have a happier, peaceful, orderly household. You should try to mediate some of these issues in couples counseling. Failing that, if you are unwilling to leave the marriage, you should pursue counseling to learn why (and how) to stay. – February 2013
Dear Amy: My husband and I are in our mid-20s and are very successful professionals. We’ve enjoyed a happy marriage for the last three years, but we have spent much of that time apart, due to my husband’s hectic travel with his job. In addition, at just 25, I am burned out with my own career and desperately want to do something different.
We have saved a large sum of money and want to take a year off to travel together and do some volunteering. We will announce our plans to our families soon, and leave for our trip next summer.
I know my parents are going to hate this idea, and I’m worried they will cut me out of their lives. My parents believe we should continue with our draining (yet well-paying) jobs and have children soon. I desperately want to live my life to the fullest. I feel that I need a break and some perspective before moving forward.
How can I convince my parents to be at peace with our decision?
Dear Wanderlust: Adulthood is awesome. You don’t have to worry about making your curfew, you can eat s’mores for dinner and you don’t have to convince your mom and dad that you know what you’re doing – unless you’re asking them for money, which, of course, you are not.
I think your idea sounds great, though I do wonder about your being so burned out at the ripe old age of 25. However, you don’t have to be burned out or fed up to come up with a new plan for the next year or so of your life. All you need is a workable scheme, the funds to pay for it and the enthusiasm and idealism to carry it out.
Enter this conversation realizing that it will be tough for your folks to climb on board the Awesome Express. You can respectfully say to them, “I know you love and care about me, but this feels right. I hope you’ll come to respect our choice, even if you don’t agree with it.” – November 2012
Email Amy at firstname.lastname@example.org.