You want to work, take a class, quit your job, stay in touch with your friends, get your exercise by dancing, offer a relative a place to stay for the night. Your husband or wife isn’t happy about this. What do you do?
First, remember to Expect Love. It’s what you’re married for. You need it. But when you demand love come in a particular package, you chase it away. Don’t demand that your spouse agree with you about what’s best for you. Don’t demand that your spouse be responsible for running your life or take any blame for your choice to do things his or her way. And please, please, please don’t demand that your spouse be pleased with what you must do to be true to yourself.
You may need to watch really hard for other signs of love while the two of you are dealing with a difference of opinion. It’s worth doing. We can love and disagree at the same time.
And we have a tool for dealing with disagreements. We can Look for Third Alternatives. Providing a place to stay to a relative need not mean putting her up in the home you share with your spouse. You could pay for a hotel, find a hospitable friend with an available guest room, even rent a travel trailer.
But don’t jump to any conclusions about your spouse’s objection to housing your relative, or you won’t find a real Third Alternative, an option that pleases both of you as much as your opposing options. Ask! Perhaps the objection isn’t about having a guest in the house, but about losing private time together. You can schedule a dinner date or a walk while your guest is there or schedule an outing for your relative without you, making it clear in advance who really has priority in your life.
How do you start this conversation? I would start it with a reminder of your goal: “I want to give you everything you desire in life and more, and sometimes I need a little help figuring out how to do this without denying myself what I know I need.”
This will be especially important if it appears at first glance that your choice will force your spouse into an unpleasant choice, such as quitting work when you’re the sole source of income for both of you or taking a class on the date of your spouse’s college reunion or mother’s birthday.
Keep in mind that your husband or wife really does not understand why you need to do whatever it is you need to do. This is why your spouse’s objections seem so reasonable to him or her. If they seem unreasonable to you, you probably don’t really understand your spouse’s thinking, either. Be gentle with each other. And begin by trying to understand, not to be understood.
It may look like the person you chose to love you has been possessed by gremlins, but it’s much more likely he or she remains a great person with a great deal of love for you. Take the time to learn more about this love, and you will be able to find the strength to do what you need to do for yourself without pushing away love.