Dear Dr. Norquist:
My husband and I have been arguing a lot lately – mostly about my family. He thinks I spend too much time with them. I do stop and see my mom a lot after work – but my mom likes to see me and why should I have to go home to an empty apartment? My husband works until 7:00 and I’m free by 4:30. I don’t understand why it should bother him, as long as I’m home by 7.
We’ve been married for a year now and we are already kind of bored with each other. When we get home at night, we have dinner and watch TV and then go to bed. I see my family a lot because I feel so comfortable with them. I have two sisters still at home, a dog who I love and of course my parents. Is it so bad to enjoy spending time with them? Who says getting married means I have to not see my family anymore? Do you agree with me?
Dr. Norquist responds:
Your letter leaves me questioning why you got married. You don’t speak of a desire to be with your husband, or your excitement in building a home and a life together with him. Cultural expectations of marriage vary, but in our culture, marriage is usually accompanied by a longing to establish a union, a home and a new life with your beloved. Perhaps these feelings are there for you, but it doesn’t come across in your letter.
Marriage involves separating (emotionally and usually physically) from your original family. Of course your parents and sisters will always be close to your heart, but your first commitment is to the family you and your husband have created through your marital vows. When you marry, your parents and sisters become your extended family, not your immediate family. Your immediate family is your husband. Emotionally, this process happens over time. It takes time for the new couple to agree upon and to construct their own preferred lifestyle, values, goals, rituals, and home life. This is why the first few years of marriage can be difficult. Accomplishing this requires being emotionally available to partner with your husband.
Working together to build a home and a partnership that you can rely on needs to be more important than pleasing your parents. Ideally your marriage will become a source of solace and support and understanding that you can rely on as you greet and handle whatever life brings your way. You need to build a foundation together. Otherwise, what will hold you together when you hit upon the hard times in life?
My hunch is that your husband feels that your loyalty lies more with your family than with your new life with him. If you work to strengthen your ties with your husband, he will probably not be as threatened by your visits with your family. It’s not a matter of right and wrong, it’s a matter of deciding what you want to create with your marriage.
(Dr. Sallie Norquist is a licensed psychologist (NJ #2371) in private practice and is director of Chaitanya Counseling Services, a center for upliftment and enlivenment, in Hoboken.) Dr. Norquist and the staff of Chaitanya invite you to write them at Chaitanya Counseling Services, 51 Newark St., Suite 202, Hoboken, NJ 07030 or www.chaitanyacounseling.com or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by fax at (201) 656-4700. Questions can address various topics, including relationships, life’s stresses, difficulties, mysteries and dilemmas, as well as questions related to managing stress or alternative ways of understanding health-related concerns. 2017 Chaitanya Counseling Services