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A Power Struggle

Q: I have been married for two years and have not worked since I got married.  I thought I would enjoy the “tennis life,” but I am bored and find my husband, “the breadwinner,” to be very controlling with the “bread.”  He decides everything from movies to groceries to investments. What do I do about my anger and resentment?  How do I change the life he thought I agreed to?

A:  You have identified two important issues. One is your boredom and apparent need to add interest to your personal and professional life.  The other issue relates to your husband and your “rules” about money management.

For many couples in our society, money equals power.  Since work outside the home typically pays better, the spouse at home usually has less money and often feels less power about decisions requiring money.  Of course, it does not have to be this way nor is this the best arrangement.  Healthy relationships are based on mutual respect and a balance of power.  The one-up-one-down relationship fosters resentment and blocks intimacy.

I encourage you to discuss your feelings with your husband and propose what you would like to see happen regarding decision-making.  Try to get clear in your own mind what you want first.  It may be joint decision-making, alternating who makes the decision (such as this week you decide the movie, restaurant, etc., and next week he decides) or dividing up areas of primary responsibility.

It is clear, however, that after two years the “rules” (written or unwritten) of your relationship need to be reviewed. This is actually a very positive step. Many people so not realize that relationship rules and expectations should and do change over time.  A relationship review and personal inventory can be a productive and healthy way to start the next year for most people.