Dealing with a Double Standard in Marriage
- 2005 17 Nov
Editor's note: Crosswalk welcomes our newest contributor, Dr. David Hawkins, The Relationship Doctor. David Hawkins, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist, family counselor and author who wants to connect with you to answer your relationship questions and concerns. To receive trusted, Biblically sound advice from Crosswalk's Relationship Expert, see Dr. David's contact information at the bottom of this article.
I am married to a man who has a double standard. He wants to spend every Saturday afternoon with his buddies watching sports, but resents it when I want to go out to dinner once in a while with my girlfriends. He is the same way about money. He spends money on his toys, but complains when I spend a few dollars on new clothes for myself. When I try to talk to him about these issues he is always too busy, or says he doesn’t want to talk about it. So, I never get to really discuss it with him. What do you suggest?
Cynthia -- There are several issues in your letter. The first, of course, is the double standard you mention. The second is the fact he doesn’t want to hear your concerns. Many times, as in your case, the problem is not the content of your concerns — rather it is the process. You are both avoiding the hot topics. You must ‘lean in’ to conflict. I sense from your letter that you avoid the hot issues as much as he. While he undoubtedly needs to be confronted with your resentment over the double standard, and an equitable arrangement must be created, this will take some negotiating — something I suspect is hard for you both to do.
Let me offer a few suggestions. Let your husband know that you must have a time to talk over some concerns with him. Press in. Persist. Let him know this is an urgent matter, one that will not simply go away. The scriptures encourage us to "speak the truth in love," even when it’s hard to do. Share your feelings, clearly but briefly, and offer some solutions, such as having equal amounts of money to spend each month on things you each choose. Discuss how you want him to have friends, but also want the same freedom in your life. You will need to emphasize that you are unhappy with the current situation, and want to find a solution where you both feel satisfied. Don’t be surprised if at first you feel uncomfortable talking about things you both previously avoided. It will get easier over time.
My wife and I both work and have two young children. I understand that she is tired when she gets home. I try to help with the meals, chores and getting the kids to bed, but she still seems tired and uninterested in creating time for me. Help. ~ John
John -- First of all I applaud you for sharing with the family responsibilities. Not many men are as receptive to noticing when their wife is exhausted and offer help. You know that these chores are not just "women’s work."
I also sense your frustration — one experienced by many men I counsel. They often feel displaced when the children demand so much energy and attention. Keeping up a home and managing children’s activities can be draining. And that, I suspect, may be at the heart of your problem. In spite of your efforts with the family duties, your wife is still tired. She needs something more and it’s up to you to help her talk about what that might be.
I suggest that you sit down with her and share your heart. It’s important in a relationship to create time for one another, even in the midst of raising a family and having a busy work schedule. I suspect your wife will talk to you when she recognizes that you acknowledge her exhaustion and hard work, and are willing to do more to help.
Here’s a few more ideas: How about proposing a "date night" where you find the sitter and make the plans? Most women enjoy a little pampering. How about a secret code, like dropping a napkin, that says to her, "You’re special to me, you’re not alone and I am here ready to help." The Apostle Paul talks about ‘deferring to one another in love’ — I know that had something to do with napkins!
Have a question for Dr. David? Contact him at TheRelationshipDoctor@gmail.com.
David Hawkins, Pd.D., has worked with couples and families to improve the quality of their lives by resolving personal issues for the last 30 years. He is the author of over 18 books, including Nine Critical Mistakes Most Couples Make, Saying It So He'll Listen, and When Pleasing Others Is Hurting You. His newest book, When the Man in Your Life Can’t Commit, will be released in February, 2006. Dr. Hawkins grew up in the beautiful Pacific Northwest and lives on the South Puget Sound where he enjoys sailing, biking, and skiing. He has active practices in two Washington cities.