Ask E. Jean - Tormented? Driven Witless? Whipsawed by confusion?

Advice Vixens

vixens-
i love my husband very much. we have the same core values, he takes good care of me (does most of the housework, etc), watches our dog every day while i'm at work, and, most of the time, makes me laugh. i'm the primary breadwinner in our family and he moved across the country with me for my dream job, and hasn't once expressed resent or anger towards me for it. he's proud of me, even though it's meant some challenges for him in terms of finding a job he feels good about and adjusting to our life in a new city. he's also suffered with anxiety and ocd but is seeing a therapist and i'm really proud of him for that. all in all, he's great despite us confronting some pretty big challenges in the last year and a half.

that said, my mom and sister have been really critical lately. i was visiting them last week and they expressed concern about my husband and our marriage. they said they worry he abuses me and saw him snap at me and that he doesn't take good care of me, etc. vixens, i've been in an abusive relationship and did lots of therapy and i can guarantee you he is not abusive at all. occasionally he'll get cranky and annoyed with me and say things that are sarcastic when i do things that bug him, like interrupt him in the middle of the story, but he never puts me down or insults me or anything. if he says anything at all, it's just "can i finish speaking?" i mean, he's not a jerk. he's never yelled at me once in our entire relationship. he stays calm when i get overwhelmed and cranky. i'm not always perfect, either. and also, when we're with my family (who thankfully live 6 hours away by plane), he's just more stressed in general bc being with them can be difficult. i mean, they're not ideal, either.

anyway, i'm writing all this bc i feel so messed up in the head after my mom and sister expressed their concerns and i fear it's affecting my marriage. i keep seeing things he's doing and hyper-judging them in my brain. my mom even suggested divorce before we have kids (bc we've been talking about having kids), which is crazy to me!! i love him so much and no, things aren't perfect, and yes, last year when he moved across the country with me and had trouble finding a job, things were especially difficult, but he's working on it and we're doing better overall and i have a lot of faith they're going to keep getting better, so how do i deal with my mom and sister's critiques and how much they're affecting me? i can't help but look at other men now and wonder if life would be easier with someone who wasn't such a mess professionally and psychologically, etc, but then i remember all the reasons why i love my husband and why i wanted to be with him and feel sick for even wondering about what a different life would be like... :( :(

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    This kind of reminds me of the story about the blind men and the elephant. They sought to figure out what the elephant was, but each man only touched part of the elephant. The one who touched the leg said that it was like a tree trunk, another who touched the tail said it was like a rope, the one who touched the ear said it was like a fan and so on (and there's the joke about the guy who said, "an elephant is soft and squishy"...) Each insisted that he knew what the elephant was like, but each one's knowledge was incomplete.

    Your mother and sister are kind of like those blind men, unable to see the whole picture, but quite happy to give you their opinions on the small bits that they do see. Your life isn't perfect, but then whose is? I'm sure they mean well and want to make sure that you aren't taken advantage of, but it's not like you're working two jobs and doing most of the housework. Your husband is pitching in.

    Also, moving to a new city is one of life's big stressors. Very few people handle it as a matter of course, with no side-effects. The situation you're in is sometimes referred to as a "leg lifter". Stand with both feet firmly on the ground and it's hard to lose your equilibrium. Stick one leg way into the air and you can be knocked over easily. So keep this in mind - you're dealing with challenges that make you very vulnerable right now.

    So here's my advice. First, take what your mother and sister say with a grain of salt. They don't see the whole picture and their own experience and opinions may be colouring what they tell you. They are not you and are not living your life; your feelings on the matter are actually allowed to differ from theirs. Second, even people with great lives have stray thoughts about chucking everything and running away to be a remote island caretaker or some such thing. So don't beat yourself up about those thoughts. Third, before you have kids, make a plan. What if you had a difficult birth and had to be bedridden for the last trimester? Could you afford that? What if the child has special needs? If nothing goes wrong, you'll be in a great place, but if something does come up, you'll be prepared.

    reply to Jill
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    Do your mother and sister habitually criticize you, your boyfriends or other people?

    If being supercritical is part of their personality, it's something you can safely tune out. Some people just aren't happy until they can find fault with others, real or imagined. This doesn't mean you have to believe what the supercritical people in your life say....

    If they are NOT usually critical types, and this is something new? Yes, then I'd be inclined to give their opinions more weight. It still doesn't mean they're right, mind you. Remember, you have more information than they do -- you know what this man is really like on a day-by-day, week-by-week, year-by-year basis. So YOUR opinion is the one that really counts.

    So....how do you deal with your mother and sister expressing concerns? You thank them. You let them know you appreciate that they are trying to look out for you. You make it clear that he's not abusive -- and if he was or ever is, you would be out of there like a shot. And you mean it. (Because if he for some reason *was* abusive, you'd call him on it and get out of the relationship quickly, right?)

    That's about all you can do. Oh, and listen to Jill's great advice above, of course!

    reply to Kal
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