Can This Marriage Be Saved? He’s Old Fashioned and Sexist

September 15, 2011 at 4:42 pm , by

Sure, sometimes we ladies like to be treated with chivalry and a touch of old-fashioned manners: opened car doors, chairs pulled back from dinner tables, a romantic gesture from our hubbies. But we like our modern, independent roles, too. (I can change that flat tire myself, thankyouverymuch.) So what happens when you’re a liberated lady and your spouse is stuck in Leave It to Beaver Land?

Maria, a 41-year-old mom of three, has been married to Jose for 20 years. When they met and fell in love, Jose promised she could go to school and get a job, but she got pregnant on their honeymoon and that was the end of that.

Maria’s turn Yes, Jose is a good husband, but he doesn’t understand that Maria has dreams and goals of her own that don’t involve him or their kids. He thinks that because he supports her financially and doesn’t drink, curse or sleep around, she should be completely happy in their marriage. He holds very traditional Latino ideals: The man’s place is at work, and the woman’s is at home. But Maria hates relying on Jose for every decision and purchase and wants to find fulfillment in working and making her own money; she even won a scholarship to a junior college but Jose wouldn’t let her accept it. Because he works so much to support them, they never spend any time together, and he gets angry when she goes out with friends or chats with strangers. He thinks of her as his property, not as his partner, and she’s tired of being the obedient wife.

Jose’s turn What has gotten into his wife? She didn’t make a peep about being unhappy for 20 years and now she wants a divorce. He gives her everything she could want – new clothes, nice cars, financial security – and yet she’s unhappy. So what if he doesn’t compliment her or call her or hold her hand? That’s how marriage was for his parents, who’ve been married 50 years. He does his job, which is to provide for the family, and he doesn’t understand why his wife still wants more. Why go to school now, since she won’t be done until she’s nearly 50? Besides, they don’t need the money. And he doesn’t like her seeing her friends because they’re the ones planting these ideas in her head. He’s baffled that Maria thinks their marriage is in trouble.

The counselor’s turn Maria and Jose were fine as long as they both stuck to the roles they held when they married, at age 21: breadwinner and dutiful wife. But Maria longed for a more equal partnership. Jose genuinely thought he was a model husband because he took care of his wife, but he didn’t understand that modern women want to be taken care of emotionally as well as financially. And he couldn’t grasp that she wanted to work for personal fulfillment, not just for a paycheck. Because he never showed it, Maria doubted that Jose even loved her. Gradually, Jose began to see that Maria wasn’t going to leave him if she gained some independence; in fact, a little freedom would keep her from wanting to leave. Instead of complaining about their lack of intimacy, Maria made specific requests, like going out for dates once a week and spending more time together at home. Jose eventually gave his support to her going back to school, and now she works part-time for an airline. To his relief and her joy, their relationship has only improved since she started pursuing her goal.

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