"My Husband Is Old-Fashioned and Sexist"

Maria hates that her husband is so old-fashioned and won't let her follow her dreams or be a modern woman. José thinks he is acting perfectly fine since he provides for his family. Can this marriage be saved?
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Maria's Turn

"José is a traditional Latino," said Maria, 41, a mother of three teenage girls who has been married for 20 years. "In his mind he's a good husband because he gives me plenty of money and doesn't drink, swear, gamble, or sleep around, like a lot of married men he knows. Yes, I appreciate those qualities, but how about some consideration for what I want?

"Basically, José has the same macho ideas as my parents' generation. My dad worked construction in the small Mexican border town where I grew up; my mom raised 12 kids and did whatever my dad told her to do. After high school I worked in a food factory for two years to help support my brothers and sisters. I dreamed of escaping to the United States. I was terrified of ending up like my mom -- constantly pregnant and dependent on a man who bossed her around.

"I got lucky when relatives in Chicago took me in. I learned English and data processing in night school. I met José at my cousin's wedding when I was 20, and he proposed six months later. I loved José -- he was romantic, attentive, and had a good job. But I told him I wanted to be fluent in English and go to college before getting married. And I didn't want kids right away. 'We'll have kids later,' he kept saying. 'You can go to school.' Well, I accidentally got pregnant with Eva on our honeymoon, and José pressured me to stay home. Then Carmen and Gloria came along and I was too busy for school. But I never gave up my dream. When Gloria started kindergarten I secretly applied for and won a scholarship to a local junior college. I was thrilled, but José wouldn't let me take it: 'Your place is at home,' he said. 'I'm the breadwinner.' I was furious at him for being so sexist and at myself for getting stuck in a marriage just like my mother's.

"I felt miserable but threw myself into being a good mother. I've loved seeing the kids excel, but I'm lonely. José works six days a week -- he runs his own plumbing business -- and on Sundays he's too tired to go out. And talk about a control freak! He gets mad if I chat with people in line at the bank. He accuses me of flirting, but I'm just being nice. And he gives me a hard time every time I go out with my friends.

"Maybe that's because I want to be more like them. Most have jobs. They don't rely on their husbands to pay for every pedicure! José has lived in Chicago his whole life, but all his friends are Latino and think the same way he does. If he knew a few American men, he'd see that wanting to be equal with your husband isn't 'crazy' at all.

"That's what he called me last month when I finally told him I was unhappy. 'You never spend time with me. You never compliment me. You don't support my dreams,' I said. 'Treat me better or I'm leaving.' José was shocked. 'You're crazy,' he said. 'I've given you everything -- a nice house, a new car, fancy clothes!' Now we fight all the time. And he can't understand why I don't feel like having sex with him?

"José thinks I'm chained to him, but I have options. I could stay with friends if I leave him, and I'm bilingual, so I could find a job. But believe it or not, I still love José and think we could be happy. One thing is certain, though: I'm through with being the obedient Latina wife."

Continued on page 2:  Jose's Turn

 

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