Enlivening ourselves4/5/09

Dear Dr. Norquist:
Now what do I do? After 33 years of marriage, two children and four grandchildren, my husband and I have had our first major argument. I cannot see a way to resolve the argument and it may lead to us living apart from now on. We can’t afford to live in two places, but we are not able to agree on where we are going to live after we retire next year. He wants to move to northern Florida to enjoy the sun, fishing and golf all year round. I think it’s great to vacation there but my home and my family and especially my grandchildren are here, and I do not want to trade seeing my grandchildren grow up for living in a strange community where it’s warm.
From my point of view, I’ve been the one in our marriage who has sacrificed to make things work – the one who always had the meals ready on time, cared for our children’s needs, clothes, shots, school and camp activities; and I feel that it is time that he be the one to sacrifice what he wants right now for our family. Do you think I’m wrong? Do you think counseling would help? Do you know of anything I can say to him that would change his mind (maybe for just a couple of years)? I’d appreciate your advice.

Dr. Norquist responds:
This is not a matter of right and wrong. You say this is your first major marital argument in 33 years that appears to be irresolvable. Perhaps that is because you are no longer willing to sacrifice your important inner needs.
Christiane Northrup, M.D., author of “The Wisdom of Menopause,” has an explanation for this. She would say that in the peri-menopausal years, women’s goals and behaviors are driven by society’s demands; while in the post-menopausal years, goals and behaviors are driven more by the soul’s demands.
Listening to and honoring your inner sense of what is right for you (i.e., your inner guidance) is essential for maintaining your health. You are clear regarding what is most important to you: spending as much meaningful time as possible with your children and grandchildren, and being an active part of their lives.
Your husband’s needs on the other hand appear to include a lifestyle revolving around “sun, fishing and golf.”
Women by nature are relational. Research over many years demonstrates this (see Borysenko, “A Woman’s Book of Life”). In light of this, your comment “I do not want to trade seeing my grandchildren grow up for living in a strange community where it’s warm” makes a lot of sense.
Perhaps, if you stand your ground, the two of you can come up with an innovative way of resolving this dilemma. I’d encourage you to make decisions now that leave your options open for the future. What works for each of you now may feel different three or four years from now, when the grandchildren are older, and you and your husband are several years into retirement.
Perhaps you could rent a place in Florida for now, rather than sell your home, leaving you both free to be in either place, according to your needs. If this is not an option, is there a place near your grandchildren where you could stay while your husband is in Florida?
A few marital counseling sessions may be helpful, if your husband is willing to engage in this process. What is most important is that both of you consider and respect each other’s inner needs in this situation. This clears the way for moving forward towards a creative resolution.

(Dr. Sallie Norquist is a licensed psychologist (NJ #2371) in private practice and is director of Chaitanya Counseling Services, a center for upliftment and enlivenment, in Hoboken.)
Dr. Norquist and the staff of Chaitanya invite you to write them at Chaitanya Counseling Services, 51 Newark St., Suite 202, Hoboken, NJ 07030 or www.chaitanya.com or by e-mail at drnorquist@chaitanya.com, or by fax at (201) 656-4700. Questions can address various topics, including relationships, life’s stresses, difficulties, mysteries and dilemmas, as well as questions related to managing stress or alternative ways of understanding health-related concerns. 2009 Chaitanya Counseling Services

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