Monday, December 16, 2013

"Controlling" Husband Pleases Wife, Irks Sister-In-Law

Dear Tazi:

I am not writing for marital advice but communication advice. Call me old-fashioned, but I am the kind of man who likes to keep a firm grip of control over my wife and children. A man's family is a representation of his name and I will not have that name tarnished by unseemly behavior.

My wife trusts me to command the direction of our marriage and of the well-being of our young children. To that end, her paycheck is direct deposited into my checking account each week (no, it is not a joint account); she dresses quite conservatively; and our children are not allowed to have play dates with children whose families have not been pre-screened and approved of by me. Of course "Mary" is allowed to be a part of this process, but I have the final say in the matter. Our marriage is rock solid, and my children are both respectful, well-adjusted little beings.

My issue is my sister-in-law - my wife's sister - has a problem with how my household is run and never fails to criticize me and my wife at every turn. "Margaret" tells Mary that she needs to be more independent and that she should have her own checking account "just in case". In case of what? I have no plans on abandoning my wife and children and nor does Mary plan on abandoning me.

My wife recently celebrated a milestone birthday, and I threw a large party in her honor. Because it was a party, there was a good deal of food that is normally off-limits to my children, and I allowed them to indulge just a bit with a small portion of cake and ice cream as well as a can of soda each. Margaret, who perhaps had a little too much to drink, flew off the handle at me (in front of my wife, children, and our other guests) and told me I was a "controlling sonofab!tch" and that I needed to loosen the grip I have on her sister (my wife). I kept my cool long enough to ask Margaret to please step outside to discuss things with me, that I will not be disrespected in front of my wife and children, but she ranted that this was my problem - that I wanted complete control over everyone's actions and that she would rant where she wanted, when she wanted (which she proceeded to do).

Mary tried to calm her sister, telling her that our marriage is a happy and healthy one; that she is happy and does not have a problem with the way we live our lives. Margaret continued to rant, saying that marriage is "a partnership, not a dictatorship" but when I tried to talk to her, she left in a huff. Tazi, my marriage is a partnership; however, every partnership has a controlling partner to guide it and that partner is me. When I told Margaret this, she screamed, "You have THAT right!" and walked out of the party, much to my wife's chagrin. Mary then worked on calming our children, who were quite distraught, and unfortunately the party ended up breaking up early at this point.

To her credit, Margaret called the next day to apologize - to Mary, for making such a scene and ruining the party. Her apology also came with a "but" (as in "I'm sorry but...") at which point she proceeded to rail against me and the functioning of my marriage. Again to her credit, Mary made an excuse as to why she needed to end the call and hung-up. Mary has all but given up on trying to convince her sister that she is happy with our marriage, but I have not! How can I get Margaret to understand that my marriage is in ship-shape, and that her concerns for her sister are unwarranted?

Good Husband

Dear Good Husband:

To paraphrase from the Book of Ephesians (5:21 - 23), a good wife obeys her husband as she would obey the Lord; in return, to be a good husband a man must love his wife "just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her". While a large part of me cringes at this entire sentiment (for it goes against the very desires of human nature) if you, as a couple, are able to accomplish the extremely high standards set forth here and both husband and wife are happy and fulfilled by the arrangement then I see nothing wrong with it. The Devil, as it is said, is in the details.

Is your wife truly happy being subject to your control? Does she trust you implicitly to put her well-being and the well-being of your marriage and children above your personal desires at all times?  More importantly, do you trust yourself to be able to meet this standard 100% of the time? Do you communicate with your wife on a regular basis to ensure that her thoughts and opinions are being heard and properly considered? Do you run decisions by her or just blindly decide and expect her to follow your will without explanation? These are the details in which the Devil lurks!

I suggest you have a sit-down talk with your wife and really listen to her answers. Does she make eye contact when she assures you that she is perfectly happy? Does she fidget uncomfortably or does she seem sincere? The answers you get - both verbal and non-verbal - will tell you the true state of your marital health. If there are problems, I suggest you and your wife talk to your clergy-person or to a marital counselor for guidance. If there are not, I suggest you try to follow your wife's lead and work to accept the things - and the minds - that you cannot change. Allow your wife to handle her sister and accept the manner in which she chooses to do it.

No one seems to take issue when it's the wife who controls things!

On the matter of household finances, I would strongly urge you to put your wife's name on the household checking account "just in case". Since you ask "just in case of what?" you may want to consider the following: emergencies during which you are unavailable, a medical emergency during which you are stricken and/or hospitalized, an accident that results in your death or prolonged unconsciousness, a vehicle break-down that requires her to have cash to make payment for a tow...the list goes on and on, but I think you get the picture. Your wife trusts you enough to hand over her paycheck to you; respect her enough to allow her access to that money.


Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with Bachelors degrees in Communications and in Gender and Women's Studies. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.

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