What’s That in the Driveway!? and One-Click Evasion is Still Evasion
Dear Dr. Hurd,
My partner of 22 years just bought a car. That’s the good news. The bad news is that she never mentioned this to me. She just went out and did it! We pool a portion of our money in our relationship, but it just seems that she could have shared this decision with me before making such a major purchase. I’m pretty annoyed, and she just doesn’t seem to get it. Am I wrong about this?
Dr. Hurd replies,
The lesson plan for Relationships 101 clearly states: Never make a major decision without consulting your partner or spouse! This should not be a self-sacrificial act. Quite the contrary; if you value your relationship with your spouse, you want him or her to be part of major decisions. In fact, it would not occur to you to think or feel otherwise. If you do think or feel otherwise, that’s a red flag that something’s not right.
Some people subconsciously view their spouse as a parent or authority figure. They resent the expectation, for example, that you’d like to be part of the mix when he or she decides to do something big, like buy a car. They bring their (perhaps perfectly legitimate) mommy/daddy issues to your personal, adult relationship. Your job is to tell your loved one, “Stop that! You don’t need my permission. I just want to be part of your life. Big decisions affect both of us.”
This is a separate issue from finances. Some couples blend their finances, while others choose to keep money and accounts separate. But even if you keep your finances separate, it doesn’t make sense that she would want to hide from you the excitement and big news over an impending major purchase.
Try not to be hostile when you talk to your partner about this. Say what you feel—hurt, confused, disappointed, or angry. Say it, but keep the tone calm. Ask her what led her to think you wouldn’t want to be part of such a major decision. Use this unpleasant experience as an opportunity to better understand and hopefully improve your relationship with each other.
Of course, I’m not hearing her side. But she was obviously holding back for a reason. Try to find out why, and if she has mistaken assumptions about your desires, attitudes or beliefs, then try to clear them up with her. It’s not about control. It’s not a struggle for power. It’s about communication, as well as mutual respect.
If she’s unwilling to communicate with you about her big decisions, then why is she with you in the first place? It’s OK to be single and on your own. Some prefer that, and others make it work. But she can’t have her cake and eat it too. She does not get to have the benefits and joys of a marriage/relationship without having the required commitment. And why would she want to?
Dear Dr. Hurd,
I liked your commentary about Facebook a few weeks ago [Letters 7/31/15]. Recently, a friend of mine was very hurt when he saw that his steady boyfriend of eight months changed his Facebook relationship status to “single”—without saying a word. My friend decided to not say anything, and two weeks later, the Facebook boy told my friend that it was over between them. Was he trying to break up using Facebook, and without a face-to-face? Seems sort of insulting and evasive, doesn’t it?
Dr. Hurd replies,
If you’re in a relationship with someone who tells the world via Facebook that they’re in a relationship with you, and then tells the world something different; it’s not rocket science: the writing is clearly on the wall (so to speak).
Your friend’s ex-boyfriend lacks character. Reasonable, smart people with integrity do not do this sort of thing. It was certainly your friend’s prerogative to deny or avoid the reality rather than face it, but reality has a way of eventually asserting itself into your space, whether or not you choose to acknowledge it.
I would have immediately confronted the boyfriend once the Facebook status changed, saying, “Hey, what gives?” It’s always better to know where you stand, even if it’s awkward to confront. After all, at that point what did your friend have to lose?
Social media is an interesting phenomenon. Before Facebook and all that, there would have been no warning that your friend’s happy new relationship was perhaps spiraling down to a premature end. He would have received the proverbial “Dear John” letter, the brush-off phone call, or whatever. It’s popular to bash social media or technology for our hurt, but I see it differently. The existence of social media enabled your friend to get a warning. Whether or not he chose to confront it was his decision.
Bottom line: Knowledge is power. It’s generally better to know than not to know, even when you don’t like what you might ultimately end up knowing.
Michael J. Hurd, Ph.D., LCSW is a psychotherapist and author. His office can be reached at 302-227-2829. Email questions or comments to Dr. Hurd.