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Married to a Papa's Boy

QUESTION: Word of warning, I guess. I am about 3 months pregnant, and usually home alone with my 6 yr. old. My husband of 3 weeks sells insurance, and so does his father. It seems that ever since we were married, we have no time together. My husband says that his dad is just jealous because we are "together" so he takes my husband all over the country. My husband says that his dad has helped us out more than I know, I don't feel the same, I have even told my husband I would rather have nothing, than to have what we have and be alone. I need some suggestions on what I can do to get my husband back!! Right now he is 2000 miles away, "working" and was suppose to be home tomorrow! But called to inform me that he won't be home until next weekend (hopefully) he said. Thank you.

ANSWER: Your marriage sounds like it may have been precipitated by your pregnancy. If this was the case, your "word of warning" is one for others to heed. You may indeed be suffering the repercussions of putting the cart ahead of the horse. It appears that you are in the midst of becoming new parents (while developing a stepfamily with your six year old?) and establishing your life together as a married couple?! You are collapsing three major family transitions into one. No wonder you are feeling stressed.

Being newly married and pregnant increases your need for your husband at a time when his insecurities about taking on the role of husband and father may be making him more vulnerable to his father's demands. It is time for you and your husband to sit down and COMMUNICATE. Establishing a strong partnership between you and a vision of what you want your marriage to be will set a foundation for the future of your family. And while it is true that you may appreciate your father-in-law's help, it is critical that you and your husband take charge of decision-making together.

Let your husband know that you are not willing to take a back seat to your father-in-law. Be clear that you are willing to shoulder the responsibility with him, that he is not alone. But that you need him to set limits with his father around your time as a family. Support him to work out a schedule for business travel with his father that is not based on assuaging his Dad's feelings. Pandering to his father's jealousy will only set up a precedent for division in your marriage.

Your father-in-law may also be experiencing stress due to the enormous changes that have come about in the family so quickly. Even so,your husband should not avoid taking charge of establishing your boundaries as a newly married couple. Your marriage will have little chance of surviving without your husband's active intervention to make your relationship primary.

Tell your husband that he is married to you, not to his father! Do not shy away from struggling with your husband to establish your couplehood. And avoid falling into the rut of "complaining" ineffectively. Simply require "talking time" with your husband to establish appropriate boundaries, strengthen your relationship and define your shared vision of the marriage. Read articles together on the Making Healthy Families series such as "Becoming Parents" and "Traveling through the Family Life Cycle" to stimulate productive discussion. Consider paying several visits to a marriage counselor to get your marriage off on the right track.

It is understandable that you are feeling lonely and abandoned by your husband at this time. But you stepped into this situation with your eyes open. The good news is that you are only at the beginning of your journey together. It is your job to express your beliefs about marriage. There are no short cuts to creating a foundation based on communication and a strong couples' bond. And establishing a shared vision of your marriage is a necessary step on any couple's journey.

Precipitous decisions happen in life. But do not make the mistake of retreating into the role of "victim" to your father-in-law. You and your husband have both bit off quite a bit at once. Perhaps it will just take some work to digest it all!


Gayle Peterson, MSSW, LCSW, PhD is a family therapist specializing in prenatal and family development. She trains professionals in her prenatal counseling model and is the author of An Easier Childbirth, Birthing Normally and her latest book, Making Healthy Families. Her articles on family relationships appear in professional journals and she is an oft-quoted expert in popular magazines such as Woman's Day, Mothering and Parenting. . She also serves on the advisory board for Fit Pregnancy Magazine.

Dr. Gayle Peterson has written family columns for ParentsPlace.com, igrandparents.com, the Bay Area's Parents Press newspaper and the Sierra Foothill's Family Post. She has also hosted a live radio show, "Ask Dr. Gayle" on www.ivillage.com, answering questions on family relationships and parenting. Dr. Peterson has appeared on numerous radio and television interviews including Canadian broadcast as a family and communications expert in the twelve part documentary "Baby's Best Chance". She is former clinical director of the Holistic Health Program at John F. Kennedy University in Northern California and adjunct faculty at the California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco. A national public speaker on women's issues and family development, Gayle Peterson practices psychotherapy in Oakland, California and Nevada City, California. She also offers an online certification training program in Prenatal Counseling and Birth Hypnosis. Gayle and is a wife, mother of two adult children and a proud grandmother of three lively boys and one sparkling granddaughter.

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