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Husband Forces Stay-At-Home Wife
Beg for Expense Money

QUESTION: After 10 months of marriage and a two-month-old baby, my husband will not give me any access to money for food, clothing, etc. He says that if I want something, I need to ask for it. I can't just go out and get the money because we do not have joint accounts. I am not working and I have no cash and no car.

My husband told me I could stay at home with the baby. I'm frequently depressed because I have no means to travel or to buy food or clothing for my child. I'm isolated in the house day after day with no contact with others.

My husband goes out drinking, sometimes for days, and I am left alone to deal with our child. Sometimes we even run out of food.

Any advice on how I should be handling this situation? I am going crazy and sinking deeper into depression. I need help.

Thank you for any advice you can offer.

ANSWER: Your husband's behavior borders on abuse. Do not ask, but calmly insist that your husband cooperate in establishing equal access to economic resources and transportation. If you are not successful in establishing clear and immediate access to the money, seek support through food stamps and other services such as the WIC Program (in California). These supply mothers and children with food sources.

Marital law renders all income "shared property" between husband and wife. You are an equal partner by law. I recommend that you seek emotional support through group therapy aimed at helping you become emotionally and psychologically strong enough to require changes in your marriage. You will need to claim your place as an equal partner rather than.

No doubt your childhood holds patterns of abuse or neglect with passive, rather than active, women role models. For your own sake, as well as the sake of your new baby, this cycle of female depression based on inequities in power dynamics needs to end. Marital counseling aimed at preventing abuse, addressing alcoholism and correcting the imbalance of gender-based power is a part of the solution. That is, if your husband does not want to lose his family.

Seek immediate professional help for your depression! Support services to treat your postpartum depression may be available from your county mental-health agency or other government family-health programs. Clearly you are depressed due to isolation and an overall feeling of helplessness and neglect. But being in the midst of a postpartum adjustment makes you extra vulnerable in the area of your relationship. And all of this, of course, affects your child.

Your depression may be the result of a learned helplessness. Rather than remain a passive victim to your circumstances, respond actively. If you do not change your own coping style, this cycle is likely to be repeated in the next generation. Consider developing friendships with other mothers and reaching out for help in as many ways as possible.

And remember that you are your child's parent, with full responsibility for any jeopardy she is in right now. It is your job to take any action necessary to remove her (as well as yourself) from potential harm or neglect. Without an equal partnership, divorce may hold a greater appeal than remaining married.


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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