Posted by Layla Thursday, July 19, 2012 comments (0)
With all the media coverage of Katie's escape from the tight grip of her controlling husband Tom Cruise, we can't help but wonder how much truth there is to the story. Here's a great article about The Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes Syndrome with real life examples of people's life changing drastically after leaving their dominating spouse or parent.
I know quite a few women that are married to a control freak. For one thing I happen to be one of the unfortunate ladies. My husband is an absolute manipulator and I wrote about it a while back in my blog post Living with a Controlling Husband, that got the highest number of clicks. So apparently it's a hot topic these days.
But here's why I disagree that leaving is the best solution (though, like many of Katie's supporters, I think it's a very brave act). There aren't that many "easy" husbands out there, definitely not enough for all of us. Katie Holmes is still young, beautiful, rich and famous, she will have no trouble finding her ex a replacement. But if all women are encouraged to walk away from their marriage just to break free from controlling ways of their husbands, there will be a lot of single ladies out there.
So basically there are three options: surrender entirely and become the model obedient wife to appease his domineering nature; break up and be free (and possibly completely lonely); learn to get your way and maintain the balance in your relationship through patience and wisdom.
If you decide to walk away, I applaud your courage because you will have to go through a tough battle, he is not the kind of man to allow for an easy exit. If you decide to submit to his will, I pity you because it will never be enough for him and he will always find more ways to make you feel guilty for minor things - you simply cannot foresee everything. Besides, he is very likely to despise you for the same obedience he was pushing for; or he will consider his job done and lose interest.
At some point I pondered upon and rejected those two possibilities: I couldn't leave for a number of reasons and I couldn't fully surrender because if something, I am the opposite of submissive and have a rather strong will myself. This meant that I was sticking with our marriage and the constant fighting, resulting from the daily clash of the two strong individuals, that couldn't comfortably share the tight marital space.
But here's what I've learned over the past 10 years. If something is really important to you and you have the courage to insist and wisdom to do it the right way, you can win over. I've had my share of small and big victories from the right to wear the clothes I (not him) liked, to the people I spent time with, to going to work (which he initially was against of), to giving our son the name of my choice. You don't win every time and there are sacrifices to make. Just choose carefully where it's okay for you to lose and make a big deal out of succumbing to his way, implying that "now he owes you".
Also, there's shared space, but then there's private space, which he can never get his hands on, no matter how much he would like that. Your thoughts, your dreams, things you say to people when he is not around, secrets that you have not to spite him, but to protect your marriage from his inadequate reactions. I make good use of my personal space. I write this and other blogs he knows nothing about. At work I am not the person he is used to seeing at home (note: never work with your husband, a past mistake I've learned from). He owns (let him believe he does) only a fraction of me, but there are so many other sides of me he doesn't need to know about.
In our complicated relationship it goes like this: if I push too hard, he has no choice but to step back. And he does the same. So the winner's trophy is constantly exchanging hands. But then things settle and, regardless the winner, become the issue of the past. We are not changing our son's name, and the question of me going to work has been closed in my favor. The longer we live together, the fewer the issues remain for us to fight about.
And my last point is that in a way I am grateful to my husband for everything I've learned through his difficult personality. I've learned to be persistent and strong, but also diplomatic and generous. I now appreciate many things I've taken for granted in the past so in a way he taught me gratitude. And the main thing I've discovered is that true freedom is only within, and if you don't find that, then till the rest of your days you will keep blaming your bad husband, the unfortunate circumstances or find other excuses rather than claim what's always been there inside of you. So be free and be happy, everything else is just gaining life experience to make you stronger and wiser .
Posted by Layla Thursday, July 12, 2012 comments (0)
After complaining to my sister about our everyday small but consistent arguments, she recommended watching the movie Fireproof. I usually make a mental note when someone recommends me a nice movie or a book, but somehow never get to actually check them out. But a week a after our conversation I happened to have time and a strong craving for anything inspirational and preferably relationship-related. So I watched Fireproof - and WOW! This movie got me into so much thinking and inspired to take a fresh look at our marriage and my role in it. Now I truly believe that Fireproof should be on top of the Movies About Marriage List, and a definite must-watch for couples on the verge of divorce.
Basically, the plot is pretty simple: a once happy, but now constantly fighting couple is surely heading in the direction of a split. Caleb's (the husband) dad interferes and suggests an experiment that can help save their marriage, and even if it doesn't, it least Caleb can live guilt-free because he tried. All he has to do is follow a plan given to him by his dad, which "prescribes" a specific action for each of the following 40 days. For example, day 1 - you can't say anything bad to your wife, day 2 - you have to tell her at least one nice thing, day 3 - you have to do something special for her, etc. Obviously it starts from the easiest and progresses to the hardest.
What appealed to me in this movie is how much I could relate - first to their arguments, where both the spouses seemed to have their point, but wouldn't hear each other, so it was hard to say who was more right or more wrong. Second, to how painful it can be to try day after day but get no reaction. Third, to how sooner or later if you put your heart in it and don't give up, your spouse has no choice but to respond to your efforts.
The most important point for me in the whole movie was that as Caleb thought he was working on changing his wife, he in fact was undergoing the change himself and at the end of the 40-day experiment he was a new person. He also saw all his flaws in the way he was treating his wife, in his unrealistic expectations , in how he was demanding respect without earning it. This is not a movie about how to change your partner, it's about becoming a better partner which in its turn will bring all the desirable changes to your family.
If you want to fireproof your marriage, that is definitely a movie to watch and learn some lessons from. I hope you will get inspired as much as I did!