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Ask Ellie: Wife needs to regain control from manipulative husband

Only you can reconsider your choices and start a new journey toward satisfying goals and self-confidence

Dear Ellie: I’m a woman, 36, whose husband is cold in bed and has a hot opinion of himself. He thinks that because he has a very good job, he can do nothing wrong.

He hired a new executive secretary and her name seems to come up in most of his conversations…. what she wore to the office yesterday (skimpy), the home-baked treat she brought for his lunch, etc.

We have three children together - ages eight, six and four - and his time with them, given his late office hours, is now down to about 45 minutes after dinner before he loudly announces, “Mommy will bathe you now!”

I had a lot of ambition of my own before I met him. He did sweep me off my feet, asked me to marry him, and then settled into being in love with himself.

I now think that he decided I looked fertile and was ready to add children to his list of accomplishments.

If I sound too glib, it comes from my feeling of having gotten stuck with my own bad choice of marrying him.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my kids… but I know I can’t stay with their father unless many things change. I’m ready to try to get a job, but how can I manage getting kids to school and activities like sports and music, with so little help from their dad who’s said that his job’s “too important for (him) to be driving them places.”

How can I improve my life and self-confidence when everything else has already been decided by him?

Unhappy Wife

He owes you partnership in parenting, not a remake of your past. Only you can reconsider your choices and start a new journey toward satisfying goals and self-confidence.

There’s no perfect prescription for happiness. Your husband’s been clever (manipulative?) in creating the lifestyle he’s chosen. But you still have agency and control regarding your decisions.

Whether it was lack of certainty about what you wanted to pursue in education/jobs, raising babies naturally took over the time slots and energies needed to focus on personal ambitions.

But it’s not too late. The kids are a constant part of you, to be cherished and raised, including their learning lessons of life experience, through you and your next choices.

Introduce your intentions to your husband - stay open and positive, not aggressive. His good job means there’s finances (as married partners, these should be legally available to you).

Make your goals a part of the children’s awareness too, and to your extended family who can be helpful. Moms have a great deal to offer to themselves, their children, and everyone connected to them.

Consider career counselling. Professionals in this field help people find their focus regarding potential new ventures, pursuing further education, and training in new fields.

Move beyond blaming your husband for your disappointments. Explain your frustrations. If he listens, this could create a new understanding. If not, you know that moving forward in your own life means doing it on your own.

Reader’s Commentary regarding your column advice in general:

“I’ve written before with some comments. I’m married to my second wife for 31 great years! It’s never been 50/50 - sometimes 70/30 and other times 40/60.

“We have six “blended” kids, and eight grandchildren who we see a lot! Everyone is talking and trading stories!

“At 74 I’ve learned to keep my mouth shut! That’s it!”

Ellie - Sounds like a great life and family!

Dear Ellie: I divorced at 34 after a difficult marriage of five years, during which many of my similar-age friends were enjoying and reporting back their stories of casual sex. Suddenly “free,” I dated anyone who asked me out.

I regret that now, because those dates sometimes became one-night stands. It sounds like a stupid excuse, but I didn’t know how to say, “No,” or realized too late that I just wanted to get back home.

A few times I became somewhat frightened, because some of those dates felt that, for the price of a simple meal, they were owed sex!

Now, older, wiser and embarrassed, I occasionally bump into one of those past “dates” and want to just run. How should I handle those awkward encounters?

Uncomfortable Past

Avoid any references to a past sexual liaison. If someone raises the incident, look impassive/forgetful and walk away. If the person persists, just leave.

Ellie’s tip of the day

Our disappointments remain only to inspire change. The choice is yours.

Send relationship questions to ellie@thestar.ca.

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