How to negotiate boundaries in a marriage

iVillage Member
Registered: 06-22-2011
How to negotiate boundaries in a marriage
9
Tue, 06-28-2011 - 6:08am

My longtime marriage seems to be ending over trivial and vague issues that built up over the years. I've been surprised to learn that situations where I thought I was standing my ground and being an equal partner could actually be seen as disregard for boundaries he set. He's still mad about something small that happened 16 years ago - and I thought we discussed and agreed on it. I think what happens is (a) he says what he wants, (b) I think there are good reasons to disregard what he wants or rationailize doing what I want instead, (c) in the face of my argument he gives in, (d) I think I got my way, and (e) he resents me for years because I don't respect his wishes. Help?! I was hoping to find a really good book that would help me understand why I was so bad at getting real agreement and what I should be doing instead with my possible stb-ex and future relationships. In addition to worrying about how I can do better, I also worry that it means I would always have to do what he says. Thanks for any advice!

iVillage Member
Registered: 11-28-1999
Tue, 06-28-2011 - 11:06am

First of all, I think it's not a good think that your DH is holding onto a resentment from 16 yrs ago.

Avatar for khatru1
iVillage Member
Registered: 06-07-2004
Tue, 06-28-2011 - 11:31am

Relationships should be about compromise. That means you each give a little towards the middle and come to an agreement. Another form of compromise is you give in to his wishes half the time and he gives in to yours the other half. If you pushed things to where you always got your way and he ended up acquiescing, for the sake of making you happy or keeping the peace in the house. I can see where that could build resentments. You have to be willing to give in some of the time.

iVillage Member
Registered: 10-03-2007
Tue, 06-28-2011 - 12:14pm
ITA , marriage is about compromises.

You might be of controlling nature and believe me, NO one likes a person like that.
Its funny, for 16 years your husband has been doing as you want things and you havent even changed a bit and already are worrying that you would have to do what he says ! lol ! Get a taste of your own medicine for a while .
iVillage Member
Registered: 05-20-2009
Tue, 06-28-2011 - 12:24pm

You're worried you'll have to do what he says?

Avatar for mhash
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-27-2003
Tue, 06-28-2011 - 2:15pm
Good for you on wanting to reflect and "do it better" next time. It seems that you need to learn about communicating and negotiating. My guess that was not an isolated incident with your husband. This happens in other areas of your life doesn't it? Like with your siblings or co-workers or friends?

There is a book that comes to mind (but I have not read it) Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In by Fisher, Ury, and Patton.
iVillage Member
Registered: 12-22-2007
Wed, 06-29-2011 - 4:19am

I second what has already been said to you.

However, I will offer a different angle on you having to do what he says:

iVillage Member
Registered: 06-22-2011
Wed, 06-29-2011 - 11:29am

Hi to all of you - first thank you so much for reading and responding to my post! This is an amazing resource and I could use all the help I can get.

I should clarify. I was trying to put only the most relevant information in, and it apparently misrepresented me terribly. My husband and I are remarkably compatible - on religion, on finances, on politics, we're great friends. On child rearing we've had our differences and tried to compromise. But in the 16 years of our marriage, I have given in and tolerated to an enormous degree. He developed an interest in shooting sports after 15 years of agreeing with me that guns were too dangerous to have in a house with kids - we talked (a lot), attend gun safety classes together, and he has a new hobby and a gun safe. He chose to take a job that required total secrecy so I could no longer visit his office, know where it is (those school forms are fun to fill out now), or know where he goes on trips - we talked (a lot), I took a leap of faith and love, and he has this job. I bought a pet hamster but it kept him awake so when it passed away and I wanted another, we talked and I agreed no hamster. Without bean counting, I feel I've made lots of compromises and yet he remembers resentfully the times he felt overruled. And the problem I have with it is that years later I'm finding out that's how he's felt ever since - at the time I thought we were both fine with the decision.

The reason I'm trying so hard to take on the responsibility for reflecting on my own flaws and wanting to do better is that going back and saying who was right or wrong will not make him want to stay now. He feels how he feels, the past is the past, and I believe all I can do is change my part in the ineffective ways of handling our differences that seem to have gotten us to this point.

You all hit the nail on the head that we need counseling. He always refused but now that he wants out, he agreed to try it for the sake of knowing how better to help the kids through the coming divorce. And the counseling session we attended opened my eyes to the patterns that I had been a part of that I had no idea about. I've learned that I was disrespecting in the way I determined that his wishes weren't as important as mine in those instances, but I haven't yet learned how we should have reached compromise. A healthier way. The answer isn't for me to just give in every time he expresses a wish - thus my fear that it will seesaw to the other extreme if I don't learn some better behaviors. So - knowing that (one of) my problems is negotiating boundaries - anyone have any more advice or reading suggestions?

iVillage Member
Registered: 09-17-2007
Thu, 06-30-2011 - 6:06pm

Reading your post reminded me of some advice I got when I got married--you rarely 'win' anything when you fight with your spouse.

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-20-2009
Fri, 07-01-2011 - 11:29am

First of all, your original post was very confusing......you started by saying "it SEEMS that my marriage is ending because of trivial problems".......that didn't say to me that you are in the process of getting divorced.