QUESTION: I have a wife who is a spendthrift. Or at least I think she is. When we were dating in college and had to watch our finances closely, her way of managing money seemed to be sensible and she was careful not to wreck her budget. Fast-forward to now: we’ve been married 10 years and both of us have good jobs. We have savings and our finances are rock solid even with two young children; however, she shops garage sales and estate sales every weekend. She brings home things we don’t need and probably won’t ever use. The shelves in our garage are filled with “stuff.” I like to play golf and she said going to these sales on weekends are her “golf.” The thing is, the only thing I bring home from golfing are my golf clubs.
Am I being unreasonable?
Dear Irritated Husband,
From your description, it sounds as though your wife may have taken her garage sale hunting to another level by accumulating things to the point of overcrowding. I sense that there is a disconnect between your perception and her perception about the topic. You make it sound as though because of your wife’s shopping sprees your garage is just shy of being filmed for the next episode of “Hoarders,” while your wife seems to view her weekend hunts as an innocent hobby much akin to golf.
You may never understand what motivates your wife to collect what appears to you to be useless items. I suggest you pray about the best action to take to create the positive outcome you both desire. In prayer we lift our thinking beyond the level of the angst we’re feeling into the realm of peace. When we are willing to come from the place of the solution, instead of the problem, we receive guidance for the best action to take.
Sometimes when we’re in a disagreement, we have a tendency to think we have a better grasp of the situation than the other person. If only they would behave the way we think is best, then life would be so much better. But the only person we ever can change is ourselves and we can only do that by changing our thinking.
Though we cannot change another person, we can change the way we respond to them. Communication is the key. Take time to share your feelings together about this issue. Set a clear intention to have a harmonious resolution. Make the decision to meet in the place as the mystic Rumi suggests, “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I will meet you there.”
Rev. Mary Morgan
(La Crescenta resident)
Center for Spiritual Living – Redondo Beach
Dear Irritated Husband,
Frankly, I think in this case you are being rather unreasonable. The first thing I would point out is that, in your own words, your family’s financial situation is “rock solid,” so the spending is not an issue. Next, I would remind you of the saying that “one person’s junk is another person’s treasure.” All that your wife is doing is enjoying poking around yard sales and then stacking the shelves of your garage with what you deem as “things we don’t need.” That’s your opinion, but she obviously thinks otherwise.
It would be one thing if your wife became a compulsive hoarder, filling your entire home with junk. But this is not the case. What we have here is a harmless pastime that is irritating you. I think that if you learn to become less upset, it will do your marriage good and will make you a better person. I’m sure there are some quirks or traits of yours that might be deemed irritating, but your wife puts up with them and looks the other way. The least you can do is reciprocate. Marriage is a delicate dance between two very different creatures: Man and Woman. If we develop flexibility and learn to dance in step with our partner, we can create the most beautifully synchronized ballet. But if one half of the couple grows adamant and rigid, refusing to bend to the rhythm of his spouse, he’ll be incapable of creating beauty in life and will instead end up stepping on his partner’s toes.
Just as you have golf to enjoy, your wife has a harmless hobby that gives her pleasure and is not causing any financial stress. Take my advice, choose flexibility over rigidity and simply look the other way regarding this issue. It will bring peace to your marriage and will make you feel less irritated.
Rabbi Simcha Backman
Chabad Jewish Center
QUESTION: When our only child was born, a girl, my husband was disappointed because he wanted a boy. She quickly became a daddy’s girl, though, following him everywhere. She would watch him work on his cars and helped him with yard work. He coached her softball team and was right there for every one of her school activities. She and I have a good relationship, and we have done many family activities together, but when a problem arises in her life, she always goes to her father first. Now she is attending college in another state and is having a difficult time being away from home. She called and said she wants to drop out of college and attend one closer to home so she could still live with us. We have invested a lot of time and money getting her into college.
My husband and I are arguing about what to do. I say it’s time she learns to be more independent, and he thinks we should bring her home. I’m losing sleep over this. What is the best thing to do for our daughter?
Dear Perplexed Mom,
You should help her launch. Launching is a good thing! Parents who launch an independent, motivated and well-raised young person into the world deserve congratulations and the good regard of all of their friends. Not only have you invested a lot of time and money in her education, you have invested a lot of time and love and wisdom in her character. You know in your heart that she knows how to make decisions for herself, and even if some of those decisions are bad ones, well, we know from experience that mistakes teach us how to make better decisions next time.
But I think you know this already. It sounds to me like you have already arrived at the crux of the issue, which is not your daughter’s struggle at all, but you and your husband’s. Everyone knows that the day will come when the parent-child relationship will change, but that doesn’t make it any easier. She no longer needs the same discipline, motivation and care from you. She now needs a different kind of wisdom and support. The question she is asking is not, “Will you please take care of me again?” It is more “Can you help me figure out how to be an adult?” You can pretend that the former question is in play, but you’d be doing that for you, and not for her.
Love is tough! It is also patient, kind, hopeful and persevering. Read 1 Corinthians 13 together (the love chapter) and discuss.
Dear Perplexed Mom,
The best thing for your daughter is healthy and loving family relationships. The background issues for your perplexing concern of where your daughter goes to college may be more important than the question you asked.
For starters, it is not healthy if a parent is disappointed in the gender of a child. It may be natural for a parent to harbor a preference for a particular gender, but this by no means should result in any kind of lingering discontent. Children are a blessing from God, and dissatisfaction due to gender is not appropriate.
Next, if your daughter becomes a daddy’s girl, under normal circumstances this is an enriching experience. It shows the unique bond between father and daughter. The special activities mentioned in this father-daughter relationship are great and the fact that your daughter most often goes to daddy first with problems is not troublesome. Children-parent relationships can evolve in many healthy variations. So there is no issue if problems are handled by the father first.
I have three pretty well adjusted adult sons, and the relationship between them and my wife and I vary. My sons often take solace with their mother when they need to resolve issues or problems they encounter. At other times, they may seek my counsel depending on the issue. I find this very positive and complementary to my relationship with my sons.
In the same way, your daughter’s relationship with her dad can reinforce and enhance your mother-daughter relationship. Professional family counseling may be an option to consider if these background issues are too complex or troubling.
For the perplexing college dilemma that you face as a family, there is no one right answer that can be applied. You are not alone here because all families who send their children to college face this gut wrenching issue of sending their children away or have them live at home. Much of that decision should depend on the young person’s emotional maturity and whether or not they are able to handle life on their own away from home, perhaps even more than the reputation of the particular college they have been accepted to. On the other hand, as parents it is our responsibility and our goal to help our children develop the life skills that they need to be independent. Giving them the opportunity to face challenges of being away at college and learning how to handle them on their own is one way of accomplishing that goal. So it is a matter of weighing all these factors and also using your trusted support network of your extended family and friends, and of course taking into account your daughter’s feelings and opinion, to help you arrive at the right decision.
The bottom line is the loving and healthy relationships between you, your husband and your daughter, which are prerequisites to any kind of problem solving. In addition, prayer to God during the process will round out all your due diligence for making the right decision.
Islamic Congregation of La Canada-Flintridge