Q: My husband and I were really poor years ago when we got married. I am not sure that we had even finished all the payments on his old Ford truck.
We worked hard over the years, scrimped and saved, made some good decisions, got a little lucky and built what today is a reasonably prosperous farm.
Unfortunately, all that success seems to have come with a price. My husband is no longer the wonderful person I married. He is crabby and greedy, stingy, almost completely insensitive to our neighbours, not to mention our grandchildren, impatient and demanding. Sometimes, I think that I would surely leave him if I did not have the great memory of him as a young man, when he was energetic, kind and considerate and most of all, loving. I would like to know if I can do anything to get back the man I loved so dearly?
A: I think that what you are describing is complicated. Probably the most helpful information is written in something called entitlement.
Entitlement is the benign belief that through some kind of mystical intervention, a person has almost a divine right to self-preservation.
All of us like to get rewarded for whatever it is that we do. That is why we smile when we get a cheque in the mail, get all warm and fuzzy when a newborn smiles in contentment at us and feel good whenever someone greets us on coffee row.
But for those people who begin leaning toward entitlement, the usual rewards in life are not enough. They demand more. And if they don’t get what they want, they can get unreasonably nasty and cranky.
I don’t think that you can go back to that idyllic relationship, which you and your husband had when you got married all those years ago. But certainly things can get better.
I wonder if you and your husband don’t need to step into some new goals. The two of you successfully built your farm. You might be able to make it a bit more efficient, or even a bit bigger, but your tasks on the farm are for the most part finished. So what are your options?
Maybe you need to sit back and figure out how to be really great grandparents. Maybe you should travel the world and share your skills in productive agriculture with more impoverished communities. Maybe the two of you could sit back and recommit yourselves to that loving relationship you had years ago.
There is an almost endless stream of goals. It is just a matter of the two of you committing to one or two.
Reinforcing your drive to a new tomorrow is an exchange of interpersonal feedback between the two of you. I think that your husband needs a better sense of how you’re feeling, and maybe you too could brush up on your marital skills (i.e. listening).
The more and better you understand yourselves and each other, the more likely it is that your husband will relinquish his fixation on entitlement and share with you the warm sensitivity for which you are longing.