Christina sat up straight on the couch in my counseling office and said, “I’ve been through a lot, even before this marriage, and I’ve had to learn to take care of myself. I’m independent and he knew that about me when we met.” I shot a quick glance at her husband Andy sitting beside her, who passively listened to his wife. I said, “Well, Christina, if you’re independent, then what does Andy get to do?” She seemed caught off guard by my question, and not quite sure what I meant. I continued, “If you tell Andy and your world that ‘you’ve got this’, then it would be easy for him to hear that, and take a step back rather than fight you when he wants to jump in and help.
“Andy, have you sometimes felt, ‘What’s the use?’’ Andy spoke for the first time, feeling like he might have an opening to be heard. “Yeah, there’s a lot of times I want to help and I don’t feel like she wants me to. And then there are the times I lay back and she accuses me of not caring. I don’t feel like I can win. This is my wife– I love her and just don’t know how to show her anymore.”
“Christina, maybe there’s a different word that accomplishes what you want to communicate about yourself without unknowingly giving a stiff arm to your husband. How about instead of saying you’re ‘independent’, say you’re ‘confident’? If you’re confident, you can still be the woman you want to be, and give Andy room to be the man he wants to be. You are a confident woman who can take care of herself, that’ s great. But do you have to that, do you have to take care of everything all by yourself? Wouldn’t it be nice if you could depend on your husband. You can lean on him when you want him to be there, and feel the support you may have been looking for at times.” They looked at one another while thinking over this new idea.
I asked, “Christina, what are you thinking?” “Makes sense.” She smiled, “’Confident.’ I like the sound of that.” Andy sat a little taller than he had earlier in the session. “Hey, for me, a confident wife is a sexy wife. Looks like we have a great discussion ahead when we get home to figure out what that looks like for us.”
Here’s the moral of the story:
Marriage is about sharing your life with your partner. Being an independent individual in a marriage is in no way attractive.