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Ask Abbie: Husband emotionally blackmailing wife for holidays

Published 10:21am Saturday, November 16, 2013

Question: My husband and I have been married for three years and we dated for three years. We have spent every Christmas with my family and every Thanksgiving with his. My family always makes a huge deal out of getting together at Christmas and his always makes a big deal out of getting together at Thanksgiving, but this year my husband has decided that he wants to test my love for him. He says that if I love him I will not go and be with my family for Christmas, and that when I married him I accepted the responsibility to put him in front of my family no matter what. He also says he will leave me if I go celebrate with my family. He refuses to go with me. This would be the first time in my life I have spent Christmas away from my family and I can’t image having to do it. I have to make a decision about where I will be spending Christmas really soon and I don’t know what to do. Please help.

Answer: It is the year 2039. Your daughter comes to you and says, “Mom, my husband said if I come to your birthday party he is going to leave me. What should I do?” What would your initial reaction be?

As a mom you would hurt because you see your daughter hurting. Allow yourself to feel the pain your daughter must be feeling. From the perspective of a mother, it will be easier to see your situation more objectively and to decide the most appropriate response to resolve the predicament you face.

As a loving mother, you would not judge or condemn any child of yours for being caught amid a dilemma similar to the one in which your daughter is caught. You understand that your daughter chose to marry the man she married. You know she did the best she could at the time even if her best was not as good as you thought it could or should have been.

You recognize your son-in-law’s actions toward your daughter as non-loving yet also realize the battle residing within her to uphold her primary responsibility to him as his wife. All of these factors combine to elicit more hurt within you because when your daughter hurts, you hurt.

Your daughter appears to believe she deserves to be forced to choose between her husband and her family in order to prove her love and devotion. She is deceived. Her belief is likely rooted in a lie. Until that lie is exposed it will be impossible for her to see the truth.

It is your responsibility as her mother to help her see this lie or any other that involves a wrong being done unto her. Even though your daughter is now a self-sufficient-grown woman and not a dependent-upon-you-little girl, you are still her mother and must not sit idly by while she receives unfair treatment.

She needs to hear from you that no loving husband would ever force his wife to choose between him and her family. She also needs to be informed that a loving husband would be willing to work with his wife to find a palatable solution – to both parties – to any issue that may arise within their marriage. Love does not issue ultimatums, but instead promotes compromise.

Regardless of your daughter’s past choices or current actions, she does not need to feel any pressure from you to make a decision about whether or not to attend your birthday party. Instead, she needs to receive your motherly perspective on her situation coupled with your love and support for whatever she decides to do.

Let her know how sorry you are that her husband is making her choose and that you realize how hard it must be for her to be forced into such a difficult position. You must make sure she realizes that it is not her fault that her husband is issuing a non-loving ultimatum and that his actions aren’t justifiable punishment for anything she could have possibly done. No exceptions!

Remain alongside your daughter for reassurance when her mind questions, for strength when her body weakens, and for hope when her spirit despairs. She will eventually reach the point at which she is ready to remove the disguise worn by the lie behind her false belief.

You, like the daughter in the preceding scenario, need to hear the truth from encouraging, strong, and hopeful voices of reason. Consider my response the first of these voices. You, too, will eventually reach the point at which you are ready to remove the disguise worn by the lie behind your false belief. Then and only then can and will a verdict of justice prevail.

ABBIE LONG is a Franklin native and advice columnist for The Tidewater News. Submit your questions to askabbie@tidewaternews.com

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