As I've said many times, I can be quite stubborn and I know this. It's not a personality trait that is easily changed. So before going to India, hubby and I had many discussions about what would be expected of me to adhere to the family rules and societal customs. We agreed on many points and on others we did not. Of course, I hadn't been to India yet so these discussions had to be somewhat flexible on both our parts since he had also never entertained a foreigner.
I'm sure some of you may have some difficulty with some of the rules I agreed to and I'm okay with that. They're certainly not for everyone but I was quite comfortable agreeing to rules like:
- Never leave the house alone.
- Not run around in view of prying eyes scantily clad
Now my hubby is here. He too had fears for coming to a new country. He worried about things, just not the same things as I did. His concern was whether or not I would take care of him. During his roughest culture shock phase, he experienced a lack of control over his life, his surroundings, etc. Often times he accused me of controlling him and said I was holding him hostage.
Oh, there's that word! I used it way too much while I was in India. I couldn't quite put my finger on why I felt that way because I had agreed not to leave the house alone and the one time I fought with hubby so I could go out alone, it didn't change that feeling. Back then I had no idea that I was experiencing this lack of control and I don't think hubby understood it while he was feeling it.
To be clear, I was not holding him hostage. Hubby has had free reign over the house, could go out anytime and with anyone he wanted and did quite often, and there were pretty much no restrictions placed on him EXCEPT for times he went with me to work and I had to go to a few unsavory places. (You can read that as racist asshole communities. :P) During those times I requested hubby to keep a low profile and stay with me rather than splitting off by himself. My protective instincts kicked in.
Hubby often stated that some of the things he requested of me while in India were for my protection. I don't understand his reasoning (even now) but I do understand the feeling behind them and I feel it warrants discussion here on my blog. Some of you may have faced or be facing the same things and I feel like we could have a healthy discussion about this topic.
When I first arrived in India I noticed hubby would fuss any time I was outside on our 3rd floor terrace and anyone else in the neighborhood of the male persuasion was also out on theirs. He insisted he was protecting me by telling me to go back inside our room. Ummm how? I wasn't looking at anyone and could care less what they were doing. I was taking in the sights in the street below, enjoying the breeze as it kissed my skin or simply just relaxing in a different environment.
Hubby was dead sure that these men were looking at me in a bad way and that they may think that I might want them somehow. Again, I was baffled. How the hell would some man interpret my sitting on my own terrace ignoring him completely and reading a book as my indication of wanting to ravage his body???? Naturally, hubby and I argued on this point a few times. After all, I am a stubborn American and I wasn't giving up my right to sit outside on my own terrace because some jackass might see the outline of my butt as I stood at the edge and looked down in the streets, etc.
Fast forward to now that hubby is here in the states. I'm trying to give him the full experience of life here and even though that's hard with my work and other obligations, I've managed to take him to quite a few places. One incident was when I took him to a club. He was drinking of course and kept swearing that the alcohol wasn't strong and wasn't affecting him. I knew better and he just wouldn't believe me in spite of the fact he was knocking over bar stools, spilling drinks left and right, etc. He wouldn't accept that his motor functioning was clearly impaired.
My protective instincts kicked in when he pulled out a very large amount of money and started dropping the bills on his lap trying to count them. Now, counting money is just not hubby's best subject when he's sober and pulling all that money out in front of strangers at a club put my instincts into overdrive. I immediately confiscated the money, fussed at him and again asked him how he could feel like he wasn't drunk. I was angry.
After the incident occurred I got to thinking. Was I protecting him or controlling him? I wasn't sure. I didn't keep his money after fussing at him. I counted it, sorted it into sets and gave it back and told him to separate it in his pockets so he wouldn't get it mixed up. He had allotted money for different things and I felt like that ensured he didn't spend it and not get what he actually wanted. He was happy about that.
The whole thing got me thinking about protection and control. Clearly in India hubby had this same protective instincts about the watchful eyes of unruly male neighbors (his perception, not mine...I didn't know them). In both instances we fussed at each other which I feel like was more about control than protection. What were we protecting each other from? In India he felt like he was protecting my honor. In the US, I felt like I was protecting him from getting robbed. The instincts and ideals weren't bad but I think in both examples, the actions were somewhat controlling.
Yes, we may have to learn our lessons the hard way but at what point does it become too risky? While I can't answer that for you and your relationship, I can tell you that it's important to establish these guidelines before you run into any problems. Had hubby and I discussed the money incident before going to the club, he may not have done it. (And yes, I'm sure his impairment affected his decision making but had we planned better the incident may never have occurred.)
Control can be a good thing if managed properly. Maybe one spouse prefers that the other manage all the money in the household and dole out allowances. Since money is often a touchy subject, maybe one spouse prefers to manage all the cleaning in the home so it will meet their specifications and hygiene standards. Many aspects of home life could be controlled by one partner and no one would perceive it as being bad.
It is likewise good for us as individuals to feel in control of something. Whether it be our own dressing habits, career or right to stay home and raise children, or even time management. We just have to learn how to manage it and not be controlling of others inappropriately, especially those we want to spend the rest of our lives with.
Try to think about your strengths and weaknesses. Now think about your spouses. What are some acceptable protections you would want them to take for you?
What would they want you to take for them?
Where do you feel the line should be drawn so it doesn't become more controlling than you can deal with (because sometimes you want control in a relationship)?