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Can two strong people ever stay married?

(50 Posts)
overthehillandroundthemountain Thu 23-Jun-16 09:35:31

Disclaimer: am having a crap time right now with the ending of my marriage.

Something that has come up in Relate sessions is that we are both 'strong' people. He has a powerful (some have said abusive, maybe manipulative is a better word?) personality, and I am a strong person with firm views for the future. I make my visions a reality and have (he would say fixed) plans for what our DCs should have. I am a give-and-take kind of person, have already compromised a number of plans and some of my career direction, for his needs and absence of drive.

I am finding it hard, as he approaches retirement, to live with his flimsy plans and lack of vision.

Our counsellor said our marriage problems are partly due to us being two strong and separate people. I'm not sure I like being 'blamed' for this - she did apologise. OTOH perhaps she's right. Maybe I am too separate and individual to share my life. How could I have been so wrong as to believe that I could divide myself in this way? To be daughter, mother, wife, career woman, housekeeper. Was I wrong to think I could do it?

My question is: are you a strong person? Were you attracted to strength in your partner? Did you marriage survive? How?

Toffeelatteplease Thu 23-Jun-16 09:46:51

You have to have joint goals.

If your goals aren't his goal or vice versa you are pulling in two separate directions. If neither of you are happy to compromise on those goals that's too do with incompatibility.

Yes song people and characters tend to have strong opinions and goals. That's not a problem of you and your goals are compatible. Your counsellor is confusing compatibility with strength and thoroughly obscuring the matter.

That isn't to say he isn't an arse an you should LTB anyway but I've taken whst you have written at face value

Toffeelatteplease Thu 23-Jun-16 09:47:35

Sorry for the typos blush

RedMapleLeaf Thu 23-Jun-16 09:51:55

I think that "strong" is a very unhelpful word in this context. It's too vague a word to describe a person. Did she mean strong-willed? Unwilling to compromise? Independent? For me in this last year since my LTR ended "strong" has meant resilient and resourceful.

It sounds to me as though you are coming to a new chapter in your lives and want different things. No need to label either of you in a negative way.

SpoonintheBin Thu 23-Jun-16 09:56:17

So... The rest of us with a successful relationships are weak? Would you see it as a weakness to agree on some goals with your OH?

Interesting point of view.

As a comparison to your, I consider myself as a laid back person, happy to adapt and flexible. You may consider me to be weak but I am not! I have very few long term plans. I want to help my children become good people and have good fair values, but they could be teachers actors doctors cleaners I don't care as long as they are happy.

As a coup,e we are on the same page, very supportive of each other (we both made significant changes to our careers and both went back to school and supported each other at one point). And I do tell him, whatever decision you make you will have my support.

I feel very happy with what I have and have very little financial drive. However we do have a nice house, car and live in a nice neighbourhood.

I feel like previous posters, if you have the perception of yourself that having common objectives is a weakness, then you should take a hard long look at yourself and take some time to think if it's worth it. Is your 'strength' getting in the way of your happiness?

TheSparrowhawk Thu 23-Jun-16 10:03:08

What she was probably saying is that you're a woman and women are supposed to compromise and keep their man happy.

Of course two 'strong' people can keep a marriage going - if they work together and support each other. However, if one person is controlling, critical, uncooperative or just plain nasty then no, the marriage won't work.

SpoonintheBin Thu 23-Jun-16 10:05:20

Sparrow, I don't see the sexist card in the op's post. It's a ridiculous assumption to make.

TheSparrowhawk Thu 23-Jun-16 10:09:09

What's a 'sexist card'?

overthehillandroundthemountain Thu 23-Jun-16 10:09:23

Thank you for balanced posts and wisdom. It's so refreshing to be able to think this through.

Toffeelatteplease You're right - joint goals are key to compatibility. We do feel like we are pulling in two separate directions, that's a good term. I feel we can no longer get the show together. He thinks I'm not trying hard enough (which I take to me 'compromise further')

You're right in the confusion between compatibility and strength.

Yes, the fact he is also an arse is another matter grin

RedMapleLeaf Yes, I am finding it unhelpful, too. Counsellor means different things: by my 'strength' she prob means ability to survive life's adversities. By his = pigheadedness and lack of ability to see beyond what is comfortable.

I think she meant all of those: strong-willed, unwilling to compromise, independent. I take it to mean resilient and resourceful, too, but she says it's a double-edged sword as there is also unwillingness to accommodate the other's needs.

Yes, I think a new chapter. It helps to consider it like that. Thank you.

SpoonintheBin I hadn't considered the 'opposite' of this. No, I don't think that the opposite is true, and I don't believe that people with successful relationships are weak. Not at all!

I think you have it right with this:
Would you see it as a weakness to agree on some goals with your OH?
Yes, because the goals we disagree on are the goals that involve our children's futures, which I think are more important to me, than to him (he is far more selfish).

Maybe I am too defensive of the children and their futures. I don't consider laid back, happy to adapt and flexible to be weak at all. I wonder if I just mean - flexible to his demands.

Thank you for sharing those lines - this is precisely what I lack in the marriage: there is the basic of support for me, only I have made the significant career changes for the kids, and I take full charge of their school things. He never tells me that I have his support, he gives it begrudgingly if I ask.

Ok. I think I have my answer. Thank you for helping.

overthehillandroundthemountain Thu 23-Jun-16 10:13:40

Thanks Sparrowhawk

Gender aside (although I agree that your pattern is the most common)...
In our case it is I keeping him happy, and I now feel it's my turn to experience some happiness, and it's not happening, for a number of reasons.

Yes, I think maybe there is too much control and unwillling between us. He accuses me of being critical, but he is also this, albeit in a passive-aggressive fashion, like putting words into my mouth and thoughts in my head. Like suddenly shifting the financial boundaries (sometimes for the good, I hasten to add), and by being sarcastic to my comments and suggestions. I think that is uncooperative enough for it to not work.

In the meantime, I am seen as the one setting unrealistic goals for our family. Hmm. I am getting some answers. Thank you.

FellOutOfBed2wice Thu 23-Jun-16 10:14:07

I am very "strong willed"- the good side of this is that I'm fiercely independent, I know I can be funny, I am bright and loyal and have strong opinions. The bad side of that is that I can be bushy and highly strung and bossy and stubborn. My DH is very relaxed and easy going. Our relationship would not work if we were both like me. I had an ex like me and we literally came to blows. So I think you need a balance in any relationship.

OneArt Thu 23-Jun-16 10:24:58

I agree that "strong" can mean different things. I consider myself to be a strong person, in that I have strong opinions and I'm not afraid to (politely) disagree with my partner if I think he's wrong. Maybe some men find this threatening, but DH doesn't, as he respects my opinions and enjoys an intelligent discussion.

For example, yesterday we had a conversation about the EU referendum which became slightly heated, but that doesn't mean we were angry or it got personal. We're both able to say 'I think differently on this matter, but I respect your views and I agree with some of the things you are saying'.

And we're able to compromise if we have different views relating to the DC. (Mainly we're on the same page, but not always.)

We've been together for 19 years now.

You deserve to be with someone who sees "strength" as a positive characteristic.

Good luck OP.

RedMapleLeaf Thu 23-Jun-16 10:54:01

Ok. I think I have my answer

I think you do too flowers

I did wonder about the purpose of the couples counselling. Is it in order to end your marriage amicably or are you working on reconciliation?

ToastDemon Thu 23-Jun-16 11:12:20

I really dislike "strong" as a description of someone's character. The implication being that a lot of people are weak.
Whereas I don't consider not being argumentative and stubborn within a personal relationship to be a character flaw.

HandyWoman Thu 23-Jun-16 11:14:13

It sounds to me like the two of you have different values (leading to placing different priorities wrt the children).

'Strong' here is woolly and unhelpful. And yes I am sensing an undertone of sexism from the counsellor (or at least stereotypical views about how women should be in relationships).

I'm not sure your counsellor is particularly wonderful. If she is confusing you rather than clarifying things then maybe s/he isn't the counsellor you need. Perhaps you don't need a counsellor at all.

Good luck OP flowers

OneArt Thu 23-Jun-16 11:22:51

Toast, I think it's the opposite here - it's the word "strong" that (in this instance) seems to be being used to imply a character flaw.

However I do agree with you that being quiet / flexible / good at compromising doesn't make you "weak".

Intacta Thu 23-Jun-16 11:24:49

All comes down to whether he is ea in the relationship imo. If so, Relate (or any joint counselling) wouldn't be advised. Confusing and unproductive at best, downright messy and damaging for you at worst - as, for example, in your session, 'strong personality' discussion would be a big red herring

ShebaShimmyShake Thu 23-Jun-16 12:14:21

I don't like this word "strong". It's so open to interpretation.

Fomalhaut Thu 23-Jun-16 12:15:40

strong-willed, unwilling to compromise, independent. I take it to mean resilient and resourceful, too

The only negative here is unwilling to compromise and even that isn't always a negative. There are times when compromise is essential and times when it'll wreck your happiness. Compromising can be a sign of strength of its done between equals, or a sign of abusive dynamics of its only expected of one pArtner.

Strong is a very poor choice of phrasing from your counsellor. Is she working for you? Are you finding this helpful? Dh and I are independent people - but we work as a team when needed. Lack of that common goal/view is a problem.

SpoonintheBin Thu 23-Jun-16 12:22:33

Maybe the counsellor because he/she didn't want to use the (more loaded) word stubborn, unwilling to compromise, maybe even selfish?

SpoonintheBin Thu 23-Jun-16 12:24:17

I meant maybe the counsellor used the word strong...

MargaretCavendish Thu 23-Jun-16 12:58:02

Counsellor means different things: by my 'strength' she prob means ability to survive life's adversities. By his = pigheadedness and lack of ability to see beyond what is comfortable.

You're putting a lot of words in the counsellor's mouth here! I think it's interesting here that you see your own traits as entirely positive and his as entirely negative. These are really subjective terms - one person's 'pigheaded' is another's 'determined', so it is really helpful to see it in such black and white terms?

corythatwas Thu 23-Jun-16 13:39:54

I wonder a bit what you mean about your plans for the children's future. How flexible are you likely to be if the children themselves have different ideas about what they want in life? What kind of sacrifices do you want the two of you, or the whole family to make? Do you and your dh agree about your plans?

GingerFurryThang Thu 23-Jun-16 13:56:50

overthehillandroundthemountain, slight deviation from your OP but this is really interesting - I'm very much in the same place as you seem to be, although only just starting out on the counselling process. I would also describe myself as someone with firm views but find myself deeply resentful about having had to "compromise" with my OH over the years, although to my mind compromise means both of you give some ground to reach a mutually acceptable position, not one of you continually having to give up things to keep the status quo in place, which is what I've had to do. All too often, as a PP has said, it seems to be the wife that's expected to do this, although there will always be some exceptions to the rule.

Your comment about being accused of being critical, and then having words and thoughts put into your head made me shiver. I get that too, whilst being reminded that he is a nice, mild mannered person. I'm rather dreading the first joint session we have coming up as I suspect that all my rationale, comments and reasons for not wanting to continue with our marriage will be clinically analysed and taken apart as they always have been. All the while keeping his own feelings and thoughts firmly under wraps.

Anyway, sorry for the derail smile

PlatoTheGreat Thu 23-Jun-16 13:57:51

I'm wondering. You said the counsellor said you were TWO strong individuals
So why are you making that 'strength' only an issue if yours that somehow gets in the way of marriage harmony?
What about HIS strength of character?

I would say the issue is more about joint goals. Mi also hear that you have made some compromise fur humans you are a give and take person. You feel it's your time to fake now but he isn't following and allowing you to do what you want to.
In effect everything was OK when you were doing the giving (or giving in as per society 'agenda') but now that you want to assert your ideas/opinions/needs, it doesnt work anymore.
The way I would look at it is: you've compromised your goals and he needs to compromise his goals too b

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