Dear Carolyn: My college-age daughter would like me to take her someplace warm during her spring break in March. My husband’s work schedule prohibits him from going on such a trip. I would love to take her, and could fit it into my work schedule.
Husband seems opposed to the idea, but I haven’t been able to get him to discuss the topic. I think he feels excluded. Daughter and I have grown into what I think is a lovely, more quasi-adult relationship during her college years, and I am speculating that he is a little threatened by our closeness. He is a very attentive father and has spent a lot of time with both our kids over the years; he is a teacher and was able to spend summers and school breaks with them throughout their childhoods.
I would really love to take the trip, but am thinking I should just bag the idea because it seems to hurt my husband. But man — a week on the beach with a daughter, who may never again be interested in spending vacation time with a 50-something parent, would be awesome.
Then do it. Do it and remind him that he had his school breaks and summers with the kids, and this is one small way you get to experience that kind of attention to one child. Do it and articulate your concern that it’s now or never. Do it and prepare yourself to be patient with your husband’s emotional fallout, because jealousy is in the moment but regrets tend to last.
Do it and keep your eyes open for ways to help your husband nurture his connection to this daughter, too. The line between growing closer to a child and crowding out the other parent can be a fine one, and too often unwittingly crossed.
I think I’m resolved that we are on the slow track to breaking up, but I’m wondering if you have any insight or exercises we can work through to figure out what is best for us.
To Stay or to Go?
You appear to have worked it out already:
What is best for him is to move.
What is best for you is to stay put.
What is best for “us” is not as compelling to either of you as your individual needs are right now.
That’s the exercise right there — to figure out whether there is enough to “us” to give you both the motivation to take care of each other, and the confidence that doing so ultimately takes care of you.
If even one of you still hasn’t reached this point after five years, then choosing “me” over “us” is the sensible choice.
This too: It’s much easier to stay and then change your mind, than to go and change your mind. No small thing.
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