My husband of eight years and I are going to visit my parents, a five hour drive away, for a long weekend, leaving on Thursday evening and returning on Sunday evening. Mark doesn’t really like going because all we do is hang out with my parents. He likes to do more fun stuff. His friend called last night and said that he would be nearby that weekend and wanted to know if he would like to go skiing on Saturday.

My husband asked me what I thought and it made me furious! I think it’s rude to go visit someone and then leave while you’re there for a day of skiing unless those you are visiting with are also invited. Am I right? –

Denise, London


Dear Denise,

First of all, I think it’s great that your husband asked about your expectations regarding how he should spend his time, but I’m sorry to hear that his question made you mad. To create the best marriage, it’s very important that both partners feel free to broach any subject without fearing that their mate will hold it against them.

I think that what you’re really asking me is whether it’s okay for your husband to set his own boundaries, or whether he should comply with your idea of what constitutes appropriate or ‘polite’ behaviour. In truth, my answer would be that you only get to set his boundaries if the behaviour in question truly compromises your personal integrity or your integrity as a couple.

Successful couples learn to compromise and to negotiate time together and time apart. How your husband wants to spend his time is equally valid as what you want him to do with it.

Look at it this way, the fact that your husband is willing to spend a substantial amount of time in the company of his in-laws, speaks highly of his loyalty toward you and your family. However, spending extended amounts of time with in-laws is a kindness, rather than a real requirement. While you may find comfort and interest chatting with your parents, he may find that he becomes bored or restless, and no one benefits from him feeling that way. Since he has a chance to spend some of that time with his own friends I’d see that as an opportunity to ‘stretch his legs’ so to speak, and recharge his batteries. Would you really want to deprive him of that? It sounds as though there would still be plenty of time for him to be involved with your family during the rest of the weekend. As well, it is possible that your parents may really enjoy some time to interact with you on your own!

I wonder whether this issue has brought up some insecurities you may have regarding feelings of parental approval? Do you worry excessively about what they may think? Surely, this long into your marriage, your parents know him for the generally caring person he is, and hopefully will not take offense if the situation is presented correctly. I’d simply say, “Mark’s friend is in the area this weekend, and Mark’s looking forward to getting a little skiing in. Since we’ll all be together and talking for hours and hours, we both figured you wouldn’t mind if he slipped away for a bit.”

Compromise and negotiation in marriage is an ongoing process, and finding win-win solutions to everyday challenges, will contribute not only to the health of your marriage but also to each partner’s individual happiness.