Q. How do you ever reach an agreement in an uncompromisable situation, like whether to have another child? I am more than content with our one, a preschooler. My husband wants another child. We both feel very strongly. He reminds me how we always talked about maybe having two, but parenting has been more challenging than I expected, and I just don’t think I can be a good mother to a second child. I feel like we are dooming one of us to be unhappy forever. —At an Impasse
Believing that either path spells certain doom will only make it harder to see clearly in this process. It’s true that the “winner” in these situations is usually the one who doesn’t want another child, because an overwhelmed and dragged-kicking-and-screaming parent is likely a bigger problem than a wistful one. But in both scenarios, there can be resentment, which can corrode a marriage.
And that’s why you have to face this head-on, with no assumptions, no putting words in each other’s mouths, no invalidating the other person’s emotions. For instance, to him: Just because your wife entertained the idea of having two children, that did not wed her to it — feelings are allowed to change, especially after relevant experience. To you: Your child is probably still at the stage where you’re spending a ton of time dealing with rear-end maintenance — are you certain you won’t change your mind as time marches on? Have you spoken to parents of two to see how it has compared to their expectations? The more you can communicate and open your mind to the other’s perspective, the better your marriage will endure this conflict, even when the traditional marital compromise can’t work.
Love or job connections?
Q. Twice in a row, I have dated someone who has broken up with me and wanted to still be professionally connected and have me help with their job search and/or introductions to people. My job puts me in contact with high-powered people, and these exes make me think that’s the only reason they dated me in the first place. How do I tell them that if they have dumped me, I am not about to recommend them for a job? —Feeling Used
Sounds like you’ve got the sentiment down. Of course, the words can be a little less pointed. “Under the circumstances, it would be inappropriate/uncomfortable/awkward for me to be involved with your job search.” And, in the Department of Advice You Didn’t Ask For: Now that this has happened more than once, it’s time to consider whether it’s not just bad luck.
Might you be drawn toward social climbers, or somewhat vulnerable to manipulation? Are you subtly promising things without realizing it? At the very least, perhaps it’s time to look at people in unrelated careers. You hint that their asking makes you second-guess their motives. So turn that into a positive development by changing things up a bit.
Send your questions for Baggage Check to Dr. Andrea Bonior at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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