Q: My boss for five years is very intelligent, creative, and successful. I admire him, and our company prospers by his talents. But I am finding it harder to deal with his lack of concern for my time and needs. His impulsive projects often require that I work nights and weekends. His kids come first, but mine don’t to matter to him. He talks as if he cares about me, other employees, and our families. But year after year, he builds his wealth and none of us are receiving the fruits of our hard work. I keep waiting for him to offer us more. Am I expecting too much?
A: Given the type of personality you are describing, he would need to know your side clearly to change. He sounds self-absorbed and primarily interested in his own success. You assess such a person not through their words and promises, but through their actions and track record. They are persuasive, charming, and make you feel like something great is just around the corner for you. This can go on for years! Meanwhile, his needs and projects are always at the forefront, consuming him and others around him. Does this sound familiar? Pay close attention to his life and his true character will be revealed.
If you decide to keep working for him, clearly communicate your needs and boundaries. Notice his response and whether you can tolerate it. Be strong, otherwise you will get sucked into supporting him, not yourself. Keep taking steps toward making the relationship more mutual and you will know what is possible.
Q: After being married almost two years, I am realizing that my husband wants a more traditional Indian wife, who stays home with the kids. I have, and will continue my career, even with children. I cannot make him the center, as he would like. He is very convincing and controlling about his ideas of marriage. How can I help him understand my side?
A: You sound strong and clear about wanting independence, mutuality, and career. Did you discuss any of these preferences before marriage? You are raising a fundamental issue about defining the type of partnership and lifestyle you want together.
Do you love him and is this the man with whom you want to build a life? If so, it will take some working through to find mutually acceptable values and lifestyle. Begin by expressing what attracted you to him and why you want to be with him after two years. Ask him about his interest in you. This will enliven your attraction. Your desire and love for each other is one of the pillars of your relationship.
Share your vision of marriage, which will pre-date your coming together. Explain how it is different between the two of you now. He will feel a loss in your wanting a separate life outside of marriage and may blame you for being too Westernized or selfish. He may also feel that you don’t like or enjoy him. He may not want to talk about this and get angry and withdraw. You take a risk in being honest and asking for what you want. Be gentle, patient, and sensitive, but don’t back down. Honestly share what it’s like for you when you feel controlled or blamed by him—your fears, frustration, and feelings of oppression. If he chooses to work it out, inquire more deeply into his ideas and needs. This will facilitate greater flexibility and openness from him.
Alzak Amlani, Ph.D., is a counseling psychologist in Palo Alto and San Francisco. (650) 325-8393. www.wholenesstherapy.com