Dr. Helen

Loss of Autonomy: Another Way a Bad Marriage Harms Men

I thought about the loss of autonomy that so many men deal with in marriage after reading this “Dear Abby” column about a man whose wife said “no” when he wanted to buy a sports car:

DEAR ABBY: I am a successful business professional in my mid-50s. I have put my children through college, and they have no student loans. (My wife did not help with any of the college expenses. It was all on me.)

I am finally at a point in my life that I can pursue my passion of buying a sports car. I have always been a car guy, and my wife knows it.

When I bring up the subject of purchasing the car of my dreams, which is not very expensive, she tells me I will look like an idiot. In her next breath she says it’s OK if I buy a sports car if it is the one she wants, and of course, the one she wants is very expensive.

No matter how I broach the subject, she does not “get” that it is not about her but about my passion as a car guy. How do I get her to see my side? — REVVING UP IN NEW YORK

DEAR REVVING UP: If it’s your money paying for the car, you don’t have to get her to see your side. It will be yours — not hers — and you should buy the one that gives you pleasure and drive it to your heart’s content.

Abby’s answer is fine, but I would go one step further and ask the man to consider that his wife may be a psychological and financial abuser. He has worked hard during his marriage to put the kids through school and he now wants something for himself that he is going to pay for with his money and she says “no.”

She is so self-centered that she only wants him to get a car is if it is something she likes. How does she react in other areas of the marriage? Does he find himself always having to do things her way? Does she ever want him to be happy just because she cares? Or does it all have to do with her?

Our society does little to promote men’s autonomy in marriage anymore. A man is a mere appendage to provide the wife and kids with what they need and is to have no needs of his own. If he does, he is considered a selfish jerk, or worse, an abuser. Why should this self-centered wife be seen as any different just because of her gender?