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Dear Dr. Yael,

My husband is very good to me, but since his mother is totally dependent on his father, he often treats me like I can’t handle things. We are a young couple with a baby. I have a successful career and he has one as well. However, he is surprised when I take care of things by myself. My parents have a healthier marriage. I knew all this before I married him, but I didn’t expect it to affect our marriage at all. It is hard for me to deal with this feeling of him thinking I’m incapable. I love my husband very much and just want to be seen as an equal. Please share some ideas with me.




Dear Anonymous,

It sounds like your husband is transferring his own upbringing onto your marriage. As children, we all mostly believe that what happens in our house is “the norm” and that everyone’s house is similar. Once children grow up and see other households, they begin to challenge what they saw at times. Other children may not challenge those views and may encode them as what marriage is “supposed to be.” Studies show that children who were raised in homes where there was a lot of anger in the marriage often have greater difficulty managing emotions. Furthermore, studies reveal that emotional distress caused by parental conflict impairs higher-order cognitive processing in children. Marriages that have a quieter hostility, a marriage that lacks communication and respect between the parents, without yelling, can also affect the children negatively. In these homes, problems are swept under the rug and feelings are not discussed. These children often have difficulty expressing emotions and do not know how to talk about feelings.

Your husband, as you report, has been raised in a home where his mother was completely dependent on his father. Thus, his expectation is for you to be the same way on some level. Most likely, your husband was looking for someone more independent, as he was attracted to you and married you, but his default position is still an expectation that you will need to depend on him. Perhaps he even wants you to depend on him subconsciously. It would be helpful for you to find a way to bring this up to your husband. Find a time when you’re both relaxed and ask your husband if you can discuss something that has been on your mind. Talk to your husband about creating your own relationship, where you work together as a team and both accomplish and contribute. Explain to your husband that it makes you feel bad when he is surprised by your accomplishments and that you want to be independent. After having this conversation, it will be important to notice when your husband is giving you independence and to compliment him, so you reinforce this behavior. It will take time for your husband to see that you are a different person than his mother and you may need to communicate this more than once, but with love and positive communication you should be able to successfully change this issue that is bothering you. If you find that this is not changing, you may want to seek some short-term professional help to assist you and your husband in communicating what you both feel. Hatzlacha!

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Dr. Yael Respler is a psychotherapist in private practice who provides marital, dating and family counseling. Dr. Respler also deals with problems relating to marital intimacy. Letters may be emailed to [email protected]. To schedule an appointment, please call 917-751-4887. Dr. Orit Respler-Herman, a child psychologist, co-authors this column and is now in private practice providing complete pychological evaluations as well as child and adolescent therapy. She can be reached at 917-679-1612. Previous columns can be viewed at and archives of Dr. Respler’s radio shows can be found at