Can asking a question be selfish?

close_1972May 18, 2007

Okay marriage forum, I really need some perspective tonight. I've been out of town (for my job) since Monday. DH was stressed knowing it would be him and our toddler for 3 nights--DH has been grouchy the last few weeks from pain; the doc said it was probably sciatica. DH didn't relish the extra responsibility while I was gone.

On Wednesday morning (~ 6am) DH called me to say he was in severe pain, I guess he'd done something to aggravate his back and had fallen down from the pain. He asked me what he should do. I immediately said I would call my mom to see if she could come over and help him until I returned but he said no. Then I suggested that he go see the doc after he dropped our toddler at day care; he said no b/c he HAD to go to work that day for critical meetings. So I said maybe he could ask his sister to help him but he was reticent to do that either. At some point the conversation ended but I worried about him and couldn't focus on work. Later in the morning I thought maybe I could try to take an earlier flight home that evening: I called and suggested it to him but he said no, not to do that and not to worry. I decided to stick w/the original plans to fly back in the early afternoon today.

At the airport, they announced that our flight was overbooked and offered an incentive to two people who would give up their seats and take the next flight that was an hour later. I thought "Maybe I could do that, it's just an hour..." and I called DH (who stayed home from work today due to pain but still refused to go to the doctor) to ask him if he'd be okay with me arriving home an hour later than originally planned and explained the incentive etc. He sounded angry on the phone but said "Do whatever you want" and I asked him what that was supposed to mean. Then he said something like "If that's what my back pain is worth to you then I see where we stand" and I said "If you want me to come home on this flight I will". DH said something like "Why should I have to tell you that, you should know how much pain I'm in and how hard it is for me to deal w/our son like this--you shouldn't have even asked". I think I said "Well why didn't you just tell me that you wanted me to come home?" and he said he shouldn't have to tell me that and it was selfish of me to want him to say that; I shouldn't have even asked.

I don't get it!? I mean, using his logic, should I have been angry when he called me to tell me about his back problem Wednesday morning, when I was clearly not able to help him directly and ended up being more worried about him? Was that selfish of him? How is it selfish to ask him if he'd be okay w/me taking a later flight? I would think the selfish thing would be if I took the flight w/out telling him.

I keep thinking that we need to discuss this incident in marriage counseling, but I don't know that I can wait that long b/c I want feedback now, I want something to chew on and think about. This is really bothering me because I don't understand how he can say I was being selfish.

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Close, I don't think you could have done more than what you did.

Have you been away before ? Maybe he just doesn't like the idea of you going away and he is stuck at home with the child.

I certainly don't think you are being selfish.

What was his reason for phoning you in the first place ? What did he expect you to do, hop on a plane then and there and go home and rescue him ?

He is being irrational and acting like a child.

I think he should appologise for saying you are selfish. Would a selfish person offer 3 suggestions on how he could be helped ? Would a selfish person phone and ASK first if it is okay to take a flight that is only one hour later ?

Yes, I do think it is selfish of him to phone you with intention of worrying you whilst you where away. He obviously didn't respond to the suggestions you voiced.

I can understand your frustration here, I have felt that in my situation, when I have been on the receiving end of irrational annoyance from my DH.

I think you should talk about it, when things calm down.

I have had sciatica and it is painful. But I wouldn't make it someone else's problem, which is what he was doing to you, you just get on and deal with it. If you need help, ask for it. That's the logical thing to do.

I remember being in a situation where I had a sprained ankle, really painful, couldn't move at all. I had a toddler to care for, and it was very tricky, until my DH got home. But I just dealt with it, I didn't blame anyone.

Take care
Hope things are better for you today. You know, maybe he just didn't know how to express himself better. He was probably upset, in pain, annoyed and he just lashed out at you. People naturally start blaming when things don't go right.


    Bookmark   May 18, 2007 at 3:38AM
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Sorry to be blunt, but your husband needs to get over himself. I am assuming having this child was a mutual rather than a unilateral decision. Once you have a child or children - they are first, no questions and no exceptions save being hospitalized.

I have been in bed sick one time in 16 years. Every other time I didn't feel well I went on parenting without complaining. My husband travels frequently for business and I would never act the way your husband is acting nor would he. I have had time to do things on my own with my husband OFFERING to be in charge. No resentment.

You'd better nip this problem in the bud unless you want to be the only caregiver if your husband's "sciatica" acts up. I have serious sciatica at times and I have never let it stop me. Two Motrin and plow forward. If I layed down every time my back hurt, I'd never get up. Does he have a really low pain threshold? I think I would want him evaluated - x-rays, MRI, something to support his "pain" objectively, perhaps he should see an orthopedist.

I hope you can resolve this.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2007 at 6:39AM
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I'm going to say that your DH must be in a LOT of pain from his back hurting, and that makes him crabby.

That said...Pi$$ or get off the pot on the pain. He doesn't want to do somethign about it, he wants to Pi$$ and moan, and make it your problem, and you can't let him. Yes it hurts, yet it's hard to take care of a toddler with a back hurting. Yes he probably felt slighted that you were asking to be an hour later coming home (but soemtimes those incentives are really hard to say no to, and for only 1 hour delay, that could be traffic or stop at grocery store, so you were only asking and he could have know dear, I really need you to come home, and an hour will seem like 6 right now!).

So...I'd seriously tell him...people parent in pain all the time, and if it's that bad...go to the doctor, and unless you are treating this I don't want to hear anything more about it. ANd yes I have said that to my husband and no he hasn't like it one bit. Yes it leads to fights, and he finally sees my point, usually because his Mom starts to do the same thing, and I say something sarcastic like mother like son.


    Bookmark   May 18, 2007 at 9:42AM
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Thanks--it's nice to know that I wasn't being completely unreasonable. To answer some of the questions: I travel for work about 3-5 times a year, usually I'm gone 2-3 nights. I've had this job about four years, so travel is not anything new. DH has had a ruptured disk in his back and surgery to fix it a few years ago but he hasn't been in this much pain since. for the most part I think he tries to function through the pain but he had a hard time this time because he said picking up our son.

I've been talking w/him about the situation. He says that calling him to ask about possibly delaying my flight wasn't selfish, the selfish part was thinking about taking a later flight. I think he's angry about my thoughts and he would like me to not even express them, no, even HAVE them, but if I have them then not express them, if they represent any selfish desire.

This communication makes me crazy b/c I end up questioning my feelings about things and whether or not I'm being unreasonable.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2007 at 9:55AM
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People in pain frequently get twisted logic. However, your DH is being kind of a jerk here. I would have expected his apologizing and starting over when you got home rather than continuing the rant. Inasmuch as he seems unwilling to do anything about it himself, I think his credibiity from dumping on you about it is near zero. Also suspect there's more at work within him than his back trouble. Sounds like one of those "control issues" people talk about.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2007 at 12:34PM
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Sure you were selfish for going off on vacation and leaving him stuck at home taking care of your child.
Being stuck at home is your job while he's off at work doing the important things he does.


    Bookmark   May 18, 2007 at 3:32PM
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I agree with Asolo,does seems like a control issue rearing its ugly head.

This communication makes me crazy b/c I end up questioning my feelings about things and whether or not I'm being unreasonable.

It is exhausting, I do the same thing, in my world. Always questioning whether I am being unreasonable or not, I think you loose yourself, because you are so "on guard".

Its a blame issue as well, something goes wrong for him, does he turn it into your problem ?


    Bookmark   May 18, 2007 at 8:28PM
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I think that people who are married should try very hard to shower each other with unconditional kindness and sympathy. Heaven knows it is hard to find elsewhere! And it is (in my opinion) one of the perks of marriage that we get it.

That said...have you told your dh that you just hate to have to be gone from him and your child on these business trips? Maybe you don't hate it. If not...well, maybe they will resent it.

Have you told your dh that you wish with every fiber that you could be there to help him any way you can with his back pain? Well, maybe you would just as soon skip that. Surprise...he may be upset about that.

A lot of people who get married are only in it for the fun stuff. When it gets to be a drag and you have to support someone who is being a bit of a jerk they don't want to hear it.

Of course he is being unreasonable!! You are traveling and what can you really do right then? Nothin'!! But that isn't the point. What he needs, I think, is listening to and sympathy...a good ol' whine! Brag on him for taking care of the baby! What does that cost you? Kindness is cheap. And priceless.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2007 at 8:33PM
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Popi: You are so right!

    Bookmark   May 22, 2007 at 6:50AM
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Men often are pretty stoic about pain, so when my husband complains about pain I know its serious. Is that true with your DH? They don't want to go to the doctor because if its sciatica what exactly are they going to do for him and he would have to sit there with a small child.
You have a choice--you can be right, but end up with a husband that is beginning to think that you are having a great time wherever you went and it continued in the airport bar. You may know its boring traveling, but I am going to Philadelphia on business June 1-8. I'm looking forward to it. Doesn't it sound interesting if you aren't going?
I suggest you take bellegirl's advice, and also book your husband for a massage. My husband did that for me Saturday when I fell flat on my face tripping. It was wonderful.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2007 at 6:50PM
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You know, I'm kind of sorry about what I wrote. Not what I said because I believe that but the sound of it, as if I'm a big expert. I am so not! My marriage isn't so hot you know.

But when I was married before, my husband traveled a lot. He was gone for months at a time even after I had children. And he didn't HAVE to travel. It was entirely his choice. I resented it so bad. I was stuck at home doing all the day to day stuff and he would waltz in and be the special one. I could tell myself that airport delays and anonymous hotel rooms were not the best way to spend your life but I knew he wasn't dealing with colic and plumbing leaks and knee high grass. Somehow I just felt like it wasn't fair. And I'm afraid I didn't deal with it very well. And then he decided I was a wet blanket and, well...another marriage over with.

It is very hard to put yourself in someone else's place. It is hard for your husband to imagine the hardships of travel. And it is hard for you to realize that he isn't in a bed of roses either. That is where the kindness should come in. If we can't find that with our mates I don't know where it will come from.

I hope I didn't sound too "know it all" before. I didn't mean it that way. I just don't want you to go through the pain I did.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2007 at 10:08PM
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It's been interesting to read all the different perspectives. Our marriage counselor summed up the situation by saying DH was "testing" me--the test began the morning he called me to complain about his back and it ended the next afternoon when I called him from the airport to ask about taking a later flight. Counselor said I failed the test. DH agreed that what he wanted to know from me was that I was worried about him and that I wanted to be home ASAP, even though he told me that he was calling b/c he didn't know what to do--but rejected all my possible suggestions for what he could do--and he didn't think I should take and earlier flight home, which I could have done if my supervisor approved (and I think he would have b/c I had finished the majority of my work, but that didn't express to DH that I was worried?!?); when I called to ask him about taking the later flight he determined that I was not worried and did not want to come home. For the record, DH apologized for the things he said a couple days after I returned. His apology meant a lot to me and, as usual, I stopped feeling hurt.

I agree that I should be sympathetic and understanding when he's suffering/in pain, and I believe I was. I guess part of the problem is that this was just another "fight" in the series of fights where DH reads things into my behavior, in this case that I was selfish and didn't care about him, such that I begin to question whether or not I'm being reasonable or using good judgement. I do not love traveling for my job, and we knew and discussed that my job would have about 5-10% travel when I accepted it, but I do try to make the best of it. I only travel 3-4 times/year for 4 days at the most. I don't believe it should be a big issue, where DH is the martyr for "holding down the fort" and I'm a jerk for taking a job that requires travel.

The issue that concerns me is the unclear communication, where DH doesn't expressly tell me what he wants/needs, but is unhappy w/me when I don't meet his wants/needs (and he'll think I'm insensitive or selfish). He'll add it to his long tally of events where I've been insensitive or selfish; eventually, and I know this is the outcome b/c it's happening now, he decided I'm too insensitive or selfish and if I truly loved him I wouldn't be this way and he expressed a desire to end our marriage. Marriage counseling helped hold it off, but now he's back to saying that I don't love him.

I want to ask our counselor how this is supposed to work out if each of our feelings is valid, does one person just make a concession? Does one person change? Is an agreement reached? I guess I'll stop rambling and get ready for work. Thanks for the advice everyone, it helps.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2007 at 9:05AM
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Seems like all he's seeing is his own viewpoint, and the only feelings he's considering are his own. He's putting his own feelings WAY above yours, and putting the 'him' above the 'us'.

In a good marrige, 'US' is more important than either the 'me' or the 'you', and each person gladly makes individual sacrifices for the good of the team. Neither person keeps score because both recognize that the tally teeters back and forth; or that if it doesn't, that acknowledging the imbalance in any way other than appreciation for the other partner is bad for the marriage.

Doesn't really sound like he's pulling his end of the emotional goodwill load.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2007 at 2:57PM
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I think he's acting like a total dictatorial little poop!

Also seems to me that this "test" business is a bogus coverup for what's really going on with him. Seems to me, you could just as easily say you were "testing" him and HE failed. What a load of claptrap! Your councelor is buying into this?

Keep your powder dry, sweetheart. I sense more coming.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2007 at 6:48PM
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asolo: I don't know if our counselor is buying into this, per se, I think he was just clarifying the situation for me. When he said I failed, I don't think he meant I was a failure or anything negative by it, he was just pointing out that I didn't pass the "test".

What exactly does "Keep your powder dry" mean, I've never heard that before. :-?

I do think there will me more, but I'm hoping counseling will help us deal with it or help me with my perspective.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2007 at 8:18PM
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"What exactly does "Keep your powder dry" mean, I've never heard that before. :-?"

Refers back to the days when fire-arms were loaded manually, item-by-item, to create a fire-ready weapon. However, if you loaded your cannon or rifle or pistol with wet gunpowder (insufficiently protected from rain or stormy seas) when you pulled the trigger to begin the ignition sequence, your weapon would fail to ignite the damp gunpowder and wouldn't fire. Your weapon would be useless. "Keep your powder dry" came to be a goodwill wish to someone -- and a well-intentioned caution to pay attention to the important things.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2007 at 11:51PM
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close - good for you for vetting it with your counselor. They're often helpful in getting couples to the deeper issue(s) behind the surface one.

"what he wanted to know from me was that I was worried about him and that I wanted to be home ASAP..."
It sounds like this may be your deeper issue: I encourage you to pay attention to it. While the issue that may concern you right now is clear v. unclear communication, it doesn't sound like that's what this is really about for him. Good luck to you both - it sounds like you've got so much going on in your lives, especially with a young child (sweet as he/she may be!)...but you're doing the work that it takes to build and strengthen your marriage in this season. Hang in there!

    Bookmark   May 24, 2007 at 1:26AM
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Close, I think its great that you are working through all this, by posting here,and going to a counsellor.

To me, it seems a bit one-sided, that you are doing all the wrong things, you are suffering all the anguish and its YOU who are trying to improve things.

I still think its a blame issue....he finds ways to blame you for whatever is going on.

I am very familiar with this situation in my house, so I can really identify with your problem. Please be on guard, you might see a pattern.

Wouldn't it be great if everyone just said what they thought? If he just said, "My back hurts, I am just phoning for some sympathy, I really wish you were here to look after me." and with the plane delay thing "I would really like it if you came home as soon as you could."

I guess it sums up what you said, unclear communication.

You find this behaviour in children, you know.. they go all huffy, and you say "what's wrong" and they say "nothing!!". Its difficult to get to the bottom of the problem, and sometimes they don't even know themselves !

At least he apologised, thats good, thats adult.

Keep working at it, "keep your powder dry" as Asolo said. LOL


    Bookmark   May 24, 2007 at 3:35AM
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Popi: it's interesting to me that you think there's a blame issue; DH has said that the issue seems to be me being too defensive and unwilling to take responsibility (blame) for the things I do that become problems, communication or otherwise.

In fact, in a recent petty argument I stepped up and took the blame/responsibility for being the "perpetrator", and apologized, just so we could stop fighting and get back to what we were working on. Was I taking the high road or was I compromising myself? In truth, I think DH and I were BOTH being petty and we both should have apologized to each other. A first step is a first step, however, and I'm willing to take responsibility for the petty things (even if I don't feel entirely responsible for them) for the time being, in the interest of maintaining peace, but I won't do this forever. I want to keep trying, though, in hopes that things will get better.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2007 at 9:09AM
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Well, I guess its tricky to know, sometimes, who is to blame for situations.

I really prefer to dispense with blame and just look at each problem as a situation that needs a solution. I know this sounds ultruistic, but really..., for my own sanity I have to see things this way. I try to influence my children to think like this as well, and DH or course ! (and now you!)

Where you taking the high road ? It wouldn't sit well with me to say, "I take the blame", when you don't think you should. But on the other hand, for the sake of peace I would probably do the same.

Appology means everything, saying sorry is important. You can say sorry, for upsetting someone, without saying you are to blame for the situation. This is just a general comment, I don't mean to say you are like this.

Perhaps you and your DH need to work on a way of resolving disputes, talk about this in your calm times together.

Take care.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2007 at 3:04AM
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Yo, Popi...

Due respect to your "own sanity", what in the world are you talking about? It sounds to me as if you've tossed your brains out the window in the interest of keeping everything peaceful -- even if the source of the non-peace and irrationality is totally the other party.

Don't know anything about you or your family or how things work there but, man, that was a scary post IMHO. Seems like more-or-less submissionville regardless of what comes to you.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2007 at 10:25PM
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I think what Popi was trying to say is that almost every disagreement involves some degree of fault on the part of each party. And that it keeps the peace to say "I'm sorry we quarreled" or "I'm sorry I did insert part".

I don't think Popi was suggesting that the OP take the blame for everything all the time, and I think it's also critical that the spouse's response would then consistently be "I'm sorry too" or "and I'm sorry I did insert part".

    Bookmark   June 3, 2007 at 12:24PM
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Its quite simple, really. I just choose to focus on solutions rather than endless rantings, and analysis on who is at FAULT in the problem.

Of course there is someone at fault, but why make it worse by dwelling on it.

I think my brains are firmly intact. Not sure about your manners, though.


    Bookmark   June 5, 2007 at 12:38AM
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Agreeing again here with Sweeby. Falut-finding and blaming in moments of conflict aren't productive - especially since, as Sweeby said, "every disagreement involves some degree of fault on the part of each party."

What's usually far more productive is to find that part of the conflict that I can recognize as mine, (even if it's tiny), take ownership for it, and offer an apology. it's amazing how taking the initiative to apologize can sometimes "soften" the other person to be more forthcoming with their apology. Blame and fault-finding build walls and defenses, apologies take them down.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2007 at 1:31PM
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