On or off? There’s not always a dimmer switch.

Photo by KS KYUNG on Unsplash

One of the oldest arguments that my husband and I have had many times over the years recently bubbled up to the surface like marsh gas in a swamp.

I said “Yes” to something my daughter needed, which meant I effectively said “No” to something my husband wanted and demanded. Some decisions don’t HAVE middle grounds.

He was LIVID.

My daughter — who is from a previous marriage — is fleeing a bad relationship with an emotionally, verbally and sometimes physically abusive boyfriend. They had a baby back in August 2019, and he’s been getting steadily more drunk and cruel. She is laid off from work because of COVID-19, so she’s only getting unemployment checks. She had to leave but was very short of money. So she and her infant are staying at our house until she gets a job and rents a place of her own.

My husband was fine with that — just furious about a related decision that I made.

I am trying to relieve stress for my daughter, because I know what it’s like to be involved with lawyers and negotiations over a child custody and visitation agreement, meanwhile stressing over money and work and a living space and child-rearing.

Then the tension got ratcheted up to an 11: Her ex-boyfriend said he would no longer keep her dogs until she got her own place, as he had previously agreed. (She was paying him to do so and also providing the food.) She needed to get them out IMMEDIATELY, he said.

The problem is that my home lease specifically forbids dogs. And my husband also passionately hates her dogs. (My daughter lived with us briefly in the past, and the dogs did some damage to our property. I totally get his animosity. I had said in the recent past that we wouldn’t consider the dogs coming here. But I was wrong.)

I mistakenly thought I could find a place to board her dogs. The cheapest rate I got was beyond our means, especially when we considered it might be at least 3-4 weeks to find a rental home for her. Best quote for dog boarding was $750 for a month; other quotes were around $1,000. I was willing to eke $300 out of our budget but it would not be enough.

No individuals popped up when I posted a request for help online. None of her friends or relatives could help, either. Most of the animal shelters around here are kill shelters, and the ones that aren’t were full to the rafters.

So on the very last day when my daughter was despairing, I threw up my hands and invited trouble. I called my landlord and asked for special permission to keep the dogs at my house for a short term. He was very gracious and agreed.

Then I texted my husband because I didn’t want to hear how angry he would definitely be. He didn’t bother texting back all day and was cold with me when I got home.

He told me that night when we finally had a few minutes alone that he was LIVID with rage all morning because it seemed to him like I had just dropped this in his lap as a fait accompli, and he couldn’t do a damned thing about it.

It was a binary decision without a visible middle ground. I made the only decision that I could see, based on my daughter’s needs and my ethics. I had exhausted all the other opportunities I could think of. I didn’t want my daughter and her pets to suffer if there was any way I could help. And I could, at the expense of my husband’s rage.

He has a right to be selfish about what is allowed in our home. But he doesn’t have the right to require me to turn away a family member in need.

I know that this situation doesn’t fit the “Biblical” model of marriage with a man in charge of the household, and it also doesn’t fit the healthy psychological model of two spouses who cooperate, collaborate and compromise. But I’m not a Bible follower. And sometimes THERE IS NO COMPROMISE.

All he could think about was how angry he was. I told him I was sorry and that I made the only reasonable choice that I could find. I asked what else he would have done. (For the record, he would have told her, “No — sorry about your dogs.”) I listened to his point of view. When he trailed off, I said I understood and was doing the best I could. I asked if he was still angry. He said no. I perked up, thinking he had realized the dearth of choices.

But then he said, “Because I just gave up. Nothing I do or say is going to matter anyway. You’re going to do whatever you want.”

THAT is not fair. I bend and give up my point of view a lot, just as he does. But he’s going to see it like he sees it.

I don’t know how to fix this. I actually get his point of view. But it comes down to a binary decision: Yes, let the dogs live with us. Or no, send the dogs to one of the bad shelters, or watch helplessly while the asshat ex-boyfriend turns the animals loose in the woods or surrenders them to a kill shelter.

A decision could NOT accommodate both of our viewpoints. So why should his revulsion over the dogs be the governing factor instead of my compassion for my daughter’s dilemma?

I would make the same choice again, if faced with the same circumstances.

I’m all about compromising and working together. But not if it requires me to do something bad. I won’t do a wrong thing to make someone else happy, even my husband.

The truth is that I don’t place him above my ethics and compassion. And to him, I should. He sees that as a failure on my part. I’m not a mind reader; I know this because I’ve made decisions like this before, and I read his thoughts about me back in 2012, when I was sitting, horrified, reading some of his texts to his mistress.

He is not, in face, my BAE. He doesn’t come “before all else.” I don’t surrender myself to another in marriage. I’ll live alongside, but I don’t become subsumed.

Is that wrong?

Right or wrong, it’s me.

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