Dilemmas: Don't sacrifice your skiing for your husband

There was more than met the eye to the problem of whether Christine, a keen skier, should take a week's holiday on her own, despite her piste- loathing husband's fear that unless they did everything together their marriage might founder. Her dilemma was less about simply whether to go or not than about personal space, to use the dreaded phrase, and to what extent relationships thrive or become destroyed by partners doing their own thing from time to time. In the past, marriages were like ballroom dancing. Men took the lead; wives followed. Today, like the Lillehammer ice dance winners, up-to- date partnerships operate more like rock'n'roll - together part of the time, but free to break away for the odd indulgence.

That's probably why most readers said there was only one answer to the question: Christine should take her skiing holiday and ignore her husband's emotional blackmail.

And better to find out his 'immature, jealous, manipulative and ungenerous' nature now, argued Mrs K Silver of Oxford, than later. When children came along, who knows what petty power-trips and attention- seeking behaviour he might resort to.

'The only couple I knew who lived in each others's pockets are now divorced, after nearly 20 years and three children. Terms like 'being one's own person' have relevance, even if they sound like cliches.'

Some readers, like Abigail Durant of Tooting, south London, suggested compromise. A ski-hater, she had agreed to accompany her husband to the slopes 'on condition the husband agreed to come to Egypt (a place he loathed the thought of) another time.'

Personally I can imagine little worse than either having to stay at the hotel and stuff my face with my millionth fondue while my partner zoomed down the slopes; or shivering in an air-conditioned hotel coffee shop reading George Eliot while he investigated the Valley of the Tombs. And anyway, imagine the pressure of being the one having the fun; the pleasure would be eroded by wondering if back at the hotel there was someone very resentful.

Better organised were the Easons of Beckton, east London. Paul's wife hates skiing, but he loves it, and does it. 'When people get married they undertake to share the life of another person who they love. But surely this does not mean that that person then has to change to suit their likes and dislikes? Christine should go on her holiday, have a great time, and she'll probably fall deeper in love with her husband by doing so, because of the freedom she will find within her marriage . . . If one party is prevented from pursuing their chosen activity, the ensuing build-up of resentment could drive a wedge between them.'

Similarly, the Stantons of Berkeley, Gloucestershire. Married 14 years, Jean's husband is such a ski addict that he even took to the snow when their twins were only two weeks old. 'I was devastated . . . but nevertheless I've always encouraged him to go . . . It makes it easier to say I'd like to go off and visit my family in America for a long weekend or attend a conference.'

Then there were the Pauls of Hanwell, west London. Ian, a keen birdwatcher, said that his wife, Jacki, loves skiing, which he can't stand, but 'she hates the thought of sitting for hours just to get a glimpse of a sparrow-hawk'. (I know the feeling; and you can't even read in a hide.)

'We therefore allocate time, during different seasons, to go off and do our own things. The result does not damage our relationship, but enhances it. Our time together is sacred and a joy because it is heightened by our mutual respect for one another's individuality. That Christine's husband is so unyielding begs the question: 'Is he feeling as fulfilled as he should be within his own particular scheme of things?' Perhaps he thinks he has to sacrifice his individuality for the good of the relationship and expects Christine to do the same.'

Ian has put his finger on it. It seems as if Christine's husband can't distinguish 'sameness' from 'closeness'. And it sounds as if Christine is finding it hard to distinguish self-assertion from disloyalty.

As one who has just read Harriet Goldhor Lerner's marvellous guide to changing the pattern of relationships, Dance of Anger (Pandora, pounds 5.99), I suggest that Christine says something on the lines of: 'I know that you don't enjoy skiing and I appreciate your feelings. However, I'm a grown woman and I need to make my own decisions. I don't expect you to be happy about my going, but I do need to make the decision for myself.'

Of course, he might react in a way that would upset her. There could be threats to leave; he could sulk, cry, throw a temper tantrum. As Ms Lerner writes: 'There are few things more anxiety-arousing than shifting to a higher level of self-assertion and separateness in an important relationship, and maintaining this position despite the countermoves of the other person.'

But the question Christine has to ask is whether she is prepared to sacrifice her own self for her marriage at any price. Whatever decision is taken, someone will feel resentment: she, if she doesn't go; he, if she does.

Mrs V Bendel, Halesworth, Suffolk, has no doubt about the right solution. 'For 25 years I foolishly did without certain interests of my own because I had been brought up to believe that a wife's duty was to fit in with her husband's likes and dislikes. 'I have now taken the plunge into separate holidays and hobbies and bitterly regret that I did not do so earlier.'

'The urge to merge may be universal,' writes Ms Lerner, 'but when acted out in extreme forms, these 'fusion relationships' place us in a terribly vulnerable position. If two people become one, a separation can feel like a psychological or physical death. We have nothing - not even a self to fall back on - when an important relationship ends.'

Perhaps Christine should give her husband a copy of Ms Lerner's book to read while she whizzes down the slopes.

Suggested Topics
Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
News
people
News
Elton John and David Furnish exchange marriage vows
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
Arts and Entertainment
The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit director Peter Jackson with his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
film
Life and Style
tech
News
people
News
Billie Whitelaw was best known for her close collaboration with playwright Samuel Beckett, here performing in a Beckett Trilogy at The Riverside Studios, Hammersmith
people'Omen' star was best known for stage work with Samuel Beckett
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright has won The Apprentice 2014
tvThe Apprentice 2014 final
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Ashdown Group: IT Support Analyst - Chessington

    £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Service Desk Analyst - Chessington, Surrey...

    Recruitment Genius: Technical Support Analyst / Helpdesk Support Analyst

    £16000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is the UK's leading ...

    The Jenrick Group: Finance Manager/Management Accountant

    £45000 - £55000 per annum + benefits: The Jenrick Group: Finance Manager/Manag...

    Recruitment Genius: Manufacturing Manager

    £35000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a rare opportunity for ...

    Day In a Page

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'