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Dear Emuna: Rules Vs. Spontaneity
Dear Emuna

Dear Emuna: Rules Vs. Spontaneity

Help! I like structure and my husband craves spontaneity!


Dear Emuna,

I have a good marriage but my husband and I have one big issue that is always getting in the way. He is a more happy-go-lucky, spontaneous kind of guy and I like rules and order. I like to know when and where we’re going weeks in advance so I have a chance to fully prepare. He likes to decide on the spur of the moment and just “run out the door.” I like firm bath times and bed times for our children; he likes to play it by ear depending on what we’re doing (then he goes to work in the morning and doesn’t have to deal with tired, grumpy children the next day!). You get the picture…We enjoy each other’s company but sometimes he can be so maddening. What do you suggest?

-- Rule Girl

Dear Rules Girl,

My guess is that you already know the answer. It’s the solution to so much in life and to marriage in particular – compromise. As you have noted, you have different attitudes towards life (he probably finds you a little frustrating as well!). And you can both learn from each other (isn’t that at least partly why you got married?).

Certainly in situations where the consequences to the children are long-lasting, you may want to take a firm stand – and calmly and gently explain your position. On the other hand, perhaps a day of tired children (and believe me, I know how unpleasant that can be!) is still worth if it the event of the day before was an important family experience – a simcha, a trip, perhaps even just plain fun! Describe your need to plan and ask your husband to indulge it (always a better strategy than demanding) but be open to the possibility of last-minute changes. I am confident that, over time, he will also come to appreciate that with the responsibility of a family there is a greater need to pay attention to detail and plan ahead.

You will probably end up meeting somewhere in the middle. But you can save yourself a lot of aggravation along the way if you try to relax your rules now and appreciate the advantages of your husband’s attitude – and if he would do the same. With a more positive view of each other’s position, I think you both might even come to enjoy the process and the new growth and possibilities.

-- Emuna

Dear Emuna,

My kids are always complaining that they’re bored. We try to plan family trips on Sundays to purchase challenging board games and to borrow the latest books from the library. In case we sound too old-fashioned, we also allow (limited) computer time. Yet it’s never enough and the complaints continue. It completely overwhelms me and I can’t concentrate on anything. Please help me before I lose it!

Dear Losing It,

Whenever I hear this complaint, I always think of Dennis Prager’s line. He advises telling your children, “You’re not bored; you’re boring.” I think he means that there’s an amazing world of things to see and learn and discover. How dare you insult the Almighty’s creation by being bored? And I certainly agree with him. Yet I have found his answer not a completely successful strategy!

My experience has been that as long as our children expect us to provide entertainment, they will nudge incessantly until we do. However, once we lay down the law – “I am not your camp counselor.” “You are on your own.” – they quite happily find ways to play with each other and entertain themselves. They become more creative and can get involved in other activities for long periods of time.

So it’s really dependent on the expectations we set. I recommend establishing set times. Tell your children exactly when you will be available (“At three, we’ll all do something together.”) and exactly when you’re not (“Don’t bother me beforehand on pain of…” or something like that).

It’s the healthier option for everyone. Your children learn to respect your time. They learn to be more self-sufficient. And you get to manage your time and accomplish without interruption, freeing you up to enjoy the family experience. It’s a win-win.

-- Emuna

Dear Emuna,

Many women think I am very lucky. I have a very loving and affectionate husband. The only problem is that he is very needy. He doesn’t like me to make any plans without him. If I go out with my girlfriends, he wants me home early. All my activities should revolve around his schedule. He is not, God forbid, abusive. He is kind and generous but it can be very draining. Sometimes I feel like I’ve lost me.

-- Searching for Self

Dear SfS or perhaps you mean SOS,

I hear what you’re saying and I understand your conflict. It seems churlish to complain about a husband who loves you so much and only wants to spend time with you. It also seems like a bit of a role reversal which makes it all the more confusing.

Since he is such a loving husband, your best option is probably to sit down and talk about it. Reassure him of your love and devotion (men need reassurance too!) and make a schedule that involves (lots of) time for him but includes time for you and your friends as well. Making him a participant in the planning will probably ease his discomfort. And yes, you should be grateful. Many women would happily pay that price to have such a husband.

-- Emuna

January 28, 2012

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Visitor Comments: 9

(9) Anonymous, February 1, 2012 7:26 PM

Needy husband

Maybe you can encourage your husband to get together with his own friends/ relatives or start a hobby/learn torah so that he is not just waiting for you. While it is good to realize you are lucky - it is a legitimate challenge that should be addressed. From someone who has a "perfect" marriage according to everyone else and gets no sympathy or encouragement for my own very real - though not so common - challenges.

(8) Anonymous, February 1, 2012 7:20 PM

Let the children plan

We describe bored as a mood. If you feel bored - it is because you are in the bored mood (and don't feel like thinking of something to do) you are not bored because there IS nothing to do. Often before an activity - especially computer time - we say Think of two activites you are going to do after your computer time is over. That way they can think of and plan for something now - when they are motivated to - and after their computer time is over (when their brains are still half asleep) - the activity is already planned. Good Luck.

(7) Jill, February 1, 2012 8:53 AM

only boring people are ever bored

My mother taught me that 'it is onlyl boring people who are ever bored'. There is nothing in this wonderful universe to ever be bored about.

(6) Tiferet, January 31, 2012 4:27 PM

No more boredom

Once our son said that he was bored and my husband sent him to clean up the attic. Two of my Irsraeli kids asked me, "What is bored" and I simply said," You don't want to know."

(5) Pauline, January 30, 2012 9:16 PM

My thoughts on the 3 issues above.

As to spontaneity, how about on nights before school, a planned schedule is maintained, then the rest of the time, be open to what ever. As for bored kids, in addition to the great ideas the others mentioned, there are terrific hands on kids museums now a days, and the stores there usually have lots of learning games and books to bring home for continued fun. Also, kids never seem to get tired of going out doors where they can bicycle ride or play various activities they make up. We go to lakes and parks that are pretty safe and far from traffic. Bringing a picnic and other outdoor fun is great. And they are so worn out afterwards, that when they get home, reading a book or doing indoor stuff (including nothing much) seems great to them. As to the attached hubbie, perhaps encourage him to find some hobbies, or groups that he has a similar interest in, to occupy some of his time, so you can have some separate time without him feeling lonely.

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