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Ask Dr. Zoe – Should I Choose My Husband Over My Son?

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‘Wench’ Asked:

I have been married for 11 years to a man that appears to have narcissistic behavior. 5 years ago because my son was smoking pot, not at the house but away from the house my husband told me I had to choose between my son or him, I was told I needed to kick my son out who was still in high school. As a mother I couldn’t do that to my son. I was told then that I could get out and take my son with me. My husband cried the day I left and begged me to stay but it would be without my son. For 5 years we have continued to see each other and as far as I know inclusive with each other. I asked to come home 1 year later after I left and he said no because we would be fighting all the time. I asked several more times and then he said you can come home but not with your cats who I had when I lived with him. He had said before he was allergic to cats but he compromised and let me have them. Now he says that he breathes better without them which I don’t possibly doubt. I’ve suggested multiple solutions and he rejects them all. Now he is filing for divorce saying I chose cats over him and they are more important to me than him. I’m deeply hurt. I tried so hard to make this work. Any advice?

Dr. Zoe Answered:

If this were just a cat issue, I would tell you to choose your husband over your cats and reconcile the marriage. But this is way more than a cat issue! I think deep down you know this, which is why you stood your ground.

Your marriage should have been over when he demanded that you leave the house because you were mothering your underage son. If we kicked out all teenagers who made bad choices, most teenagers would be homeless right now—including mine (and my teenage self!). You made the only choice that any good mother could make. He ceased being a husband to you when he asked you to leave. He confirmed it again a year later when he refused to let you move back home. And hammered it in even even further by filing for divorce.

You get an A+ for parenting, but an F for self-care. I know that’s harsh, but we all have areas of strengths and deficits. What’s important is that we acknowledge our failures and learn from them. You continued for years to be the wife/girlfriend to your husband—exclusively on your end and maybe, maybe not on his end. Either way, he wasn’t willing to be the husband to you. So he got to have his cake and eat it too.

If you cared as much about yourself as you do for your son, you wouldn’t have abandoned yourself for a man who demanded that you give up your son and everything you love in order to be with him. You can change that F to an A by signing off on his divorce papers and getting yourself into a recovery program.

It doesn’t matter if he is a narcissist or just an unhealthy man. That shouldn’t be your concern anymore. Your new job is learning about why you were attracted to him and what allowed you to continue to let him treat you this way.

Start this next journey with as much support as you can. Remember, hired support in the form of a therapist is still support. Be open to learning and understanding yourself deeply, so that you don’t repeat these patterns.

You’ve got this. It just takes some grit and grace!


For more relationship advice for strong women (and those who want to be), start here:

Divorce Was Not in the Plan
When Life Gives You a New Normal

Ask Dr. Zoe – How Do I Break Free From Codependency?
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3 Ways Positive Self-Talk Can Improve Your Life
How to Read Your Bible: For Beginners

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Dr. Zoe is a licensed psychotherapist and relationship expert who recently jumped out of a perfectly good plane just for the experience.

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