Q. After spending a couple of decades taking care of my husband and four children, I finally obtained my GED and recently enrolled in junior college. When I leave/return from class, however, my husband often makes derogatory remarks (e.g., don’t bring any of "those lesbian classmates" home). I don’t understand what’s going on and this doesn’t seem fair.

A. You’re right. It isn’t fair. Your home belongs equally to both of you even though your contribution has been caring for it and the family while your husband’s has been that of breadwinner. No, life isn’t fair! But that doesn’t mean you can’t embrace it and thrive.

His comments likely derive from fear and from a sense that he may be losing control over you. He may sense that you will be spending less time waiting on him hand and foot. Perhaps his education has been used to bolster his own sense of self-esteem and it may be extremely threatening for him to perceive that you may learn what he knows. After all, how could he then feel superior? Avoid making the assumption that his use of the word lesbian has anything to do with sexual preference. Recently someone sent me a powerful quote by Suzanne Pharr:

“How many of us have heard battered women’s stories about their abusers calling them lesbians or labeling the battered women’s shelter a lesbian place? The abuser is not so much labeling her a lesbian as he is warning her that she is choosing to be outside society’s protection (of male institutions), and she therefore should choose to be with him, with what is “right.” He recognizes the power in woman-bonding and fears loss of her servitude and loyalty; the potential loss of his control. The concern is not affectional/sexual identity; the concern is disloyalty. The labeling is a threat.... Our concern with homophobia, then, is not just that it damages lesbians, but that is damages all women. We recognize homophobia as a means of controlling women, and we recognize the connection between control and violence.”

In a perverse sort of way, your husband’s comments were a gift. This is an opportunity for you to review your life, reflect on the script that was handed to you at birth, ponder your relationships, meditate on the image you are providing for your children, and evaluate who you are and what you want to do with the rest of your life.

 

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