Wife Doesn’t Want Husband Asking for Permission to Go Out… Or Does She?

From The Wife

Mother May I?

It’s not uncommon for me to hear The Donkey ask a question like…

“Hey, am I allowed to go out anywhere tonight?” or… “How many nights are you going to let me hang out with my brother when he’s in town?” or… “I was just wondering if there’s any chance of me getting permission to go to the movies this weekend?”

And it’s not uncommon for him to hear a response like:

“What do you mean will I allow you?! I’m not your mother, you know. What are you going to do next–pull out a permission slip for me to sign?”

After that we usually get into an interesting discussion. He says he knows I’m not his mother, but that he also knows that he does indeed need my permission before he goes anywhere. I ask why he insists on treating me like some kind of task master.

He says, “Well I guess this means I can’t go out.”

I say, “What do you mean… I never said you couldn’t go anywhere?!”

He says, “No, I know. But I can just tell that it’s a bad idea. I’m sure I’ll get in trouble if I do; so don’t worry about it–I’ll just stay home.”

At this point I am backed into a corner. If I say he is not allowed to go out, I confirm that I am, in fact a task master who controls his every move. But now I definitely don’t want to say yes either, because I feel like I’m being bullied into it.

And forget about whether I actually want him to go out or stay home. Maybe it happens to be a good night for him to go out because there’s a Jane Austen movie on the Tivo that I want to watch in peace. Then again, it could be a terrible night for him to go out because I’ve been sick for two weeks and watching children all day long, and I can’t bear the thought of doing the kids’ bedtime routine one more night on my own. But the fact is, by the time we’ve played out the “Mother, May I?” conversation, I am not even thinking about whether or not it’s a good night for him to go out or what I actually want. I’m just focused on not being perceived as the bad guy.

And so we end up in a situation where nobody can win. He may get to go out, but he won’t enjoy it because he’ll be worried all night that he’ll come home and find out he’s been grounded. I may convince him to stay in, but he’ll just feel upset that he has no control over his life, and I’ll feel upset that staying home with me wasn’t what even his top choice that night.

Is there any solution to this cycle? I’m clearly no expert, but here are a couple things I think would help:

I could: Examine my attitude. Do I truly hate being asked for permission all the time, or am I actually saying, “I’m not your mom… except when I want to be.” Because I’m pretty sure there are plenty of times when I do expect to be asked about things, or when I do get after him for making plans without clearing them with me. I could find a better balance–where I’m expecting to be considered and consulted, but I’m not attempting to dictate what he does.

He could: Soften his approach. To me, there’s a huge difference between, “Am I going to be allowed to go out at all this weekend?” OR “Hey, I was thinking about going out with my brother Saturday night, but I’m just wondering if that would work for you or not–did you have anything else in mind?”

Is it just me? Do any of you find yourself in similar situations? What do you do?

  1. 8 Responses to “Wife Doesn’t Want Husband Asking for Permission to Go Out… Or Does She?”

  2. It’s not just you. My wife is in that club as well.
    She hates being the gatekeeper, but somehow she gives me the feeling that I need to ask permission each time.
    As a donkey myself, I’d say that this time your donkey is quite correct in asking for permission. He might approach it a bit differently, but hell – it’s the same – he still needs to ask for permission.
    This being the case, I suggest you simply decide each time if it suits you or not. We’re at a point in our own marriage where if one of us simply says yes or no it ‘should’ be enough (mostly that is)

    By Tsahi Levent-Levi on Feb 12, 2008

  3. It’s all about being considerate. Sure, he doesn’t NEED the wife’s permission, but those are his kids too that you are caring for TOGETHER. It’s not asking permission – it’s having a conversation about the family’s plan. What the Donkey does affects the Wife and sometimes the kids – so it’s polite to check first.

    By Nancy on Feb 12, 2008

  4. isn’t this what is called talking to one another? the words we choose are important, but usually we don’t have time to think deeply about them. but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t reflect on past discussions and then change future ones.

    i find myself telling my husband when i am going to the bathroom and he makes fun of me for giving him such detailed information about my goings on, but sometimes it is important so we both know only one of us is around to “keep an eye” on the two year old. i think we should always notify each other of what is going on in a questioning way — not overtly asking for permission though, but also not telling the other what we are doing (both rude).

    i think the donkey has unknowingly (or knowingly) concocted a method of making the wife feel like she is evil and should not be the ball and chain and should let him go out every time. it is the age old guilt trip. too bad for him – don’t hold on to his issues about demonizing you. he should learn how to conversate in a more progressive way that shows you want the best for each other. (as you can see — i have been through these types of discussions with the bro as well)

    By celine on Feb 13, 2008

  5. If he asks like that, I answer him like that. it works in our home. My husband knows that I usually know what is coming up and if he is free or not, if I want him to stay home, i tell him. I learned a long time ago that I can’t get mad at him for not WANTING to stay around ALL THE TIME. I can’t get mad at him for not feeling or thinking the way I do. If it bothers me, I would ask “Will you stay with me tonight instead?”…it usually works out for the best.

    By Carterwagon on Feb 14, 2008

  6. OMG. I’m gonna get so hooked on this blog… I have found myself in this situation too, and I think Caterwagon has the best bead on the issue… As individuals, we should be able to decide we are going to do X, Y, or Z. I shouldn’t have to ask permission to go out with the boys, and she shouldn’t have to for a girls night.

    That said, Donkey, leave the jabs out of it. Don’t “ask for permission”. Quit being a retard. Ask if she has a problem with you going out tonight or the next or whatever.

    And, the ball & chain (hey, it’s your logo), should not be a jerkface and get mad at the donkey for not reading her mind when he does go out. If you would rather him stick around tonight or whatever, SAY IT. And don’t give that oh-so-delightful “you should know better” sneer that we all love. :)

    My 2 cents. :)

    By Slack on Feb 15, 2008

  7. i love this website allready..
    ok, its quite simple.. the donkey should be a MAN about it and decide what hes doing, dont ASK FOR PERMISSION. say(or offer, or suggest.. whatever semantics you wish to use) what your going to do based on your own values and priorities and if your wife has a problem with it shel tell you.

    As a man your job is to MAKE DECISIONS, no one said you always had to be right about them.. if you overlooked something that made going out with your brother a bad idea. Your wife will let you know, otherwise, with all due respect. grow a pair. Your wife is saying she doesnt like controlling you! do what makes her happy, dont be a wuss.

    By Dima on Feb 15, 2008

  8. I often get this question except phrased a little differently…as in “I already said probably but that I’d have to ask you first.” Usually this applies to golf, which we all know means an entire DAY.

    I say we take the mental scoreboard out of our heads and put up a dry erase board on the fridge because I know he secretly thinks, “Well she was at the gym for an hour, which means I should be able to get permission to go watch NASCAR tomorrow.”

    By heather on Feb 21, 2008

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