My Wife Adopted a Dog Without Asking Me. How Do I Talk to Her About It?
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“My wife adopted a dog without my input during quarantine, and I am fuming. This is not the first time she's made a major decision without consulting me; last year, she booked an impromptu vacation for us without asking me because it was ‘such a good deal’ and she didn’t want to miss out on it. It left me scrambling at work and made me look pretty bad in front of my boss. It's not that I would’ve said no to either of these things, but she didn’t even bother asking me. How can I get her to include me in the process when it comes to making these kinds of big decisions?”

What I’m seeing here is that you want to support your wife and make your relationship work. If she wants a new dog? Amazing, but you want to discuss how to make that happen on a timeline that works for both of your lives. However, she’s acting like a party of one, as if your opinion is less important than her own. Your mission now is to help her understand that you want to be on her team.

Sure, it would be easy to fly into a rage at your wife’s impulsivity but it’s critical to remember that anger is almost always a secondary emotion. That means you’re hiding the feeling you actually need to access: Hurt. Your partner is making pretty big life decisions without consulting you first and it’s starting to undermine your partnership.

It’s okay to feel hurt by this—anyone would. But you should approach this conversation from the vantage point that you’re currently a team that’s not working as it should. You’re in this together and you truly care about your relationship. That way, you’re coming from a place of vulnerability and not a place of volatility.

Here are a few tips for bringing up this conversation:

Wait for a quiet moment, after your rage has receded.

If you jump into this conversation too quickly, especially when you’re still worked up, you’ll simply be lashing out instead of working toward a real solution. Rather than confronting your wife in a rage, which will only cause her to be on-guard and highly reactive, wait until you’ve cooled down enough to have a calm discussion. Ideally, do it when neither of you is distracted. This is not the sort of convo to bring up mid-grocery shop or while you’re driving to your in-laws.

Start at the root of the problem.

Yes, you’re upset about the dog. But more than that, you’re upset that your wife is repeatedly disrespecting your time and feelings, making big decisions without your input. Clearly state this to start the discussion, being sure to use facts and not emotions. For example, you should state: “You brought home a dog without discussing it with me. That made me upset because it’s a big change in both of our lives and I was not part of the decision-making process.” Remember, do not miss the forest for the trees by getting mired in all the details about what’s wrong with the puppy. (Like you said, you wouldn’t have said no!) Stick to the principle.   

Let her respond and take time to process what she says.

While you’ve been actively planning this discussion, it will be somewhat of a surprise to your wife and she may get defensive. Remain calm and don’t try to push your own point; instead, show her that you are on her side. You might say, “I realize you might not have known how your actions made me feel, which is why I’m bringing it to your attention now.” She might need time to process what she’s done and why it’s so wrong. 

Explain what you want from the conversation.

Once she’s processed what you’ve said, be prepared to provide her with input on how you’d like her to handle similar situations down the line. It’s important to clearly state exactly what you need from her—in terms of how these big decisions are communicated—especially when you’re dealing with someone who tends to be more impulsive with their actions. For instance, “If it’s a decision that will also affect me in any way, please run it by me before you act on it. Even if it’s a last-minute thing, you can always call me,” or, “If it involves a commitment from me, please don’t speak on my behalf. I would like to have a discussion with you before a decision is made.” 

Try your best to be gentle, especially if you’ve never expressed these feelings to your wife. Many people assume, “This person should know how I feel, and know how to behave; I shouldn’t have to tell them.” But the truth is, everyone’s different—and your wife probably isn’t a mind reader. What deeply bothers one person may not bug someone else at all.

And remember to keep your cool and use your communication skills. I’m guessing your wife will be understanding. 

Jenna Birch is a journalist and author of The Love Gap: A Radical Plan to Win in Life and Love, a relationship-building guide for modern women, as well as a dating coach (currently accepting new clients). To ask her a question, which she may answer in a forthcoming PureWow column, email her at jen.birch@sbcglobal.net.

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