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Does husband love his dangerous sport more than his family?

DEAR CAROLYN: Hubby and I have been married for 18 years. He loved his life-threatening sport well before me. All the injuries he has endured because of this very dangerous sport have caught up to him. His doctor told him he needs surgery on his spine, and a small car crash could cause irreparable damage. I accepted the danger before but no longer embrace pushing him in a wheelchair. I feel like a hypocrite because prior to the diagnosis I felt like I accepted this behavior. Now I resent his participation knowing just the slightest error can change our lives forever. I find it is extremely selfish — am I selfish for thinking this? I've asked him to stop the sport until we know more from the doctor. He refuses. We have two kids, I am the financial provider for the family, and just feel his response and unwillingness is not fair. I'd appreciate an objective perspective. He loves his sport more than his family.


SELFISH?: Ah. I was with you until that last sentence.

You may be right, but it's rarely that simple. Millions of parents and partners (and siblings and children) are out there living millions of lives that involve risk, for probably as many reasons as there are people making those choices. To imply they all prioritize these vocations or avocations over their loved ones isn't fair, or realistic.

You actually hint at this twice yourself: You mention that his sport preceded you, and acknowledge you might be the selfish one here — which I disagree with, for what it's worth, but it does suggest you understand the sport is as much about who he is as what he does, and you knowingly signed on to that.

Your concerns and resentment are still valid, though. His continuing this sport puts your financial security at risk, which gets at the core of who you are — and involves your agreeing to things you might reasonably not have foreseen. For example, that he'd refuse to take a serious diagnosis seriously.

So you both owe each other ungrudging acknowledgment of each other's existential concerns.

That, in turn, can clear the path to your productive options (such as they are at this point). While he figures out how not to lose himself as his physical options narrow, you can do the same. With the help of a financial planner and, if needed, an attorney. You are absolutely entitled to protect yourself from any of his elective disregard for his body and his family's well-being.

As a husband and father, he obviously signed on to his share of that responsibility himself. But if he insists on shirking it, then you can't afford to be a purist here. You have to do it yourself.

Figure out what your new limits are given this new information — what care you are willing to provide him, basically, if he continues against doctors' orders and harms himself — then state those limits to him clearly, and why. Give him one more chance to protect his family from his choices. If he refuses again, then line up those appointments immediately to find out what your options are for protecting yourselves from him.

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