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Dear Carolyn • I know how you feel about ultimatums, and agree with you. But what's the alternative when one partner proposes something to which the other is strongly opposed? My husband is proposing that he go on vacation solo for two weeks this summer. I think it's an incredibly selfish idea: We have zero dollars in the bank, so he would be charging it to our credit card and thus making our precarious financial position even more so; and he would be leaving me alone with our baby and toddler for the third time in 12 months (the other trips were semi-business, semi-pleasure). He feels entitled to the vacation because I wanted children more than he did and because he is the sole breadwinner. For the record, he is a loving and attentive father, albeit one who almost never changes a diaper. How do I convey to him what a complete (glass bowl) this idea makes him without actually threatening to leave him?
Dear Ultimatum Alternative • Whatever he decides to do about the two weeks, it won't change the fact that he's willing to consider it. He's out for himself, not you or the kids or the marriage; reckless about money; blind to the hard work it takes to be around young children ... I could go on but surely you get the point. This is a seriously precarious position for you to be in, with two littles and no income. So my primary advice is for you to look past the vacation for a moment, and start thinking of how you can get yourself on more independent footing. Do you have a career you can restart, a trustworthy source of child care? Making sure you can support yourself is important for everyone, male/female/parent/nonparent, but given your Plan A zero savings, entitled spouse means you need a Plan B, today. As for dealing with his vacation, that depends on your limits. If he goes, will you end the marriage? If he stays home only because you threaten divorce, will that suffice? Has the marriage-ending behavior already occurred with "He feels entitled ... "? Base your decisions and your words on these answers.
Carolyn Hax's column runs Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.