Relationship Connection: My husband and I can’t agree on how to protect our children in public

Question

My husband and I get along pretty good except in one area. He is overly trusting and I am overly cautious and we are trying to find a middle ground. See, I deal in missing and abused children and am an advocate for both. I have seen some pretty horrific stories about both. I don’t think that my boys, 5 and 3, should go to the bathroom alone if the bathroom of a public place is out of sight, but my husband disagrees. While I feel pretty safe in St. George, I am not completely willing to trust my children wandering off alone without always having my eyes on them. My husband thinks if they can get to the bathroom and find their way back they should be fine and I should allow them to go alone. I disagree, as I know it only takes a second of not looking and watching your children and someone could snatch them, they could wander off, et cetera. My question is how do we find a middle ground without more fighting about it? I have let up a little as long as I am in a surrounding that I completely trust and he has given in a little – but only to shut me up.

Answer

I’m not going to play referee about which of you is more correct. You both have excellent points to consider and you also both struggle to hear each other’s points of view.

Dr. John Gottman has written extensively about this dynamic where a couple gets gridlocked on an issue and won’t budge. There are reasons each of you can’t move toward the other’s side on this. It’s critical for your relationship that you slow down this discussion and really find out why it’s so strong for each of you.

Instead of trying to explain your side of the issue to convince your partner, try explaining yourself in a way that explains why this is so important to you. Share from the heart and try allowing your partner the same opportunity. If it turns into a debate, then take a break and start the conversation again another time. This is a long conversation you won’t solve in one sitting.

Dr. Gottman even has a sample list of questions your partner can ask you in his book “The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work” and other tips to help you stay connected to your husband while you guys talk through this issue.

You have some strong feelings about this issue that come from your background in working with real life-and-death situations involving innocent children. I can imagine how much this changes the way you treat your own children in public. However, recognize that your husband is most likely reacting to your intensity about this issue and trying to counterbalance your energy so your children aren’t overprotected. He clearly has his own reasons for resisting your efforts that are important for you to better understand.

When you both understand each other’s worlds more clearly around this issue, it’s actually more likely you’ll be able to give a little more without resentment and then you will be able to support one another.

Stay connected!

Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are solely his and not those of St. George News.

Have a relationship question for Geoff to answer? Submit to:

Email: geoff@lovingmarriage.com

Twitter: @geoffsteurer

Facebook: facebook.com/GeoffSteurerMFT

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2013, all rights reserved.

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13 Comments

  • Maudie Fricker November 20, 2013 at 8:44 am

    GIRL! I would take him out into the backyard and mudwrassle him…he needs a MAJOR wakeup call!!! I took my son w/me into the ladies til he was about 10. No one ever said a word cause they all knew WHY! If my husband was with us, he would take him to the men’s room and stay there until they were done. As he got older, and even now at the ripe old age of 14, I wait right outside the entryway to the men’s room, with my arms folded and a stern look on my face, and I don’t move til The Kid comes out. He is still embarrassed by it but I don’t care. Your husband needs to take his children and supervise every second that they are in the restroom, its RISKY and CARELESS for him NOT TO! Better to be safe than sorry!!!

    • The Kid November 20, 2013 at 10:20 am

      What my mom forgot to mention is that I am 6’3″ tall and weigh 215 lbs. I really don’t need her to stand guard at the entrance to the bathroom. Sheeesh…..it is embarrassing to have her look like a shady character herself at the entrance.
      Please mom don’t do it anymore. I am looking forward to turning 18 so I can enlist in the Marines and won’t have to have mom at the entrance to the latrine.
      Mom I love you, bu….please stop.

    • Pubes November 20, 2013 at 12:21 pm

      Did you stop taking him to the ladies room when he reached puberty and started peering under the stall doors at other women using the bathroom? If those women voiced their complaint about him leering at them, did you remind them you had to protect him?

  • Christine Shumate November 20, 2013 at 9:03 am

    I’m VERY nervous about my kids as well, coming from a large city near LA. I keep an eye on my kids (2 & 5) and they have to stay together in public places, like the water park. In restaurants, we always took our eldest to the bathroom, until about 6 months ago. She is old enough to identify and go to the bathroom herself. But I am watching. I am timing. My eye never wanders far from where I know she is. If she takes too long I go look. But I also feel that she needs to be able to do things on her own, without me hovering over her shoulder. She needs to learn to be independent. Not to be mean, but are you still going to go to the bathroom with them when they are 10 or 14? 5 is old enough. They are going to school and you have to start trusting other people, so in my mind that equates more responsibility for the child. But by no means do my kids ever run around without me watching their every move. I am happy with 2 children, I think more would be a strain to keep track of.

    • Bubble World November 20, 2013 at 10:15 am

      Yup, there is a protective bubble around St George that prevents the entire outside world of LA gangs and drugdealers from getting in. Really, people are stupid to think everywhere and everyone else is a product of LA gangbanger. It only takes common sense to stay away from troubled areas (to include those in St George) and to keep a watchful presence over your children; moving to st george doesn’t remove the bad people element. Also, people in st george are just daffy when it comes to an extreme mistrust of everyone. it’s why I don’t volunteer anymore; don’t want to be subjected to lies and accusations by the paranoid parents too lazy to do anything for their kids except to poop out a bunch of them.

      • Christine Shumate November 20, 2013 at 1:58 pm

        I don’t know what you mean, protective bubble? Did I say I moved here to get away from violence? No, we moved when I was 14 to get away from the earthquakes. I didn’t say everyone was bad and that people in LA are horrible. I said coming from LA and seeing the violence done there has made me a wary mom. Anywhere. Not just St. George

  • Options November 20, 2013 at 10:07 am

    You should divorce the guy and find another man who will provide 24X7 protection service to your kids… and pay for them, too.

  • Careful November 20, 2013 at 10:09 am

    If the kids were girls, around here I’d worry about the warren jeffs enclaves that might kidnap them and press them into broodmare service for the polygamist old men.

  • DoubleTap November 20, 2013 at 10:48 am

    I think that 7-9 years old is plenty old enough to have go to a public bathroom, while observing the entrance to the bathroom from a close safe distance. But at 14…I am surprised that he is even out shopping or out in public with you at that age.

    • Pubes November 20, 2013 at 12:23 pm

      No kidding… If mom stood behind me when I was 7-9 and while I was trying to pee, and making shure I didn’t shake it more than twice, I would still be seeing a councilor about it. These Utah mommas can be overly protective.

  • Dana November 20, 2013 at 2:16 pm

    IS your husband stupid or in denial? Show him the stats on children who are kidnapped in broad daylight. Show him the stats on children who are molested in public areas.
    Stand your ground. This is about YOUR CHILDREN and their safety, not about a disagreement on points of view.

  • DoubleStandards R Us November 20, 2013 at 2:42 pm

    If this article was about a child who had gone missing when a parent had let them go to the bathroom by themselves, you all would be whining about how bad of parents they must be for letting a kid go to the bathroom on their own…

  • Hatalli November 21, 2013 at 11:46 am

    OK, first off, there is no way that a three year old should go to a public restroom by themselves. The five year old? Well, maybe, depending on the five year old. But in both cases, it would be far preferable for dad to take them. If that is not possible, then mom should take the three year old. The five year old will likely be OK, but mom should be right outside the door. The problem is that neither St. George, nor any other place in the world is safe from child molesters. They are out there, and anyone who thinks otherwise, is deluding themselves.
    Also, of course, five year olds love to play, and there is something that is fascinating to them about public restrooms, so give the child limits on time!
    And being in a position to keep an eye on the restroom door is a good idea for a parent clear up into the kids adolescence. This is not about your being overprotective, it is just common sense.
    It would appear that your husband is a very naive individual. Also, it seem that you and your husband may have some serious marital difficulties, some that you may not either one be aware of.
    I believe marriage counseling would be in the best interest would be in both of your best interests. And in the best interests of the kids as well. They need to have parents that are united when it comes to raising them.

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