A lot of husbands ask me if it's fair to implement new rules after having a concrete set of rules for such a long period of time. In addition to that, husbands ask if it's fair to punish for a past mistake when it wasn't a rule at the time the mistake was made. On the flip side, a lot of wives ask me if it's fair to be punished for past mistakes when a sudden "new rule" that she broke days, weeks, or months ago didn't exist at the time. It's not an easy situation to address since both sides have very fair and very valid points. The husband wants to punish so the past mistake doesn't happen again, however the wife feels it's unfair because, at the time, she didn't break any rule of the household. Both are perfectly understandable perspectives on this topic.
This topic comes up enough that I felt it would be helpful to some to express my opinion about these issues publicly on Learning Domestic Discipline. Keep in mind this is simply my personal opinion on these topics and should only be taken as such. As we all know by now, these decisions are ultimately made by the head of the household in any given relationship.
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So what if the wife broke this "new rule" in the past? Can she be held accountable for it? Is it fair to punish her for a breaking the "new rule" months ago when it wasn't a rule at the time? Most times it isn't. BUT, there are times where the behavior in the past warrants punishment based on the severity of it. People in general tend to hide the things they are ashamed of, or that the KNOW is wrong. Sometimes people just don't see the danger in doing something they've always done. The wife may be doing something dangerous that her husband is completely unaware of, or ever thought she would ever do, without ever understanding how it could possibly be a problem to the marriage.
For an example consider this scenario:
Without the husband knowing, the wife willingly gives out personal information online to whoever asks for it. Credit card numbers, the home address, phone numbers, birth dates, social security numbers, etc. The husband may have ASSUMED his wife wouldn't do this because he THOUGHT she would understand the danger of it, thus it wasn't a concrete rule in the marriage. The family ends up getting scammed out of thousands of dollars, or they get their identities stolen, or the family returns home from vacation to find their house has been broken into. All because this information was given out online. Well, now what? Obviously the family has a pretty big problem on their hands.
This is simply an example, but you get the point. Giving out information online wasn't a rule a month ago, but it should probably be a rule going forward, and it needs to be. Given this example, I feel it's fair to punish the wife for it, even though it wasn't a rule in the past. Something like this can never happen again, therefore the wife needs to be held accountable for it. Again, this is all my opinion, of course.
Now, with all of that said, not every "past mistake" is this serious, obviously. It may be something minor like not returning a library book on time, or not returning a movie rental on time. Now you have fees to deal with, but something like this doesn't put anyone at risk. Regardless, a rule needs to be put in place so it doesn't happen in the future. It wasn't a rule in the past, but now the husband needs to make it a rule. In minor cases such as this, I don't think it's necessary to punish the wife for the "past mistake" since it didn't put anyone at immediate risk.
When implementing new rules, it's important that husbands be fair and just with them. It's equally important for wives to understand the severity of their "past mistakes." Being in a Domestic Discipline relationship is all about working together for a healthier, happier, brighter, and safer future. Discuss the situation together. Was the "past mistake" serious enough to warrant punishment? Perhaps yes, perhaps no. It truly depends on the severity of the "past mistake", and couples should discuss any and all issues, past or present, so both partners have a clear understanding of the problems, and a clear understanding of the expectations going forward. That's what it boils down to.
To recap, yes I feel it's fair to implement new rules into the marriage since marriages, and life in general, are constantly changing and evolving. I also feel it's fair to punish the wife for her past mistakes IF those past mistakes put herself, or any other member of the family, at risk in any way, shape or fashion. If those past mistakes did NOT put any member of the family at risk in any way, shape or fashion, then I feel it's unfair to punish when the rule was not a part of the marriage in the past.
When implementing new rules and determining whether or not to punish for past mistakes, I feel it's important couples discuss the situation at length until both spouses have a clear understanding of the problem, and a full understanding of the expectations going forward. The decision on whether or not to punish for any past mistake is ultimately determined by the head of the household.
Again, this is simply my personal opinion on this subject, and I encourage you to share your thoughts/opinions in the comments section of this post.