Following are leftover questions from my online chat, “In-law Drama,” (November 18):
My father-in-law is a very smart man, respected in his profession of law and in the larger community.
In his family, his word IS law.
This makes it very hard when my wife and I have an important decision to make, since she’s always already discussed everything with him, before we have the chance.
But there are important decisions in which I feel very left out or ignored – example: the area of the city where we should buy a house.
He keeps finding the “perfect” house within blocks of his! Prices are high there so he’s offering to help with the down payment, making it all the more appealing to her.
But much as I appreciate the offer and a lower mortgage, I’m afraid that if we move that close to him, my wife will never consider my opinions as important as his.
Show that you respect their close father-daughter relationship, but be clear that it doesn’t mean that her dad gets to rule on your decisions as a couple.
Keep the specific issue discussions on point (lawyers can understand that and so should his daughter).
In other words, talk about the pros and cons of what area you want to live in, and why.
Then listen to what your wife feels on the same topic.
If she quotes her father and/or seems narrow-focused, ask for more of her own reasons and how they affect you as a couple (and as parents, if applicable).
If this doesn’t help, have a discussion on what boundaries should exist between you two and your parents, as well as you two and hers.
Remember, parents can only be intrusive in a couple’s relationship if one of you is sharing personal information.
You both need to also discuss the importance of having privacy as a couple, within your extended family.
Then tell her that you need to be your own man in order to come to agreed decisions with her, just as she grew up with a strong male role-model, whom you both respect.
I was finishing university and seriously dating a very nice guy who loved me and was already talking about our marrying one day.
He introduced me to his parents who were nice, quiet, and somewhat passive. No problem.
Then, twice, his married brother and wife were at his house.
The brother ate like a boor, yelled at his wife and his parents, told filthy jokes, and even recounted stories about having sex with his wife.
Neither my boyfriend nor his parents said anything to stop him. I knew I couldn’t stand being involved with this family, and found an excuse to break up soon after.
Shocked and Fled
You dodged more than a bullet… rather, a full-on verbal assault.
His brother was determined to get rid of you, for whatever reasons. Jealousy and mocking of his nice-guy brother?
Perhaps he disliked that you and your boyfriend revealed his ugly nature, simply by contrast.
Had you been deeply in love with your boyfriend, you might’ve tried to figure it out, but that wasn’t the case.
Moreover, he and his passive parents were of no help. So either the bully brother had everyone terrified of him, or they’d accepted his obnoxious manner.
Since you don’t seem to regret giving up that boyfriend, you were right to end any chance at being further exposed to his brother.
My father-in-law is driving my wife and me crazy! He’s raised three kids of his own, was very health conscious when they were children.
But now, with our toddler, he gives our child Coca-Cola to drink. It’s way too much sugar and caffeine for a little kid. Why would he do that?!?
He’s playing the doting grandfather whom children will adore, by showing that they can turn to him for “special” (and forbidden) treats.
Be re-assured that their daily nutrition at home has the greater long-term effect on your child’s health.
So try not to overreact if the visits aren’t daily and the child is being given sips instead of a full serving of Coke.
Otherwise, your wife must speak up firmly, saying that drinks with caffeine and sugar are not allowed:
“It makes our child hyper, and stimulates his desire for more sugar.”
Bring your child’s own full water bottle when you visit.
Tip of the day:
In-laws can’t intrude as easily if you don’t share couple discussions and problems with them.