I love my wife of 11 years very much. She used to be a singer and is involved in amateur theatre, which may be why she can come across as larger than life.
When she enters a room, she makes a big statement or does something to get a reaction. Or, she inserts herself into conversations and often dominates them.
She does this without reading the rest of the group's mood, which can leave me and others feeling like an audience. Staying quiet seems to be negative for her.
When I mention something I find interesting or that happened to me, she’ll chime in with her opinion or a story from her experience, rather than listening and showing interest in me and my thoughts.
She's funny and loyal and kind, and very sensitive. Should I just suck it up and appreciate her theatricality, or should I tell her how it makes me feel and risk hurting her, perhaps badly?
After 11 years, this pattern appears set in stone. You clearly once felt proud of her big presence and theatrical background. A decade later, you want to be heard, too.
Given her sensitivity and love of the limelight, you need to proceed with great care. As an experienced performer, she knows how to upstage anyone trying to steal her spotlight.
So don’t start off with poor-me, or similar complaints about a dynamic that’s long been in place.
Practice at home instead of in public. When dining together, tell her an interesting story that happened that day at work, or recall how an event from the past still has an impact on you. Or, recount what you learned on the news or on social media that day.
If she tries to top your story, give her the verbal applause she wants, and tell her another story. Keep revealing that you have lots to say.
The goal is to create a new pattern of dialogue between you.
Once you get her used to your “voice” in discussion, take it out in company.
When she tells a story, respond approvingly instead of going quiet, and add to it as if supporting her. It’s a subtle signal that you’re there too, and with content to add.
It’s going to take time to adapt an old pattern to a new approach, but be diligent. She doesn’t want to lose you. After all, you’ve been her best audience for years.
Now show her your chops at being part of the scene.
FEEDBACK Regarding the man’s complaint that his wife wouldn’t curb her very frequent flatulence, despite that she knew it bothered and offended him (April 3):
Reader #1 - “Believe it or not, women produce more methane than men in general (Ellie - true, according to a Google search).
“But what you eat makes a difference. My very tiny wife is a stinker when it comes to gas, and can let it go without even being aware of it.
“I suggest that this man start changing the food his wife eats and learn to live with it.
“Women have all sorts of issues such as monthlies and pregnancies and related problems to them, such as morning sickness and diarrhea.
“If you’re in a relationship for the long haul, you’ll tolerate a lot and be helped and tolerated in return.
“My wife is now going through changes that aren’t good but I won’t abandon someone who wouldn’t abandon me.”
Reader #2 – “The man’s question reeked of ignorance and judgement over the proper way women (especially young and attractive ones!) are supposed to behave.
“It was clear that this guy was most upset that his wife had the nerve to fart in front of him.”
Reader # 3 – “The wife has probably been gassy for years and this is normal for her. This is her body's response to her diet.
“She’s possibly lactose intolerant. To test this, one day have her eat a lot of dairy products and monitor the level of gas the next two days.
“On the fourth day, have her eat no dairy and monitor. I find that the use of a dairy digestive such as Lactaid is very helpful.
“Consider that the majority of North Americans are lactose-intolerant to some extent.
“As for the husband, there’s nothing disrespectful about passing gas. It’s natural and he does it too. All people fart.”
Tip of the day:
Instead of criticizing a partner’s behaviour that you accepted for years, show another side of you that changes the dynamic.