I recently met a woman at a mutual friend’s wedding. She’d travelled here from another city, along with her teenage daughter.
She immediately confided personal details: She and her husband, a lawyer, initially said they’d attend with their four children.
He dropped out when a friend invited him to join a month-long adventure trip, after she returns.
He’d kept their younger children at home because he’d be missing them.
The woman listed the difficulties of managing her four kids’ schedules alone, while working full-time.
She also had to cancel her own planned work trip while he’s away.
She talked about this incessantly over the two days that I saw her.
I’m still perplexed: Did she want my advice, my sympathy, or was she showing off?
Too Much Information
She was working it through by talking aloud.
Some people deal with changes this way. They have a knack for recognizing random listeners, since their closest people have likely already heard it all.
If you gave advice, she wouldn’t necessarily take it, since you don’t know her specific circumstances.
Seeking sympathy is part of this tell-all.
Bragging? Somewhat. Hers were certainly the problems of a comfortable lifestyle.
But it’s also typical of a certain personality type that considers living aloud as communication…
If there’s a next time, remember: You can walk away.
This second request for advice follows your first response (November 4). I realize that I hadn’t provided you with the “whole picture.”
Our daughter-in-law’s married to my husband’s daughter. From first meeting, she’s been needy, constantly seeking attention, a know-it-all.
Since she became pregnant, those traits have worsened.
Recently, at our house, she wanted to see a particular news show while everyone else, including her spouse, was watching our favourite sports team play.
My husband twice mentioned that we were taping the other show and could watch it the next day. Or, she could view it on a TV in another room.
But she insisted on watching it on the main TV where the game was already on.
Her spouse, who’s always catered to her, gave in.
Meanwhile, my husband and I kept quiet for fear of creating a scene that’d upset her.
My son and his wife left.
My husband and I now realize that we should’ve been assertive enough to say “NO.”
But he hesitates to talk to his daughter about this for fear of family disharmony.
We’ve consulted with a relative/psychiatrist. He advised that we set clear boundaries with our DIL who probably doesn’t understand the need to respect boundaries.
She comes from a broken/dysfunctional family. Her parents never set any boundaries during her childhood.
How do we prevent similar occurrences while still maintaining family peace?
Torn and Confused
The psychiatrist/relative’s professional advice is ideal.
It takes time to get across. It also needs to begin thoughtfully, because there’s already a pattern in your family of caving-in to her demands.
Her early upbringing formed her current responses: She believes she needs to fight to the end to get her own way.
Introduce your boundaries one at a time. If it’s about the ball game, say well ahead what’s being watched, and that the other TV’s available.
Treat the couple warmly, accommodate what’s easy, and show interest in her. Hopefully her excessive neediness will soften with trust.
Meanwhile, your husband should gently discuss with his daughter the importance of family harmony, especially with the baby coming, for mutual co-operation and support.
FEEDBACK Regarding the woman whose boyfriend wouldn’t divulge the secret marriage plans of his close friends (Nov. 17):
Reader – “She sounds like a drama queen. I'm guessing her boyfriend didn’t trust her to keep this secret based on her past behaviour.
“He seemed an honourable guy to me. She should see his ability to honour the wishes of his close friends as a strength.”
Reader #2 - “How many people should a person who’s been asked to "keep a secret," actually tell?
“For him to betray the couple’s trust (for a limited time) did put him at odds with friends who expected complete honesty from him, even to the point of him betraying others (like his girlfriend).
“But who next should he have told? His BFF? His parents? When does the cycle of trust vs. betrayal end?
“He’s probably better off without her as she seems self absorbed with no empathy or understanding of others.”
Tip of the day:
If a tell-all talker finds you, understand that he/she thinks it’s a discussion, but you can leave.