Update: “Annoyed By His Behavior” Responds

updatesIt’s time again for “Dear Wendy Updates,” a feature where people I’ve given advice to in the past let us know whether they followed the advice and how they’re doing now. Today we hear from “Annoyed By His Behavior” (LW2) whose husband was rude during her mother’s recent visit to see her grandson. After the mother left, the LW’s husband said that he felt “replaced” during her visit. “That surprised me,” the LW wrote, “since he was involved in everything we did. I reassured him that he’s the only father our son will ever have. My husband said he didn’t know why he felt that way, and I asked a follow-up question to the effect of: ‘Do you think it might be a fear of inadequacy or lack of quality time with our son?’ He again said he didn’t know, and then he got defensive and said he wished I were more sympathetic.”

She asked: “Was my approach insensitive? Could I have been more sympathetic while still expressing my unhappiness with his behavior? Is feeling jealous of a grandparent a common experience for husbands?”

Her update below.

I appreciate your insight and response. I did speak with my husband, and I apologized for putting words in his mouth. I asked if he could elaborate on his feelings, and I listened to his feedback with an open mind and willingness to hear him without judgement.

He articulated that he felt my mother was too involved. It bugged him that she wanted to be a part of activities like story-time, bath-time, and teaching our son words like “grandma.” He felt like that took away from his quality time with our son. It angered him that the baby wasn’t saying “Dada” and was now saying “G” words instead. He also mentioned that it was surprising that I was suddenly more accepting of my mother and that bugged him too. (In the past we both considered her overbearing at times.)

We discussed why he felt that way (he’s not really sure) and what we can do to eliminate any insecurity during future family time (shorter visits and clearer lines of communication). I also clarified that I did not think he was a bad parent and I didn’t mean to insinuate that he was.

We did address his behavior during my mother’s stay. I reiterated that slamming doors, cursing at the dogs, and snapping at my mother and me are not acceptable ways to express his feelings (or be a role model for our son). We discussed how that kind of behavior is a trend for him and how I struggle to be sympathetic when he’s carrying on like that. He knows from past therapy that he has other tools to handle his emotions, and he agreed moving forward to process his frustrations in a healthier way. Things ended positively, but I assume we will require future conversations so we can stay on the same team and supportive during family visits.

It’s not abnormal for a grandmother who hasn’t seen her grandson in a year to read him books and give him a bath! It’s alarming that your husband would feel so threatened by this that he would act out with cursing and slamming of doors. It’s also worrisome that he doesn’t support your fostering a closer relationship with your mother and that it “bugged” him that you were more accepting of her. Something is very wrong here. This is not how a loving, mentally stable husband and father behaves. Things did not “end positively” here at all. This is not an ending and it’s not positive. This is, if not the beginning, then the continuation of something very alarming that I hope you will seek professional help to deal with. I’m glad therapy has been a part of your husband’s past and I urge you to seek some guidance for yourself, too, and to be very open about your husband’s behavior, his treatment of your mother during her visit, and any concerns you have about his role in your son’s life.

If you’re someone I’ve given advice to in the past, I’d love to hear from you, too. Email me at wendy@dearwendy.com with a link to the original post, and let me know whether you followed the advice and how you’re doing now.
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  1. anonymousse says:

    Wow, the slamming doors and carrying on is not cool at all. You should ask him to please go back into therapy to work on ways of expressing his anger that aren’t borderline violent and scary. He needs to fix this now before your son gets any older.

  2. I do find it really off that he feels that threatened by your mother reading to and/or bathing you son, who I assume doesn’t visit frequently? And then instead of talking to you about it acts like a child throwing a tantrum.

    I do think some more therapy would help, both couples and individual. He’s modeling really bad behavior for your son.

    My BIL is kind of control freak, but if my nephew asks for one of us during bath or story time, he’ll hand over the reigns. And it’s not that my nephew loves any of us more, it’s the novelty of being around someone new. It’s exciting and different and it helps foster other relationships.

  3. Maybe your husband prefers it when your relationship with your mom is rocky. That way she has less influence over you, and he has more. When she visited and stomped all over his territory he acted out. Does he limit other people in your life? When you want to do something that takes focus off him does he act out till its not worth it? You say that everything worked out in a positive way, but did it? He stopped slamming doors and yelling because your mom’s gone, not because he’s being reasonable now. Partners can be controlling in subtle but effective ways. You describe your mom as overbearing, often we’re attracted to what’s familiar. Go to therapy on your own before you go to couple’s therapy with him. Controlling partners can twist couple’s counseling around to farther their control.

    1. anonymousse says:

      Great points, Helen.

    2. golfer.gal says:

      Good points Helen. Agreed, this is an independent therapy situation, not a couples therapy one. If you’ve got a partner displaying controlling or abusive behavior then couples therapy can often make things worse, not better.

      So he was basically upset that she…was there? And you two were getting along? I agree with Wendy, something is very wrong here. Giving in by agreeing to cut down contact and time with your mom to make him happy wasn’t a good outcome at all. He even admitted he has no good reason to act or feel that way, so why is the solution to HIS problem that you are now more isolated from your family? You’ve also now taught him that tantruming and getting scary/violent will get him what he wants. Alarm bells are ringing loud here, please get into counseling, and take a look at http://www.thehotline.org , particularly the power and control wheel and the resources to help you answer the question “am I in an abusive relationship?”.

  4. This guy sounds terrible. I wondered how Wendy got her take the first time, when she chastised the LW.

  5. Bittergaymark says:

    Um, Yeah. Even I think your husband is just plain FUCKING NUTS. Seriously. I hope this gives you REAL pause. But — sigh… — I know it won’t. So instead you’ll suffer through a decade more of this psychotic nonsense and add more kids to the mess.

    Just don’t. Seriously. Walk away. NOW.

  6. katmich15 says:

    So there are two issues here as I read this, how the husband feels and how he acts. Sounds like he thinks her mother is overbearing, and apparently she does too, some of the time, but she is trying to be more accepting because of the grandchild, which is great. My guess is that he is irritated that he thinks the mother is pushing too hard, maybe pushing him out of the way instead of being nice about it, and so he’s mad. Nobody likes to have to deal with someone they don’t like, but this needs to be about the child, so he needs to grow up.

    But then there is how he is acting which is like a ridiculous baby, and he is modeling some scary and inappropriate behavior, yikes. Hopefully he means it when he says he is going to work on expressing himself in a healthier way, because all that crap is unacceptable. Glad the LW told him so, hope she holds him to it.

  7. Bittergaymark says:

    Even if she IS overbearing. There is nothing overbearing about a grandma doing story time, giving the kid a bath, and teaching a baby to say “grandma.”

    And to suggest otherwise is batshit fucking crazy. Or he’s gaslighting. Either way the husband is NOT a good husband or father. End of story.

  8. katmich15 says:

    Of course there’s nothing overbearing about doing any of those things, those are the things a grandma should do. But her comment about her mother being overbearing made me wonder how bad she is, I’ve been around grandmas who were so pushy you’d like to smack them (one friends MIL in particular comes to mind). But it could be that she isn’t that overbearing and the husband is just a big baby, who knows.

  9. Whatever you do, and however you are managing this, don’t let him isolate you from your mother. If you yourself want more distance that’s fine, but don’t let him drive a wedge in if you don’t want that.

  10. This was an overreaction from the husband. I can understand some irritation at a long (?) stay of an in-law. But why not asking positively some me-time with his son, instead of slamming doors? The grandma doesn’t need to be involved in all baby activities. The father can very well ask to read a story or bath himself his son, without his MIL being present. He lacks some assertiveness if he can’t request that. His remarks about the language are a bit ridiculous. Good if the baby starts speaking! I think this is a lot about his incapacity to articulate his will and requests in a constructive way.
    Again, I can imagine my partner being fed up with an in-law, but showing it so grossly is a shame for the LW – and for himself. He is at the same time not enough in control of himself and not assertive enough. He has to work on himself.
    Shorter visits are nevertheless a good idea. The best visits are 3-4 days. Beyond that, you have to develop an adaptation sense that seems difficult for him.

  11. I worry about anyone who feels so comfortable acting like that in front of an outside party, I really do.

  12. allathian says:

    I’m sorry OP, but your husband sounds like an immature and insecure jerk. This could get abusive very quickly. He’s acting like a toddler, not a father. He’s not being a good husband to you and he’s not being a good parent to your son, so please don’t allow him to isolate you from your mom. And whatever you do, get on reliable BC now. Don’t bring another baby into the mix, please.

    I’m glad he’s in therapy, but you should get some therapy too, to deal with him better and perhaps to get an outsider to convince you that this behavior is not OK and that your first duty is to protect your son from him, even if it means getting out of the marriage. Don’t put up with him slamming doors, cursing at the dogs etc. This is not appropriate behavior at any time and it could easily escalate to domestic violence. It’s at least borderline abusive as it is.

  13. LadyClegane says:

    Can I say that this line, “It angered him that the baby wasn’t saying “Dada” and was now saying “G” words instead,” chilled me? Maybe OP is using “anger” as lazy shorthard for hurt or jealous, but if the husband is truly angry at the quirky way some baby developmental milestones happen, I have a lot of concern about the husband’s temper/expectations

    1. Bittergaymark says:

      Yes!! This was a HUGE red flag!!

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