It’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.
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 [email protected] 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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