Spouse to stand up to man’s par­ents for years of bul­ly­ing

Honolulu Star-Advertiser - - DETOURS - ——— Carolyn Hax is a colum­nist with the Washington Post. Write to her in care of Washington Post, Style Plus, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C., 20071, or email her at tellme@wash­post.com.

Dear Carolyn: I have been mar­ried for over 30 years and through­out the mar­riage, my in-laws have made fun of my in­ter­ests and cer­tain traits of my per­son­al­ity un­der the guise of teas­ing. I have never spo­ken up and de­fended my­self against these com­ments and nei­ther has my hus­band. Only re­cently, I have been able to bet­ter ar­tic­u­late to my hus­band how much these com­ments bother me (slow learner).

My hus­band and I dis­agree on who should speak to his fam­ily about this. I have asked him to talk to them be­cause I sense my in­laws will bet­ter ac­cept this dis­cus­sion from my hus­band, and be­cause it is my hus­band’s re­spon­si­bil­ity to pro­tect me from this crit­i­cism.

My hus­band be­lieves these are my hurt feel­ings and I should speak for my­self. — Hav­ing My Back

Dear Hav­ing My Back: I am long on the record that each spouse serves as mar­i­tal spokesper­son with their own par­ents. Send­ing a spouse in­stead to do the talk­ing with in-laws usu­ally just means the sender is dodg­ing the folks.

But: This case is a lit­tle dif­fer­ent, be­cause I don’t think the Big Talk With the Par­ents is what will serve you best right now. Your in-laws have bul­lied you for years. While it would

be right and de­cent of your hus­band to stand up (and have stood up) for you — which I’ll talk about more in a mo­ment — the voice with the most po­ten­tial im­pact here is your own. There’s noth­ing more pow­er­ful than when the tar­get of the bul­ly­ing stands up and says, no. No more, not funny. I will not put up with this treat­ment again.

So here’s the divi­sion of jus­tice-la­bor I rec­om­mend: 1) Wait till your in-laws pull their usual teas­ing shtick. 2) Tell them you’ve had enough. You say you now can “bet­ter ar­tic­u­late” what’s wrong with their teas­ing, so do it. 3) See how they re­spond. 4a) If you get through to them and they

back down, thank them and cau­tiously treat this as the be­gin­ning of a beau­ti­ful, or at least not a one-sided mock­ery of, friend­ship. 4b) If they push back, then their son, your hus­band, needs to step in to tell them how un­ac­cept­able their be­hav­ior is now and has been for years. Not be­cause he’s their son, and not be­cause you’re his wife, but be­cause when by­standers side de­ci­sively with the vic­tims, that’s when a bully is done.

Which brings us to the fact that your hus­band is, in ret­ro­spect and armed with

this new in­for­ma­tion on how you in­ter­pret your in-laws’ crit­i­cism, per­fectly fine with his role as dis­en­gaged by­s­tander.

Re­ally? You’re fi­nally able to put words to your decades of dis­com­fort, and he’s got noth­ing for you? He chose you, and his par­ents have ridiculed that choice for decades.

I could eas­ily make a case that it’s in his own self-in­ter­est to stand up to his par­ents on that — es­pe­cially if they’ve “teased” him, too, into this cur­rent sub­mis­sion.

CAROLYN HAX

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