The Mercury News
Mom and husband are at odds
DEAR AMY >> I was raised by a single mother. She's an educated, liberal feminist who brought me up to be a strong and self-sufficient woman.
She is loving, open-minded and nonconfrontational.
We are very close, even though she lives in another state.
Every year she comes to stay at my house for a week or two and the two of us travel to visit other relatives. I always thoroughly enjoy our time together.
My husband was raised in a very patriarchal house by blue-collar workers who never denied him anything. He's brilliant and extremely successful, even though he never finished college (but he is insecure about how smart he is).
He's a man's man, physically strong, can fix anything, build anything, do anything he sets his mind to, takes excellent care of our grown children, and adores me.
My problem is that my husband and mother don't like each other.
They don't argue, but they definitely struggle to be in the same room.
Once my husband and I were debating about something and Mother got up abruptly and went to her room.
The next morning, she said that he was being mean to me. She worried that he didn't respect or care for me.
Even though I explained that was absolutely not true, she seemed very concerned.
When I told my husband why she was uncomfortable, he was hurt, saying that she wants him to be different, but he will not change who he is for anyone.
I feel horrible that my husband and my mother aren't better friends.
I want to avoid another awkward visit.
Do you have any advice on how to possibly bring them closer?
— In the Middle
DEAR IN THE MIDDLE >> First for some perspective. Your mother raised you alone. You don't mention that she has had a long-term spouse or partner, then or now.
If a person has navigated through the world mainly on their own, it can be unsettling to witness a couple debate (or argue).
If your mother doesn't spend time around couples who mix it up, it can be challenging to decode the difference between a fight, a debate, a minor dust-up or a prelude to a mutual understanding.
You made a tactical error here. If you want your mother and husband to be closer, then why did you choose to report your mother's incorrect and upsetting assertion back to him? You told him, “My mom thinks you're mean to me.” Rather than repeat this to him, you should have directed your attention to your mother, to reassure her about your healthy relationship and your household's dynamic.
On to your husband. One sure way to prove that you are a real “man's man” is to be kind and considerate toward your wife's beloved mother. Your husband needs to step up, and even if he is unwilling to change, he should prove himself capable of at least behaving differently.