The Washington Post

Husband is a good sport, but she’s sick of family’s games

- Carolyn Hax

Adapted from an online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: For some reason, my loud, raucous extended family all like to poke fun at the expense of my sweet, shy, quiet husband. I don’t know why he’s singled out, but every time he just ends up being the lightning rod for my brothers’ dirty jokes and my dad and uncle’s drunken nicknames. My husband takes it in stride, but it’s beginning to irritate me.

It’d be one thing if it were good-natured, but some of the things they say are pretty meanspirit­ed.

I know I can’t control my family, but short of downing many beverages, is there anything I can do to keep myself from going ballistic on them? I already asked them to tone it down, and they all just laughed at me.

— Running Interferen­ce

Running Interferen­ce: Once it’s safe to resume gathering with your raucous extended family

. . . you can stop going to these gatherings. It sounds cruel to keep asking your husband to subject himself to this.

Unless your husband doesn’t want to stop going? That could be why he takes it in stride, after all — because it doesn’t upset him at all. Weirder things happen. And if that’s the case here, then it’s time to see this as your issue and, therefore, yours to face.

Holding it in until your filters break isn’t the answer, either. One pass at “ask[ing] them to tone it down” is fine for what it is, but I suspect it was at least somewhat disingenuo­us. You don’t want them to “tone it down,” you want them to treat you and your husband with the respect you believe you deserve. You see them as using your husband, the person you chose out of all the people, for sport — and you interpret this behavior really as an attack on you. Reasonably so.

So, own that. Say it clearly and calmly that your husband is a great, easygoing guy who can handle whatever they throw at him but that you are sick of their [stuff ]. Prepare a consequenc­e ahead of time in your mind that you feel willing to follow through on — then, next time they cross a line with you, act decisively on it.

Do give your husband fair warning before you take this on, though. He could have a very different impression of the whole thing, and you don’t want a well- meaning campaign in his honor to be what undermines him the most. Say, by creating the impression that he can’t stand up for himself.

That’s another, arguably better reason to center your response on how your brothers are getting to you.

Re: Running Interferen­ce:

My guess is they are needling the husband because he is quiet and thus “less manly” than they are, so if she defends him, they will say he is a sissy who needs his wife to protect him.

— Anonymous

Anonymous: That’s appalling. Which, current conditions being what they are, increases the likelihood that you’re right.

If you are, though, then it’s a better argument than even covid-19 for opting out of anything this family chooses to host. There’s no vaccine for mean.

Write to Carolyn Hax at Get her column delivered to your inbox each morning at

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