Dear Barb—In Defense of Marriage

Dear Barb:

My husband and I have been married 15 years and we keep having this recurring problem. He is from a big loving, close family. I have always felt like an outsider with my in-laws but I’m not sure they do it on purpose.  What really drives me crazy is when my in-laws are critical of me and my husband sides with them instead of me. For example, at times my sister-in-law makes negative comments on how I raise my sons, and often criticizes my housekeeping. If my husband is nearby, he will agree with her and comment that maybe I should try my sister-in-law’s suggestions. This infuriates me! I have told my husband how I feel, but he still continues to do it. We have had numerous arguments about this, but he says that’s just the way his family is.  I think a husband should defend his wife, before his family, do you agree? Anxious to hear your opinion. Thanks, Tara.

Hi Tara:

I agree with you that a husband should support his wife at all times, even if he sees some merit in the criticism that is being directed at her. This would be an issue that would be discussed privately, not in front of the person doing the criticizing. A marriage is a union dependent on loyalty and trust. Either partner should be able to trust that their spouse has their back. If a husband doesn’t agree with his wife in public, he should at least take the time to listen to her point of view when they are alone. On the other hand, if you have a mother-in-law who is speaking negatively about you or your parenting skills or whatever and she does this on a regular basis, your husband may not want to get into constant confrontations with his mother as this will lead to stress at most family gatherings. An alternative would be for your husband to quickly change the subject, as this is a way of avoiding giving weight to what his mother is saying. By not acknowledging the criticism your mother-in-law should be able to accept the fact that no one is interested in that kind of behaviour.

But if your husband is joining in with the negative behaviour, it may be something worth delving into further. Your husband may have some resentment towards you or your marriage, or he may feel intimidated by you and see this as an opportunity for you to be put in your place. If either of these issues arises, you may consider having a deeper discussion with your husband and perhaps looking into marriage counselling. An interesting quote I came across just about says it all: “A husband who can’t manage to recognize that an attack on his wife is an attack on him is missing the heart of what family is all about.” Hope this helps Tara.

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