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Planning Retirement Online


Relationships - 48

It could be you....   

Maggi Stamp, LaterLife's Relationship Counsellor

Every month Maggi Stamp, a qualified and experienced relationship counsellor for Relate and in private practice, writes about some of the emotional challenges we meet in later life.

For reasons of confidentiality Maggi never writes about a particular person's problems unless you have sent one in to be answered, but all her examples are based on problems raised by clients, family and friends over the years.  

You can write to Maggi at maggi@laterlife.com for her to respond in the column.


How can I make my husband listen to me?

A visitor to laterlife writes:

What can I do to make my husband listen to me? I have tried over and over again to try to talk to him about our daughter-in-law, but he just won’t listen to what I have to say.

He was so rude and abrupt with me the other day when we went out for a pub lunch that I ended up in tears in front of the other diners. He told me to shut up, saying he didn’t want to hear any more and got up to get a newspaper, which he then read at the table for the rest of the meal. I feel as though everyone could see he was being horrid to me and I felt so humiliated to be upset publicly at my age. I’m 65 and my husband is 67. We’ve been married for 40 years, surely we should be able to talk about our family?

G.


Maggi replies


G’s letter demonstrates how difficult it is sometimes to discuss emotional worries with a partner who isn’t comfortable talking about feelings. The pattern is not such an unusual one. It is often, though not exclusively the way, that a woman will want to discuss an emotional concern, but her partner would prefer to avoid it altogether and hope time will sort things out. But by ignoring his wife’s worries, the husband has upset her and hidden behind his newspaper, leaving her to sit tearful, isolated and awkward in a public place.

Daughter-in-law worries are the source of many tricky moments in a family, and I have had several letters recently voicing concerns about this relationship. I’m sorry I cannot address all of them individually.

Mothers of sons can be fiercely protective and might have unrealistically high expectations of the new women who come into their sons' lives. What many mums forget is that no-one will ever take her place in a son’s heart. But with that privilege comes the responsibility to leave well alone once he becomes adult. This will give him space to learn to love his chosen partner without feeling compromised by trying to share love. Each is a different kind of love and neither woman has a claim to the other’s place in the man’s affections.

Perhaps G was worrying over something small; perhaps her husband has heard it all before; perhaps he has never been able to talk about emotional family matters, but the humiliation experienced when publicly snubbed by a partner is painful. It is unfair of him to do this. He really needed to have been kinder and more patient by acknowledging how worried she sounded and either quietly engage in helping her pinpoint what she is most concerned about and listen properly, or reassure her that they would talk about it when they got home and mean it.
Either way G needed some attention and he was not giving it to her.

Things G can do

  • Recognize her husband's discomfort over discussing things in a public place and, if she feels it is important, suggest they can discuss it later, at home.

  • How would she would like him to respond to her worries? What, if anything, would she like him to do or say?

  • Is she being realistic in asking this of her husband?

  • If she could tell him her worries when they get home, maybe he might just feel less overwhelmed and therefore be more likely to hear her out.

     

 

You can write to Maggi at maggi@laterlife.com for her to respond in the column.

To view previous articles in this series - see the Relationship Counselling Index page

 

 



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