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Planning Retirement Online

Relationships 61    

                                 May 2007

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 for her to respond in the column.



Jealous of the son-in-law?

Dear Maggi:

Am I going mad? I can’t help feeling embarrassed when my daughter brings her husband to stay, as he spends loads of time doing things for my wife and paying her compliments. My daughter doesn’t seem to mind; but it doesn’t seem appropriate behaviour, as he cuts the grass or peels the potatoes for dinner, talks about his job and their new house in my presence, to pay her such compliments.

Should I say something to my wife? When I mentioned it once and said he paid her a lot of attention, she laughed and said our daughter obviously knew what to look for in a man. My wife is still an attractive woman and full of energy, though, of course, our marriage isn’t quite as exciting as it was in years gone by. I dread my daughter and son-in-law coming over now and get on edge before they arrive.


Maggi replies:

Forgive me for starting with the obvious, but are you feeling just a bit jealous of this young man who seems adept at entertaining your wife? Could your wife have been a wee bit bored with the level of attention she was getting before?

More seriously, you do sound very put out by your son-in-law’s behaviour
and ultimately that will cause disruption in the family, if you don’t sort out your worries. You say your wife is still attractive and energetic. Are you still energetic? Why aren’t you the one who is helping her prepare food for the family visitors? What stops you paying her compliments and having a laugh and joke?

It sounds as though your relationship has settled into that dangerously comfy spot, The Doldrums. Over the years, there is a danger of forgetting to take care of your relationship and pay each other the attention you once did. Couples can all too easily stop noticing one another and then boredom is just around the corner. When that is the state of the relationship, anyone coming into the house with the willingness to pay attention and listen will be a breath of fresh air and a great ego-booster. This is the role your son-in-law is playing at the moment, but you should be doing this anyway, then your wife would be less likely to value it so much in someone else.

I recall my first husband telling me of a piece of advice given to him when he was fifteen by the mother of his best pal. “If you want to win the daughter, be good to the mum”. It sounds as though this young man knows the value of that as well. Or perhaps he gets on so well with your wife because he loves her daughter and sees where some of her qualities originated.

Whatever the reasons behind them getting on, it seems clear that it has taken you by surprise and unsettled you. When you mentioned it to your wife, she laughed it off.

It is time to put more of the excitement back into your relationship


  • Pay more attention to your wife, compliment her on how good she looks, or feels, or smells more often.

  • Ask her about her thoughts and opinions, listen to her answers without keeping one eye on the telly or butting in.

  • Ask her out on a date – yes, married people can do this - and tell her how much she means to you more frequently.

The way to bring a little romance and flirtation back into your marriage is not through the big gestures, but with the small demonstrations of affection and appreciation.

A woman responds much more to the regular light compliment, a touch or a passing hug or kiss, a word or two of appreciation, than to the ‘flowers, chocs and dinner out’ approach – although they are welcome from time to time.

It is great that your daughter has chosen someone who gets on so well with her mum, but he has to be accepted by you as well. So long as you feel he is paying your wife too much attention that is going to be hard. So get in the kitchen and make his presence there unnecessary. Enlist his help somewhere else in the house, take him to the pub, or just talk with him, find out more about his interests first hand and do your own bonding with him. Turning this into a big issue now will only serve to make things tense.

You sound as though you willingly spend time with your daughter. Listen to how she is. Make sure she is happy and her marriage is going well but say nothing of your feelings to her. If she is unhappy about what is going on she will says so.

Talk again to your wife. Start by saying how much she means to you and say you want to have more fun together, that you miss some of the ways used to enjoy yourselves and ask what she would like to do more often – cinema, dinner out, theatre, concerts.

Then say how seeing her talking with the son-in-law reminds you of how things used to be. Don’t be afraid to admit to a little jealousy, it can be quite stimulating. But always keep the focus on improving what you already have.


You can write to Maggi at for her to respond in the column.

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