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QUESTIONS & ANSWERS:
Relationships Department

Please remember, this column is designed to help the consumer seeking behavioral-health information, and not intended to be any form of psychotherapy or a replacement for professional, individualized services. Opinions expressed in the column are those of the columnist and do not represent the position of other SelfhelpMagazine.com staff.

Question

My wife and I have been happily married for most of our 39 years together. Her youngest son, by a previous marriage was friendly, married, and generally he left us alone. Then he divorced, his father died, and he rediscovered his mother. Now, my wife and he sit around and agree upon actions involving the joint interests of my wife and me, and I am expected to go along with these decisions because, as my wife puts it, "My baby thought of it, and I think it's a great idea."

Without passing upon the merits of his ideas, I am resentful because I think he is manipulating his mother, he is ignoring my right to be involved in the planning of my family affairs, and he is placing me in the position of being a miser or mean to my wife if I object to his "great" ideas. If I suggest to my wife that her son may not be as great as she thinks, she becomes extremely defensive of him.

My question is: how do I get this 55 year old baby off my back without injuring the wonderful relationship I have had over these many years with my wife?

Answer

I have been counseling couples for over three decades. During that time period I suppose I have seen hundreds of couples. One thing I have repeatedly learned is that there are always two sides to every story. Couples can go to the same movie theater and end up seeing different movies with the same title. What I am going to say assumes that your wife would agree to the situation as you have described it.

Apparently you are very attached to your wife. You have enjoyed her company for approximately forty years. Now her son comes into her life and she is enjoying a more intimate relationship with him. He has been going through a couple of significant losses -- his divorce and his father's death. These events have brought him back to his mother. From your perspective, this grown man is intruding on your relationship to your wife. You are feeling left out and perhaps even a bit jealous and competitive with this "young buck," who comes sauntering into your life and captures the heart and mind of your wife. And of course you are resentful. No matter that this man is your wife's son. He is still an interloper and he is interfering with your life. The issue is not between you and her son. It is between you and your wife. She is the one encouraging the relationship and sharing your marriage with him. Perhaps you and your wife need to sit down and have a conversation. If necessary, it should be done with a trained marriage counselor.

The conversation might begin something like this: "Honey, you know I love you very much. And I want nothing more than to have you happy. I am glad that you are enjoying your relationship with your son. However, I am used to having you all to myself. I am feeling left out and perhaps even jealous. The issues that we used to talk about are now being talked about between the two of you. Many of these issues concern me and I feel as though I have no say in the matters. I do not want to interfere with your relationship with him, but I am beginning to resent what feels to me his taking over my life as well as my wife."

Once you and your wife can come to a mutual understanding of the role her son is to play in her life, it might be necessary for her to set some boundaries regarding her relationship with him. There are some issues that should be discussed between husband and wife and others that would be appropriate for her to discuss with her son as well.

3/5/98

Dr. Edward A. Dreyfus is a Clinical Psychologist, Marriage, Family, Child Therapist, and Sex Therapist. Dr. Dreyfus has been providing psychological services in the Los Angeles-Santa Monica area for over 30 years. He offers individual psychotherapy to adolescents and adults, divorce mediation, couples counseling, group therapy, and career and vocational counseling and assessment.His book, Someone Right For You, is available in the Amazing Bookstore Catalog.

Dr. Dreyfus can be reached at: (310) 208-5700.

 

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