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Cathy, Counselor
Category: Relationship
Satisfied Customers: 1436
Experience:  Ms, MS.Ed., thirty years clinical practice
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Ive been married for 20 years; our marriage has always been

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I've been married for 20 years; our marriage has always been a bit rocky as my husband has a terrible temper and is really moody, though I have never known why or what triggers it off. It seems to be just how he feels on any particular day.

Anyway, we had a visit from my mother in law at the weekend. As usual, it's me who has to do most of the entertaining as my husband just kind of tunes out of her trivial chatter most of the time. She is not an intelligent woman but she has always been a "nice" woman. She has problems with her other two children and grandchildren yet the worst thing to her is that a house should be untidy.

My husband has a bugbear about untidiness, even though he's not tidy himself. Unfortunately, I am really untidy but do spend most of my weekends cleaning and tidying the house because I work full-time. Now, ever since mother in law's visit, my husband has been grouching even more about the untidiness of the house and I'm pretty sure she has said stuff to him when he took her back home, because she passed a few comments in front of both of us about what needs doing in the house and ever since she visited, he has kept moaning about the untidiness.

I am pretty annoyed with him because he will not stir himself to help me find new furniture and fittings for the house and will not "allow" me to buy these things myself without his say-so, so it's a catch 22 situation. I have bought furniture etc in the past without asking him and he was really annoyed and off about it for days and still brings it up sometimes as though I've betrayed him or something.

I also feel betrayed by my mother in law. She can't drive so has to be brought to our house. She never invites us to her house and when she comes to ours, it's always empty-handed (not that I expect anything but the gesture would be a sign of good manners, though that family is not particularly good at manners). Then it's mostly me who entertains her and talks to her, does the cooking etc. And then she trashes my lack of housekeeping skills behind my back to my husband.

I'm feeling miserable about this and can't talk it through with him because he;ll just lose his temper or be even more unpleasant.

Hi and thanks for writing JA


I have read your post and am sorry to hear about this situation. You must be very frustrated by your husbands behavior.


As you said, your motherinlaw in not very smart although very nice so you have to let her off the hook for not be sophisticated enough to bring a small house gift when she visits. She is not smart and not sophisticated so of course she trashes your skills as a housekeeper. Not a thing you can do to change this or her so your only choice is to allow it to bother you or not allow it to bother you. I do not know if you can see this, but since you cant change her, its you that must change.


If you cannot talk to your husband about his behaviors things are far more dire than an untidy house. You have serious communication issues and you must be miserable in that marriage as most women would be. You are extremely limited in your choices here as well. You can either stay with him and put up with his nonsense or you can leave.


I know this sounds harsh but I am not sure what you were wanting to hear. If he won't work with you on solving your problems then you leave or stay and stop letting him harm you so.

I think you can also think about seeing a therapist alone so you can figure out why you stay with someone who is so limited. I would think you can find someone at very least with whom you could communicate and come to some resolution when problems arise. I know that 20 years is a very long time, but you are still young and you can move on with your life.


Again, there is nothing that can be done if you cannot talk to your husband about these problems so the only options require action on your part. I believe that you have a lot of thinking to do on this and then to make some tough decisions.

Please be well and I do hope you can find some relief.

Warm regards,


Let us know if you have more questions on this or other issues so we can best help you from JA>

Customer: replied 7 years ago.

Hi Cathy,


Thanks for your reply. I take on board what you say about my mother in law.


About my husband, I have seen a therapist in the past, when our marriage made me miserable to the point of severe depression. I learned a few "coping" strategies that have stood me fairly well.


Is there some strategy, apart from him seeing a therapist himself (which he will never do) that will encourage him to be able to talk things through with me instead of becoming angry/aggressive or leaving the room?

Hi and thanks for writing back.


You know there really are no strategies to help him to communicate with you and sadly this will in the long run hurt him more than anyone. The sad thing about adults is that they get stuck in lifelong patterns of behavior and unless (most unfortunately) something very drastic changes, they do not change. I know how frustrating it is for you because it is so frustrating for me as a therapist.


You know when clients ask me this question I tell them to vary their approaches but even with varied approaches it almost never works. Your husband may behave as he does in part because as you said your mother in law is not a complex or sophisticated parent and so your husband deals with you in a rather primitive way. I do not know specifically how you undo that lifelong conditioning without talking or therapy but he is behaving poorly and most childishly and it really does not have to be this way.


When I first read your post it made me a little angry that you have to endure this nonsense and one of the first thoughts that came into my mind was quite passive aggressive (something that one of my clients did some years ago when she was in the same situation as you find yourself today...........I thought to myself that the next time your mother in law comes to town, you should greet her at the door with your husband and then whip your suitcase out of the hall closet and kiss them both goodbye and say......, Well I am off for the weekend, my girlfriends and I are having a girls weekend at Annies cabin in the mountains and so that will leave you too lots of time to spend with each other. Sorry there is no cell phone reception there so I wont be able to call you but have a lovely weekend!


I know you cannot do that, but I like the element of surprise and catching people off guard and I know when my client told me this story in a therapy session I did laugh (guilty as charged) but think about things that might shake up your situation and if you feel it will not cause more backlash to harm you by all means do it.


In the interim please spend more time taking care of you and doing things for yourself that you like and less time taking care of others. I do not think you are as appreciated as you surely deserve and if something gives you joy (painting or music or joining a book club or gardening whatever you like.....) please start spending more time doing it. I think you deserve the comfort and joy small pleasures often bring.


If things do not improve or worsen, please do not stay. I know how hard it is to even think about leaving but Major Depression is a very serious illness and you do not need to endure that level of pain again.

Be well and good luck to you.

Warm wishes


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