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Carolyn Hax / Life Advice

Concerned Spouse

Dear Carolyn:

We live a long way from my wife's father, who lives in his own home but who now needs assistance. We've been providing financial assistance to my wife's sister, who otherwise has limited employment prospects, to live with their father and assist him.

My wife's father and sister have verbal sparring matches pretty constantly, but both would be happy eating pancakes and ice cream every day. To me it seems like they have a right to eat what they want, even if it might be unhealthy. But my wife sometimes spends up to three hours a day on the phone, providing "guidance" to her sister and father on what they should eat, how they should clean the house, and other things.

She gets pretty bossy and demanding at times, and I'm concerned that what she is doing may actually be abusive. She claims she is saving their lives by spending all this time on the phone with them and they should be grateful.

I'm particularly concerned about the potential for abuse because her sister depends on us for financial support and may feel she can't hang up the phone. Any ideas on how to change this?

-- Concerned Spouse

Your concern is that the place for one adult in another's choices is a limited one -- right?

Well, those are your handcuffs. You can't micromanage your wife out of micromanaging her father's household, especially since you've already challenged her approach once. (That's where her "saving their lives" defense came from, right?)

That said, you have standing, and good cause, to talk to your wife about it again. And you can calmly hold your boundaries at home(asterisk) when she gets "bossy and demanding" with you.

Start by speaking your truth fully: Prepare what you'd like to say, think of examples to support your point, imagine how you'd feel if you were the dad or sister, and imagine how you'd feel if you were in your wife's position. Then, choose a time when you're not in a hurry to be anywhere and neither of you is upset about something.

...continued

Copyright 2012 Washington Post Writers Group



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