Inside His Head: I think my husband is an alcoholic

Relationship advice from husbandsDear Inside His Head,

I think my husband may be an alcoholic because he drinks a LOT when he comes home from work and we can’t go out to dinner or with friends without him ordering several rounds. It feels like he’s always got a beer in his hand, like he can’t cope without alcohol. Do you have any advice for what I should do first? He’s not mean when he’s drinking, but I have a feeling he’s going to be very defensive if/when I bring it up. He does get mad if I try to slow down his drinking. I’m starting to get uncomfortable leaving him with the kids by himself. Help.

greg1.thumbnailGRAY: My dad was an alcoholic. I’ve seen him function normally and seen him completely delusional and hallucinating from withdrawal. There is no cure for alcoholism – it’s a struggle the two of you have for the rest of your life. It’s not a battle you can fight on your own.

Have a plan. Find local resources for therapy. Ask friends if they are willing to help you confront him. Learn about support for yourself because living with an alcoholic doesn’t have to be endured in isolation.

Be caring and supportive. A lot of alcoholics are unwilling to admit there’s anything wrong and become defensive, sometimes to the point of enraged, if you tell them they have a problem. Instead of saying “You have a drinking problem” it’s better to say “I care about you, but think you need help.” Even if you’re the most tactful he’s still likely to get angry so be prepared and don’t take it personally.

Get him out of denial. Enlist friends and family to help make him aware of his behavior. Ultimately he’s the one who must realize he has a problem, and it might take several confrontations by many people before he accepts his behavior for what it is – alcoholism. Knowing he has you and others to support him instead of punish him can help a lot.

Find real help. Avoid his suggestions of “I can deal with this on my own.” Though he can make himself abstain from drinking for periods of time, professional-level help will enable him with tools to prevent a relapse. And even with therapy, your support and help from others there’s a good chance he’ll relapse from time to time. Continue to give him the support he needs and put him in touch with people who know how to help.

Don’t let alcoholism define your life together. Stay observant of his behavior without being constantly paranoid about him hiding bottles in the house or suspecting every time late arrival home means he’s stopped at a bar. If you act as though he’s going to fail it’s entirely likely you’ll create a self-fulfilling situation.

john.thumbnailMAVERICK: One thing you don’t mention is that he’s drinking to the point where  he’s seriously impaired. You mention you’re becoming concerned about leaving him alone with the kids, but you don’t really say why.

Since you didn’t say otherwise, I’m assuming he’s not insisting on taking the kids for a ride while he’s under the influence or he’s  not doing dangerous “Hey, watch this. Hold my beer” stuff while around you or your kids.

What you describe is a guy who is drinking a lot more than is standard, and he’s been doing it for long enough to raise a red flag with you. So, you’re smart to be concerned but my advice is predicated on the fact that he’s not really a danger to you, or the kids, or himself.

This change in behavior isn’t happening in a vacuum. It seems at this point the drinking is a symptom and not the key problem but you won’t know until he actually gives you some information about what’s going on with him.

As you implied in your question, I suspect he’d get really defensive if you go at him aggressively about his drinking. Saying something like, “Gee Bob, lately you’ve been drinking like a fish and you smell like a brewery and I find it really embarrassing” will likely be pretty counterproductive.

So, I’d suggest, if you can catch him sometime when he’s not been drinking, or at least where he’s only had a few, to look for the chance to ask him if something is bothering him. Show actual concern. Don’t toss around blame. Try not to mention the drinking right out of the gate and see what he says.

He will likely sandbag at first but continue to give him the opportunity to talk. This might take a few tries at different times but don’t nag. Eventually, he’ll come clean.

He could be feeling pressure at work, or he might be dealing with (or actually not dealing with) an emotional issue, or he might be just generally unhappy or depressed.

Once you get him talking, you can mention you’ve noticed his drinking has picked up and that you’re concerned about his health. Give him the chance to absorb that and maybe he’ll see your point. Don’t insult him or make it about how his drinking makes you feel. It will only make  him defensive. He needs to see you as being in his corner, not as his babysitter or his accuser.

In the end, he’s going to have to understand that his drinking is an issue and likely a problem and he’ll need to address it – maybe he cuts back a whole lot, maybe he stops cold turkey, and maybe he needs the kind of help you can’t get from an advice column.

No matter what the outcome, he needs to understand your concerns about the drinking are coming from a place of concern about him, not a place where his actions are bothering you or making you uncomfortable.

Got a question for the Inside His Head husbands? Send it to us at mamas{at}nwamotherlode{dot}com.

Save

Inside His Head: My husband is jealous of my ex

Relationship advice from husbands

Welcome back to Inside His Head, where we take a peek inside the minds of men. These guys are married, but are anonymous so they can tell it like it is. Sometimes their answers are illuminating, sometimes annoying. Here’s the latest question:

Q: I’m remarried, but have to talk to my ex-husband on a regular basis because we have two kids together. My current husband seemed ok with me talking to my ex before we got married, but now it’s a constant source of conflict. I want to be with him, not my ex-husband, but he seems so jealous. Do you have any advice for how I can convince my husband that there’s no reason to be worried about the ex? We split up for a reason. Lots of reasons, but I have to be nice to him because it’s the right thing to do for our kids.

GRAY: A little jealousy can be a good thing, but it can also make people edgy. It’s easy to see how your current husband might feel insecure when your ex was married to you longer and has been a father to your kids longer too.

It’s actually pretty normal for your husband to feel jealous even if he was able to keep those feelings in check before you remarried. Letting him know you think being a little jealous is normal may actually help ease his feelings.

There are better ways of dealing with jealous emotions than others. Having a third parent in a relationship isn’t something we always have experience to deal with, so he may have lots of unresolved feelings that come out in the form of arguments. He may feel your kids have a better relationship with your ex than he ever could, for example. Your husband may feel like he’s the one who is temporary in the relationship.

It may help to let him know your children will always be put first and that your ex deserves time with them. Your ex isn’t something that’s going to suddenly disappear from either your or your children’s lives. This is an obligation you have to both your ex and your children and there’s no avoiding that subject.

Your husband may need greater assurances that you want to be with him and some reminders of why you feel your life is better all around for being with him. Over time he’ll likely come to accept the situation and deal with its complexities better. Remind him that neither of you have to be buddies with your ex, but it would be unfair to cheat your children from having time with their father.

But what if your husband has a lot of jealousy and not just a little? He may be unreasonable and abnormally obsessed about your ex or the relationship you and your ex once had. If he’s being confrontational about every phone call or visit or facebook interaction then you need to seek counseling or other professional ways of helping your husband come to terms with his feelings.

If professional help is out of reach then try to get to the root of the problems. He may argue that your ex having the kids for the holidays is unreasonable, but that may be a symptom of a deeper fear – like him feeling your kids will never accept him as “dad” if they’re spending Christmas with their biological father. It can take a while to figure out what the real issues are and they may be very uncomfortable for him to admit, but ignoring or avoiding them will never make them go away.

It’s hard for me to understand guys like this. It sounds like he’s insecure.

Have you two ever discussed the reasons that you split with your ex? Maybe if he sees that he doesn’t do those things it might allow him to see that you’re committed to him. Let him know that his jealousy does more to strain your marriage than anything you’re ex could ever do.

You’ve got to get to the root of his concern.

That’s going to take some honest communication from both of you. Don’t be defensive. Listen to his views without speaking. Then explain the situation from your viewpoint.  If he doesn’t relent I’d suggest counseling because this situation isn’t going to go away.

If the situation is as described, it really is his problem to deal with, not yours.

You owe it to yourself and your children to be civil to your ex-spouse. Your husband needs to grow up and realize you simply are going to have you ex in your life for the foreseeable future. It can be an amiable or painful experience and his behavior will determine how it all goes down.

Of course, you can’t really just tell him to man-up, even though that’s exactly what he needs to do, because that’s simply going to make him feel less secure. And that’s really what’s going on here. Jealousy in men is typically just insecurity and neediness that comes out as anger, bluster and often bravado.

Ask yourself if anything happened recently that would shake your husband’s confidence — maybe a job loss, or demotion or he’s put on some weight or he’s losing his hair? His reaction to your ex might simply be a manifestation of your hubby feeling he’s lost his edge.

This will be something that’s  hard to fix, as egos are tricky things.

If you point out to your husband he’s acting like a jerk,  he’ll likely get all defensive and it will just increase his feelings of insecurity. If you try to boost his confidence, unless you’re a great actress, he’ll likely see though that too and feel like you feel like he’s not as great as he used to be.

Your best bet is to not react when he acts jealous, that’s what your husband is looking for anyway, a reaction. If you must, I’d simply go with, “I”m not going to justify your (behavior, or smarmy comment) with a response.”

Do what you can to genuinely make him feel more secure. While it may seem childish make sure he’s getting enough of your attention and hopefully admiration and respect. Put this in the context of your marriage and never in the context of your ex. Leave all comparisons out of it. Would you rather hear, “I love you” or “I love you, not Sue”?

In the end, though, this is something he’s going to  have to come to terms with himself. Somewhere, somehow his confidence has taken a hit and while you can subtly remind him he’s still the best in your eyes, he needs to believe it before he can act like it. Once he feels he has his mojo back he’ll likely mellow out where your ex is concerned.

Got a question for our Inside His Head husbands? Email it to Gwen & Shannon at mamas{at}nwaMotherlode{dot}com and we’ll pass it along to the three dudes.

Inside His Head: She found a flirty email

insidehishead2OK, ladies, if you’ve ever wondered what your husband or boyfriend was thinking, you might want to take a trip “Inside His Head”. Our panel of anonymous husbands really do tell it like it is. remix (4)Check it out:

(Oh, and if you’ve got a question for our outspoken guys, just send it to mamas@nwaMotherlode.com and it may be featured in an upcoming installment.)

Dear Inside His Head,

I found a questionable email from my husband’s female co-worker when I was on his account the other day. I was looking for a deal coupon to print out, but couldn’t resist looking at his other emails, too. He might be mad that I read other emails, but I’m mad that this woman is flirting with him on his personal email. There’s no telling what she’s doing at work.

Please advise.

GRAY: That you came across this email is probably proof nothing more serious is going on with the woman in question. How does that make sense? If he had something to hide it’s unlikely you would have stumbled upon it to begin with. Unless he’s a tad on the slow side, if he was really serious about going after someone he’d probably be more aware about covering his tracks.

Some folks are flirty by nature and their advances mean nothing. Flirting in the office probably isn’t the best behavior to engage in, yet it’s commonplace. So why does she have his personal email? It’s been my experience that having such information is more common than not. The line between work and home has been increasingly blurred as technology advances.email

So you shouldn’t be mad. Right? Well…no. I think you’re completely within your right to be upset. If I were in your shoes I’d simply ask who this so-and-so is who’s acting so friendly. Most likely it’ll be something completely innocent – like the feisty 73-year old from payroll – and you’ll both be left with a good laugh

Even if the woman has genuine intentions, it could be that he’s tolerating her behavior to keep things diplomatic knowing she’ll have her eye caught by someone else next week. And he may not want to cause hard feelings over such a non-issue. You’ll never know until you ask him. So ask!

Will he be mad that you looked at his email? Please. We know how you women are. I think we just assume you read and monitor these things as a strange way of showing your affection. It’s great that you came up with the cover story about the coupon though :)

MAVERICK: The fact that you found out about the flirty, emailing co-worker by prying into your husband’s personal email takes a lot of the zip out of your otherwise justifiable wrath.

While your apparent willingness to tromp all over his rights to privacy isn’t admirable in any respect, the danger of him being involved in an extra-marital affair isn’t something you can ignore.

If he’s guilty, it needs to be addressed, if he’s playing footsie with the idea of a fling that has to be stopped, if he’s innocent, you’ll still think he’s guilty without finding out the truth so the marriage is in danger on that end.at symbol, email

So, tell the truth. Tell him you’re less than proud of how you came across this email, apologize for being a snoop, but tell him this information you came across has you deeply concerned.

Be prepared for him to turn this back on you. Take full responsibility for the prying but don’t let that be the end of things. Find out what’s going on with this woman. Also, don’t let him minimize it or laugh it off. This stuff is serious – it’s how affairs start or is an indicator one is ongoing.

This coworker could be flirting with him and he might have done nothing to warrant the attention. It happens. Ask him to nip this in the bud. While women are much smarter about this sort of thing then men, he needs to be direct and tell her he’s not interested in this sort of communication.

If he’s been equally flirty with her but nothing has “happened” between the two, urge him to disengage from this woman and to do so clearly and cleanly. No subtle stuff. It needs to stop.

Now the really hard part. If the flirting is simply part of an already ongoing extramarital fling he needs to end it and to find another job and you two need to go directly to marriage counseling. Any other “solution” will not work in the long run.

It’s regrettable that you found out about this the way you did but it could be a real problem if this “flirting” is left unchecked. If your husband is totally innocent, he still needs to know what you did.

The ends do not justify the means in a marriage. And stay out of his email.

MICHAEL: We’ll skip the issue of you “not being able to resist” reading his mail for now and focus on the coworker.

I believe that he’s innocent until proven otherwise. Context can be very difficult to discern in an email so I will caution you not to jump to conclusions.

That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t address the issue. Sometimes work relationships become closer than we intend and we need to be reminded where those boundaries should be. This is your opportunity to do that. Of course this is complicated by the way that you came upon this information.laptop png

You should bring this up to your husband in a non-confrontational way. Explain to him what happened and apologize for reading his email. Tell him you want to hear what he has to say before making any judgements. Find out if perhaps this attention is only one way.

I would ask him why he’s getting emails of that nature from this woman. If he gets defensive about it then I think you need to push it a bit further and find out if there’s anything more to it. More than likely if it was just playful banter he’ll blow it off as nothing.

If it bothers you though then you need to make it clear that its unacceptable and it is damaging to your relationship. It’s unlikely that he can completely avoid this woman but he should try to minimize his contact if it bothers you.

Now back to reading his email. I’ll tell you what I tell my children. If its not yours, leave it alone.

Inside His Head: How to handle your mother-in-law moving in

insidehishead, 500

Dear Inside His Head husbands,

My mother is planning to move in with us soon — for a while. My father passed away recently and she’s going to stay with us so she can get her finances in order and deal with her grief. My husband is worried about our family dynamic. It’s just a big change. What can I say to help with the transition?

generichead-1MICHAEL: The first thing I hope you can say is that you’ve discussed with your mother exactly how long this arrangement is going to last and that you’ve talked about ground rules for life at the house.

Because it’s your mother you’re going to be the proxy for all disagreements and snide remarks. Be prepared to deal with it. It’s understandable that this type of thing happens, however, it doesn’t sound like it’s been planned for so the best thing you can do is anticipate what the challenges will be.

remix (4)Examples are things like:

♦ Your mother doesn’t hear well so now the television has to be turned up all the time.

♦ You watch what your kids eat very carefully and your mother questions your choices in front of them.

Just having another opinion and voice around the house will make it stressful. You’ve got to make sure that you’re not consistently siding against your husband. Remember you’ve got to put with him forever. Your mother hopefully only for a short while.  Make sure he knows you realize that.

MAVERICK: I’d tell him in the nicest way possible that there’s no sense in worrying about something until an actual problem occurs.

If you mother is overbearing or generally a pain in the butt or objects to your husband breathing air or thinks him a fool, well, you or more accurately he, is hosed. But since your husband agreed to this arrangement, I can assume either he likes your mother or he’s a good son-in-law, or really just a decent guy trying to help here.

The main way you can calm his fears about your mother messing with the family dynamic is not to let her mess with the family dynamic. She’s your mother, so she’s yours to deal with where conflict is concerned. He’s the son-in-law, which gives him less power in the relationship than a bum off the street.

♦ The best way to avoid trouble with the new situation is to head it off.

♦ Make your mother feel welcome, let her pitch in and help, be there for her, be kind, be supportive, be family.

♦ Don’t let her take over your house, determine your family routine, decide what you eat or where you go or undermine your husband’s authority in his own home.

If she likes certain TV programs, get her her own flat-screen for her room – they’re not super expensive now-days and this ill will avoid conflict. Most of us guy-types can relinquish control of the remote when needed or on short trips to visit family, but don’t expect us to do it for an extended period of time and in our own living rooms.

If she becomes critical of your husband, nip it in the bud. Your mother is in a less than happy place and needs support but she doesn’t get to bad-mouth your spouse. If it starts, you have to tell her to stop. It’s your place. Fight the dynamic that says your mom is always right. Your husband does not deserve to be ganged up on.

And remember, even with your mom in the house, he’s still your husband.

Don’t let the new arrangement turn you into your mother’s daughter at the expense of being your husband’s wife. Turn things to your advantage. Let mom watch the kids so you can go out on a date or a romantic mini-vacation. Spend time together.

In short, give your mother a place in your home but don’t let her make herself comfortable at the expense of your husband’s peace of mind or your relationship. This could be a great time for your husband and your mother to become close.

He’s being a decent guy for opening up his home. Don’t make him regret it.

greg1.thumbnailGRAY: “We’ll get a cat…because your mom is deathly allergic. That way she can’t move in,” would likely be my wife’s remedy to the issue should we face a similar situation.

We’re not a culture that’s used to living with extended family and it can be a mess. The best thing is to get your husband’s worries addressed before the situation turns into a bundle of frustration, before your mother even arrives.

I would be worried about never having privacy, always turning around and finding her there, perhaps thinking I’d like to hear the 2-hour story of the summer she grew a pumpkin for the county fair.

So set some boundaries. Maybe meals are family time, but after the last meal of the day it’s understood that everyone gets some alone time, completely uninterrupted. You get the idea.

But what if mother says, “Well, I’m so comfortable here. What if I just stayed? Would that be so bad?”

The thought of having an in-law transition from temporary to permanent would push many husbands right off the edge of the cliff (and, no, that’s not just a figure of speech) but it’s easy enough to allay. Put a timeline in place. It doesn’t have to be meticulous, but don’t let “three months” become “some day.” Always move forward and don’t let a setback derail the whole works.

The most difficult issue would be personality conflicts. Does your husband fear hearing “my daughter used to date that nice boy before she met you…he’s a doctor now” or some kind of continual drone about how he’ll never be good enough? You may need to play referee for a while and make sure his head doesn’t explode. Just keep reminding him it’s only temporary.

Finally, having you on his side can carry a lot of clout. Let him know that if things don’t go as planned you’ll buy that cat she’s allergic to ensure she’s heading out the door.

Inside His Head: Mom and dad disagree about 12-year-old daughter’s swimsuit

insidehishead, 500

Dear Inside His Head,

I took my 12-year-old daughter swimsuit shopping today and she modeled it for her dad when he got home from work (she really loves it). My husband later told me that he doesn’t think the swimsuit is “appropriate” and that it’s too revealing for her to wear in public. He wants us to take it back, but I don’t want to do that. She feels good in it and I don’t think it looks bad. Should he have veto power? I obviously thought it was OK or I wouldn’t have bought it.

MICHAEL: Fun times. I’ve got to say that in most cases I’m going to default to Mom’s view on things like this.

Unless she’s purposely trying to draw attention to her body, I think you have some pretty good footing to stand on. After all, you were once a 12-year-old girl.  I don’t know how “mature” your daughter is at 12 so that couldn’t definitely play a part in his viewpoint.

Keep in mind that he’s looking at this from the viewpoint of a teenage boy so be considerate of his opinion. I think a lot of this is him worrying about her and how she’s growing up.  He’s likely concerned about all the things she has to go through in her teen years and would prefer to hold that off as long as possible.

I think what you two should probably do is tell her that you’ve talked about it and while you both have different opinions that she can keep the suit, but take the opportunity to discuss how boys might see her and let her know that there are appropriate ways to draw attention to yourself. Showing your body off as a 12 year old is not one of them.

Please avoid making her ashamed of her body though. There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s part of who we are and she’s got to live with it for a long time. Make that an enjoyable time.

GRAY: Men can be strange, can’t we? We’re generally fairly rational until it comes to sports and when our daughters start acting or looking grown up.

So the short answer to your question is no, he shouldn’t have veto power over a swimsuit. But it’s no surprise that a daddy doesn’t want his daughter to grow up. No doubt he’s remembering what boys are like when they see attractive girls in swimsuits, and the reality is it’s not the swimsuit (or makeup, or clothing, etc) that’s the issue.

For a lot of men I think issues arise when their daughters stop thinking daddy hung the moon and give their affection to their teenage sweetheart – or at least look as though they’re playing the part. And even though the swimsuit may look reasonable to you and your daughter it’s entirely possible he believes it’s no more concealing than pieces of spaghetti.

I accept that my daughter wears a bikini and that in a few years she’ll be old enough I too will worry when she’s swimming in mixed company. But I will trust my daughter and wife to have sense in picking out what’s acceptable while I sit back and wonder if we should move to Canada, where the swimming season isn’t nearly so long.

Hopefully your husband will accept, as I have, that the problem isn’t the swimsuit, but a condition called “being a daddy” – a perfectly normal affliction many of us suffer from.

MAVERICK: My first response is, if roles were reversed and you thought the bathing suit was inappropriate, would you want him to overrule you and allow your daughter to wear it?

I think your husband — assuming he’s not a nut or total jerk, and for a raft of other reasons I won’t go into here — should have veto power. Just like you should in a similar situation where roles were reversed.

But you think he’s not being reasonable with the veto. You likely are right. So, in a calm and rational way, see what he objects to about the suit.

In reality, your husband thinks he’s taking care of his daughter by vetoing the suit. He likely is overreacting a bit. You clearly don’t think the suit is inappropriate. Tell him so in a calm way.

Ask him WHY he doesn’t like the suit and listen to his answer with an open mind. Remember, he loves your daughter too. Likely he’s being way too overprotective, but maybe his instincts are right, so hear him out.

Point out your daughter feels confident in the suit and that you agree that it’s a good choice for her. Be calm, make your points logically, and he’ll likely will come around.

Just remember he’s likely vetoing the suit out of an abundance of caution. Is that concern maybe old fashion and a bit misplaced? Likely so. But better a conversation with dad who is concerned than a father who just rubber stamps anything you do, or your daughter does, out of apathy, boredom or distraction.

Got a question for our anonymous panel of husbands? Send it to mamas@nwamotherlode.com and then look for the guys to answer here!