Inside His Head: My husband won’t say no to our kids

Dear Inside His Head,

My husband doesn’t seem to be able to say no to our kids. They’ll go to him rather than me when we’re shopping (for example) because they know he’ll let them buy a certain toy or candy. He works long hours and I think he might be trying to make up for not being home as much, but it makes it harder on me when I try to put limits on spending — or taking them on outings, etc. How can I help my husband understand he’s not doing them any favors by saying yes most of the time?

GRAY: Kids can smell which parent will say yes and which will say no. Whether it’s asking for a piece of candy or the keys for the car, they know how to play the two of you off each other better than anyone else you’ll ever encounter.

I know when my daughter puts on her puppy dog eyes it’s difficult for me not to just open my wallet and say “Here, just take it all.” It doesn’t have anything to do with the hours I work, I just think some kids know how to wrap parents around their finger.

I’d suggest three things to make sure he doesn’t rock the boat too much:

Set limits. Nothing makes me feel better than seeing a smile on my daughter’s face, but the reality is she’ll often be just as happy with something that cost a buck as she would something costing twenty. Set a cap on what he has to spend – or, better yet, suggest they get that money as an allowance so they’ll learn how to be responsible with their own money. He can still have fun with them picking out what they want to buy for themselves.

Back each other up. In the heat of the moment we can forget how saying yes to that piece of candy may be undermining the lesson you were teaching them about finishing their dinner. Take some time to talk about what’s important to teach your kids so you’re not pulling on opposite sides of the same issue. Being on the same page about those goals can keep you covering each other’s backs when the kids zoom in on the weakest link.

Focus on the long term. That $2 pack of gum at the cash register sometimes seems innocent enough, but if you succumb to that every week you’re looking at over $100 a year. Make plans for that family vacation, maybe something really obvious like a jar with how much money you need to make the vacation happen. It’s a lot harder to spend that $2 when you can see how it would instantly make an impact on a long-term goal. It’s also easier for a kid to weigh the merits of a piece of gum they’ll spit out in 5 minutes against some genuine fun, such as a roller coaster ride.

MAVERICK: First you have to ask yourself if this is how your husband has always been or if its a new behavior.

If it’s his standard, go-to move to spoil the kids with material stuff, particularly in a store, it’s likely how he was raised.

Some families put a lot of emphasis on stuff. Likely his dad got him stuff and that’s how he perceived he was cared for and loved. Not always, but you often see this behavior with folks who focus on the material. Often they’re oblivious that they were basically bought off as a child. With some folks, it doesn’t matter. Nature or nurture, you make the call.

It didn’t matter that my dad never had an honest-to-God conversation with me, he bought me a new car when I turned 16.

It didn’t matter that my father never spent four hours with me uninterrupted, understood me, or even ever tried to, since, you see, he paid for my college.

If the stuff equals affection/love link is hardwired in your hubby, it will be slow going getting him to change.

In this case I’d suggest you just point out, when you’re away from the kids,  that he’s clearly buying them stuff so they’ll like him maybe he could quit the Santa Claus act for a while and just act like an actual father.

Fathers consider the long term implications of what they do with their children. So they don’t do stuff like lie to to their kids because it’s easier in the short term; or let their kids watch something on TV that’s inappropriate because they want to watch it for themselves or buy them the latest device, or shoes or heaven help us car, so their kids can keep up with trends because they don’t want to face the blowback or even worse. It’s important to them that they look as cool as their peer’s kids.

In the same vein, tell him lovingly that actual fathers don’t let their kids buy everything at a store because it’s a vital lesson to learn that A) they can’t always have everything they want whenever they want it. B) Stuff costs money and even though you can afford to buy them tons of crap, it’s still crap at the end of the day and they don’t need it C) That fathers are confident enough in their relationships with their kids that it can survive the kid being mad at him because the kid didn’t get  a Coke, pop-rocks and a bag of sugar at 10 p.m. at Walmart on a school night.

If this is a sudden thing, then I think your assessment that it could be guilt because of all the hours is dead on. Try to be gentle but let him know he’s not doing you any favors because he’s making it harder and harder for you to keep the troops in order. Use some of the examples above but give him more slack if he’s not actually a materialistic numbskull.

Bottom line is,  a simple, non-critical discussion is the best solution. He might  not even realize he’s doing it. If it’s an ingrained behavior, it’ll take quite a while but you should eventually be able to convince him always saying yes does nobody any favors.

MICHAEL: You have to tell him. You’re most likely right.

He probably feels like he’s not giving his children enough of his time so he compensates by giving them things. I doubt he’s doing it just to make your life difficult, though. But you can’t tell him he’s doing something wrong.

Raising children requires that the parents come to an agreement about how to best compromise and give their children the direction they can both agree on. You can’t fix the problem if you can’t agree that there is one.

Tell him you’ve noticed he’s been doing this and question whether he thinks it’s happening as well. If he doesn’t, then you need to have several concrete examples. Let him know that since you’re the one that spends the most time with the children, he’s undermining your authority by circumventing the rules and guidelines you’re giving them while he isn’t there.

You also have to give him an outlet to show his affection to the children. Some people see gifts as a way to communicate that, so it just needs to be controlled. Have him do it as a reward for something the children have done for you instead of just because they ask.

In the end you both need to get to the root cause, discuss the impacts of the actions and reconcile to a common approach.

Have a question for the guys? Email it to mamas{at}nwaMotherlode{dot}com.

Inside His Head: My husband cheated. Should I stay?

cheatedDear Inside His Head husbands,

My husband had an affair about a year ago and I just found out in a roundabout way through a friend. When I asked him about it, he admitted it happened, but said he hasn’t seen the woman (or cheated on me with any other woman) since then. He says he wants to stay married, loves me and our kids and doesn’t want a divorce. I don’t know if I can trust him again. Do you have any advice for me? I’d like to stay, but I’m so hurt.

MAVERICK: He’s going to have to regain your trust and that will take more than admitting that he slept with somebody once he was caught nearly red-handed. To be honest, the way you describe him he’s not anywhere close to seeming to be sorry enough for what he did.

This is a huge red flag so proceed with caution and your eyes wide open.

I understand you’re hurt, anyone would be hurt in your situation. If you want to continue the marriage then that’s to your credit.

The thing is, he needs to want to continue it too, and he needs to be willing to take some serious steps to begin to rebuild your trust. This is not a situation where he gets to say “Oops, my bad. Sorry about that.” and gets to move on. If he’s unwilling to work on regaining your trust, well, he’s full of crap when he says he want’s his marriage back.

If he starts trying to deflect this back on you. If he tries to imply you let the infidelity happen. If he is pretty much anything but apologetic and willing to work hard and swallow his pride to get his home back, I wouldn’t put much stock in his sincerity or your chances for success.

The bottom like is this: He shattered your trust.

He has to admit that. You have to admit that.

He has to genuinely seek your forgiveness and if his effort is sincere you have to forgive him if you wish the marriage to continue.

He can’t just pay lip-service to this and neither can you.

You can’t say you forgive him and beat him up for the next few decades and he doesn’t get to sulk or imply that he was anything but wrong in his actions and willing to walk through hot coals to regain your trust.

If you don’t  really resolve this issue of infidelity, and just do it half-way, your relationship may still exist but it will do just that, nothing more.  It’ll just limp along, year after year, and never really have a chance to heal and possibly grow moving forward.

Don’t go through this alone.

Seek professional help with someone you trust, a therapist or a member of the clergy you both agree on. If your husband is unwilling to seek help, he’s not contrite, and if he’s not contrite, he’ll cheat again so don’t invest any more time with him.

Rebuilding your marriage is going to be tough, really tough. He must be truly sorry and be willing to prove that with his actions. Your job is even harder, you must be willing to totally forgive. I’m not saying this happens overnight but this is the attitude you must start from.

Good luck

MICHAEL: When we get married, we think we know how everything is going to unfold.

We tell ourselves all the things we’re going to do and all the things that we’d never do.

We envision our perfect children. We see our loving spouse continuing on unchanging from the day that we marry them.

Unfortunately, the reality is that we are all imperfect human beings.  We change over time and deal with issues that others may never know about.

We don’t see the curving path of life that lies in front of us with all its various challenges, pitfalls and setbacks.

We can’t really know what we’ll do in a situation until we’re there in it.  After we encounter them we can’t always be proud of our actions. But we can acknowledge where we are today and move forward.

So let me turn the situation around and ask me the same question as though you were the one that cheated.

Would you want to be forgiven?

If someone is worth loving, then they are no less worthy of that love after a mistake.

GRAY: Trust. Once it’s been broken things will never return to how they were before. Your relationship before this happened is broken as well. You have to rebuild a new relationship without ignoring the affair or merely keeping your fingers crossed that he won’t cheat again.

The first step toward rebuilding trust is to have a completely candid conversation. It doesn’t mean hearing the gory details, but you need to get an answer to every question you have. If you don’t know what made him cheat then you’ll never stop it in the future.

Don’t put a stranglehold on him. Had it not been for your friend, you would have never known about the affair and you may be fighting the compulsion to track his every move so you won’t miss the signals twice. Resist the urge. Hounding him down will just make you paranoid and won’t make either of you trust each other.

Keep track of how you feel as the two of you deal with this. You’re going to have some strong feelings at first, but if trust doesn’t seem to be returning over time you may need to rethink your stance. And it’s not only trust, how’s your self-esteem? Are you able to stand strong or do you feel too marginalized to respect yourself?

If conversation is a problem don’t be afraid to bring in a middle person. Counseling from a therapist or pastor can sometimes bridge the gaps and let you talk with each other without it turning into an argument. And if you’re spending your time name calling instead of really talking then you’re never going to gain traction.

If several months pass and you still can’t face the day without pain, anger and distrust then perhaps it’s time to go separate ways. At the end of this road you don’t need to feel like you’ve just accepted his cheating as a new burden you have to carry, you need to be able to confidently say “Yes, our trust was broken, but we’re too strong to have it break apart our family.”

If you have a question for our panel of husbands, please email it to them at mamas{at}nwaMotherlode{dot}com. Rest assured we won’t share your name in the Q&A.

Inside His Head: Too ‘friend’ly for Facebook?

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OK, ladies, it’s time to travel back to the strange land called …  “Inside His Head”. This month’s question is quite timely for many of us. 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.)

Q: I recently noticed my husband had friended an old girlfriend on Facebook. From conversations, I know they had a very passionate relationship. I’m not happy about this at all. What do you suggest I do?

johnthumbnail.jpgMAVERICK: I see Facebook sort of like a party.

I have a Facebook page but I use it to keep up with my pals and old friends but I rarely post. So in party terms, I’m the guy who sits over in the dark corner and sips his beer, who maybe goes outside to smoke for long periods or goes to the store for ice.

So, look  at this Facebook stuff like like him meeting an old flame at a party.

If she friended him first, she’s the one who walked up to him. If he friended her, well it’s the opposite.

Would that make you concerned at a party?

They might have regained contact through a mutual friend, so it’s sorta like they’re all huddled up in a group of old chums in the middle  of the room chatting.

Problem with that?

If she has a Facebook picture taken in soft focus that makes her look all glam or she’s wearing something revealing or you can otherwise tell she thinks she’s hot-stuff from her picture, — and let’s face it, you can tell — I’d consider that a variable. It’s something akin to her showing at the party all tarted up wearing a miniskirt and she’s chatting with your husband, standing close and with her hand on his arm.

Now what do you think?

While this might help sort out the interaction, the bottom line is , they are interacting.  She’s also not only an ex — but a significant ex that he had a smoking sexual relationship with. He might just be being friendly but the reality is, he’ll think about her, and if the sex was good he’ll likely think about her fondly and nostalgically, and likely without clothing.

If this is really bothering you, tell him you’re uncomfortable. Be direct.

If he says something about trust, tell him it’s nothing about trust, it simply is not prudent to put himself in those sorts of situations. If he listens fine. If he acts really, really defensive, or acts mad but then goes all easy-going like, I’d consider that  a red flag.

But, if you aren’t concerned about him talking to an ex-flame in plain sight at a party, I’d not sweat the Facebook issue too much. It’s pretty public.

In any event, if you’re really bugged and your husband is being a pain and not giving you satisfactory answers and you want to let her know you’re wise to what’s up,  just friend her yourself.

This is like you walking up and introducing yourself at a party. You can tell a lot by how she reacts.

Oh, and before you do, change your Facebook picture to the one where you’re breaking a board in your Karate class.

GRAY: I’d suggest you just get over it and move on. Their relationship ended badly once, so what are you afraid of? That he’s going to leave a presumably good relationship so he can pursue one he’s already had?

He/she may have wanted to make sure the other was doing ok after all these years, or perhaps they were hoping to find the other in the misery they’d wished on them upon breaking up. The point is, it’s doubtful they’re going to look at each other and say: “Man, you’re perfect. Why did we break up?” More realistically they’ll realize the decision they made to split was the right one and chatting a little on Facebook will only confirm their suspicions.

Facebook is an odd animal to begin with, filled with people who “friend” others to be better virtual farmers and all that. I’d be a lot more alarmed if he was doing that and potentially exposing strangers to your personal telephone number or street address. I think a lot of old flames tend to get in touch as a form of catharsis and because Facebook provides the perfect medium. After all, it means you don’t have an awkward social situation, you can still keep ex-girlfriends and ex-boyfriends in a controlled environment, and if they’re still as annoying as they were when you broke up there’s always that lovely “hide” button.

MAX: “I have learned that only two things are necessary to keep one’s wife happy. First, let her think she’s having her own way. And second, let her have it.” ~ Lyndon Johnson

Who are these lugnuts, I mean husbands, the readers of nwaMotherlode are constantly complaining about? I show these questions to my wife so she realizes I’m not half as bad as the other turds in the diaper.

There is no justification nor acceptable rationale that any decent man could come up with to excuse continuing an elective friendship with a former flame that the current wife disproves of. It’s just that simple.

If your lugnut maintains his cluelessness, ask him how he would feel if you hooked back up with a former passion. This “friendship” serves no purpose, it should fill no emotional need (and if it does, there are bigger problems here) and is a huge show of disrespect to the wife.

Tell him this and if he disagrees, I would recommend counseling or, better, smashing his computer in with an iron skillet.

To read more Inside His Head questions and answers, click here.

Note from the mamas: This post first appeared on nwaMotherlode in 2010. We thought it was a Q&A worth publishing again.

Inside His Head: Husband with wandering eyes?

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Dear Inside His Head husbands,

Whenever we go to the local pool, my husband always stares at other women. I’m not really the “jealous type” but he is so obvious that I can’t help but notice. How can I convince him he’s being a jerk?

greg1thumbnail.jpgGRAY: You can’t. I’d suggest you get him a pair of mirrored sunglasses so you won’t know what direction he’s looking in anymore.

It’s just in men’s nature to look and if you’re stuck with some poor schmuck who does everything short of having his tongue loll out and drool then I can only thing I can say is: you’re the one who married the fool. The rest of us at least believe we’re a bit more cunning about sneaking glances. And if you think you’re married to a guy who doesn’t sneak a peek at women at all, then you’re just not watching
him close enough.

glasses.jpgSo I suppose the only conclusion to be drawn is all men are jerks and your oogle-eyed man is simply got a bit more in the jerkdom department than most. If you want to change his behavior I suggest stern measures, like a Louisville Slugger, but that may only make him bedridden and a bit slower to pick up on your hints.

And why do we stare? Well, it’s really all your fault as women. If you weren’t nice to look at we’d undoubtedly spend more time watching football instead.

marty3thumbnail.jpgMAX: “She doesn’t have to convince him he’s a jerk. He IS a jerk, a big, fatheaded jerk, whether he thinks he is or not.” ~ My wife

I couldn’t find a suitable, pithy quote to start my answer, until my wife read the question over my shoulder and provided one ad hoc. The quote works because, well, it’s absolutely true. Men, don’t ogle girls in front of your woman. You break this rule, you’re an ass.

You must tell him immediately that this behavior is disrespectful and insulting. This should solve the problem with a decent man. If it doesn’t, then his ogling is a symptom of a much larger problem: He doesn’t respect you enough to stop a behavior you find offensive.

If he continues to leer, I would strongly suggest you get some form of counseling or some form or lawyering. Or, as my lovely wife suggests, “Next time the bleeping fatheaded bleep stares, make a big bleeping fire out of his bleep in the front yard.”

johnthumbnail.jpgMAVERICK: Wow, what pool do you hang out at???

Well, he’s not really being a jerk unless you’ve told him to quit peering at the other ladies and he keeps doing it or he’s actually leering and drooling.

And make sure there’s no double standard. If you eye-boink guys and comment on their builds (and face it ladies, more and more of you are doing just that) don’t expect your husband to put on the blinders.

Only other real issue is if he’s staring at young women who are, shall we say, just barely young women. That’s really uncool.

bikini.jpgGuys will look. We can be discreet about it, though. Tell him he looks like a creep. If he gives a fig, tell him it bugs you to see him ogle other women. Both are viable reasons not to let our whole heads turn or our tongues loll when a nicely proportioned women walks by.

But we’re only human, and we’re guys. We should get points for at least trying and not be taken too much to task if we are tempted by exceptional shapes in tiny packages.

To read more Inside His Head, click here.

remix (4)Note from the mamas: The Summer Remix symbol appears on posts previously published on nwaMotherlode that were noted as a “reader favorite”. If you missed the original publication date, we hope you’ll enjoy this encore performance. Happy summer!

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

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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.

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.

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