Inside His Head: Is he telling his mother too much?

Dear Guys,

My husband tells his mother things I really would prefer she NOT know about me. His mother is very handy and I’m not, so he might tell her I forgot to put primer on the wall before I painted it or that I accidentally left out the sugar when I made a cake. He thinks it’s no big deal, but it’s none of her business. Plus, it makes me feel like she thinks less of me to hear that stuff, which doesn’t help our relationship. It’s also not helping my relationship with my husband because I get mad at him for blabbing about me. Please give me some advice on this.

GRAY: Well, right off the top of my head I’ve gotta say: Quit taking yourself so seriously. We all make mistakes and whether we grow from them or let them stop us is a critical distinction. I mean, we’re talking about priming a wall, not deep, dark secrets and incriminating personal beliefs.

Use your mother-in-law to your advantage. If she’s handy and you’re not then what’s keeping you from having her help you? Should she live close enough she may gladly lend a hand, and if not then she may have some sage advice to give before you start. Sure, it might not help when you miss sugar as an ingredient, but she might have the experience to share on plenty of other things.

Ask yourself why it’s not her business. If topics like this are taboo then what is your husband allowed to talk about? I’ll admit it may be different if he was discussing matters that went on behind closed doors, but these issues fall far shy of that. You’re all a family and you ought to be able to work together, laugh at others’ mistakes and know that you all love each other regardless of personal weaknesses or strengths. My mom is now a good cook, but she loves to tell the story of when she knew nothing and mixed up sugar and baking soda in a cake of her own. None of us think the less of her for it or the day when my dad came home to find her fuming in anger, spaghetti noodles slowly peeling themselves off the kitchen ceiling.

In issues like this, people only have the power over you that you give them. If you feel she thinks less of you for these things then it’s a perception you’re putting onto the issue. If your husband and his mom felt like you were a useless failure, they probably wouldn’t waste their time discussing your activities. Learn to laugh when you make mistakes. Don’t let failures dictate the language of your life. Know that sharing stories is what we do when we care about each other. And know that even I have painted walls without priming them (and I consider myself handy).

MAVERICK: Sometimes it’s hard for a spouse to realize that you’re both on the same team.

It’s particularly hard when team husband and wife competes with that first team we’re all on — mom, dad and sibs (if any).

But team wife and husband should always be first.

What your husband has to realize is his mother may love you, but she loves him way more, period. So, she likely won’t see your goofs with the same love-filter as he does. He thinks they’re funny, maybe even cute. She likely sees them as flaws in your character or upbringing or that you simply lack skills a wife requires and she’ll never forget it, ever.

You’re husband’s first loyalty is to you, not his mom and their little laughs at your expense. If his blabbing bothers you, and you make it clear to him why and that it’s hurtful, he should keep his tongue on a leash for your sake. If he refuses, don’t lower yourself to his level. Always speak lovingly and respectfully about your husband in the presence of his family. You’ll never convince his mom he’s less than perfect, you’ll only make yourself look like a complainer.

If he doesn’t stop telling tales to his mama, you might try pointing out goofs that reflect on his competence as a husband, but only do it one-on-one. Next time he hangs a picture crooked or he screams like a girl at the sight of a spider, you might say, “Boy, my dad sure would get a laugh out of that if I told him. But I won’t, because I know how much he respects you.”

Good luck. If he’ll yuck it up with his family at your expense he might need a real “light bulb” moment before he realizes his first loyalty is to you and not his mommy. Here’s hoping the light comes on real soon.

JAKE: Seriously? I think perhaps you’re a bit insecure. It’s not like he’s outing you from the witness protection program, he’s just talking about what’s going on. Things could be worse: He could be discussing your toilet habits, how awful you are in bed or how you ignore the kids while eating bon bons on the couch.

Instead, he’s talking about simple small mistakes we all make. It’s just part of our daily conversation. I’ve done a lot of projects around the house through the years and trust me I’ve made a ton of mistakes. Who cares? I’ve also done a lot of really good things. If you feel like you’ve got to present yourself as some perfect vision of matrimony, you’re going to have a long (or not so long) unhappy marriage.

Nowhere in your note did I see that she actually holds these things over your head or puts you down about them. If you feel incompetent because of these mistakes, that’s because you make yourself feel that way. Next time why don’t you tell her about your screw ups. Laugh about it with her. It’s ok. Just remember, in a marriage, there are only two people’s opinions that matter: yours and your spouse’s. So get over it and move on to something important…like putting on primer.