The “Overzealous Grandma” Edition

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S1: Dear Prudence your prudence differed here. Prudence dear putting your prudence here. Do you think that I should contact him again. Help help. Thank you. Thank you.

S2: Hello and welcome to another mini episode of Dear Prudence. I am your host. Daniel Mallory or Berg and this show is for you are plus subscribers this week. My guests are Nicole Perkins and Bim at a one me where the hosts of thirst aid kit a podcast about pop culture and thirst. And now here’s our first letter.

S3: Ow ow ow ow ow ow ow ow.

S4: All right Nicole is back to you OK subject I married very young and had four kids. Now I’m considering divorce. Dear Prudence I’ve been married for nearly 18 years and we have four children ages 5 to 13. We married when I was 23 but have been together since I was barely 20. About six months ago something happened that made me realize I had not been happy in my marriage for quite a long time. I met someone unexpectedly who lit me up in ways I’d never felt. I didn’t seek this out but now I can’t stop thinking about this other person. I don’t love my husband like I used to and realized I hadn’t enjoyed having sex with him in years and have never felt a strong physical attraction. I do love him as a partner and dad to our kids which he wasn’t always very good at but has lately been working on insignificant ways however that overall feeling is gone. We tried therapy for a few months and I detested it. He suggested we stop going and I agreed. We have been scheduling regular talks on our own and trying to spend more time together which he desperately wants. But my heart is out of the game. I don’t look forward to our quality time together and find myself actively avoiding him. We haven’t had sex in months and I am not comfortable anymore with most physical affection both taking and receiving but he craves it and is angry when I say I’m not comfortable kissing or touching. I have told him that I won’t make myself have sex just because he wants it. I draw the line there. His reaction is that he can wait years. If I only commit to making our marriage work which means for him tons of time together tons of talking and tons of other kinds of physical touch he wants to be more involved in my life than ever before. Whereas I want more distance and space than I’ve ever wanted. He asks questions about where I’m going and who I’m seeing and how long I’ll be gone. He wants to hang out every day get dinners and lunches and schedule long weekends away. He wants to be involved in my hobbies. I don’t welcome any of this at this point. He is adamant that a marriage can come back to life if both people just work for it. He says Love is a choice and that I can choose to love him again. He says the physical attraction will follow and he gets very upset when I try to explain to him that I don’t necessarily believe I can will myself back into a happy satisfying marriage especially since I am doubting how happy I ever was if we didn’t have children. I’d have filed for separation already but since we do I feel lost scared and hopeless. I don’t have any family nearby and most of my friends are also his friends. It’s been clear that maintaining a cordial warm relationship won’t be possible if we separate which is what I would want. It’s also clear that he will blame me for the failure of our marriage for not communicating enough in past years and for not trying hard enough now I will be consulting with a lawyer soon to discuss the legal issues but the emotional ones are so much more harder to sort out it seems. Please give me some outside perspective. I need help this one just made me so sad. Yes same.

S5: It’s really Makis and it’s really difficult. There’s no clear line to this set of actions. All of it just feels like it’s kind of tied together in this horrible way of justice. You know she knows what she feels. She knows she knows what she has. She knows what she doesn’t want to happen. She’s kind of laid out all of the possibilities potential endings to things and you know they all just feel terrifying and bad. And I was reading it and like you said my my overwhelming feeling was just one of real sadness that you know you have all these plans and then sometimes they fall to the wayside and you’re left with the carcass of it and you don’t even know how you how you find your way out right.

S6: Yeah. And I think the has been you know that parable of holding a bird in your hand and you realize that the British trying to break free so you hold it tighter and then you end up squeezing it and the little birdie dies.

S7: And I think that’s what’s happening with the husband. He realizes that you want to go. And so now he’s become insecure with asking where are you going. Who are you talking to. How are you gonna be gone. Those kinds of things. Because he’s looking for the clues that you are going to leave and not come back. And I think that that is no way to live in a household together. I think the letter writer knows what what they need to do. And it’s just very difficult when you have children you know so young how to deal with that particularly if you’re in a place where you don’t have friends you don’t have family there’s not a strong support system for the letter writer. But I don’t.

S8: It’s hard I don’t want to tell this person what to do because again I know that I feel that you know they already know what they need to do. I don’t know. It seems it’s really difficult.

S2: Yeah yeah. And you know by the act like it kind of starts out like I don’t know what to do I don’t know what to do. I hate everything that he’s suggesting. I feel trapped I feel caught and I could feel monitored. But there’s also that kind of underlying tension of like but we have the kids together and you know part of me wants to see if if there’s anything there but then it kind of ends with I’m actually probably going to meet with a lawyer soon so there’s there’s a little bit more of a sense of like I think I know what I’m going to do. So I’ll just say like without you know again you can talk to a lawyer without necessarily moving ahead if you decide at some other point that there’s nothing else that you do want to try. I certainly wouldn’t fault you for doing it. This is not a situation where I would feel like you need to get away from your husband for the sake of your health or well-being. So it really has just more to do with whether or not you think the two of you have a compatible vision of what your marriage can look like or if you can get to a place where you can have a compatible vision and so part of what I think will just help us to remember like ultimately if I decide to get a divorce I don’t need his permission even if he says you know what. As long as you’re willing to be in the same house I’m willing to wait nine years or whatever. That doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to go. I think so as he can just help to remind yourself what your options are so you don’t feel like Oh my God I can’t leave until I get him to agree I need to leave. Does that make sense. Yeah yeah yeah. And I think to be pretty frank with him and to say like regardless of what does or doesn’t have happened between us in terms of a marriage this situation is not going to get better because I tell you everywhere that I’m going or we spend every minute together if I need space in the following ways I really need you to honor that and if you don’t. That tells me that I can’t trust you to honor the fact that we’re two different people even if we are or have been in a marriage. So if you’re not able to give me good faith here that to me is a sign that I need to take this space by like removing myself from the home or from our bedroom or or both.

S7: Right. Right. I mean there’s a marked difference from your 20 year old self and your 38 year old self. And so I think they need to discuss the ways that they have grown up together and possibly grown apart. And you know the letter writer mentions meeting someone that made them realize that they were never happy in the marriage.

S4: I don’t know what’s gonna happen with that particular relationship. Sometimes those those things happen as the catalyst. And you know maybe if the letter writer you know tries to have a relationship with that person that won’t go well either because it’s not necessarily that’s not and maybe what’s meant to be either.

S6: Maybe it’s just the tool to move you know to use to move on. I just feel like it’s really hard to move past someone not physically wanting to be near you at all and realizing I was never attracted to you in the first place. Yeah. And I don’t think they got married at what 19 20. Yeah. Yeah. So that’s that’s really hard to move on from that. And I don’t think I don’t want to say I don’t think the marriage can recover because again I don’t want to put like absolutes on something like this but for me I would be very difficult to be in a relationship where I felt no attraction at all to that person.

S9: And their language is kind of decisive as well. I think that love is my overarching thing in reading the letter is these are not milk toast words. There is stuff about testing something and you know I have never done this I don’t it’s gone. You know he’s never been good at this it’s bad and you know I want more distance. It’s I don’t welcome any of this at this point that kind of language to me sounds very definitive and perhaps that’s a function of you know writing it down.

S10: And so things sounded a bit more kind of you know ha drawn than they perhaps are but I also think that we choose our words very carefully especially in situations as you know precarious as this. So I wonder like Nicole said that you haven’t come to a sort of decision or at least the beginning of a decision and yeah the final paragraph about going to see a lawyer doesn’t mean anything is going to happen but it means that you’ve taken definitive steps towards something potentially happen happening and I think that’s something that you can’t ignore. Sometimes the person arrives as Nicole says as a catalyst you know and you know they discard very quickly this idea that this person is the grand new love of their life but you know sometimes people kind of turn up and shine a light where something was a little bit dark and then you can see everything Everything is Illuminated and then you kind of take a step back and think well what do I want. I think the key thing here is I kind of understand fundamentally what you want. How compatible that is with what your husband wants and then if those things turn out not to be very compatible then you figure it out thereafter. You know it’s not our jobs are going to push you in one direction or the other but you know it’s very basic pros and cons thing and then working around the rest of the complicated stuff. What does child care look like we know. How would you make sure you know nobody was a stranger nobody was feeling like they were being heard and seen and so on. But ultimately this is very much a question about you and your life and the rest of it.

S9: Generally however long it takes and not necessarily pleasurable but it will hopefully will fall into place. But you can’t discount your own feelings for the sake of what is of course a very difficult situation for perhaps your children and the wider family. This is I think you have just as much rights to kind of not feel trapped. You don’t want to be the bird with the broken bones.

S6: Yeah. And as a child of divorced parents I know a lot of people say we need to stay together for the children but children are very intelligent and they pick up when the parents in our household are unhappy and sometimes staying together in a miserable situation is more harmful to the children than trying to have this nuclear family image or whatever to try to you know project this traditional image of family and staying together for whatever reason and you know labeling it as for the kids. So I think I would suggest to the letter writer that you know again explore your options and recognize that it would be more beneficial to your children to see their parents in a loving relationship to see their parents be you know physical with each other and to see healthy displays of love and affection. Whether that means you two stay together or that you move on to other people who are helping you display positive images of love and affection because if you’re looking at your parents who can barely stand to be in the same room with each other that’s going to mess you up. So I would you know please consider that as well as everything else that you’re looking at in this decision.

S2: Yeah I tend to think that like staying together for the kids thing is a little bit more applicable when you’re both in a similar position of like we both feel a little bit checked out and there’s some stuff we’re both mad about but there’s also some affection here and we’re both kind of willing to put in the work like that I think is a good place to say like for the sake of the kids. Let’s see if we can go from like kind of frustrated and a little checked out to solid rather than like one of us is desperate to escape a cage and the other is like do not leave me do alley we do that leave me like there does come a point where the dynamic of the two of you being together is probably more harmful than being even very icy. CO parents like I do think too. Like just rereading this and seeing he’s angry when I say I’m not comfortable kissing or touching while I understand that that would be painful to someone who does want to kiss and touch. I worry about that dynamic where you’re constantly having to monitor a physical boundary that he’s always like. How about now. How about now and then if he believes that you’re just going to become physically attracted to him again in the future rather than saying like OK I accept that. Can we talk about becoming different kinds of CO parents like that worries me a lot and then you know just you say I think that maintaining a cordial relationship won’t be possible if we separate. Which again to me says the only reason I would stay with him is because I think he’ll try to punish me endlessly otherwise and that’s no good. And frankly doesn’t even guarantee he will give you a cordial warm relationship if you stay with him because it doesn’t sound like things are cordial or warm right now. So I would say consult that lawyer maybe tell your family members now that you might need them to fly out at some point again not because I think he’s going to suddenly become violent but just because like divorce is hard and you might need help packing either his stuff up or your stuff up and looking for an apartment you might need help with childcare you might just need emotional support. So if you have any siblings or parents or relatives that you generally like trust I would start saying like I think my marriage is about to end. And I would love to have you visit I’m going through a really hard time right now. Can we talk. And you know I’m so sorry that most your friends are mutual. I am sure that there will be some people who choose sides and I’m sure there will be some people who will maybe blame you for not quote unquote trying hard enough. But you know you can’t stay in this marriage because you think that your husband will otherwise disagree like you just that can’t be why you stay married to him. So you know look for the support that you need start asking for the support that you need. I think it will be easier once you have started asking for it because right now you have all the like downsides of your marriage deteriorating but nobody else knows about it yet. And I think you will feel so much better a year from now. Like it might not be an easy next year it might even take longer than that but one year from now five years from now ten years from now you are going to look back and think that was the beginning of the road to a different kind of life.

S11: All right we’ve got a classic good old fashioned mom one love love love one love of one whose whose turn is it to read this one that it’s mine subject My mom is going deliriously invested in my baby.

S10: Dear Prudence I’m newly pregnant and I need help dealing with my mother. She means well but she has a childlike tendency to make everything about her. She is begrudgingly respecting some of our wishes now not telling people slash know social media but she has already insisted on certain things being her way. She saved my nursery furniture from the 1980s and is insisting she set up a nursery at her house with it even though I’ve told her I’m not putting my child in a 30 year old crib or using her 30 year old breast pump. She tried to force me to tell other family members I’m not ready to tell because it was hard for her to keep it a secret. Worst she picked a fight with my husband after he defended my parenting choices and told her it wasn’t her baby. She gave him an ultimatum if he wanted a relationship with her he’d stay out of the conversation. I want to set the tone with her now that she needs to respect our wishes as parents and show support and not undermine us simply because she has quote always dreamed of being a grandmother and has all of these predetermined ideas about what she’s going to do with my child.

S11: Help me. How do I have this conversation all right.

S12: Lady I mean 30 year old breast pump that that was it. That was a DL for me where I physically recoiled and I thought Oh come on Mom like sort this out.

S11: It’s I understand the excitement that comes with being you know a grandmother. It’s exciting. A lot of things are falling into place things that you know and this is a woman who has said she is excited she is you know in wanting to be a grandmother this is she’s always dreamed of it. I think when people do that they dream to the exclusion of everybody else’s dreams. And it can be difficult to rein someone in. You know I remember a friend telling me ages ago that her mother had once said to her you know I know this is your baby but really it’s all our baby. And she she kind of was like No no it’s not. But I think that sentiment is not uncommon at all.

S10: People kind of show it in different ways. I personally obviously this is the first time I’ve ever heard about a 30 year old breastbone being offered as a you know dangled as a gift.

S11: It’s kind of like No thanks. Technology has done wonders in 30 years and I don’t think I want to put what you once had on your breasts on mine. It’s a kind of it feels like a excitement that has spilled over into something a little bit more sinister. Bless her. But yeah the conversation needs to happen I think. I think there is something to be said for just laying it out there. You know the question of Help Me How do I have this conversation is I think to be very very direct.

S10: There are some things that you have to just kind of name and then kind of nail them to the wall and say that is my line I will not be budging on it. And it’s difficult especially if your mom is someone that you love very much and otherwise is a very reasonable lovely person. It can be difficult to draw that line. But I do think it’s important because this child is coming. You’ve said in the letter your newly pregnant. I don’t know what Newley means but this is you don’t need the stress that I know that from movies you do not need to be stressed while you are you know making a life inside your womb. I don’t think this is something that you need to be having hang over you. So the sooner you have the conversation the better because whatever you set up early is the precedent that kind of holds over not just in pregnancy but once the child is born because it doesn’t seem like your mother is the kind of person that will suddenly be all hands off once the baby arrives. So the sooner you can get these personal goals in place the better.

S7: Yeah. Because I think the mother is going to go full grandma in like she’ll do everything that she’s not allowed and not she’s not supposed to do for the kid. Like if you tell her don’t let the baby have this blah blah blah. After this time I don’t give them this kind of food. That’s obviously what’s gonna be happening over at grandma’s house.

S13: Also it does seem like the mother is just trying to maybe relive your childhood maybe trying to you know have the experience of having a baby all over again because a 30 year old crib. I mean honestly I was born in 77. I and my brother was born in 79 and I remember the stuff that we had you know back then and it is surprising that we are still alive so that you know we used to let children play with or play in and things like that. And compared to what’s happening today. So those things you definitely want to talk to your mom and let her know that you know you have some concerns about the welfare of your child once the baby’s here. But also you know like Ben said I don’t know how newly how how far along newly pregnant is but there are there is much to be said about holding onto the news until you are sure that everything is going to go well until you are sure that you are having a healthy pregnancy because a lot of times you know anything can happen. And so the fact that your mother just can’t seem to respect that. Obviously that’s a problem. So you definitely need to have a conversation. I think I would say have it with your husband there. So you know just show some solidarity to also so that he can support you once you get to that point where it’s like I don’t want to be mean to my mom and then he can kind of give you like a little elbow to say no go ahead keep going with that but write down the things you want to talk about. Yeah so that you have it there you know so that you’re not just like flailing and you’re not trying to come up with stuff and so that she sees that you’re serious with it and just let her know I need you to respect the boundaries that we lay down as new parents were new to this and I do want you to help me but I also want to learn on my own in the same way that you learned you know that you know parenting is a very hands on process. It’s you know something that you have to learn as you go no matter all the you know well intentioned people around you and I would say also just kind of tell her don’t you remember how Grandma treated you when you had me you know something like that maybe you know give her some examples are some family stories that what you’ve heard either through her relationship with her mother in law or other people’s mother and mother in law but whatever. Yeah those kinds of things so that you have receipts you know for her so that you have some ways that she can relate to what you’re going through. And just again to stress this is very new for me.

S6: I want to be able to relax and make sure that my baby is going to be healthy and I will just I just please let me do this the way that I need to so that I can trust you when the baby is here and I want you to enjoy the time with the baby but I need to know that I can trust you when I’m with the baby and with the boundaries that we as the baby’s parents have set.

S12: The thing that I will say also is kind of like to have in your back pocket the idea that even with your reasonable measured tone on your list and your husband for moral support et cetera there are some people who don’t learn people who don’t. Who who you can lay out everything that’s concise and as you know precise a minor and they just nodding and kind of going cuckoo cool I’m just going to do what I’m going to do. And then it kind of then comes about to you and making a decision as to how much you actually end up sharing with your mother which is a very difficult thing because this is your mother and clearly through this letter there is a very kind of to me a very clear case of I love her she loves me.

S9: This is not a situation of malice but it is about one where you maintain your sense of self and you don’t feel you know annoyed or threatened or stressed or whatever. So I think they might come to a point where you just have to hold your tongue and perhaps not share every single bit of stuff with your mother. And that was just pure self-preservation thing it doesn’t mean that you love her any less. It just means that you are also taking steps to put yourself first in a situation that really requires you to put yourself first. So I think that’s something that you also have to consider. Doesn’t have to be something that you kind of break out of the first go but it’s something for you to have in your back pocket so that when if the situation does become that way you’re not kind of turning it over in your head for the first time at that time.

S10: It has to be something that you are also aware is an option. It’s something that you can absolutely break out. You don’t have to tell your mother every single part of your pregnancy. It feels good. And you know but if you know what she might do with that information then you know you have to make a decision as to how much you are actually able to share in good conscience and feel good about that going forward.

S14: Yeah and I think the only thing I would add to that is a thing when you do talk to her bring up the ultimatum both because that lets her know that she can’t privately threaten your husband and not have that kid back to you. And also just for you to correct her that she has made a mistake.

S2: So just say like don’t give my husband ultimatums. That is not in fact how this is going to work. If you put him in a position where you say either stop talking to me about you know your child or my daughter and I are gonna like go off and be together without you You are mistaken if you continue offering my husband ultimatums my husband and I will go off and hang out without you. And that would be very sad for you and for me. So I invite you to stop offering ultimatums that you can’t back up and maybe there are probably nicer ways to say that you don’t have to go quite so like intense with your mom but to make it clear like you don’t get to do that. And if you do it again we will end the conversation and you will not get what you want. She will either learn very quickly or learn very slowly but either way she will learn.

S15: That’s our mini episode of Dear Prudence for this week. Our producers felt circus. Our theme music was composed by Robin Hilton as always. If you want me to answer your question call me and leave a message at 4 0 1 3 7 1 dear that’s 3 3 2 7 and you might hear your answer on that episode of the show. You don’t have to use your real name or location and at your request we can even alter the sound of your voice. Keep it short 30 seconds a minute tops. Thanks for listening.