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Relationship Q&A: My Husband Defends His Mother Over Me

The same counselors who help the couples you read about in "Can This Marriage Be Saved?" are ready to answer your questions about making your relationship the best it can be. This month, our Contributing Editor, Sondra Forsyth, talks to Stephen Betchen, DSW, about a reader's question.


Q. My mother-in-law brings candy for my kids every time she visits. When she hands it to them, she says, "This is for being such good little boys." That drives me crazy, but my husband thinks it's no big deal. We fight about this issue all the time. He says it's a grandmother's right to spoil her grandkids. I say I don't want my children to eat so many sweets and I don't want them to think of candy as some kind of a reward. But what really infuriates me is that he's sticking up for his mother instead of presenting a united parenting front with me. Help!

A. You are right that the solution to this dilemma would be to have your husband's support. Unfortunately, partners sometimes enlist other family members -- consciously or unconsciously -- to side with them in their relational conflicts. If your mother-in-law comes over often and gives the children a lot of candy, then you have cause for concern and you need to negotiate the issue with your husband. Aim for a compromise in which your mother-in-law gives fewer sweets and offers them because she loves the children rather than because they are "good." You might also suggest that she could occasionally bring small toys rather than sweets. On the other hand, if your mother-in-law sees her grandchildren infrequently and gives them a piece or two of candy at a time, then you may be guilty of micromanagement and in turn of provoking a control struggle in your marriage. In that case, I'd relax and drop the issue. Apparently, you and your husband were brought up differently and therefore have some different ideas about child rearing. This is a very common scenario. Simply let your children know that you don't want them to have candy on a regular basis but that it's fine as an occasional special treat from Grandma.

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