Dare to Ask: Why call your parents to complain about
By Phillip Milano
The Florida Times-Union
I've never understood why people get married, then call their mom or dad and
complain about their spouse rather than talk to their spouse. Why? Do they
expect mom or dad to rush over and spank the spouse?
No one knows you like your parents. They should offer unconditional love, and
a child, even an adult, should feel safe calling them. Since the parents know
your history, they can see things from the perspective of time, experience and
intimate knowledge of the "child." -- Anne, 49, Indianapolis
It's more likely they complain to their parents to hear them say "Oh, that's
awful!" or something similar so they can feel more justified about what they
think their spouse is doing wrong. -- Craig, 21, Duncan, Canada
Some people have issues with confrontation. It's difficult for them to say to
their spouse, "We have to talk." Sometimes they need that third party to help
them figure out how to do that. If you're the spouse of someone who does this,
it's ironic you posted this rather than ask your spouse. -- Shelly, 49,
The problem is, you call your parents and wear them down with some convoluted
enigma about your spouse. What do you do the next night, when they're completely
drained and can't even begin to address your endless confusion over why people
still watch "Lost"?
But since people really do call their folks with mate problems, we rang up
Scott Haltzman, a Brown University professor of psychiatry whose books include
"The Secrets of Happily Married Women" and "The Secrets of Happily Married Men."
People usually marry someone who they feel "thinks we're awesome and
wonderful" and sees us for our unique abilities, he said. Then when that little
thrill gets rolled because of standard conflict issues, to whom do we turn?
"The person who does and has always met our needs: the parents," Haltzman
That's OK if you have a positive, mature relationship with the folks, in
which they see you for your warts and all. But if they have an unrealistic sense
that you can do no wrong, your partner will likely feel he or she is being
painted in a bad light, he said. Your parents may get a permanent "attitude"
about your loved one.
"For example, recently a woman came to me who felt her husband was not
attentive. She moved out to her parents' house. They cocooned around her and
protected her and wound up feeling her husband was a jerk. Then he started to
work on the marriage, and her parents were upset when she moved back in with
him. That's how divisiveness happens in side-taking."
It might be best to lean on friends instead.
"Friends are more dispensable," Haltzman said. "You can pour your heart out
to a friend about a mate - commiserate - and then two days later, you and your
mate are going to the Caribbean, and your friend is like 'What the hell?' But,
that's part of being a friend."
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Phillip Milano, author of I Can't Believe You Asked That! (Perigee),
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