Ask Allison: My in-laws gave my husband a week’s golf abroad gift for Easter – without asking me. I am angry!
Question: My in-laws drive me crazy. My husband is an only son and they think he’s the best thing since sliced bread. Whenever we spend time with them, he is unbearable afterwards. His mother keeps talking about how tired he is and how hard he works. And over Christmas, when they were up, they kept talking about a special surprise they had for his birthday, which was last week. As a gift, they paid him to take a week’s vacation to play golf with his dad—without even asking me if the time was right or anything. To make matters worse it is booked for Easter when our crèche is closed and I am very busy with work. My husband is happy, of course, but I’m raging. I can’t really articulate to him how inappropriate that is and how it really isn’t possible. Help!
Allison replies: Oh, that’s a fine mess you haven’t gotten yourself into. Let’s take things one by one and start with how you are – this is a fresh injury to what appears to be like others possibly unprocessed with pent-up wounds. Years of unresolved comments that felt awkward, personal, and pointed.
It can be hard to tell how tired your husband is or how hard he’s been working when I imagine two of you feeling this way. To improve perspective, his mother thinks only of her only son. I say this to make it easier for you as it is. I know you are very aware of this, but knowing this in a sober way can make it feel a little less personal as it has nothing to do with you – yet still affects you directly. This is where it needs to be discussed between you and your husband.
Accepting her for who she is can help focus your attention on where she needs to be, which is who you are and what that means for you as a couple and family. That doesn’t mean giving in — accepting others can bring clarity that’s easily clouded when you’re upset. Ask yourself what issues or patterns frustrate you with your in-laws and why. Write it down – do you notice anything? Are there certain times of the year, such as Christmas, Easter, public holidays, birthdays, or major events, that experience similar friction?
Frustrations arise because people speak or act in ways that are beyond our control. It’s even more frustrating when these behaviors affect you directly. However, when you notice other people’s patterns—even if they’re frustrating and exciting—it gives you something back. You will know in advance what is going to happen and you can make plans or have important preliminary talks to get vaccinated or to discuss how you want your relationship and family to be.
Even in situations like this, where the choice seems to have already been made, there may be an initial pause before saying yes: “What a wonderful birthday surprise, thank you. Let me check with (himself) and see how that would work out with the kids this week.’ Recognizing patterns can be a sigh of relief – when there are familiar patterns, such as For example, controlling behaviors allow you to work on ways you prefer to respond and instill a sense of autonomy that works for everyone.
Back to you – can you see what’s underneath the anger? Write “Rage” in big letters at the top of the page and think of it as the tip of the iceberg. Now, tune in to that word appearing in your mind and body beneath the initial surface of anger. Think first, ask and answer: what made me so angry? Why? Has something like this triggered this reaction before? What happened? How was it solved – or was it? How was that for you?
When you think about it, where do you feel it in your body? Take a moment to connect with how it is in your body. Is it a feeling of injustice, irritation, fast and circling thoughts? Write them down as they need to be identified. Do you feel cared for or cared for? Is this an unmet need for you? How would you describe your relationship with your parents? Do this with each parent.
What were your practical plans for childcare during Easter week? Perhaps you didn’t have time to talk about it together as the plans were made before you could talk about Easter, which just after Christmas feels far away. I would suggest having this hands-on conversation after you’ve worked through the emotions first.
Some prompts might include asking him what he thinks needs to happen that week – explore what plan needs to be put in place to support you while you work and what other alternatives are available as this is a family decision . Role reversal can illustrate points well without getting personal. “May I ask you to introduce yourself, if my parents had surprised me with a trip and hadn’t spoken to you about it, I wonder how that would have been for you?
The reason you can’t articulate your feelings is because the emotions feel so strong that you can’t access the prefrontal cortex—you can’t. By answering the questions above, it will help you process and clarify exactly why you feel the way you do. Learning how to regulate yourself is one of the most important skills that can then facilitate important conversations like this one with your husband.
The “never go to bed because of an argument” myth isn’t true and certainly not helpful. However, it won’t be productive to have an important conversation if you feel like the red fog is there. It’s okay to say, “I’m very upset/angry about this and I’d like to talk about it. But I have to think and then I’ll get back to you because that’s important.”
Ongoing conversations to work through the various issues here can include fatigue from competition and/or how hard a person works; how it feels not to be involved in family decisions that directly affect you; and ways to future-proof it so it doesn’t happen again.
Releasing the anger and processing any pent-up resentment is a step towards a healthier way of communicating and protecting oneself from the inner circle.
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https://www.independent.ie/life/health-wellbeing/health-features/ask-allison-my-in-laws-gifted-my-husband-a-weeks-golfing-abroad-at-easter-without-checking-with-me-i-am-furious-42317445.html Ask Allison: My in-laws gave my husband a week’s golf abroad gift for Easter – without asking me. I am angry!