Dear Abby: I love my wife very much, but we are, unfortunately, having a communication/interpretation issue. She is inquisitive and asks a lot of questions. I become defensive when I’m questioned. Sometimes I feel it shows a lack of confidence or trust in me. My wife says I am being too sensitive.
There are times when I infer a negative tone where there is none, and others when I believe my perception is spot-on. Sometimes, I suspect she’s unwilling to accept any answer that does not match her own thinking. She comes from a family where correcting each other, even over the smallest thing, is common. She’s an educator, so in some ways, it’s part of her job.
My wife seems unable to use alternative phrasing that is less likely to trigger a defensive response. When we have conflict over this, it seems I am always the one who has to give ground. When I try to explain my feelings, it only makes things worse. When I choose to be more assertive, it results in more escalation. I am blessed with a spouse who is independent, strong-minded and outspoken. How can I develop a thicker skin so I won’t feel like I am second-guessed at every turn? When should I speak up? — Misunderstood in Texas
Dear Misunderstood: NOW would be a good time to speak up. When you do, tell your wife — the educator — that you feel second-guessed at every turn, and it’s time to enlist the help of a licensed marriage and family therapist so you two can improve your communication skills. If she’s willing, it could be helpful for your marriage. If she isn’t, then go without her to help you figure out whether you really are “too sensitive.”
Dear Abby: My best friend, whom I’ve known most of my life, has a 7-year-old grandson. The boy, “Cody,” is spoiled, rude and makes obnoxious comments to adults. They’ll make plans to visit us on a weekend evening when my wife and I want to chill out. While they are here, Cody gets loaded up on sugar, snoops through rooms and picks up breakable objects while watching us to see our reaction. He also does calisthenics and runs around while he’s here. He makes snotty comments to us that my friend encourages and thinks are funny. As much as I love my friend, how do I tell him that his grandson is no longer welcome? — In a Conundrum
Dear In A Conundrum: Has it occurred to you that Cody may have problems more serious than a sugar buzz? The behavior you describe can be symptoms of ADHD and/or learning disabilities. If Cody hasn’t been evaluated by a medical professional, he should be. If you truly love this friend, suggest it and tell him why. If he ends your relationship because of it, you will no longer be subjected to Cody’s unfortunate behavior. On the other hand, if my concern is on target, you could change that boy’s life for the better, because he doesn’t act out only at your house.