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Cleaving to Mommy

John Schmoe from Idaho writes:

Do you ever answer questions from men?

I’ve been married for nearly three years to a great woman, but it seems that she puts her mother before me. They are always on the phone together, my wife goes to her house at least three times a week with our baby daughter, they go to lunch and shopping regularly. But most of all I have a problem with the fact that she tells her mother things that I think are private and if we have a disagreement, she tells her mom. My mother-in-law knows more about my marriage than I do!

We’ve tried to talk about it, but it doesn’t ever go anywhere, so I want to ask some other women for some insight into the matter. Is there any hope of cutting the apron strings? I hope you can help. I’ll be watching the web site. Please don’t use my name!

Alison says:

Brother Schmoe, we love getting mail from men, even if they use pseudonyms!

I’m not sure if you want solutions or validation. But I’ll be happy to throw out the latter. The key here is loyalty in marriage. Husbands and wives are to cleave to each other not to their parents. To be honest, I don’t know how much time is “too much” for a married woman with children to spend with her mother. I suppose that would depend greatly on all sorts of factors, particularly how it affects her family. But when it comes to sharing personal details with anyone (mother, sister, friend), I will be the first to get up and scream my head off. Your wife owes you loyalty in your marriage.

We addressed a similar issue in the column on gossip. That’s all it is…gossip. And to gossip to chat idly about someone else as a form of amusement about one’s own spouse is clearly wrong, disloyal, and hurtful. And it damages marriages terribly.

What I don’t know, is how to get your wife to discuss the issue, if she is unwilling. That’s another issue altogether.

Kathy says:

Brother Schmoe, we have a cadre of loyal readers representing your sex. My perspective is the biblical advice to leave your parents and bond with your spouse. Obviously, there’s a continuum of grey stretching in both directions to infinity. How much extended family togetherness is too much? The only equation that works, here, is a shifting, flexible sense of balance that allows both partners to support the solution.

I’m sure you have read about men who keep their wives completely isolated in order to control them. Clearly these men are abusive and probably nuts.

You have also heard of, and probably know personally, men who spend all their free time with their buddies or brothers, obsessed with sports or hobbies that exclude their wives or children. In this case, the wives may be the ones who are nuts, tending young children 24/7 without the help of the kids’ daddy. Wives in either situation have a valid problem.

The problem transcends gender: How much companionship and support can a spouse expect from his or her mate?

Any answer that is not two-sided is the wrong answer. “As much as your spouse requires” doesn’t work if that amount is completely unreasonable. Personally, I like gradual change. Rather than saying, “This feels lopsided to me, and I have to insist that you spend at least as many hours doing things with me as with your mom,” I would approach it in small steps. “I miss you. Can we plan something fun this weekend?” If she says “Not this weekend. I’m going to Disneyland with my mother,” then you can explain, “Sounds fun. In fact, that’s exactly the sort of thing I would like to do with you and the kids. Can we rethink the way we spend our spare time, starting the Saturday after next?” If you continue to get stonewalled, then I think it’s time to bring in a professional to help cut the apron strings.

Sharing intimate details about your marriage with anyone other than a professional counselor is simply a betrayal of your spouse, in my book. Your mother-in-law is not a party to your marriage and can do absolutely nothing to improve it. If your wife values her marriage, she needs to be talking to you and nobody else. Let’s be realistic, though. This is a value that many married people learn only with maturity and effort. I hope you will be able to turn this around.

Thanks for reading Mormon Momma.

Tracy says:

Obviously, your wife has a good relationship with her mother. That’s a good thing. But, there are lines that should be drawn, it just depends on the “where.” If your wife is a stay-at-home mom, and the time she’s spending on the phone and/or visiting her mother is during the day, when you’re at work anyway, I don’t really see where the amount of time they’re spending together should be a problem. If she’s at a friend’s home, the grocery store, at a playgroup or at mom’s, what difference does it make?

But, let’s say you get home from work or school around six o’clock. She has all morning and early afternoon to visit with and/or talk to mom. So if she’s waiting until you get home, to call her mother or go visit her, then I’d say you have a problem. If her mother is working and doesn’t get home until five or six, then going over to mom’s in the evening once a week is acceptable, but that could be done on weekends as well. But it certainly shouldn’t be three times a week, if she’s leaving you at home. Those apron strings are way too long. And she shouldn’t expect you to go with her, either. You, she, and your daughter are the primary family now.

It’s the first commandment ever given to mankind, regarding relationships! “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother and he shall cleave unto his wife.” Genesis 2:24

And the same thing goes for the woman!!!

Incidentally, have you noticed what it is that your wife is spending so much time talking about with her mother? Is she talking about her day? The baby? Her family (grandma, brothers, sisters)? It’s possible that whatever it is she’s talking about with her mother, is something that, for some reason, she thinks you wouldn’t be interested in. So a suggestion would be to pay attention the next time your wife is chatting on the phone with her mother, and make a mental note of the things she’s talking about. Then you can try to spark a conversation with her about those things. If the problem is simply that she’s thinks you aren’t interested, then showing interest, by asking about those things may help to correct the situation.

My main concern though is that she’s divulging private husband/wife information to her mother. That is totally and completely inappropriate and unacceptable and needs to stop now! The disagreements that you and your wife have are private family business your personal family business that shouldn’t leave the walls of your home, unless it’s in discussion with a counselor, family therapist, or a Bishop. She probably doesn’t realize it, but she’s being disloyal and very disrespectful of you. That’s a horrible breach of trust. I can almost guarantee that if you went crawling home to Mommy to tattle on your wife with each marital disagreement, your wife would hit the roof.

Unless there is actually physical, sexual, or substance abuse going on and a spouse needs to actually leave and get help, there’s no reason for a husband or wife to tell their parents their private issues.

Referring back to the very same scripture, what exactly does it mean?

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that it says we are “leaving father and mother” and should “cleave unto our [spouse].” A similar scripture is found in the Doctrine & Covenants: “Thou shalt alove thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt bcleave unto her and none else.” D&C 42:22

This is Heavenly Father’s command regarding the unique and wonderful bond between a husband and wife. The marital relationship is not supposed to be compromised by any other relationship, including the relationship that either spouse has with their own parents. I think too many people automatically think the “cleave unto thy wife” is talking about being sexually faithful and not having emotional or physical affairs. It says “Leave the father and mother…. cleave to the [spouse]”. That’s not talking about sex! How much clearer can it be?

In Faith Precedes the Miracle, President Spencer W. Kimball said:

The words none else eliminate everyone and everything. The spouse then becomes preeminent in the life of the husband or wife, and neither social life nor occupational life nor political life nor any other interest nor person nor thing shall ever take precedence over the companion spouse.

This would include speaking about private marital issues, outside of the marriage.

In the Marriage & Family Relations Instructor’s Manual (pdf), Lesson Two: “Developing Unity in Marriage, subsection “Husbands and Wives Should Be Loyal to One Another, we read:

?speak lovingly and respectfully about each other in conversations with family members and friends.

Your mother in law is only getting your wife’s side of the story and her side may or may not be entirely true. And, naturally, a mother-in-law is going to form opinions and prejudices based on whatever information your wife is divulging, which will most likely come to haunt your wife one day.

I’ve witnessed this myself in the marriages of some family members. The wives’ complain, and sometimes berate their husbands to their parents. They speak ill of him, “he’s too hard on the kids,” “he’s never home,” “he doesn’t help around the house,” “we got in an argument and he said such-n-such.” Now their parents have horrible opinions of their sons-in-law. And a lot of that is because of what they’ve heard from their daughters. What’s really frustrating is when the wives complain about how their parents “never give him a chance” and “always assume the worst.” I find myself holding my tongue ?but in my head I’m screaming, “Hello! They only think those things about him because that’s what you told them!” In both cases that I’m thinking of the husbands, over time, have changed and grown, and the problems really don’t exist anymore. But the parents still hold nasty feelings about their sons-in-law.

Don’t we usually get over our disagreements with our spouses? We apologize, make up, and life goes on. It’s same-old, same-old. We go to church, go on dates (when we get a chance), cuddle on the couch after the kids are in bed, continue to be physically intimate ?but Mom and Dad are still left with the bitter words spoken about the spouse! Each time a spouse disparages their companion to a parent, the bad feelings and resentment build and build, making a parent more and more suspicious and critical of their son- or daughter-in-law, long after the couple made up!

Your wife would probably say that she “just need[s] to talk to another woman,” or she “just want[s] advice,” but she could do that with a family therapist. If your wife was actually looking for a solution, she’d be talking to a professional or her Bishop. But what’s she’s looking for is validation for her feelings, her anger over whatever the argument was about she wants someone to agree with her, tell her she’s right. Jane good. Tarzan bad. So she’s going to a very biased source her mother. She’s not going to your mother, right? And wouldn’t your mother probably know better how to deal with you? She raised you! She probably knows exactly how you argue and would probably be able to offer better advice (if she could remain unbiased). But your wife isn’t going to your mother. She’d naturally assume that your mother would take your side. She’s going to her own mother because she knows that it’s the place she’ll get the validation she’s looking for. Most likely, this is all very subconscious for her. She probably hasn’t thought much about it, and doesn’t realize that this is what she’s doing.

I’d also be concerned that she’s sharing this info with people other than her mother. If she’s the type of person that thinks she has to talk about her private marital problems with her mother, then it’s possible that she’s discussing it with close friends or a sister, as well.

And even if she isn’t, her mother might be telling others. “Did you hear about the fight your sister had with her husband?” Maybe she is, maybe she isn’t. The truth is, you don’t know.

And you shouldn’t have to be worrying about it, either.

I’d suggest that you sit down with your wife and tell her your concerns. Tell her how much it hurts you that she discusses your private business with her parents. It’s disrespectful and is a betrayal. Ask her how she would feel if you did the same. See if she’ll agree that if she’s so concerned about something that she feels she needs to talk about it with someone other than you, that she’ll only discuss it with a therapist or Bishop, not her mother. If she doesn’t see your point, and continues, than an appointment with your Bishop might be necessary anyway. He’ll counsel her and let her know how inappropriate it is.

If that doesn’t work, call your mother and complain about your wife so loudly that your wife can hear from the other room. I’ll bet she’ll never fuss to her mother again.

Just kidding! But man, I bet it would work. Too bad we can’t really do what we’d like to do sometimes!

{ 31 comments… add one }
  • Reader Comment May 28, 2007, 6:32 pm

    Tracy from Australia, writes:

    I think you’re all being to hard on the wife. What’s her side of the story?

  • Reader Comment May 28, 2007, 6:33 pm

    Candy from Utah, writes:

    Thanks for speaking out boldly about this issue. What if your husband spends all his free time hunting and fishing?

  • Alison Moore Smith May 28, 2007, 6:34 pm

    Candy, I can’t help laughing. Two days ago, as we left the visiting teaching conference, someone asked my friend (who is the Relief Society President in my ward) where her husband was. She said, “Well, I don’t know, but whatever he’s doing, he’s sure not hunting ?he doesn’t want me to tell people that anymore!”

    In my mind, the fact that he’s hunting so often that even strangers find it excessive might be a great, big, fat light bulb over his head. But apparently it really means that your wife talks about your hunting too often!

  • Reader Comment May 28, 2007, 6:35 pm

    Linda writes:

    So, who are you supposed to talk to if you have problems in your marriage?

  • Alison Moore Smith May 28, 2007, 6:36 pm

    Linda, I’d say talk to your husband. Isn’t that what the scriptures teach?

    If that is not helping, talk to your bishop or a counselor, preferably with your spouse or at least with his knowledge not to you girlfriends, parents, or scrapbooking club. (Now can we write an article on the evils of scrapbooking clubs?)

  • facethemusic May 28, 2007, 6:38 pm

    After my husband read my response to this question, he pointed out that a few of my friends have come to me for marital advice, and asked “so do you think it was wrong for them to go to you?”

    The truth is, no, I don’t. Not in the particular situations he was speaking of. And I guess that may sound a little hypocritical after reading my response to Brother Schmoe’s question.

    May I clarify a few things?

    I don’t believe that it is always and/or entirely wrong to confide in a trusted friend and seek their support and counsel when you’re having a particularly difficult struggle in a marriage. Isn’t that what we all need and hope for in a friend?

    My response to Brother Schmoe’s question was in response to what he described as a continual problem where his wife was repeatedly going to her mother and telling her about their disagreements and arguments.

    Whether it’s with a mother, a friend or co-worker, I believe that it is wrong to complain about one’s spouse and to continually divulge information about spats and disagreements. Personally, I find that to be atrocious behavior, especially when those complaints are being met by biased ears.

    On the other hand, faithful friends and parents, who are truly rooted in the gospel, who you know would only give solid and gospel-centered advice, and who love and respect your spouse and want your marriage to succeed, can be a source of good counsel. Now that’s not to suggest that Brother Schmoe’s mother-in-law isn’t a good source for advice. I don’t know the woman. But I think any wise mother would have told her daughter along time ago, that it shows disrespect and disloyalty to her husband to show up at her door every time there’s an argument and that those things should be kept within the walls of their home.

    I think it’s one thing to occasionally approach a friend or parent and say something like “Jill, I know you and Frank have disagreements, how do you stop feeling angry? I can’t seem to get over the anger.” Or, “Mom, was there ever a time in your marriage with Dad that you felt like he wasn’t as attracted to you as he was before?” It’s something else entirely to show up at a parent or friend’s door every time you and your spouse have an argument or disagreement and tell her all the details. Do you see what I mean? The first two are examples of honest attempts at looking for counsel, the other is just gossiping and finding a sympathetic and biased ear that will agree with you.

    By venting to a parent or friend every time you get in an argument with a spouse, you poison that person’s view of him or her. And even worse, (though this may not be the case with Sister Schmoe), if you already know that your mother or a particular friend doesn’t really care for your spouse and never really approved of him or her, then how can your spouse ever get a fair shake? That’s why an unbiased source is so important.

    In the particular cases my husband reminded me of, we’ve been friends with both the husband and the wife for several years. We love and care for both of them equally. We want their marriages to succeed. And, we aren’t made to feel like sounding boards for every disagreement. These friends aren’t coming over to our home, whining and complaining about their spouses and telling us every argument. There’s no “He said ‘this and that,’ so I said ‘this,’ and he had the nerve to tell me that I don’t do this and the other. Then he started in on the kids and I ?” Blah, blah, blah.

    When my friends approached me, they told me the basic problem, no details, and just asked if I thought it was something they should talk to the bishop about, if I thought it was something they should get counseling for, and how I would handle it. In the one case, my husband and I told both of them that they should speak with the bishop and maybe get some professional counseling. And when they started going, we watched their children for each appointment. We were there as a support for them.

    But they did not discuss the situation with us any further, other than to tell us how things were going in general, that the counseling was helping and things seemed to be getting better.

    I guess to some I may sound like I’m rationalizing. But I do think there is a difference.

    One way to know whether or not a person is someone you should be confiding in about marital problems, is to ask yourself a few questions.

    “Does this person share my beliefs about eternal marriage?”

    “Does this person have a firm testimony?”

    “Will he or she give me counsel based in gospel teachings?”

    “Is this someone who loves me and my spouse?”

    “Is this someone who will be truly honest, and not just point out all my spouses faults, but will be honest and tell me if I’M the one in the wrong?”

    Or am I purposely or maybe subconsciously going to someone who doesn’t really like my spouse that much anyway and who I know will automatically side with me?

  • Reader Comment May 28, 2007, 6:39 pm

    Sharon from San Diego, California, writes:

    Tracy, don’t you think most gossips will give themselves a pass using your qualifications? What apostle ever said don’t gossip ?unless you have a firm testimony, believe in eternal marriage, and love both the people you’re gossiping about?

  • Reader Comment May 28, 2007, 6:39 pm

    Karen R. from Sandy, Utah, writes:

    It’s not gossiping to talk to your very close friends about your life problems. You’re just full of yourself if you think you’re more righteous than everyone else.

  • Alison Moore Smith May 28, 2007, 6:40 pm

    Karen, I will stand with you claiming your right to discuss you personal issues with anyone you please. But perhaps you missed the point that the woman in question isn’t just discussing her issues, she’s discussing those of her husband as well.

  • facethemusic May 28, 2007, 6:42 pm

    You’re right, Sharon. Those who like to gossip probably would give themselves a pass using the qualifications I mentioned. People misuse truths all the time to justify their behavior, even if it’s inappropriate. I know someone who, during testimony meeting and in front of all my young women, liked to justify leaving her temple marriage and marrying a non-member because “after all, he’s a child of God, too.”

    Alison’s point to Karen makes all the difference. In Brother Schmoe’s case, his spouse is talking about their marital disagreements with her mother, behind his back, even after he’s asked her not to. Discussing our marital problems with someone else isn’t just discussing our private business. It’s the private business of someone else too our spouse.

    My friends’ spouses knew they were coming to me and had given their consent, and in two cases, they were both there, both asking for advice. That isn’t gossiping.

  • Reader Comment May 28, 2007, 6:43 pm

    T.R. from Snowflake, Arizona, writes:

    Why can’t we just remember the golden rule? Would you like your husband discussing your marital problems with his buddies?

  • Reader Comment May 28, 2007, 6:43 pm

    Jennifer J. from Santaquin, Utah, writes:

    You can say whatever you want, but I don’t want my husband talking about us with his friends even if they have testimonies and give us gospel counsel. These private issues are nobody’s business. What’s good for the goose ?

  • Reader Comment May 28, 2007, 6:44 pm

    Rebecca Hatch writes:

    Personally I think there is only one answer to Brother Schmoe’s problem, and unfortunately none of us knows what that answer is, only the Lord knows what he should do so why not pray about it, fast about it, go to the Temple? I’m positive you’ll get the correct answer.

  • Alison Moore Smith May 28, 2007, 6:44 pm

    Rebecca, you are correct without doubt. Still, I don’t think other divine and human input is irrelevant. If we can always simply pray and receive appropriate revelation, why do we have scriptures, general conference, stake conference, sacrament meeting talks, testimonies, auxiliary lessons, home teachers, visiting teachers, Ensign articles, inservice lessons, leadership training, inspiriational books, etc?

    I think, in part, it’s because through these we learn basic principles and patterns that we often simply won’t have divinely sifted into our minds without the thought, study, experience, and example they provide.

  • Reader Comment May 28, 2007, 6:46 pm

    Diana Milden writes:

    I felt that I should share my experience on this subject. My parents were divorced and I was pretty much raised by a single mother. My mother was married two more times after her divorce and, thankfully, the last man she married is wonderful and they are still happily married. Needless to say I grew up under very unusual circumstances considering the divorce factor and so I have had to figure out a lot of what proper marriage relations should be. I grew up hearing my mother talk with others about her bad relationships, I just thought that was normal. I had no idea that my talking with my mother about my husband was hurting him and our relationship.

    My husband is a very wonderful man and he has taught me so much of what it means to truly be married and loyal. When we were first married I used to talk to my mom about my troubles with my husband. I wouldn’t necessarily bash on him, but I would tell my mom about my frustrations with him.

    One day I was reading the Ensign and there was an article titled How Captain Moroni Helped My Marriage. This caught my interest and so I read the article. The article talked about many things, but the one thing that stood out to me was the part about loyalty and how Captain Moroni was loyal and how this person viewed that as a lesson in being loyal to your spouse by not talking badly about them behind their backs. Loyalty was one of Captain Moroni’s best qualities.

    After I finished reading the article I felt sorry and I realized that I had not been loyal to my husband by talking about him to my mother. I asked my husband if he ever talked to anyone about our relationship. What he said has changed the way I look at marriage. He said, “Our marriage is so special to me, and so sacred. The relationship we share is so personal that I wouldn’t feel comfortable talking to anyone but you about it.”

    Wow! I had never thought of our relationship that way. I was very humbled. I made a promise to my husband then and there to not share personal things about our relationship ever again. Of course, I talk about the positive aspects about my relationship with my mother and others, but even those I treasure and rarely share with anyone other than my husband. The interesting thing was that after I made that promise to my husband to be loyal to him, he told me that he now felt he could open up to me more and we became closer then we had ever been.

    If I were to give any advice to a husband seeking for his wife to understand the lessons of loyalty I would say that the best thing you can do is pray. Pray for understanding towards your wife, and pray she will understand you. Also, be the example. Be what you want her to be. It really works and hopefully she will treasure you for that as much as I treasure my husband.

  • Alison Moore Smith May 28, 2007, 6:47 pm

    Diane, thank you so much for sharing your personal story. It will have more impact than any of the ranting and raving the rest of us might do!

    I would just add that it was only when your husband expressed explicitly to you how he reverenced your relationship and what he did to show his loyalty in marriage, that you really knew (and appreciated) what he was doing.

    Perhaps, Joe, it will be enough for you to share such feelings with your wife. It may be that she has no idea how her disloyalty hurts your relationship.

  • Reader Comment May 28, 2007, 6:49 pm

    Seana Johnson from Eagle Mountain, Utah, writes:

    I would like to address this to all the Mother In Laws out there who find themselves in this situation.

    In my limited experience, I’ve seen far to many stressed out marriages because of an “unnatural” closeness between two women. Usually mother and daughter but sometimes friends. (Come to think of it, the “friends” are usually mothering each other a little ?no a lot.) In my family there has even been a divorce that can be attributed to this phenomenon.

    But it seems to me that the greater fault is with the mother-in-laws. They are suppose to be the wise, experienced, au courant ones. But in their selfish need to keep their child close, to avoid that “empty nest” feeling, they allow and sometimes even encourage the rift between their daughter and son-in-law.

    Instead of encouraging their daughter to be loyal to her husband, instead of mentoring their daughter in her marriage vows, they succumb to their own selfish need to feel “needed,” and these actions cause the daughter to undermine the greatest relationship she will ever have. The mother-in-law’s actions will derail that special and unique relationship that happens between spouses who cling to each other and lean on each other for support.

    Because the mother-in-law feels the loss of her child, she selfishly tries to fill that loss at the expense of both her daughter and her son-in-law. There is no good that can come from this overly dependent relationship, and the mother-in-law the grandmother needs to make the first cut on those apron strings. She needs to send her daughter back to her husband. If she doesn’t do this fast, she will greatly retard maybe even destroy the relationship between her daughter and son-in-law.

    But hey, at least the mother-in-law won’t feel lonely ?

  • Reader Comment May 28, 2007, 6:50 pm

    M.J. from Mount Hood, Oregon, writes:

    My mom sent me the link to this article this morning. Do you think she’s trying to tell me something?

  • ChanJo May 28, 2007, 6:52 pm

    Tracy, you didn’t make it clear that everytime any of your friends discuss marital issues with you, they come to you as a couple. Honestly, I find that kind of odd, but maybe you’re just well-known as some kind of amazing, free marriage therapist?

    You gave two examples that I have a problem with:

    “Jill, I know you and Frank have disagreements, how do you stop feeling angry? I can’t seem to get over the anger.”

    “Mom, was there ever a time in your marriage with Dad that you felt like he wasn’t as attracted to you as he was before?”

    If you ask me, both of these make the husband look bad, even though they pretend to address the wife. (Did they really ask you those questions with their husbands there?)

    How about the husband going to his “trusted” buddies with this:

    “John, I know you and Sue have disagreements. How do you forgive your wife when she treats you like dirt?”

    “Guys, was there ever a time in you marriage where your wife gained weight after pregnancy and she repulsed you?”

    Like someone already said, do unto others as you would have them do unto you. I hope my husband comes to me directly, so I’ll do the same.

  • Reader Comment May 28, 2007, 6:54 pm

    An anonymous reader writes:

    I think Kathy gives the most reasonable response here. Thanks for the pearls of wisdom!

  • Reader Comment May 28, 2007, 6:54 pm

    Millie R. from Canada, writes:

    Chandra, I think you turned what Tracy said all around. I think she is right.

  • facethemusic May 28, 2007, 6:57 pm

    Wo, Nelly! Chandra’s comments totally made my point for me!! So in an odd and twisted way, thank you Chandra for your comment.

    This is one of the main reasons that speaking to others about marital issues can cause so many problems. When we discuss marital problems with someone else, it’s so very common to make ourselves look innocent, and the spouse, evil. The tendency is to exaggerate.

    I didn’t say that everytime friends came to me, they came as a couple. I said twice. The other times, their husbands knew. With two couples, my husband was their home teacher and counseled them frequently, and they’d ask me to come as well when they were going to discuss their marital issues.

    With another couple, the husband and wife had confided their problems to my husband and me. To this day, her husband still tells her to call me if she needs to talk to a woman about any problems they’re having.

    I think Chandra, that you misread my posts. I said “friends” and you assumed that I always meant female friends. Sometimes they were, sometimes they were friends as in a couple who are friends of mine. And I guess I wasn’t very clear, as you pointed out. But if you go back and reread my earlier posts, you’ll see that I mentioned that I watched their children for them while they were going to counseling. Of course they “knew that we knew”.

    The examples of mine that you quoted were fictitious examples. No, they didn’t ask me those questions. I was trying to give examples of questions that aren’t disparaging of a spouse. And I simply disagree with your criticism of the example questions.

    To say that you’re having a hard time getting over anger speaks about you not about the spouse.

    To say that you feel your spouse isn’t as attracted to you as he was before, speaks about how you feel about his feelings toward you. We often assume the way other people feel, and we’re often wrong. And no, my questions did not make a spouse look bad.

    When you flipped the questions though, and turned them around in such a way that the husband was asking the questions to his friends, you made them very hostile questions that DO make the spouse look bad.

    “How do forgive her when she treats you like dirt” ?”where you’re wife gained weight after pregnancy and repulsed you”? Repulsed???

    Your questions were totally different than mine. Yours reflect a lot of nasty hostility. Do you see how when you turned the questions around, you totally changed them?

    This ladies, is why speaking to our friends about arguments and disagreements with our spouses is so wrong. When Chandra turned my questions around to ask them from a male perspective she made them derogatory questions about the wife. Were my questions derogatory? No! But when she made them male questions, she made them derogatory towards the wife. This is what too many women do when they discuss their spouses with friends. They make their husbands look like jerks, making it sound like they said things they didn’t say.

  • Alison Moore Smith May 28, 2007, 6:58 pm

    OK, I’m going to brag a little. Stop me if you’ve already heard this story.

    Years ago I sat at a round table in a homemaking meeting next to a close friend I’ll call Sally. A third woman, another good friend I’ll call Betty, plopped herself in the chair next to Sally and expelled a great deal of air. Upon questioning, Betty explained that she and her husband had engaged in a bit of a spat just before she left something about how he didn’t want to watch the kids all night while she went to church to “socialize” (apparenlty not realizing that scherenschnitte and creating marbled paper are actually crucial life skills). She was exasperated by his insensitivity and lack of support. Sally expressed her complete and utter empathy, having endured similar trials in months past.

    Now I swear to you that I did not so much as blink or roll an eye. I sat silently looking at the mod podge center piece. In spite of this, suddenly and without provocation, Betty leaned over Sally and blurted out, “We know! We know! Sam is perfect!”

    Lest I be considered a gossip, let me as gently as possible express that my husband has not, in fact, been translated (yet). Still, I took this as a mighty compliment. Apparently I was well known for only speaking highly of my husband to others. It was one of those rare moments in my life when I was actually pleased with my own behavior. I might add, that my husband treats me with the same respect.

    Suffice it to say, I come strongly from the camp that believes loyalty requires a great deal of zipping the lip.

    That said, I can see Tracy’s points about Chandra’s post. The questions are caustic. Was that exaggeration just to make a point?

    In truth, however, I would never ask one of Tracy’s questions either. Yes, they a politely phrased, but I agree that they implicate the husband to some degree. They reminded me of the time I heard a woman “compliment” another woman in my ward by saying, “Sally is such a great person. She’s come so far since her morality problems a few years ago.” In other words, the comdemnation (or implied condemnation) doesn’t ever need to enter the conversation.

    So, in Tracy’s hypotheticals, I think the real issues could easily have been addressed without bringing the husband into the equation at all. For example:

    “I have a real problem controlling my anger. You seem so calm and collected. How do you do it?”

    “I have gained about a billion pounds since I began having our 16 children. I feel very unattractive and insecure. How do you manage to look so great after having 23 children?”

    In my mind, neither of the above questions reveals anything private or personal and, thus, remains loyal to the spouse and the relationship.

    On the other hand, if a husband gives his wife cart blanche to discuss any and all marital issues with a third party, then no disloyalty is involved. Personally, though, I’ve never known a woman who actually asked her husband’s opinion on the matter.

    And who’s Nelly?

  • Reader Comment May 28, 2007, 6:59 pm

    Amy Little writes:

    I think I know Brother Schmoe’s wife.

  • facethemusic May 28, 2007, 9:48 pm

    … I think there’s a “Brother Schmoe’s wife” or 2 on every block in every city in America, Amy!
    Welcome to the group!!!

  • SilverRain May 29, 2007, 7:04 am

    All of this is a little hard for me to swallow, not because I have someone I go to when I have a problem in my marriage, but because I don’t. I think it is a sad reflection on society when the only people we can go to for help are “professionals,” who do not know us or our spouses and are being paid to listen, especially when some cannot afford these professionals. There have been so many times I just wanted a shoulder to cry on. There have been even more times that I wished I had some voice of experience to appeal to, someone wise and loving. I know the first thing many will say at this point is “Prayer!” but I have found that the Spirit communicates most effectively by bringing principles already heard to mind. The Spirit also communicates best when one is calm and in-tune. Sometimes the nature of whatever problems – whether marital or not – distance one from the Lord, and make an appeal to prayer very painful and lonely in its impossibility. Sometimes it takes a human soul to say the words you need to hear when you can’t trust yourself to understand or hear the whisperings of the Spirit.

    The next thing many will say is “Scripture!” but sometimes a human soul is needed to show compassion and love before a person is open to hearing the whisperings of the Spirit. There have been times in my life when Satan has had me so bound up in cords of self-disgust and -distrust that all I would have needed would have been some word of understanding from another person, some indication that I wasn’t a bad person, that my feelings were normal, in order to open my heart to the Spirit and be empowered to allow that soft wisdom into my mind as I read, rather than be torn by feelings of inadequacy and depression.

    It is a hard thing to be told there is no one appropriate to talk to. It is a hard thing to be told that one has to deal with marital problems on one’s own when there is no training for marriage, no model to follow and no example that has been set. Scripture both ancient and modern is quite sketchy on the subject. Almost all church lessons before marriage are about getting married, not about what to do afterwards.

    That being said, I have come to the understanding that I am alone. That it isn’t appropriate to go to anyone for help. In a sense, I have become stronger for that knowledge. It still isn’t easy and it isn’t reassuring.

  • mlinford May 29, 2007, 4:53 pm

    I tend to think that sometimes it’s ok to have a close, trusted friend to help you through tough times. Sometimes I need help getting some clarity when we get into loggerheads. I think the ideal is to not need that, but sometimes it might help. It’s helped me (us) anyway.

  • Sharilee10 June 1, 2007, 12:11 am

    Interesting thread. I wish the article were still attached so that I could read the actual situation.

    There were many valid points brought out, and I agree that loyalty within marriage is extremely important. The one thing I would like to remind everyone, just in case there is someone reading this thread that is in an abusive relationship, is that situations of abuse, both mental and emotional, do not apply here. Even the Church leadership encourage those in abusive situations to get help. There is no excuse for abuse and no woman (or man) needs to be loyal to a spouse who physically harms them or who is emotionally abusive.

    Also, a reminder to each of us to not turn away a friend who comes to us in this circumstance. Encourage them to go to the bishop and get the appropriate help, but remember that what they are experiencing is extremely complex with a lot of dynamics that make it really, really hard to get the help they need. Sometimes it takes them years to get to a place where they are ready to go that route. I have known women who have stayed in abusive marriages for YEARS because of discussions just like this (and the abusive husbands are happy to remind them of the prophet’s counsel that it is inappropriate to discuss marital problems outside of the marriage!). Ofttimes, the very women who need to talk to someone the most are the women who will take conversations like this to heart the very most (naturally! They hear it on a daily basis, so our conversation just backs up what they’ve been told a million times) and they will remain silent for years in a very unhealthy and sometimes even dangerous situation in order to “do the right thing.” They are trying so hard to do the right thing hoping that that will make it all better. If they could just be perfect then it will all work out, so they will do ANYTHING if someone tells them it is the right thing to do in the desperate hope that their finally getting it right will end the pain. If women in these situations dig up enough courage to say something, ANYTHING to someone, PLEASE do not turn them away.

    I know this adds another level of complexity, because how do you know? The truth is that abused women are not going to just come right out and say it. They may throw out the tiniest tidbit in desperation. Unfortunately, they are actually LESS likely to talk about their situation and will only send out little feelers when they are literally desperate. Ofttimes those feelers are thrown back at them and they go back inside themselves for months or years before building up the courage (or more likely finding themselves in such desperate circumstances) again.

    Anyway– I didn’t mean to say even this much, but please just be careful. The very best thing we can do is stay close to the Lord and close to the Spirit and then LISTEN very carefully. Pray for discernment to know when an unhappy wife is just having a moment and needs to be assisted in staying loyal to her husband and when a women is truly in need of help. Unfortunately, it is sometimes a life and death matter. Only God knows the whole story. The only way for us to be able to do the right thing every time is to live our lives such that we can have His Spirit with us at all times, and then we need to actively seek for that Spirit to guide us in every moment of our lives.

  • facethemusic June 1, 2007, 6:56 am

    Alison is one of the most adept women I know, when it comes to computers and website stuff. (While I just learned what threadjacking is!) I’m sure she’ll have the link fixed before we know it.
    But so you know in the meantime, the issues of abuse were brought up as an exception. You got into that more deeply than we did, and I’m glad you did.
    The orginial question that started the conversation was from a husband that felt like his wife put his mother before him, spending too much time with her several days a week, talking for hours on the phone etc. His main beef was that she tells her mother about things he feels are private things between spouses, in addition to telling her about the disagreements and spats she and her spouse were having.
    But again, I’m glad you went further into the issue of abuse, because we mostly focused on the problems associated with women who bicker, complain and put down their husbands behind their backs.

  • Alison Moore Smith June 1, 2007, 8:56 am

    Sorry, the link is fixed above. Apparently the discussion link was created before I had corrected the date. The post slug was right, but the year was wrong. Should work now:

    Cleaving to Mommy

    Please, always let me know if there are technical problems. But you can also search the blog (from any blog page, upper right corner) and the forum (from the “Search” button above) if you can’t find something.

  • Sharilee10 June 1, 2007, 9:21 am

    Thanks, Alison! I’ll go read the article now while I eat.

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