It’s time for another Ask Dr. Leman: “Horrible Hedonistic In-Laws.” Listen in for Dr. Leman’s advice on how to deal with your in-laws on this episode of Have a New Kid by Friday Podcast.
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Doug: There are in-laws, there are bad in-laws, there are really bad in-laws. But what about if you have horrible hedonistic in-laws? How do you deal with that? That’s the question that Michelle asked Dr. Leman, that we get the ass for her. And, hopefully, we’ll find out, how to deal with the horrible hedonistic in-laws.
Hi, I’m Doug [inaudible 00:00:29].
Andrea: And I’m Andrea.
Doug: And we are so glad that you’re joining us. And if this is your first time with us, we want to let you know this is for your education and entertainment purposes only, if the subject matter raises concerns for you, or your child, please go seek a local professional for help.
Well, Dr. Leman, I’m super excited to hear what Michelle has to say, but aren’t we blessed Andrea that we both have great in-laws?
Andrea: Yes, very much so.
Doug: We are very, very. So, Michelle, we feel your pain. And here is her question.
Michelle: Hi, Dr. Leman, my name is Michelle. I have two sons age, two and a half and six months. My question is what to do about family members, specifically my in-laws, who are a bad influence? Whenever we go around them they smoke weed in a state that it is illegal in front of the children, while also trying to guilt me into trying it. They curse, tell disgusting sexual jokes, watch horror films, and rated R movies all in front of their children that are under 10. We’ve even left our two year old with his mother when she was in town and, upon coming back from having to do what we were doing, we found out that she had put a rated R movie on with our son in the room.
On top of all of this, they are also huge gossips and always talk about the other people that are in the family in a nasty demeaning way. My mother-in-law claims to be a Christian, but acts this way. I really do not want my children to think that is okay behavior for someone who claims to be a Christian, let alone someone in general. Well, my husband, obviously, does not want to write off as a mother, or the rest of his family, and tends to get upset when I point out the things I don’t like our children being around, what should I do? Is it wrong to want to keep my children away from people who act like this? How do I handle discussing this with my husband without making him upset? Thanks.
Dr. Leman: Well, that is a great question, my goodness. Thank you, Michelle, for that question. You have a mother’s heart, for sure. You ask if there’s anything wrong with your thoughts and feelings? No. And, again, keep in mind that feelings aren’t right or wrong, they’re just your feelings, okay? Your problem, quite frankly, isn’t your pot smoking, R-rated movie loving, gossipers in-laws, that’s not the problem. You say, “Well, if that’s not the problem, what’s my problem?” The problem is your husband because your husband needs a little lesson in leaving and cleaving.
And that is to say that, when you grow up in a family, everything changes. As a kid, you’re supposed to honor your mom and dad. I love it when adults who are 42 years old, write me and say, “Well, Dr. Leman, the scripture says, I have to honor my mom and dad.” Well, wait a minute, it says children. You’re 42 years old. I understand you are a child of your parents, but you’re no longer childlike. You’re an adult, okay? And if your parents, or your in-laws are doing things that are hurtful to you and your relationship with your Maker, or the relationship and the perception of what is a Christian to your kids, I think, you have to take the stand that the two are one. And you and your husband have to be one and make a decision based upon what’s best for your young family. In this case, and I understand the hesitancy, this is the man who this lady gave this guy life, it’s his mom. We’re asking a lot here. But we’re asking him to take a stand for what’s right.
Now, am I saying that the parents can’t smoke pot? No, I’m not saying that at all. They want to smoke up, they can smoke up all they want. Am I saying they can’t gossip? No, I’m not saying that either. They can watch R-rated movies, X-rated movies, that’s their business. But when they choose to watch them, or use those practices in the presence of your children that’s where you have full authority to say, “No, go.” So, they have to make choices in their life, if I want to see these grandchildren. And if I want to see my son, quite frankly, because sooner or later, it’s going to get to that point because if your husband, mark my words, does not comply with your wishes on this he’s going to pay for that big time.
It’s tough enough, Michelle, to stay married, but when you feel like the one you pledged your trough to, the one you love violates your very being you’re going to have a hard time loving and respecting that man. And meeting any of the needs that he might have, which include feeling needed, wanted respected, et cetera. So, I just gave a lot on your plate, but I love this question because I think this is a question that really takes us to where the rubber meets the proverbial road.
Doug: Wow. Andrea and I, both, our eyebrows are up like [inaudible 00:05:51], what do you mean that they’re like going to grow apart? And sounds like they’re going to divorce, if they don’t figure this out. What do you mean by that?
Dr. Leman: He’s got a choice to make, are you going to honor your wife, or are you going to honor your parents? That’s why I say he needs a lesson on leaving and cleaving. And just a personal note to husband, your parents are not going to give you those exhilarating thrills in life, if you know where I’m going.
Doug: So, this one is pretty cut and dry, right? Like if they really are this terrible of an in-law, it’s kind of easy.
Dr. Leman: Yeah. Again, keep in mind, I’m saying they can smoke their pot. They can do whatever they want, they just can’t do it around your children.
Doug: Right. So, we’ll go to her issue first, and then I’ll ask my second question. Her issue is how do I talk to my husband about this? How do you have that conversation? What does she do?
Dr. Leman: You are blunt, you are asking him to listen to just five minutes without interruption. That’s all I need is five minutes of your time. Ladies, listen, I know that’s a stretch for some of you. Organize your thoughts, get it down to five minutes. Remember that men like news items out of your mouth in small increments, we want the USA Today version. So, give it to him straight, tell him how it makes you feel, tell him how it makes you feel like not responding to him because the respect level that you have for him is plummeting before your very eyes. Now, he’s not going to like what he hears from you, okay? I’m just saying, shoot it to him straight. Don’t paint any pretty pictures here. Your husband does not respond to pretty pictures. It’s sort of like grabbing your husband with your hands on each ear, bringing him in close, we call that focused attention, establishing eye contact and saying, “I need you to listen to me for five minutes straight because there’s something that is really bothering me, and I believe it’s destroying our relationship.”
Now, if your husband is worth salt, and he hears the words that something’s going on that’s destroying our relationship he’s thinking, “Is she asking me for a divorce? Are we separating? How much is this going to cost me? Oh my goodness, I feel trapped. I’m embarrassed. What do I do?” I mean, you want all those panic buttons to go off in that husband, because you want him to know how serious you are about this is.
Now, see I’ve gone through some of this in my own life, okay? I married a diamond in the rough, I’ll just let it go at that. We’ve had some of these similar type issues that we had to face. And we made that decision as a couple that we’re not subjecting our kids to this and that, and the other thing. We made that when they were little, little older than your two and a half year old, but we made those decisions early in our marriage, and they were good decisions that we made.
Doug: Well, I want to just reaffirm what you said that Andrea is super sweet and soft, and for years she thought she was being clear with me, and hoping I would understand what she was trying to say. And it’s just been in the last number of years that she’s understood she has to be blunt and-
Andrea: To the point.
Doug: To the point and super direct for me to hear it. Right, hon?
Andrea: Mm-hmm (affirmative). I feel like I’m angry and I’m hurting him, but that’s when he actually hears me.
Doug: Say that again because I think-
Dr. Leman: I call it the two by four theory here.
Doug: Did you hear what she said though? I think it’s really good for [inaudible 00:09:45].
Andrea: I feel like he must think I’m angry, like I’m going to hurt him by seeing what I’m going to say, but it’s super direct, super short, pointed. And a couple hours later, he says, “Thanks for saying that.”
Dr. Leman: Well, you got a good one. And I remind you, if you ever want to put him on eBay you’d be swamped with orders for one Douggie T.
Doug: But this is not a one five minute conversation, and the husband’s like, “Oh, I get it now, honey. Great, I’ll never go see my mom again.” He’s probably going to fire something back at her, right? Like, “You’re out of control. You don’t understand. You’re selfish. What about your parents,” right?
Dr. Leman: Okay so, your answer back to your husband is, “Honey, I’m sure you can handle it. I know this is going to be tough, it’s going to be emotionally tough on you. You’re going to have to have big boy pants conversation with your mom and dad. But I just want you to know, as the other half of you, I am very unhappy.” Listen, I’m just telling you that’s [inaudible] approach.
Andrea: It almost feels like that say it once and walk away kind of a thing, rather than getting engaged in an argument.
Dr. Leman: You’re going to get his attention by way of the two by four theory. And, again, that’s sort of, “Okay, listen, bub, this is very important. I need your focused attention. I need you to hear exactly how I feel. I have a very terrible feeling about this. Every time I go to the house, I feel like I’m selling myself out. I don’t like the fact that our kids are going to grow up and think that that sweet aroma of that green leafy substance is something healthy for all of us, okay? I don’t want to see my two and a half year old high on second-hand smoke. Hello?” Oh my God, I’m laughing at myself about a serious subject. I shouldn’t be.
I think you both understand, this is one of those things where you pull the rug out, and you let them all tumble, and you get people’s attention because this is not a negotiable. This is something that has to change. And if it’s not going to change, then our behavior as a couple, and our behavior as a family will change.
Dr. Leman: Now, at that point, ask yourself, where’s the tennis ball? When you say that where’s the tennis ball? It’s on the in-laws side of the court, and they’re either going to have to do something different … right now you allow them to be the irresponsible non-responsible grandparents that they are.
Doug: [Wh-oo 00:00:12:26]. When we come back, I want to hear what we’re going to say to our in-laws together as a group. So that, I’m very curious to see. But, thank you, Andrea for reminding me, right now, between now and the end of July, you can get for only a buck 99, When Your Kid is Hurting. For $1.99, When Your Kid is Hurting. And I don’t have an Amazon in front of me and nor do you, Andrea, oh, I feel terrible now. So, Dr. Leman, who is this book written for?
Dr. Leman: Well, it’s for parents who are looking at the crack in the ceiling at night not knowing what to do because they know their kids are hurting, and they really don’t know what to say, or what to do. It’s for parents who think, “I don’t think there’s an answer to this one.” It’s a book, do you have to go out and get it today? No, you don’t. But if you can download it now, and keep it in your library, I’ll tell you the day’s coming where you’re going to love that book.
Dr. Leman: Because it helps you get beside your kid, and really help them through those tough battles in life, which you know are coming sooner or later. It’s not like this is a surprise.
Doug: So, I agree with you. For $1.99 you can get it now, you have it. And when it happens, you can whip it out. And even if you just want to use it as a reference on a couple of the different chapters in there, it’s totally worth it. Between now and the end of July.
Okay so, Dr. Leman, hopefully, the couple has agreed, “Okay, we’re going to Mom and Dad and telling him no more pot smoking, no more R-rates movies equals no more grandkids.” How do you do that as a couple? How does that happen?
Dr. Leman: You start not dropping in to see them. You start by turning down an invitation to come over. “Hey, we’re going to cook hamburgers and watch preseason football. Do you want to join us?” “Well, actually, no we’re not available.” Or, “No, we’re choosing not to go.” Let them get to a point where they say, “Hey, what’s wrong? Something wrong?” “Yeah, there’s plenty wrong. Would you like to hear about it? You come over to our house and we’ll cook burgers out because we have something to say to you that’s very important, that’s going to make a difference in the future of our relationship with you.” “Well, what do you mean?” “Well, you come over and we’ll talk about it face-to-face. This is one of those difficult things, that conversations that has to take place.” So, you see what I’m saying? You start the action. You can start the action by simply not initiating what you normally do, and not accepting invitations to come your way. They’ll figure out something’s wrong. Then, have that conversation.
Andrea: So, when you tell them, “We’re not coming over, but we need you to come over for a serious conversation,” I just imagine mother-in-law firing up, getting angry, blowing a gasket on the phone. This is like I’ve just started a forest fire because she probably guessing, she knows because I’ve already been saying, “Hey, turn off that movie. You can’t smoke pot in front of my kids,” so she’s going to know. So, how do I deal with that on the phone?
Dr. Leman: So, she huffs some puffs, and she makes a big scene of it. She says, “Oh, you’re talking about this and that. Well, good luck with that.” “Well, Mom, I just thought I’d give you the opportunity to have a discussion about it. If you choose not to discuss it, that’s your decision.” Again, at that point, when you say, “It’s your decision,” where is the tennis ball life? It’s in their court and that’s where it belongs. So, you’re going to keep the tennis ball on their side of the court.
Doug: Okay. And then, one last question, I’m want to go back to the wife and husband situation. So, the wife has been super blunt, she laid out her things, the husband said, “Okay.” And then, a month later he’s like, “Hey honey, I really want to go see my mom, it’s her birthday. I really want to go over for her birthday party. It’s just her birthday, let’s go.” What do you do then?”
Dr. Leman: “Honey, listen, I know this is very difficult for you. If you want to go to your mom’s birthday party, please go have a great time. In fact, wish her happy birthday from me, would you? But I’m not going. And I’m not taking our kids over there.” Do you see what we do here? Now, again, you as a wife now, okay, this is a husband, he wants to spend time with his mom, his dad, whatever, pot smoking, gossiping people that they are. Let him go, let him go and do it.
Now, the extent that he does that, if he does that too much, what’s going to happen to that wife’s feelings, and that woman’s respect for her husband? And how is she going to interpret that about his feelings for respecting her feelings? His attitude toward respecting her feelings, I should say. So, this man has to man up Doug.
Doug: Right. So, after two or three times of him going over there, does she re-hit him over the head with the two by four and say, “I don’t respect you. And I don’t want to be close to you.”
Dr. Leman: I think he’s going to feel a distance growing between two of them. See the bad in-laws can drive a wedge between the relationship, just like kids in our own home can drive a wedge between our relationship. So, who comes first? I think the couple comes first. Then, what comes second? Your children. They’re important, but they’re not number one. Kids are not the most important thing, your relationship’s number one. And then, other things are other things. And, unfortunately, or fortunately, depending upon where you are, the in-laws might be as high as three on your list, but they shouldn’t be higher than that. They shouldn’t take precedent, or priority over your spouse, or your children.
These are tough ones, but this doesn’t get changed by a mamby pamby approach. This improves greatly when you make hard choices, vocalize those choices, and stick to your guns and don’t waiver.
Doug: What about the other way around? Let’s say it’s the wife that really wants to go to the in-laws, and the husband doesn’t, and thinks they’re … Maybe they’re neutral. Maybe they’re not a bad or they’re not a good, they’re just a neutral, how does that play out? She feels like, “Hey, we should go see, these are my parents for Pete’s sake.” And he’s like, “I really don’t want to go. I really don’t want to go.”
Dr. Leman: Well, it depends on what the parents are doing. I mean, are we still pot smoking and gossiping?
Dr. Leman: I mean, I don’t see the difference.
Doug: They’re neutral. They’re not not pot smoking, they’re just difficult.
Dr. Leman: We all have difficult people in our life, and many of them are our in-laws. And I think we’ve done podcasts on it’s Thanksgiving time and the in-laws are coming, what do I do? Because they’re really not my cup of tea. And we’ve made suggestions, like get a hotel room for them instead of having them in your home. I mean, and I’ve always said, “Hey, it’s three days, deal with it.” You can deal with it for three days. You can deal with your sister-in-law, who’s got very bad breath for five days, okay? Just put a little hallelujah on day five, she’s gone. Wave to the tail lights with thank you Lord, for small favors as they pull out of the driveway.
I mean, there’s some things you have to do because it’s family, and to not roll with the punches makes you isolative, and you’re sort of telling the whole family you’re better than everybody else. So, you have to cut some slack and some grace to these people. There are certain things you do. But when things are just so obviously blatant against what you believe in, and what you’re comfortable with, and you want to be protective of your parents … of your children, rather, you need to make those tough decisions.
Doug: Thanks for that clarification, so that people don’t go out there and all of a sudden these wives start sitting their husbands down and be like, “And we’re not going ever again.” And you’re like, “What? What? My mother, I’m sorry that she cooks with butter and you’re allergic to butter. I’m sorry,” right, or whatever it is. That’s great, so there’s balance. If it’s blatant, hit him with a two by four, if it’s not suck it up and deal with it.
Well, thank you Dr. Leman. And, wow, I feel for Michelle. Man, that would be a tough one. And Michelle, thank you so much for leaving this question. If you’re out there wondering, “Hey, how do I leave a question like that,” go to birthorderguy.com/ and put in just about any number, but this episode is 323. And down at the bottom, you’ll see a little microphone. You can click that microphone, and you can leave your question. Just so you know, there is a 90 second limit on it, but you can say a lot of things in 90 seconds. And we’d love to answer it on the air for you, also you can find out information about Dr. Leman, get the book, When Your Kid is Hurting between now and the end of July of 2020 for $1.99 wherever eBooks are sold. Well, thanks for being with us, and asking your questions. And we love helping add to your parenting toolbox, so you can love those kids more and more.
Andrea: Have a great day.
Doug: Take care. Bye.