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tricky discussion with son

(40 Posts)
YankeeGran Wed 01-Apr-15 11:56:24

I need to have a painful and difficult discussion with my son about the way he verbally abuses his wife. Within the family we've all witnessed this at different times over the years. One doesn't like to interfere, and on the one occasion my husband tried to suggest that his handling of a situation was unacceptable, well... you can imagine my son's reaction.

But now something has happened which makes me feel I cannot let things slide any longer. My son told his sister (not us) about an incident in a coffee shop when he and his wife were arguing to such an extent that when he got up to go to the loo, the man sitting nearby leaned over and asked his wife if she was okay! Apparently my DS was shamed and embarrassed by this (quite rightly), but I wonder if it's enough to get him to see how damaging his arguments can be. He always has to be right and win the argument - with anyone (I usually just let it go as I really don't have to win the argument over his assessment of a film).

I don't know where all this comes from. My husband and I have our disagreements, but he's never been verbally abusive, and while none of us are shy violets, this need to always be right is not evident elsewhere in the family. My underlying fear is that, one day, my DDIL (and we DO love her!) will say she's had enough and leave!

I need practical suggestions on ways in which I might tackle this conversation without putting him on the defensive or telling me to mind my own business. Help!

thatbags Wed 01-Apr-15 11:59:24

Maybe suggest assertiveness training to your DiL. It won't do her any harm and it may help. Good luck.

annsixty Wed 01-Apr-15 12:03:11

Nigella Lawson had the answer to this. I don't really mean to be flippant but the solution really is within her hands.

Gagagran Wed 01-Apr-15 12:15:02

You do risk drawing his fire and if it were me I would keep quiet. annsixty is right - the solution is in your DiL's own hands.

HildaW Wed 01-Apr-15 12:19:54

To be honest, if anyone should have a word with him, its his father.

jinglbellsfrocks Wed 01-Apr-15 12:19:56

Sod drawing his fire! (sorry Gaga) I would give him a very straight talking to.

Now comes all the "Oh, but you don't want to get cut out of their lives". Not sure I would want to be in his life.

YankeeGran Wed 01-Apr-15 12:22:46

I agree that the real solution is in her hands, but I don't feel I can have a discussion with her lest it look like we're ganging up on him - or siding with her against him. He is otherwise a wonderful son and a good father. I do NOT want to burn the whole bed for one bug!

thatbags Wed 01-Apr-15 12:28:05

I'd gang up with someone to protect them.

You could just ask him, next time you observe his aggression, why he's is being so aggressive. Or just tell him to stop being aggressive. It might make him realise...

Grannyknot Wed 01-Apr-15 12:34:10

... or even just point out to him that he is being aggressive and leave it there.

For me, it's that "state the truth without any expectation" and let the adult work it out for themselves after that. Hopefully.

YankeeGran Wed 01-Apr-15 12:34:24

I actually think the observation of the stranger in the coffee shop probably had more impact than anything the rest of us could say. If only he had told me about that I could use it as a starting point. Is it fair to bring up someting my daughter told me?

Grannyknot Wed 01-Apr-15 12:37:02

Sorry, I also meant to add yankeegran I do feel for you. I always think in situations like this - he is your son after all. How difficult it must be for you.

I've got a very big son - over 6 foot - and on the few occasions when I have seen him lose his temper, it has been damn scary for everyone concerned. So I've told him that, but I wouldn't have rejected him altogether. And these days, he has his temper under control.

Grannyknot Wed 01-Apr-15 12:38:51

yankeegran if you have witnessed it at any time, you don't need to mention the coffee shop incident IMHO. All you need to do is say what you have observed and/or heard yourself - in other words, add your voice to the lightbulb moment that he may have had in the coffee shop.

Mishap Wed 01-Apr-15 13:59:50

What was he like when he lived at home? Is this something that has been a problem before? Have you ever had reason in the past to pull him up over being aggressive or abusive?

I do feel for you - it must be so very hard to witness your own offspring behaving in an unacceptable way.

My thought would be that if you are actually present when something like this happens, perhaps you could say that it makes you feel a bit uncomfortable to hear him speaking like this. Then leave him to draw his own conclusions.

Would this create mayhem, or is it something that you think would be productive?

Good luck is winging your way in bucketloads.

YankeeGran Wed 01-Apr-15 17:19:47

There is always more to any given situation than can usefully be conveyed by trying to put it succinctly. My son and I are very close, which is why I feel I should be the one to tackle this. Like most of us, he doesn't take criticism well, so the broad hints, which have been tried by hubby, daughter and myself tend to put him on the defensive, and hence the message goes by the wayside. I really don't know how his wife deals with him in private, but when I've witnessed this (not for a couple of years), she seems to just give up when he is so relentless. Having been on the end of this myself (as mentioned when having what I would consider to be a light-hearted discussion about a film or book, etc), I know there are just some things that aren't worth the aggravation. But I worry that over important things, she's being ground down in a way that hurts ME! Does that make any sense?

Grannyknot Wed 01-Apr-15 17:22:40

Yes it does. flowersand hugs.

YankeeGran Wed 01-Apr-15 17:25:09

Ahhh, thank you! Gransnetters are a very supportive and caring bunch!

Nonnie Wed 01-Apr-15 17:39:11

I seem to be out on my own here but if it was my son I would definitely speak to him about this. I would choose my time and if he resorted to abusing me I would tell him he needed anger management tuition. You say you are close, as I am to mine, and because of that I think you can tell him. Why on earth not? It can't be good if it happens in front of the children and will be teaching them the wrong way to behave.

It seems worrying that his wife has given up and just gives in. If you can get her alone and find a way of talking about it maybe she would be happy to read a book about assertiveness. I think it would help her to know she has your support. Not over anything serious but I have agreed with 2 of my DiLs when they had a different opinion to my DSs.

I speak as someone who has experienced this sort of behaviour from my DiL and it has ended up with them separating. She abused him mentally and physically.

rosequartz Wed 01-Apr-15 17:54:47

I am not sure if it is worrying that his wife has given up and just gives in Nonnie. Perhaps she thinks if she ignores him
1. he will show himself up when they are out (as he has done),
2. talk himself to a standstill when no-one argues back and
3. retain her sanity by just walking away from him

Actually, I do think his father should take him on one side and ask him what his problem is. Before he left completely bewildered when he is left on his own.

rosequartz Wed 01-Apr-15 17:55:06

Before he is left I meant to say

loopylou Wed 01-Apr-15 17:55:14

If my DS was aggressive to me, DDIL or anyone else in my prescence I'd certainly tell him that it was unacceptable behaviour, full stop.

Your DIL must live in fear of the next outburst, hardly a healthy environment for her or anyone else. The fact that he does this in public shows he certainly has an anger problem that needs sorting asap, as many posters have said.

Okay, he doesn't take criticism well, that's possibly why he's got away with it, but that's no excuse IMO.

I'm sorry to be so blunt, but you say it's been going on for years and his wife's now the latest victim of his abusive behaviour.

Good luck, not easy.

YankeeGran Wed 01-Apr-15 20:00:20

I DO fully intend to have a conversation with him about it, but I want it to be productive and for it to result in his ability to see how his aggression (verbal, not physical) is undermining his relationship, which it must be. Nothing will be gained if I just make him defensive.

janerowena Wed 01-Apr-15 21:40:48

DD was picking on SiL last time they stayed here. I told her off just as I would have done ten years ago, and she took it. I think you should tell him off forcefully, I bet he will listen to you if you show him how awful you think his behaviour is. You are his mother and can tell him how it will make a woman feel.

Mishap Wed 01-Apr-15 21:46:14

Oh good luck with this Yankeegran. What a trying situation for you.

Envious Wed 01-Apr-15 21:51:46

Having been in a marriage at a early age with a very angry young man.i would of welcomed any help and advice from his parents.

FlicketyB Thu 02-Apr-15 08:00:04

I think, and I speak very warily on a situation with which I am not familiar with, but I think the way forward is to approach your son obliquely on this subject, coming from it, perhaps from your son's side of the problem.

Praise the good aspects of him. Is he, temper apart, a good and loving husband and son? Talk about other things in his life that show him up as a caring person, tell him how much you love and admire him then suggest that -he- must find it so frustrating that when there is so much that is good about him that he loses his temper so easily. Perhaps let this conversation arise when you are involved in a shared, enjoyable occupation where he is helping you - cooking, gardening or something like there.

You could, perhaps, talk to his wife first, again from a sideways approach. Tell her how frustrating and worrying you find his temper loss and how you are reaching a limit. Ask her how she feels about it. Let her know how much you love your son and all that is good in him, make it look as a joint approach to help someone both of you love. Let her feel at one with you in approaching your son.

It might be worth seeking professional help before you approach your son. Talk to a Counsellor or Psychologist about the problem and seek their advice on the best way to deal with this problem