Mom won’t fix problems between dad, sons

A male reader is taken aback because his wife will not get involved when he and his sons get into various spats. The issue has the couple on the verge of divorce.



April 9, 2024 - 2:55 PM

Photo by

Dear Carolyn: I consider myself a good feminist, so I normally avoid talking in terms of gender roles, yet here I am. Is it the role of a wife and mother to help bridge a rift between a father and his grown sons?

When I have an argument with one of my sons, leading us to not communicate for a time, she just goes merrily along as if it’s none of her business. Sometimes a son needs to have explained how his actions hurt his dad, and sometimes Dad needs to be told why those actions were important to the son.

Sure, the guys should man up and talk it out, but men have egos, and you know in the real world sometimes people retreat into stubborn silence and resentment.

I’m not talking about Mom/wife taking sides, but about being a conciliator. Frankly, this attitude that she’s not involved in these two people’s sadness or happiness is one reason we’re separated (friendly) and slow-walking to a divorce. — Functional Single Parent

Functional Single Parent: I consider myself a good masculist, yet here I am: Your “men have egos” has me rethinking my policy against falling off my chair in fits of snark.

Yes, people (of all varieties) have egos. Yes, sometimes egos persuade people (of all varieties) to retreat into stubborn silent resentment instead of regulating their emotions and using their words.

When this happens, however, mature people (of all varieties) recognize their mistakes, leash their egos and initiate reconciliation themselves, modeling for children (of all varieties) how it’s done.

They do not declare it incumbent upon the nearest mature female to goddess-splain them out of whatever messes they’ve egoed themselves into.

Sometimes people need help, yes! We don’t always get everything right, and it is healthy both to admit that and to model for kids, even grown ones, how to own our frailty. If you would like the opinion or assistance of nearby mature people (of any variety) to help you fix your mistakes, then ask them for it.

I suggest you refrain from asking this of your wife person, however, immediately after identifying her failure to read your mind (and parachute into arguments you started) as the attitude problem that’s driving your union toward divorce. I’m guessing that conversation won’t tilt in your favor. Best to wait a beat between blaming her for, and needing her for, everything.

Hi, Carolyn: My husband and I are estranged from his sister. She has been emotionally abusive toward us, and the last straw was her bullying our 10-year-old son. I have her contacts blocked, but his sister keeps finding reasons to contact him. She texted saying she thought their mom was declining cognitively, and to say her daughter missed my husband so they needed to FaceTime. I think this is so manipulative of my sister-in-law, but my husband says he would be a monster for not responding.

I’m not sure how we deal with this. I don’t want to insist my husband have no contact with his sister, but she is not a safe person for us, especially our son, whose needs I think should be paramount here. — Anonymous

Anonymous: They should, absolutely.

But if your husband can keep his sister away from the rest of you, then you can prioritize your son without asking your husband to feel monstrous.

So the real question is whether your husband’s boundaries are up to the challenge of his sister’s manipulation.