Ask Amy: Public interruptions drive wife to distraction

December 14, 2012

DEAR AMY: I’ve been married for several years, and we have two teenagers. My husband is generally easy to get along with but has one behavior that I can’t seem to abide anymore. When we are with friends or family, he constantly corrects me when I’m speaking.

It’s usually over something minor (example: “It wasn’t four days ago; it was five”) and happens during light conversation, not over serious matters. When I’m interrupted more than once in midsentence, I sometimes stop and defend my statement, which is unpleasant for everyone present.

I’ve asked him several times to stop this, but he just can’t seem to control the urge. Oddly, when we are alone he doesn’t do this. Now my younger son has started modeling this behavior and interrupts often to adjust my comments.

I have studied the pattern closely, and I’m not the problem. What on earth is going on, and how do I make it stop? -- Flustered

DEAR FLUSTERED: Let’s start with the younger generation and work backward. When your son does this, stop him, hold up your hand and say, “No. It is rude to interrupt and correct me over an unimportant detail. If it is important, wait until I’ve finished my thought, and then you can have your say. It’s a bad habit that I don’t want you to develop.”

You can probably influence your son to change. Your husband has a bad habit that all of your behavior so far has done nothing to affect. He may feel “onstage” when he is with other people and may be so eager to participate that he is stepping on your story.

Switch it up. Change the way you react to him. It is rude to have a mini-spat in front of other people, and so the next time you’re interrupted, stop, be quiet and wait with a neutral attitude for the next thing to happen before you continue. In all likelihood, the next thing to happen will be your husband sputtering to a stop and then saying, “Anyway ... go ahead, honey.” Rinse. Repeat.

DEAR AMY: Recently my mother was visiting for the weekend, and we ran into one of my neighbors, who had met my mother once before. As we were getting into my car, the neighbor waved and said, “Hi, mom!”

Later, in the car, my mother said she thought that it was very insincere to be called “mom” and that the neighbor should have remembered her name from the first meeting months ago.

My mother went on to say that “mom” is reserved for her children and spouses of her children. I totally disagreed and felt that the neighbor calling “Hi, mom” was somewhat a term of endearment and that it was better than not saying anything at all! Thoughts? -- Upset Offspring

DEAR OFFSPRING: I can understand not wanting to be addressed as “mom,” but I also assume that if your mother had not been greeted at all she would still find your neighbor rude. And the idea that her name must be remembered after one meeting reveals an ego and insecurity combination I associate with divas and news anchors. And Russell Crowe.

I agree with you that in this context “Hi, mom” is a friendly, slightly awkward, neighborly greeting. You should have managed this in the moment by saying, “Bart, you remember my mother, ‘June’ — you two met last year.”

Your mother is owed an apology. By you. You missed the opportunity to reintroduce her. Otherwise, she is making way too much of this.

DEAR AMY: I clean houses for a living, and I have always liked your recommendations for “tipping” during the holidays. Please advise people to be generous and give cash.

I have in the past received gifts that were used and many re-gifts. The extra cash that some leave is a lifesaver and allows me to get gifts for my own family. A bonus equal to one week’s worth of pay is greatly appreciated. -- Trusted Housekeeper

DEAR HOUSEKEEPER: A tip equivalent to one week’s pay is the standard in your profession. Emily Post has a great holiday tipping guide: emilypost.com.

Write to Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribune.com or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

2012 by the Chicago Tribune

Distributed by Tribune Media Services

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