Dear Amy: I was raised by a single mother. She’s an educated, liberal feminist who brought me up to be a strong and self-sufficient woman. She is loving, open-minded and nonconfrontational. We are very close, even though she lives in another state.
My husband was raised in a very patriarchal house by blue-collar workers who never denied him anything. He’s brilliant and extremely successful, even though he never finished college (but he is insecure about how smart he is). He’s a man’s man, physically strong, can fix anything, build anything, do anything he sets his mind to, takes excellent care of our grown children and adores me.
My problem is that my husband and mother don’t like each other. They don’t argue, but they definitely struggle to be in the same room. Once my husband and I were debating about something, and Mother got up abruptly and went to her room.
The next morning, she said that he was being mean to me. She worried that he didn’t respect or care for me. Even though I explained that was absolutely not true, she seemed very concerned.
When I told my husband why she was uncomfortable, he was hurt, saying she wants him to be different, but he will not change who he is for anyone.
I feel horrible that my husband and my mother aren’t better friends. I want to avoid another awkward visit. Do you have any advice on how to possibly bring them closer?
— In the Middle
In the Middle: First, for some perspective: Your mother raised you alone. You don’t mention that she has had a long-term spouse or partner, then or now.
If a person has navigated through the world mainly on their own, it can be unsettling to witness a couple debate (or argue). If your mother doesn’t spend time around couples who mix it up, it can be challenging to decode the difference between a fight, a debate, a minor dust-up or a prelude to a mutual understanding.
You made a tactical error here. If you want your mother and husband to be closer, then why did you choose to report your mother’s incorrect and upsetting assertion back to him? You told him, “My mom thinks you’re mean to me.” Rather than repeat this to him, you should have directed your attention to your mother, to reassure her about your healthy relationship and your household’s dynamic.
On to your husband. One sure way to prove that you are a real “man’s man” is to be kind and considerate toward your wife’s beloved mother. Your husband needs to step up, and even if he is unwilling to change, he should prove himself capable of at least behaving differently.
Dear Amy: My daughter is getting married this summer. Her father died in 2009. I met a man a year later, and he died in 2021. My stepson will be giving my daughter away. For the reception, I am not comfortable walking in and being announced alone.
Would it be appropriate to have my stepson and my late partner’s son escort me into the reception?
M: The appropriate thing to do is to use whatever configuration works for you and the rest of the wedding party. You being flanked by these two young men sounds like a very nice idea.
And — not to mess with your plans (or conventional tradition) — but I’d put in a vote for you to walk your daughter down the aisle; not to “give her away,” but to accompany her into this next important phase of her life.
Dear Amy: I loved the question (and your answer) from “Older, Wiser, Happier,” about the older couple who had just adopted a young child. I adopted a day-old infant at age 52. My son is now 18. I have often been faced with the same shock when I inform curious folks that I’m a parent, rather than a grandparent, to my son. (An additional shocker is that I have always been single.)
Your suggested responses to Happier are perfect. More important to me was the letter itself. It gave me comfort, knowing that I’m not the only one who frequently has to explain my relationship to my child.
Grateful: I’ve heard from many older adoptive parents — all wise and happy.
© 2023 by Amy Dickinson. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency.
More from Advice
Ask Elaine: I finally made big changes but feel more unsure than ever
Carolyn Hax: When the bride says no to a shower
Ask Amy: Girlfriend’s solo escapade bothers boyfriend
Meghan Leahy: A 16-year-old is suddenly disrespectful to everyone. What’s going on?
Miss Manners: Texted demand to ‘call me’ draws recipient’s ire