Hi, Carolyn: I’m not an easily offended prude, but I recently asked my significant other if he could tone down the cursing at home. I told him that I know it’s not directed at me but that his nightly profanity-fueled rants about politics, followed by the crude “comedy” he watches for entertainment, are making me feel like I’m under attack.
I field phone calls from angry people at work and would like to come home to a more peaceful space. I told him I wasn’t offended by the words, but rather the constant stream of verbal hostility, and I wanted a break.
His response has been to retreat to rooms I’m not in and not say more than a few words to me in several days. Not quite the silent treatment, but close. Any thoughts on this?
Not Asking for a Swear Jar!
Not Asking for a Swear Jar!: You go back to him and say you meant a break from negativity, not a break from him.
Skip the subordinate issues of cursing and TV and prudishness and focus on your point. You come home from work rattled. You’re asking for help.
This actually has very little to do with profanity; something can be profane or crude and still fundamentally life-affirming. You’re talking about anger — angry callers, angry politics, angry entertainment, and now ironically an angry partner.
So speak only to that anger. Note how it’s spilling out into public discourse right now and how he’s as much its victim as you are. Your different ways of managing it are just out of sync, and that’s what you’re hoping to fix.
Have suggestions ready. Think of ways you used to spend time together, hobbies or interests you’ve shared, or new things you’d like to try. Look for a new show with a little something for you both, and invite him to watch it with you.
In the meantime, don’t shut him down entirely, and lose the air-quotes around “comedy.” Let him watch his show in another room for a bit while you decompress. Let him rant some before you gently say “enough.” If you acknowledge he’s as entitled to his way as you are to yours, then you’re more likely to find that welcoming spot in between.
Should he choose to hang on to his anger, though, remember, you don’t have to hang on to him.
Dear Carolyn: My only child married an only child. They used to talk about “when we have kids.” Now they’ve decided they’re not having kids (both mid-30s and, no, they are not trying). It’s hurtful because I’ll never be a grandparent and very concerning because when all their parents are gone, they won’t have any family. The husband used to say he wanted to be a father, so it seems he’s just come around to the wife’s thinking — that is concerning as well. There could eventually be resentment. Family gets more important as you get older.
I don’t say much, but I have said to my child that when they get older, there will be no family to spend holidays with, there will be no one to help them. . . . I think they think life will always be as it is right now.
So, what words do you have for me, and, though certainly they will do what they want, how do I let them know that life and thinking change?
Weighing on My Mind
Weighing on My Mind: The first words I have are to urge you not to have words for your child. It’s not your decision to make. It’s not your resentment to predict. It’s not your someday holiday to populate. It’s not your thinking to change.
You’ve already said your piece. Just because it didn’t persuade them to reproduce after all doesn’t mean you get to keep lobbying them till they crack. What it does mean is this: If it didn’t occur to them that they might be alone when they’re old, they know it now — and still they’re making this choice. All the more reason to back off.
Here are a few more, if it helps: People with lots of kids end up alone sometimes, too, just as people without them can live and die amid tightknit circles of friends.
Life and thinking don’t just change in one uniform way.
People who assume they want kids sometimes realize they don’t.
People who defer to a spouse, even on life-changing things, don’t always come to resent it.
And family sometimes gets less important as you get older, particularly when childhood proximity is all you still share.
I don’t say these just to discourage you from meddling, but also to encourage flexible thinking — once you’ve mourned the old mind-set, of course. You wanted a grandchild; this is heartbreaking news you just got.
But there are other, profound connections to be made when you’re ready to make them. Through proper channels, of course, other kids need holding, minding, tutoring, mentoring, sometimes rescuing. “Grandparent” is a sacred role, but the village needs villagers, too.