Dear Mrs. Riches:
I adore my dad, but my husband is less-than-enthusiastic about his involvement in our lives. Why, you ask? Because my dad has a way of second-guessing every financial decision we make, whether it's what kind of washer we purchased ("Whirlpool? You should have stuck with Kenmore!), how much we spent on our house ("Highway robbery!"), or even how we choose to spend our leisure time ("$8 per movie ticket? Renting is just as good.").
I see my husband's point. He is tired of having to hear that every move we make is foolish, especially from an old guy who's barely saved anything for retirement. But I also think that this is just my dad's way of relating to us (albeit an annoying one). I don't want to hurt Dad's feelings, nor do I want to hear from my husband about how obnoxious my dad is. Words of wisdom would be much appreciated.
-- Daddy's Girl
Dear Daddy's Girl:
You call yourself "Daddy's Girl," and not your husband's wife? Indulge me while I take a closer look at your choice of words. (Pesky little things sometimes speak volumes about how we really feel.) Your words seem to say that you really still are your daddy's girl first. When you talk about your dad, you discuss his feelings; it matters to you whether he is hurt. By contrast, when you mention your husband, you sound more inconvenienced by his feelings than sympathetic to them. You don't seem to care much about whether he feels hurt or rejected or alienated by the mountain of criticism lobbed at him by your dad. You don't "want to hear" it.
You should also remember that while for you, money gripes could be a very familiar topic and a common way of relating with your dad, your husband was likely raised differently. Perhaps in his family of origin, no one would dream of questioning someone else's choices with regard to money. In many families, financial topics are intensely private matters -- not for general discourse.
So take the possibility that your husband was raised to talk differently (or not at all) about money, add the fact that your dad is aiming where it hurts (and being disrespectful to your husband in the process), and toss in the part where you're lacking in empathy, and you're left with a big marital problem, not an annoyance.
I would suggest that you start by taking the situation seriously, recognizing that you need to shift your primary allegiance to your husband. This does not mean that you love your dad less or that you have to side with your husband in every possible conflict. It does mean that you have to afford him the respect that your dad has not. You also need to let your dad know directly that enough is enough, drawing a boundary around the sensitive topic of money. If you do that, your father will learn that he can't take potshots at your spouse without also damaging his relationship with you.
Need more advice for handling your worst money fights? Try:
- He Spends, She Spends
- She Likes Stocks; He Likes Bonds
- The Fooly Wed Game
- For Richer or Poorer. Again
- Is Your Ex Wrecking Your Credit?