Ask Dr. ZZ, May 2013

By Dr. ZZ

Question: My husband and I are in our mid 30s and have two children. We have a wonderful home life and are very happy. No matter what my husband does, however, it is never good enough for his parents. They are judgmental, self-righteous and constantly tell us he could do better. Recently we told them that the things they say hurt our feelings. His father flew into a rage about all he’s done for the family, and called us unforgivable names. His mother cried and said things will never be the same. Although they have no qualms telling us when they don’t like something we’ve said or done, they obviously cannot handle having the tables turned.

Recently, after not speaking to them for a week, we realized that they have been treating us like dirt for too long, and we want nothing more to do with them. My 9-year old daughter heard a message from Grandpa and is terrified of him now because of the horrible things he said to us. Knowing them, they will call back in a week or two with their tails between their legs, but we don’t want to forgive them. As soon as I say, “If you cannot speak without raising your voice, or using foul language, come back when you are able to,” my father-in-law will fly into a rage. There is no winning. Is there anything I can do?

Dr. ZZ: The four of you would do well to sit down with a good family therapist and sort this through. There are obviously deep underlying feelings or personality conflicts at work, problems that will not go away on their own. Short of counseling, my only other suggestion is that you and your husband take the high road. At this stage in life, there is little chance your in-laws will change. Though it may feel good at first to express outrage at their negative behavior or to abandon a painful situation, neither choice is apt to be a viable long-term solution. The best strategy is to expect a call from them in a week or two and to rise above their nastiness. Begin to practice some serious tongue-biting, and strive not to take their behavior so personally. It’s unreasonable to expect an apology from them or to ask for behavioral changes they won’t make. Your father-in-law seems permanently doomed to fly into a rage if prodded. All you can do is curtail the prodding and offer him no ultimatums. What they think of you is none of your business.

Although this may sound like sticking your head in the sand, it could be worth the bruised egos to transcend their actions. If you endure their faults, you will be doing a couple of things that may brighten your family’s future. First, by becoming consciously nonreactive, you will find that your in-laws’ heckling will become less hurtful. You and your husband may even want to give them comical names and analyze their taunts with humor on the way home from visits. This may serve to further expunge the poison from your own systems and help to reduce long-term damage.

Second, by failing to engage in their inevitable negativity, you will be making a healthy adjustment for yourselves. Maintaining anger and resentment toward them will only tax your family emotionally and could spawn the same self-righteousness that led to your in-laws’ entrenched fury. The best way to avoid that is to rise above the fray. Accept these folks as they are, put up with their insults, and use them as examples to teach yourselves and your children the outcome of being overly judgmental. This will take time and cost a great deal of energy and attention. In the long run, however, your family will develop the art of detachment. You will also be one step further away from nurturing in yourselves the debilitating character flaws that plague your in-laws.

Question: My friend suspects that her husband is having an affair. Are there any characteristic signs that would indicate her suspicions may be true?

Dr. ZZ: A husband who is having an affair will betray himself fairly quickly to a wife who wants to know, but your friend would do well to be wary of looking for signs. The obvious signs are phone calls in the closet, friends seeing him with another woman, and a distinct odor of perfume on his oddly wrinkled clothes. These are cliché examples; the signals she gets will be different yet just as blatant. If she is suspicious, then he has already betrayed her trust in some way. “Signs,” however, may signal another problem unrelated to his having an affair.

Suspect behavior can result from corruption of any facet of a relationship, not just fidelity. Subtle errant behavior or attitude shifts may signal that he is having a tough time at work or enduring a personal problem that he is not ready to share with her. If your friend loves her husband, it would be best for her to at least make an attempt to trust him. There’s no need to risk forfeiting the marriage—and her emotional wellbeing—over crossed signals. If she truly suspects him of infidelity, she may want to ask him about it calmly, perhaps in a playful tone. Chances are, especially if they have been married for a while, his response will be telling.

Disclaimer: All information provided in this article is intended as general information only and is not to be misconstrued as medical or psychological advice or as diagnosis, treatment or cure for any condition or ailment. Send queries or comments to and listen to her on All published information is kept strictly confidential.

Dr. ZZ’s bold, upfront, directive style plays an inspirational role in the lives of people she touches. Drawing on a non-traditional Ph.D. in counseling and natural healing, ZZ works with shaman elder Jack Alexander (“Golden Feather”), who offers land blessings, shamanic training, Life Purpose readings, and all-faith  spiritual guidance. This forum proposes potential solutions on health, emotional, and personal matters.

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