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Ask TherapistMaryAnn Your Own Question
TherapistMaryAnn, Counselor
Category: Relationship
Satisfied Customers: 722
Experience:  Over 20 years experience specializing in anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol, and relationship issues
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Kate, Hope you are well! My parents have come to visit

Customer Question

Hi Kate,
Hope you are well!
My parents have come to visit us in South Africa so you probably knew you would hear from me!
I had been anxious for a few weeks leading up to there visit because i knew that there would be some issue at some point. They arrived a few days ago. Everything has been ok, there have been the comments and remarks and opinions which Michelle and I have let slide, for the sake of harmony but last night ended up in an argument. I am again feeling stressed, a bit caught in the middle and definitely don't feel like i can now talk to them because it will be another argument. They will not see my point, and i certainly won't see theres.
This was the argument, 'i will try and keep it brief!:
We had leant my car to my parents so they didn't have to rent one, they were going to go to Cape Town for the day and sightsee. We looked after my sisters baby so they could enjoy the day. I told them the way to go, where not to go and programmed the destination in the satnav, i also filled the car with petrol. Unfortunately i inputted the wrong destination by mistake and they ended up in the wrong place, and it end up being about a 1.5hr detour!When they phoned i directed them, and they got to Cape Town. My sister gave instructions on her babies sleep time etc and told us that he goes to bed at 8 but they wouldn't be home anywhere near that late. However by 9pm they still weren't home and it was dark so me and Michelle were both very worried, because i thought maybe they got lost again and it was dark and travelling in South Africa, when you don't know where your going is dangerous. They eventually arrived at 9.30pm, and we asked "where have you been" we were really worried" To which my sister replied, what do you mean, we've been in Cape Town, we would have been sooner but you lead us the wrong way. Then both me and michelle said why didn't you try and call. My Dad had a pay as you go phone that had no credit and that was their only way of communicating. So we said when you knew you were going to be late why didn't you find a way of calling, a restaurant or internet cafe. Michelle said to my sister that we had her child so what if we needed to get hold of you, this is South Africa, we wouldn't have been so worried in England but you need to be carful. She stormed off and went to bed. We stayed and talked to my parent which ended in shouting, Michelle then said, she is not used to this, it her house and she doesn't want arguing and she just put Christian to sleep and he should be hearing screaming or arguing. My mum got really angry, and michelle went to bed crying. My mum took offence and michelle got up again to explain why she said she is not used to this. So we all went to bed, my Dad had stay quiet and was actually sensible, said he agreed that there should be no arguing. He also said he didn't realise how worried we would be and it was nice we cared and he apologised.
I just again feel this stress in my stomach, they are the only people in my life that make me feel like this and I've had enough. I heard my parents arguing after last night, and my mum essentially telling my dad off! yet he was the only sensible calm one!
I don't know what to do now, one thing i won't accept is arguing in front of my children, i had a whole childhood/teen years of that and both me and Michelle won't accept it in our house.
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Relationship
Expert:  Dr. Norman Brown replied 2 years ago.
I'm sure you'll want to hear from Kate McCoy as soon as she comes on. But I'll give you a male therapist's response, for what it's worth. From what I understand of your family's behavior in your argument scene, the MEN's stance of being silent and reasonable after the women's emotional outbursts have passed is not helping out as much as you and your father seem to think. You are copying your father, and you're both NOT ASSERTING YOURSELVES when you don't like the volume and tone of the arguments. So the women are left to blurt out their emotional upsetness at each other with the men doing nothing to rein in their behavior.You're not going to succeed in banishing angry emotions from your house by staying quiet until they are finished! You need to step in between the arguing, upset women and get them to move their argument OUTSIDE, or discontinue it altogether by separating the arguers so there's no mutual disrespect to keep the escalations going. Ages ago in USA there was a pop psychology book called "Passive Men and Wild, Wild Women" that addressed the natural escalation in loud and angry behavior when people on one side of a difference in opinion withdraw into passivity instead of accepting that the differences are arousing tempers and asserting themselves to improve the Process of airing those differences. In effect your household didn't have a leader, and either you or your father should have asserted yourselves to play that role. Your father is obviously used to passivity as his way of dodging his wife's volatility. So that leaves you. And for you to assert yourself against your parents' ingrained conflict habits would require that you Stop playing the role of "grown son" and assume instead "head of household" in your own territory. HOW you can do that is up to you. I'd imagine you step in between arguers, speak (probably to your mother, because you're supporting your wife's position) in a low but insistent voice, and insist that she needs to take her argument outside, because you won't tolerate raised voices when your children are sleeping.