Piqued in Pontiac

  • Posted on July 10, 2016 at 1:49 pm

Dear Christine,

I am married to a know-it-all!  I’ve dealt with it for years and it’s finally starting to get to me.  I had gotten used to her always having the better way to do something or the better answer but recently my grandson has come to stay with us for a while and she does it to him and though he’s being kind, it is really making me angry.  I’ve lived with it so long and accepted it, that I’m having a hard time trying to find a way to approach the subject. Subtle hints over the years haven’t worked.  Any thoughts?

Piqued in Pontiac

Dear Piqued,

I imagine that your know-it-all wife has been knowing better than everyone else for many years.   You figured out a way to tolerate this arrogance in your marriage and you made the decision that staying married is right for you.  But now, your precious grandson is getting the same treatment!

Subtleties don’t work with this sort of person.  I know.  My father is the same!  He’s always known everything and anything and has never been shy to voice his knowledge.  My parents will celebrate their 65 wedding anniversary in August.  I don’t know how my mom dealt with his arrogance all those years.

Interestingly, about 10 years ago, when she was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, she would get uncharacteristically angry at him for telling her where to park at the hospital where she delivered me and my three sisters years ago.  She called him out for being nosy and controlling!  I was shocked!  This early stage of her disease opened up her candor about the many years of dealing with this man!  Now she deals with him differently.  She barely realizes he is her husband, but she has wonderful social skills, and is pleasant to him (and everyone) while he spends meals and most afternoons with her.

You might try being direct rather than using hints, telling your wife what boundaries you request her to keep.  But that will take negotiation.  She’s been doing this her whole life and she’s fluent in knowing better and more than anyone else.  She’s not even going to realize when she is “doing it again.”  I tell my nieces and nephews, well, that’s how your grandfather is.  We can’t change him.  We just have to deal with what is.”  Same for you and your wife.  Help your grandson realize she means nothing personally about him not being smart or capable or creative.  She just is convinced no one knows as much as she does.  And somehow, you love her and you encourage him to love her as well.  After all, none of us is perfect!
Christine Cantrell, PhD

Licensed Psychologist

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