Adapted from a recent online discussion.
It's okay to tell family to butt out on husband's job situation
Rochester, N.Y.: My husband is quitting his temp job today, after a week and a half, because the office environment was so toxic and hostile. I can support us for quite a while on just my job, provided we're careful. He's got leads on a few other possibilities, and a class he'd like to take (job-related) if nothing turns up soon.
My family are going to blow their tops when they find out he's unemployed again. And I might blow my top right back this time — he's not a deadbeat, and when he's jobless, he cooks, cleans, job-searches and volunteers.
Any ideas for keeping my cool when someone says something snide?
Carolyn: If your family is unloading on you despite your being comfortable with the circumstances, then it's time to stop giving them information. Sounds drastic, but while they're entitled to honesty from you, they're not entitled to details; those are a privilege. They abuse it, you revoke it. If they live nearby and will put two and two together themselves, then withholding details won't work; you'll need to spell out that their criticism isn't welcome.
I realize this is the emotional equivalent of Everest to people who were raised to please or avoid confrontation. But it's a skill worth the stress of acquiring it. Having responses in mind can help with that initial foray into setting boundaries:
"Thanks for your concern, but this is between me and Husband." And then: "I believe I said this was our business." And then: "I'm sorry, I have to be blunt: Drop it." And then: The conversation/visit is over.
If it's just snide comments, then: "I'm happy to listen if you speak plainly, but there's no place for nasty asides."
These need to be said only once, to establish your position. After that, if the nastiness continues, then you can reinforce your position with few if any words.
In the case of someone who wants to lecture you, for example, just remind the person you're not discussing this. In the case of a verbal sniper, you just pause and, with your calmest bite-me face, say to the culprit, "Really?" then get back to what you were doing. A quick shaming and out.
Anonymous: Re: Rochester: I'm sorry, he left after a week and a half? Because it was a "toxic environment"? It sounds to me that instead of her making excuses for him, he needs a visit to a therapist and/or career counselor.
Carolyn: There wasn't enough information in the letter to support this conclusion; for all we know, the other bouts of unemployment were byproducts of his field and/or the recession.
Rochester: Me again — all of his other jobs for the past two years have been temp/contract work, which he finished without leaving early. But, all he can find right now is temp/contract. My family has been less than understanding.
He gets that attitude from his parents as well. It was fairly bracing to hear that I am allowed to tell mine to just butt out.
Carolyn: Just know that if you do need their help financially, you're inviting them to butt in.