My Daughter's Fiancé is Disrespectful to Her

Dear Dr. Darcy: 

Help! My daughter's fiancé is mean and disrespectful towards her in front of my husband and myself. It can be a word or a whole tirade. On Mother's Day my daughter and her fiancé made us a lovely breakfast at their home. The fiancé was cooking French toast and stepped away for a moment, and my daughter mentioned to him to keep an eye on the food--he lashed out and nastily said, 'Don't boss me around!'  I felt that was uncalled for on his part. My daughter said nothing. He criticizes her a lot too. 

I understand that my criticism will drive her and him away. What can I do in a situation like this?

ANSWER

A criticism is generally nothing more than a poorly stated request.  Moreover, in every relationship, there is a subtext that only the people in the relationship are privy to.  Perhaps your daughter’s fiancé has asked her on numerous occasions to not correct or criticize him in front of people, particularly her family. Some version of this story is likely true. Clearly he felt bossed around by her, which is not to say that he expressed himself well or with class, but from what you’ve described, he could have done much worse.

Here’s the thing: Your daughter didn’t ‘say nothing.’ She could have kept her own eyes on the French toast, but she didn’t choose to do that. Her fiancé sounds like he was embarrassed by her remark. Or maybe he’s just an asshole and until she realizes that, there’s not much you can do.

Actually, that’s not entirely true: My suggestion to you is to try to view your relationship with your husband through the eyes and ears of a stranger (or a daughter) to see how you might be modeling the same level of tolerance for disrespect that your daughter is. There is no greater relationship teacher than our parents. Up your game in your marriage. If it’s significant enough, your daughter will notice and she just might follow suit.

Gender & Orientation: Female, Heterosexual.