Baggage Check Live: Flex those "Boundary-Establishing muscles"

Aug 14, 2018

Licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Andrea Bonior was online to take your comments about her advice column, Baggage Check, and any other questions you might have. These comments may appear in an upcoming column running in Express and online.

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Hi, everyone. I'm so glad you're here today.

What's on your mind? Today's Baggage involves a long-distance relationship at a crossroads. LW doesn't want to move to their partner's city-- must that spell doom?

And in L2, we've got someone who wants to establish closeness with their parents-- or at least try to-- as they think about giving them grandchildren. Is there hope?

Bring it on!

(In response to last week's chat)

What was the husband like before, when he was getting good sleep? Is all of this scary stuff completely (be honest with yourself) out of character? If so, just let the guy sleep! I don't think labeling him an abuser is the right way to go here. Hire a night nanny or whatever you have to do to. Therapy, separation, guilt and shame...all of these sound completely unnecessary. I'm not usually on the side of defending this, which is why the solution seems that much clearer to me. He's not himself without sleep. You're his partner. Help him.

Your first sentence is an important question, for sure. But then you and I diverge.

The guy has chronic pain-- I'm thinking he will likely struggle with sleep and have nerves that are frequently tested, newborn or no newborn. Co-sleep or no co-sleep. And OP is trying to "let him sleep" and yet he is dictating who should sleep where. And he is not taking responsibility for trying to hurt her, which really worries me. There will be additional sleep problems that come with raising children no matter what their ages are. He tried to get physical with their newborn baby. I did not label him an abuser, but it could very easily turn into that. He would be better with more sleep; that's lost on no one. But the underlying threat is very real, and I think it's risky to assume that that threat will somehow cease to exist if the sleep improves and yet he does nothing else to work on this. Parenting and chronic pain are stressful and sleep-depriving, alone and most certainly together. Continually. And if he has the propensity to get physically violent when sleep deprivation occurs, it is on him to take that seriously and work on it. Period.

I simply won't endorse the idea that it's OP's job to devise a magic calculus that will equal him not hurting OP or their child, even if that calculus seems to have a simple "answer" at first glance. That is a dangerous mindset and comes very close to blaming the victim. Hey, all it takes is a few moments of angry shaking and a baby's brain can be damaged irrevocably. Parents need to take responsibility for themselves and their actions. OP has a right to safety, and their baby does too, no matter who falls asleep in what room and when. Full stop.

(In response to last week's chat)

I wonder if the wife is still in SAHM mode (with the potential for making up for some of her lost sleep with daytime naps), while her husband is working outside the home full-time, so feeling the fullest brunt of sleep deprivation.

Could be, though in my experience "Sleep when the baby sleeps!" is as effective about as often as "Calm down!" or "Trust me!" or "It'll happen when you least expect it!"

Regardless of who's racking up more sleep, though, husband needs to take responsibility for what's happening and make some changes before something awful transpires.

My father in law is staying with us for another week and it's caused a lot of tension between my husband and I. He's here visiting while he's having work done at his house. I agree'd to this thinking it would be for 2 weeks max, not the 3-4 weeks we're going on. I made sure to have extra food and beverages on hand including healthy foods and things he likes. When he would eats, he'd leave his plates and cups and dirty knives/forks on the counter for me to clean up. He's leave the milk out or not close the fridge door. He always has a soda in the bedroom but wasn't paying attention and it spilled wrecking the stand and cable box. He broke the trundle bed because of his weight and accidentally pulled the hand rail out because he kept pulling on it to pull himself up the steps. His only response was "oops", he constantly has to have the last word and is always acting like he's all mighty and knows everything. He either doesn't like my cooking or thinks he's doing us a favor but suggesting we always eat out. The meals I make are healthy compared to the junk he eats. I fear he's having health issues based on the amount of pills he's on (blood pressure, diabetes, weight, high cholesterol etc) but he says it's all preventative. The final straw was leaving the gate unlatched at my dog getting out. I found the dog the next morning but I was livid. No apology from him whatsoever and he said well if the dog was trained properly he wouldn't leave the yard regardless if there's a squirrel/other dog in the front. The dog is trained but that's the most asinine thing I've heard recently. My husband knew I was getting frustrated but yet he won't stick up for me and say something. When I questioned this he said he doesn't want to "upset his father". It's caused a ton of tension between us and I sort of expect my husband to have my back. I've actually started sleeping on the couch downstairs so I can have some "me" time and because I can hear my father in laws snoring in the next room with doors closed so it keeps me awake. When I said all of this to my husband about sticking up for me he made it feel like I blew everything out of proportion and I needed to respect his dad more. I'm at my wits end. Luckily he goes home next Tuesday but how in heck am I supposed to deal with this for the next few days. I can't drink because I found out I'm pregnant (he doesn't know this and won't know until we're past the first trimester), and I can only use the excuse of going to bed by 9pm due to a headache or a rough day so many times. I know once we have the kiddo that he'll be out here more often and I don't know how I'll deal then.

So he doesn't want to upset his father, but he is more than willing to let his father upset his pregnant wife while he stands by.

He wants you to respect his Dad more, while his Dad blatantly shows disrespect to you and the home you and your husband share (and, while we're at it, your poor doggie-- who I'm sure is a very good boy indeed!).

Look, I get it-- your husband may have a complicated history with his Dad, or is so used to his Dad's behavior that he just doesn't even see its offensiveness anymore.

Or your husband is a "Don't rock the boat" type of guy and just wants to grin and bear this visit without any "drama."

But your FIL is rocking the boat himself so much that it's about to capsize. Drama has commenced, and it's not you that's causing it. Your husband is going to be a father; he needs to practice establishing boundaries for your sake and his future child's.

There might be a weight/health issue here that is clouding things: no doubt it might be embarrassing for FIL to have broken things due to his weight, and his snoring may be out of his control. I feel for him on that, I really do, and your husband is probably wanting to stay silent in part out of kindness. But FIL needs to make an effort to be a more conscientious guest in all the other ways you mentioned, and Husband needs to find a way to help move that process along.

This deserves a bigger heart-to-heart with your husband-- when your FIL is far out of earshot-- but how about in the ensuing days, picking one priority that is most important to you that can be framed as a respectful but firm request? Then letting your husband know that you would appreciate his backup/joint support in conveying that request. And if husband refuses, you do it yourself (and add it to the agenda of the heart-to-heart.)

Seriously, this is an important opportunity to set a good precedent. Husband's got to learn how to manage keeping his father comfortable while also protecting his family from going-- in the words of a chatter last week-- cuckoo-bananas.

Any words from the wise out there about getting one's partner to see the light in these cases?

PLEASE do not have kids in the hope of softening your parents. Or if you didn't mean that, but you meant that you hoped your parents would soften up with grandchildren, please let go of this before even thinking about having kids, because such expectations will compound your misery when it doesnh't happen. Some parents are cold and distant, and they'll stay that way. Arrange for other adults in your life to fill the grandparent role, if you want it that badly.

Thanks for this. I do agree that expectations should definitely be kept in check, though I also think that some people warm up to grandchildren in ways they couldn't to their own, for various reasons.

And I didn't get the idea that this person was having children with that aim in mind-- more like it's part of the package of having children, making you think about what their relationship with their grandparents will be like.

Totally co-sign on the fact that there are lots of other adults that can be entrusted with honorary grandparent roles if one is willing to nourish those relationships!

It is also a leading cause of death for people with sleep apnea. Psychosis is another result of sleep deprivation. Please, everyone, see a doctor and a therapist and get this sorted out. How can co-sleeping be a benefit if it results in rage?

I am glad you agree that there needs to be all kinds of support here. Again, sleep deprivation is part and parcel of parenting-- there needs to be a baseline set of coping tools in place for it. Thanks.

I have been working for my organization for 3.5 years, and about 1.5 years ago, I befriended a new employee in my group whom my manager has known for many years and used to work with. My new friend and I bonded because we were both going through some similar health struggles, and having someone to talk with really helped me get through the hard times. I am feeling better now, but unfortunately my friend's health has continued to decline, and she has been out on leave for most of this year. I have been in contact with her a little bit but haven't visited with her in a couple of months. However, her social media posts show her doing physically demanding activities a number of times per week, and a mutual friend told me that she recently took a weekend trip on her own for her side business (which she clearly enjoys more than her full-time job). I don't question that my friend has health problems (I do feel for her, as I have seen what she has gone through), and I don't expect her to languish in bed all day every day, but it seems that if she's capable of doing all of these fun, active things, she's capable of teleworking, if not coming into the office, at least a little bit. My manager is required to hold her position until she returns, but in the meantime, her work isn't getting done. Also, our work is in the public service arena, and I am starting to be concerned that she might be defrauding our organization by claiming that she is too ill to work even part-time, when clearly she is well enough to do plenty of other things. I haven't talked with her about my concerns, and I'm not really sure how to approach the situation, since it's not really my business. And yet, I feel a duty to make sure my organization isn't negatively impacted due to these circumstances. Do you have any advice for how to handle this? Or should I just butt out and continue hoping that my friend's health improves (for her sake)?

I would love to hear from some people who are more in the know about HR/office issues here, because I can barely use a copy machine without jamming it. What say you, workplace-savvy individuals?

I am thinking the general consensus is going to be that there is nothing you can or should do. If your work wants to check up on her social media, they can. And it deserves to be said that the only certain truth on social media is the fact that there are no certain truths on social media. We really don't know what her day to day life is like, what she's capable of doing or not doing in a work-related context, no matter how many suspicions or hypotheses we may have.

Even if you wanted to bring this to your boss(es), it's hard to imagine a way of doing it that wouldn't be pretty toxic (could easily seem like you were jumping to conclusions because of a vendetta of some sort, when in truth this person is your friend) or shady (an anonymous tip worthy of a fedora and cigar.)

So, my meter is leaning toward Butt Out, with a healthy round of just hoping for health.

What sayeth the chatters?

My niece, who is more like my daughter, just casually texted me that she might move in with her former boyfriend. They broke up 5 years ago when he choked her after she came home from going out with her girlfriends. That very night her sister, my husband and I moved my niece out of the apartment she shared with this man. She had a hard time breaking up, but she did eventually. I'm speechless and can't breath when I think about what this might mean for her mental, emotional and physical health. My niece has maintained recovery from drugs and alcohol for that past couple of years and seemed to be really getting her life together. Just to add complexity, the former (and apparently current) boyfriend's student Visa is running out and he may be going back to Central Asia soon. I'm sure of my role and my next step. Please help.


Honestly, choking is such a troubling marker of the potential for continued relationship violence-- including the escalation to murder-- that I felt a kick in the gut just reading that words.

Please, please keep in close supportive contact with her. Express your concerns but don't make her feel she has to choose him or you. See if you can ally with her friends and other family. Does she have a community in recovery as well? I can never recommend enough, even just for loved ones of those at risk.

This is definitely a situation where there is now a group of us desperately hoping for the speedy expiration of his visa. Keep a close eye and above all, let her know you are there for her and love her and want her to be safe and can take her in in whatever ways she needs, no questions asked.

Please do keep us posted.

One of the things that really bothered me from that letter was that the husband would apologize to the infant but not the wife. Really!? The baby is the one that needs an apology? That sounds cruel and possibly like gaslighting. This is not about sleep, this is abuse. It can be VERY hard to self-apply that label, but LW, this is abuse.

Thank you. I was really, really troubled by that, and troubled by the fact that so many people thought, Hey-- change the sleeping arrangements and this guy will be Prince Charming!

So I've been with my boyfriend for 3 and a half years. We started going to the gym together but school and work got in the way so now him and I no longer go together. I then, notice this one day I went to the gym with him, and this female smiles at him and he smiles back. I went on Instagram and noticed he is following her and she is following him. I told him she made me feel uncomfortable. So he unfollowed her, then months later I was curious to see his phone and go on Instagram and notice him and that girl from the gym are talking through direct messages. She has two daughters, so him and her are talking about their day and what they did at the gym. I felt so betrayed broke up with him and four days later we got back together because he said he'd block her. Now I go through his phone again, and he unblocked her. I am now furious, I don't know what to do. I don't know if I'm wrong, but I feel so disrespected and lied to. I don't like that girls energy, she's flirtatious. What do you think I should do? I can't even sleep, I can't even feel safe, I feel like I'm useless because he didn't even care.

I am sorry, but I don't see any way this cycle is going to end any time soon. You have standards that he can't or won't live up to, so he decides to simply ignore them and fly under the radar doing his own thing. He doesn't respect you enough to discuss honestly his misgivings about the expectations you have for his behavior, and instead won't even engage. And in turn you feel the need to play investigator and bulldoze through additional boundaries.

You'll notice this a problem more general and more deep-seated than just a flirtatious girl at the gym. I know that 3.5 years is a long time, but do you really feel that you both would actually be willing to put in the work to repair this dynamic?

It sounds like a lot of what your FIL is doing comes from thoughtlessness and carelessness (e.g., leaving the refrigerator door open, not closing the gate to the yard). That's hard to change or to predict what the next result of it will be. But putting dirty dishes in the dishwasher or putting milk back in the refrigerator are TASKS, and if your husband doesn't want to upset his father, then they can become HIS tasks. Anything dad leaves out or in the wrong place, your husband puts away.

It's a very good point. If Husband is completely unwilling to help adjust his father's behavior, then is he willing to follow him around himself and undo the damage as it happens?


My boyfriend and I live together on and off the past 12 years. A lot of ups and downs and recently went on trip together for vacation. However since back from vacation he accused me of changing his password on a online dating site that I had no knowledge of him being on. He says he chats with a women who seems to actually know me and never says anything bad about me. He wanted me to help reset his password and I became extremely angry. He has been extremely rude and disrespectful ever since and I’m having a tough time even talking to him. What are your thoughts?

My thoughts-- at least initially-- are that if these other "downs" of your relationship are similar to this, then the "ups" would have to be in the realm of a Euphoria sandwich in order to make them worth it.

So, just so I'm following: he was secretly on an online dating site and is somehow mad at YOU?

Is this gentleman aware of the fact that on the list of ways to have innocent, friendly conversation with females who know his partner, "Online Dating Sites" simply does not appear? I mean, come on.


I am sorry-- but do you really think you deserve this nonsense?

It IS about sleep. Sleep deprivation can cause psychosis. A doctor experienced in sleep disorders needs to be consulted as well as a family therapist.

Well I think it could potentially be about all of the above. No doubt that sleep deprivation is the catalyst to the problem in its current state.

But that's just my point of why it's a more substantial problem-- sleep deprivation is realistically not going anywhere over the eighteen years of raising a child when one additionally has pain and health issues. So if your reaction to sleep deprivation is as problematic as aggressive harm toward a baby, or-- as you bring up-- psychosis, we need the big guns. Something more substantial than changing the way the baby sleeps or feeds.

I very much agree that professionals are needed. Thanks.

Oh, the horror! Where is my fainting couch?! And from this you start investigating your BF? Just break up with him now. He's not going to respect or esteem you any more because you keep such tabs on him.

Okay, this made me chuckle.

We're not trying to make light, OP, but it's true-- I'm guessing the "ups and downs" of your relationship are such that you are not capable of having normal trust with this guy-- no matter whose fault it was that started it.

Could these be signs of early dementia?

Ah.... very good catch. I should have asked that myself in my very first pass. Thanks.

OP? There are lots of ways that early dementia can show up that don't look like classic memory loss. Certain personality changes are one, too-- has FIL always been this way?

But the wife is the one who has created the situation by insisting on co-sleeping.

But we have no idea about that, really. Husband hasn't exactly been presenting other ideas on a platter. And let's face it, getting an infant to sleep without interruption is not something that just magically happens perfectly when you do it the "right" way, much as people want to believe it is so!

Huh? I feel like if the genders were reversed you'd be furious at the snooper. What if she decides she's uncomfortable with a friend he's had for 15 years? What if she decides she's uncomfortable with his mother or father? He has to cut the cord ? This person has control issues. Men and women can be friends and can flirt innocently. If he cheats then dump him. But control issues are control issues...

Hmm. I'm not sure I tend to get furious with anyone in this chat. Unless they threatened to take away my falafel. So I'm not sure where that's coming from.

You sort of are making my whole point-- this relationship is broken. I never said anyone had the right to snoop, just that indeed it was yet another indicator that this relationship has serious problems.


What actually seems more likely, that this guy is suffering from sleep deprived psychosis or that he has become an abusive jerk? Either way, definitely needs the help of a professional. But let's call an apple an apple. It is hard enough being in an abusive relationship without people minimizing and excusing.

This is definitely one of the most divisive issues we've seen in this chat. It seems that you and I very much agree that writing this off as something that will magically be fixed by "proper" sleep (which how many people with a baby actually ever report having?) is short-sighted, and potentially very dangerous. Thanks.

As much as LW1 may love their partner, I would suggest looking at the schools that are the best fit for you and the best for the field of study. If they happen to be in the partner's city, great! If not, I am sure the partner will understand that it is about the best fit for LW1's career goals.

Thanks for this vote.

I think what you are implying here is something I worry about as well-- that if LW chose to sacrifice by staying in a city they hated only because of their partner, the resentment alone could poison the relationship.

I'm starting to realize the entire issue is with my husband and that he needs to "man up" so to speak. I talked with my husband this morning again about everything and he said enough and to just forget about it. He's taking the head in the sand approach which is only frustrating me more and feels these are petty things that don't deserve a conversation. If my husband doesn't say anything I might just have to say something on my own and if I risk upsetting my father in law so be it. I can deal with the weight issue because for all I know he might not be able to help it but I've seen how he eats. I won't have someone disrespect me by their actions and sit back and take it. I refuse to let father in law know we're expecting and I've told my husband that he better keep his mouth shut because it won't be fair to me, or my family who also doesn't know. There is no medical condition he has about why he's not putting things away other than he's lazy. When we visited him at his house he did similar things where he expected me to clean up. It's really him being lazy.

Thank you for this update.

I do agree that at the heart of this issue seems to be your husband's unwillingness/inability to have some uncomfortable conversations with his Dad. But this issue won't go away on it own, much as he wants it too.

Do you see this conflict-terror (seems stronger than just conflict-avoidance!) in other ways with your husband? I really think this could be a very useful time, now that you are pregnant, for him to figure out ways to flex his Boundary-Establishing muscles-- even if it is awkward or difficult. Heaven knows that will be a muscle that will get a lot of use in raising a child.

Good luck.

No one in their right mind believes that. I'm just saying that the co-sleeping is a major component of the whole problem.

Oh, for sure. But I also think it illuminates an issue that will be ready to pounce when, say, the pain/health issue keeps him up at night too.

And last I checked, sleep deprivation doesn't have an empirically-validated effect of making you refuse to apologize or take responsibility for getting physically violent with your partner. I can't tell you how much I am bothered by that!

I'm late to this but can I say, it happens all over the world and children survive it. It's a very positive experience for many people. I had to with my first child (but not my second) because he wouldn't sleep any other way than on my chest for the first five weeks of his life. You posted a lot of people clutching their pearls over co-sleeping last week. How about a comment in support of it?

Consider it done!

(But man, now those pearls are going to be thrown at my face!)

How is pointing out that serious professional help is needed for the whole family "minimizing and excusing"??

Thanks for this potential defense-- but I think this poster was intending their comments for those who were saying it's only about sleep and that therapy wasn't needed.

(Hey, I've got to release myself from being targeted when I have the opportunity!)

What seems likeliest is that the whole situation needs work. This "either-or" is about as counterproductive as it can get. Babies keep their parents awake. It's a fact of life that needs to be dealt with, with the help of experts.

No doubt, this is not the time for a false dichotomy. Thank you.

Just want to highlight that there is a huge assumption that mom is insisting on co-sleeping. My husband is the one who insisted on keeping our son in our room way too long even though I'm the one who gets up. He also deals poorly with sleep deprivation and then complains that we kept him up all night because I was in the other room with the baby.

Yes. I haven't had a moment to read the original post but I also didn't know where that "She's insisting on it! What a hagbeast!" line of commenting came from.

It smelled bad to me, that's for sure.

...because, reading between the lines, he's got his wife washing the dishes, closing the doors, chasing down the dog, cooking, shopping, and managing the visit. OP, put down your pan and your mop, and tell your husband that he's in charge of his dad for the rest of the visit. My guess is that your husband will also have a better sense of his father's faults if his wife isn't smoothing the way for him.

What do you think, OP?


Really? Sleep deprivation in general gets way better after the baby is sleeping through the night. We have four kids, and can count on both hands the number of times we are woken up in the middle of the night in a year. If the baby has a health problem that is a different story. A giant red flag to me, is that the mom has unilaterally decided that the baby will be co-sleeping for the next few years, despite the harm it is doing to her husband's health and their marriage. She needs to compromise by agreeing to come up with a plan and timeline to transition the baby to it's own crib. Every day the baby stays in their bed past three or four months, is another day that she has spent sleep-training the baby to rely on her to settle it when it wakes. If they were both fine with that, then go for it. But it's not working for the baby or her husband, just her. If he is working a full-time job, his sleep is the priority at this point.

Here we go again with the "Mom unilaterally decided this." Where is this coming from?

The guy has health problems that keep him in pain. There will be sleep deprivation.

My hat is off to you with four kids who somehow got the memo to sleep. But I feel we're a little bit close to marching into "MyKidsDidItThisWaySoThatMustApplyToAllKids"ville.

I haven't seen a single post saying that. If sleep is the problem, therapy of some kind is the answer.

There was definitely someone who said therapy was not needed.

Perhaps it was last week, though. But I do feel like additional people have implied that.

For the wife, I would say, just do take a moment to understand that pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding hormones can affect your ability to withstand sleep deprivation. When I was breastfeeding I could get up with the baby, and immediately fall right back to sleep. And I never had that feeling of being jerked out of a deep, deep REM sleep. Now, my youngest is 6, and she just had a horrible week of waking up multiple times a night. I was HATING the world and everything in it. I woke up one morning and literally said to my husband "I hate the world and everyone in it." (kinda joking, but kinda not). When I was having work insomnia I had a fantasy of getting pregnant so I could sleep. The hormones MAY (it's different for everyone, but may) make it easier for you to deal with the sleep deprivation. Just another something to consider.

Right, but I'm going to assume you agree that no matter WHAT the cause of husband's inability to deal, getting physical with his wife and baby is a serious issue, right?

I spent a good deal of time in my ex-husband's hometown while we were married, and I sincerely think the last stint ruined our relationship. I hated it, cost of living was high, wages were low, quality of life nonexistent... I never would have thought that it could contribute so much to unhappiness. Tread carefully in the "moving" waters!

Thanks for this, though I am sorry you had to come about this wisdom in such a difficult manner!

It's so disrespectful that your husband won't stick up for you. I get not wanting to "rock the boat" but like Andrea said he needs to speak up now before it gets much worse. I give you credit for being able to bite your tongue this long. When my mother in law was around we had a similar issue and it got to the point where I'd loudly comment "time to load the dishwasher" and "damn I feel like a maid again". eventually she got the hint and started doing things for herself. Stop doing things for your father in law - make your husband clean up after him and as much as it will probably frustrate you do NOT put the his dishes away. Father in law is a grown ass adult and needs to start acting like it. Or worst care say you have a business trip if his "visit" keeps lasting and treat yourself to a hotel with a nice pool.

I can definitely get on board with her need to escape if nothing is done about the dynamic!


to the person who is not wanting to move back to bf's city. You have already decided, you don't want to admit that to yourself. If you loved him beyond all, you would move. You would make a home where he lives or he would move for you. You tried his home and didn't like it. OK that is fair. You hate the his city more than you love him and he loves his city more than you for him to move. So, take it off the grill, it is well done!

ha! Well, I might hold out a smidge more hope. Perhaps we will get an update!

If you keep the topic to "this work isn't getting done and it's a burden on the rest of us." You might encounter "well, I have to keep that position open," at which point you'll get a feel for how much the supervisor cares abut the situation. At that point you might ask what HR thinks of the social media postings about the physically demanding outings while someone is out on extended sick leave. The supervisor is probably already aware that you and this sick person are friends, not enemies.

Seems like a nice way to test the waters. Thanks!

" I can only use the excuse of going to bed by 9pm due to a headache or a rough day so many times" So stop using it. You don't owe this boor an excuse nor do you need to spare his feelings. I'm not suggesting you tell him off but just go to bed early every night if you want. I hope for your sake and his he will connect the dots and realize he's being boorish but I won't hold my breath for you.

It's a good point! Thanks!

My in-laws aren't nearly as stressful as the OP's, but they are loud, boisterous people who talk constantly, have opinions on everything (especially how other people run their homes), argue with every little thing anyone says, and talk over each other (and me!) ALL. THE. TIME. Like, every conversation is this immensely stressful turf battle with constant interruptions and bickering, and after a few days I feel like I've been ground up in the machinery and scattered on the floor. My husband doesn't see it, because it's normal to him (we're from somewhat different cultures, my family of origin tends to be more reserved). He does, thankfully, notice I get a lot of headaches and am usually verging on collapse by the time they leave. Telling him they stress me out doesn't work. He gets offended, and he argues that they're not so bad. What does work? Drawing some boundaries. "Honey, they're your parents, so you'll be in charge of entertaining them/getting the house ready/shopping/cooking/etc. It's not my job to manage your folks for you. I'll join you for meals." OP needs to stop being the person in charge of managing FIL's needs, and tell her husband it's time to step up. It's likely the FIL isn't as bothersome to him because he's dumped the guest management responsibilities onto his wife, and that's unfair. His dad, his deal.

Wonderful way of putting it. So glad that is working for you-- I think it's a great way for OP to go about it if husband is unwilling to intervene more directly.


If the OP had written a letter that was totally focused the fact that her husband has starting physically hurting her and her baby, we would all be saying that she has a responsibility to protect herself and especially the baby from him. But instead she focused on sleep, but let's not get side-tracked about the main point, which should be physical abuse of the wife and the baby.

Thank you!

I think we all agree that something needs to be done. I just hope that something involves something extremely more substantial than "Get that lady to stop co-sleeping!"

I will say for the record that household chores are split equally between myself and my husband. I tend to be home more because of my work schedule but on the weekends we're both dusting, cleaning, vacumming etc. We do have an equal partnership marriage. There's times I pick up more of the slack if he's under a big deadline just like there's times he's picked up more depending on my work load. I do like the idea of booking myself a hotel if this continues. It really is father in law just being lazy because his wife (who's deceased for 6yrs now) did everything and I think he's still in that mindset.

Gotcha. Thanks for this.

I am really glad that things feel so well-balanced when FIL is not around to rock the boat-- that makes working this out so much simpler.

I think this was mentioned last week but just to throw this out there. What is considered to be dangerous is bedsharing. Cosleeping can mean having a crib/bassinet/box in the same room. For some families, cosleeping works great others it doesn't. But that is clearly not the issue in this situation.

Thanks. As if this discussion wasn't hairy enough, it's not even clear what "co-sleeping" means to OP (not that people didn't make assumptions for themselves!)

Am I taking crazy pills? He is attempting to PHYSICALLY HARM A BABY and verbally and physically abusing his wife. I don't care how tired you are, that is NEVER okay. People need to stop justifying and excusing this now. Lots of people get tired and in pain. There is no excuse for abuse, especially attempting physical harm of an infant! It takes a second of mom not being fast enough to intervene for this man to permanently harm or kill a young child. What is wrong with people? Stop excusing this!

Thank you. Bottom line-- it's a very serious situation that shouldn't turn into a snipe-fest about best practices in getting one's baby to bed.

Phew! Another really active chat. I really do appreciate all who wrote in!

I look so forward to next week-- and hopefully all of us will get good sleep by then-- and will see you in the comments and on facebook in the meantime.

Take good care.

In This Chat
Dr. Andrea Bonior
Dr. Andrea Bonior is a licensed clinical psychologist and the voice behind Baggage Check since its start in 2005. She serves on the faculty of Georgetown University and is the author of the Publisher's Weekly best-seller "Psychology: Essential Thinkers, Classic Theories, and How They Inform Your World" and "The Friendship Fix.”
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