Dear Annie: My husband is a high-ranking officer in the military. He has worked hard to achieve his current position and is highly respected.
The problem is, his family treats him like a child. In a few months, there will be a formal ceremony to mark his change of command. My in-laws will be in attendance, and they are certain to embarrass him. They insist on calling him by his unusual childhood nickname (he cringes every time). They talk down to him and give him gifts meant for children, such as books for teen boys (last Christmas), a child’s backpack (last birthday) and now a child’s piggy bank, which they intend to present to him in front of his unit at the ceremony. These gifts are not intended as jokes. My husband is always gracious on the outside but horrified on the inside.
Is there some way to remind his family that he is indeed an adult and has certainly earned the right to be treated like one? – Proud Military Spouse
Dear Spouse: It is difficult to change ingrained behavior without the cooperation of all the people involved. Your husband apparently has determined that the best way to handle his parents is to leave things as they are. That is his choice. While we appreciate your desire to be supportive and protective, you might also be adding to his stress because your reaction is one of anger and embarrassment.
Ask your husband whether he wants you to talk to his parents. If he says no, we urge you to separate their behavior from your husband’s reputation. His patient tolerance of their inappropriateness says many positive things about the strength of his character.