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Advice & More March 2017

Ask Miss Nora

Old Dogs, Old Tricks

It’s never a good idea to fight manipulation with manipulation. If you’ve invested 30 years in the partnership, there must be something worth salvaging. Nevertheless, while I agree, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, I'm also a firm believer that you should never tease an old dog – because they might have one bite left!

Dear Miss Nora: I'm fed up with my husband’s complete lack of respect for me. Whenever we are in public, he pretends to be chauvinistic and dogmatic. He enjoys putting me down and pretends to be a womanizer. But when we’re at home, behind closed doors, he’s an angel and couldn’t be more helpful. I never need to ask him for help around the house or ask him to run errands, he just does it. He brings me small gifts and leaves me lovely notes.

I don’t understand why it all disappears when we are in front of people – even strangers!  We’ve been married for 30 years now and I've repeatedly asked him to stop it. I tell him how hurtful it is and how embarrassed I am but it all falls on deaf ears. How can I get him to stop? I'm tempted to leave to prove to him how serious I am. --Fed Up in Florida

Dear Fed Up:  Hmmm… there’s a lot going on in that letter. Tackling the important issue first, your husband has a huge inferiority complex that causes him to bully you in public as a coping mechanism. The brute! Your comment that he also pretends to be a womanizer is the most unacceptable of all his transgressions, though – I’ll get to that gem last!

I'm not sure which one is the truer character – the helpful cherub or the intimidating thug – but I caution you on leaving just to prove a point.  It’s never a good idea to fight manipulation with manipulation. If you’ve invested 30 years in the partnership, there must be something worth salvaging. Nevertheless, while I agree, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, I'm also a firm believer that you should never tease an old dog – because they might have one bite left!

So, instead, I recommend that you do what I did when Walt attempted to “teach me how to be a wife.” In the very beginning of our marital bliss, he had decided what type of wife I was to be and then set about instructing me on how I could best achieve his Shangri-La, falling just short of asking me to take classes! Also, like your two-faced groom, Walt felt entitled to express his macho side to our friends and family – particularly his mother, no less! Trust me, there's fewer things more pitiful in life than a man pretending to be tough in front of his mommy.

Anyway, at the end of one of his first long-winded “it’s all about me” sermons, I’d had enough and recited my list of needs, wants and wishes once he’d exhausted his litany and informed him that if he felt entitled to a bowing, scraping serf of a wife, he should first be prepared to perform as the ideal, doting husband to get it. I further cautioned that he should choose his audience wisely the next time he decided to flex his chauvinistic muscle in public – two can play at that game.

Secondly, you're not entirely blameless in all this. As the saying goes, we teach people how to treat us. Somewhere along the line you’ve given permission for your husband to behave as a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde without any real consequences. As minors, it’s reasonable to feel intimidated by someone without knowing how to handle it.  However, as an adult, you should have set better standards for yourself and insisted on better treatment from the beginning. Whatever the final straw was, I can only imagine, but, do some self-searching and revisit the decision to ever accept such maltreatment – from anyone, let alone your life partner.

And finally, pretending to be a womanizer is as bad as being one! Warn Romeo that the next time he insinuates his adultery, you’ll insinuate his inability to satisfy even one woman, let alone the stand-ins … and again, he should choose his audience wisely!

 

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