TV’s Steph and Dom Parker, 53 and 55, draw on their 22 years of marriage to solve your relationship problems . . .
Q: My husband and I have been married for more than 40 years and I love him dearly. My problem is our two daughters — he is closer to them than he is to me.
We recently took the family away for a break. I’m the only teetotaller, and they seemed to spend all their time drinking.
One day, they started with wine at lunch and, after a nap, carried on. By 9pm I’d had enough and went back to the hotel.
An anonymous reader tells Steph and Dom Parker that her husband is closer to their two daughters than he is to her
I called him at 10.30pm to ask when he was coming home. He arrived back ten minutes later.
The next day he complained about me to our daughters, who joined in and said I was a pain and that we should’ve split up years ago.
Since then, my daughters and my husband have barely spoken to me.
I’ve spent the last few years looking after my grandchildren free of charge. I feel like leaving, but have nowhere to go.
Thank you very much for your letter and congratulations on such a long marriage — this is no mean feat!
I think you are faced with two different problems. The first is the perennial issue of tricky inter-family relationships.
We all know there can be different dynamics between mothers and sons and fathers and daughters.
It’s a cliché to talk about Daddy’s Girls and Mummy’s Boys, but it’s a cliché for a reason.
Your husband has a very close relationship with his daughters, and it’s different from their relationship with you.
I’m sure that’s quite hard to manage, and I feel you might be a little bit jealous.
Steph (pictured, with Dom) advised the reader to firstly talk to her grown-up sons about the situation
Perhaps the first step in combating this might be to accept that it’s totally normal for your husband to interact differently with his girls than he does with his wife.
In your longer letter, you complain that he calls them several times a day.
Well, I assume your daughters do ask after you on those calls, too. I’m sorry you’re feeling left out.
Which brings me to what I think is the main issue here. Simply put, you are suffering from not being part of The Gang. And that can be painful.
I’ve been at parties where everyone else has been drinking, but I’ve not touched a drop.
The sober person ends up on a different plane from everyone else, wondering what they’re all laughing about, thinking: ‘Why’s that funny? I don’t get it.’
The thing to realise is that your family are not deliberately excluding you.
What I think you should do is try to change your attitude and modify your behaviour a bit, too.
Of course, I’m not about to suggest you take up drinking. Instead, acknowledge that you won’t want to stay out late if they’re three sheets to the wind.
But rather than pouring cold water on their party, simply leave gracefully. Let them have their fun.
Don’t impose a curfew on your husband. Just slope off with a smile and a ‘see you later’.
You are pushing your children away by souring the end of their evening.
To get your daughters back on side, leave them be. Don’t tell them what to do, or what time to go home.
Accept there will be times when your socialising as a family works, and times when it doesn’t.
So retreat from them when they’re in party mode. Change your reaction — and they will, in turn, change their behaviour.
STEPH SAYS: wow! My jaw has just hit the floor. I am very concerned for you and am hugely respectful of you for writing to us.
In your longer letter, I can see that you have been a peacemaker, and a diligent wife, mother and grandmother.
But you have started to take the situation back into your hands. That is hugely important.
The first thing to note is that after all the years of bringing up your family, you now spend your time looking after your grandchildren.
I have no doubt you love to spend time with them, but it seems you get no gratitude.
I also have the impression that you have politely and quietly endured this treatment for some time.
Your husband is, without a doubt, behaving like a child by involving your girls. How they are treating you is also beyond the pale.
Your two boys clearly do not get involved.
Dom (pictured) advised the reader to consider that it might be normal for a father to interract differently with his girls than he does with his wife
Well, while I’m sure in one way you feel relieved they haven’t joined in, you are no doubt also upset they haven’t defended you. Keeping the peace by staying quiet is all well and good, but not when it is cruel behaviour.
To be honest all parties involved in your mistreatment are as guilty as each other, but for your husband to get your daughters to join in is so shocking to me that I am fearful of how he may next undermine you.
Relationships between parents and their children are sacrosanct. Along the way there are ups and downs, and as a family unit you all work to get through them.
But running through, there must always be respect for the parents. It is one thing to row with your children — all perfectly normal.
But to have a family divided in this way has to be addressed firmly.
Your husband’s behaviour is not that of a loving husband. If it were me, I would be devastated — and furious.
Firstly, talk to your sons. Ask for their support and their help in confronting your girls and then your husband.
I’d speak to each daughter separately and explain the damage their behaviour is causing.
Then it is time for a stern conversation with your husband. Be very strong. You must remind him that you are a couple, and, as such, your disagreements are yours alone.
Yes, you are parents, but that doesn’t mean you have forfeited your right to privacy.
Explain how you feel this is a deep betrayal of the bond between husband and wife.
Then tell him that, yes, your daughters are owed an apology, as are you. But it is for your husband to initiate, not make further conflict.
You deserve better than this, so please make sure you get it.