Do I Have to Play Host to My Daughter’s Jerk of a Husband?: Ask Harry and Louise

Our advice team argues over whether it’s familial duty to accept a crass son-in-law who already has an eye on the inheritance.

By: Harry Jaffe, Louise Jaffe

Dear Harry and Louise:

After a courtship that lasted many years, my daughter has married a fine fellow. They get along well, share the same values, live a comfortable lifestyle. They live out of town and came to visit over the holidays. They stayed in our guest bedroom, and we all got along rather well—at first. Midway through the week-long stay, my new son-in-law’s judgmental side started to show itself. He sneered that we left the television on too long, critiqued our choice of breakfast cereal, questioned how much time we spent on the phone talking to friends. But what really rankled me was his comments about our possessions. We happen to have an extensive and valuable art collection. He would point to a painting and ask, “How much is that worth?” He had the temerity to wonder out loud why we needed such a large home in an exclusive part of DC. What was the property worth? Why not sell it? And finally, he asked if we had prepared a will.

Why do I feel my daughter’s husband is digging a grave for my wife and me? Should I air my concerns to my daughter or keep them to myself?

Still Kicking

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HARRY SAYS:

No need to involve your daughter in this unfortunate situation. What’s important, as a father, is to honor her marriage to this fellow, no matter how badly he behaved with you. I am more swayed by how you describe their relationship. They get along well, share values, and live well together. That’s what you want for your daughter, and you should do anything to promote that kind of bond. On the flip side, try not to do anything that might put pressure on their young relationship.

Face it, my friend: You are on the way out. Your children are wondering what might be coming their way. This guy just has a crass way of expressing it.

Perhaps he should be put in his place, but you should do it man to man, if you need. Take him aside, put your arm around his shoulder, and tell him to enjoy your hospitality but refrain from commenting on your possessions. Be kind and bemused rather than perturbed.

I say “if you need,” because you need not say anything. Why not simply endure his comments, chalk them off to bad upbringing, and hope it passes?

Keep your daughter’s best interests at heart.

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LOUISE SAYS:

There is no way around it: Your son-in-law is a putz. He does not need to leave his personality at the door when he visits your home, but he certainly must leave his judgmental, inappropriately curious inquiries there. He is so out of line that it’s time to suggest he find alternative lodging when he visits again. This suggestion does not need to sound severe—just a simple, “We will all be more comfortable if you stay at the Topaz.” Don’t feel guilty about this. He came into your home and made you and your wife uncomfortable. That is a deal breaker. If he were simply broaching topics that elicit controversy (politics, religion, veganism), then my take would be different. I would tell you to buck up. To allow your home to be a venue of freedom of speech about any topic.

No, this guy is inappropriately picking on your interests, your aesthetics, and the way you choose to create your home. He must be granted permission to cross the threshold for limited times only. Sure, come for dinner. Let’s meet for drinks before the play. But after a short visit, you are out of here.

I know, I know. What about your daughter? Won’t this hurt her feelings? She is not naive. She realizes her husband is a putz and has made the decision to love him anyway. That is great, and you should wish them well. They can be well downtown. You can look forward to spending time with just your daughter while her hubby is doing something else during the visit, or you may see more of her during her solo visits, since dads should always have some time with their children alone. Just the idea of this guy sitting on your much-too-expensive-why-does-it-need-to-be-so-big sofa gets me rankled.

• • •


HARRY SAYS:

Hold off on those testosterone tablets, dear. Why should Kicking create drama in his daughter’s world just because his son-in-law might be a bit of a jerk? Where does she stay while he consigns him to a motel? What happens if they have kids? Would you have him chuck them, too? Take a chill pill.

• • •

LOUISE SAYS:

I did not suggest the husband be harangued, berated, or decked. He can simply find other accommodations when they are traveling together for a visit. In fact, separate sleeping arrangements will help ensure that further tension not arise. Hubby outside of their house may be charming and generous. Hubby inside their house creates a cauldron of tension. The older and wiser generation can see to it that nothing boils over. And they are not going anywhere, thank you, except to put their feet up and enjoy the fire in their capacious living room while admiring their Chagalls.