Father in law insulted me
September 16, 2014 11:24 AM   Subscribe

Is it time to chat with my father in law about how he feels in regards to my income and supporting his daughter?

So recently my wife and I bought a new car...the car is for me though my wife might drive it on occasion. We both work full time. On average we make about the same income. My income fluctuates because I'm self employed. So some years I actually make a lot more then she does, and others I make slightly less. We've always been great about sharing our money and never making large purchases without discussing it. Anyways, the other day we were on the phone with my father in law telling him about the new car. His first comment is, "So how's the car the kid bought you". I was having trouble understanding him so I asked him to repeat it. And he said again..."How's the car she bought you". I was really dumbfounded. I responded saying what do you mean? My wife quickly jumped in and said all of the money we make is OUR money. At that point I basically sat in silence. I was so mad. More importantly I'm trying to figure out what's really behind his words. To me it seems like the subtext here is my daughter makes all the money and you go out and buy a new car for yourself. Which is just totally not the case. This past year I made double what she made. Also, just some other food for thought...I brought a large some of money into the marriage way more then her. But in the end it doesn't matter....we are on totally equal ground financially as far as I'm concerned. I really really wanna say something to him. I feel like what he said was just so rude. But it's odd because for most part he's never seemed to have a problem about my income. I decided not to say anything back because I wanted to take some time to think about it. But it's unacceptable. If he has a problem with my income he should talk to me about it. I don't know what to do. Any thoughts? Just let it go? Or talk to him?
posted by ljs30 to Human Relations (50 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
Unless you have a tense relationship for other reasons, I would assume it was a joke and let it go.
posted by something something at 11:29 AM on September 16, 2014 [15 favorites]


I doubt any good can come of you talking to your father-in-law about this. Ignore him or have your wife speak with him.
posted by dfriedman at 11:30 AM on September 16, 2014 [26 favorites]


Unless there is a history of comments about this, I would let it drop. People say stupid things without thinking about it, and there's seldom a lot of upside to trying to hash them out.
posted by mercredi at 11:30 AM on September 16, 2014 [12 favorites]


Let it go, this time. But if he does it again, call him out right then and get it discussed.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:31 AM on September 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


You sound a bit paranoid about this, actually.

I agree with treating it as though it were a joke, as something something suggests. If he brings it up again, just say, "I love it! Your daughter's finally keeping me in the manner I've always wanted to become accustomed to!"
posted by GoLikeHellMachine at 11:31 AM on September 16, 2014 [62 favorites]


Let it go. I think it was a terribly awkward attempt at a joke, probably based on outdated information. I think your silence and your wife's correction was the right response and you should consider the matter closed.
posted by bleep at 11:31 AM on September 16, 2014 [23 favorites]


Meh. Doesn't sound to me like a hill I'd make my stand on. If it happens again and it bothers you that much, maybe talk to him, but I'd say drop it for now.
posted by pyro979 at 11:31 AM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


Let it drop, he was making a bad joke. The only people whose opinions matter in this arrangement are you and your wife.
posted by Think_Long at 11:31 AM on September 16, 2014 [3 favorites]


I'd let it go, or have your wife talk to him. You don't need to be feuding with your in-laws (unless they are hurting her... in which case disengagement from them is probably a better plan).

As long as both you and your wife are comfortable with the way your finances work, and you've both got protection in case of disaster (death of the other party, disability of either party, or divorce), who cares what anyone else thinks?

Your FIL should mind his own business. If he keeps making comments like that, I'd just tell him to do just that.
posted by sparklemotion at 11:32 AM on September 16, 2014


Next time he makes any comment of this sort, give him a long look directly in the eyes. Do not break away your glance. Wait for him to say something or slink away.

That should do it.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:34 AM on September 16, 2014 [6 favorites]


You wife just needs to gently say "Hey dad, SO was kinda hurt when you assumed I bought that car for him." Pause, BIG SMILE, "last year he made twice as much as me!"
posted by raisingsand at 11:37 AM on September 16, 2014 [27 favorites]


For many people - I know certainly in my own family - it would not be acceptable, culturally, for the man and woman to be equal income-contributing partners in a marriage. The expectation is that the man will be able to "support" his wife. So even if you are on totally equal ground financially, if your father in law has these expectations, you are actually behind, because you are expected to be on higher ground.

In addition, post marriage, if these cultural expectations are operating, the husband is expected to have the more stable employment. If your employment fluctuates while hers does not, within those cultural expectations, she would be considered to be the responsible partner in the marriage while you would not. This could grate on a guy like that, who wants his daughter to be well provided for.

Only you know if this is a reasonable cultural expectation for him. If it is, I think it is important to address, but not in a "I'm offended" way, but more, "This is a thing your daughter likes" way - and it should come from her, not you.
posted by corb at 11:38 AM on September 16, 2014 [6 favorites]


If your self-employed career involves anything with the internet, even tangentially, and you are not Facebook or Amazon or Google, he probably thinks you're broke as balls.

I've run into this a lot. A lot of the older generation (even people I think are young! like in their 50s!) has this total wat about how the younger-person economy works. The internet is a nebulous, scary place where either you're talked about on Fox News every night or you draw pictures and click buttons.

There's really no way to reason with that, so just ignore him.

And like, I get it. I do. My dad has been making the same joke since I was sixteen that [mom of this family I babysat a lot for growing up] bought me my car. This person works with my dad, so every time there's a gathering of work folks he drops it. And this is The Thing they know about me. I meet some of his random coworkers and they're all "oh, so YOU're the one who [name] bought the car for!" because they don't realize that my dad was joking. She bought me my car in the same way that I raised her kids. I earned that money working and bought my own car. But he makes this joke and it completely diminishes the fact that I had been working and saving since I was 11. Pisses the absolute crap out of me.

Anyway, try not to let yourself get hung up about it. Dads gonna dad.
posted by phunniemee at 11:40 AM on September 16, 2014 [35 favorites]


Sounds like something my dad would say. He'd say it not because he doesn't like [husband], but because he's proud of me for working hard and earning a living, and happy that he was able to provide the foundation for me to learn and grow into a productive adult. Don't take it too personally.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 11:46 AM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


i would joke right back at him "the car she bought for me is terrific, thank you. it's so great being a kept man, just occasional light housework and wild monkey sex, and she has one of our generation's most legendary studs available any time she snaps her fingers. how are things over at your place?"
posted by bruce at 11:48 AM on September 16, 2014 [10 favorites]


My wife quickly jumped in and said all of the money we make is OUR money.

Since your wife sided with you, there is no real issue here. If he wants to make an ass of himself and alienate his daughter, that's on him (assuming it really is a gripe with him, and not light-hearted humor, taken wrong). This would only be a big problem if she sided with daddy against you.

Times they are a-changing. Some older men are having trouble adjusting. If your wife doesn't turn it into an issue, it isn't an issue if dad-in-law is failing to keep up with the times and has these old fashioned values. My dad was like that. It was never an issue in my marriage.
posted by Michele in California at 11:50 AM on September 16, 2014 [8 favorites]


1. It is totally your wife's job to interface. You should say nothing (good job), and she should have a talk with him about whether either of your incomes is any of his business (it's not) and whether that's a subject that can be discussed (probably not).

2. I think you're right to be upset. He questioned your basic ability to provide for yourself, and that is a huge slur. That is NOT ok, nor is it OK to insinuate about the money arrangements between your wife and you.

I am female, and my (m) partner is in more or less a similar boat (though the overall isuess are genderless). I would hit the ceiling if either of my parents got even close to that remark.
posted by Dashy at 11:51 AM on September 16, 2014 [12 favorites]


It was a shitty thing for him to say and claiming it was a joke doesn't make it less shitty. Since you and your wife are okay with your personal finances, try to not care what he thinks. You won't argue your way into him respecting you. Do you really want his respect? If this is not a pattern, you should let it go. If it is a pattern, it is his problem and not yours.
posted by soelo at 11:52 AM on September 16, 2014 [4 favorites]


I have experience with people viewing freelancing as kind of a fake job. Just ignore it and live your life well, best revenge, etc.
posted by rhizome at 12:03 PM on September 16, 2014 [7 favorites]


My husband and I both come from families that have one or two members who will intentionally say jerk things because they are jerks. It's really a lot better to let the person who is directly related (in this case, your wife) handle the person who said something mean. When my brother is a jerk and I tell him, "Knock it the hell off", it's my brother and I and our long standing sibling rivalry and I can just say that and no one else in the family will get weird about it (and will most likely back me up). However, if my husband tells my brother to "knock it the hell off", it suddenly A Thing and Needs to Be Discussed. (/eyeroll). The same thing happens in reverse with me and my husband's family.

Your wife handled it. It's her dad, it's ok for her to handle it. I'd let it go.
posted by RogueTech at 12:11 PM on September 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


I was so mad.

Whatever issues your FiL might have, this whole situation sounds a lot like something has been bothering you. Are you bothered, on some level about your varying income? Because if you're sitting there stewing like a pot of gumbo all mad and what not, then you gotta ask yourself why are you so mad?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:19 PM on September 16, 2014 [13 favorites]


Whether he meant it as a dumb joke or as a mean jab, the best response is to ignore it.
posted by mskyle at 12:19 PM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


I know this is easier said than done - but just ignore the stupid in law comments.

People say stupid things when they are ignorant about a situation. It was shitty of him and underhanded, and there is nothing nore worse than someone who won't just come out and say what their problem is.

You two have your own thing worked out and it's WORKING for you -- so let it go, it's not worth you getting upset over.
posted by Sara_NOT_Sarah at 12:19 PM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


I agree with letting this go but I also want to chime in that this sounds particularly deliberate, to me. I'd be mad too.
posted by ftm at 12:23 PM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


I would be inclined to leave my hurt at the door and address this factually, if you choose to address it. I would address him by phone in the tone of voice one uses with children who are not as bright as you'd hope:

"FiL, I wasn't really amused by the comment you made about Wife buying a car for me. I'm sure you meant it as a joke, but I want to be perfectly clear here: I earn twice what she earns but whatever anyone makes in a year, it's shared. It's family income. So, was there anything you wanted to bring up with me about that?"

And I would emphasise the word family, because you and your wife are a family, and also because I'm a bitch.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:27 PM on September 16, 2014 [6 favorites]


There are a lot of things wrong with that one thing your FIL said to you. Why is he referring to his daughter as "the kid"?

If it were me, I would file it away to be used (or not) at a later day and time and not say anything right now. But, one day I would slip in something to him that lets him know you don't appreciate his bullshit.
posted by 724A at 12:29 PM on September 16, 2014


My only question is: what has your wife been telling her dad about your finances?

The only real problem is if she's unhappy and complaining to her dad about it instead of coming directly to you. And the issue isn't really "what have you been telling your dad?!" It's "Babe, how do you feel about our finances? Because if you've been going to your dad about it, it means you've been unhappy and haven't given me a chance to fix it - that worries me more than what your dad thinks. Is there anything about our financial lives, or my work, that you want to talk to me about?"
posted by vitabellosi at 12:31 PM on September 16, 2014 [14 favorites]


You should talk to your wife about how her dad making that snide comment to you makes you feel, because it's clearly messing you up. The two of you should decide together what if anything to do about it.
posted by edbles at 12:34 PM on September 16, 2014 [4 favorites]


Ignore. Anything else makes you sound insecure and defensive. Unless your father-in-law is your accountant, he has no business knowing how much you or your wife earn.
posted by kat518 at 12:35 PM on September 16, 2014 [4 favorites]


I agree with people who think it was a deliberate barb. Your FIL sounds like one of those people who doesn't believe in self-employment and working from home. I bet he's one of those people who would put air quotes around the word "work" when he's talking about you.

And that's why I think your wife said the wrong thing. Saying "all of the money we make is OUR money" reads as her jumping in to say "my salary is OUR salary". Which is totally true and everything, but doesn't really work in terms of correcting the bad assumptions inherent in your FIL's comments. It would have been more helpful for her to say you earned most of the money last year, or something to that effect. Though that's still a bit icky as it's really none of his business.

I reckon the best response would have been: "I'm sorry, are you implying that I didn't make a financial contribution to the purchase of the car?" followed up by "What gives you that idea?" followed up by "How interesting."
posted by yogalemon at 12:35 PM on September 16, 2014 [16 favorites]


Also re: If he has a problem with my income he should talk to me about it.

I disagree. It's his problem. How would that conversation go? "Do you think I should make more money?" "Yes." Then what? Are you going to show him your bank statements? W2s? 1040s? No. Because you don't have to deal with his problem. He does.
posted by kat518 at 12:39 PM on September 16, 2014 [3 favorites]


i think you need to talk with your wife and make sure this isn't an impression he has because she's dissatisfied with something about your work or earnings. i don't see any benefit in discussing this with your father in law.
posted by nadawi at 12:58 PM on September 16, 2014 [7 favorites]


To me it seems like the subtext here is my daughter makes all the money and you go out and buy a new car for yourself. Which is just totally not the case

Yabbut so what if it were the case. You make it very clear that you earn lots of money, that sometimes you earn a lot more than she does but occasionally she earns a little more than you do. It sounds like you're keeping track; your FIL might have picked up on that.

It was a jerky and weird comment, probably rooted in out-of-date ideas about gender roles, but hey, there's nothing inherently wrong in someone buying you a car. Try to move on.
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:19 PM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


I can think of very little good that can come from doing this other than being able to say, "I got this off my chest".

There has been a certain amount of friction between me and my in-laws and it was due to a matter over which neither of us particularly has a great deal of control (like you). I don't have to like how they have behaved and I have spoken with my spouse about it and it is what it is.

There is, however, a great deal of value in keeping the peace. The likelihood of causing a blow-up between me and them or me and my spouse in the aftermath of chewing them out (or even just pointing it what's going on) is totally not worth it. Or stated another way, is it worth it to put your spouse in a position of have to choose between you and her parents on this matter?
posted by plinth at 1:30 PM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


When dealing with one's relatives, co-workers, and supervisors, I find that it pays to pick one's battles wisely. This is not a battle I would choose to fight. Lots of people (myself included) say stupid shit without thinking about it.
posted by alex1965 at 1:43 PM on September 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


There's probably no upside to engaging this. If he's developed some notion about your respective incomes it's unlikely you're going to talk him out of it. Meanwhile if he meant what you think he meant (and it's really not clear that he did) there's any number of ways that he could evade it - claim he wasn't implying anything, claim he was joking. He can brush it off and make you look like the one who is starting arguments.

If it starts to become a recurring issue, maybe you need to address it, but one odd offhand comment definitely isn't worth getting into some weird potentially fractious conversation over, and whatever you do talk it out with your wife first. You're married to her, not him, and the important thing is that you two are happy with your finances.
posted by nanojath at 1:46 PM on September 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


I wouldn't waste any time trying to figure out "what's behind his words". You have no control over how he thinks or what he says. I would invest that time trying to figure out, as Brandon Blatcher suggests, what's behind your intense "I was so mad" reaction.

On a cold reading, to me you sound really insecure and defensive about your finances and your FiL's opinion of same.

Just let it go. That's the best way to indicate to him that both of you are blase about his perceptions of you and consider all your income joint income.

Clarifying to him that you brought more money to the marriage or last year you made twice as much as she did, or that his comment was "unacceptable" just says to me that, actually, who contributes what actually IS important to you.
posted by bimbam at 2:13 PM on September 16, 2014 [6 favorites]


Have you and your wife spoken about it? If it's bothering you so much, discuss it with her. It's great that she jumped in to correct her father as it's her responsibility to deal with her family. If I were his daughter, I'd be pissed that my Dad so freely disrespected me and my partner, but I'm not sure I'd bother to tangle with someone who sounds like a rude old codger who can't get his head out of a very old-fashioned POV.
posted by quince at 2:18 PM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


Your FIL was out of line. He was breaking your balls, no two ways around it. You have a couple of options, ignore it, because who cares what an asshole thinks. This is what you should do now, since the time for snappy comebacks has faded.

Next time he tries to break your balls, do a little breaking right back. "Gee Oog, how was the dinosaur hunt today? Catch any brontos?"

At the end of the day, the idea that you owe him some sort of accounting of what you and your wife earn...it's horrible bullshit and you've bought into it to some degree because you want to justify it to him. Who cares who made more than who this year? You are a married couple and your finances are yours to deal with.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 3:20 PM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


Your FIL was being a dick.

Confronting him about his rudeness may be momentarily satisfying but will do nothing but potentially sour your relationship with him. You can't completely write him off, because he is your FIL and that would hurt your wife.

Ignore him. Why do you give a damn about what he thinks anyway? Your wife's opinion is what matters here, and you are all good there.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:34 PM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


I agree that this is irritating as hell, but at some level it's also a game where he tosses something at you that you can throw right back in his face: 'huh, I'll let you know if I ever get to actually drive it!' or 'it's great! Thanks for sending her to that fancy school; when she gets her next promotion, I might be able to take a couple of years off!' and so on -- and if you really want to make him uncomfortable, weave in some allusion to how desirable she is: 'it's a lot of fun to drive, and working has kept her trim, too!"
posted by jamjam at 5:53 PM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


Old folks say irritating things. My mom and dad are primo at it. And I learn to grin and let go.
Let your wife handle it. She will know if it was just a bad joke or if it had a barb in it, and she will know how to deal accordingly. I promise.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:27 PM on September 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


The worst way to respond to someone criticizing your masculinity is to do something un-masculine. Let it go. Man up and don't respond. Or go one up and joke back.
posted by myselfasme at 6:34 PM on September 16, 2014


Why does he have any knowledge of your household income at all? No one should be sharing this with him. Then if he makes these silly remarks you'll know that it's not based on any inside knowledge of how well your business did that year and it's just a really unfunny joke. Leave this one to your wife to deal with privately. "Dad, I know you were joking but for the record I did not buy that car for him. I think you don't understand that he's good at what he does and his company does just fine."
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 6:39 PM on September 16, 2014


Did she pay more than the shared amount? Was it a gift for a special occasion? Maybe he just interpreted that she gave it to you (if it was a gift). You did say that the "car is for me", perhaps he interprets it as such.
posted by jellyjam at 7:08 PM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


For many people - I know certainly in my own family - it would not be acceptable, culturally, for the man and woman to be equal income-contributing partners in a marriage. The expectation is that the man will be able to "support" his wife. So even if you are on totally equal ground financially, if your father in law has these expectations, you are actually behind, because you are expected to be on higher ground.

In addition, post marriage, if these cultural expectations are operating, the husband is expected to have the more stable employment. If your employment fluctuates while hers does not, within those cultural expectations, she would be considered to be the responsible partner in the marriage while you would not. This could grate on a guy like that, who wants his daughter to be well provided for.


I don't know what your and your partner's cultural backgrounds are, but in my world Corb knocked this one out of the park. There are a lot of people out there for whom the scenario you describe is one of a dude getting taken care of by his wife in a very demeaning way. I'm not defending that at all, even one iota, but like Corb describes it's really common and is for many people a rock solid cultural belief.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:48 PM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm another one who thinks you should just drop it and forget about it. If your FIL brings it up again, have your wife to talk him about it. To me, the problem is not even that FIL thinks you don't make (enough) money, but that he thinks it matters at all which of you makes more money. And that is usually a very deeply seated value that you aren't going to change.

The thing is: Even if you're not the financially stable one, or the one making less money, or you only make enough for your spending money, or you brought only debt into the marriage, so what? What does that signify if you and your partner are happy with your arrangement? Why does it matter what anyone else thinks of your financial decisions as long as they are financially sound?

My husband earns a respectable salary, but it is notably less than mine. When people even try to bring it up--which they don't, if they know me at all well--I just smile and say how lucky I am to have him and point out his numerous and overwhelming contributions to our life and to my happiness, most of which aren't dependent on money. I also point out that I *like* having a career, and it's really wonderful to have a partner who understands and supports that, and part of the support means that he has to take a lesser-paid job because he won't work overtime, doesn't need the stress, and can't move around to find the best paid job. (For the record, we tried it when he worked 60+ hours a week, and it did not work out.)
posted by ethidda at 5:21 AM on September 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


Sounds like a joke that landed badly.

The real question isn't so much what he meant by it but what on earth you stand to gain by making a fight out of this?

You clearly have a lot of sensitivity to this subject, that kind of emotional investment is not going to help you say something level headed or reasonable to him. Look at this on paper from his side, he makes a tiny joke, you blow up and get feelings and try to make it his problem. You are not going to look heroic in the retelling of that story.
posted by French Fry at 6:34 AM on September 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


It's upsetting to discover that someone in your life who you thought appreciated you does not in fact appreciate you. And it's tempting to react in some way to "set him straight" and so on.

However, in line with the wise advice given above and in light of the context you've described, your best bet is to pretend you didn't notice the insult. It's hard to see what good could come of calling him out on this, or having your wife do so in your behalf.

By all means take note of this event, file away in your mind the information it represents, but do not react to it out of anger. You could also consider forgiving him - he's old, his time is past, you're still out in the world doing things, he might be a little envious or something.

Finally I would concentrate most on how your wife reacted. She backed you up, unprompted - that's gold.

Let it go, move on, enjoy your wonderful marriage and your life.
posted by Pechorin at 7:59 AM on September 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


I don't see how there's anything to be gained from confronting him about this. Also, starting a conflict with him goes contrary to one of my personal rules for relationships, which is:

People often have an easier time forgiving their parents for provoking their S.O. than they do forgiving their S.O. for taking the bait and engaging in a fight.

This even applies to private conversations with your S.O. you may have yourself. My wife, for instance, can say all manner of stuff about her mom to me, but if I say the same things, even in the context of agreeing--for example, "You're totally right, your mom is being ___________"--I can get bit in the ass for it.

99.99% of the time when dealing with in-laws, it's better to high road it and suck it up.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:33 AM on September 17, 2014


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