There are a lot of things that I do not like about
my dad. He can be very condescending and a bit
of a chauvinist. I do not like the way that he speaks to my mother. She is kind and gentle, and my dad talks to her as if she’s some type of indentured servant. I’m married now, and I find myself sometimes speaking to my wife in a similar manner. I don’t mean to — and she checks me on it every single time. I’m glad that she does. How do I avoid becoming my father? I realize that it’s probably something I’ll have to actively work against in my marriage. — Dad Habits
DEAR DAD HABITS: It’s time for you to get thera- py. People commonly take on the behavioral charac- teristics of their parents as that is what they wit- nessed growing up. To break such ingrained pat- terns of behavior, you should get professional help. Talk to a therapist about your life, your observations of your father, your own behavior with your wife and your desires for yourself. Be as transparent as possible. The more you share, the easier it will be to come
up with a plan of action that will help you to self regulate your behavior. Enlist your wife’s support in this. If she knows that you see your flaws and are prepared to tackle them, she may be able to support your journey.
Be mindful of casting blame on your father. That will help nobody. Instead, focus on yourself, and work to control your thoughts, words and deeds.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I’ve recently started designing shirts and selling them online. When my girlfriend doesn’t like a design I’ve come up with, she’ll laugh and make fun of me. Her criticism is never helpful and always just makes me feel small. Is this grounds to end our relationship? — Hurtful Words
DEAR HURTFUL WORDS: Invite your girlfriend to sit down and talk seriously with you. Remind her of how com- mitted you are to your new business and ask her for her support. That doesn’t mean you want her to be a yes-person, but tell her that it hurts your feelings when she behaves in a dismissive and mocking way about your work. Ask her to stop laughing at your designs. Instead, if she would like to offer constructive criticism, you are all ears.
Point out that you believe that she may have some insights that are worth considering, and you want to hear her, but it is impossible for you to know how to react when she makes fun of your work rather than offering any real evaluation. Tell her that you are willing to hear her criticism if she can begin to offer it in a thoughtful way. If not, ask her to keep her derision to herself.
Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initia- tive to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to askharriette@harriet- tecole.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.