DEAR AMY: Do you think it is normal for a parent to be jealous of their partner’s love for their (shared) child? When my dad was alive, my mother would constantly get jealous of my relationship with him. I grew up a tomboy, and my father and I were very close. My mother would make comments that disgusted me, insinuating that our relationship was somehow in competition with their marriage. Recently, I became aware that this isn’t as unusual as I’d previously believed it to be. I hear and see comments from parents, jokingly or otherwise, stating they are jealous of the attention/affection their child gets from their partner. If things are truly unbalanced, I suppose I can understand it. But generally, I would think that a parent would love seeing their kid be adored by their partner. Am I missing something? I am childless and intend to remain so, therefore I do not offer my opinions to people who feel this way (except for my mother, who would sometimes apologize after making her comments). But inside, I can’t help but feel that jealousy, of all emotions, is immature for anyone, let alone in this dynamic. Can you offer some insight?
Confused by Competition
DEAR CONFUSED: I have news for you: Adults can be immature, and while many parents rise to the maturing process and challenge of having children — for others, the strain of folding another relationship into the family system causes them to act out.
If you think of a marriage relationship as a straight line between two points, adding a third point creates a triangle, and in the geometry of human relationships, the triangle is the toughest shape to navigate.
So yes, I believe that jealousy between partners is quite common. I’ve seen marital jealousy expressed regarding babies, children, house pets, close friendships, and a person’s career or hobbies. It can be tough to witness a child’s preference toward the other parent. But yes, mature and balanced people learn to not only tolerate, but celebrate this closeness.
DEAR AMY: Until recently I was close friends with a co-worker, until she told me (an animal lover) that she had moved and had abandoned her cat. I’ve ceased speaking to her, despite her attempts to regain our friendship. Should I give her another chance?
Unashamed Cat Owner
DEAR UNASHAMED: I agree that this is an outrageous and upsetting thing to learn about someone. I can understand why this knowledge has interfered with your friendship.
However, in a very loose analogy, you are doing something similar to what this friend has done. You are exiting without offering a reason, explanation or apology.
You have an opportunity to do some advocacy here, if you would be willing to communicate. You should tell this friend, “The reason I’m so chilly toward you is because I am frankly stunned that you would have abandoned an animal.”
You don’t mention if this person surrendered her cat to a shelter or left it by the side of the road (there is a difference). In my home county, our no-kill shelter will take in surrendered animals, no questions asked. And then lucky people (like me) can adopt them into good homes.
Explain your reasoning to this person, and — if this is a deal-breaker for you (it obviously is) — then tell her so.
People who abandon animals (or people) need to understand that this affects other relationships. On a deep level, a friend would wonder: If it is so easy for you to abandon a family member, what’s to prevent you from abandoning me?
DEAR AMY: I read with amusement the question from “Too Close!,” who thought that her husband and his sister sharing a bathroom mirror was inappropriate. I completely agree with your response, and I have a similar tale for you. My daughter-in-law is an earthy person and I love her dearly, but one day while my son and I were sharing a bathroom mirror, she came into the room, hesitated a moment, then said, “You’re both OK” — and commenced to sit on the throne for a pee. It was definitely outside of my comfort zone! What do you think?
DEAR AGHAST: To fracture a popular expression, this would definitely not be my “cup of pee” (so to speak).
You know those Road Runner cartoons, where the bird makes tracks so fast that its body is a blur?
That would be me.
I’ve enjoyed the responses to this question. They really underscore how individual the response is to bathroom-sharing.