Elderly In-Laws Are a Problem – Or Is He?

By Amy Dickinson | December 29th, 2023

Their son-in-law has lost patience with them, and with his wife

a man scolding his elderly in-laws. By Iakov Filimonov

His wonderful elderly in-laws complain that their son-in-law has no patience for them, and his wife is complaining as well. See what advice columnist Amy Dickinson says about the possible problem in this situation.

Dear Amy:

My in-laws are wonderful people. They are now elderly. Their complaint over the past five years is that I have no patience with them. This has bled over into my relationship with my wife, who complains that I always have to be the smartest person in the room.

Couples counseling proved unfulfilling and solved nothing, because things are even-keeled in our marriage until her parents become involved.

How do you go about finding a good psychotherapist? I have not had much luck in doing so. After all, I apparently have a serious problem.

I have come to believe that I am incompatible with the human race.

– Incompatible

Dear Incompatible:

Reading somewhat into your query, I sense a distinct “smartest person in the room” vibe. (But wait – this is supposed to be my room!)

So first, this: Successful counseling depends to a large degree on you surrendering to the process. This requires a level of humility, along with a willingness to work the program, as well as submitting to a sincere desire to change.

It is impossible to do this if you believe (or know for a fact) that you are smarter than your therapist, and if you hold onto this belief as a core value.

Is it possible to be smarter than your counselor, and yet still respect the idea that they might know more about counseling people than you do? If so, then finding a competent counselor shouldn’t be too hard. (You can find a therapist through personal recommendations, your physician, your local university, or various online databases. I recommend and use the American Psychology Association’s therapist locator at locator.apa.org.)

You say that things are absolutely fine until your elderly in-laws test your patience. I submit that things in your own household might not be fine, and that your marriage could improve – as long as you and your wife are motivated to deal with your stressors and improve your dynamic.

So – do you want to change? Or would you really prefer it if your wonderful elderly in-laws changed in order not to be quite so taxing to your patience?

Here’s a truth: Your elderly in-laws will not change in ways that favor your preferences. Instead, they will continue to change in ways that test you.

I wonder if you are smart enough and brave enough to pass this series of tests.

That will be up to you.

Want to get even more life tips from Amy? Read more of her advice columns here!

In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart – ranging from relationships with elderly in-laws to dark family secrets and DNA surprises. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers. You can email Amy Dickinson at askamy@amydickinson.com or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068.

©2023 by Amy Dickinson

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