Comments about ‘Ask Angela: I don't like how my future husband treats his mom’

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Published: Monday, Jan. 6 2014 5:00 a.m. MST

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If I read the problem correctly, the issue was how he treated his mother with dishes being the main example. The overall impression she received was of a family that discounts/ignores the mom. I think Angela's suggestion to invite him to help was spot on. She'll learn a lot from the response. Discussions about "how did things work in your house while you were growing up" will also be illuminating. Ask: what kinds of chores did you have growing up, what did you/your family do for fun, tell me about your grandmas (cousins, parent's sibs), what kinds of vacations did you take as a kid, etc. All can elicit unguarded information about who your guy really is and his family dynamics.

Do keep your eyes and heart open. He may never be the dish guy, but as others have suggested, looking at how he treats a variety of people and observing what he does do overall will give a more complete picture of the man. And FYI, if your focus in marriage is going to be his faults and short comings, he might be the one who needs the running shoes.

Vienna, Austria

"He knows I'm pretty progressive as far as relationships and he's pretty progressive too..."

Mmmm, let's not be too sure. Let actions, not declarations, decide. In courtship, when we put on our best faces to please our beloved, scenarios like this often play out:

She (or possibly he): "I love hiking and camping. It's wonderful to get out in nature."
He (or possibly she), having never thought much about it: "Yeah, me too. We have so much in common!"

Then a few years into marriage, he (or possibly she) suddenly explodes: "No! Enough with the camping already. I hate the mosquitoes / ticks / heat / cold / blisters / marauding bears. Do what you want, but I'm sleeping in my bed this weekend."

I once happily flipped my views on an issue when I learned that my new sweetheart was an activist for the opposition. That lasted about 9 months, until she tried to get me to donate to what she believed was "our" cause. To my own dismay, I heard myself blurt, "I think they have enough money already."

Don't pay attention to how "progressive" he talks. Pay attention to how "progressive" he acts.

Farmington, UT

1) If the entire family is this way, did they learn that from their parents, who didn't teach them to help each other with chores? Was there an understanding that after the meal the men were free to talk among themselves and the women would rather just have them talk together than have a huge crowd in the kitchen?
3) Does he marginalize his mom in other ways, yell at her, treat her in a demeaning manner, or purposely make her unhappy?
4) Did his mom ask for any help and he still refused to give it?
4) How did the dad react?

I know two men that have had three wives, one still married to the third; one divorced three times and since passed away.

The first one yelled and demeaned his mother, later his wife. It made me sick. She finally divorced him. His 3rd wife stood up to him when he tried to bully her and he folded like wet toilet paper, treating her better.

The deceased one was stingy and selfish with money because he was always poor growing up and horded all the (his) money. Neither man was a very good husband in 5 instances; thankfully one finally changed.

Farmington, UT

Additional thoughts:

How does he treat his sisters, aunts, cousins, grandparents, nephews and nieces, etc?

How does he treat you? What about your friends?

Is he putting on a front for you and your family but being a different person (himself) at his family?

Is he kind to children he doesn't know, such as at the store?

Orem, UT

It's true that how he treats his mother is the best indicator of how a man will treat his future wife, but I also like the question suggested by Daniel Leifker, "Why does your family do things this way?" Division of labor is useful but shouldn't be absolute. Because this young woman has herself been simply left with the clean-up by her fiancé without explanation, I would advise her to be VERY leery of continuing her relationship with him.

Medical Lake, Washington

Many interesting and valuable comments here.

Not sure what could be added. I do know that I would personally be concerned if I saw a parent; especially a mother not treated well. My grandfather and my father both insisted that mothers be given total respect.

I also believe that people can always improve. Sometimes a person may not be malicious in their actions, just lazy or unaware. Like some suggested, discuss the issue and then see what results follow. Go from there.


I just want start by saying that I read the questioner's letter to be using the dishes as one example of an overall pattern, not the only thing she observed. Communication is great, and they need to establish a mutually comfortable flow of communication before they even get engaged.
Having said that, actions speak truer than words. It is very easy to say yes, that is how I feel too, or I believe thus and such. It is much more reliable to see a person acting on those feelings and behaving according to those beliefs. If their words don't match up with their actions, then the actions are more trustworthy.
The writer should be judging. Not judging her boyfriend, but judging what her priorities are in life. No one is the "perfect" spouse, but some traits will be an unbearable burr under the saddle for some people, and thus must be avoided.
The letter seemed to be describing a burr to me. The writer needs to carefully observe her intended's actions over time before committing to anything. She should also be hoping and praying that he is doing the same regarding her actions.

Ontario, OR

"How he treats his mom" includes so much more than helping clear a table! Did he thank her for the meal? Did he seem comfortable conversing with her at dinner? I was always awkward about offering to help after a meal. Then, in my 50s, I married my second husband. After a ward dinner, I was standing around chatting and noticed that my husband was in the kitchen, washing dishes -- or getting a broom or vacuum to clean up the floor. When the brethren put away chairs after a meeting, he's the first to start working. His example has changed my habits. I've learned to jump in, or at least to ask a hostess what I can do to help. I'll bet anything this young man's dad just sat there or retired to the living room. In this young lady's place, I'd say, "Shall we help your mom?" His response would say a lot.

language fan
longview, wa

This is not about dishes. This is about fairness and equality. It's a question about how much he will expect of you and how much he will give to you. You can't tell those things from a small amount of information. You need to talk with him, but not just about dishes.

It sounds like you are very worried you could get locked into an unequal relationship and feel like a servant. Naturally, no one wants to feel that way. It is unlikely he will understand immediately why this concerns you so much, but this is something very important to you that will never go away. He needs to understand that and he needs to understand why you feel that way. You need assurances that he does understand and that how you feel about this really matters to him. You don't need to know that he will do the dishes. You need to know that he will care about how you feel.

You need to talk. You need to talk now. But not about dishes.

Bob K
portland, OR

Blown away by "the how he treats his mother" comments! They are off-point.
I also thought Angela's advice came from 50 years ago, when women tricked and manipulated men into doing things, as a habit.
"Instead, opt for the, “Hey, time to do the dishes — roll up your sleeves and let’s get to work!” (This week it's dishes, next week it's dusting, etc., as if he were a child)

He has a mother and a father: how they agree to handle the work in their home would obviously be passed down to the son, so blame them, if you must blame someone.

And none of th covert stuff-- tactic."

Sit him down and say "The way your Mom does everything was shocking to me. I think men and women should divide the work equitably. What do you think?"

It is completely wrong to want to be a modern woman, but treat your man as if he has to be broken in like a dog.

Pickerington, OH

First, find out if that is what his mom prefers. Some women guard their "domain" and may not even allow other women in their kitchens. I've seen wives/mothers who will not allow their husbands to help with the chores/babies, or when husband does help, they criticize the man's efforts until the guy gives up. Then he gets criticized for not helping out. Make sure you know what you are dealing with first, and how you respond to him.

Second, if you want him to help you make lunch (or just stay to chat), you have to ask him to, either until he catches on or you give up. Did he leave the kitchen to go do something else productive, since it doesn't take more than one person to make a sandwich? Have you asked him to make you a sandwich (insert any other domestic chore)? What was his response? How does he treat/talk about the opposite sex in general, or other people who serve him? Any red flags will come up in that kind of commentary, which may or may not get passed off as "just a joke" if you call him on it.


This woman said she offered to "make dinner" for her boyfriend. Then she admits it was just a sandwich. Then she says that she is "nobody's doormat" that this man might expect her to wait on him "hand and foot" - b'c he didn't make half of the sandwich I suppose, the sandwich that she offered to make for him. Are we in the "Twilight Zone"? Is this individual not unreasonable? Those supporting her on this thread seem to be attuned to this attitude. I would say that, unless I'm missing something this man needs to look elsewhere for a wife.

I tire of this double standard. Do women automatically go out to cut half of the lawn and empty half the garbage? Do men feel slighted when their dates do not pay half of the cost? When gentlemen open the car door for their date, do they insist she opens the door for them every other time? I actually get the impression that certain women expect their men to be their slaves and that they are "entitled" to that. I see this attitude all the time.

Here, UT

", I don't want there to be an expectation that I'm going to wait on him hand and foot."

Run away. Run away fast. Run away far. Just RUN.

Somewhere in Time, UT

This is a serious red flag. Get out now!

Las Vegas, NV

"I don't like how my future husband treats his mom" - when I read the heading, I thought he was cussing or yelling at his mother. My advice to the 'future husband' is to run away from you as fast as he can.

So you went to his house with a huge to do list of things he must follow? If you think not helping with dishes is a big deal, girl you have a lot of learning a head...and good luck finding a guy that help with dishes at his own parent's home.

Danny Chipman
Lehi, UT

If you mutually agree to any sort of arrangement, like housework....GET IT IN WRITING.

Saratoga Springs, UT

I'm not sure that there is a direct correlation. When I was growing up, we helped with the dishes, but now as an adult, my mother doesn't expect it. In my marriage, I help not only with the dishes, but with other household chores as needed. It would have been erroneous for my wife to judge me based on how I treated my mom. My advice would be to ask your fiance to help before making any kind of judgements.

As an aside, I can't help but notice that almost all the questions (and complaints) to Angela come from women.

Local Fan
Aurora, CO

The other side of this question can be seen by the episode I had before I married my husband when I went to meet his family. Not only did he work hard all day on his father's ranch, he then played with the neices and nephews instead of standing around waiting for dinner. I could see he would be a hard worker and a full participant in our marriage -- and a great father.

This isn't just about how he treats his mother -- he's already shown that he thinks you should work harder than he does.

Run -- run away.

New Yorker
Pleasant Grove, UT

Do not proceed with the idea that you can reform a man. It will never happen. If he's going to change, it has to come from within him.

Plano, TX

I know some people are going to be shocked at this statement: Not every mother is perfect. Not every mother instills a desire to be helped, and frequently because of their critical comments or rejection of the help received by those who would otherwise be inclined. The fact other members of the family didn't either may be supportive of my point.

You can choose your friends; you inherit your family. If momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy - it may just be a family dynamic that works regardless of it's difference from your expectation.

I'd tell the young woman to watch how he responds to other women in different scenarios, places and particularly if invited to assist - maybe at your own home or that of friends.

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