Constant massaging head and hands of spouse in public

My sister-in-law who got married about a year ago, is always touching her husband in public, constantly, when we are at my mother-in-law's house, where there are still children - it doesn't matter where - at the formal family meal her hands are constantly on his head doodiling in his ear or massaging his back. This makes us, including my in-laws, very uncomfortable. They feel she is constantly distracting her husband for whatever reason. We also feel that at a formal meal this is not the place for it. There should be boundaries especially that there are children around, we also find it very disrespectful when she is constantly on him non stop. We are actually nauseated by it. This behavior is constant. She's always touching him, his shirt buttons or his belt buckle, or messaging his fingers in public, my brother-in-law seems a bit frustrated , never reciprocates in public, but just sits there like a puppy. Nobody wants to tell her anything because she will either cry because she is extremely sensitive and arrogant, and will not let my brother-in-law come to her in-laws . We all see that she is very needy and acts as if she won a prize trophy with him and is totally obsessed. We all feel that there is a time and place for everything. And obsessing over every move he does and controlling every bite he puts into his mouth. We feel it's smothering my brother-in-law - never giving him any space in public. I appreciate your input in how we can hint that this behavior is not appreciated in public. Thanking you in advance.


Ben's Answer:

Annoying? Yes. Poor boundaries? Yes. Nauseating? Maybe. But are you obliged to spend time around your brother-in-law and his inappropriately affectionate wife? If you really can't simply distance yourself from this couple, then it seems to me that the closest relative of bro-in-law should take the risk and privately discuss this issue with him. Hopefully, he will feel supported, rather than judged or criticized. But there's no guarantee. Beyond this, I don't place this situation in the critical category - as irritating as it may be to you and your family. Sounds like your brother-in-law needs someone to rescue him and give him the confidence to set some of his own boundaries. But you can't force him to change, just to make everyone else more comfortable.

I hope it works out.

Ben Schwarcz

Click here to post comments

Join in and write your own page! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Ask a Therapist.