Rhona McAuliffe might not be a trained therapist but she does have very big ears, quite a long nose and a gaping heart. If you have a problem that won’t just go away, she’d love to hear it.
My father-in-law has started giving me advice on how to keep things fresh in the bedroom. We see them (him and his wife) every Sunday for lunch, usually at their house. He goes to great lengths to get me on my own – I know this because I do everything I can not to be alone with him – and then he asked me ‘how’s it going?’ with a knowing nod, like we have a ‘thing’ together where I talk openly to him about my sex life…with his son. He might ask me a question about my, or my husband’s, sexual preferences or say that he’s read roleplay is really important, have you tried that yet? I never answer my FIL’s questions and just pretend I don’t understand him like he’s speaking a foreign language. I’m polite and wouldn’t be hugely assertive so haven’t felt comfortable calling him out. I don’t feel threatened by him, or feel like he is attracted to me in any way but does feel that the whole scenario is inappropriate and weird. It’s like he’s decided he’s our secret sex therapist, completely out of the blue. My husband finds it odd too but also hilarious and thinks I’m over-dramatising it. He doesn’t want me to make a big deal of it as says his mother will be mortified. How can I make it stop? Sunday Fear, Cork
The first thing we need to talk about here is your husband: why is he not taking this seriously? At the very least he should be cornering his father and asking him what kind of hallucinogens he’s necking. And I say, ‘at the very least’ because the ideal is that he’d out his father publically, midway through the rack of lamb and dauphinoise. So, Dad, I believe you’ve taken a keen interest in our sex life? Leading with the casual, Good Cop patter – non-threatening, non-judgmental – to see what comes back. If it’s abject denial and outrage you can tackle it head-on from there. Your husband, however, sounds more concerned with his Mum than his wife so is likely to opt for a private confrontation, if pushed. Time to buckle in for the win and start shoving. If he still refuses to address the situation I’d be starting a Sunday strike. No talky, no walky, Babes. And also no ridey but I guess he will have clocked that. Side note: this task only lands squarely at your husband’s feet because it’s his family.
If it was your Mum sex-coaching your husband, I’d be suggesting you organise a little pow-wow with her. All that said, there could be something more worrying playing out here. Because of your FIL’s age – I’m presuming he’s in and around sixty? – and the fact that his professor-like interest in your carnal affairs is a bolt from the blue, there is a chance that his behaviour may be an early sign of dementia. Inappropriate sexual preoccupation and comments are common to dementia sufferers, combined with poor social judgment and other personality-altering traits. He may simply be drawn
to you because you represent youth and sexual vitality. If this is the case, it won’t be long before deeper cracks appear. It may be that your MIL has already noticed changes in his behaviour and is steadfastly ignoring them. All the more reason for your husband to broach the situation directly, sensitive to the possibility that his father may not be well. He should also speak to his Mother, privately, and ask if she’s noticed any behavioural oddities.
This may initially come to nothing – and could be the beginning of a long process of denial, diagnoses and
acceptance – but means that you will all be on high alert. And yes, the public outing is probably not the best starting point here. Confirming his altered mental state is. Beyond the heartbreak of mind-stealing diseases, other possibilities for his strange behaviour are a renewed interest in sex with no human release (he may well be active online); genuinely trying to advise you on missteps in his own relationship, where perhaps sex was lacking; or he may have developed an attraction to you and is going in as a 3 rd party advisor with a view to hotting things up down the line. In his head. What you need to know is, If he is sound of mind, there is no excuse that negates his behaviour. Once your husband puts on his big boy boots and gets it out in the open and your FIL owns up to his behaviour with an apology and assertion that it will never happen again, you can tentatively resume your Sunday lunches (if the MIL’s not in hiding).
As a precaution, and because you’ve flagged that you are likely to freeze rather than call him out, I would stash a personal alarm in your pocket. You know, the seven billion decibel ones that rouse dogs in Siberia? That way, if by some madness he traps you with more bedroom advice, you can press the button and bring the house down.