Is there a way to bring peace to this household? Yes, set up a schedule.
Adapted from a recent online discussion.
DEAR CAROLYN: My husband enjoys playing music in our home. He recently installed speakers throughout the house and in our yard as well. Now we have music on ALL the time, at levels that prohibit conversation. I have moderate hearing loss in one ear as well, so the kids and I are constantly shouting at one another to be heard over the music. And in the yard, I just want to hear birds and breezes, not blaring music.
My husband gets annoyed when I ask him to turn it down/off and the music goes down momentarily and then right back up.
Is there a way we can coexist peacefully? He tried wearing headphones but it felt like he was living apart from us.
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— Not Music to My Ears
DEAR NOT MUSIC TO MY EARS: Shifts. That’s how I see you two coexisting peacefully. You get X hours of morning quiet before he turns on his music, and then you get another X hours of relief after that, and you find a volume over which you don’t have to shout when the music is on.
If he won’t come to an agreement with you on a number of hours per day with music and a number of hours without, and an agreed-upon-by-all-family-members maximum volume when everyone is home, and the veto power every family member has in event of, say, homework or headache, and a modicum of respect for your neighbors and backyard fauna, then this is not about music or speakers, it’s about your husband’s hostility.
That’s what it is when one person won’t compromise for the sake of others’ comfort, and/or sees compromise — or respect for hearing loss, for fox’s sake — as a nuisance.
I’m afraid your husband’s annoyance and re-cranking the volume already point to hostility as the issue here, but I still hope seeing the blueprint of an agreement laid out before him is sufficient to move him to compromise. Unacknowledged hostility from one partner toward another is the toughest relationship problem there is.
DEAR CAROLYN: My brother is really opinionated and can be very argumentative. One of his hot-button issues is alcohol: He doesn’t believe in alcoholism.
My wife’s father is an alcoholic and they’ve had a few rounds of arguments when we first got together. In recent years, they more or less let sleeping dogs lie.
About a year ago my father-in-law was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver. Shortly thereafter, my brother mentioned casually that he thinks people can get cirrhosis even if they don’t drink and it’s not his fault he’s sick. My wife responded that he has it because he’s a drunk.
She has avoided my brother since, which I support.
My father-in-law died last weekend, and my wife doesn’t want my brother at the services. I respect my wife’s position on this but I’m not sure how to tell my brother in a way that can, hopefully, preserve their relationship in the future.
DEAR HOT-BUTTON: A man who believes in arguments and doesn’t believe in facts is not going to preserve a whole lot of relationships no matter what you do. Just please tell your brother your wife is understandably grieving and so, given their recent history, it’s best that he not come to the funeral.