Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Husband Is Critical Over Meaningless Things

DEAR HARRIETTE: My husband is hypercritical of everything I do. I normally cook for three people, because that’s what makes up our household. We recently had a guest to stay with us for a few days, so I had to cook for four. One day I cooked a little bit too much spinach, and you would have thought I had committed a crime. He criticized me in front of everyone for getting the portions wrong and for wasting food. When I asked him if he liked his dinner, he accused me of being too sensitive and of always making everything about me. I wanted to throw the spinach in his face. Why couldn’t he be thankful that I cooked a meal that everyone enjoyed and that we didn’t run out? I had one extra helping of food, and he nearly bit my head off. How can I stop such insulting behavior from him? -- Enough Already

DEAR ENOUGH ALREADY: Stop engaging him when he is in a mood like this. It will be hard for him to keep going if you don’t respond. Your husband may be worried about being wasteful or about saving money. He may also be mad at you about something completely unrelated. Don’t get caught up in whatever it is.

If possible, stand up and walk away when he goes in on you in hypercritical ways that seem out of proportion to the moment. Let things cool down and then reconnect. Beyond that, decide if you have the stomach to take his insults. You should weigh how frequent and egregious they are to decide what you can handle. Consider therapy as a way to get to the bottom of why he is behaving this way.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I learned from an old friend from my hometown that my high school boyfriend still holds a flame for me. We dated 40 years ago; I have definitely moved on. I have a family -- a husband and children.

I am planning on visiting home this summer, and I want to get together with old friends. I thought to invite him, but I don’t want to stir up old emotions. How should I handle this? He is a nice guy who treated me well, but that was a thousand years ago. How do I talk to him now? -- Past Love

DEAR PAST LOVE: If you are willing and able to do this, it would be kind to have coffee with him independent of the other friends. Check in with him to see how he’s doing. Find out about his life. Let him know how grateful you are for the friendship you two had when you were young, and tell him about your life today. Make it clear that you are happy and content.

If he seems calm and rational, invite him to your group gathering. Just make sure your husband knows who this man is and what your history is so that there are no surprises.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to askharriette@harriettecole.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)