Relationship Connection: Mom the middleman; my husband and kids won’t talk to each other


My husband only goes through me to connect with our children. He has hardly any relationship with them. I’m getting tired of always having to relay messages between him and them. As well, they always come to me to talk with him.

It’s not like he’s a terrible father and doesn’t love his children, but he just doesn’t communicate with them. Even when I say to them, “go ask your father”, or “go tell your father,” I still somehow get involved. Sometimes it’s no big deal, but I’m mostly worried that I’ll end up being the only way they’ll have a relationship with him. Do you have any ideas on how to change this?


You’re actually doing better than you realize because you can at least recognize that there is a problem here. Most of the time when these types of parent/child dynamics are going on, everyone is clueless. Awareness is a major part of changing a stuck interactional pattern between family members.

If your husband doesn’t have any awareness of this pattern, it’s time for him to be enlightened. This is going to require a formal sit-down conversation between the two of you. Not only should you describe the pattern you see, but also include how you feel it’s negatively impacting him, you, and the children. Describe your fears for the future as well as your hopes. Give him a big picture of this dynamic so it doesn’t just appear to be an isolated situation.

Now comes the difficult part – actually doing something different. This is where your consistency and persistence will be tested as you begin to shift the pattern. You are the main player in this drama, as you get pulled from both directions. You can resent your role, or you can leverage it to help your family move to a healthier place.

You will get heat from both sides as they face the unfamiliar reality of facing one another. They will reflexively come to you over and over to pass along messages or resolve issues. Your response has to be a well-worn message of redirection.

Treat them like they’re strong and they’ll rise up to the challenge. If you buckle under the fear that they’re all too weak to actually interact with each other, you’ll keep getting pulled in.

And, if there is a part of you that enjoys being the center of this dysfunctional universe, even though you complain about it, you won’t want to give up your power position.

As you firmly and lovingly redirect them to each other, you will experience tremendous emotional discomfort watching these individuals either avoid each other completely or bumble their way through interactions. It may never look as good as the relationship you have with your kids, but remember, it’s not your relationship with them. It’s his. He gets to be in charge of how he wants it to look.

Stay connected!


Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are solely his and not those of St. George News.

Have a relationship question for Geoff to answer? Submit to:

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @geoffsteurer

Copyright St. George News, Inc., 2012, all rights reserved






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1 Comment

  • Hatałii May 22, 2013 at 10:23 am

    This sounds like another family that puts the “func(k)” in dysfunctional family. In this case, dear old dad is totally abdicating his responsibility as “head of household.” This may be for any number of reasons, from a tremendous work load on the job that has him stressed beyond the point of reason, to a mom who is actively trying to usurp her husbands place as head of household. Whatever the reason is, the kids will certainly see it, and use it to their advantage.
    As Geoff says, mom and dad really do need to sit down and talk about this. Dad may not be realizing what is going on, particularly if he is working 18 hour days, and then bringing work home with him as well. Mom may not realize what is going on with her part in this.
    This also may be a situation where some professional counsel is needed. Whatever it takes, dad needs to assume his rightful role as head of family here.

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