Alpha males butting heads

My husband and my son-in-law are both alpha males. My daughter and I are very close.

Dear Annie: My husband and my son-in-law are both alpha males. My daughter and I are very close.

In the early years of my daughter’s marriage, there was a small power struggle between her husband and me, but I bit my tongue until it bled. We seem to have reached detente.

My husband, however, has not. “Joe,” my daughter’s stepfather, is a smart, nice guy. I married him when my daughter was in high school, and she respects him a great deal. She frequently asks for his advice and help.

The problem is that my son-in-law, “Todd,” bristles at any advice from Joe and refuses to accept it. Then Joe becomes angry and cannot accept that Todd doesn’t want his territory invaded.

We live several states away, but they need our help taking care of our granddaughter, so we visit regularly, always at their request.

The visits always start out well, but after a day or two, the arguments begin, and I feel caught in the middle.

Todd already has a fragile ego because my daughter is the breadwinner. He cannot tolerate Joe’s opinions on anything, and I can’t ask my daughter to help navigate this issue, because she will rightly back her husband. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Just writing this has helped reduce my blood pressure from our last trip. — Frustrated in Kentucky

Dear Kentucky: It seems your daughter has married someone very much like her stepfather. Allow her to handle her husband her own way. You can work on yours.

Joe doesn’t like that his advice isn’t appreciated, so try to get him to understand that Todd is sensitive to being told what to do — just as Joe would be. Arrange your visits so your time together is limited.

Stay in a motel if you can afford it. Go out for dinner by yourselves, saying you “want to give them privacy,” or better, insist on babysitting so they can have a romantic dinner out. When the two men have an unavoidable altercation and your blood pressure rises, leave the room and let them hash it out themselves.

Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please email your questions to, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 5777 W. Century Blvd., Ste. 700, Los Angeles, CA 90045.