When we visit my mother, she speaks to me in Hungarian, her native language, in front of my husband who doesn’t understand a word of it. He told me he feels excluded by this because he can’t participate in our conversations. I’ve told my mother her behavior is rude, but she persists, saying, “I am Hungarian, and this is my house.” She is fluent in English, so she could honor our request if she wanted to. Also, she and I speak on the phone frequently. If she had something private to say to me, she could do it then. Otherwise, she’s nice to my husband. Any advice?


Many people get defensive about criticism. (It’s pretty human actually, even if annoying.) And this is your mother. So, presumably, you’re willing to take a few extra steps to make things right. Rather than calling her behavior rude, which it assuredly is, talk to her privately about your husband’s feelings.

Say, “He enjoys our visits with you but feels hurt when we exclude him by speaking Hungarian. Can we use English when he’s around?” Framing the issue this way may help her sympathize with your husband and (with a few gentle reminders) go along with your request.

If she still refuses to speak English during your visits, your mother may be waging a small war for dominance over your husband. Shut that down! Tell her: “Making him feel unwelcome by cutting him out of our conversations only means he’ll be less willing to visit. And if he visits less frequently, so will I.”