Dear Aunt Gwen,
I have been married to a wonderful man for six years and we have two children. My in-laws do not approve of me, which puts a strain on our relationship. There’s a constant tug of war between us with my husband caught in the middle.
They expect my husband to put their plans ahead of any plans we have. They even wanted me stay with my mother for the birth of our second child so he could cover for them in their store while they were on vacation. He told them to find someone else, but there is no end to the demands they make.
My in-laws insult me at every possible occasion. My husband listens to my complaints, but doesn’t do or say anything. He doesn’t defend me with them. I am concerned that my marriage may soon be over.
I have told him I’m tired of the tug of war. It makes me want to leave our marriage. He says he feels the same way. I love my husband and we are okay until the in-law factor comes into play. I don’t want to come between him and his parents but I don’t want them to come in between us either. How do I handle the in-law problem?
Dear Fed Up,
The way you talk about your husband makes me think that you don’t really want to leave your marriage. If you truly love him drop that kind of thinking and focus on the real problem (THE IN-LAWS).
You cannot make your in-laws like or respect you, but you and your husband do have the ability to set boundaries. Your marriage comes first. Your husband has a responsibility to tell his parents that when it comes to a choice between his wife and them, his wife will always come first.
He probably knows he has difficult and controlling parents, but his way of handling it has been to try to not rock the boat. It isn’t easy at this late date for him to start standing up to them. You have to remember they have had a lifetime to learn how to control his life. The two of you are not going to break free of that influence overnight.
Decide between the two of you what you are willing to live with. Work together to choose which holidays you will spend with them, what degree they will be allowed to visit, and what behavior you will and will not tolerate. I suggest you put those boundaries in writing, then stick to the agreement. When they find a new way of coming between you, and they will, talk it through and decide together how to address the new issue. Time, patience, and team work will make your marriage stronger than anything your in-laws can throw at it.
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