Fourth commandment and toxic in-laws


#1

Due to MIL failing health, my in-laws moved in with us. I offered to help care for her. The family put an addition on our house for them. As soon as they moved in, I began to realize that my FIL was not the person I believed he was. He was manipulative and mean to me and my children. Much of what he said and did that involved the children I didn’t even know about until after they moved out. In my husband’s family, my FIL is greatly admired and respected for “his deep catholic faith.” It took years for my husband to realize the damage his father was causing. my FIL would often lie or exaggerate stories to my husband, even calling him at work, because he wasn’t getting his way ( I wasn’t sacrificing my family’s needs to cater to his wants or he felt I unjustly wanted him to help with his wife’s care). I would get phone calls from my husband urging me to do whatever was asked. Long story short, it drove a huge wedge between us and almost ended our 25 year marriage. My husband felt guilty because of the addition and the fact that they gave us a small amount of money monthly that barely covered their expenses. He felt we owed them. I often had to put down my nursing newborn to cater to FIL wants and schedule.

A conflict eventually arose between my husband and a sibling, and his sibling involved my FIL. You see my husband was expected to jump whenever someone in his family needed anything, even years before my in-laws moved in. He often sacrificed family obligations to us to do for his siblings and their families. We were not prioritized for many years. When our marriage was on the brink, and he realized this was no longer feasible, his family was not happy. His father sided with the other siblings in expecting him to continue with the status quo.

It didn’t end well. They moved out and in with one of their other children. We rarely see or speak to most of them, though we live fairly close. Our marriage continued to suffer, in large part because my husband did not deal well with what happened with his family. We have recently been dealing with the fall out of all of it as it relates to certain behaviors that followed.

So my issue is that my husband feels, because of the fourth commandment, that he is obligated to have some type of relationship with his father. He feels guilty not inviting him to certain family functions. I don’t hate the man. I don’t wish ill on him. I don’t think he is a good person. And I don’t want to be around him or have him at our family functions. When I am celebrating with my family, I want to be comfortable in my house. Whenever his father is discussed, it ends in a heated argument with him telling me I’m not considering him and his moral dilemma, and that I need to work on forgiveness. He tells me that any good catholic could see that I am wrong. So how does a “good” catholic (trying) reconcile the fourth commandment with a selfish, manipulative, self-serving parent or in-law? I am not looking for people just to tell me how wrong my husband is, or how wrong I am for that matter. I am looking for an authentic Catholic viewpoint, whether it be favorable to me or not. Thanks


#2

Nowhere does Catholic teaching say that anyone must be a doormat. And Catholic teaching on marriage is quite clear – spouse and children come first –

CCC #1605 : Holy Scripture affirms that man and woman were created for one another: "It is not good that the man should be alone."92 The woman, “flesh of his flesh,” his equal, his nearest in all things, is given to him by God as a “helpmate”; she thus represents God from whom comes our help.93 "Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh."94 The Lord himself shows that this signifies an unbreakable union of their two lives by recalling what the plan of the Creator had been “in the beginning”: "So they are no longer two, but one flesh."95


#3

This is something I’ve thought long and hard about, “thanks” to personal experience.

The way I see it, my honor is to provide a chance. If there is a sign of a reasonable hope for a healthy relationship in the future, I will be open to it. But I’m not going to continue to provide opportunities to someone who feels free to chew me out for being rude, unreasonable, and selfish for failing to be endlessly obedient and available. I would require some sign of understanding or at least being willing to acknowledge that being the child doesn’t mean I’m obligated to forgo all boundaries. Forgiveness does not mean that we permit the unrepentant sinner more opportunities to hurt people.

As a practical matter, what does your husband think of his father’s behavior? How does he describe it? Does he see it as out of line, or just as something minor.

This may be a situation where a counselor is recommended. It’s very hard to see a parent’s bad behavior for what it is, because the parent has the child’s formative years to train them that it’s normal.


#4

Back when it really hit the fan, my husband was able to acknowledge how badly we were treated. He also was able to realize that decades of his mother’s “crazy” behavior was probably at least partially a result of his father’s deceptive and manipulative behavior. There was a lot of gaslighting. I didn’t know the term at the time, but looking back, that’s what it was.

Now though, he seems to believe that his father was manipulated by the siblings, that he only treated us poorly because he was told that we were at fault for all the issues. His father was looked at as saintly, always at mass, always praying the Rosary, always watching EWTN, etc. I know that the behavior has continued with my BIL family as well because the cousins still talk. The “discussion” the other night went something like this, " You can’t say he is not a good person because he did bad things. He didn’t rape or kill anyone. We all do bad things and that doesn’t make us bad people. You are judging."

I understand that this is difficult for my husband. I understand that he has had his own issues with sinfulness, as have I, and all of us for that matter. I understand that my husband is struggling to figure out what is right. But my FIL is not remorseful. His pride and arrogance will forever keep him from admitting any wrongdoing or apologizing, apparently something he didn’t ever do.


#5

So your husband feels this way, and you are unwilling to have your father in law at your home. Would a compromise be that your husband call his father on the phone once a week? Could your husband visit your father where he lives once a month for coffee?

It seems your father in law will not change, yet your husband has some lingering guilty feelings, possibly from the way he was raised by his parents.

Do you expect your husband to cut ties completely? What is your expectation? God bless.


#6

I really would recommend a counselor here, or a priest (he might be more willing to hear about forgiveness from a priest). Sometimes an outside perspective on the father’s behavior can make things clearer.


#7

He does call him occasionally. I have never said that he can’t. He won’t visit him at his home because my FIL lives with the brother. Our daughter will be confirmed next month and it bothers him that he cant invite his father. We also have been invited to get togethers at his cousin’s house when his father was invited. If his father is there, I will not go because I will not feel comfortable. He does generally go as do some of the children. If the older children don’t want to go, I don’t make them. He takes issue with that as well.


#8

Thank you for the update.
I believe you are having conflict with your husband, because it has (perhaps) not been made clear or concrete to him what will happen as far as family functions go?

Have you told him that you will have no contact with your father in law ever? It sounds as if your children see him occasionally. I’m not getting a clear picture here actually. The “rules” seem confusing.

I propose that in situations like these that boundaries are very CLEAR. Otherwise people flounder, not a good idea.


#9

Catholic teaching aside, this man is your husband’s father. His parent.

Even when parents are not perfect, even when they are bad parents, their children often want to maintain some relationship with them.

I don’t know how frequent these family functions are, but you don’t typically exclude a family member from a family function unless the person is so disruptive that they can’t conduct themself in a socially acceptable manner for the length of the function. “Can’t conduct themself in a socially acceptable manner” to me would mean some kind of extreme behavior - getting falling-down-drunk, smashing all the plates or being extremely abusive to the other guests. It doesn’t sound like your FIL does that - he’s just “manipulative”, and realistically, how much can he manipulate in the course of a 3-hour family party?

You refer to “my house”. It’s not just “your house”, it’s your husband’s house too. He’s entitled to have his own father visit in his house.

I think you need to come down off your high horse and make some accommodation for your husband here because you’re not being very considerate of his feelings. This isn’t just about “honor thy father and mother”, it’s also about how you treat your own spouse and the dignity that he has. You need to respect your husband’s wishes and have FIL to at least some of the family functions.

If you feel you are unable to do that, then I agree with the others who said counseling is in order.


#10

Not to add to the drama but it’s not uncommon at all. I read the subreddit JUSTNOMIL sometimes, it’s cathartic to know you aren’t alone.

Basically, your husband needs to grow a spine. It takes two to want a relationship. If his parents are not able to make some concessions to see their adult son, why should he jeopardise his 25 year old marriage to make them temporarily happy?

Nope. Not going to okay this.

Boundaries are a friend in all relationships. They need to be agreed on, and enforced. So if you have a date and Dad has a minor thing he needs done, it can wait till tomorrow or the weekend.

I can’t go around dictating things to my husband, it’s all agreed on and communicated.

Sending you a huge package of support over the internet!


#11

The main reason I am relating it to the Fourth Commandment is because that is what my husband does. He doesn’t want his siblings in our house because HE doesn’t feel comfortable. I don’t have as much of a problem with his siblings, at least a couple of them. I don’t necessarily like them, but that is a different situation. He doesn’t want them around for the same reasons I don’t want his father here.

So the issue isn’t “should we invite family members that we don’t see, like, or generally speak to.” It is in particular, his father, because he feels obligated due to the fourth commandment.

And quite frankly, honesty about how I feel doesn’t constitute a high horse. If someone mistreated my husband, I wouldn’t want them around. If someone mistreated my children, I certainly wouldn’t want them around. And just for clarity, my husband’s father kept much of his own family at arms length because he didn’t feel they were good influences on his children. There were uncles my husband met only once or twice in his life. They weren’t necessarily disruptive, just didn’t want the influences in attitude and lifestyle. And I don’t see that as a problem. Relation does not equal obligation to make someone part of your children’s lives.

You see, my husband has no issue excluding his siblings, and adult nieces and nephews that are still very close to our older children. He doesn’t see that how I feel about his father is nearly exactly how he feels about his siblings. He doesn’t even like being around his father. He simply sees it as an obligation. It stresses him out to have a conversation with the man. He just feels, if he doesn’t, then he is breaking the commandment.


#12

Then he needs to seek pastoral guidance from your priest.


#13

I would suggest that both you and your husband make an appointment with your parish priest or Deacon.

Yours is not an unusual circumstance. The fourth commandment is clearly important. Yet, what exactly does “honor” mean when there has been a difficult relationship?

It’s important that you both go, because this struggle isn’t just a father-son struggle it’s a marriage struggle. Once you receive some direction you can support one another. Praying for you.


#14

indent preformatted text by 4 spaces[quote=“anne10, post:4, topic:505157, full:true”]
Back when it really hit the fan, my husband was able to acknowledge how badly we were treated. He also was able to realize that decades of his mother’s “crazy” behavior was probably at least partially a result of his father’s deceptive and manipulative behavior. There was a lot of gaslighting. I didn’t know the term at the time, but looking back, that’s what it was.

Now though, he seems to believe that his father was manipulated by the siblings, that he only treated us poorly because he was told that we were at fault for all the issues. His father was looked at as saintly, always at mass, always praying the Rosary, always watching EWTN, etc. I know that the behavior has continued with my BIL family as well because the cousins still talk. The “discussion” the other night went something like this, " You can’t say he is not a good person because he did bad things. He didn’t rape or kill anyone. We all do bad things and that doesn’t make us bad people. You are judging."

I understand that this is difficult for my husband. I understand that he has had his own issues with sinfulness, as have I, and all of us for that matter. I understand that my husband is struggling to figure out what is right. But my FIL is not remorseful. His pride and arrogance will forever keep him from admitting any wrongdoing or apologizing, apparently something he didn’t ever do.
[/quote]

This is an interesting post. Obviously, your husband knows that his father was at fault, in some things…such as ‘gaslighting’ his wife. Be aware that you should not take part in sins he may commit!

This man has a place to live. Does your mil still live with him? Is he honest?

Putting this aside, maybe you can arrange to be out when your husband has his father and other ‘uncomfortable’ people in his family at your home. And bring any children who also feel uncomfortable with you. For an adult, honoring one’s parents is largely a financial matter. An adult child should, to the best of his ability, see to it that his parents don’t go hungry or homeless. And that doesn’t mean that they ‘must’ live with you. It means that you help them, if possible, get ot keep a place to live. Sounds like your in-laws already have this.


#15

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