Marriage and hostile families


#1

Yesterday at the Shrine bookstore I perused a book called “How to find a good wife,” or something similar. I saw a graph in there that showed how extended family discord drives down marital happiness. That is, if your spouse’s family doesn’t like you, it’s going to make the marriage harder. I know, this is probably a no-brainer, but I think it was getting at the happiness or satisfaction between the couple, not between the couple and one spouse’s family.

This is interesting to me for reasons I’ve gone into on this board before. Not only do my girlfriend’s parents hate me, I’m pretty sure my mom despises my girlfriend. I think my girlfriend’s parents are lunatics, and for that matter, my mom is pretty well cracked in the head, too. My girlfriend loves her parents, but doesn’t respect her father at all. She also isn’t too keen on my mom, who she thinks has too much in common with her dad. My Dad is, as always, a present non-entity on the issue.

That said, I want to hear from married people with bad relationships with their families. Specifically, has that hurt your marriages?

TY,
MM


#2

Personal experience here…

I am one of three sisters (we have a brother, he is not married, so – is not included in this unscientific example…). We were all raised in a strong, stable, loving Christian home. For the sake of clarity, we will be “A” “B” and “C” in birth order…

B married first, my parents did not care for SIL – it was one of those marriages where they met and married in about 6 weeks, SIL was not a Christian – and it was a case of “either agree to us getting married or we will live together”. He came from a very dysfunctional family… that was one long unhappy marriage, ended, and now she is on husband #2.

A married second – that would be me – while DH’ parents (good stable family) were concerned about DS marrying a disabled woman, after they got to know me – it has been great! 15+ years of marriage, I love my inlaws & they love me, my parents love my DH and vice versa.

C married a young man she had known from high school, all families knew each other, shared faith and values – and they have the happiest marriage I know.

That is my experience, your actual mileage may vary…


#3

Oi, Montana. This is hard.

My mom was nuts. After about 5 years of invasive lunacy, my husband confronted her, told her that he would not tolerate the nastiness and the manipulation, and the lying. End of story: she stopped. The relationship was never good after that – but considering how dreadful it was BEFORE that, I say the man saved me and saved our marriage.

MIL was the best woman who ever lived. Often when my “Mr. Right” was acting like a jerk (which he did in his misguided youth), she would take my part and give him a verbal whomp upside the knot to set him straight.

I would say that if the two of you agree that the parents are nuts, you have to grab hold of the situation RIGHT NOW. Be mature about it but be a man. Do not let your mother hurt your wife. And do not let your in-laws hurt you or your wife. You must NEVER say anything to bad-mouth the in-laws. NEVER NEVER NEVER. Simply state clearly that should you marry their daughter, you will expect them to treat her and you as adults, with respect. Of course, that means you have to BE adults worthy of respect.


#4

First off, I don’t really have a problem with either my parents or my inlaws… nothing significant anyhow. But if you are wondering about how your girlfriend would be as a wife I think there are some things you should consider.

First of all, how involved are your girlfriend’s parents in her everyday life? Does she live with them? Is she at all financially dependent on them? Do they spend lots of time together. Do they speak on the phone frequently? Assume this relationship will not change drastically once she gets married.

If your girlfriend has a married sister, how do this sister and her husband relate to the parents? If they don’t get along is this the life you want? If they do get along are you willing to behave like this other couple?

If your mother is crazy, are you willing to protect your future wife and children from her? Are you determined to direct your mother’s concerns about your wife and children on to yourself?


#5

My experience has been from both dh’s family and mine.

From what I have expereinced in our marriage and witnessed in other marriages, these situations almost always results in one of two scenarios.


A. One or both members of the marriage refuse/can’t put there foot down on extended family invasion in the marriage. Eventually, the other member gets fed up and the marriage dissolves. Most spouses expect on some level, whether they know it or not, to come first with their spouse. If that doesn’t happen it cracks the marrital foundation, eventually until it’s nothing but gravel.


B. The couple becomes a united force and thus saves their marriage. Extended family may be entirely cut off in this situation due to a lack of ability/willingness to accept the couples boundaries. That or they learn the value of silence for the sake of harmony at major family gatherings.


Just my .02…


#6

[quote=Rob’s Wife]My experience has been from both dh’s family and mine.

From what I have expereinced in our marriage and witnessed in other marriages, these situations almost always results in one of two scenarios.


A. One or both members of the marriage refuse/can’t put there foot down on extended family invasion in the marriage. Eventually, the other member gets fed up and the marriage dissolves. Most spouses expect on some level, whether they know it or not, to come first with their spouse. If that doesn’t happen it cracks the marrital foundation, eventually until it’s nothing but gravel.


B. The couple becomes a united force and thus saves their marriage. Extended family may be entirely cut off in this situation due to a lack of ability/willingness to accept the couples boundaries. That or they learn the value of silence for the sake of harmony at major family gatherings.


Just my .02…
[/quote]

I agree, completely. Too few people appreciate that they are marrying an entire family. All other things being equal (and perhaps even a little unequal), pick a person with a good family, or, failing that, a person who puts you above their family IF NECESSARY.


#7

I have a wonderful father-in-law, who regularly and openly tells his wife to apologise to me for ‘going too far’ (nothing I do is right, I don’t potty-train my DD well, I don’t clean the house how she likes it, I should cook different foods, I’m basically a lousy cook, cleaner and daughter-in-law…) and it is my father-in-law’s help and support that got me through some very hostile attacks from my mother-in-law…My husband has always taken my side too, and as the years have gone by, her attacks have become less and less, because she knows she’ll upset both her husband and her son! She also knows, I have never backed down from defending myself if I knew I was in the right, and again: she doesn’t want to look stupid in company, so these days she backs down a lot faster! Having said that, I like her most of the time…she’s not a ‘bad person’, she’s just one of these people who likes to make herself good, at the expense of others…for years she put her husband down (all 3 sons have told me this), then she thought she had a new ‘victim’ and once she realised my bite really is WORSE than my bark…she’s ‘let off’ a bit. She tries, but I won’t let her, and my father-in-law and I defend EACHOTHER now if she tries to put us down in company, that usually makes her stop pretty darn quick…

As for the OP’s question: if your in-laws don’t like you, it WILL put a strain on your relationship, but it depends on your girlfriend just HOW MUCH of an impact it will have!

Anna x


#8

OK…I love questions like these! I had the most wonderful MIL I thought… nope, I just liked that she stayed out of things that she should stay out of (as opposed to my mom who did not) but then when she should have gotten involved she didn’t. I was married to my ex for 12 yrs. What his family could have told me but didn’t was that he had another wife and a child. No Kidding!!! You would have thought they would have told me. Actually, I do have to give credit to his sister, she tried to tell me, at a funeral…I thought she was confused in her grief! My parents on the other hand were the in-laws from heck. My mom whined and cried, “You ruined my holiday!” (This has now become a family joke, who can ruin mom’s holiday each year) When we got engaged…to which dad shouted, “Joyce(my mom) she is 22 yrs old, she can do what ever the &%^%&* she wants!” Apparently dad had a name for my ex, which I didn’t find out for 20 some odd years…and it wasn’t nice, but at least he kept it to himself. Mom on the other hand was terrible. At one point I had to tell her if she didn’t show some respect for my husband, she wasn’t going to see her grandchildren. That just lead to a tirade about how she knew this was going to happen. Geez…she wasn’t even this bad growing up. The point is she hated my ex so she made our lives and her own miserable for years over it. The sad part is, when we finally did split up, I wouldn’t tell her because she had become so caustic that I didn’t want to hear the I told you so’s. The only reason I did tell her was because she was buying Christmas presents for him. Moral of the story: You do marry into a family…it is important…but I can tell you what the most important thing in my case was…I thought I was marrying a good Catholic man, but it turns out he was lying about that. He was raised Catholic but he had actually converted to pagan worship before I met him and lied and told me he was Catholic. I found that the most important thing for me was to be able to share my faith with my husband. It only makes sense; since it is such a big part of who I am, I should share it with a spouse. We couldn’t share our faith lives because he was too busy tring to cast spells and convert me to his religion. The incident that pretty much sealed the fate of our marriage was when he was going to a pagan halloween party and asked me to go with. It turns out, I was the token christian. I was invited just to corrupt me. He was mad when I stayed home with the kids and slept downstairs on the couch. It makes me wonder if I was the midnight sacrifice…oh yes…they had a big pagan service at midnight that included an initiation, which according to what I learned, when someone was initiated into this religion is not a “G rated” affair. Anyway…back on topic, since you do have to interact with your spouses family, it is important to at least try to get along. The biggest obstacle with my new husbands family is that he converted to Catholicism and his brother wasn’t happy about it. It took 5 years for him to stop calling me “that Catholic woman” and he still didn’t come to our wedding. Fortunately, his mom and dad are happy with me even though they think I am too hard on his daughter. I think she takes advantage of her grandma and I won’t tolerate the behaviors she shows when we are there. We had some stressful times learning how we would deal with family gatherings, hopefully this is behind us now.


#9

almost killed it before it began. solution: move at least 500 miles away from your in-laws or parents whoever is the problem.


#10

I think I am a fine example for this question :slight_smile: . I have been with my husband since I was 17 years old. My MIL like me up until her “baby” put a ring on my finger. She has made our life a living HELL since 1999 (year we got married). The first year of our marriage was horrible and I almost called it quits because my IL’s manipulations. lies, and hatefulness. We lived less than 3 minutes from them, so that didn’t help. My husband finally saw his parents and now his brother for what they are after we moved to Florida for a short while in 2000. When he took a step back from the situation and saw how they treated me and badmouthed me when we were living 13 hours apart, he realized what the relationship had come to. His mother is a LUNATIC and his father isn’t far behind. They have pretty much denounced him from the family for choosing to stick by me and putting me, our children and our marriage first. His father wrote him a letter a couple of months ago threatening to literally kill him if he didn’t “see about his mother.” We have cut them out of our lives, although not completely because we feel we have to leave the door open for reconciliation if there ever is one. Our marriage couldn’t be better right now, infact it’s the best it’s ever been, thanks to advice here on this forum. I truly beleive you marry into a family, but you marry your spouse not their parents. My parents adore my husband, he is a wonderful husband and father and not to mention son in law. He goes out of his way to make me happy on a day to day basis.

Bottom line: As long as you and your girlfriend/spouse put each other first and are not afraid to stand up to any extended family on the treatment of your signifigant other, you will definitely be on the right path to a happy healthy marriage. :smiley:


#11

Thanks for your replies, all. I guess, if were to get engaged and married, we’d have to find some other place to live. I’d kind of like to go back to the Northwest, but she hates it there. I can’t imagine raising kids in or around D.C. At least we can both agree on Italy…


#12

We have the benefit of living 7,000 miles away, and I will say it has probably saved our marriage.

Do be aware, however, that if your spouse holds the attitude that you are somehow at fault, that you should somehow miraculously ‘get along with’ someone to whom you never did anything to begin with, that you should just ‘overlook’ and not be in the least bothered by extreme damage to home, marriage, and bank accounts (speaking purely theoretically, of course! :cool: :irish1: ) if your spouse somehow blames you, rather than the perpetrator, for not being one big happy family… that can in and of itself do a lot of damage.

Physical separation, of course, is far better than not, but the primary factor is really each person’s attitudes towards how their family treats their spouse.


#13

[quote=montanaman] At least we can both agree on Italy…
[/quote]

Are you serious? Do either of you speak Italian or have the possibility of a job there?

My :twocents: --Be very, very careful about marrying where there are known in-law problems or family opposition. Even in the best of situations, there are inevitably in-law issues to work out. The first year of marriage is very stressful, so going into it with serious in-law issues guarantees a roller coaster start. Be warned and buckle up.


#14

[quote=ReginaNova]Are you serious? Do either of you speak Italian or have the possibility of a job there?

My :twocents: --Be very, very careful about marrying where there are known in-law problems or family opposition. Even in the best of situations, there are inevitably in-law issues to work out. The first year of marriage is very stressful, so going into it with serious in-law issues guarantees a roller coaster start. Be warned and buckle up.
[/quote]

We both speak a little–and I mean VERY little–Italian. I’ve been teaching myself, though, and that wouldn’t be a problem. The reality, of course, is that we’d probably never do it. Right now we have too much other stuff on our plates.

My only concern about her family is that they’d go from obtuse, unfair and condescending to full-bore manipulative and petty. I can handle that stuff, but she’s very sensitive.

This is really just an academic concern right now. I’m finding more and more that unless she becomes Catholic, it probably isn’t going to work. Being married to someone who doesn’t want to be a part of the most meaningful, formative thing in my life sounds like the definitio of lonliness.


#15

Take it from someone with the world’s best in-laws…extended family IS a part of your married life no matter how you try and separate from it. A bad family relation is like a stone in your shoe–you can function reasonably normally and even ignore it at times, but you are never free of its presence or influence in your life. By contrast, solid, supportive and loving in-laws are the frosting on your marriage cake–enhancing the pleasure, companionship and stability marriage brings to your life.

I would be very slow to discount the influence of your potential in-laws–both on you and your future spouse. Observe how your gf’s mother and father interact with each other, you and her, as well as other family members. It can often be a good indicator of how your future in-laws will treat you. If there is visible pathology in the family now–I might even reconsider the future of the relationship–because you can run & hide, move away, get an unlisted phone #, etc., but you can never really escape bad family.


#16

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