Family torn by hatred

Posted on: 21 January 2008 by

Should Peter let his wife‘s hatred of his parents ruin their marriage?

Peter Writes:

My wife and I have been married for 22 years, and like any other couple we have had our share of problems.

For her own reasons, my wife does not wish to associate with any of my family and gets upset when anyone comes over to visit. This issue has caused friction and seems to be the cause of all our problems. We even moved one thousand miles away and things were fine for a while. My parents retired and moved to the same city as us, and now I see them once or twice a year.  As a result, our problems have increased.

She has gotten to a point where she does not want to see anyone from my side of the family. Last night we sat down and tried to discuss how we could resolve our issues.

Again, she said she does not want any of my family to visit and, if I want to see them, I must go alone. I agreed, but then she added that if she should die first, no one from my family is to come to the funeral service. If she’s so adamant, I can’t see how we can work this out.  I asked if she wants us to split up, but she said she is willing to make sacrifices to keep the children happy. How can anyone in this situation be happy?

Is there any way to save this marriage, or is it even worth saving?

Andy Advises:

Peter, the question that springs immediately to mind is 'Why?' What happened to make your wife so 'anti' your family? There must have been words or some specific incident long ago that sparked this hatred in her, and it must have been something quite terrible for her to have reacted this way for so long - and at first you were prepared to accept her difficulties, even to the point of moving 1,000 miles away.

You say you have talked about the problem but you've got nowhere. Why did they move to the same city, knowing how your wife felt? Was it fear of being alone in old age? Why have YOU chosen only to see them once or twice a year on your own now, even though they live so close? Are you just being a 'dutiful son'? Do they ever see their grandchildren or don't the grandchildren want to see them either?

I was brought up to believe that as long as you are single, your parents deserve first priority above all other family and friends. You can't choose them, but you do owe them respect.
You choose a partner and when you marry, that partner has first call on your time. Your parents come second, however harsh that may sound.  When YOU have children, your partner comes first, your children come second and parents and other family come a poor third.

This may be quite a difficult and sometimes very painful ethic to follow, particularly when you have grown up in a culture which demands respect for parents, and I'm not saying you should abandon your elderly parents entirely or that you should lessen your regard or affection for them (if you have any). I am saying that you should not feel you have to choose between them.

You need to take a step back now, and take the heat out of this argument which appears to have spiralled out of proportion otherwise you are going to lose a wife you clearly love and the normal family life you cherish.

This is about compromise and I suggest the following plan.
1. Agree that your wife need never again see any of your family or invite any of them to your home or meet them. 
2. Agree and promise your wife that you will not invite them to her funeral should she die before you.
If that makes her happy and eases all the strains, why should it bother you? Hopefully, you are talking hypothetically and many years hence.

3. She must agree for you to be able to go and see them, on your own, whenever you choose (which she has done), as long as you don't involve her.
4. If your children want to see their grandparents, then she must give them the right to make that choice for themselves, (assuming they are old enough to do that).

You need to stop agonising, Peter, and harping on about something you can't change. She hates your family. You know that. You love her. Hopefully she knows that. You are never going to agree about this and allowing it to ruin your family life is ridiculous.

Why not agree to disagree where your family are concerned. On that basis, and if the time does come when a family celebration to which you feel you MUST invite your family, such as a wedding, perhaps you will be able to persuade her that as you’ve met her all the way in everyday life, she might be able to give a little too.

Please let me know what happens.


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