Psych Central

In-Laws Consistently Treat Wife Less Favorably

By Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

We’re looking for guidance around being able to resolve issues with my parent in laws. Albeit perhaps we have to accept there’s too much water under the bridge and too much denial to make any purposeful change. My wife & I have been together for near 20 years. When we got together I noticed a significant differential in the treatment between her brothers’ and her for which I remained silent on, I mentioned it in my diary but not to my wife.

The problems just got worse over time in terms of the unfairness and inequitable treatment. For example when we were in need through no fault of our own we got various anecdotes to life about taking responsibility and no assistance even when they knew we needed it.

Then, as time went by, we learnt of both her two brothers being assisted time and time again (too many to list). However at identical points her brother’s have been assisted both financially and emotionally despite them taking no responsibility.

One of her Brother’s got the offer of a matched mortgage deposit (i.e. what he can save their Father will match) and the other one got an obscene amount offered towards the purchase of a house or business. This is despite us being told that we would have to do it on our own which we have, with no assistance whatsoever whether emotional, physically or financially.

The final straw for us was when one of the brothers got given/offered an obscene amount. We challenged her father on this and his response is no parent can be fair with all children as its unrealistic of ‘people’ to think that. He preferred to remain silent and do nothing

I persuaded my wife, to help her overcome it prepare a chronology of the ‘significant’ differences over the years to phone her parents to discuss it. Her parents deny any differences despite there being categorical evidence to show the differences and clearly shows she was treated differently.

Basically, the family model is so dysfunctional, her parents’ attitude means only the ones that are irresponsible get rewarded or there appears to be some male ‘dominance’ type attitude whereby they are unaccountable nor do they have to take responsibility for their actions

My wife has suffered by an attitude of being treated like a second class citizen, in her schooling where her brothers were given a significantly opportunity, her parents attitude towards their sons including accepting and rewarding irresponsible behaviours that at various points that have resulted in lectures to us both or ‘expressions’ of disappointment.

She has given significantly to the family, emotionally, physically in terms of picking her brothers up and has had little in return in terms of thank you or even the respect in remembering her birthday which has only been remembered 7 times by her brothers combined in 20 years.

We have tried the ‘mediation’ approach, however their complete denial of events means this is impossible. Even a type of family group conference whereby items are discussed and actions put in context by someone independent. The final attempt was persuading my wife to speak to them on the phone to discuss items. Nothing has worked in terms that the denial is just so engrained their actions and commentary are damaging emotionally to my wife. Her parents have been deceitful in the level of support they have given her Brothers and worse still they even deny their own different treatment of siblings despite significant evidence to the contrary.

Don’t get me wrong, we are not looking for financial reward or any assistance from family, merely equality in the standards being maintained and respect both of which have been significantly lacking. I can only conclude from a professional stand point, that my wife has been parented to a higher level that her parents are incapable / do not want to maintain the standards that they made her stand to and have consequences on. There sibling group is my wife as the eldest near 40, her eldest brother near 35, and young brother near 30. The eldest brother is married, has a child of similar age (currently 17 months) to us and has really not taken responsibility with life. Travelling for significant periods of time (24months) and changing jobs about every 3 months whilst being bailed out financially at regular points.. Not once have their parents made the middle brother stand up and be counted, preferring instead to reward his behaviour by ‘bailing them out.’ Similar to the youngest, albeit admittedly he does work hard, but has also had significant opportunity promoted by his parents in terms of “rent free periods at home, matched mortgage deposit and assistance whilst travelling like his brother for significant periods (18months) etc…” Not once have they assisted Jeannette even when young to promote her career or give her opportunity of experience. Her brothers paid “board” at 20% of the rate Jeannette was told to, ‘best she needed to take responsibility and home is not a hotel.’

In essence, i was wondering if there was anything else we can try? The reason being we are now at the point whereby we have to stop the cycle by having no involvement as our Daughter is likely to suffer the differentials as well because one of her Brother’s has a child of similar age. If there is nothing else we can try, I suspect we have to accept that her parents in our view will never change as shown by their denial. Any pointers appreciated.

Many thanks.

There is a saying in therapy: “compare and despair.”

The details of your information indicate that the more you keep wanting what the parents can’t give, the more angry you will both feel.

I think it is time to unhook from them. As long as you need them to be different you will be in orbit around these issues. The bottom line is that the effort you put into trying to change them will deplete you. It is time to cut your losses, stop looking for what isn’t coming, and celebrate your success and achievement at being independent.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 17 Oct 2013

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2013). In-Laws Consistently Treat Wife Less Favorably. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 19, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2013/10/17/in-laws-consistently-treat-wife-less-favorably/

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