My Wife Prefers Her Parents

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

From Australia: I am married for 9 years and have a daughter going school. I love my wife and child and in-laws as well. But I think I am possessive. My brother-in-law is 5 years younger than me. I am OK with him. But I always notice a problem with my wife. She behaves a bit different when her parents are with her. I don’t see the intimacy between us when her parents are around. I remember the days where I was overseas with my wife and felt very happy. When we go out for sight seeing with in-laws I am not interested in following them and they are not interested in following me. But my wife looks like stuck in between where she spends half time with them and half time with me. I kind of not happy with this. I feel my wife should give me more importance than her parents or her brother. We have our own house and in-laws have their own house. I would like to know how I should react in such scenarios where I am possessive and feel my wife is sliding on her parents and I am left alone. Should I take a bigger decision of moving away from in-laws far away? I don’t want to do this because I do think they are essential for me and my family but at the same time I want my wife to give more importance to me than them. Please advise.

A: You’re correct. You are being overly possessive — and you are putting your wife in an awkward position. Of course she isn’t as intimate with you, when the two of you are with her parents. That kind of intimacy is a special bond that belongs with the couple. When she is with her parents, she needs to give them her time and attention as well. She loves you. She loves her parents. Because you won’t join in with the family, she feels she has to divide her time between you. I imagine this is more stressful for her than you realize.

You are hardly left alone. You have a home and a little girl. You also have the supportive extended family most people would wish for. This is not your wife’s or your in-laws’ problem. It is yours. Work on being grateful that you have a wonderful family and a wife who maintains the connections among all its members. Focus on getting to know your in-laws as people instead of seeing them as a threat. (They’re not.) And don’t think about moving further away. My guess is that will make things much worse for your wife and consequently for you as well. If you can’t get over the idea that you are competing for your wife’s attention, please consider seeing a therapist.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 24 May 2014

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2014). My Wife Prefers Her Parents. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 19, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2014/05/24/he-feels-his-wife-prefers-her-parents/