My husband’s uncle has great financial means however spends extremely little money on entertainment. He showed up unannounced for years often at supper hour and whenever he liked. After his girlfriend broke up with him his intrusions worsened. We repeatedly asked him to call before he came, but he would show up anyway and say “If you are busy I just go.” If we say we are busy he argues. Visits are often and prolonged. Finally, after waking us up one morning I firmly told him that he was asked to call and repeatedly violates our request. His first response was “You don’t like me.” I am also sick with Lupus and when this first big argument came I was caring for several children. He didn’t come unannounced nor even when invited for about 6 months and then out of the blue he started again. Then came the argument followed by absence then another 6 months all would start again. This cycle has been going on for about 5 years now. My husband and I explained why we needed him to call and he nodded his head as though he understood. After these talks I made sure to invite him over so that he would know he would be able to visit. His response is usually the same. “I may come, not sure what I am doing yet.” That ends up tying up our night as we don’t know if he is coming or not. If we invite others to play cards we may not be able to if he just shows up. Hubby feels guilty telling him that we are not up for company. It is badly straining our marriage as I can’t even rely on having a peaceful night. Hubby is stressed because he doesn’t want him doing it either but would put up with it if I didn’t complain. He also is extremely rude to us and other guests. He says and does mean things when he perceives an injustice towards him. Everything mean thing he does (which is often) seems to be calculated to send a message. The last 7 out of 8 invites we gave he caused issues. A pharmacist friend of mine told me to read “Controlling People” and I was shocked at how much scenarios in the book resembled this relative. How can I help my husband not feel guilty about insisting his uncle respect boundaries? My husband tries, then his uncles manipulates him and my husband yells at me as to why he can’t come over when he wants. (From Canada)
Turn him away or put him to work. One of the things that happens in this type of situation is that you no longer have needs from the person. The entire relationship is based on what HE needs — not what you need. The next time he barges in I would explain that it isn’t convenient. Don’t let him in — and assign him a specific time time-period he can visit. If you don’t set the boundaries, he won’t. Yes you will feel guilty doing this, but if you don’t — the resentment will always feel worse. This is a general principle. Let yourself cope with the guilt you feel as it will ALWAYS be easier to cope with than the resentment. Alternatively, you can let him stay but ask him to help you with some chores. Tell him it isn’t a good time for him to visit, but he is welcome to help you with a chore for a half hour. I would then assign him something specific to be done: Weed the back yard; wrap the newspapers from recycling; sweep the garage floor. I know this sounds odd. However, people like your uncle don’t have empathy for other’s needs. You’ll have to both set boundaries and request him to do something for you if you want to manage him.
This will no doubt irritate him but that is the point. He doesn’t have enough anxiety about the right things and is only thinking of himself. The irritation is designed to nudge him in the direction of change. By you increasing your boundaries and specific needs from him he will have to cope with an internal struggle: Does he want a relationship with you enough he can deal with limitations and other people’s needs? If he does, a more authentic relationship is possible. If he doesn’t, he is likely to stop showing up. If you don’t make changes in how you interact with him, he is not likely to change on his own.
Dan Tomasulo Ph.D., TEP, MFA, MAPP teaches Positive Psychology in the graduate program of Counseling and Clinical Psychology at Columbia University, Teachers College and works with Martin Seligman, the Father of Positive Psychology in the Masters of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) program at the University of Pennsylvania. He is Director of the New York Certification in Positive Psychology for the Open Center in New York City and on faculty at New Jersey City University. Sharecare has honored him as one of the top 10 online influencers on the topic of depression. For more information go to: http://www.dare2behappy.com/. He also writes for Psych Central's Ask the Therapist column and the Proof Positive blog.
Tomasulo, D. (2018). Intrusive & Rude Uncle-In-Law. Psych Central.
Retrieved on November 26, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2015/05/12/intrusive-rude-uncle-in-law/
Last updated: 8 May 2018 (Originally: 12 May 2015)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018 Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.