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Ongoing Issues with My In-laws Not Respecting Boundaries with Husband’s Ex-Girlfriend

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My husband and I have been married for 12 yrs and have several children. My husband’s family have remained close friends with his ex-girlfriend. The friendship, in and of itself did not previously bother me. However, she has been invited over for holidays and family events in the past, and even after my husband and I have set very clear boundaries that we are not comfortable with this & requested that we are not to be invited to the same events. We moved and have lived 1,000 miles away and only visit every other year or so to their town. However, his youngest sister has asked his ex-girlfriend to officiate/do the vows in her upcoming wedding (with her father who is the pastor of his family’s church, because legally the ex-girlfriend can’t do it.) I realize she would be invited to the wedding because of the closeness of the relationship his family has maintained with her (which now does bother me). This choice has made it difficult for us to attend the wedding and allow our daughter to be included in the wedding party. I’m really trying to see it from both sides, but the ex-girlfriend’s presence really has created problems in the past 12 years (too extensive to go into). My husband’s mother continues to bring her up in conversation with us and alone with my husband when I’m not around, trying to facilitate communication between them. She is married, without children. I’m not really sure how to deal with this situation. What is the best way to communicate with his family and manage our attendance or involvement, especially in regard to the upcoming wedding? My husband told his sister she would have to choose between the ex being invited, or us, because it continues to create tension in our relationship whenever she is around or brought up in conversation by his family. We’ve had limited communication with the family due to the tension this (and other boundary violations) in the past and just began visiting last year for his brother’s wedding (which the ex also attended and helped coordinate-which we didn’t previously know). I didn’t say anything during that visit, but feel like we will continue to be expected to tolerate our boundary requests being ignored, therefore creating more tension in our marriage every visit and hindering our relationships with extended family. What is a healthy response?

Ongoing Issues with My In-laws Not Respecting Boundaries with Husband’s Ex-Girlfriend

Answered by on -

A.

 Your husband is right to tell his sister she would have to choose between the ex being invited, or the two of you. If they can’t respect your wishes and needs, then you have to honor your own and take a stand for what you believe. I wouldn’t belabor the point. If he has already let his sister know, I’d put a time limit on the decision process. In other words, something that says “if we don’t hear from you by…we will assume you’ve made your choice and will not make arrangements to be there.”

Finally, if you have it in you and it is authentic, let his younger sister know that it is important for her to have her special day the way she wants it, and that you wish her well even though the situation is such that you won’t be there. It sounds like both these things are true, and if they are, you can say them as a way of maintaining a connection.

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

Ongoing Issues with My In-laws Not Respecting Boundaries with Husband’s Ex-Girlfriend

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

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.

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2018). Ongoing Issues with My In-laws Not Respecting Boundaries with Husband’s Ex-Girlfriend. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 16, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2017/06/15/ongoing-issues-with-my-in-laws-not-respecting-boundaries-with-husbands-ex-girlfriend/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 May 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018
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