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Stuck Between Wife & Parents

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My wife and I have been married almost 7 years and together for almost 12. When we first were together things with her and my parents were great. Things changed however and she started talking to me about how my mom in particular was very confrontational to her. I started to pay closer attention and agreed there was a lot of contradicting but they are also very different people.

Other than her parents who live in our finished basement (which they paid for). Both families are 12 hours away. I enjoy being around my family but at the same time it usually creates tension between my wife and I.

This year for Christmas we agreed a quiet holiday with us and my 2 daughters (14 & 6). I told my parents that we were doing a quiet holiday with just us because we didn’t have time off to take. Of course, they came back with well what about a weekend visit after Christmas. 26-29. I said we will think about it. I was having a hard time saying no to them.

So I discussed it with wife and she was like do whatever makes you happy. I so badly wanted to say no but couldn’t do it so I agreed. I need to add our anniversary is the 29th. She thought they would be leaving the 29th but I said they where staying through that day. Well let’s just say it’s the most upset I have ever seen her.

I feel terrible that I wasn’t able to say no to my parents for fear of disappointing them. Now she seems to think I always put their feelings in front of hers. She said her holidays are ruined and so is anniversary. I hope she gets over this but not sure she will. I’m so pissed at myself for putting out marriage in this situation.

Please help me and give me some ideas of how to manage this. I love the holidays but feel like this one’s going I be a downer because of it sticking to my word to my wife.

Stuck Between Wife & Parents

Answered by on -

A.

As you said, your wife thinks that you have prioritized your parents over her. The reality is, she’d be right, at least in this instance. You can’t say no to your parents and thus you gave into them and did what they wanted to do, instead of what she wanted to do. In this scenario, your parents won and she lost.

There are several problems with the aforementioned scenario. The first is in regard to the agreement you and your wife made about Christmas. You went against that agreement. You gave her your word and then you didn’t follow through. That is a potential trust issue. At least in this scenario, she couldn’t trust you to do what you said you were going to do.

The next issue is that you can’t say no to your parents. Your parents probably know that about you and use it to their advantage. They probably see you as an easy target, a pushover. It is likely that this is not the first time this kind of thing has happened with your parents. It’s probably an ongoing issue.

You mentioned that you didn’t want to disappoint your parents. As an adult man, you no longer need your parent’s approval. Healthy adults are independent individuals. You now have your own family and it’s important that you do what’s best for them, first and foremost. The needs of your wife and children should be your priority.

People who struggle to say no often do so because they don’t like confrontation. They don’t like it when other people are upset with them. In an effort to avoid problems, they acquiesce to others and often end up doing things they don’t want to do. This often leads to feelings of resentment mainly because you are carrying out the wishes and desires of other people and not your own. The inability to say no is often motivated by fear of disappointment. Fear should never rule your life.

You’re worried about the fear of disappointing your parents but what about the fear of disappointing your wife? This kind of thing can damage a marriage.

To resolve this problem, it will be important to keep your word and to prioritize the needs and wants of your family. You are also going to have to tolerate disappointing your parents. As mentioned before, adults no longer need the approval of their parents. Your priority should be your wife and children.

This is your life and your family. As an independent person, you should be living your life how you want to live it. Your behavior should not be motivated by the fear of what other people will think of you.

Understandably, that’s easier said than done but the good news is that you can learn these skills in counseling. I would highly recommend consulting a therapist. If you have difficulty saying no, then making these adjustments may be a challenge. Therapy could help you to change the family dynamic. Correcting these issues can also significantly improve your marriage. Please give it some consideration. Good luck and please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle

Stuck Between Wife & Parents

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Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW is a licensed psychotherapist and Assistant Professor of Social Work and Forensics with extensive experience in the field of mental health. She works in private practice with adults, adolescents and families. Kristina has worked in a large array of settings including community mental health, college counseling and university research centers.

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2019). Stuck Between Wife & Parents. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 7, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2019/12/15/stuck-between-wife-parents/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 13 Dec 2019 (Originally: 15 Dec 2019)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 13 Dec 2019
Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.