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