in-law problems

iVillage Member
Registered: 12-03-2013
in-law problems
Tue, 12-03-2013 - 2:08am

Hello all,

I fell on this board while looking for advice as to how to deal with my family in-law. Basically, I'm looking for advice on how to deal with the situation as it's become a lot for me to take. This may be a long story, so please bare with me, I'll try to simplify it as much as I can.

I've been with my fiance for 5 years now (engaged for 1 year now). We are in our early 30's.  I'm the third child from a family of 4, none of us siblings live in the same city, my parents live a few hours awary from us; and we all have a good relationship. My fiance is the oldest of 2 kids (8 years appart); We live about 15 minutes away from my in-laws, they also have a great relationship. 

The begining of our relationship was a bit rocky....  Not in the sense that it was bad for us at the begining, but I never thought that the praise I got from my family-in-law back then would kind of haunt me now... Back then, I was a god compared to my fiance's ex-girlfriend. The family told me that I brought back the son/brother they thought they had lost, that when he was with his ex, he didn't joke as much, didn't talk as much, etc...  I'll get back to this part a later on, you'll see why.

I have nothing but respect for his family and they have thought me a lot since I've been with my fiance.  They respect our privacy well enough, they never just drop in and they do not come over unless they call before hand. They call at least once a week, which isn't a problem.  We do our best to go and visit them at least once a week, I'm the one that keeps this on schedule because I want them to know that they are not forgotten and I feel it's a good obligation for us to go and see them.  So that part, I'm fine with. 

However, we are really starting to realise how both of our families are different on certain levels and how it's become to affect our relationship as of recently. I've come to realise that both of our families are in different life stages; in my family, all of the kids have left the household and all have their lives with their families, I've been through and dealth with losing my sister to her new family now (husband and kids) and that I wasn't as important to her as her new family...I love and respect my sister and I completely understand and I see the picture now.  In my fiance's family, he is the first one to leave his home, even though he lived with previous girlfriends, he was still very much close to home, now they are going throught the same thing we have been through as a family a few years ago. 

My fiance's family has been or are known to be a very very close family. I say this to describe that they do everything together.  For example: when my fiance was in his 20's, if he had a party (which you're supposed to have with people your own age), he would invite his parents and younger sibling (8 years younger) to the event. I come from a family that yes, we did do activities as a family, but we all respected our sibling's boundaries when he or she had other activities planned.  I know I'm speaking from my perspective that when I was late teens/early adulthood, if I had gatherings, I didn't want my parents there and my parents would probably not have wanted to be there either.

Where I started having problems is when we would be invited at friends places or other couples that knew the family, it was very hard to go without having the rest of the family there. It felt as if we came as a package, it was very hard for us to make other friends because they thought we always wanted to be together.  I was told by one of my friends that sometimes she didn't want to invite just my fiance and I because she didn't want to hurt the in-laws feelings if she didn't invite them either... But if she did invite them, there would be too many people at the we kind of felt left out!   My fiance explains that the people who invite us have known the family for a long time and they have all the right to be there. I understand his point to an extent, but at some point, the parents should do things with people their own age and let their kids be. No other parents are usually invited to our friend's gatherings.

Another issue was with the sister-in-law.  She still lives at home, 23 years old. She doesn't have many friends and says she likes to do things with us more than her own friends. she even cancelled plans with her friends one night to tag along with us to a gathering because she was automatically invited as usual... She has grown a lot in the past 2 years, but she is still young and needs to experience things by herself too. 

I have been starting to set our boundaries with the in-laws so we can gain some level of independence socially. I have learned a lot in the past 2 years on how to try to speak with them and say how I feel, my fiance has been very patient with my rants and has helped us work through the problems.... but I still feel as if the message hasn't reached the in-laws. I feel that the social aspect is somewhat important for us, but I feel we don't have much personal time with friends without having all the family there or feeling guilty of them finding out that we've done something without them.

We had a huge blowout this summer. First off, my sister-in-law wrote an email to my fiance telling him how she feels she lost her brother and that he is never the same as he was before (doesn't joke anymore, doesn't talk, etc..., sound familiar???). Secondly, a close friend of the family, she was a good friend of my fiance when they were younger and now consideres herself a member of the family blew up after me.  She told me that I have no right to change things and to do things without the family. That I had no right to do things without the sister-in-law. That I was making them feel like "sh*t". That before me my fiance never had a problem to do things with his parents... This was very hurfull because I never expected everything to be thrown at me like that and in that tone.  

We confronted the family, the sister-in-law did say that she would go to see this person and rant when things didn't go her way, but she never expected her to blow up after me. They said that the person who blew up after me was acting on her own behalf and that it didn't represent what the family felt. They felt terrible about the situation and I forgave them.

After a lot of communication, we were okay, but now I feel as if I'm more under the microscope. After all of this happened, my fiance decided that it was time for us to focus on ourselves, to go off the grid for a while and get back the energy that was lost. We went away this past weekend and when we got back, we got the call from the in-laws telling us that we should tell them where we're going and for how long.  They knew before hand that we had a trip planned, but we never went in to details with them and we never really had a chance to talk to them before we left.... Yes they did say they wanted to know the details in case of emergency, but I also felt as if they are trying to keep a tab on everything we do, and this message also came from the daughter.(a similar event happened this summer that helped trigger the blow out.)  I'm getting frustrated with them knowing every single thing we do. 

This is the jyst of it... We have been trying to talk to them about the family stages and us having our own social life. Sometimes they seem to understand, but then they would say someting that would tell me otherwise.  The only thing, in all of this, I don't think they want to accept this, they do not want to lose their son/brother.... I don't know how long it'll take or if this will ever happen. I think the circumstances they are in presently might prevent them from seeing the big picture? I just feel like I'm getting more and more frustrated as the time passes.  I'm hoping for certain ties to be cut so we can gain more independence without feeling guilty. But at the same time, I fear that their respect for me will deminish because they think I'm taking their son away.

Any advice on this?

Sorry for this long first post! I really appreciate any feedback. :)



iVillage Member
Registered: 11-28-1999
Tue, 12-03-2013 - 12:51pm

I can see both sides to the story here.  If there are some life long family friends who have known your DH's entire family since he was born, then if they want to invite everyone to a party, they will do it.  Obviously if you (& your DH) have made friends separately from work, school or some other kind of activity and you have a party that is for people your age, obviously the party host would not invite your whole family.  If they say anything, then you have the excuse that it was friends of yours and the party was only for people that they knew.  I do have to say that eventually you really won't care that your extended family is socializing with you--esp. when you have kids.  I'm mid-50's and I enjoy being with the whole family (of course, mine, but I would feel the same about my ex-inlaws too).

iVillage Member
Registered: 12-03-2013
Tue, 12-03-2013 - 10:30pm

Thank you for your response. I really appreciate you taking the time to see your point of view and how you are with your family.

Don't get me wrong, we love doing things with all the family, and we do things on a weekly basis with them. However, in certain situations, like my family, my parents knew when to say "No, you kids go and have fun!" But I try understand if my in-laws don't see it the same way, to a certain point...

The friends I'm talking about that has invited the family members are not long time friends ( I forgot to mention this). These peoples are just aquaintances that we met through other people at a gathering were the parents were also invited... (not sure if this makes the story too complicated, haha)... They wanted to become closer friends with both my fiance and I, so one evening, they invited us to a gathering... but they also invited the rest of the family because they thought we always wanted to be together. In discussing with these friends later on, they wanted to get to know us as a couple, but they thought we'd be offended if they didn't invite the parents and sister-in-law. But now, any gatherings they make, they now feel uncomfortable not inviting them.  We fear that the trend will continue, after speaking with the family to be open about this and letting them know how we feel, they don't seem to see that and basically got the response that "we've been invited, so we're going." 

We've also tried doing this with other friends that have no relationship with the family, I don't know where we went wrong, but all of a sudden my sister-in-law has them on her facebook and has invited them to certain events.  So I just feel that it's impossible to keep things like this separated.  It's to a point that if we do host something here, we almost feel guilty in not inviting the family, we did this once and it turned sour.

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-19-2008
Wed, 12-04-2013 - 1:27pm

My advice is that when they said you should have told them - you should have replied that no, this is your life and all the details of travel etc. are not necessary for them all to know.  You are grown ups.  If there is a problem/emergency I'm assuming one of you has a cell phone.  Enough said on that.

They are demanding things and you are giving in and therein lies the problem.  You will continue to resent this and continue until it blows up past the point of resolution.  You need to set the boundaries now and make sure your DH is willing to adhere to them as well.

As for the issue with friends and them wanting/feeling like they have to include the family - my suggestion is to start reaching out and making a new group of friends.  Ones that only know you as a couple and not a "family extended".