Need some advice...

iVillage Member
Registered: 12-11-2009
Need some advice...
Fri, 12-18-2009 - 8:40am

I am a 25 year old, happily engaged to a wonderful guy who suffers from alot of issues from growing up with an abusive family. That's not the problem, the problem is that both his parents are gone now (before I met him), so the Christmas season is very difficult for him. Now, I have always loved Christmastime, and I try to make the holiday a little easier for him as much as I can.

This time of year is always hard for him, but this year is even worse since he's been out of work for almost a year. I was laid off as well, a few months ago, so with money being so tight (I'm the only one who qualified for unemployment assistance), we have had to go to my folks for help here & there.

My folks are very helpful, I had a wonderful childhood and they even paid for my college schooling by themselves and bought me my first car. They have helped us out alot since we both lost our jobs, from sometimes paying for our gas, buying us food when we don't have enough cash, and even paying us for odd jobs around the house.

My fiance (his name's Keith) and my dad have their issues, most of them revolve around Keith not being able to find work (we're in western New York, the area has next to nothing to offer, even part time jobs are hard to find), and I know that both my parents are worried about my future.

Last night my dad and Keith came to harsh words again, and now Keith won't come to Christmas dinner (he wasn't planning on going for most of the fall, but just last week he and dad started to "make up," until things blew up last night), which is upsetting to me, but I think I can deal with it.

What I need advice on is this, I called my sister to tell her what was going on (we have been closer in recent years more than when we were growing up, and she likes Keith), and after calming me down - I get very emotional very easily, with things being so tough lately it seems like I cry at the drop of a hat - she told me that for the last few months my folks have been trying to come up with ways to get Keith and I to split up, even going and asking my sister for ideas!

Now, I can't tell Keith this, it would devestate him. He - and I - thought that at least my mom liked him and enjoyed having him around, even if dad was more vocal about his concerns with Keiths unemployment. I told my sister I wouldn't say anything about it to the folks so they don't get mad at her for telling me, I just feel so betrayed. They're my parents- and I know they want the best for me, but what Keith and I are struggling through is only temporary, we will both find jobs again & get back on our feet, they know how happy he makes me and how in love we both are, I just can't believe they've been scheming for so long to try and tear us apart.

Now I'm afraid to even visit, afraid that when me & mom are chatting ('ve always been close with my mother), that she'll say something nice about Keith and I know it won't be true. I mean, I'm not niave, but I'm not the best at picking up on lies...I never really felt I had to, especially not from my folks. Now, I'll be going over for Christmas without Keith (we've been together for 3 years & past Christmases at my folks have gone over fine), which'll be hard & awkward enough...but now that I know their real intentions...I feel like I can't believe a word they say. Especially my mother...

Anyone have any ideas of what I should do? Or should I do nothing? I don't like keeping secrets from Keith, it's something we're both very passionate about, but I think if I tell him what they've been doing, he'll get even more depressed & never want to give my folks another chance at all. I don't want to confront my folks (well, part of me really does want to), because they've been so good to me & to keith, and also I'm no good at confrontations, and plus I dont wanna get my sister in trouble for telling me.

Saying nothing seems to be the way to go, it's just gonna eat away at me, especially at Christmas dinner without Keith, and also especially when Keith makes a comment along the lines of "atleast your mom likes me."

I just feel so hurt and feels good to get it off my chest though.

Sorry for the lengthy post.

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-18-2009
Fri, 12-18-2009 - 10:34am

I understand about Western NY. Just to share a little bit of my experience if you're interested, my BF of about 5 years is a Buffalo native and we met in college in Rochester. After I graduated I moved to the Buffalo area and he lived at home about 10 miles away, and we spent about two years there. It was awful. He was working a dead-end job in retail and I was working at a job that was really below my skill level and paid next to nothing (though it's easy to survive on next to nothing in Western NY). One day after a lot of personal stuff going on (dad getting cancer, brother getting married) I decided I had to move and find something better. He agreed, with hesitation at first, then he found an awesome job working for WWE in his field (film editing) and I got a job very close by at a place that pays really well and is challenging. We have a lot more going on in our lives now, and are really making the most of our potential. Moving away from Western NY was really the best decision we could have made. I don't know if this is an option for you, but I know I would have been really unhappy dooming myself to a future of absolutely nothing in Buffalo and my parents would have been justified in being disappointed if I did this because of a man. Though NOT justified in plotting to destroy the relationship.

That's my story, sorry for getting long-winded.
As for your parents, they want to see you making the most of your life with someone who lifts you up rather than drags you down. If he's lifting you up in ways they can't see, then maybe you need to tell them? You could have a heart-to-heart with your mom and tell her what you love about him. Maybe she'll understand if you tell her?

What it comes down to is this... And I'm not trying to justify your parents' behavior in any way, just trying to give you some perspective of where they're coming from... The parents who raised you and sacrificed for you and love you and want you to make the most of your life, they are seeing you in some difficult times and it's hard for a parent to sit back and just watch without doing anything. They're also, for some reason, associating this guy with the hardship in your life and so their strategy to helping you involves extracting him from you. It's not fair and not right, but when parents feel that desperately about a child in trouble, they don't always take logical or reasonable action.

I hope you can talk to her, you shouldn't have to bottle this up.

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-26-2003
Sat, 12-19-2009 - 3:02am
Welcome to the board, Marsbert1984 ~

I'm sorry you're struggling with this, it has to be hard knowing what you know and as a result not knowing what you can believe anymore.

Before I can know what to offer you in the way of suggestions, I'm wondering, do you know for certain why you're parents want to break you up? You're indicating it's due to the unemployment, but do you know for sure? Did your sister say or do you have an inkling based on what your parents may have said to you about him/your relationship before? Have they tried to break up any of your past relationships? Are they generally people who's opinions you trust? When your dad and Keith get into it, what do they get into it about? Also, how does his abusive past affect him and his relationship with you?

Thanks in advance, your answers will help me see this better!

"Ignoring the facts
does not change the facts"

~ Author unknown

2nd border

"Ignoring the facts
does not change the facts"
iVillage Member
Registered: 12-11-2009
Sat, 12-19-2009 - 11:16am

I don't know their exact reason, but my sister said "they've been trying to come up with ways to break you two up," and when I asked for how long they'd been thinking about this she said, "it started with the age difference when you guys got together" - Keith is 15 years older than me - and then she said, "I think if he had a job and was making even just a little bit of money, I know dad especially would feel different." Later on in the conversation she hinted that they feel he's using me.

When my dad and Keith aren't getting along - and it's only ever started happening since Keith's been unemployed - it starts over the stupidest thing and then escalates over the phone, and it usually ends with dad saying something along the lines of "prove to me you're worthy of my daughter!" and Keith saying something like "I don't have to prove anything to you, only her." They've never argued face to face, because whenever Keith gets upset about something dad said (Dad is the kind of guy who makes comments without fully thinking about what he said, he's done it to me and my sis our whole lives), it's because he's heard about it from me.

The situation evolved a little more last night into dad telling me over the phone that "you don't have to tell him every single thing said in this house." I told dad that Keith and I don't keep secrets from each other, and we talk about everything. Dad made it sound like Keith doesn't deserve to know when he (dad) is saying something bad about him to me. ANd yeah, I regret saying anything because it started this whole thing and now Keith won't ever go to my folks' house, and I feel like I ruined what he and my dad were starting to mend. Plus it's right before Christmas, which makes it even more depressing for me.

I've always trusted my mom. She and I have been close since I was young, and we always have fun together. We always joke around, I make her laugh so hard sometimes and it's just (usually) fun to be around her. Keith and I - when going out with mom only - would usually have a great time with her, he makes her laugh too (one of the reasons I fell for him was his sense of humor). Now that I know she's "conspiring against me," I'm afraid to go over there and let my guard down in front of her and have a good time (on christmas, mainly, since it's coming up) and maybe, accidentaly, let something slip about Keith and I arguing or something that she;'ll want to "use against me."

I put those phrases in quotes because I feel like I'm in a movie saying them, it's all so strange thinking about my mother like this. If it was just my dad, heck I wouldn't be surprised, but since my sister said that mom would ask her every now and then, "do you have any ideas how we could break them up?" I just feel like I'm seeing her differently.

Keith's childhood was VERY abusive. He and his siblings were physically abused by the dad when they did something wrong (he was punched with belt and has a scar above his lip, his brother thrown down stairs and broke a leg, his other brother's head put through a wall), but then the next day their folks would have a present waiting for them and it really messed with all of the their heads. His folks both died a few years ago, before I met him, and the holidays he spends most of the time depressed because he misses them - I guess once the children all grew up, they became closer to the parents, I know he and his mother grew especially close up until she died. Another problem was that his older brother (keith being the youngest) used to let his friends abuse Keith sexually. We haven't talked much about that, not much details or anything, but he's told me bits and I've been there for him as much as I know how. He's not screwed up sexually or anything, our sex life is wonderful, but since that brother died too (when they were all still young, in some swimming accident), he says his parents never really believed him about it when he told them because that brother had just died.

THe only family he has left is a sister in Pennsylvania who he's only just started having contact with again. I guess she cut him off years ago right after their folks died, but then when we had just gotten together in early 2007, she sent him a letter and they've started corressponding a little bit here and there.

Sorry this is so long-winded, I hope i answered your questions and made the situation a little more clear. thanks for any advice/input and thankyou to those who already replied.

iVillage Member
Registered: 09-06-2007
Sat, 12-19-2009 - 4:11pm

I am not a parent, but I can understand how your parents want the very best for you and that means in a partner too. It doesn't seem like the lack of job and age are the only thing, but this could be a big part of it. Do they know about his past at all? They are probably hoping that a 40 year old man should be able to stand on his own two feet by now.

I imagine it feels demeaning for Keith to also except the help you guys get from your parents. That could built up resentment beweteen both of them.

What does Kieth do all day if he's been unemployed for a year? What's his daily routine?

Does being with Kieth "lift you up" like Undercovercab said? Does he make life just that better and make you want to be a better person for just knowing him? I hope so, (if not - that's a bad sign) and then you might need to convey this to your parents so that they see how happy he's making you.

Has Kieth had any type of counseling to deal with the abuse he endured, both physically and sexually? You said that acts fine, but I just have this feeling that it's going to blow up in your face at some point. All the issues that he's been suppressing/ignoring may come to light some day.

iVillage Member
Registered: 06-24-2008
Sun, 12-20-2009 - 12:21am
and then she said, "I think if he had a job and was making even just a little bit of money, I know dad especially would feel different." Later on in the conversation she hinted that they feel he's using me.

In your first post you said your parents have been helping you and Keith out financially a lot. It may be that in addition to hiding their feelings about the relationship from you, they may also be not so happy to be helping you both out with money. Something to think about next time you go to them and ask for help. Are you going to them first or as an absolute, last resort? They probably don't want to see their daughter go without, but it might be causing a lot of resentment to build towards Keith.

It just might not be possible for your family to be supportive of your relationship when he is living off your income, or your unemployment benefits, or your parents. It's not usually what people hope for their daughters, to be dating an older man without a job for a long time. Maybe when he is working again things will naturally improve.

and it usually ends with dad saying something along the lines of "prove to me you're worthy of my daughter!" and Keith saying something like "I don't have to prove anything to you, only her."

You know it hasn't been that long since men who wanted to marry a woman would seek her fathers permission. Your dad may feel completely justified wanting to know exactly how it is this man is worthy of having you in his life. He loves you, right? Keith is coming from a different mindset, where parents hurt you and confuse you and refuse to listen to you or believe you. Keith may care what your dad thinks of him but he's approaching it in a way that is rubbing your dad all wrong. Or maybe Keith doesn't care what your dad thinks of him, which is rubbing your dad even more wrong. They'll probably clash on this one as long as your dad is feeling that Keith isn't earning your dad's respect.

The situation evolved a little more last night into dad telling me over the phone that "you don't have to tell him every single thing said in this house." I told dad that Keith and I don't keep secrets from each other, and we talk about everything. Dad made it sound like Keith doesn't deserve to know when he (dad) is saying something bad about him to me.

Your dad probably doesn't believe Keith deserves to know. Maybe your dad feels like it's a violation of your relationship with him, that you will repeat something he says, that he has no confidence with you. I don't keep anything from my husband either really, though I might not tell him something that would only hurt his feelings, and I certainly wouldn't outright tell the other person I had repeated what they said. This isn't an easy boundary to navigate, especially with the situation you are dealing with. But lesson learned - your dad doesn't want to know you are repeating what he says.

With your mom that does sound harder to understand. It sounds to me like she doesn't like the situation you are in but she doesn't want you to know that. She wants to be supportive, so she's showing you that side, but she really isn't supportive and is not acting supportive in reality. You can do two things about that. You can sit down and have an honest open discussion with your mom and ask her to be straight with you about her feelings about Keith and the relationship, if you think you really want to hear it and address it with her. Or you can accept she isn't going to be supportive of a guy who isn't working, hasn't worked, is a lot older than you and has a complicated past. You can also remind yourself that she has no power to break the two of you up even if she does wish that.

I'm sure it does hurt to learn all this about how your family feels and deal with all this at the holidays. It sounds to me like you are between a rock and a hard place, there's really no way to bring Keith and your family together with the present situation what it is. Which is kind of sad, you know, that you have this close family that Keith never had, and because of what is going on with him and your relationship you are being pulled from away from them, which more matches his past experience. So rather than him experiencing a great family, you are experiencing a torn apart one. It's so much easier when your adult romantic relationships don't disrupt your larger family experiences and vice versa, but for that you have to be with someone who wants the great extended family, who knows how to be part of that, and who fits in it. Keith just isn't that guy. Hopefully you can make it through the holidays and find more good things ahead in the New Year that will at least make the situation better than it is right now.

"The last of human freedoms - the ability to choose one's attitude in a given set of circumstances. " - Viktor Frankl.

"The key to good decision making is not knowledge. It is understanding."
Malcolm Gladwell Blink

iVillage Member
Registered: 12-11-2009
Sun, 12-20-2009 - 3:29pm

I know you're right, you all are. As long as Keith isn't working (and myself either), my folks are going to take issue with the fact that he can't provide for me. Even when he does get a job again, I'm sure we'll still have some problems concerning my folks. But what you said is true, and of course it had been on my mind this whole time, I know that they can't break us up, as much as they might want to. Frankly, what you guys all said, I basically agree with and already knew, but it was like I had to hear it from someone else for it to ring true in my mind, you know what I mean? I don't want to corner my mother, partly because I don't want that uncomfortable conversation and partly because I'm sure she wouldn't want it either. I really appreciate all your comments guys, even though I haven't been on these boards long & hardly know any of you, thank you so much for your advice & support. Keith & I are going through some really rough times right now, and I know we're not alone, but we are going to get through these tough times and come out better & stronger on the other side.

Thanks again guys.
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-26-2003
Mon, 12-21-2009 - 3:00am
Hey, Marsbert, you didn't answer some of my questions:

*Have your parents tried to break up any of your past relationships?
*Are they generally people who's opinions you trust?
Also, I know you said your father and Keith argue about little stuff, but what specifically?

I have to say that I agree with your parents that it's not necessary or really always appropriate to share everything that's been said with Keith. In that respect, your parents don't feel comfortable or free to share what they'd like with you as they know that what they'd like to say to their daughter will be passed to others. There are times that what's said between families isn't appropriate to be shared with others. That isn't "keeping secrets", it's being confidential and sometimes, sharing does not good but to hurt the person you're "reporting" to.

You say you're close with your mom, so why haven't you asked her what she thinks of Keith? I would think if you value the opinion of your parents, their thoughts would be important to you. Of course, at this point, since they believe anything they say will go straight back to Keith, it will be hard for them to be honest and tell you what they think. You'd have to assure them confidentiality before they'd be likely to tell you much, and it would probably be small things over a period of time at that; they'd need to see proof that what they're saying isn't being fed to Keith, causing more rift between them before you'll really know much. But I think, if they're people who's opinions and advice you generally value, listening to their thoughts would be a very important thing for you to do; of course, that's only if you're able to truly listen to what they have to say and consider it openly.

I'll be interested in your answers to the questions posed by the others as well. Like many others, I don't think your parents reasons are centered around unemployment.

"Ignoring the facts
does not change the facts"

~ Author unknown

2nd border

"Ignoring the facts
does not change the facts"