How Much Of A Part Should Your Significant Other's Family Play In Your Relationship?

I have been with my girlfriend for four years this May. I truly love her and we get along very well most of the time. My girlfriend is very close with her mother as her father has been working out of the state/country for the last 5 years, and her mom is around a lot of the time when we are together (she lives at home and I usually go over there when we spend time together.) 

In so many words, I cannot stand her mother. While we have never had confrontation at all face to face, I feel that she is far too involved in our relationship than need be, and she is not the kind of person that I would typically surround myself with. I could go on for just about ever about my reasons for disliking her, but that is not what is important. Let's just say that her 2 cents come very often and are very rude, very condescending, and overall not appreciated.

My girlfriend and I are moving into our own place together next month. This has brought on a whole new brand of the 2 cents that I was speaking of  and frankly I have gotten sick of it. Recently, a lot of turmoil has come up in our relationship because of my feelings of being disrespected and my feelings toward her mother. I am still finishing college (I'm 23, didn't start until 20 and have been going half-time) and won't be done until I'm 25. My girlfriend earned her bachelor's last year, and we have had many discussions of living our lives together, getting married when the time comes and starting a family of our own. During one of these conversations, my feelings towards her mother came up and she told me that if we were to get married that I would be marrying her family (especially her mother) as well as her. I definitely understand the taking on of your significant other's family, but as things have gone in the first 4 years of our relationship, boundaries will be crossed and I will be annoyed and very disrespected. I fear buying a house and having children and having my mother in law telling me what I need to do and how my plans are wrong and it really makes me question whether it will work out between my girlfriend and I.

My question is, to you married men, how much of a role do your wives' parents play in your relationship? Specifically, how much did they early on?  While it may come off like I am insensitive and I need to just suck it up, please understand that it has come to the point where I have a hybrid second mother-girlfriend creature that is almost ruining my life. I understand that my girlfriend and her mom are close, but I am in a relationship with only one of them.

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Correct me if I'm wrong, but I get the impression that you've kept these views to yourself and only recently shared them with your girlfriend (or only recently explained to her the vehemence of your views).  If so, why?  Why let it fester so long?  Why not let her know years ago that you have objections to how her mother behaves?

In the past I have let her know how I have felt in regards to how her mom made me feel and what "irked" me but I definitely held back a bit to not put her in the middle. Lately, especially since we've been working on the new place and overall working towards moving out together, her moms words and actions have gotten a lot worse and I have not held back as far as letting my girlfriend know when I've had enough. The way I feel is not a new thing by any means it has just been amplified in recent months.

Frankly, this isn't a problem with your girlfriend's mother ... its a problem with your girlfriend.  It isn't that the mother is intrusive, its that your girlfriend invites/ allows the intrusion.  Your in-laws will play as much of a role as the wife allows.  If she sets boundaries and makes sure they're observed ... they will be.  If she doesn't, there will be no boundaries. 

Part of the problem here is that you're not married, so I don't have a lot of advice to give you on relating to your girlfriend's parents when you're shacking-up with their daughter.  Her mother is rightfully protective.  Even if she moves in with you ... she's not your wife.  You have no real responsibility to one another, and no real commitment to ask her to honor.

At this point, I'd re-think moving in together before y'all commit ... and I'd have a long discussion about family boundaries after marriage.  You need to know what the boundaries are going to be, and that she's going to honor the marriage, even if she occasionally has to tell her mother to get lost.

JB

This.

My ex wife had the same opinion as your now girlfriend.... notice the "ex" part. My now wife is really close with her mother, grandmother and grandfather. Even though I cant stand her grandmother, it doesn't cuase a problem becuase she understands I married her... not her family... I tolerate her family becuase I love her, but she knows I'd rather not if I can avoid it. So she doesnt try to force it to much.

Jack is pretty well spot-on.

The dating phase is akin to a job interview before you are hired.

So, if she isn't going to take your feelings about her mother's intrusiveness into account - then you are looking at a major compatibility issue. Address that issue before moving forward.

"Frankly, this isn't a problem with your girlfriend's mother ... its a problem with your girlfriend.  It isn't that the mother is intrusive, its that your girlfriend invites/ allows the intrusion.  Your in-laws will play as much of a role as the wife allows.  If she sets boundaries and makes sure they're observed ... they will be.  If she doesn't, there will be no boundaries."

I completely agree with this.

Yes, this is exactly what I was thinking and well stated by JB.

I once took a girlfriend home to stay with my family for about a week during Christmas.  My parents were not treating her nicely, so, after my girlfriend had gone to bed, I gave them a little ultimatum.  I just told my parents, with a little more heat than was really necessary that they could either A) start treating her like a welcome guest and a family member or B) we would be leaving the next day.  It's my job to make sure my parents respect the girls I choose, whether they approve or not.  You would do that for your girl, and she should do it for you.

Spot on! 

The only thing I will add to this is that maybe you need to have a discussion with your girlfriend's mother. Ensure her that you will take care of her daughter and that you don't need to be chased every step of the way. Then maybe offer a "fresh start? You don't have to like her, but as long as her and her daughter are close, you're going to have to tolerate her.

I'm going to have an unpopular opinion but here goes.. Until you marry your girlfriend, her family is her home. They are responsible for her (even if she doesn't live with them). When you marry her, you are taking on that responsibility of providing and protecting her. When you marry her you become her home.. Until then, you should treat her family with the utmost respect and keep in mind you are privileged to date their daughter.. When y'all start a family of your own, then you can ask and expect the in laws to be less involved in your personal life. 

That only works if the wife agrees with that model. If the wife thinks that, even after marriage, the parents' role remains the absolute same, that model you propose means nothing.

You're right. That's definitely something that needs to be discussed beforehand. My main point was, I don't think you should insist on your girlfriend's family playing a lesser role until you marry her.

What a beautiful thing, that someone should remain close to a beloved parent.  Yet how inconvenient, if you dislike her.

This is an occasion for you to show strength.  It would be easier to combat MIL.  It would be easier to avoid her.  But you are called to be civil without being dominated; to drive no wedge between wife and MIL while keeping the stuff you dislike about MIL out of your own head.

There are techniques. The one I use with difficult people is "wall of nice":  you keep them out by being unfailingly nice and never taking any bait.  A book that tells some tactics on this is The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense by Susan Elgin.  She calls what I'm talking about "computer mode."

Another tactic is to level:  without heat, just to say, I'd rather hear things you like than things you dislike.  It's hard for me to be around such negative comments.  Such things.  However, it does make you vulnerable, and it can lead to explosion.  It's worth doing if you want to build a relationship with someone, rather than just keep her at bay.

--

Yet your last paragraph makes me wonder if more is going on than you say.  You ask "much of a role do your wives' parents play in your relationship?"  My answer:  none.  Ever.  From the beginning.  How much of a role does your gf's mother play in yours?  Does she go on your dates?  Participate in your conversations about love?  Or does gf keep saying "Mom says..." -- in arguments?  

It may have been easier for me.  My wife was in 30's and I was in 40's and we had long since left behind the habits of obeying our parents.  I suspect you feel the need to defer to this woman, and it gripes you.  When you're truly independent, you don't chafe or rebel; rebellion is for underlings.  You aren't one.

But I keep running up against that I am not really clear on what's happening.  Still maybe something I said is useful.

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