Hey all. Normally I'm the guy giving advice, but today I'm looking for some help.
My girlfriend and I have been living together for almost a year, and we are quite happy together. In fact, we are planning on marriage as soon as we can afford to pay for the wedding ourselves.
Her parents have been clear they are against us being together. They tend to be rude during conversations and complain a lot. Complaints about me range from my career as a salesman to my choice of clothes. They have thrown full-blown temper-tantrums when we refused to drive an hour to their old house and do yardwork/clean it unless they would agree to let me buy them dinner or at least spend some time together. They constantly accuse me of controlling her--because since she met me she has learned to stand up to them and be her own woman.
As I see it, they try to control her and want to be in charge of her life, from finances to decorating. Luckily they recently moved 5 hours away. The last straw for me was when they recently threatened to kill my GF's pet because we "shouldn't have any pets."
They've made it clear I'm not welcome in their home, but my GF insists I go to Thanksgiving at their house.
Personally, I don't want to dine people like these, who say barbaric things like "I'll kill your pets" at a public restaurant. God knows what they'll be like in their own home. I don't want to make my GF angry, but I don't know if I can continue on civily with them.
So, in short, if anyone has experience with people like this, or any advice, I'd really appreciate it.
My future in-laws are similar, except more subtle, more manipulative. My attitude (agreed upon by my future husband) is that I do not need to have a direct relationship with them. They do not need to contact me directly; I do not need to see them without him. It is not yet to the point where I have a problem meeting with them with my future husband; they have never done something deeply offensive in my presence. But my future husband and I both figure it's only a matter of time before they attack me directly. Then I'll probably cut off all contact. And we're working very hard not to be dependent on them for finances or information.
But, I have my future husband entirely on my side. He doesn't like interacting with them, either. He's more upset about their behavior than I am. So if I didn't want to go to Thanksgiving dinner at my in-laws' house, that'd be alright with him. That's the big piece missing from your post. Does your girlfriend agree with you? Does she think their behavior is acceptable? Does she understand how much it upsets you?
You need to sit down with her and say, "I do not like your parents because I feel they're XYZ. When they did ABC, I felt it was offensive." She'll probably get defensive, but lots of the preparation for marriage is learning to see your "family of origin" objectively. Maybe she can legitimately excuse their behavior. Maybe she can explain a family quirk. ["Killing pets is an old family joke. My uncle's actually a vet."] Maybe she'll have no excuses and just be sore about it. Maybe she'll entirely agree but want to maintain your relationship with her parents anyway.
Whatever happens, you can move on to the next step: Doing what she thinks is best. Not because you do whatever you want, but because in the complex mix of her, her parents, and you, she now has the most information to make the decision. She'll know if you'll never win her parents over if you skip this event, if you'll both be miserable if you're apart, or you'll both be miserable if you're together for Thanksgiving. If she loves you, she'll put your desires over hers, but that doesn't necessarily mean that, looking long term, it's better you go to the dinner.
If you do go, I'd advise taking some precautions. Decide in advance when you'll leave. Figure out a signal you need to leave early. Agree on whether she'll leave you alone with her parents for longer than it takes to go to the bathroom. Make her promise to try to change the subject and to stand up for you if the conversation turns offensive. [Sure, you can stand up for yourself. But she can do it more effectively. They want to argue with you and humiliate you; they probably don't want to as much with her.] Have her explain any family traditions or quirks.
I'm guessing you're not married. In marriage you are merging two families, and from the sound of it, these parents will still want to be very much involved in their daughter's life after the knot is tied.
And I'm guessing you're not married to an adult child of abusive parents, who has recognized and confronted the abuse. Adults can usually work out for themselves how close they are to other adults; they can certainly distance themselves if they want to. Just because the parents want the relationship doesn't mean they get it.
It IS possible to have not-close relationships with bad parents and bad in-laws, but both spouses need to be on the same page about it. And these people are 5 hours away. All OP needs to do, long term, is set the boundaries (again, these ones I understand): No unplanned visits, and, No acting on the parents' advice without consulting him.
Oops. That should be, "Not because you do whatever SHE wants, but because..."
Thanks for the post. My GF gets upset at them over it all as well. She doesn't want to cut off all ties with them though, and I can't ask her to do that. I grew up in a family that treated me pretty poorly, and I simply cut off contact for a few years. After a couple years of knowing I don't have to have them in my life, my both my parents, and my extended family treat me as an adult and respectfully.
I love her a lot, and I'm willing to put my dispute aside for Thanksgiving. Actually, I'd be glad to put it aside permanently if they'd at least be polite in their problem with me.
Your last paragraph hits home well. It's my hope she will stand up for me at Tanksgiving, or any other meeting. I agree that if I stand up for myself it will probably make matters worse, but I'm not accustomed to just letting people say such barbaric things.
Honestly? Cut your losses and dump the girl. It's only a matter of time.
One thing that you need to understand is that when you marry someone you're marrying into their family. If they have family that's trash that they want no part of that's one thing, but this girl clearly wants her parents in her life. That means they're in your life. If they're controlling her life, or at least trying to, they'll control your life together. Especially if they don't like you. They won't trust you to take care of their little girl.
Her parents won't ever change and neither will she.
Terrible advice. People and relationships are more complex than you're letting on. Wanting to see her family at the holidays hardly means that the OP's girlfriend will allow herself to be controlled by her family and that this will become so troublesome that he's better off dumping her now.
True, but it's more likely bad advice than not, given what little we do know (they're happy together, her parents are further away than before, it's only Thanksgiving dinner).
In theory, "dump her" could be great advice in all relationship questions on this site, but it'd be ridiculous to always suggest it with reasoning as shoddy as Mike's.
I think there are even red flags in the OP. Without knowing more information I do think "dump her" as step number one is bad advice. People don't often threaten to kill pets. I can see the father saying something like how he doesn't think the two kids couldn't take care of a dog so he would kill it out of mercy instead of a slow painful death as a result of the kids inability to care for an animal. That would be an @ssh0le thing to say but not a threat to kill someones animal. I know people who would get all upset about that and turn it into a valid threat to kill a pet. I have also known guys who grew up as single children that get into serious relationships and the new parents are not constantly offering 100% praise and hand jobs every hour of every day. This in turn causes the guy to say the new parents don't like him.
A lot more advice is needed before you could advise him to dump her.
The comment really seemed like a threat to me, but I've been known to be mistaken. I'm not perfect, none of us are. Not sure if it matters, but I'm 26, my GF is 24. She grew up living in the country, and her parents were, until the last several years, her closest friends.
I can say that I think I take criticism well. I am typically quick to admit a mistake. Yes, I am used to dating girls whose parents like me, or at least are polite. Honestly, I don't find it distressing that they don't like me, but the barbaric tones they use to express their discontent are concerning. I didn't say everything about my past in the OP, because it would be massive, but I grew up in an abusive family. For years I cut my own parents and both sides of my extended family, and even one sister out of my life for treating me as less than human and only as a cash resource when they are in trouble.
I was just raising the possibility. This is a major limitation of internet communication. For all you know I could be a flaming @ss h0le like your future father-in-law who thinks killing pets is an acceptable action. I'm not and I do not think you are the worst case scenario that I described above.
I was just clarifying. I appreciated the input, and thought I'd add some more info of my own. Thanks