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In-laws don't like me

Hubert wrote:

I have been searching in vain for information online, that would pertain to methods of dealing with "unfriendly" and "controlling" in-laws.

My wife and I were married last August 2002. We both love each other very much, and there have been very few conflicts between us. Not that they don't happen, but we tend to agree on many things and feel that each other is our best friend.

That isn't where the tension is coming in our marriage. The tension, obviously less so from her perspective, is that her in-laws do not like me. I moved here in January 2001, and unfortunately didn't exactly get off the right foot when I got here. I had moved 1200 miles to an unfamiliar territory, to be with a woman that I had come to love in an online relationship. It was no secret that we cared about each other. I can speak for anyone that there are many suprises in a marriage, many things that learn about your significant other, that no relationship for any length of time with that person could have taught you otherwise.

Anyway, when I got here it was about two weeks before I found work. I really knew nothing about this area, nothing about the people, the culture, the jobs available. It didn't help that I was still in college (still am), so I had no college degree (nor any professional work experience) to give me any leverage in a job hunt. The truth hurts, but I did very little in those first few weeks. I did wind up getting a job, but didn't keep it very long. The pay was an insult to me, and I really didn't like the people. I went through several jobs, and at one point my soon-to-be fiance were seriously ready to leave each other. Actually, she wanted to leave me, but I asked her to reasonably look at my situation, to think about what things might be like from MY perspective.

I was very aware of how she felt, I could see how things might be from her perspective, supporting a man that she really only before knew over the internet, and who couldn't hold a job. I understood what this whole thing might look like from her sister's vantage point (they own the house that rent an apartment out of, and they live next door). From the get-go, I got the impression that they didn't like me.

Fast forward months and months. I would say that in the last six months or so I have really grown uncomfortable around them. They (m wife's sister, nephew, nieces, brother-in-law) "never" talk to me when they see me outdoors, though I have made attempts at conversation with my wife's sister and the others. Their kids seem to run indoors when I'm out, and can say nothing more to me than "yes" or "no" (if they even say that). When we go over there on the holidays I try and talk to the kids, and participate in the in-law's conversations. I have to admit, though, that I think they're horrible at socializing. I'm no power speaker myself. Anyway, I try and stay over there for hours on end, though I'm completely bored out of my mind. They really talk about nothing (again, I try to show interest in what they talk about), and even worse they never ask ME about MY life! They don't ask about how college is going, they don't ask about the things I am learning with computers. They never ask about MY family (though I've shown more than once an interest in THEIR family). They just simply don't make me feel welcome there. That's quite a cultural shock for me, since most of MY family (from the south) are hospitable, and always try and make someone feel welcome into their home. Even better, MY family treats people that they don't know as their own family. They are just much friendlier.

Fast forward to about a week ago. My sister-in-law told my wife that she has resentment that when I first moved here that I didn't get a job right away and keep the job. She told my wife that I am trying to alienate my wife from her family, which I think is a blatanly, misinformed, ignorant statement. She also told my wife that I never spend any time over there, and that they don't feel comfortable around me because they don't know anything about me. What?!? Common sense would tell them that in order to get to know someone, you TALK to that person. She also told my wife that I didn't get done with college when I said that I would get done, that she feels that I am dragging along college, so that I won't have to work. It's just so silly the accusations they are making, I've begun to lose total respect for them. I hate to say that they're jerks, but that is what I think of them now. What I told my wife is that they should come to ME and talk to ME before making such i!
gnorant remarks, and that if they had more information about me, they wouldn't be harboring such feelings of resentment toward me.

I have tried to be a friend and a father figure to my in-law's children, because I feel they are not well behaved, and are not considerate of others' feelings. When I was young I was known to be friendly with others and to show compassion for others. I've always tried to maintain that approach toward the rest of the world. There have been times with the in-law's children would just knocking on our door and when we let them in they would just raid the candy jar and run out the door without saying "Thank You" or anything that acknowledged their appreciation for what we gave them. I understand that they were used to coming over whenever they wanted, before I came here, and that probably my wife could have done a better job of instilling good manners in the kids. I also think that my in-law's should have understood that my wife would no longer be there at their every beckoning, that she had her own life now. I really think this is where a lot of the resentment is coming fr!
om. My wife no longer feels comfortable going over there, and I honestly don't think it is because of the way that I feel toward them, but that she has come out over the past year with feelings she had toward her sister and in-laws, that they didn't make HER feel welcome there, either.

I still don't understand where they get the idea that I am trying to alienate my wife from them. Why would I do that? That's her family! On the same token, I'd expect my wife to want to spend more time with me. Something that I feel strongly about is that husbands and wives SHOULD feel loyal to one another, and that they should support one another in the presence of others. I don't feel that my wife has told them a lot about me. I really respect that she feels that it is really no one's business what goes on in our marriage, or that no one really needs to know what our life is like together. Still, I think she should have at least "bragged" or talked about my being in college, and the struggles I was having with the new city, the people, the climate, all those things that people experience when they move to some place far away.

I am writing to you, and expecting that you get hundreds or thousands of such emails, hoping that you will offer me some advice. My aunt has already told me that my wife and I "NEED" to get away from her family, and I would love nothing more than to have our own place. Some times I think it would just be better for me to drop college and work a lot more so that we can buy our own place. My wife doesn't want me to do that, and some times I realize how hard it has been for me to obtain a college education (I am adopted, no one in my real family ever even graduated from high school), how far I have come. I just feel that if this continues much longer that I'll wind up walking out of our marriage or alientating my in-laws from my wife, as they are now accusing me of doing.

I am looking forward to anything you have to say, good or bad. I just need help with this, and don't think I should burden my wife with anymore of this than I already have.

Dear Hubert

I'm not going to respond point by point to your note; though it was useful in giving background. I hear what you are saying.

You are right in that it is a common problem, and I believe you have been sucked into the common attempt at solution - you are competing with them for your wife's love ... and you are doing it by fighting over time and other 'measurables' because (so far) we can't measure love.

It's all pointless. No one can win; you could force a division between your wife and her family, they could drive you two apart. Your wife has been placed in an impossible position.

You don't have to like your in laws, they don't have to like you. You need never meet them, or talk to them. But you need to discuss this with your wife; what does she want? Your turn to look at things from HER perspective.

It sounds as if you may need external help, as it's got so bad, but the important thing is to protect the marriage, and find a way of living on the same planet.

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