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Dear Debra
Dear Debra, Advice Columnist
Category: Relationship
Satisfied Customers: 1818
Experience:  I have been an Advice columnist for 14 years. My column is published weekly in local newpapers.
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I have a real, deep, long lasting relationship issue throughout

Customer Question

I have a real, deep, long lasting relationship issue throughout my family which has/is affecting my marriage, kids and immediate family. I will most likely need to seek advanced counseling, but thought some initial direction here may be warranted. I have been married for 15 years (age 47) and we have two boys 11 and 9 yrs.

Situation 1: My wife comes from a family that did not value, therefore she did not experience a broad, communal, close extended family. I did, having grown up in a farming family that included great grandparents, grandparents, aunts/uncles and cousins. I was taught direction and obedience and work. My wife did not have that structure although she adores her family and is very close to her two sisters (she is the middle sibling).

Result 1: Because of our backgrounds, my family (specifically my parents) often expect to be involved in our lives, participating in the lives of our kids including discipline, driving expectations on us. I have the tendency to obey to their expectations because this is what I learned, and therefore they are able to impart some influence. My wife has grown to despise this which has led to her virtual dismissal of my family. We have not been intimate at all in our relationship, as I feel her disdain for my family has now put me in a similar light. I have tried to move to a more neutral position which has resulted in some recent blowups where any interaction now is very tense and uncomfortable. My parents visit occasionally to see our kids (i feel it is important to keep that connection), but they no longer stay with us and only for a day or so. This relationship situation also has extended to my only sibling (sister) who is very close to my parents, especially helpful as she has a special needs child. She did not bother to call or invite me or my family to my mothers' 70th birthday event she has planned, because she said she couldn't take the stress of having us attend. Over the last few days, I have had all 3 women in my life (wife, sister and mother) engage me in very emotional conversations where they were all putting me in a position of making choices. It's as simple as either a divorce or complete estrangement, neither of which are options to me. I don't believe the problem is me, and I am being put in the middle here and being asked by everyone to fix it...or at least that is how I feel. By the way, my wifes family, especially parents, will have nothing to do with my family. I have a fairly decent relationship with them, and although I don't appreciate some of their antics, I make it a point to accept them as they are.

I just need some direction on moving forward or risk some serious consequences regarding happiness, mental health not to mention the most critical issue I am concerned is the effect this will have on my two boys. We have done an ok job on shielding them from some of this, but I know they sense there are problems which could manifest themselves later in life with us and their extended relationships.

PMC
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Relationship
Expert:  Dear Debra replied 3 years ago.
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Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thank you. I think we are at that point of understanding. I have primarily supported my wife and our needs through this process.

 

However, as we have tried to re-establish a new relationship, my parents have agreed and have taken steps to try and back off. They have done a lot for us given some recent career challenges I faces recently but have now re-established. However, my wife continues to believe that any efforts by my parents in giving of time, gifts, sponsorship of opportunities for our kids are steps to control rather than help. She believes if she lets them back into her life as previous they will revert trying to influence our lives. Thus, she continues to rebuff my parents as they have attempted to modify their approach, making them very upset. She still avoids answer their phone calls or emails. I am always the one who has to respond. My mother says she is "heartbroken" and my dad is just "angry". My sister is both.

 

To describe the overall relationship over time, we have broken up and tried to come back together, but my wife hasn't fully made the transition, so we are moving back into a period of estrangement which may be permanent I fear. My parents have now told me they do not wish to have any communication with my wife. My sister states she doesn't trust her....stating she is nice is person, but doesn't carry through with the relationship from a distance and has learned that my wife has spoken negatively with others about my family. I know I'm am painting my wife as a villain....but I am just trying to get our families to a point of reasonable coexistence so my kids can participate and experience the value of a broader family.

 

The unfortunate thing now is that although I understand and support my wife feelings as you described perfectly in your earlier response, is that my attempts to repair are viewed by her as siding with my family. There are some instances where I believe she is overreacting, twisting the intent or misinterpreting connection attempts in an effort not to give in, which makes it extremely difficult for any compromising to occur. I don't know how I can support her/us and our needs and still create a level of coexistence without all of the negativity and mistrust.

Expert:  Dear Debra replied 3 years ago.
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Customer: replied 3 years ago.

I agree and have tried to move in that direction.

 

My parents and now sister communicate with me in isolation. When I suggest that, in my mind, the only way to rebuild is to reconnect directly with my wife and include her....they resist or outright refuse, claiming they have tried in the past only to be rebuffed or get no response from my wife. They believe it is on me to decide on maintaining a relationship with them, making statements like "we are your blood relatives and it is up to you to decide how we move forward".

 

What tactics do you suggest or have known to work for others in similar situations in order to allow these types of relationships to progress to a comfortable, respectful coexistence?

Expert:  Dear Debra replied 3 years ago.
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