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Mina, Clinical Psychologist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 188
Experience:  Working as a Highly Specialist Clinical Psychologist in NHS. Experience in both children and adults
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My question is regarding cultural differences and

Resolved Question:

My question is regarding cultural differences and conflicting needs.
My husband immigrated from Poland 20 years ago (I'm American born)
We've been married 19 years. We have two teenage boys 15 and 17.
His niece also immigrated to America 10 yrs ago and I helped her extensively.
At times, she lived with us, I found her jobs, etc.
I began to feel like a doormat and taken advantage of.
It felt my husband was very happy to jump when she said jump.
I haven't heard from her in years. Husband still calls his niece,
but she rarely initiates a call to him. Basically, she wrote off contact
with us years ago. Husband acts oblivious to it.
He keeps trying - but I don't miss it !
Her parents (my husband's brother from Poland) has arrived and will stay with her.
Husband is talking about spending Christmas with them(???)
My problem:
We have not spoken or seen each other (niece) in many years.
I doubt we are fond of each other.
She did not invite us over for Christmas.
His brother and wife from Poland don't speak English.
Although very nice people - they are strangers to me.
Husband just saw this brother from Poland 2 weeks ago when in Europe.
I have a chronic illness and could not stay long.
I agreed to visit his brother and wife -
but for Christmas? That's uncomfortable and awkward.
I also helped his other brother (who speaks English) after immigrating
to USA for three long years and he mooched off of us.
We have very different feelings. What turns him on, turns me off.
Too often, I have been put in uncomfortable situations regarding his family.
I am now sick and don't want to deal with it anymore - I feel as though I've
paid my dues. Yet his needs march on.
How can I lower the resentment I have toward my husband who
obviously views family different than myself. And how can I lower
anxiety when I do need to visit them?
What turns him on - turns me off and causes a lot of anxiety !
Thanks !
Submitted: 6 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Mina replied 6 years ago.

Hello and thank you for contacting us.

You are describing a difficult for you situation but also common for couples who have different origins. It is very often the case that Christmas holidays are spent with one of the couple's family and to avoid unnecessary grudges that should really alternate each year. In your case, I believe the situation is more difficult as some of the family do not speak English and some others have not kept in touch with you and you probably feel somewhat rejected and unappreciated. Also, you mentioned about your illness which I assume makes you feel more vulnerable at the moment, not wanting to take on more stress and feeling insecure and pressurized.

The key to this situation I would think would be to talk to your husband and explain all these feelings. Talk to him as you would talk to a friend about your feelings without expecting a solution but just to be heard. Do not expect him or ask him to change the plans because it seems to be very important for him to spend time with his family who have suffered many changes over the years (people relocating and living apart). Asking him to change the plans may be perceived as a lack of understanding on your behalf. It would be much better for you though if you felt that he understood you and took your feelings into consideration. So he could possibly look after you while you are there, spend time with you and not leave you on your own and possibly not exceed the time you would feel comfortable spending there because of your illness. Avoid thinking about it or making assumptions of how it will be or what you or they will think etc. All the above should ease your anxiety considerably. If you both feel then that you are looking after each other, then the evening would be likely more pleasant for you. You could also ask him for the two of you to arrange to do something fun during the holidays, something of your choice as an achnowledgement of your effort.

I hope this helps

Please feel free to share any feedback on these thoughts


Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Thank you Mina for the reply,
You are right - the illness makes me feel more vulnerable, and lowers my tolerance
level. I will concentrate on shared / planned activity with husband after holidays.
Please let me add;
I was an only child with emotionally distant parents (isolated). He came from a family of 5 boys who grew up in a small apartment. In some way, I think his family was very enmeshed. I helped them extensively but still felt as though my boundries were violated. The way they interact makes me feel too close for comfort and smothered.
Like I was suffocating with a blanket over my head. He was energized and I was depleted. Their style of interconnection makes me feel sick - (for a lack of a better word). We are polar opposites in upbringing. Do you agree that both of our styles
of of family attachment are atypical and not the most ideally functional?
Expert:  Mina replied 6 years ago.

I am not sure if the characterization of having atypical family attachments helps. After all, we are all so different and each of us is being brought up under different circumstances. What seems to happen though and what would be most useful is for you to recognize these differences and tolerate them more if they are not at your cost. It is down to understanding and compromise. The same should go for your husband and acknowledge that you may not feel comfortable to be around his family all the time as you are not accustomed to this kind of attachment or communication.

Hope this helps

Best of luck


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