Stuck in the middle of spouse and parents
August 7, 2012 6:46 PM Subscribe
Stuck in the middle of spouse and parents - How to tell parents to lay off? How to support spouse while also seeing my parents/visiting my hometown when I want to?
posted by wannabecounselor to Human Relations (22 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Throughout our marriage, I've struggled to equally please my spouse, my parents, and myself in terms of how much time we (us as a couple) spend with them (my parents). Spouse and I are equally emotionally close with all our parents (which is to say not extremely) and have our issues with them. However we live much closer to my parents, and to all my extended family, who have gatherings roughly once every two months. His family is spread out in all corners of the U.S. and planned family gatherings are much rarer and logistically difficult. Also my family still lives in my hometown, which is a really nice area with a lot of outdoor recreation (which both spouse and I enjoy) and a few of my good friends still live there as well, so I like visiting well beyond just seeing my parents. We already have a deal that the main holidays (thanksgiving and christmas) are split evenly between our families so that's a non-issue.
Spouse gets upset whenever I want to visit my hometown/parents and usually feels pressured into joining me, which I understand. My mother gets upset when I try to tell her we don't want to go to the next family party, or when I tell her I'm visiting but not sure if spouse will be joining me or not. Spouse doesn't want to be the "bad guy" to my family and skip out and have them ask me about him when he's not around. I don't want to make up excuses for my spouse as to why he's not around/isn't coming. My friends in the area now have little ones and staying with them vs. my parents isn't really practical.
I am mainly on "his side" and believe that as spouse, he should come first, and he has a right to "skip out" on my frequent family gatherings every now and then (after all if the tables were turned I think I would feel exactly like he does about it). But... sometimes I feel like it's every single one he wants to skip or shorten the length of our stay, and then I feel pressure to not spend time in my hometown, with my friends and family, which frustrates me. I have declined family gatherings on behalf of us both in the past, I don't jump at every single one.
So - I'm not sure how to tell my mom to lay off and sometimes my spouse just doesn't want to visit with me and that's ok? (mom gets very easily upset/emotional/defensive). I'm also not sure how to deal with spouse's frustrated reaction every single time I bring up going to my hometown/visiting my parents/another family gathering? We've had some open discussions and some issues have been brought up to help us better understand where the other is coming from but it hasn't helped resolve anything.
(Another piece of this pie is that my parents pay for an annual week-long stay at a vacation spot - for which they adamantly refuse any contribution from us - and while I try to enjoy the week balancing time with just spouse vs. family, my parents put on the pressure for us all to do everything together and my spouse puts on the pressure for me and him to just do things alone without my family. This year especially it really wore on us and spouse brought up not even going on the vacation, which horrified me even though I know my parents can be frustrating to spend a week with).
We want kids and I can only see this situation getting messier. This has probably been our top marital issue overall and I just don't know what to do anymore, which is why I'm asking the hive mind!