Why can't I just get over this?
December 16, 2012 3:04 PM Subscribe
How do I get more onboard with my in-laws' presence in my life?
posted by agress to human relations (37 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Backstory about husband/in-laws: They immigrated from the former USSR a bit over 20 years ago with their two sons (my husband is the younger) and are now naturalized citizens. Husband was 8 years old when he came to the US and as a result is the most "Americanized" of the family (the only one with no accent, for instance). My in-laws have no solid roots or real friends in the area; part of this is language barrier (they are both fluent in English but especially my mother-in-law frequently reverts to Russian, and they have strong accents). Their older son lives about 30 minutes away from them with his wife and two preteen boys; we live almost an hour away from them with our toddler son. They have outright told my husband on multiple occasions over a long period of time that they prefer my husband/his family to my brother-in-law/his family. All of their family still lives in Russia; father-in-law is not in contact with his, but mother-in-law still talks to her sisters and mother regularly. They can't go back to Russia at any time (or it would be a really bad idea, anyway) due to the context of how they left. They are pretty Ask, although his mom can be a bit passive-aggressive.
Backstory about me/my family: I am the oldest of two kids, who grew up in a small Midwestern town and have never lived outside the Midwest. I currently live at least 500 miles away from everyone else in my family, and never lived close enough to my extended family to see them more frequently than holidays. My mom and I are only now approaching what I'd consider close; we definitely get along better than I do with my dad, who I stopped telling everything about myself about a year and a half ago, and haven't actually spoken to at all in about eight months. (Massive boundary issues, still acting like grownup and child even though I'm almost 30 - I am in therapy for that whole mess.) My parents split up when I turned 18, which I was in favor of since I don't know how they ever thought they were a good match. I grew up very definitely Guess. I don't speak Russian and only know a few bits and pieces I've picked up through a few aborted learning attempts, so I have to communicate with my in-laws in English.
Issue: I completely understand they adore our son and my husband and apparently, from what I'm told, me too (although I am not close to them at all, and sometimes I wonder if they just like me so much because they think my sister-in-law is awful). However, I get really kind of flustered and irritated when they come over to our house and immediately start banging around in the kitchen to try to cook something, or when my mom comes to town and they insist she has to come over so they can have a big special dinner for her (my mom and I are a lot alike and she feels embarrassed/overwhelmed by this too), or when they were at our house the moment we got home from the hospital with our new baby and were baffled about why I didn't feel comfortable with the idea of breastfeeding in front of everyone. Sometimes when they come over I have to go into a back bedroom and silently scream and tense/relax all my muscles to avoid my brain exploding or something. Lately we have been talking about maybe we could move to New Zealand in a few years (this is not a serious decision yet, just something we're tossing around, and we know it'd be really difficult to pull off), and his mom immediately decided they would come with us, and has been calling my husband multiple times a day to talk about NZ-related things she read on the internet. When we were thinking about moving to the Bay Area she said they would move there too. (They ARE wanting to sell their house and move and have felt that way for some time, but they always were making their own plans until we started talking about moving and now they just want to follow us.)
My husband is totally fine with this though, because he sees all the positives that could come with them living wherever we do: help with childcare, possible financial help with moving/immigration expenses, fishing opportunities for his Dad, etc. Whereas I just see more of them considering our house/our lives to be THEIR house/lives. It's not that his mom doesn't bother him at all; I regularly hear irritation in his voice when he talks to her (in Russian) on the phone. It's just that he seems to shrug it off and "that's just how she is," etc. I'm not even the one talking to her and I get more pissed off than he does. But at the same time, I mean, of COURSE he feels that way, she's his freaking mom. How they interact individually with each other is none of my business. There is also a fairly high likelihood that his mom is saying all sorts of stuff with no input from his dad, and his dad doesn't agree or would not go along with it. I don't know that for a fact though.
I don't really dislike them, they're nice people who only have good intentions, and I don't know why I can't just buck up and get over this. How can I get more on board with my in-laws' unavoidable presence in my life? I know part of our issue is Ask/Guess, but I don't know how to best get around that, and I figure the rest of it is cultural differences that are also not really changeable. I haven't had any arguments with them or anything, but I don't know if I can keep gritting my teeth forever, and I know I can't and should not try to get inbetween my husband and his family.
If it matters, I have inattentive ADHD and a tendency toward depression, but am currently on medications for both. I am going to try to bring this issue up to my therapist next time I see her, but I'm going to have to leave her due to insurance reasons at the end of the year, and plus something about the way she talks to me reminds me of my Dad sometimes. :/