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Husband’s Family vs. Wife’s Family: Whatever Happened to “Playing Nice?”

February 18, 2013

Pushing People AwayMore and more I hear from women about how their daughter-in-law only focuses on her side of the family and acts as though her husband has no family at all. She decides, for whatever reason, that his family is not a group of people she wants to spend time with, which means – they won’t spend time with his family. Why does it have to be an “either-or” situation – either his side of the family or hers?

I must say I don’t have an answer for this. I am at a loss to really understand why a daughter-in-law feels the need to exclude her husband’s family from their lives. So to daughters-in-law – What possible reason could justify saying to your husband (at least through your actions) that his family isn’t important, that they don’t matter – to you – and shouldn’t matter to him? Have their actions been so atrocious, so horrific that you can’t allow yourself to be in the same room with them? Why get rid of them instead of figuring out a way to make things better between you? I realize it takes work and energy, and even though they are not your family, they are still family.

As a psychologist I have my theories, but that’s what they are – just theories. So I think about this situation and thoughts come to mind and then questions come up that I will share…food for thought and questions to explore:

  • Isn’t marriage about compromise and balance…how does this action play into that?
  • How do you think this makes your husband feel that you feel his family is “less than” your family? Does this mean you feel he is “less than” as well since he came from that family?
  • How would you feel if your husband told you that you could not see or spend time with your family…that the two of you will be spending the holidays only with his family?
  • If you refuse to spend time with your husband’s family what message are you giving your children about family relationships? What are you teaching them through your actions (they learn more through actions than words).
  • What if, when your child is an adult and marries he/she did the same to you?
  • What reasons do you tell yourself that makes it OK to not try to resolve your concerns or issues with his family?

And a few questions/thoughts for husbands/sons

  • How does it feel when your wife is telling you either through her words or actions that your family doesn’t count…that they are not worth spending time with?
  • Why do you allow your family to be cut off from you and your children? How do you justify it in your own mind?
  • Are you really the one who wants little or no contact with your family, but allow your wife to be the “heavy” and then you show helplessness in the situation?
  • There is no way this action does not affect how you feel or relate to your wife. Can you describe how it shows up in your interactions with your wife?

I am not trying to be critical, really. I am just trying to understand. And if I could ask these questions face-to-face I would do it, but this is the only forum I can ask these questions right now. This is such an important thing that happens in families and it affects every person – I mean e-v-e-r-y person in the family…even the daughter-in-law.

So, please help me out…give me some insight so that I can understand. I promise to pass along the collective understanding on this issue….

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