Can our marriage heal?
Hello and thanks for taking the time. First, a little background information. My husband (J) and I have been married 8 months, and dated for three years before we got married. I have always known his family didn't like me. I will admit that I was disappointed when I figured this out because I come from a small family, and his is large and so I was looking forward to being part of that.
Our wedding was beautiful, but also a disaster. We had respectfully informed J's parents that we wanted an alcohol free wedding. I have many family members in recovery, and J and I aren't big drinkers. One of the worst parts about this is that I knew they would sneak in alcohol anyway. However, I figured they would be subtle about it. No, their entire side of the family proceeded to get wasted. Enough that I, the bride on cloud nine and totally oblivious, could tell and smell it. Enough that my planner actually had us wrap the wedding up early, and most of my family left early because they were uncomfortable. We were even called by my Step Father In Law (SFIL) for him to brag about how drunk everyone was/ complain that he had to be the DD. I later decided to post a status on facebook, not tagging anyone or naming any names, simply saying how I didn't appreciate that my choices for MY wedding weren't respected. My mother in law (MIL) responded by saying something to the affect of how "at least she didn't smoke pot behind the bathrooms" Which I had done to ease my nerves. When J later called them on this, they responded by saying they were willing to pay the fine if they got caught with the alcohol.
Fast forward 8 months. I never feel wanted in their home. It's not that I'm not welcome, but I'll show up and it will be like I'm not even their. They'll feed me and say hello but that will be the extent of their kindness. They won't engage in conversation with me, and will not really listen when I try to talk to them. This tends to cause me a lot of anxiety, because I want to be a good wife and Daughter in Law, but it's exhausting putting out the effort when there is never any reward.
Two nights ago I had gone over to their place for J's birthday party. I wasn't even there 30 minutes when his uncle, who was drunk, decided it was time to berate me. He went on and on about how I need to be nicer to J, how I HAVE to go in and hug my MIL, how I HAVE to make an effort. How it was stupid of me to want a dry wedding. It eventually came out that they all think I'm basically a bitch. Now, I will admit that I put up a cold front. I have faced a lot of abuse in my past, both physical and emotional. Some from my own mother. I tend to hold back who I am until I know I can really trust someone, and I guess I just never got comfortable around my In Laws.
During this whole time J's uncle is berating me (I'm clearly upset at this point, anyone with eyes could tell) J does nothing. He pipes in once when I say I want to end the conversation, and basically says "Yeah, let's end it here" but J's uncle continued to berate me. J said nothing to my defense. He just stood there.
Now, I am not a bad wife. I am by no means perfect, but I don't believe I'm a bad wife either. I work hard, we both work full time and I just started school. I attend to J's needs as best I can, and I thought we had a good partnership. I am not mean to him, and I don't abuse him.
After being berated for a good 10 minutes I decided to leave, I gather up my things and walk out to my car. J follows me and we have a conversation/argument because he didn't stand up for me against his uncle. He tells me he was afraid of confrontation and it "Seemed like I was handling it" I am very upset by this point and feeling betrayed. My SFIL comes out, wanting us all to sit down and talk. I didn't feel comfortable doing that at the time and wanted to leave, but he stood in front of my car to prevent me from going. He continued to push to try to figure out what was going on, and it eventually came to this: SFIL: "Well we love J and we WANT to love you" Me: "That's exactly my point! You don't care about me" SFIL: "Well, you haven't given us a chance". J and I dated for three years before marriage. I went to every family event, every party. I was even there at his Great Grandmothers death. I feel like I have given them plenty of chances. I eventually had to threaten to call the police to get him to let me leave.
J stayed. He stayed at his Parents. I went home alone. He came home an hour later. When we sat down to talk as we naturally would, he started to defend them. Saying "well maybe you need to interpret SFIL words differently" and something to the effect of "Well I didn't realize it was my obligation to defend you, you never told me I needed to do that" He did later apologize for saying those things and not defending me in the situation, but it's clear what he really thought.
Now, I don't doubt the J loves me, not at all. But he lacks emotional awareness and intelligence. Whereas I am overly empathetic but have been working on not letting my emotions control me. And I love J, he's my partner, my husband, and I thought my soul mate. But my question is this, can we really heal from this and move on? He won't cut ties with his family, and I don't really want him to because I'm not comfortable with him having to choose between me and them. However, it seems that he would choose them. He basically said he would prefer that things just go back to normal. Basically me just pretending none of this ever happened and to let everything go. To just be a quiet little mouse.
So can we really heal? I feel so betrayed by all of this, and I don't know what to do from here. I love my husband, I don't want us to seperate, but I have had enough emotional hurt in my life and am at a point where I just want to protect myself. Other than "give it time" does anyone have any advice? Has anyone been in a similar situation? I would love to hear from you.
You can’t expect a “reward” for being cordial to people who have different perspectives on things (like alcohol use and family interactions) Don’t look for admiration or validation, or even inclusion into this family unit. They have you in an “outsider” role now, and you may never be able to change that.
The challenge here is to get a comfort level for you, so that you can at least attend or host family functions and not get so upset.
First, you and husband need to get on the same page. That’s going to require professional counseling that will help him stand up to his family and assure you that you come first. Also to help you realize that you can’t control others, which battles to pick, snd how to get out of this bully- victim role this family has you in.
Can you find a therapist or church official to help out? I suggest a male mentor or therapist.
Good luck. Time to get all this sorted out.
I'm so sorry you're dealing with this. I can relate. My ex (married 24 years) was very close to his very large family. They were originally welcoming, but if I didn't constantly do their bidding, they had zero use for me. They made it clear I was an outsider, and treated me like "the help" by assuming I volunteered for garbage and dish duty. Then, I found out my ex had been using me as a scapegoat to avoid any confrontation and responsibility for what they saw as failures. I overheard enough conversation to know exactly how they felt about me. I wanted nothing more than to feel included, but it was clearly never going to happen. I finally just accepted it, and stopped attending any family functions, which was better for all involved (especially me!).
I used to want my (then) husband to understand my feelings. Maybe even stand next to me instead of against me. Thing is. He understood exactly how I felt, and why. And actively chose to stand with them. He still defended their behavior and still spent a lot of time with them. He made zero effort to spend time with me, my family, or my friends. So I stopped trying altogether. I eventually got to where I looked forward to the time on my own, and encouraged him to spend as much time as he wanted with them. We were both much happier on those days they expected to see him. They initially asked where I was, and he'd make some excuse to save his own pride. But they caught on and stopped asking altogether.
We had other issues, obviously. But this was a huge strain between us the entire 24 years. It only got worse after we had kids. If you expect your husband to change how he relates to and with his family, you're in for never-ending discourse. Professional counseling may help, but only if he's fully on board of his on accord.
Why do you feel compelled to go where you're not made to feel welcome? If your husband doesn't mind how they treat you, it will not change. You could be a saint, and they'd still find fault. Honestly, this isn't even about you. It's about them. For some reason, you threaten them. Take that as a compliment and go on with your life, outside of them. Just do your thing. If you want to go, go. And stop caring how they respond to you. If you'd rather skip their gatherings altogether, then do that. No excuses. Just say you have no reason to go, which is true. Either they'll grow up and realize you are art of the family, or they'll denigrate you even more without in your absence. Your husband's silence is all the permission they need. He may even get to see who they really are, and reassess his own behavior. But I wouldn't count on anyone else changing.
Just do what makes you happy. If they're toxic, then you owe them none of your time or energy. I was SO much happier not being a part of that family in any way. I hope you find a solution that works for you.