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mjseven
01-27-2012, 10:59 AM
I'm really struggling and hurting after a fight my bf and I had last night :cry I really need advice, I'll try to sum it up: I have an extremely close family, we talk a lot with each other, we get together around once a month for family gatherings (********+ people). My bf's family are like strangers who share DNA. They are extremely blunt with each other, they really only get together when forced, and to say they have a relationship with one another would be a lie.

What I'm used to is when someone in my family starts dating someone, when they start to get serious, that family member brings the bf/gf around to most all the family functions. My bf, however, absolutely refuses to go. I have made him aware that it hurts me that he doesn't go, and he made it clear that it hurts him to go (he doesn't want to see what he's been missing the past ******** years of his life). Now, I have tried very hard to respect this. I don't pressure him into going to things, I don't make him feel guilty every time he says, "no," even though it crushes me every time. He has told me he will come around in his own time. To his credit, he has met my gma and gpa, and he's on pretty good terms with my mom.

Until last night.

My mom is an extremely loving and caring person. She likes to feel close to the people that she cares about, and she is one of the nicest and most giving women you will ever meet. At times, yes, she may crowd people a bit, but she doesn't mean to be rude, she's simply trying to engage that person. So, last night, they happened to both show up at our friends' house for their son's bday. My mom is the "grandma" of the little boy, my bf and I are the "aunt and uncle." It's my understanding my mom asked my bf to hold the baby half a dozen times and kept pressing the issue over and over. So I come home last night to find him pissed at my mom because she kept pestering him about it, which naturally led to the argument about our views on family. He wants to tell my mom, in so many words, "leave me alone." I told him that would hurt her if he was so aggressive, that perhaps if he said, "I'm not really comfortable with doing that right now, please don't keep asking me" it wouldn't hurt her feelings as much. I told him that he's often "direct" with me, and that it's very hurtful because it comes across as aggressive and harsh. He said he's used to being direct and he doesn't want to just "change his ways." He seems to think that I know that, "leave me alone" means "could we not talk about this right now because it's upsetting me." blah, blah, blah. Eventually, he got so steamed that he walked out of the room to collect himself, and we pretty much left it at that.

I'm sorry, that was really long, but it's hard to explain my side and his side and exactly where his/my issues are. I guess I don't know what advice I'm really searching for. How should I handle his complete disregard for being a part of my family? I feel like I'm trying really hard to be understanding, even though it hurts me. I guess I don't really feel like he's trying as hard as me. I guess whatever thoughts any of you have to share I'd really appreciate hearing. If you think I'm in the wrong, please don't be afraid to tell me that. I really need honesty from an outside source. Thanks everyone, I hope you all are doing well today.

axi
01-27-2012, 12:55 PM
I think that some communication boundaries are definitely needed. He does need to learn how to say what he means instead of snapping at you. If he needs a few minutes or an hour, then he should say that, not tell you to leave him alone.

For now, I think that you two can compromise on how much he sees your family. It can be really overwhelming to go from no family functions to frequent large gatherings. Maybe he can go to every other one and stay for x number of hours. I think that you can talk to your mom and let her know that your bf is uncomfortable with being pestered to do things a certain way and that he will come around much more easily if she gives him some space. Your boyfriend also needs to learn how to communicate with her, though: both sides need to give a little.

The fact that he is avoiding going because he doesn't want to see what he has been missing is kind of bullshit. He nor you can change the way his family is, but he shouldn't reject becoming a part of yours out of spite or hurt. He has an opportunity to be part of a family now and if he wants you in his life, he needs to find a way to work this out with you and you need to do the same with him.

nc
01-27-2012, 01:50 PM
I come from a family who does not get together and really is not very close and always tended to be very formal. As we grew up and left home we led our own independent lives that really did not involve the other siblings. We love each other, we care about each other and in a crises we are there but we are very independent of each other.

My husband's family used to be the total opposite. (and I say used to be because we have been married thirty-one years and over time they have grown more independent). When we married it seemed they could not do anything, celebrate anything without everyone being involved.

I was pushed and guilted into being part of things I was not interested in being a part of. I did not find it painful because my family was not that way, I found it painful because I was being guilted into being in a situation I did not want to be in. I would encourage my husband to go without me but he would have none of it.

His family would say things to me that I found rude and intrusive. My husband never saw it that way because he was used to that behavior, they were so enmeshed it was hard to tell where one ended and the next one started. When I voiced my concern to my husband his knee jerk reaction was to defend his family.

What this ended up doing to our relationship was to make me feel way down the list on his priorities. That if push ever came to shove his family would (and typically did) win over me. It has caused major damage to our relationship and thirty-one years later we still do not see eye to eye and talking about it still causes an arguement.

My suggestion would be to allow your boyfirend to go at his pace. Allow him to decide what he is comfortable being a part of and what he would rather skip without guilt or shame. If you choose to go without him then fine, that is your choice, if you choose to skip an event to be with him, that is your choice (and if your family tries to make you feel guilty about that then shame on them). Does he pressure you not to go to family functions when he does not want to attend?

I would also encourage you to talk to your mother and let her know that she needs to respect his wishes and not keep pushing things at him when he has already said no. While you may be used to that for people who are not it comes across as rude and disrespectful of the other person.

I can also tell you this will likely never change. I still do not care for getting together with my husband's family as a group after so many years even though now it only happens about once a year or so. I don't know if it would be different had it not be so forced on me in the beginning or if it is just my personality but I think it is more the former. The fact it was forced on me so many times, the fact that my boundaries were often ignored because his family had few boundaries and because my husband was unwilling to see my side or take my side when it came to an issue with his family has left a lingering resentment and dislike for his family gatherings.

The thing is I am a huge family person, I just like doing things with my family. Not my extended family but my children, their wives, my grandchildren. We are all very close and often do things together so I think if he would have allowed me the time and freedom be with his family as I pleased things might have been turned out differently.

So you need to ask yourself if this is a situation you can live with? Can you have a partner that might never want to be a big part of your family gatherings?

mjseven
01-27-2012, 03:07 PM
Axi-he does have a problem with communicating with me sometimes because I think heís so used to being ďdirect.Ē But I agree, I donít think he should snap at me or anyone for that matter like he does. Itís not a particular endearing quality, and you sound rude when you do it, he just doesnít see it that way. To be honest, I donít think heíll ever agree to an arrangement like you suggested (going every other time, etc.). He would just flat out refuse. And I agree with you, I donít think heís avoiding just because he doesnít want to see what heís missing. I think thereís more to that. And I agree, we need to find a way to make this work.

Nc-when I read your post all I could think is that your words almost echo his. Although you have different family experiences, I think you both feel similarly when it comes to in-laws. The difference is, I havenít pushed or guilted him into going to anything, mostly because I know itís a waste of time. But when you said you thought things they would say were rude and intrusive, I began to wonder if thatís how he feels, or if thatís how heís afraid he would feel, if he went to a function. But whatís funny, is you said you felt low on the priority list, and thatís how I feel. I feel like when something matters to him, he just expects me to do it, agree to it, etc. But when I ask for a similar thing, or when I ask for something that really matters, itís almost like I have to convince him of how much it matters to me. For instance, he asked me to meet his extended family (aunts, uncles, cousins) and I agreed. But when I asked him to meet my gpa and gma, it took him over **** months before he finally agreed. As you said, I try to allow him his own pace, the reason why I pushed meeting my gparents was because my gma has been very ill for the past year and I wanted him to meet her before she passed. But I feel like itís not fair to expect of me what you are unwilling to compromise with me on. I guess itís sometimes hypocritical.

To answer your question, no, he doesnít pressure me to not go. I think he understands that family is important to me, and he wouldnít try to take that from me.

What you said about still not caring for getting together with your husbandís family hits home. I think thatís what I want. Unrealistically, and unfairly, I think I want him to get out of our family gatherings what I get out of them. But I honestly try very hard to not push him, and perhaps Iím naieve in hoping that one day he might actually go and somewhat enjoy it. I appreciate you sharing how you feel about it, because I have a strong feeling thatís how he probably feels :/

You asked me if this was a situation I could live with. If Iím honest with myself, I go back and forth. My cousins are starting to have children, and I want my kids to be a part of my cousinís lives and their childrenís as well. I guess what I donít want is for him to miss out on all those family functions and memories he could have shared with his children and me because he refuses to be involved with my family. I guess I should ask you that. Do you feel like having children made any difference in how you felt when you went to family functions on your husbandís side?

Thank you both for replying, it has given me something to think about. I greatly, greatly, greatly appreciate it! :)

nc
01-27-2012, 03:36 PM
Do you feel like having children made any difference in how you felt when you went to family functions on your husband&#****************;s side?

Honestly, no. But here is why. His mother was considered the salt of the earth. Her childen adored her, her grandchildren adored her and those who knew her adored her. I was the exception. She was a very kind and well meaning lady but she never respected my wishes around the children and my husband always backed her. I wanted them to always be in car seats (this was before they were mandatory or even popular) she would put them in her lap, I did not want them eating chunk food at a early age, she gave them cookies and coke before they were even on solid foods, when they were older she hid injuries from me that needed stitches because she did not believe in going to the doctor for that kind of thing and they were all for not getting the stitches. The ways in which I felt disrespected could go on and on.

Now my situation is a bit different becuase my husbands family truly was enmeshed. Either his mother or a sibling or both lived with us for the first fifteen plus years of our marriage. Plus probably the first five years of marriage every weekend and spare moment was spent with them. There was no private time, us time, and I really disliked that.

There are certain siblings I like better than others. I do much better with one on one visits than group vists. But it has also helped that with group visits I don't feel so alone now. The other in-laws all kind of feel like I do so we stick together, lol. As well my children are now grown and married as are many of my nieces and nephews, I tend to hang out with all of them and leave the my husband and his siblings to themselves.

My husband always wanted me to just feel like part of his family but I never did. We got married young, I was eighteen and his siblings ranged from teens to early twenties so we all kind of grew up together but I never got used to how they treated me. He has always said they treated me like another sister and I always say if that is how they treat a sister then no thank you.

As you can tell this is a hot topic for me and as much as I have tried to make my husband understand how I feel he never has.

mjseven
01-27-2012, 04:08 PM
Nc, I'm very sorry that you've felt for so long that your wishes were never respected. No one deserves that, and that's what I'm trying to avoid with my bf. I have done my best to be understanding that he doesn't want to be a part of my family, but I think I reached my breaking point with all this last night because of how angry he was at my mom. I felt it was a little unfair to be so angry when this is the first time it's ever been an issue. I told him that I understood why he was upset, that I know how she can act at times. But at the same time, you never tried to stand up for yourself, so is it really fair to get that mad at her for something she didn't even know she was doing wrong? My mom is the type of person that she tries to respect other's wishes. She may not always agree, but she respects them. If he would have only said to her, "I don't want to hold him, please stop asking me," this fight wouldn't not have been nearly as bad. Sure, she may have been a little hurt, but she would have gotten over it, and everything would have been fine. Instead he decided to attack her later for not getting what he was trying to say. Ugh! I don't know, it's their issue but it's mine too, I guess :/

But I do try to listen and really hear what he's saying, but that doesn't always mean I agree with it. Normally we can talk this sort of thing out, but he kept cutting me off saying that I was "repeating myself" or "not making sense," eventually he just stopped talking.

I don't know, I feel like I was trying to listen to how he felt, I tried to understand what he was saying. But I feel like his patience is basically non-existent when someone upsets him. He feels like if he tells me or anyone something once, they should never do that thing again, and apply that same idea to every aspect of their life and interactions with him. Come to think of it, I'm starting to wonder if he doesn't have unrealistic expectations from my family and people in general. I wonder if he's nit-picking at this one thing to have an excuse to not be around my family. I don't know, I feel a little confused. Maybe I should just sit down tonight and try to organize my thoughts. I apologize, I'm very scattered.

I can't tell you how grateful I am for your insights though. Hearing it from you allows me to see another side. I feel like I appreciate his side more. I truly can't tell you how much this has helped me gain a new perspective.

Cypress
01-27-2012, 05:26 PM
My bf, however, absolutely refuses to go. I have made him aware that it hurts me that he doesn't go, and he made it clear that it hurts him to go (he doesn't want to see what he's been missing the past ******** years of his life).


Is that what he said, or is that your assumption? Personally, I find it hard to believe that's the reason. When you grow up in a family that's not particularly close, and then you meet a family that's way too close, it seems like a god-awful invasion of privacy and personal boundaries. I really doubt that he's thinking "Aw, I wish my family was like this, I can't believe what I've been missing all these years." In reality, he's probably thinking "This is horrible, I don't even know these people and they're all up in my personal space, can't she tell I don't want to hold the baby?!" I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but he just doesn't enjoy the experience.

How should I handle his complete disregard for being a part of my family?


Maybe you could start by realizing that he's not part of your family. You're not married. You're not even engaged. I don't know how long you've been together or how serious your relationship is, but it sounds like you're jumping the gun on this whole family thing. Why is it so important for him to act like he's part of your family? They're just a bunch of strangers to him. Pushy, intrusive strangers. I don't see why your family has to be part of your relationship with your boyfriend.

nc
01-27-2012, 06:09 PM
I can tell you that I bit my tongue and then vented to my husband many times because I simply did not know how to handle a situation. I felt if I spoke my mind and the other person got offended then I would be the bad guy and have to suffer the wrath of the whole family for being rude.

It is hard when you have strong boundaries to be around those who don't. Typically when a person is asked to do something and refuses the other person gets the hint, when they refuse a second time it shoudl be pretty clear they are uninterested in doing what is being asked.

You said your mother asked your bf a half dozen times to hold the baby, she put him in a no win situation. This is a situation of your mother ignoring what he wanted and while you say that you would have liked him to be upfront with your mother I wonder how you would have felt if he had. It sounds like you wanted him to ask her to stop on your terms but what if he was harsher than you thought he should be? Then what?

dermaline
01-27-2012, 06:41 PM
My husbands family are extremely distant from one another - didn't even celebrate christmas - and my family has a problem with ignoring others boundaries and are v involved in each others lives (talking even extended family here).

Interestingly, despite my H needing to keep contact to small manageable doses he actually does really value being with my family. Too much and he is overwhelmed but I do think he feels he gains something from being around a family in a way he never was.
I am the one that gets upset by continual invasions of my privacy and controlling behaviour.
It doesn't touch on old things like it does for me.

But I have also never forced him into anything or put my families wellbeing before his so he has no issues in that regard.

I do wonder if some of this for you is about more than just this family issue. That you feel that he doesn't put himself out for you or compromise in any part of your lives. ?

I agree that the continual pushing him to pick up the child is about not respecting his boundaries. And also think one shoulnt first go into aggressive mode when one hasnt even attempted at putting a boundary in place before so his response wasnt appropriote. It does sound like that is who he is though and maybe you need to realise that.
It doesnt sound like he has been around long enough to develop a history of resentment at them yet (?) or do you think that is what is really playing out here?

Is this about a bigger issue for you? Is it about feeling your needs are always second and if that is the case then would you like to give examples from other parts of your lives?

I think nc's examples about junkfood and stitches etc are all extremely disrespectful and wholly inappropriate. Sometimes "niceness" camaflages controlling behaviour.

mjseven
01-30-2012, 09:10 AM
Cypress-actually, yes, my bf has said ďIím sorry, but I refuse to go.Ē He also told me point blank, ďyou think I really want to go to your family functions and see all Iíve been missing my whole life?Ē Whether or not thatís the whole reason, I donít know. But as I stated before, I believe thereís more to that. And I never said he wants his family to be like mine, I know he doesnít. I was only asking him to meet me half way, and only when heís ready. And no we arenít married or engaged, but we are very serious. In fact, the only reason we arenít engaged or married is because he wonít ask me until he has saved enough money to buy the ring he thinks I truly want and until we can have the wedding we both want. And before you ask, yes, thatís what he told me itís not what Iím assuming. And I never said I wanted him to act like heís a part of my family, I only said ideally thatís what I would want, not realistically thatís what I expect. In fact, I even mentioned about it was naive for me to ever assume he would enjoy being a part of my family. I may have wanted that once, but I realize how unfair that was for me to assume. I simply want him to try, and again, thatís when heís ready. If heís not ready, I wonít push. But I feel that being in a relationship is about being a part of each otherís lives, and family is a big part of mine. I want him to give it a shot when heís ready, but I would never force my beliefs on him. Heís his own person, and Iíve always tried to respect that.

Nc-I think you make a good point that I wanted him to ask her to stop on my terms, but the reason being was because I knew he would be harsh about it, like you mentioned. And to answer your question, I would have been upset with him that he was over-zealous with her. He agreed that he didnít want to hurt her more than was justified by the situation, and I was simply trying to explain that ďstop it!Ē and ďIím not comfortable, can you please stop asking?Ē are two very different approaches and will give you two different results. But perhaps I was out of line by suggesting my way when he wasnít asking for my opinion, but we discussed that on Friday and I think we know how to move forward. When we talked Friday night, he agreed that he will try to stop being so direct and overly harsh when heís expressing himself, and I compromised by saying I will try to be more direct with him when Iím trying to talk to him and try to only give my opinion when a situation warrants it. We felt that would be the most respectful solution for the both of us. I took what you said into account when I talked to him, and I think he appreciated that I was trying to see his side. Thank you again for your insight! I know my bf would thank you too for giving me a different perspective &#********************;

Dermaline-I will admit, sometimes I donít think heís as willing to compromise in some other parts of our lives. I think youíre right, I think I let that fact get in the way of the real problem. And no, he doesnít resent anyone in my family, probably because he only knows three of them lol. He actually loves my mom quite a lot, heís told me many times sheís more of a mom to him than his mom ever was. But I think the boundaries issues scared/upset him because heís soooo not used to it. Judging by our talk on Friday, I truly donít think heís starting to resent my mom. He admitted he overreacted to the situation and that he truly doesnít want to hurt her feelings. He said he will try to stand up for himself without being so direct if something comes up again, which I think is good. What you said about feeling my needs are second, I admit I sometimes feel that way, but I wouldnít say I always feel that way. Sometimes I think thatís due to me not expressing how important it is, sometimes I think itís because he just messes up. But we all do that, and Iím sure Iíve done it to him and heís felt like he was put second. But I believe a relationship is about working through those times and communicating what we each need. Weíre getting better at it (believe that or not from this post lol), but we argue like any couple. I appreciate your insights though; I actually think youíre very accurate with your thought that I feel second some of the time. Perhaps I need to find a way to stand up for myself more efficiently sometimes. I appreciate your thoughts!

To update, even though I sorta did in my responses above, we had a very mature conversation on Friday. We both expressed how we felt and agreed we were both a little too worked up to communicate effectively the night before. We discussed how each of us would compromise on the situation and how best to move forward so we both feel respected. Now itís about both of us sticking to our compromises and keeping each other accountable! Thanks for your responses and thoughts; they allowed me to understand both sides better.