Married to her relatives, not me?

jsbachMay 22, 2007

I'm not sure there's a solution, but I'd appreciate some outside perspectives:

We've been married for a couple of years, no kids, and more and more it seems my wife (who has a full time job) has dedicated all her free time to taking care of the needs of all of her relatives. Some of the problems are legitimate family crisis, but mostly her relatives are lazy sobs, unwilling to lift a finger to help themselves, so any time they get in trouble my wife has to help them out of their jam. She hates it, but it's a close-knit family, who apply a lot of family pressure, and so she feels obligated.

I really did not know about this aspect of her life when we dated, as we met and wed in another part of the country and then moved here, close to her relatives.

As a result, our home life has suffered, we will watch a little TV or occasionally go out to a movie, but most evenings and weekends she's either running to her relatives or in bed sleeping, exhausted from work and helping all these leeches (you can tell what my opinion of them is). All the big plans we make about things we will do together have to be canceled or postponed because of "family troubles".

I try to help out where I can, and I take care of most of the household tasks and chores, but I mostly won't run errands for her relatives, since I see it as a never-ending time waster.

She says she wants there to be more time for the two of us, and she has started to tell some of the worst offenders to go away, but there seems to be a never ending supply of folks who want her time, and that she feels obligated to help.

Any thoughts are appreciated!

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Don't hesitate to deal with this directly and at once. Seems to me like you two are already on the same page. Maybe she's just looking for "permission" to own her own life. The "family thing" runs deeper in some than in others. However, you described her as already recognizing it. Maybe time for direct husband/wife conversation about appropriate boundaries and what's legit. and what isn't.

If she allows it -- and if you allow it -- it certainly will continue. You are husband and wife; one unit; independent; autonomous. The "obligation" thing needs a new look-see and it appears from what you wrote that she sees it, too. Time for "affirmative action", as the saying goes. It won't be bad. You'll probably find these family members will respect you more for it. In any event, it must be done. The two of you must be priority #1. Others -- family or not -- can wait. "Emergencies" of others don't have to be yours.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2007 at 8:02PM
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Yes, quite a predicament for you to be in.

I guess she comes from a family where everyone helps each other out, so its carrying on into her married life as well.

You are united in what you should do, that is good.

You must establish boundaries, tricky to do without some sort of initial period of annoyance, but after a few reprogrammings I think it will all be sorted.

Next time a request comes, just say "I will not be able to do that, today." Perhaps she doesn't even need to give a reason. Why should she really.

Your marriage comes first, all the time.

Good luck, I can understand your annoyance.


    Bookmark   May 23, 2007 at 3:17AM
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Thanks for the responses, it's nice to get some affirmation that we are on the right track, we just have a long way to go.


Part of the problem is that we will sometimes agree that a certain kind of situation does not warrant her getting involved. But it seems that each situation with her relatives is different, and is always presented to her as a dire emergency, so as to get her involved. Yes, her relatives are total manipulators. Sometimes it seems that the only way to deal with it would be to stop interacting with the relatives completely, but she won't consider that option.


Unfortunately, "tight-knit" does not mean that everyone helps everyone else out. Most of them couldn't pour sand out of a boot even if the instructions were on the sole. In this case, "tight-knit" means that everyone has their nose in everyone elses business, and they are constantly gossiping about who is doing what, and who is not being a "good family member". My wife is the only highly motivated and functional one of the lot, is very sensitive to family pressure, and so anytime a problem comes up they pile on my wife to take care of it.

Thanks again!

    Bookmark   May 23, 2007 at 5:16AM
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I just want to add my support and say that I can identify with your problem to some extent. We are dealing with two distinct family situations that are very time-consuming and emotionally draining. Fortunately, my wife has her priorities straight and knows that we can't let the external family demands outweigh our own family's needs. It sounds like your wife understands, but is having a hard time really disengaging from the situations. You may need outside help. You both may need to talk to a cleryman or couselor about this and get "permission" to disengage. From what you've presented, it sounds like complete disengagement would be best, even to the point of moving if necessary. But I only have what you've presented here to go on. You say you have no kids. But do you plan to? Once you do, your wife must surely know where her priorities are. You might talk to her about that, and have her imagine having her own kids and then trying to deal with the relatives, too. It sounds like there's no reasonable accomodation or halfway point with these relatives. I wish you the best.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2007 at 7:30AM
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Thanks for all the comments-

Unfortunately, things have gone from bad to worse. Another major family crisis has arrived, and she's thrown herself into into it completely. She complains bitterly about the situation and how she's being put upon, but when I tried to offer some suggestions, I was told that my comments or complaints were not acceptable, that this was the way things were and if I wanted any more from a wife then I should find someone else. I know some of her words came from simple frustration and exhaustion, but we both know there's truth at the heart of it.

I know she won't go to counseling, she sees herself as a strong willed person who doesn't need anybodies help.

I already see several additional "family crisis" coming over the horizon that she will probably plunge into, I suspect that this is becoming a permanent way of life for her.

I support her where I can, but I won't destroy myself to make her relatives happy. This is also becoming a point of friction, since she thinks I should do more to support her so she can help her relatives, and I think she's starting to see me as just another person in her life who's making demands on her.

So at this point, I'm losing hope for a good outcome, but I'm open to suggestions.


    Bookmark   June 3, 2007 at 7:15AM
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Well, this is deeper and uglier than I thought at first. Seems to me you've got a decision to make.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2007 at 10:56AM
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I mean this question very seriously --

Have you considered moving away? Getting new jobs and moving to another city 3-4 hours away? That's just far enough away to be kept out of the 'daily' crises, but close enough to still come back for holidays and important events and to still remain involved in each others' lives. From that distance, it's easy to screen calls, to sincerely say "I wish we could!", or "We just don't have that kind of money available right now"... In short, to make the kinds of polite social excuses that will keep you out of their endless problems.

We're in a similar situation, to some extent, and it sure was easier when we lived a few hours away!

    Bookmark   June 3, 2007 at 12:34PM
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I agree with Sweeby, the geographical cure would really work. I had to move 3000 miles, but it did the trick! Is your wife a codependent? Do you know the signs? If she is, nothing but some serious counseling will help. If she won't go, you may have to go alone. Good luck!

    Bookmark   June 3, 2007 at 9:19PM
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Here's the deal...Marriage is US FIRST...others as we have time/attitude/inclination. That includes family -- specifically family. It is commonly known that you marry the family as well as the person. However, that does not give them -- or anyone else -- priority. If your spouse doesn't understand that simplest most-basic of marriage tenets, I don't know what to suggest.

This is a biggy. Strongly suggest coming to an understanding about it directly and immediately. Don't let this one fester. Put it on the table, examine it, and decide how you want your life (lives) to be.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2007 at 10:07PM
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Thanks for all the thoughts-

I do think the "geographical cure" would help, since there are some pesky relatives in other states that she does seem to ignore better due to distance.

Finances would be a challenge, as we are both in specialist jobs that don't move well.

And she says she'd be happy if some of the relatives moved away, but won't consider moving herself, because it would be "abandoning" the relatives (yes, it's illogical...).

There may be some codependency going on- as I mentioned, she's the most functional one of the bunch, and everyone looks to her to fix problems. They are also highly image concious, and spend a lot of time and energy denying that family problems exist.

But it seems like after the current crisis passes, I'll have to sit down and have a long discussion about boundries, where they are and if she's even willing to set any. I think the results of that conversation will decide our future.

Thanks again for the info!

    Bookmark   June 4, 2007 at 9:49AM
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