By Esther Mann

 

Dear Esther,

I have a family issue that has been bothering me for a long time. I married my husband about five years ago, and we have a three-year-old daughter. We have a good enough relationship; however, we live with his elderly parents and it creates conflict for both of us. We have lived with them since we got married, but now that we have a daughter, the issue has gotten worse.

The day before I married my husband, there was a conflict within my own family. They didn’t want me to marry him; specifically my aunt and cousin made a ruckus. They fought with him over the phone and instigated the problem that exists today. The cops were even involved.

Unfortunately, and mistakenly, my parents and my husband’s parents never had the chance to be properly introduced or even meet before the wedding. So the day of the wedding was the first time they met one another, which is ridiculous considering that my husband and I dated for about 10 years before getting married. To make matters worse, aside from the incident with my aunt and cousin, we are from completely different backgrounds. My husband and his family are modern Orthodox and my family and I are not.

We had a beautiful wedding day despite all that drama. I expected things to be O.K. We didn’t have a honeymoon, and we didn’t — and still don’t — have our own apartment. However, I believed things would be fine and that I would get a job and live a happy life in this house. I planned to have my family visit often because we are very close. Unfortunately, that did not happen.

After I moved in with my husband and his parents, an incident occurred involving my husband’s mother. My parents had come to visit to drop off food. They weren’t there for long at all. Everyone acted cordially and it seemed fine. However, not long after my parents left, my husband’s mother angrily confronted me about my parents and let me know that they were not welcome in her home. As a newlywed, instead of being happy, I was upset and angry. My husband and his father were also upset and they sided with me. They even ignored his mother for a day or so, until she apologized to me. I sort of accepted her apology.

Not long after that incident, I invited my parents over a few more times. Each time my parents visited, my husband’s mother threw a tantrum (for lack of a better description) and adamantly protested against my family coming to visit me. My parents have never said or done anything negative to her. She just has a hatred towards them. I had to stop inviting them to come visit, which is upsetting to me, especially now that they have a granddaughter.

I hate my husband’s mother for causing me such turmoil and putting distance between me and my family. I feel that she is not a nice person at all, and to top things off, I have personally heard her speak negatively about me many times, including once when I was eight months pregnant. I will never forget that or forgive her.

I have never treated her badly. She has health issues, so I do the cooking and some cleaning in the house.

This issue has been eating away at me for a long time. I don’t know how to get past it or how to stop hating her. It makes me constantly angry and I often take it out on my husband. I wish we could leave and live on our own, but my husband will not leave his parents. They are elderly, in their late eighties, and, honestly, I am not sure we can afford our own place, especially with the loss of his job.

To make things even worse, I can’t drive due to problems with my vision. So the only way I get to see my parents is if they come to pick up my daughter and me. Then I have to go to their home and wait for my husband to pick us up to take us “home.” It is upsetting for me that my parents don’t get to spend much time with their granddaughter because they are not allowed to visit. Meanwhile, my husband’s parents get to see her whenever they want.

Constantly Angry

Dear Constantly Angry,

The situation you describe sounds almost intolerable and unjust. It is asking a lot to expect yourself to wake up each morning with a smile on your face when you know you are living with in-laws who seem to be obsessed with hurting your parents — and you in the process. Few people could do that. I’m not saying it’s totally impossible with enough tuning out, denial, distraction, meditation, and who knows what else, but I think the more sensible goal would be to figure out how to get your own place.

I hear that you have vision issues, but I wonder whether you’ve explored every option that would lead to being gainfully employed. Regarding your husband, I surmise that he lost his job due to the coronavirus. If that’s the case, or there is some other reason why he lost his job, that doesn’t mean that he can’t be looking for work right now.

You and your husband have never experienced a normal living situation since the day you got married. Immediately moving in with his parents, who were not kind and loving, put you both on a path leading to hurt and subsequently anger. So my first encouraging words to you would be to gain independence from his parents. It is unacceptable that your parents can’t visit with their granddaughter in a normal fashion. It’s unacceptable that you overhear your in-laws talking negatively about you. You both need to get out!

You’ve hinted that maybe it’s not just financial issues that keep you both stuck in your in-laws’ house. Perhaps your husband had no intention of separating from his parents’ home in the first place. If that’s the case, you have even bigger issues to deal with.

What is that all about? Yes, occasionally there are frail parents who need to be looked after, but when that is the case, the arrangement must be examined closely before walking down the aisle to the chuppah. Discussions must be had regarding what it would look like and how you can still maintain your own autonomy in order to allow your marriage to grow and flourish. Without trying to admonish you, it sounds as though you and your husband skipped over much-needed due diligence in the beginning.

Furthermore, I can’t overlook the comment you made about your aunt and cousin disliking your husband from the start. Were they just trying to stir up trouble or were they trying to tell you something important in order to protect you? It wouldn’t be a bad idea to revisit their warnings to uncover whether or not there were some important messages they were trying to give you.

I have no magic pill that will alleviate your anger. The situation you describe would be untenable for most people. Your anger is a reaction, not the problem. You need to address the various problems that have led to the way you are feeling. You and your husband need to be a team and work together toward creating a safe and loving atmosphere for yourselves and your daughter. Your husband needs to protect you and advocate for you so that your life feels safe and normal. Your parents should be treated with much greater respect from everyone involved. There are huge changes that need to take place if you want to feel happy and grateful.

Esther

Esther Mann, LCSW, is a psychotherapist in Hewlett. Esther works with individuals, couples, and families. Esther offers Zoom, FaceTime, and phone sessions. She can be reached at mindbiz44@aol.com or 516-314-2295.

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