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Thursday, 22 March 2001

Difficulties with In-Laws

Written by  Arlette Simon

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QDear WholeFamily Counselor,

I am having difficulty in becoming a part of my husband's family life, after getting married. Two years ago, my husband and I decided to move to his hometown to make a living. We lived with his parents for about a year to get our feet on the ground and save some money.

We now live in our own apartment but I have some very unresolved feelings and issues about his parents and siblings. I feel as if they have not made as much of an effort to integrate me into the family as they have their other daughter-in-law "Mary."

It started during the planning of our wedding when I felt that my parents-in-law did not seem too excited about the wedding and didn't help to plan it. We lived in different states, which might have been a part of it, and also my husband is a very independent person. But I feel that I did many things to try to show I loved and respected his parents and family.

The pain really took hold last month when I was looking at a photo album with a copy of my parents-in-law's Christmas letter which stated how happy they were that Mary was their new daughter-in-law and how they wished them the best marriage together. But the year of our own wedding, their Christmas letter barely even mentioned the wedding. In addition Tim and Mary were given additional wedding celebration parties and we had none. I feel very hurt by this and I'm not sure how to deal with this.

Would you happen to have any suggestions? Thank you kindly

ADear "Hurt Daughter-In Law",

The unresolved feelings and issues that you have about your husband's parents and siblings seem to hurt you and upset you very much. I understand from your letter that you want the same recognition, consideration and acceptance that your sister-in-law Mary seems to get from them.

In order to deal with your difficulties, it is necessary to understand better the different aspects of this delicate situation:

The relationship between your husband and his family: Are there any issues of sibling rivalry between him and his brother? To what extent does his "independence," as you point out, put a distance between him and his parents? Does he feel like you do about his parents' preference for Tim and Mary as a couple?

The relationship between you and your husband: Do you share with him your feelings in general and your feelings about this particular issue? I believe that sharing with him what is upsetting you may help to clarify the picture and make it easier for you, especially if you give support to each other. Are you close to each other?

The relationship between you and your in-laws: What is it that hurts you so much? Does it have something to do with some old and unresolved feelings with your own parents and siblings? These unresolved issues may have to do with sibling rivalry, competition, discrimination, rejection, being/feeling unloved ... all very painful feelings to carry around, even if not consciously.

You write that your husband's parents helped you when they let you live with them during the first year you moved into their town: How did you get along with them when you lived under the same roof?

My suggestions to you are as follow:

  1. Stop making comparisons between yourself and Mary. This will diminish the pain.
  2. Start to focus on your own marriage. Having new interests like a job, friends, and activities that you enjoy may help you distance yourself from your in-law problem. The less involved you are in what happens in your husband's family, and the less dependent you are upon what they think or do, the more free you will be in your relationship with them.
  3. It is also possible that your in-laws prefer your husband's brother Tim and his wife Mary. This could be for many different reasons, or for none -- things like this happen. So what, even then? This is not the end of the world; you can survive that and move on, becoming more independent emotionally and stronger.

Good luck to you,

Arlette Simon, MSW

Last modified on Monday, 16 January 2012 18:36
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Arlette Simon

Arlette Simon

Arlette Simon is a clinical social worker (MSW) and a licensed psychotherapist. She has more than 35 years experience in various fields of mental health, including work in welfare agencies, adoption services, general hospitals, and psychiatric hospitals. She has a private practice and is chief supervisor of a team of professionals in a rehabilitation community for the mentally ill. Her professional training also includes Jungian psychotherapy, transpersonal psychology, reincarnation therapy, guided imagery therapy, energy work as a Reiki practitioner and reflexology.

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