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“His Family Won’t Give Me the Time of Day”

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My fiancé and I have been together for two years and got engaged six months ago. He’s from a different state, and, to be near his family, we moved from my home state to his right after we became engaged. All I have received since living here for the past six months are a lot of mean stares and cold shoulders. I’ve never done anything to these people but be helpful, polite, and friendly. It’s recently come to my attention that rumors have been spreading around my fiancé’s (very large) family about me, but, unfortunately, no one will tell me what has been said or who said it.

All I came here for was a chance to be part of my fiancé’s family, and no one will give me the time of day except a select few who don’t live as close and aren’t in the “gossip circle.” On top of that, my fiancé’s ex-girlfriend has been coming to family functions lately — with the guy she cheated on my boyfriend with! — and his family seems to like her far more than me.

I’m at my breaking point and don’t know what I should do. My fiancé is very upset about how his family is acting but refuses to move back to my home state because he’s afraid he won’t have the same job opportunities there. I’m starting to wonder if I should just move home alone. Any advice? — Not Welcomed By His Family

I sympathize with you, I do, but, if you’re honestly considering moving home alone (and, I assume, breaking off your engagement) because of some “mean stares and cold shoulders” and some apparent gossip you don’t know the details of, I wonder how ready you are for marriage. There will be bigger hurdles in your marriage than some mean stares and gossip. Are you going to run home — or threaten to run home — every time your relationship is challenged? I hope not.

It sucks that your fiancé’s family hasn’t given you a warm and welcoming reception, but, if you love your fiancé — and I assume you do or you wouldn’t have agreed to marry him and you wouldn’t have moved to another state for him — you can’t throw in the towel so quickly. You say your fiancé is very upset by the way his family is behaving, but does he have any theories about WHY they are acting the way they are? Does HE have any advice for you about getting along better with them? Did he warn you that this may be the reception you’d receive or is he just as surprised as you are? If you were to choose one or two family members to try to endear yourself to and break into the fold, which family members does your fiancé think would be the best ones to “work on,” so to speak? How is HE helping to break you in? Have you hosted any of his large family at your place? Perhaps being in a role of host rather than guest would be the change in dynamics you need to start building better relationships with your fiancé’s family.

As for the breaking point you feel you’re at, I’d suggest focusing on creating a life for yourself outside your relationship. Are you working? Have you made friends in your new town? (Here’s some advice for making new friends as an adult). I would also suggest setting a deadline for when you need to feel more at home and at ease in your fiancé’s town and within his family. You don’t need to share this deadline with him, but it can help your mental state knowing there is an end point (that you can, of course, modify at any time). You can decide that, say, six months from now would be a good time to discuss moving home again/ breaking up if you aren’t feeling any better about the state of things. And then, for the next six months, give it everything you’ve got, and enlist as much of your fiancé’s help as he’s willing to give. Foster the relationships you’ve managed to make with a select few of his family members — invite them to do things with you, text or call or email them — and use those relationships to help bridge gaps you feel with other members of the family.

If, after six months (or however much longer you decide you’re willing to keep trying), things haven’t improved enough for you to feel happy where you are, then talk seriously to your fiancé about moving, even at the cost of your relationship. If neither of you can be happy where the other prefers to live, this may be a case of you simply not being the right match. But don’t give up yet. Fight for your relationship. If you can get through this bumpy transition together, your relationship — and ultimately, your future marriage — will be much stronger for the challenge.

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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com.

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Comments on this entry are closed.

Raccoon eyes Raccoon eyes July 14, 2014, 10:24 am

WWS.
LW, Im so mad on your behalf. Seriously, WTF? Where is your fiance in all this? You say he is mad too…but not doing anything really about it. This is where he needs to step up to his family, and make it about YOU AND HIM being accepted, not necessarily just you. IE saying to people that they need to accept you, and be friendly and such. Not like, “Oh, fiancee needs XYZ,” or “Fiancee feels XYZ,” but make it how HE feels about your treatment and the TWO of you. Because no one likes someone constantly fighting someone else’s battles.
Wendy is spot-on that if this is a major hurdle now, marriage might be a bit tough. Do you really want to be fighting this fight endlessly? Because that will be your future if you let this continue. Communication is key, with your future husband and just in general. How did you hear about “rumors” but not get ANY specifics? Gah. My head hurts.
And the ex bringing her new paramour to family functions? What the f*ckity f*ck f*ck?
Im sorry you are stuck (for now) in this situation, LW. Good luck

avatar Portia July 14, 2014, 10:35 am

I think this is a really good point, that it’s about the two of you being accepted as a unit. Especially if the family is still inviting the ex-girlfriend around, it may feel more of a you vs. her scenario if he brings up these things as your problem.

avatar zombeyonce July 14, 2014, 11:27 am

I was surprised Wendy didn’t say anything about the fiance’s responsibilities here. He obviously knows what’s happening and is upset, but since it’s his family I think he should try to get to the bottom of why it’s happening, even if it turns out just to be some busybody relatives that like nothing more than spreading gossip and getting in others’ business.

If it’s because of the ex-girlfriend, he needs to make it clear that they are over (and that she freaking cheated on him!). If it’s because they just don’t like the LW, he needs to tell them she’s a permanent part of his life and they need to get used to that. If it’s just busybodies, LW needs to know who they are so she can be cautious around those particular people in what she says and shares. I don’t think this should all be on the LW to fix. Yes, she needs to make sure she’s down for this commitment and all that entails, but her partner needs to stand up for her big time here.

Dear Wendy Dear Wendy July 14, 2014, 11:49 am

I did suggest that the fiancé needs to do his part:

“Does HE have any advice for you about getting along better with them? Did he warn you that this may be the reception you’d receive or is he just as surprised as you are? If you were to choose one or two family members to try to endear yourself to and break into the fold, which family members does your fiancé think would be the best ones to “work on,” so to speak? How is HE helping to break you in?”

avatar zombeyonce July 14, 2014, 1:12 pm

I meant responsibilities with his family. I’ve always thought that when a couple is having an issue with family members, it’s the responsibility of the person from that family to be the one to reach out and try and fix the situation.

While I do think that the LW hosting something could be helpful, I think the real solution is for the fiance to talk to his family. A rebuke about their behavior coming from him can make a huge difference since he’s the person they care about. If they won’t stop spreading rumors about LW because he asks them to or tells them he won’t put up with it, then the likely don’t care enough for her endearing herself to them to make much of a difference.

avatar Christy July 14, 2014, 10:25 am

Wendy, did you intend for there to be a link to friend advice? I can’t see any link there, but I’m on IE8.
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Ultimately, LW, this is what matters most: “If neither of you can be happy where the other prefers to live, this may be a case of you simply not being the right match.” This can totally be a relationship- or marriage-killer. Are there any potential compromise locations? Plus definitely WWS about having him help you with his family.

Dear Wendy Dear Wendy July 14, 2014, 10:29 am

Oops, thanks, Christy (re. friendship link).

avatar Portia July 14, 2014, 10:51 am

Works now!
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Also, I love that article. Making new friends was something I struggled with when I moved to DC and it’s comforting to know that it’s a common issue. The LW didn’t mention making friends, but I think you rightfully pointed out that it’s important to be building her own life there outside of the family if she’s making it her permanent home too. Plus, the family issues might be less of a focus if she’s otherwise occupied and those relationships might grow in time.

avatar Portia July 14, 2014, 10:29 am

I’m on chrome, also no link.

avatar Miss MJ July 14, 2014, 10:49 am

This behavior sounds nuts. I guess the LW should enlist her fiancé’s help in trying to get to the bottom of it. Maybe there is something there that would make rational adults act like a bunch of bitchy high school brats, but if I were her, I’d be wary of signing up for a lifetime of this level of bullshit.

avatar TheOtherOtherMe July 14, 2014, 10:50 am

There’s not a lot of information here about why his family doesn’t like you, but one clue is the way they are very welcoming to the ex-girlfriend. Sounds to me like they REALLY liked the ex and probably wanted your fiance to marry her, and they haven’t fully accepted that the relationship went kaput. So they keep her around, while giving you, the new g.f. (who they probably see as an imposter), the cold shoulder. And probably giving your fiance the cold shoulder too, amirite? Just a theory. I’ve seen it happen on occasion, where a family cannot let go of child’s partner (who they always assumed their child would end up with).

Diablo Diablo July 14, 2014, 11:13 am

LW, it’s your fiance’s responsibility to navigate his family relationship with you. If you are going to be married, then you should come before his family and any job. If he’s upset about how his family is acting, what is he doing about it? Options include limiting time with them, refusing to be at the same gatherings as his cheating ex, and generally having your back. If the job opportunities are best there, then the two of you can have the same life you’d live in another state (ie – minimal contact with his family) if they are not prepared to treat you well. I like Wendy’s advice about ingratiating yourselves with one or two key members of the family, but another question is what you are doing to solve this? Are you friendly and forthcoming? Do you act like you want to be a part of the group? Or do you hang back and wait for them to validate you? Jobs are very important, but they are not everything. If you are unhappy and have tried your best to solve the issues, then maybe you should question his refusal to move as well. If you are planning to marry someone, you’d better accept that it only works when the relationship, the two of you, comes before each of you as individuals. Likewise, if he needs to build his career where you are, for the benefit of both of you, is that something you can accept for a time? The two of you need to learn to compromise if you want to last.

findingtheearth findingtheearth July 14, 2014, 11:36 am

if you two were to move, there still would be hostility, except you would be the girl who took him away from his family. That drama would just be added onto whatever problems you already have. If his family refuses to be nice to you, he needs to talk to them, not you. He is wanting to build a family unit with you, and that is separate from the one he had with his family.

Also, he might be doing everything possible and they are just not nice people. That happens. Is it worth throwing this relationship away? Can you two have your own unit with as minimal contact with them as possible?

avatar Laura Hope July 14, 2014, 1:18 pm

Either your boyfriend knows what’s going and is allowing it or is too intimidated to ask, at your expense. Either way, he’s not showing that he values you. You cannot be expected to join a family that’s hostile towards you. Marriage is hard enough. If your fiance won’t take a stand, he’s the one who’s making the choice. And it’s not in your favor. I would never let my family abuse my husband (without a damn good reason).

avatar peachy July 14, 2014, 1:42 pm

One wonders why your fiance wanted to live close to these folks? Let’s face it, gossipy, bitchy people who have no problem bad-mouthing someone they hardly know are unlikely to change very much in the long term. There is no point in trying to win the regard and respect of people who are not respectable, so don’t waste your time. And whoever is telling you that people are talking about you isn’t your friend either. Surely there is a neutral place you and your fiance could “move to for work” that will get you away from frequent contact with these saboteurs and let you both start fresh?

sobriquet sobriquet July 14, 2014, 2:31 pm

I’ve had my fair share of in-law dramz even to the point where gossip was spread about me to family members I hadn’t met yet. It was a terrible feeling wondering what was said, who it was said to, and it was defeating to feel like I had to climb an uphill battle just to prove that I was not the horrible person I’d been portrayed to be. When I was dealing with this a mere 3 months before my wedding, I felt completely powerless.
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I think what ultimately helped me the most was to stop focusing on the part I had no control over (i.e. the person who spread the gossip and what was said) and instead start reaching out to the important family members I wanted to foster relationships with (i.e. the people I was so worried had a negative perception of me based on the gossip). Also, time. Understanding that it takes TIME for people to get to know me and for me to get to know them, and more importantly, that the state of family affairs right then would most certainly be very different in 5, 10, 20 years.
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Things like this often seem a lot bigger leading up to a wedding, too. I had a few “I can’t deal with this for the rest of my life!” internal freak-outs while I was engaged and I think that’s normal. I’m not surprised the LW has thought about moving back home. Getting engaged and moving to a new state- that’s a lot of changes at once! And then spending a lot of time around soon-to-be in-laws for the first time, too, sounds overwhelming.
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So, LW, just focus on the things you can control and on being yourself. Talk to your fiance about your feelings, future concerns and what you need from HIM- because really, you can’t change his family and neither can he- but he can and should be on your side, whatever that entails.

avatar Emily July 14, 2014, 3:47 pm

I won’t go too into detail but I can relate to this. WWS. And also I feel for you!! I finally had to remind myself this wasn’t personal and didn’t have much to do with me, but it still hurts my feelings sometimes. People can just have their heads up their own as**es, you know? Maybe you need to try to make some additional friends outside of the circle of family and also you don’t need to attend every family event if they are jerks to you! I wouldn’t. Your fiance also doesn’t need to keep attending these events if he’s upset about how they are treating you. They have to realize it’s not an okay way to behave and you won’t participate in it. Good luck.

avatar Not Welcomed By His Family July 15, 2014, 10:31 am

Hello all,
I thank everyone, especially Wendy for the advice given so far. When I wrote this I was feeling very trapped and isolated and have since realized this is not worth breaking things off with my fiancé, I was just in a very emotional state. I should have given more of a background story and will now, I apologize for the lengthy post. I was a nursing student in my home state and ended up having to quit three months from graduation due to medical issues so I am currently not working as I also have a six year old son (who by the way loves it here and isn’t on the receiving end of any anymosity as I am) from a previous relationship. My son calls my fiancé “dad” as his own father has been absent from day one. I plan on getting a job that I am physically able to do once the summer is over and my son is at school most of the day as we don’t have any help with child care right now( this is a very small town and there aren’t any daycares close by as it seems everyone around here uses grandparents or friends instead). This has obviously kept me from making friends outside of the family circle. My fiancé left the Navy in my home state to come home to his so we are struggling financially at this time but his job is promising so this is just a phase in our lives. Due to this our home is not really in a “receiving company” sort of way currently. On to the subject of his family, my fiancé is very surprised with how they have recieved both of us. Before I met them he described them as a huge loving family who love getting together and having fun. They don’t treat him the same as they did before either, and I have gone through a lot of guilty feelings that it’s because of me and they wouldn’t treat him this way if I hadn’t come into the picture. His family is more of the “nice to your face, talk behind your back type”. He has tried to get to the bottom of it but everyone he confronts just says “I don’t want to get in the middle of it”. It is such a large family that there is no way to pinpoint where this all started though we have a few good ideas and have confronted those people but they denied everything. It seems his family as a whole has chosen to believe whatever is going around without giving me the chance to get to know them or even set the record straight on their opinion of me. I do tend to hang back at family functions because it’s obvious that they don’t see me as “one of them” and treat me as such, my fiancé also gets the cold shoulder at events though not as severe as I do. I have repeatedly tried to join conversations but the second I do they trail off and it becomes very uncomfortable and obvious that I am not wanted. For example, my fiances sister just had a baby and brought her to a family event, we had yet to meet her so obviously we wanted to hold her. We had to wait for every single person (even distant relatives and unrelated friends) to get their turn before we got a chance, and the rest of my fiances siblings(and significant others) were the very first to hold their niece, we just kept getting pushed aside by all these people which was quite hurtful to my fiancé as this was his sisters child. Ever since the ex girlfriend has been coming to these events I have hung back even more as it really gave me some perspective to see how warmly she is welcomed when she arrives (I also forgot to mention that the ex is a friend of my fiances cousin and one of his sisters- even though they know she heated on him) vs how I am treated. I just wish I knew why this was happening because I have always wanted to be part of a big family. My fiancé just says not to worry about it anymore and we’ll just stay away from them and do our own thing. It just makes me sad that I never got a real chance. I also didn’t mention that in his family his father pays for the wedding when his children (male or female) get married(sort of a family tradition I guess) and for us he hasn’t offered or even asked our idea of a date, no one else has either. Because of this we have just decided to elope though we could pay for a wedding ourselves in a year or two it just seems simpler this way due to the drama that has ensued. It bothers me immensely that no one is even interested in our wedding plans! I never saw this happening and am at a complete loss as to what to do at this point. But I will no longer let this get in the way of my fiancé and I being together. Thanks again everyone.

avatar Not Welcomed By His Family July 15, 2014, 10:54 am

Raccoon Eyes,

We have gotten a few specifics as far as the gossip going around, I should have included it I apologize. The reason I didn’t is that I feel there must be more to it to account for the drastic way they are treating us. The first is that when we first moved here we were staying with my fiances dad while he got a job and we searched for our own place. We had came to visit a few months before moving here and stayed with his dad for five days. My fiancé has one (male) cousin a few years younger than he is who has always been very close to him, so he was always around at the house while we were visiting. I was upstairs changing while my fiancé unpacking his stuff and this cousin walked in the house and just barged into our room while I was undressed! I thought that was very rude and told him so and my fiancé was understandably upset as well. Well fast forward to us moving in a few months later, my fiancé asked this particular cousin so give us two days to get our things unpacked and settled in because he knew he’d come right over and wouldn’t leave( we had just driven 8 hours with a uhaul). Well apparently this turned out to be a major problem and the cousin went around telling everyone that my fiancé told him to never come over there when he really said just a few days while we unpack and has the text to prove it! So I’m guessing this is part of the reason I’m getting this treatment. The second thing is that my fiances brother and his brothers wife live next door to his dad and while we were staying there I cleaned the house and did the laundry and all chores and cooking because I am not working. So fiances brothers wife is talking to me and saying how much if a slob fiances dad is and a lot of other rude things. I said nothing other than agreed that he was a slob. I have honestly never been in such a messy house, food left on couches in the living room, spills just left on the counter, etc. it was certainly a lot of work to clean up after him. So I did agree with her that he was pretty messy but I followed that up with how I appreciated that he was allowing us to stay ere while we searched for a place. The next day fiances dad comes home and is very angry telling my fiancé he “heard” that I was going around saying horrible things about him and apparently all of the rude things fiances brothers wife had said were told to him in a way that I had been the one who said it! Fiancé told him that was a lie and that I didn’t say any of it other than that he could be messy and that it was his brothers wife but he chose to believe her instead. I obviously haven’t spoken to her anymore as she stabbed me right in the back and blames everythig on me. So there you have it. These are the only two instances that I know of that could be causing this. But I can’t imagine these two small things would cause this many problems with the family as a whole.