Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“My Girlfriend Spends Way Too Much Time with Her Family”

I am in the Army and stationed on the east coast. I’m dating a 29-year-old school teacher. She’s a single mom and I’m a divorced father but don’t have custody. I feel like she is too close to her parents and it’s causing a huge strain on our relationship. They live ten minutes away from us (I moved in with her a few months ago), and there seems to be too much parental involvement.

Every Monday her parents come over for supper and I think that’s wonderful, so that’s not the issue. The issue is her need to eat with them another 2-3+ nights per week. Also, her mom comes over every night to tuck in her granddaughter, and they talk all the time. On the weekend, I know my girlfriend is awake because she instantly FaceTimes her mother from bed, then her cousin. Rinse repeat every weekend.

If I don’t go to family things, they grill her and she hates that I don’t go to everything. Then, if her family has questions about me and my life, they won’t ask me, they ask her. I’m 32 years old, I’ve spent thirteen years in the military and I’ve moved across the country twice, with many more regional moves. I’m close to my parents, but I don’t feel nearly as close to mine as she does to hers.

If I ask her about why she’s so involved with them, she tells me that, when her husband left her, she relied on them and this became normal. I have not asked her to change anything other than to ask her mom not to come by at night. She would come over and sit down for several hours but do nothing to help. It was very uncomfortable for me because I can’t unwind with my girlfriend’s mother over my shoulder every night.

Am I letting this get to me or is there really a problem? — Confused in Connecticut

I think the biggest problem here is that you moved in with a woman whose lifestyle as it was wasn’t a fit for you. And knowing she had a daughter, you both should have been extra cautious about taking such a big step as moving in together. That you made that step before you felt confident in your lifestyles being a match is a big red flag. You’ve both been married before — why would you take such a big step in a relationship without being fully ready? THAT, more than your girlfriend’s relationship with her family, is the biggest issue here.

But, yes, your girlfriend’s relationship with her family is an issue, too, because it’s interfering with your relationship and family life. Your girlfriend is being rude by not respecting your privacy and your time together. And you’re enabling her as long as you don’t “ask her to change anything other than to ask her mom not to come by at night.” So, you expressed your concern about that, your girlfriend talked to her mom, and now her mom no longer spends hours at your place every evening sitting on your couch not helping out, right? That’s great — sounds like communicating with your girlfriend works! So… why don’t you communicate about the rest of your concerns? Tell her you feel disrespected when she Facetimes her mother and cousin every weekend morning from bed (with you right next to her, I’m assuming?). Maybe you could ask her to wait until you’re out of bed/in the shower/at the gym, etc. Maybe she could excuse herself to another room or switch to a quick phone call where you don’t have to be included. If you would like her to spend less time eating dinners with her family, suggest she cut back to the Monday family supper you all enjoy together and maybe one additional dinner without you (and then you could use that time to do something you enjoy on your own).

What you’ve described doesn’t sound that crazy. Is it different from what you — and a lot of other people — are used to? Yes. Is it different from what you want? Yes, obviously. But it also doesn’t sound like anyone is refusing you and your needs. The one time you expressed a concern, it was validated, and behavior was changed. So, continue expressing your concerns and work on compromise with your girlfriend. And in the future, make sure you know what you’re getting into before you make another big step forward in a relationship!

***************

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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at [email protected].

11 comments… add one
  • avatar

    dinoceros February 20, 2017, 10:18 am

    What Wendy said. This is who she is. I think you realize that you can’t ask her to stop seeing them as much without her resenting you, and it sounds like you’re not willing for this to be your life. You shouldn’t have moved in with someone who you’re this incompatible with.

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  • avatar

    Ale February 20, 2017, 11:37 am

    Yes, WWS. And so awful for you to try and change her family dynamics now that you live with her, especially since you probably met her and she was like that already.

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  • GertietheDino

    GertietheDino February 20, 2017, 12:03 pm

    Unless her family dynamic is harming her in some way, you will not win this one. She’s close to her family (in the past because she need to be, now, because she wants to). If you don’t like it or can’t talk to her about it, MOA dude.

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  • avatar

    Essie February 20, 2017, 12:30 pm

    I hate to pile on, but this is exactly why people tell you to wait till you really know someone before you move in with them. You moved in with her before you fully understood her relationship with her family. That dynamic was set long before you met her, and it’s not going to change much, if at all, because you came along.

    I know that’s hindsight, and doesn’t help you much with your current problem. There’s really no easy solution. You can talk it out with her and see where you can both compromise, but if she won’t, you’re down to two choices. 1) Decide the relationship is worth the annoyance of dealing with her family, or 2) Decide that it’s not, and move on.

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  • FireStar

    Firestar February 20, 2017, 5:13 pm

    Who cares if you aren’t close to your family? She is close to hers. And when times were rough for her, they stepped up. How lovely her grandmother tucks her in every night. How lovely she had support if your job takes you away. Instead of being happy for her, you want her to do things your way. Too bad. You found her like this. She compromised on the mom not coming over for hours. She can compromise on taking calls away from you. Figure out what you are going to compromise on because nothing in her dynamic is off. And not for anything, why wouldn’t they ask her instead of you? You think they haven’t figured out how you feel about them?
    You asked if this was really a problem. I think the problem is you. Accept it or leave her be.

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  • Cleopatra Jones

    Cleopatra Jones February 20, 2017, 9:36 pm

    I think Wendy gave great advice but I think there’s a nuance of this relationship that she missed.
    .
    For military folks *, the whole idea of being so reliant on Mom & Dad is a foreign concept. The military is all about learning to operate as a fully independent adult without parental interference. Her family’s involvement is always going to bother him. If they get married and move away, her dependence on her parents is going to get worse because she isn’t used to coping hardships/unhappiness on her own.
    .
    LW, try this…think about this relationship in 5 years. If things are exactly the same with her parents’ involvement, how does that make you feel? Are you OK with it? Or do you see yourself, angry or tired from the struggle? If it’s the latter, (which I think it is), then you should probably move on from this relationship.
    .
    I’m sure she’s a wonderful young woman but she’s not the wonderful young woman for you.

    *I’m a veteran

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  • meadowphoenix

    meadowphoenix February 21, 2017, 2:20 am

    I think it’s pretty clear that this relationship came out of the dynamic of her being a single mom, so I wouldn’t say it was weird, overall, so much as you personally feeling like because the situation has changed (you are now there), the dynamic should too.

    1. I think it’s perfectly valid that you didn’t want her mother over there for hours just hanging out. And I actually think it’s valid that you’re a little aggrieved that adding another person didn’t strike anyone as a reason to reassess norms.

    2. It’s absolutely weird to grill someone because their SO doesn’t come to all family stuff . But if your gf is pressuring you too then this should be a sign that you may not be compatible. It’s not surprising that they address her for your personal business, you’ve probably made it clear that you’re not going to be open with them. If you have a problem with what she tells them, you need to talk to your girlfriend about what you want shared.

    3. It’s cute as fuck that grandma comes over to tuck her granddaughter in. If you want to change that situation, you need to understand that you are changing things not just for your girlfriend or her mother, but also for her daughter.

    4. If you want to spend more time with your gf at dinner, instead of telling her she shouldn’t like her parents so much (which is going to go over well with no one), tell her that you’d like to spend X amount of time with her at dinner.

    5. If you guys are serious, and honestly, if you’re living with her daughter you should be, is your military commission of the sort that means there is a possibility for short notice moves? If so, does your gf know that? If no, tell her immediately, because I’m guessing that might be a dealbreaker for her.

    Like, it’s obviously not going to be the case that you’re going to get your gf to have a relationship with her parents in exactly the way that makes you comfortable. So you need to figure out what about it is clashing against your needs, and talk to your gf about those rather than how you view her relationship with her parents, which, if no harm is occurring, is none of your concern.

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  • avatar

    whoishere February 21, 2017, 7:29 am

    Your girlfriend has a close relationship with her family. Good for her. Maybe you should be happy for her and embrace it. If you can’t do that you’re probably not the man for her.

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  • avatar

    for_cutie February 21, 2017, 11:11 am

    I hear you asking her for compromise, but what are you willing to offer? You’ve asked her to change once, and she did. I think you need to ask her “how can I love you better” and be willing to change based on what she asks for from you before you make her change her family dynamic again.

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  • avatar

    Confused in CT February 26, 2017, 10:16 am

    Hey everyone. Thanks for the constructive criticism. It should be noted that, in the time leading up to me moving in, I wasn’t made aware of her mothers strange behavior. I never saw it. I addressed it with my girlfriend and let it go, at the advice of many of you.

    Two instances have occurred since then, both of which the rest of the family found out about and were floored. We took a trip to Boston with her daughter and her cousins family. Her mother put her through a guilt trip and was crying hysterically because my girlfriend didn’t invite her. She was miserable the entire trip. The second occurrence happened one night when we were getting ready for bed. I had changed clothes and was having a glass of wine before bed and she was reading to Zoey in bed. All of a sudden I hear this noise and the front door flies open and her mom comes barging in the house unannounced and didn’t ask my girlfriend ahead of time. She marches right into the bedroom and starts playing with her granddaughter, which just wakes her up and we had a hard time getting her to sleep after that.

    When the rest of the family found out (I didn’t say anything because I didn’t feel like it was my place to tell everyone) they told my girlfriend that she can’t allow that kind of behavior. They didn’t really “pile on” but they made it a point that she can’t allow this kind of behavior.

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  • avatar

    Ron February 26, 2017, 9:53 pm

    Locks are your friend. If MIL has a key, then a chain lock you use when at home alone is a bigger friend. Your wife needs to handle her relationship with her mother and any necessary boundaries. You can’t do that, so good that you didn’t.

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