Frankly, it was the uncomfortable masturbation joke that got me talking to E about it, and over time I learned more things about E’s childhood, mainly that his parents (his dad especially) have boundary issues. For instance, while E would take a shower growing up (and they always had a clear shower curtain), his dad would regularly barge through the door, often semi or fully naked, to use the toilet. E’s mom seems to enable her husband’s behavior, too. When E wanted to take her on a mother-son hike just to talk, she forbade it to avoid the backlash she would get from her husband for leaving him out. Feelings were not allowed in E’s household, and E was actually held back in kindergarten because he would often cry and act out for reasons nobody could understand. When he finally did get his mom together for some one-on-one time recently (they lied to his dad that they were going on a boring shopping trip, so that was an acceptable excuse – but only after having lunch as a group first), she told him that his dad did beat him while drunk once (when he was five years old!), but it only happened once so it wasn’t that bad (!).
Wendy, I feel like I’ve been bait-and-switched. I’m livid at my future father-in-law for the emotional abuse he’s put E and his mom through, and I’m surprised to find myself angry with his sweet, meek mom for enabling it, too.
On the one hand, I think we’re doing the best we can do. E is fully on board with the boundaries we want to set as a new family (such as never letting his parents watch our future kids without supervision, due to the explosive anger his dad’s already shown with our niece, the first grandchild). When his parents showed up at our building for an unannounced visit this past Sunday night with friends in tow “so that [they] could show [their friends] the place!” (?!), E calmly took them to the roof deck to chat, said I was busy, and that no, they could not see our place because it was not a good time. (By the way, they texted E later saying that they “hoped [they] weren’t too intrusive! :)”, and when E said it would have been better to call and ask if we were free, she said “Well, we would have only given you about 5 minutes warning anyway.” Really?!). I’ve got a solid partner in E, and I’m so very grateful for it.
But on the other hand, I can’t seem to let go of this anger, and I worry that eventually my resentment will spoil my relationship with E. After all, they’re his parents! At the very least, I need to let go of these feelings for my own health and peace of mind, but how? All I want is an acknowledgement (or apology?) that they’ve crossed some boundaries and that it wasn’t okay, but I don’t think they’re capable of doing that (and it’s not like I can change them). Do I confront them in person somehow? Do I count the days until we move hundreds of miles away? Help! — Resenting my In-Laws to Be
You know, honestly, I think you’re over-reacting. Yes, your future in-laws shouldn’t have come to your home without calling first. And, yes, your future father-in-law was inappropriate making a masturbation joke while holding eye contact with you. And, yes, it sounds like there were — and are — some boundary issues in E’s family. The drunken beating when E was 5 sounds horrible, but I also don’t understand the mother’s motivation for telling E about it during one of the rare occasions they were alone together. Was she trying to see if he remembered it? Hoping to downplay the event if he did? Trying to explain why she didn’t do anything about it? Was she apologizing?
Anyway, what happened was wrong, but I’m not sure why you think YOU need or deserve an apology. Furthermore, why on earth would you resent E over these actions? By all accounts, he HAS acknowledged his parents’ boundary issues and he has worked with you to start creating boundaries to protect your relationship and your future family from his parents. Do you also need him to apologize to you for not filling you in on all his family’s demons before you agreed to marry him? Do you really feel like HE pulled a bait and switch on you? Wow, talk about blaming the victim here.
Please, try to let this anger and resentment you have go. Do NOT talk to E’s parents about your feelings, but rather, feel grateful that your fiancé is in agreement with you on how to handle them moving forward. So, you didn’t win the Perfect In-law Award. Karma didn’t make up for the lack of closeness you have with your own parents by giving you in-laws who are completely without flaws. But, guess what? No one has flawless parents OR in-laws. And as much as your marry into a spouse’s family when you tie the knot, the relationship that truly matters the most is the one you have with your husband or wife. If things are good between you, great. Let the other stuff go. And if you really can’t, or if your in-laws’ behavior continues driving you crazy and begins driving a wedge between you and your husband-to-be, then, yes, consider moving away. That would make much more sense than blaming E for the family he was born into, the way he raised, and the how his parents behave, all of which he has no control over.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.