I guess I’m confused about why either of you visits your ex’s families at all, particularly since you say your ex doesn’t keep in touch with your family and isn’t close to them. I mean, it’s nice that everyone is cordial and that your ex wants to take his kids to see their grandparents, but he can take them to see his parents, and you can take them to see yours, right? While it’s certainly not unheard of for spouses to remain close and in touch with their former in-laws following a divorce, it’s entirely appropriate to re-establish new boundaries if and when anyone in the situation feels uncomfortable with the level of interaction among the parties. It seems that after five years after your divorce, it’s time to re-visit some boundaries in your situation to avoid the awkwardness that your sister has expressed and the discomfort you say you feel. (And while it isn’t your concern, one would imagine that your ex’s girlfriend might also feel awkward visiting her boyfriend’s former in-laws.)
Here’s what I would suggest: Stop visiting your ex’s family, and, the next time your ex wants to make plans to visit your family, tell him that you no longer think it’s appropriate to make visits to one another’s families. If he asks why, you should be honest and tell him you felt uncomfortable when he brought his girlfriend on the last visit and that it also made members of your family feel awkward. If you want, you can tell him that you’d be happy to let him know when your family comes to your area if he’d like to stop by to say “hi,” but that you wouldn’t feel comfortable including new partners in such an interaction. This is your boundary – it may not be what other divorced couples need, and it may not even be what works for you a few years from now, but this is where you are currently, and so the boundary is appropriate and you need to employ it going forward to limit feelings of discomfort, awkwardness, and resentment.
Is it right of his parents to spoil the daughters and offer him nothing? How can he separate the money and not feel of less value?
Recently, the two maternal parents got together and started attacking us for more time alone with the grandkids. I received a nasty email from my father-in-law and my mother-in-law and both attacked my husband on several occasions for more time with our kids. They made the point that the girls will be having babies soon and they will be close to them.
It’s hurtful and seems unfair. My husband is distant because he doesn’t feel loved or taken care of like the girls are. He just doesn’t feel a part of either family. Do you have any advice on how to deal with the in-laws who feel entitled to the grandchildren but do nothing for my husband? — Attacked Daughter-In-Law
Yikes, time with grandchildren shouldn’t be dependent on financial assistance from the grandparents! I hope you are not purposefully denying or limiting time between them as retaliation for the lack of assistance from your in-laws. That said, I can appreciate why your husband’s feelings are hurt. It does seem unfair the the same parents who refused to pay for one kid’s college tuition have paid for so much for their younger kids. But a lot can change in ten years, and it’s possible that all the parents are in much different financial positions than they were when your husband was younger. It’s also possible that they see him, ten years older than their daughters, as much more financially stable than their daughters are and not needing as much from them. Also, it’s old-school thinking but still pretty typical that a bride’s parents will contribute more towards weddings than a groom’s parents will, which would explain why his parents paid for their daughters’ weddings but not their son’s. And, finally: Your husband has never asked for money! Isn’t it possible that his sisters HAVE asked for money and that, maybe, had your husband ever asked, the answer would have been “yes”?
It seems that a lot of assumptions have been made on the part of you and your husband and that very little, if any, communication has been had. Your husband clearly resents the difference in treatment from his parents compared to how they treat his sister, and rather than equating that difference with a difference in love and care, he should, you know, TALK to his parents about his feelings. It doesn’t have to be some big thing, and it absolutely should NOT be tied to time spent with the grandkids. Those are separate conversations.
For the first conversation — the one regarding your husband’s feelings of not being loved as much because his parents don’t financially assist your husband like they do his sisters — he could reach out to both sets of parents and say, “I need to express to you something I’ve been feeling for a while. It hurts me that you help my sisters so much and have never offered any assistance to me.” That’s a good way to start the conversation that simply expresses his feelings and doesn’t attach blame or assumptions. It invites an open response that doesn’t immediately put the recipient – his parents – on the defense.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the responses are along the lines of: “You never asked.” Or: “We didn’t know you needed help!” Or: “We have more money now than we did when your sisters were your age, and it didn’t occur to us that we should retroactively assist you to be fair.” From there, he can explain his position, whatever the details of it are. It may not change behavior – his parents may still not offer any financial assistance (and, frankly, I don’t think he’s automatically entitled to it just because his parents are financially comfortable), but at least your husband will have expressed himself and will be in a better position to decide what kind of relationship he wants with his family going forward.
As for a conversation about time with the grandkids, the grandparents are not entitled to time alone with them, and it’s grossly inappropriate for them to attack you and your husband about not giving that to them. You guys need to nip that in the bud, pronto, telling them exactly what you are comfortable with – whatever that is — and that this is not up for negotiation and you will not tolerate being attacked. But, again, if you are withholding your kids as some kind of retaliation for financial assistance not being offered to you, I urge you to drop that shit immediately. That would be really juvenile and unfair to your kids who don’t deserve to be pawns in a game you and your husband are too old to be playing.