It bothered me though, so I reviewed an action plan with my counselor and set up an in-person meeting with them to set boundaries. In the week leading up to the chat, I learned that they had met with my in-laws (who had no idea this was coming) to try to enlist their support in coercing my husband and me into have children. I was furious when I found out, and my in-laws made it expressly clear that this made them very uncomfortable.
It doesn’t end there, though. Tuesday was the in-laws’ meeting, and then on Thursday I received a package in the mail from my mom containing a five-page handwritten letter telling me I had to have children because my parents deserved grandchildren, I would regret it forever if I didn’t, and I would die alone, sad, and lonely, surrounded by strangers. Oh, and that my pets were just “things” that wouldn’t be there for me when I died alone. This letter was accompanied by photos of my sister and me as babies and a collection of handwritten cards I had made for my parents as a child! The meeting I had planned with my counselor was held with my parents on Saturday, and I didn’t say anything to them about the in-laws’ visit or the package. Our talk went surprisingly well though, and they had to “hear” me for once.
Months later: I let them have their space, and I let them contact me when they want, but it seems like every time we have an interaction they use it as ammunition. (For example, a dinner party where I jokingly said “no kids for me” turned into me saying I “hated” children while apparently spewing hate speech.) I need space, and yet I still love my parents and want to enjoy a relationship with them. But it’s hard. At my sister’s wedding, six months after the talk I had with them, I had a mutual friend approach me saying my mom told her to tell my sister and me to have kids!
My question is: Where do I go from here? It feels as though every time I try to “be nice” and let things go, they do something that royally pisses me off and crosses my boundaries in a big way. — Being Nice Isn’t Working
Oh, wow, your parents sound kind of nuts, to be frank. You saw no sign of this kind of crazy prior to their moving to be closer to you and harassing you about your choice to not have children? This is truly coming out of left field? If so, I might be a little concerned about their emotional and mental well-being. Have you spoken to your sister about this? Has she seen signs of boundary-pushing? Does she also feel that there were no signs of this kind of behavior prior to a few months ago?
Speaking of your sister, I highly suspect that, now that she’s newly married, your parents are going to shift their focus onto harassing her to have children. That doesn’t make their behavior “right,” but it could take some of the pressure off you, particularly if your sister actually does have a baby. If that doesn’t happen any time soon, or if you find that your parents are still bugging you and disrespecting your boundaries, you have some options: further distance yourself from them by ignoring phone calls, etc.; spend holiday get-togethers with your in-laws or traveling elsewhere; don’t share personal or sensitive information with them; tell your in-laws to ignore phone calls from them. If things continue to implode, you could also consider a drastic measure: move far away. This, of course, is complicated. You would have to leave jobs, friends, and other family. And as your parents age and need support, you won’t be close to help them (which may or may not be such a terrible thing).
While none of these measures ensure that your relationship with your parents improves, they will likely go a long way to protect YOUR well-being and, at the very least, decrease the resentment you feel towards your parents (which negatively affects your relationship with them). I know, when what you want is a close relationship with your parents in your adulthood, it sucks to not have that, especially when your childhood was so great and you can’t understand what happened. But… life isn’t fair. Be glad you did have the wonderful childhood you did and that any damage your parents might be creating in your life and your relationship comes when you are stable enough to combat it, when you are able to enlist the help of a counselor, and when you have the support of what is hopefully a loving and understanding partner.
P.S. Stop making “jokes” about not having children in front of your parents! I guess it’s a defense mechanism for you, but it’s clearly a very sensitive topic and you know they don’t find the joke funny, so just stop. You complain about their using your interactions as “ammunition” against you, but when you are the one joking about not having kids, it’s like you’re handing them the bullets. Stop.
When I met Henry, he told me he had been “separated” for over a year. Carol had moved in with the new girlfriend, but because of the special needs children, she had stopped by the house to cook and care for the family daily before going home to the new girlfriend. Sometime after we had started seeing each other but before we got serious, Carol and the new girlfriend broke up and Carol moved back in. I was not made aware of this until we were more involved.
Henry refers to her as his “ex-wife” and they sleep in separate rooms, but they still share a joint checking account. She freely transfers money from “his account” (actually “their account”) to her account to pay bills or when she needs money. She cooks and cleans for him and the kids. They play video games together, watch shows together, and basically do everything a married couple does. He tells me that they tell each other everything. He tells me all of this as well, and I think he believes this makes it acceptable.
I’m not concerned that they are sexual in any way. I have met her and her most recent girlfriend. However, I feel like he is just as intimate (and maybe more so) with her than he is with me. And when I try to talk to him about it, he shrugs it off and says “as long as I’m not sleeping with her, it shouldn’t matter.”
Is their relationship inappropriate in this context or am I overreacting? I do love this man, but I find myself pulling away because I feel like he has one foot in his marriage and one foot in his relationship with me. Here we are one and a half years in and he has told me outright that he sees no reason to divorce (he has health insurance through his wife’s company), he’s not leaving the house under any circumstances, and he will not ask her to leave. Am I wrong in thinking this leaves very little space for me in his life?
Thanks in advance for any advice you can give. — Feeling Stuck
Nope, you’re not wrong in wanting more space in Henry’s life or in thinking that he is likely more intimate with Carol than he is with you. I mean, he shares a life with her — a home, finances, kids, hobbies, they tell each other everything. They are family and they are partners. They may not sleep together, but so what? So, that’s the one little space he’s made for you? Sex? Oh, lucky you! I mean, yeah, if that’s all you want, then it IS kind of lucky! Some other woman does all the other stuff — the cooking, cleaning, child-rearing, maintaining the house, and you get to have the sex. But you want more and he’s made it clear he’s not giving up what he has with his wife to make space to give you more.
The answer here is obvious: You need to MOA. Let Henry have the family life that is working for him (and his wife and his kids). He can always find some woman — or women — to fill his sexual needs on the side, which sounds like all he really has room for and interest in. And you can make yourself available to someone who has more time, space, and interest in giving you a bigger role in his life.
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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.