Dear Barb – Husband puts blood relatives first

Dear Barb;

My husband and I have been married for eight years and we have two children. We get along well for the most part, but our major problem is that I feel my husband puts his family (mainly his parents) before our children and me. Whenever his mother calls, he drops whatever he’s doing and goes to her. When we married I realized that because he was from an Italian family and I am not, that we may have some problems. I’m starting to wonder if I can live with his for the rest of my life. Do you have any advice to help me deal with this?

Anonymous, Anywhere

Thanks for writing. I understand your need for anonymity as this is a very sensitive issue.

In-law problems rank as one of the top ten stressors in marriage. It’s too bad you and your husband weren’t able to deal with this issue earlier in your marriage, but it’s still not too late.

You don’t mention how your husband reacts to his family’s demands. When he responds to their calls, does he go willingly, or is he just as frustrated as you? Since you are the one that seems to be at her wit’s end, I will assume he goes willingly.

First of all you have to discuss this with your husband, but be gentle and not confrontational. Tell him how you feel, but don’t attack his family or his culture or belittle him for being a caring son. These approaches will put him on the defensive and you will get nowhere. Explain to him that you feel less important than his family. Give him a chance to digest what you are telling him. Don’t expect everything to change overnight, give him time. When he does something that indicates he is trying to put you ahead of his family, be supportive. Let him know you appreciate his efforts.

I know this will be frustrating for you, but don’t expect things to change quickly. Most importantly, pick your battles. You obviously understand that since he is from an ethnic family, his familial expectations are different than those of Canadian families. Therefore, as hard as it may be, you may have to accept some of this behavior and not see it as diminishing you in any way.

Ultimately, if you try your best and still do not feel you are making any progress, I would suggest you find a good marriage counselor. Your marriage is far too important to give up without trying every possible avenue open to you.

Good luck, and don’t give up on your marriage. With some work I trust you and your husband will be able to get through this turmoil and as a result have a better, stronger marriage.

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