Family Matters
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Parent expectation issues

My hubby and I have been married almost 2 years and both of our families live in town. A blessing and a curse. We spend every Friday with my family and every Sunday with his, in addition to other holiday, birthday, etc obligations to family. I don't feel like I can manage all of the obilgations and don't like feeling that way about our families. I talk to my family everyday and my hubby talks to his several times a week. Both of our families act like all we are doing is not enough. I've finally decided enough is enough and if they aren't recoginizing that we are really making an effort to keep in touch and see each other often, I want to reduce seeing each set of parents to twice a month. It's something we have wanted to do but it is proving very difficult to get across to our parents that we have other things we have to or want to do. I feel like family obligations are running all of our free time. It just never seems to be enough for them. Has anyone gone through something like this and how did you handle it? I have tried voicing our concerns to our parents but they just seem to think that it's a fight, not a discussion. I think our feelings are valid that we are spending too much time and effort trying to keep everyone happy and hubby and I are suffering.

Re: Parent expectation issues

  • have you told the family how you feel? i mean have you told your parents that every weekend is too much? has dh told his family? 

    i mean you dont have to give them an explination of why you can't go or convince them that what you hae to do is more important (even if it's just sitting around on the couch). 'no thanks mom but we'll see you next weekend'. answer no questions, give no explinations, explain nothing-you dont need to explain or convince them or talk them into the idea.if they get upset-oh well-the world will not stop turning. they are not allowed to spend your time-only you are. they are not entitled to every friday and you are entitled to your own time to do whatever it is you'd like to do.

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  • My only advice is stop talking and just do it. They won't believe how you actually feel until you show up less and less. Twice a month is more then enough. Stick by that.
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  • You're not required to spend Fridays and Sundays with them. Start beggijng off. Tell them you have something else to do. I doubt they'll break down and cry.

    And if they do, or pull the guilt trip, too bad.

    you and your H need to find things you can do together and you need to break away from your families.  Try volunteer endeavors, something to do at your house of worship, hobby clubs, sign up for dance lessons or adult school classes, to name a few.
  • image jnjmommy0609:
    My only advice is stop talking and just do it. They won't believe how you actually feel until you show up less and less. Twice a month is more then enough. Stick by that.
    This. As you've learned- trying to "explain" tells them that they have a say. They don't. So, don't explain.

    Also, you say they "act" like you don't do enough. What exactly does this mean? Do they actually say anything to you, or is it just a vibe? If it's just a vibe, you have to learn to let it go. We get this from my FIL a lot. DH just lets it go. There is nothing else to do.

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  • I made it a point to see DH parents weekly, he is kind of an only child (his brother is 10 years older than him.) after a while seeing family weekly became difficult. it's important that you and your hubby establish your life together. Im sure if you are open and honest they will understand. 

    Why can't they come visit you? or just meet for dinner and move on. 

  • image jnjmommy0609:
    My only advice is stop talking and just do it. They won't believe how you actually feel until you show up less and less. Twice a month is more then enough. Stick by that.


    This. Don't give in, if they try to guilt you into anything. That's not love. You two are both adults and can make your own decisions.
  • Thank you everyone, I agree, we need to just do it as well. I get caught up dealing with the repercussions and guilt trips that we get when we even talk about it. @ East Coast- they do say that we aren't doing enough. It's gotten worse lately since before it was just the vibe and I could just get over it. If you have gone through something like this, what was the most helpful thing you did or something you realized afterwards that you wish you would have known going into it?
  • We see family weekly, but its not in any way "required of us". We often don't both go either. ( I watch my nephew at my mom's house most fridays, so I am there without H then...and stay around to visit after everyone comes home for work and eat a meal with my fam) and H usually goes to see his family when I am at work (I work evenings). I think a couple times a month is enough, but if you are drastically changing how much itme you spend time with them, expect to get some "backlash"...so maybe taper it down slowly....only see then once a week then only every other week etc. I also agree just tell them you are having a busy week and don't leave room for guilt trips or excuses...just say "sorry mom, I have a lot going on this week, we'll try and touch base next week" or something along those lines.
  • image eloved:
    Thank you everyone, I agree, we need to just do it as well. I get caught up dealing with the repercussions and guilt trips that we get when we even talk about it. @ East Coast- they do say that we aren't doing enough. It's gotten worse lately since before it was just the vibe and I could just get over it. If you have gone through something like this, what was the most helpful thing you did or something you realized afterwards that you wish you would have known going into it?
    Wow. I haven't personally gone through being TOLD we aren't doing enough. But my additional thoughts:

    Remember that the feelings of guilt are actually YOUR feelings. They can't "make" you feel guilty. So... find a way to stop feeling guilty so that their guilt trips stop working! I know - easier said than done, but you have to start somewhere.

    Also, I think that because so far, you've been trying to talk to them about it - they really do feel they have a say. And this might be playing a role into why they've now started telling you that you're not doing enough.

    So...I'd really just stop trying to explain and I would just stop being so involved. They get on your case, tell you that you aren't doing enough? I'd shrug my shoulders and say "Sorry you feel that way, but we feel we are doing just enough for us." and then "so, we'll see you next week!" (or whenever) and just end the conversation.

    Or when they start in, you need to stop them and say "I'm not going to defend my choice. If you want to keep talking about it, you're going ot have to do it w/o me" and be prepared to get up and leave or hang up if necessary.

    And heck, if a reprecussion of theirs is "well- we don't WANT you to come to dinner anymore", you just say "O.k. That's your choice and I respect it" and then REVEL in your free time. :)

    But reallly.... you have to stop giving them an audience and you have to SHOW them, through action, what it is that you and your DH are going to do. If you stand strong on this for awhiel, then they'll realize that you mean it. And this might, just might, get them to shut up.

    "Beer is living proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy."
    ~Benjamin Franklin

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    DS dx with celiac disease 5/28/10

  • image eloved:
    Thank you everyone, I agree, we need to just do it as well. I get caught up dealing with the repercussions and guilt trips that we get when we even talk about it. @ East Coast- they do say that we aren't doing enough. It's gotten worse lately since before it was just the vibe and I could just get over it. If you have gone through something like this, what was the most helpful thing you did or something you realized afterwards that you wish you would have known going into it?

     "No one can make you feel inferior without your permission" - Eleneanor Roosevelt

     What she said about inferiority can also be applied to guilt. No one can make you feel guilty without your permission. You know you are doing your best to keep a healthy balance between the three families. That is all that matters. As long as you know you are doing what is best for yourself and your husband, then you have nothing to feel guilty about. Let what they say go in one ear and out the other because it is not true and it doesn't matter.

     If your parents don't have a lot of friends, well that is their problem, not yours. They shouldn't put the burden on you both to be a source of companionship and entertainment for them. That isn't fair to you guys.

     Also like PPs have mentioned, you don't explain a thing to them. Simply tell them you guys have plans and let it be. When they ask what your plans are, just keep repeating that you have plans. Again, do not give details because they will only argue with you. They will be upset but that is ok. They are allowed to be upset and disappointed, but that doesn't mean you guys have to then make them happy.

     As for personal experience, I have learned that it is best if I don't give any details to my parents because then they will just argue with me. So when I say " SOrry, but I can't come, we have plans for that day"" and they ask what my plans are; I simply say "I have plans." One time my dad kept pestering me for details and wanted to know what having plans even meant. I was stern with him and said " We have plans and that is all I have to say and I am not discussing this anymore." He wasn't used to me talking to him like that and backed down quickly. Now they know not to pester me or to overstep my boundaries and things have been better since.

  • I can see where you are coming from and I have to say having two family dinners every weekend is A LOT! You guys should try doing dinner during the week instead.

    We rarely ever give up our weekend for his parents and when we see mine it is usually 1 weekend night a month.


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  • My hubby and I are going through a very similar thing, only it's mainly his parents that we are dealing with. My DH is the only child in town, he has a brother but he is out of state. Before we got engaged, he would spend almost every weekend with his parents (the entire weekend - sleeping over and everything). Of course I didn't know this until after we got engaged and his parents figured we would continue doing this, just I come along. Wrong! Well, it got pretty sticky to say the least. I was not happy but went along with a watered down of seeing his family once a week (no overnights!), which honestly was too much for me, but not enough for his parents. It started interfering with our marriage because all our free time was gobbled up by spending time with his parents, and we barely got time together alone and I rarely saw my family (maybe 2-3 times a year!!). So after a lot of tension and stress, he finally was honest with his parents and told them that things have changed now that he is married and we needed time for just the two of us. We see them once or twice a month now, depending on our schedules, and I get to see my family around once a month. To be honest, his parents are still not happy about it and voicing their displeasure. IThey call and email him several times a day asking when we are going to come visit them again. It's uncomfortable and stressful for both of us, but it has to be done. We can't give in. Our marriage is stronger now since we have had time just the two of us, and we are frankly both a lot happier. My advice is nip it in the bud, and stay strong. Hopefully with time his parents will relax and accept the change, but we can't give in to their wishes/demands at the sake of our own marriage. So if you do get any backlash, remember that.
  • I cant think of a single person that DH and I would want a standing appointment with weekly!
  • Thank you all for your input and voicing things I hadn't thought of or advice I'd heard. I bit the bullet last night and told my parents we wouldn't be coming over tonight. And nicely that once a week is too much and we will see them 2x a month...didn't go great but we are going to stay strong and stick with it. We are going to tell his parents on Sunday that we won't see them next week and we will see them every other week. I really really appreciate your insights and advice, it helped me realize that we can do this and owe it to ourselves.
  • It's unreasonable for either set of ILs to expect the two of you to show up every single weekend + all holidays and family events.  There's just no way a busy married couple with jobs, a home, and friends of their own can spare that much time.

    But, sometimes families have unreasonable expectations, especially in the beginning of the marriage, when everyone's adjusting to the new couple having a married life of their own. By continuing to meet their expectations for a weekly visit and daily phone calls for the past two years, you and your H have accidentally sent them the message, "Yes, yes -- your expectations of seeing us this much are perfectly fine!"

    What you have to do is stop waiting for them to give you permission to do other stuff and just do it. 

    Will they be sad when you don't come over?  Yes.  Do it anyway.  

    They may even whine about it or get angry in an attempt to get you to change your mind.  Stay firm.  Don't get drawn into lengthy explanations of why your other plans are important.  Just say, "We can't make it this weekend, we have other stuff we MUST do.  We are looking forward to seeing you next week."  

    Unless both your families are total freaks, they'll get used to seeing you less and gradually change their expectations.

    ETA: Good for you for standing firm with your parents.  What you are dealing with is not an uncommon problem for newly married couples. My DH and I had a similar job of sorting out how to handle holidays with our families when we were first married.  Both our parents make a pretty big deal out of holidays, and it was hard on our moms not to have us around as much as before we were married.  Like you, we made an effort to carve out equal time for both families and preserve time for us.  Honestly, it took about 5 years for everyone to let go of the old way and happily embrace the new "normal."  It was also hard for DH and I, because we both felt a lot of guilt and, frankly, sadness not to be doing things with our families as well.

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