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Setting boundaries with family (long)

My parents are extremely controlling and typically it has always been easier to let them have their way than to fight it because you can't win. A few months ago I got married and now my parents are trying to control everything we do- what our priorities are, what we spend money on (whether we can afford to buy what they want us to or not), how many times a week we see them (they are demanding "family dinner" 3x a week) and many other things. When they don't get their way they guilt trip me until I give in or make threats.

I'm at my wit's end. My dad and I had a spat today. My DH recently accumulated about $1500 in unexpected medical bills and we are putting all of our extra money towards paying those off as well as repairs to my car because we hit a deer the week before last. My dad demanded today that we put money towards various other home projects right away that he thinks are more important even though DH and I have already agreed on a plan and timeline for everything. When I told dad this he just threatened that he would not pay for any car repairs or home repairs, which is fine b/c we had no intention of asking him. My mother is also mad because we don't want to hang out and watch movies after thanksgiving dinner until 11pm because we want to see DHs family, too.

 I don't know what to do. Talking with them doesn't work. I've tried that multiple times and the only thing that happens is I end up crying uncontrollably as they call me ungrateful and go into passive-aggressive mode for the next several weeks.

Does anyone else deal with parents or ILs like this and how do you handle it? Any advice?
 I just want the right for DH and I to make our own decisions as a family without all the meddling.

«1

Re: Setting boundaries with family (long)

  • I'm so sorry your parents are behaving so grossly inappropriately.  I myself have been through a fair amount of therapy for a similar situation.  Its just my mom but she comes up with some doozies. 

     The advice I was given is that initially its tough but you have to stand your ground.  If you give in it just gives them motivation to keep behaving this way if they think you will eventually give in.  

    That being said, your husband is now your primary family unit.  I know easier said than done.  You 2 make a plan and go with it.  Also, stop talking to your family about money.  Just don't engage.  A simple "DH and I have a plan.  Thank you for your concern." And be done.   Assuming you haven't been irresponsible (it doesn't sound like it) and you are not taking money from them they have no reason to tell you how to spend your money.  

    Family dinners 3x a week is ridiculous.  Maybe compromise on that with a standing dinner every other week or even weekly.  

    Just stand your ground about going to see DH's family.  They are just as important as yours now that you are married.  They should be allowed equal time.  

    Ok tirade done.  Happy Thanksgiving!

  • Your problem (in addition to be an enormous pushover) is that you're trying to make them agree with you, which is a complete waste of time and totally irrelevant.

    You're an adult--start acting like one.  You get to call the shots in your life, and whether or not your parents agree with your decisions should not be a concern.  I don't understand why you're even discussing money with your parents, but what you should be telling them about the $1500 is that you will put the money where you feel it's best spent.  If they argue, say, "this is between DH and me and is not up for debate."  Repeat as necessary.

    Re: Thanksgiving--"We need to leave at 3:00 so we can spend time with DH's family."  Repeat as necessary.

    They only control them if you let them.  Why are you letting them? 

    In case you're wondering where everyone went: http://pandce.proboards.com/index.cgi
  • Thanks. I know I need to stand my ground with them. I guess I'm just afraid to because I'm afraid that since they won't give in I may end up damaging my relationship with my parents. I DO love them....I just don't think they respect me.

     I am guilty of talking to them too much about money and you're right- that needs to stop. They have given us money in the past but it has always been paid back and it was never asked for. Just offered. I think that's one of the reasons they think they have a "right" to have a say in things.

     I haven't been irresponsible with money, though. I've never missed or been late on a payment for anything in my life and we are not overextended with debt or anything. Things are tight right now b/c of medical bills, car repairs, etc. but not because we were stupid with money if that makes sense.

    Sigh....I feel like I could use that therapy, too. In your experience does it ever make a difference to have stood your ground? Does it get easier?

  • image zelda25:

    Re: Thanksgiving--"We need to leave at 3:00 so we can spend time with DH's family."  Repeat as necessary.

    And you know what you do at 3:00? You walk out the damn door.

    This is all within your control. If you're looking for somebody to blame for your parents being so controlling, look in a mirror. This is all on you because you let them control you.

    fiizzlee = vag ** fiizzle = peen ** Babies shouldn't be born wit thangs ** **They're called first luddz fo' a reason -- mo' is supposed ta come after. Yo Ass don't git a medal fo' marryin yo' prom date. Unless yo ass is imoan. I aint talkin' bout chicken n' gravy biatch. Then yo ass git a all-expenses paid cruise ta tha Mediterranean n' yo ass git ta hook up Jared Padalecki on tha flight over while bustin yo' jammies. But still no medal.
  • I'm not arguing a bit with the fact that I have let this happen and that I need to take steps to make it stop.I know I've been a pushover.

     I'm just concerned with setting boundaries without damaging the relationship with them irreperably. And it seems like that kind of damage is a real possibility.

  • image anaitis4:

    Thanks. I know I need to stand my ground with them. I guess I'm just afraid to because I'm afraid that since they won't give in I may end up damaging my relationship with my parents. I DO love them....I just don't think they respect me.

    Of course they don't respect you -- you're a freakin' doormat! And you need to stop thinking of it in terms of you damaging your relationship with your parents. If you finally decide to stand up for yourself and they blow a gasket, that's their problem. If they decide to write you off, that's them damaging the relationship, not you. The reason they blow a gasket is because they know it gets them the results they want.

    fiizzlee = vag ** fiizzle = peen ** Babies shouldn't be born wit thangs ** **They're called first luddz fo' a reason -- mo' is supposed ta come after. Yo Ass don't git a medal fo' marryin yo' prom date. Unless yo ass is imoan. I aint talkin' bout chicken n' gravy biatch. Then yo ass git a all-expenses paid cruise ta tha Mediterranean n' yo ass git ta hook up Jared Padalecki on tha flight over while bustin yo' jammies. But still no medal.
  • image anaitis4:

    Thanks. I know I need to stand my ground with them. I guess I'm just afraid to because I'm afraid that since they won't give in I may end up damaging my relationship with my parents. I DO love them....I just don't think they respect me.  Do you really think they'll disown you if you stand your ground?  I'll bet that's exceedingly unlikely.  What you need to understand is that your relationship with them as it stands now IS damaged--they're enjoying unfettered control over you, and you're scared to death of them.  How fun is that?

     I am guilty of talking to them too much about money and you're right- that needs to stop. They have given us money in the past but it has always been paid back and it was never asked for. Just offered. I think that's one of the reasons they think they have a "right" to have a say in things. Don't take another penny that's not given as a Christmas/birthday gift.  If you can get by on your own, that's what you should be doing.  They're using it as a weapon against you because they know it works.  Take away the weapon.

     I haven't been irresponsible with money, though. I've never missed or been late on a payment for anything in my life and we are not overextended with debt or anything. Things are tight right now b/c of medical bills, car repairs, etc. but not because we were stupid with money if that makes sense.

    Sigh....I feel like I could use that therapy, too. In your experience does it ever make a difference to have stood your ground? Does it get easier?  The first time you stand up for yourself might be one of the scariest things you've done.  Once you get the first timet out of the way and discover that (a) the world does not spin off its axis and (b) your parents won't  burst into flames, it's very liberating and much easier going forward.

    In case you're wondering where everyone went: http://pandce.proboards.com/index.cgi
  • I realize that it would ultimately be them choosing to damage the relationship but the end result is the same and I have no idea emotionally how to deal with that. This is not to say that I have no intention of standing up for myself; just that it's difficult and I'm not sure how to best go about it.

    Also, I actually have an extremely bad temper which I've worked for years to control and I'm afraid that I won't be able to keep my head in the midst of the inevitable fight about this and then it really will be me who made it worse. KWIM?

  • "Thanks. I know I need to stand my ground with them. I guess I'm just afraid to because I'm afraid that since they won't give in I may end up damaging my relationship with my parents. I DO love them....I just don't think they respect me. "

    1.  What is the worst thing that happens if you really start firmly holding your ground w/your parents.  They send you to your room w/o supper?  Ground you?  You're an adult, they can't do those things to you.

    2.  Why would it be your fault if your relationship between you and your parents strained because you finally started acting like a married woman?  The fault would be theirs.  A relationship that only works so long as they hold an enormous lot of power over your life is not a functioning relationship.  Damaging that kind of relationship is not the risk here...

     

    best of luck to you, i know it is tough!

    Seriously, people. If your faith in humanity is destroyed because your parents told you there was a Santa Claus and as it turns out there is no Santa Claus, you are an ignorant, hypersensitive cry baby with absolutely zero perspective. - UnderwaterRhymes
  • image anaitis4:

    I'm just concerned with setting boundaries without damaging the relationship with them irreperably. And it seems like that kind of damage is a real possibility.

    it seems to me that the relationship is already damaged, and it's not due to your actions. ?stand up for yourself and realize that you're married now - you can and should make your own decisions (with your husband), and while others will voice their opinions, ultimately it is YOU who has final say.

    period.?

    <img width=100 src="http://tinyurl.com/6q2woyb">
    <a href="http://www.wanlifetolive.com">[the bliz-og]</a>
  • You're missing the point--the issue is to refuse to fight.  Stop thinking of this in terms of making them understand or agree with your position--they probably won't.  All you're doing here is telling them what you will/won't do, and then you stick to it.  Do NOT let them engage you in a battle.  Tell them what you're going to do/not do.  Repeat as often as necessary.  If it gets heated, you say, "we're not here to argue.  If this can't be a pleasant visit, we should go home, and we can talk about this once you've cooled off."  Then leave.
    In case you're wondering where everyone went: http://pandce.proboards.com/index.cgi
  • Maybe you're right. I just hate this.
  • Where is your DH in all this? 

    I know that if my in-laws were all up in my financial business and tried to dictate how me and my spouse spent OUR money and our time, I WOULD NOT be happy.

    You are now a married woman.  You need to start behaving like one, even with your parents. 

  • My DH's position in all of this is that he agrees that my parents are too controlling and that things need to change. But he wants to let me make my own decision on how to handle it. This whole thing is partially complicated by the fact that my dad is DH's boss.
  • image anaitis4:

    I'm not arguing a bit with the fact that I have let this happen and that I need to take steps to make it stop.I know I've been a pushover.

     I'm just concerned with setting boundaries without damaging the relationship with them irreperably. And it seems like that kind of damage is a real possibility.

    My mom has an old saying, "Sometimes you must risk the relationship to save it". 

    Keeping things the way that are isn't working, clearly.  Something has to give and can't be your sanity.  You have to be able to be able to be upfront with them  and risk pissing them off and say something like,

    "Mom, Dad, I love you to bits, but I am an adult, and I make the decisions in my life.  You aren't going to always agree with my decisions, or like what I may do - but it's MY life and I can't have people trying to run it for me."

     

     

     

    image
    *made with love by ibis*
  • image anaitis4:
    My DH's position in all of this is that he agrees that my parents are too controlling and that things need to change. But he wants to let me make my own decision on how to handle it. This whole thing is partially complicated by the fact that my dad is DH's boss.

     

    Oh, my!  This is a sticky territory!  Is this the reason why your parents are in your financial business....because they know too much?  Any chance your DH can find a new job?

    Maybe it's just me, but I value my privacy and independance from my parents and my in-laws.  I think you've been given good advice from PP.  I hope you use it.

  • image Hemmy Roid:

    image anaitis4:
    My DH's position in all of this is that he agrees that my parents are too controlling and that things need to change. But he wants to let me make my own decision on how to handle it. This whole thing is partially complicated by the fact that my dad is DH's boss.

     

    Oh, my!  This is a sticky territory!  Is this the reason why your parents are in your financial business....because they know too much?  Any chance your DH can find a new job?

     The deal is that when my parents retire (about 10 years) DH and I take over the business. Part of that deal is that DH has to pay his dues in the meantime by staying in the business. DH has an outdated, essentially useless degree in computer networking and his chances of ever making more money than this are almost none unless he takes that business. Also, I was a music major. Neither of us makes crap for money and this is one of the only ways that we may have to make decent money. The only other thing career-wise we could do is go back to school or he could get certs to bring his degree up-to-date, all of which is financially out of the question.

    But yes, this is why my parents know so much about our finances....he controls half of them. The central question in all of this has come down to whether or not we should walk away from this business in order to re-gain control of our lives. It's a big decision.

     

  • I guess I'm just afraid to because I'm afraid that since they won't give in I may end up damaging my relationship with my parents. I DO love them....I just don't think they respect me.

    You are going to have to think if you want your own life, or if you want "peace at all costs" with your parents.  And that "all costs" includes a HUGE cost to your dh as well.   The relationship as it is IS NOT WORKING. 

    This will KILL your the relationship between your dh and your parents (your dh ending up hating your parents), if not your own relationship with your dh if it doesn't end.  Your dh will be resentful, and he has every right to be.

    If you are THAT worried, then I would strongly recommend therapy for you - with a counselor that specializes in family therapy.  PLEASE DO NOT tell your parents you are getting therapy or try to get them to go - they don't realize they have a problem.  But you might want to bring dh along (although I think this is therapy you need for YOU).  Your EAP may pay for it, or your health insurance.  Check it out.

    I would start by having a talk with your dh about what is acceptable for the two of you and what isn't.  Then if your dad brings up money, just say "We have it handled."  Don't give him info about your finances.  Don't accept any more money from them.  As you aren't in horrible debt, you can dig out of this on your (you and dh) own.

    If your parents give you guilt trips, then stop talking to them.  And you DO NOT have to go to dinner 3x a week.  Tell them that you don't have time....AND DON"T SHOW UP!!!  "Sorry, we can't make it" don't give excuses about work, friends, etc...just say you can't go.  And if the guilt trips get really bad - stop picking up the phone when they call.  Build a network of friends you can call if you depend on your parents for emotional support.  If they say "why didn't you return my phone calls" tell them "sorry, we were busy."  NO INFO.  The less you tell them, the less they can pull apart your excuses. 

    I agree with a PP who said you are expecting them to agree with your decisions.  THEY DON"T HAVE TO!

    Also...this is usually used for weddings, but remember "NO PAY, NO SAY!!!"  If your dad isn't paying your bills, he gets NO SAY in how you spend your money. 

    You can also do the "Oh sure, dad!  The first thing we plan to do is remodel the kitchen" and then spend the money on whatever you damn please.  If he says in a few months "YOU TOLD ME YOU WERE GOING TO REMODEL YOUR KITCHEN!" just say "oh, something came up, we decided to make plans for that next year....."

     

    image "Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self esteem, first make sure you are not, in fact, just surrounded by assholes.
  • image anaitis4:

     The deal is that when my parents retire (about 10 years) DH and I take over the business. Part of that deal is that DH has to pay his dues in the meantime by staying in the business.

    Is this in writing? What happens if, God forbid, they die in a car crash next week? 

    fiizzlee = vag ** fiizzle = peen ** Babies shouldn't be born wit thangs ** **They're called first luddz fo' a reason -- mo' is supposed ta come after. Yo Ass don't git a medal fo' marryin yo' prom date. Unless yo ass is imoan. I aint talkin' bout chicken n' gravy biatch. Then yo ass git a all-expenses paid cruise ta tha Mediterranean n' yo ass git ta hook up Jared Padalecki on tha flight over while bustin yo' jammies. But still no medal.
  • image anaitis4:
    image Hemmy Roid:

    image anaitis4:
    My DH's position in all of this is that he agrees that my parents are too controlling and that things need to change. But he wants to let me make my own decision on how to handle it. This whole thing is partially complicated by the fact that my dad is DH's boss.

     

    Oh, my!  This is a sticky territory!  Is this the reason why your parents are in your financial business....because they know too much?  Any chance your DH can find a new job?

     The deal is that when my parents retire (about 10 years) DH and I take over the business. Part of that deal is that DH has to pay his dues in the meantime by staying in the business. DH has an outdated, essentially useless degree in computer networking and his chances of ever making more money than this are almost none unless he takes that business. Also, I was a music major. Neither of us makes crap for money and this is one of the only ways that we may have to make decent money. The only other thing career-wise we could do is go back to school or he could get certs to bring his degree up-to-date, all of which is financially out of the question.

    But yes, this is why my parents know so much about our finances....he controls half of them. The central question in all of this has come down to whether or not we should walk away from this business in order to re-gain control of our lives. It's a big decision.

     

    Honestly, I would walk away.  You MUST remember that dh taking over your parents business should be something that works for all of you.  Your parents would not give your dh the opportunity unless there was something in it for them - they know that the name of the business remains good (instead of if  they sold it to a stranger who might make ruin the business' reputation), they have someone working for them that they trust.

    It really doesn't matter WHAT your major in school was - you can do any job and work your way up.   If you are young, you might think your major limits you, but unless you want to be a concert musician or a music teacher, you can do anything you want if you have a college degree. 

    What if in ten years your dad doesn't want to give up control?  He gives your dh....30% of the business. 

    I think you need to talk to your dh about your life direction.  It seems to me that you are taking the "easy" path.....but it isn't turning out to be easy at all. 

    image "Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self esteem, first make sure you are not, in fact, just surrounded by assholes.
  • Wow.

    ?I could not deal with this arrangement, and would be running for the door. That business is blood money. I am going to tell you what I have told my younger brother: If you want to be treated like an adult, you need to ACT like one. Don't ask for money from your parents, don't talk to them about money. Ever.??If you insist on taking their "help" then you cannot complain that they are meddling in your life. You have invited them to. Don't negotiate things with them, like where you intend to spend your holiday. Just state what you are doing.

    To me it sound like its time for both of you to grow up. I don't know if it means get a waitressing job, finishing school, whatever. ?But I know that I, personally would be doing whatever it takes.?

  • Tell them to back off or you won't see them at all. Then follow through. Soon they'll take what attention you deign to give them.
    image
  • image anaitis4:
    image Hemmy Roid:

    image anaitis4:
    My DH's position in all of this is that he agrees that my parents are too controlling and that things need to change. But he wants to let me make my own decision on how to handle it. This whole thing is partially complicated by the fact that my dad is DH's boss.

     

    Oh, my!  This is a sticky territory!  Is this the reason why your parents are in your financial business....because they know too much?  Any chance your DH can find a new job?

     The deal is that when my parents retire (about 10 years) DH and I take over the business. Part of that deal is that DH has to pay his dues in the meantime by staying in the business. DH has an outdated, essentially useless degree in computer networking and his chances of ever making more money than this are almost none unless he takes that business. Also, I was a music major. Neither of us makes crap for money and this is one of the only ways that we may have to make decent money. The only other thing career-wise we could do is go back to school or he could get certs to bring his degree up-to-date, all of which is financially out of the question.

    But yes, this is why my parents know so much about our finances....he controls half of them. The central question in all of this has come down to whether or not we should walk away from this business in order to re-gain control of our lives. It's a big decision.

     

     

    So maybe this is a pointless question, you wouldn't be holding out otherwise I'd assume, but does your DH like the work he's doing for your dad? Is it something he will enjoy doing the rest of his life, or is the $$ and stability just too good to pass up? I agree that it's a huge decision.

    As long as your dad won't cut his salary or fire him if you all have a spat, and he likes his job, I'd say stick it out. It's no worse than having to work for a horrible boss in a career that you love so you can get somewhere. I think there are quite a few parents who know what their SIL or DIL make, as long as your dad plays fair, and you get a little tougher, I think you can make it work as things are, with a better sense of independence.

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  • Yr parents are out of control and that is a gross understatement.

    They can't get the picture that you're married and you and your H have a life of your own. They should accept that and that's that.

    Is there possibly a third objective party that your parents would listen to? Maybe this person can go to bat for you and H and more or less be blunt as a rusty butter knife and lay what's been happening on the line.

    I hope you get this rectified. Good luck. Looks like even a house falling in on them won't change their tune.

  • image anaitis4:

    I'm not arguing a bit with the fact that I have let this happen and that I need to take steps to make it stop.I know I've been a pushover.

     I'm just concerned with setting boundaries without damaging the relationship with them irreperably. And it seems like that kind of damage is a real possibility.

     

    If acting like the adult that you are damages your relationship with your parents, then it is your parents that have the problem, not you.

     

    They don't want to let their little girl go.  You will understand better when you have kids.  And you will also understand that your behavoir in the matter cannot irreparably damage your relationship.  Your parents don't want that at all.

     

    Growing up is a process.  You don't magically turn into an adult when you turn 18, you don't magically have an equal relationship with your parents when you get married.  It is a process and always evolving and no matter what...you are always going to be their little girl.

     

     

    promised myself I'd retire when I turned gold, and yet here I am
  • My independence is worth any amount of money in the world. ?You two have degrees that don't produce high incomes. ?Tough. ?How is that your parents' job to fix? ?Stop putting problems in their lap and then get upset at the terms they offer in which to fix it.?

    Figure out how to be independent of your parents. ?Get your own jobs in fields away from their industry. ?Yes, it might mean doing the hard things like going back to school. ?Tough. ?That's called adulthood. ?

    Until you are willing to take the steps to demonstrate you are an adult, you lose the right to be surprised they don't treat you like one. ??

    Seriously, people. If your faith in humanity is destroyed because your parents told you there was a Santa Claus and as it turns out there is no Santa Claus, you are an ignorant, hypersensitive cry baby with absolutely zero perspective. - UnderwaterRhymes
  • I agree with the pps - my ILs can be pretty demanding or controlling, but they pale in comparison to what you are dealing with.  I would strongly recommend counseling, as this has got to be putting a tremendous strain on your relationship with your DH. 

    Setting boundaries is critical here - your parents are under the impression that they can, and should, be running your life.  There is absolutely no reason whatsoever that they should have a say in how your money is spent, that's a private decision between you and your DH.  

    I understand what you've said about your DH working for your dad, and I can't imagine how much that complicates things, but even if it's the hardest, scariest thing you can imagine, I really think it's critical that your DH find another job and you find a way to detach from them.  The situation that they've created and that you're allowing them to perpetuate is incredibly unhealthy.  It's not all your fault, by any means - but it's not all their fault, either.  I think that you'll find it incredibly liberating once you can cut those strings.  

    If your relationship with them worsens, that's their choice.  Honestly, from the outside, it's not good now- not to be unkind, but your relationship is severely damaged, and I think you know that.  You and DH are your own family now, and your parents are treating you with less respect than they should afford a 10-year-old.  Please get some counseling and work with DH to think of a way that you can handle this together.  

    Good luck - I'm sure this is really hard.  

  • image sprky79:

    My independence is worth any amount of money in the world.  You two have degrees that don't produce high incomes.  Tough.  How is that your parents' job to fix?  Stop putting problems in their lap and then get upset at the terms they offer in which to fix it. 

    Figure out how to be independent of your parents.  Get your own jobs in fields away from their industry.  Yes, it might mean doing the hard things like going back to school.  Tough.  That's called adulthood.  

    Until you are willing to take the steps to demonstrate you are an adult, you lose the right to be surprised they don't treat you like one.   

     Honestly? I know you're trying to help but I think you have a misinterpretation of some things here. I never ASKED my parents to fix anything. In fact for most of my life I made it very clear that music is what I loved and that's what I would do. My father has practically begged us to take this business; not the other way around.
    I am not scared to leave the business because of the money (although that would be nice). I'm worried about the complications to the relationship.
    I never asked them to fix a single thing and I never put any problems in their lap.
    My DH works for him but I do not. I'm not even in a related industry so I do have my independence.

    Also, I would love to go back to school. It's simply not affordable and THAT's the tough thing to accept, not the other way around.

    Like i said, I know you are trying to help but you are misinterpreting some things and being overly critical of my situation. I have NEVER asked my parents for help.

  • Thank you for all the input I've gotten from everyone. I spent a lot of time last night and today thinking about things and have made some decisions on how I want things to proceed from here. Thanks for all of the helpful advice and support. It's much appreciated.
  • My father has practically begged us to take this business; not the other way around.

    I think this gives you plenty of leverage.  I would suggest that you and dh go to counseling to learn how to set boundries for yourselves (there is also a book called "Boundries" avail at Barnes and Noble, but I think you need pros!).

    You and dh need to determine if you are willing to walk away from this business and do something else.  If that is the case, then sit down with your dad and say "Dad, we love you, but we cannot live our lives according to your rules.  We are grown people with our own home and our own plans for the future, and you are not invited to be involved in our decisions. 

    "The two of us have spoken, and we are under the impression that you believe that because you sign dh's paycheck, you have a right to tell him/us how to live our lives.  That doesn't work for us.  You came to dh asking for his help/ asking him to learn the business in order to take it over.  We are greatful for the opportunity, but not at the cost of not being able to live our own lives.  We are talking to you now because we would like to work something out that works for all of us (dh still learning the business, but you giving him input on his career, not his home life), but if that doesn't work out, dh is going to look for a job in another industry (another town!)."

    image "Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self esteem, first make sure you are not, in fact, just surrounded by assholes.
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