I grew up in a very individualistic relatively unsentimental family where everyone does their own thing most of the time except thanksgiving and christmas. There have been times when I wished we were closer and more like a TV family, but still I love my family and I’m I used to how we do things. As a result, honestly I’m kind of uncomfortable “hanging out” with parents. Mine taught me to be really formal and “respectful”, in a way that isn’t exactly fun or comfortable, (dress up, be polite, never drink too much, etc) but it feels like “the right thing to do” for me.
FI, on the other hand has a super close fam that loves to hang out casually ALL THE TIME. All the siblings are 100% themselves around their folks, no holding back or being proper. There is lots of joking around, swearing, drinking, anything goes. They are really fun sweet people, but I can’t bring myself to “not care” and act like I would with my friends. To me, an evening that includes parents has a different tone. We get invited to do something with them like every other weekend…and one visit often stretches into spending the whole weekend together. This is exhausting for me to be in parent-mode so much.
I’m worried that we are clashing on this matter and I’m not sure how to resolve it or compromise as we go on with our future together? I think FI just thinks I’m like traumatized by “cold” parents and I’ll “get over it”, but some of my friends who have families more similar to mine say I need to draw boundaries (such as yes we can plan dinner once a month, but no you can’t “crash” here whenever, or yes we will be there for thanksgiving, but no new years can’t be a family night)… Anyone have a similar sitch?
@waitingwonderland: SO’s family is the same way. I’m pretty individual even being an identical twin. It was only 4 women in my family. Mom, my twin and granny. So I was a lonerish type kid too.
I’m a loanerish adult type too. We moved in with his huge family.
I’m coming out of my shell a bit, little by little. Eventually it will get better, but me and him both told his family I have a bit of social anxiety so they take it for what it is and understand.
It’s all good. If this is all you have to deal with life isnt so bad.
@waitingwonderland: Sounds exactly like my situation! I’m not used to all the hugging and kissing and visits with my FILs, but I’m slowly warming up to it. It’s hard to say no to them, especially because sometimes I just want SO and me (without his family) time. On the bright side, hanging out with them is helping me to express my love for my own family.
My advice: do your best to open up to FILs, but be honest with SO about what makes you uncomfortable. I find that SO is my greatest ally in helping me navigate my relationship with his family and getting enough “us” time.
I was bought up much the same way, my parents were very formal…and as I got older, my father was absent so there wasn’t really much ‘family’ stuff happening.
Like you, I don’t actually enjoy family gatherings much. A couple of people, I can relax and am fine, but large groups make me anxious. Unfortunately, my FI has a very large family…
I was married before, and my ex FIs were great at understanding how I felt. They never made me feel under pressure to be at family events, but always made me feel welcome when I was. FI’s parents…totally different. I’ve already been accused by FFIL of not making enough of an ‘effort’….as a side note, this was on a weekend away when I was very ill, and ended up in hospital when we returned….his idea of dealing with it was to be extremely rude and ignore me the next time I stayed with them. He basically ruined last Christmas for me.
As a result, I’ve not seen FILs at all this year. I have the excuse of not working, and living 200 miles away. Even if I could honestly afford to travel to see them, I’ve made it clear to FI that I’m never staying at their house again – I’ll attend family events if I can, but that is as far as it goes. Frankly, I found his extended family to be pretty rude and disintrested in me, and at the age of 44 I’m long over trying to be a people pleaser.
Sorry for the long rant, this is something you can see I feel very strongly about! I think you do need to set boundaries. For me, respect works both ways, and if you honestly feel like it’s all too much, you have the right to spend some time alone with your FI. Now is a great time to start, before the behavour gets too entrenched.
I have a similar situation which I have decided to resolve in myself – if I can find a way. I am extremely close to my family in some ways, but I am a very private, independent person. I was the only daughter and have 3 brothers, so was used to my parents “tending” to them more – they played more things together, so obviously clashed more often, so needed more discipline, whereas I was in my own little world playing away with my barbies etc. I think this really contributed to my independence. My parents encouraged this as well. I grew up being able to make the most of my own decisions, without too many questions. I knew my boundaries and knew if I crossed them my parents would come down heavy on me. I was considered the most responsible out of my friends from a very early age, I was the last to loose my virginity, always had a part time job and kept up with my studies etc… I don’t feel the need to share every single moment in my life with my parents – including each doctor visit, letter I receive etc.
DH’s side on the other hand need each piece of information about our lives, from how much our electricity bill was to what cake I made the other week they are genuinely fascinated with all this info. I am pregnant and recently, becuase of the iron tablets I was taking I struggled with my No.2s. It was considered normal to pass this information onto the ILs and then the ILs onto the extended family. A decision for me to drink a glass of juice is discussed in detail, decisions on slicing bread are taken with the same seriousness as one would apply to voting for a leader in a life-changing election. Why I picked up a certain brand of rice instead of another needs to be analyzed for hours. This is all extremely overwhelming for me.
They aren’t going to change though, and as I am spending 2 weeks over christmas with them, and then having to go and live with them by myself for a month before our baby is due, I guess I am going to have to find a way to accept this and give them a bit of what they want without overstepping my comfort zone dramatically.
I’ll be keeping an eye on this thread to see if there are any tips I can adapt for me.
@somethingaquamarine: thanks for the support, I’m def trying as much as I can handle.
@Baal: that sounds difficult.. I’m not sure how long 200 miles is travel time, but we live about 2.5 hours away, so you’d think we wouldn’t be seeing them as much as we do. But of course they are retired and love to “road trip”, so what can I do?
@Cariad: I can’t even imagine living with them by yourself right before the baby’s due! That sounds so stressful to me. Even though I know FI’s parents would be helpful and doting, I think it would kind of destroy the peace for me. I feel horrible saying that… Good luck! I feel you on the TMI convos too… In my case, they like to talk at length about detailed family history and how it relates to everything and everywhere (its as if everything of importance in the whole state was created by their ancestors – and its not like they’re Vanderbilts or Rockefellers!)… while I consider myself a fan of historical facts and I appreciate family heritage, FMIL especially tests the limits of what I can seriously discuss as true and significant.
My situation is the exact opposite… My family is the super tight one that’s always calling, we’re huggers, jokers and can be inappropriate- funny inappropriate… My FH’s family barely talks to one another defintiely are not huggers, even his neices and nephews extend their hand when saying hello/goodbye instead of hugging.
It was very hard for me to adjust to the way his family does things, especially now that we live near them. His sister has eased up a bit and now hugs hello/goodbye… It definitely takes some getting used to and I’ve found that staying in the moment and not getting too caught up in my thoughts while I”m with my family and his has helped the most.
Relax and try to come out of your shell more. But, I do agree there still need to be boundaries.
@waitingwonderland: Oh we are the exact opposite. My family is very warm, you can totally be yourself around them – drink, curse, wear PJs if you want, etc. My husband’s parents are the opposite. At some point though in the 8 years we’ve been together I was like “Screw it, this is who I am and I’ll start letting them see it!” Within reason of course, no F words… if my MIL hears the F word she goes into a tizzy!
OP – just do whatever is comfortable for you. If that means continuing on like you have been, in parent-mode, so be it. Although I think it would be better for you to come out of your shell and try to have a good time… you said yourself it’s exhausting to constantly be playing a role that’s not you, right? Plus you don’t want your FI’s family to get the wrong impression of you… you may come off as cold or disinterested if you’re generally unhappy when you’re in their presence (I know I did in the beginning!!).
If you don’t like the frequency of visits with your FI’s family, you need to speak up and your FI needs to respect it. Once a month is a reasonable amount of time to see extended family. Still, I think a fair compromise would be for you to try to have fun when you do see them, and him to take the pressure off in how often you see them. Just figure out a routine that works for you both.
Some good advice for sure. I think it is a misconception though among some more casual families that more formal ones aren’t being themselves or need to come out of their shell, or that there’d rather behave casually… I’d rather not be like FI’s fam. I respect them and their preferences, but I guess it’s not just what I’m used to, but I think feels correct.
No offense to anyone who enjoys a more laid back philosophy. I’m ammenable to a future family style thats a little more open-communicatively, but I don’t know whether it’s values or etiquette…I guess I just want something more etiquette-conscious for myself and my future children. FI is like me when its just us and other people, but when he’s with his fam they have their whole thing. I’m fine being polite and all with them, but it’s just a lot to take on in the long haul when you’re looking to adjust, but not adapt.
@waitingwonderland: Luckily I will be “working” most of the time so will be locking myself away to do office work. It’s a means to an amazing end, and has totally taken my mind off the scary pain that I have imagine labour to be.
Haha, you sound just like my fiance! He was raised in a very traditional family and has a very ‘formal’ relationship with his parents. There’s not a lot of affection (unless his dad is drunk, or something), and they tend to just be very uptight (I can’t think of a better word, sorry!) with regards to their conversation.
My family, on the other hand, are the complete opposite. We sometimes joke that the Focker family from Meet the Fockers was based on my parents – one of the first time fiance met my family, mum and my sister were quite happily chatting about menstruation, and my dad was dancing and singing at the top of his lungs while cooking dinner. Plus we have loads of pets, so our house is bedlam in comparison to fiance’s family’s house, which is kept neat and tidy at all times.
I love my family to death and wouldn’t trade them for the world – I actually find it relaxing to be able to go out to their house and dance, sing, talk about anything, run around like a little kid, whatever we want to do. But poor fiance seems shellshocked everytime we leave. Personally, I love it. I love that I can have such a great relationship with my parents and that visiting them is so fun. Fiance, on the other hand, finds it very stressful and difficult to adjust to. For my part, I find it really hard that fiance struggles with this way of relating to parents – I would never want to change the way I interact with them, but he wants to try and draw boundaries, which I know I’m really going to struggle with.
I don’t really have much advice, but I guess, coming from the ‘other side’ I would say just be careful how you approach it with your fiance – chances are he really cherishes his close relationship with his family. It seems pretty rare in this day and age to have that kind of relationship with family and, personally, I would never want to put boundaries on the way I show love to my parents, so be careful how you and your fiance approach it
My in laws (mostly father in law) reallllly want to be like your FI’s family but they’re super socially awkward and intense. I always have to be “on” with them which is exhausting. We see them for 1 meal once a month.
Your family sounds like my fiances family, and mine like his. I think it’s extremely awkward being around his family at times, not being able to laugh and joke and, well, be yourself. When we talked about our family in the future, he had said he hope it is more open like mine than his. I couldn’t agree more, but I will take values from his family as well. One family type isn’t correct over another, it’s just something you need to talk about.
@waitingwonderland: “I guess I just want something more etiquette-conscious for myself and my future children”
Be careful with this one. If you’re more formal with your kids and your husband is more loving, your kids can easily grow up thinking mom didn”t love them but daddy does. I know you didn’t because both of your parents are like this but when one parent is more affectionate and “loving” than the other one, kids assume the more affectionate parent loves them.
My sister is dealing with this now. She loves her kids dearly but her husband is more affectionate. Now that the kids are older, they really don’t have a relationship with her but love their dad to death. It hurts her but she can’t re-raise them.