- 4 years ago
- Wedding: August 2015
Warning that this post is going to be loooong, but I need some advice from bees who have been there before and can also be objective about the situation. I guess part of this is venting, but I really do want advice!
FI and I have been together for 6 years. Over that time, I saw his family probably 1-2 times a year, mostly because they live far away and party because of how they treat me. The first time I met FMIL I was only friends with FI and she seemed to really like me. I had dinner at her/their house (we were in college) and she even borrowed a vegetarian cookbook from one of her friends so she could make me something. Shortly after that, FI and I started dating and things were obviously different. She tried her best to simply pretend I didn’t exist and my vegetarianism became an annoyance, even though I can always find something to eat and often bring my own food. I’m now vegan and about 2 years ago FI became vegetarian (totally his own decision, though I’m sure my lifestyle was an influence), and she refuses to acknowledge that he no long eats meat and will say things to me like “If you come to xyz you have to bring all you own food” or “I don’t know if it would be good for her to come on vacation with us because of her food issues.” I get that veganism can seem weird to people, but I find these things rude, especially now that her son is vegetarian!
Anyway, the real issues started when FI and I got engaged. She HONESTLY was surprised by it, even though we had been in a mostly long distance relationship for 6 years. While she had ignored me 99.9% of the time while we were dating (forgot where I worked multiple times even though I work in one of the most well-known museums in the US, changed the topic immediately after I spoke, etc), she now realizes that I’m here to stay and is freaking out about “losing a son rather than gaining a daughter.” She truly believes that after we’re married I will prevent her from ever seeing her son and we will only see my family. She’s VERY attached to FI (tries to do his laundry when she sees him, coddled him a lot growing up, wants to buy his clothes for him, thinks she needs to buy him bulk amounts of toilet paper, toothpaste, etc. even though he’s an adult and lives in a different state), so I’ve now become to horrible woman who is stealing her baby boy. FI knows this is an issue, but is a very passive person so doesn’t fight it too much. We’ve talked about how this is a problem and he agrees he needs to assert himself more, but FMIL is not used to hearing no. If he tries, she steamrolls him and, since it’s not in his nature to really argue, she gets her way. This happens with pretty much everyone in his family.
Since getting engaged I’ve tried to include FILs in the wedding planning. I sent them the pinterest boards I made and said that once we narrow down our top choices for venues, we’d love to have them come with us to see them. FMIL suggests multiple times that we get married near where she lives. FI and I both, on separarte occasions, give the multiple reasons why that wouldn’t work for us and that we’re pretty set on doing it near where we live. Whenever I tried to get an idea of how many people from FIs family would be coming, she would always say “Well, we’ll talk about that later.” When we had dinner with both sets of parents, FMIL just sat there silent the entire time with a look of “Ugh, get me out of here!” on her face.
I went with FI to his family’s lake house for the 4th of July weekend. We were hoping to really make some headway with FMIL and make sure she knew I wanted to be part of the family and erase her fears of “losing a son.” I brought tons of baked goods as well as vegan food for the grill for FI and myself. Things seemed to be going much better and I was really hopeful… Until dinner on the 4th. She suggests again that we have the wedding where they live. FI and I state the reasons that wouldn’t work, for what seems like the 50th time. She then tells us that she already looked up international flight prices and it wouldn’t be any trouble for people (they have a tiny regional airport, we would have Logan International) and that there’s no need to meet with caterers, florists, and your event planners multiple times if you just make decisions and stick to them. We stick to our guns and say that, despite all of this, their area requires peope to have cars while near us people can take mass transit and also will most likely have other friends in the area if they need rides.
Then she asks about their level of involvement. I say that they can be as involved as they like and I would welcome their input. She asks who’s paying. I say my parents are prepared to pay for the entire wedding. She asks if we’ve discussed budget. Yes, my parents and I have set a maximum budget we want to stay within. Then she asks exactly what that budget is! I know I should have said “That’s something personal that my parents have decided on,” but I was caught off guard so I told them. After that, she switches into financial planner mode (both she and FFIL are financial planners) and it gets really uncomfortable. She asks if we plan to enter the marriage debt-free, since that’s a goal for many couples. I explain that that isn’t really an option because of my student loans from graduate school, but I’m on a repayment plan and since I work for a non-profit my loans are forgiven after 120 payments. She starts to lecture me on how I can’t count on that and I need to have a real plan for paying it back, and that my loans are pretty significant. FSIL tries to jump in and say that after she goes to business school she’ll have that much in loans and it’s pretty normal. FMIL continues to harp on me for having student loans (I only finished grad school 2 years ago!) and suggests that INSTEAD OF A WEDDING MY PARENTS GIVE ME THE WEDDING BUDGET TO PAY OFF THE LOANS! I remained calm and said that my parents wouldn’t be comfortable with that, plus FI and I want all of our friends and family there to celebrate with us. Then she says that she raised very fiscally responsble children, and they care about managing their finances well, so basically implying that I am going to ruin her son financially. She also has the gall to ask what my credit score is!
The conversation finally ends, only to have religion come up. For background, FI was raised Jewish (FFIL’s religion) but isn’t religious at all. I’m agnostic. FMIL was raised Christian and her sister, who is a minister, is also there. So, FMIL and her sister started grilling me about how I was raised. When they find out that, because my parents came from different religious backgrounds, they wanted to expose me to both and let me decide for myself what I wanted to believe in, they flat out say that they don’t like that. They go on to tell me how important it is to have god in my life and how you can’t have a complete life without religion. I try to politely tell them that I’m happy with how my parents did things and I don’t feel that I am missing anything. FMIL’s sister says, “Well, you’ll never know what you missed.” FMIL launches into a story about how you don’t know how much you need god until you’re in a situation like when her mom died at 49, and that you must have spirituality as an important part of your life to explain the things that science and logic can’t. BTW, FI is a physicist who truly believes that science can explain everything. I’m nodding and doing general “mmhmms” and “rights” wanting to just stay polite. I try to end the conversation by saying that I think I have a slightly different perspective on religion than most because of studying ancient history, being familiar with so many different religions throughout time, and because of that I think that what you choose to believe and how you practice your religion is personal and everyone should do what they feel is best for them. Nope, that didn’t satisfy them. They keep going on about how important it is to be raised with religion, and FMIL’s sister starts to complain about how she no long likes officiating weddings because it’s become more about the event than about god joining people together and she feels that couples don’t even want her counsel. Then she asks what type of religious things we’re going to include in our ceremony. I say that that’s something FI and I have to discuss together and decide as a couple what makes us happy. That seems to settle things.
FSIL apologizes a ton for how her mom acted and we both tell FI that he should have jumped in to shut down the conversation. FFIL also comes up to me and sayd “If you think my wife is difficult, you should have met her mother!” So at least they realized how ridiculous it all was.
The next day (Friday the 5th), FI’s aunt (FMIL’s sister) brings up finances AGAIN and tells me how I need to have FMIL and FFIL do financial counseling for me. I keep giving polite, general responses and explain AGAIN why both my parents and I would be uncomfortable with them using the money for the wedding to pay part of my loans. Then she brings up how OVER A YEAR AGO when FI and I had lunch with her an two other relatives (this is BEFORE FI and I were even engaged and I sort of forgot she was even there), I mentioned having been planning my wedding since I was a little girl and who I marry was the last thing to be fit in. Apparently this makes it seem like I don’t want a marriage, I just want a wedding, and it comes off as very superficial and like I only care about the party. Um, what?!?! I say that I meant it lightheartedly and that dreaming about your wedding day is something that many women have been doing since they were kids since’s it’s just a nice life event to think about; of course I realize a wedding is only one day and the marriage is what’s important. She replies with, “Well, when you say things like that it seems like you just want to have a wedding. I’m only telling you how it comes off.” I point out that FI and I have been together for 6 years, so of couse I want a life with him and not just a wedding. Then she tells me how worried FMIL is about “losing a son rather than gaining a daughter” and that because FMIL works full time (um, and I don’t?!?!) that I should clean and do dishes when I visit. Apparently that will make me a daughter. I had set the table and made the salad for dinner the night before as well as helped to clear the table, so it’s not like I wasn’t being helpful! Plus I had brought a bunch of baked goods for everyone to share! She then tells me that I should go look at wedding venues in the area just to make FMIL happy and that it would be a good move “politically.”
While helping FMIL with dinner that night, she starts what I think is an apology for what happened at dinner the previous night, only for her to say that she thinks the absolute best gift they can give me and FI is financial counseling. She goes into a story about a couple she worked with who had lived together for years and even had a child together, but never got married because the woman’s credit score was so bad that it would have prevented them from doing the things they wanted in life. I said my credit score isn’t perfect, but it’s still good and I’ve never had a problem renting an apartment, getting a credit card, etc. Then she tells me how FI hated having students loans and paid them off right away. I say that was a different situation, he had only a few thousand dollars in loans and worked in a well-paying job between undergrad and grad school, while I went straight from undergrad into grad school. Also, she had to look up in wikipedia what a credit score is out of and what is considered a good score, and then tells me that nothing below 750 is a good score. She insists that FI, me, her, and FFIL need to sit down for a counseling session so that money won’t be a problem for us. I give a pretty non-commital “Yeah, ok.” and then FSIL comes in so the conversation ends.
On Saturday, I come down for breakfast and find out that FMIL and FFIL have made an appointment for me and FI to go look at a venue! Apparently they’re expecting us at 4pm and told the owners (who they know from living near each other) that they would only call if we couldn’t make it. Ugh! So I say “Sure, it never hurts to look!” and we end up going just to go.
FI and I had a few long talks about why I am uncomfortable with his parents acting as our financial planners because I want to keep money and family separate, and that it would feel too much like my in-laws telling me how to live my life. He agrees and says he’ll talk to FMIL. After I leave to go back home (ended up leaving day early because I was afraid I was going to snap) he brings things up with his mom. This is how he decribed what happened. When explaining why the finance stuff made me uncomfortable, he tried to use the example of how if you have a good friend who’s a gynecologist, you probably wouldn’t want to use him as your doctor just because it would be awkward to have your medical issues and your personal life intersect. FMIL disagrees and says she would be fine with that. FI says, “Ok, but do you see how for some people that could be a problem?” She says no. Other family members try to explain, with FFIL even exclaiming “You need to listen to what your son is saying!” and she finally stops arguing but still says we should go to financial counseling and that FI needs to know more about my debt. Before the dinner from hell, FI and I were considering having his aunt offciate the wedding, but of course after that we decided against it. FMIL starts pushing for us to ask her. FI tries to explain why we don’t think it’s a good idea and FFIL is like “Um, were you not at that dinner?” FMIL reiterates how worried she is that because FI is such a “happy, go-lucky guy who wants to please everyone” I will make it so she never sees him anymore, I will control everything we do, and he will spend his whole life doing only what I want to do. He tries his best to tell her that that isn’t true, but I have serious doubts about how much he really got through to her.
So bees, what should I do about this situation? Sorry it’s sooooo long and I really appreciate anyone who made it through all of that! I already told FI that when conversations like the ones about money and religion come up again, unelss he shits the conversation down, I will politely say, “This is something personal that I don’t think should be discussed, except between FI and myself.” and then refuse to engage. But should I stand up for myself more? Do I keep smiling and nodding and being polite just to keep the peace? When I told FI that he should understand it’s a real possibility that nothing I do will make his mom like me or accept this marriage, that while I hope this isn’t the case she may never come around, he got really sad. He completely agrees that I’ve been nothing but nice and 100% trying to my best, but he still won’t be as honest and blunt with his mom as I think he needs to be in order for the situation to improve. Should I take a big risk and call/e-mail her to explain that she is making her worst fear come true by treating me so horribly? Because if every time I see her she implies that I am going to ruin her son’s life, that there’s something wrong with how my parents raised me, and that I’m a controlling jerk, it’s only going to drive us away.