Don't know if I can keep dealing with his codependent family

posted 2 years ago in Relationships
Post # 2
1460 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: November 2019 - City, State

It sounds like a good conversation is in store for you and your SO.  I had to have a similar, although smaller one with mine.  I had to explain that by constantly giving of himself and his resources, he affects my lifestyle as well.  We talked about the dangers of being a “yes man,” and how it causes a lot of chain reaction things sometimes.  I think it’s certainly worth bringing up to resolve.

There’s a difference between helping and feeling guilty if you don’t fix someone’s problem, and I think a lot of guys struggle with that.  Loyalty is a much bigger thing for men than it is for women most of the time, so perhaps he’s having a hard time stepping back.

Certainly no need to run away!  If he’s as wonderful as you say he is, then he’ll be willing to listen and hopefully you can find a compromise. =)

Post # 3
513 posts
Busy bee

I have a *much* smaller situation with my SO and it’s just something you have to work thru. I won’t tell you not to run in the other direction, though; that is something you have to weigh out for yourself. 

You need to honestly think about this and very, very carefully. You’re going to be tying your life to this man, his credit and, as of right this minute, his needy ass family. Can you deal with that? The way I am about money and saving and budgeting and trying my best to steer clear of debt I couldn’t. Major changes would have to take place before I put my credit score in all that mess. 

Post # 4
612 posts
Busy bee

My husband comes from an emotionally co-dependent family. It is exhausting. Like you, I often swallowed what I needed from him and dealt with things on my own. Not because he asked me to but because I didn’t want to put any additional burden on him.

Eventually it all boiled over one day. I had built up so much resentment from feeling like I was walking through things alone while my in laws constantly benefited from his kindness and generosity. When I vocalized this to my husband, he had no idea I felt that way. He thought he was balancing everyone’s needs, not realizing I wasn’t sharing my needs honestly with him. Of course he felt terrible. We decided to work together to set boundaries that we could both be comfortable. He made me feel like I was 100% his partner and this was our problem to navigate together.

It is unrealistic to expect that he will ever be completely disengaged from his family. I realized that I had so much resentment that I was getting annoyed anytime he helped them with anything. That wasn’t fair to him – I still help my mom with things because I love her and want to make her life easier how I can. Just because his family is dysfunctional doesn’t mean he can’t help them at all. But we had to figure out what that would look like. When you constantly help people who don’t want to help themselves, all you do is enable them.  

For us, there were a few major sticking points. He doesn’t help them when his help is demanded. Unless there’s an emergency, he doesn’t help them during times where it cuts into our quality time together (I like sleeping in on the weekends and he’s more of an early bird, so he’ll do things for them while I’m still sleeping). He cannot leave work or call out of work to do anything for them (unless there’s a legitimate health crisis). This stems from a period of time in his early 20s where his family’s neediness greatly impacted his success in school and his career. I cannot be worrying about my husband’s job security. 

There’s no financial co-dependency but another hard line for me would be not giving them our joint money when they weren’t doing what they needed to support themselves.

You are correct in needing to have this figured out before you make a bigger commitment to him. It is encouraging that he seems to hear you and respond in kind – the fact that he made adjustments in his financial commitments after you spoke to him is a very good sign. You just need to have another very honest conversation with him about your concerns. Assuming he is willing to put you first and manage his family in a way that you are comfortable with, there is no reason it can’t work out. But to be clear, I never would have married my husband if I didn’t first see that he would treat me as his partner and put our needs ahead of his family’s.

ETA – It is also fine if you decide this situation is not for you. Dealing with co-dependent in laws is exhausting even once boundaries are drawn. It doesn’t stop them for asking or responding with dramatics when they don’t get what they want. Although the more you stick to your boundaries and they realize there’s no point in asking, they do stop coming to you as often. But if you decide it’s too much for you, there is no shame in walking away and finding a partner that is better suited for you. Your boyfriend can also find someone who is fine with his family dynamics.

Post # 7
2178 posts
Buzzing bee

I’m sorry but I would just be running for the door.  I doubt this situation is ever going to significantly change. 

Post # 8
970 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: September 2015

you need to talk to him about how you feel, this can lead to divorce down the road if you do nothing about it say nothing aabout it or give him a chance to make it better.

dont settle, sometime one has to cut people off no matter what.

Post # 9
829 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: October 2015

I empathize with you, Bee. This can be so difficult! Because your partner is a good man, and you know he’s acting out of love for his family.

To a lesser extent, I encountered a similar situation with a guy I dated. He was a good man, but his family was a never-ending source of calamity and misery. Some of their situations were truly heart-wrenching, but others were idiotic drama (immature fights with each other, trying to hide a car from repossession, etc). I didn’t want to be the type of person who would end a relationship due to someone’s dysfunctional family, and I kept telling myself that no family is perfect. But, eventually I started to see the ways in which my ex-boyfriend was choosing to get involved in their messes. And when he wouldn’t listen to me about how his family was affecting our relationship, I gave myself permission to let him go.

(By contrast, it’s an AMAZING experience to be in a relationship with my DH, who has healthy boundaries with his family, and whose family is wonderful.)  

Bee, it’s OK if you want a better life for yourself. It’s OK if you don’t want to tie yourself to your partner’s dysfunctional family. You say he is “stubborn” and that he says that he will never see eye-to-eye with you about family. This sounds like he is unwilling to set healthy boundaries with his family. Does he have any clear plans to move out of his parents’ house? It is crazy to me that his parents each have a bedroom, while he has been sleeping on a couch for 5 years! He may be willing to let them take advantage of him indefinitely.

Post # 10
1235 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: August 1983

He doesn’t have one child; he has four. And he likes it that way, or he would get himself and his daughter out of this enmeshment. Your own situation is too precarious to add his irresponsible sister and parents to your obligations (through him).

Post # 11
2748 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: May 2015 - St Peter\'s Church, East Maitland, and Bella Vista, Newcastle

I would be sitting down with him and telling him that he either makes you a higher priority in his life or you’re gone.  To me, you should be second only to his daughter, and miles above his parasitic parents and siblings – they’re his extended family, you are his nuclear family.  Stop being endlessly patient and being his safe space.  Stop letting him unload on you.  If you start saying “honey, I really don’t want to hear about your family as they take up too much of my headspace already,” every time he starts to talk about them, he will have to bear the emotional load of everything they are doing himself, rather than you taking on half (or more) of it.  When he takes on the full weight, he may realise exactly how heavy that load is.

And if he cancels plans with you to go and rescue them again, tell him in no uncertain terms that it isn’t acceptable and that you don’t appreciate coming second to the parasites yet again.  There needs to be some consequence if he does – you may have to decide what that consequence is but there should definitely be one.  You can tell him the “saviour” complex is not working for you until you’re blue in the face, but until he feels the consequences I don’t think he’ll listen.

Also he needs therapy to help him unpack why he feels so responsible for his parents and sibling, because he shouldn’t.  Obviously they’ve conditioned him to behave that way and it’s not going to be easy to undo the years of programming.

Post # 12
11369 posts
Sugar Beekeeper
  • Wedding: City, State

View original reply
laurenalaine83 :  

He’s right.  You do have ‘different ideas about family’.

He knows your feelings on the topic of his parents.  I don’t agree that your repeated carping about it makes it more likely that some of it will ‘get through’.  It’s more likely that you will be tuned out.  Nobody wants to listen to the same rant over and over.  He gets it.

The reason he’s not changing to the extent you want him to is because he doesn’t want to.  That is manifestly clear.  He’s made his peace with what he’s doing.  And you’re not going to stop him.  If he were suddenly forced to quit taking care of his parents, he would be absolutely miserable.  It would hurt to the core of who he is.

Your ideas about family are very different, and it seems those differences are irreconcilable.  He’s devoted to his family and makes it plain that they come first.  Is the dynamic a healthy one?  No, but so what?  Unless I missed something, you’re the son’s gf, not the family therapist.  

What kind of future is there in this, Bee?  The parents could be around for many years yet.  His daughter will one day be a teenager—you think he’s running himself ragged now, just wait.

Even more concerning is the is the amount and purity of the venom you’re spitting toward your SO’s parents.  I get it.  You despise these people.  Fine.  Fair enough.  But, Bee.  Your hatred of them is palpable.  If I’m picking it up, so is your SO.  How could you ever imagine marrying into that family?

And, do a little self check.  Is it really your SO’s best interests driving you? Or, are you locked in a power struggle?


Post # 13
612 posts
Busy bee

View original reply
laurenalaine83 :  Your latest update paints a bit of a different picture for me. The fact that you’ve voiced your concerns before and he isn’t willing to work with you is not a good sign. It sounds like he is telling you this is the way it’s going to be. You have to decide if you’re going to take it or leave it.

If he told me he had no more time to give me I would say “well what I’m getting isn’t good enough, so if you can’t give me anymore then I don’t think this relationship is going to work for me.”

It does sound like you have different views of family and they’re not very compatible. And even though it’s his family, you should have a say. You are supposed to be a team. What affects him affects you. He cannot decide what you do and don’t have a say in just because he doesn’t want to listen to you. When he was single, how he dealt with his family was his decision alone. Now it is your decision to make together. If he can’t or won’t recognize that, he’s not able to be in a partnership.

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