Post # 1
Hi everyone, regular user here going anonymous for a very sensitive issue for me. So, obviously, I don’t really like my husband’s family and I dread spending time with them. I know that this is a common problem and there are many articles/discussion about dealing with difficult in-laws, but my problem is a little different because my in-laws aren’t really difficult exactly. It’s more subtle than that… on the surface they are very nice and polite, but they are also very judgmental and passive-aggressive and controlling. They are very religious (Christian) and while they don’t talk about religion openly (because it’s considered impolite and they’re all about old-school etiquette,) they expect others to hold the same beliefs and interests as them. Anyone who dares to be different is silently judged and looked down upon, or they’ll say something like, “Oh, it’s so disappointing that so-and-so’s daughter moved in with her boyfriend before they were married. How very sad and embarrassing for her.” Like, that is seriously something I overheard my Father-In-Law say. And yes, my husband and I did live together for a year before we were married, but we had to hide that from his parents and pretend that I still lived in an apartment with a roommate, for fear of “letting them down” if we dared move in together out of wedlock (we’re both in our 30’s and had been dating for 4 years, for crying out loud…)
Anyway, that’s just an example, but there are many things like that. Another example is that they don’t drink and they look sadly down upon anyone who does, for instance I get major side-eye whenever we go out for dinner together and I order a glass of wine. But, damn it, I like a glass of wine with my meal and I’m a grown married adult and I’ll be damned if I’m going to skip it for fear of “disappointing” my in-laws. So I always feel like we have nothing in common (besides being married to their son) and I can never be myself around them. My husband feels the exact same way – that he has very little in common with them, but he also says “it’s always been that way” and “I’m used to it,” so it doesn’t bother him to continue carrying on the facade if it keeps everyone blissfully ignorant and peaceful. On top of this, they want to spend as much time together as possible. Thankfully they live in another state so we have some geographic distance, but they come to our state A LOT and every time they do they act as if we should be together 24/7. They claim “family time together is the most important thing of all” and act baffled if we have other plans or don’t want to hang out all day every day. Again, my husband seems OK to just grit his teeth and bear it because he grew up that way, and I try to go along as much as I can, but I honestly hate having to spend time with people who don’t really know me (and don’t want to know the real me, and probably wouldn’t like me if they knew the real me,) doing things I don’t like to do because they have to pick and plan everything, and trying not to step on anyone’s toes or offend anyone’s delicate sensibilities.
So basically, the problem is that they’re all nice and sweet on the surface as long as you pretend to be exactly like them, and they want to spend aaaaalll the time together doing things THEY like to do. How can I even begin to handle that kind of passive-aggressiveness, especially when there isn’t any obvious “disagreement” or boundary being crossed? And before anyone jumps all over me, I already know this makes me sound a bit like a jerk and I REALLY WISH I could just suck it up and put on a smile and be happy with it. But I feel there is a limit to how much emotional energy and effort I can spend on people, and acting so fake to please them is just sucking the life out of me and making me resentful.
Post # 2
If you know they are not going to be openly rude (because polite people don’t do that,LOL) then I would just live my life according to my values, not theirs. Who cares if they roll their eyeballs, or make comments after they leave?
I don’t think it’s necessary to have anything in common with your in-laws. My ex in-laws were very religious. Did we go to church with them when they were visitng? No,but they were welcome to go themselves. When we visited them, we slept in on Sunday mornings while they went to church.
It sounds like the two of you need to be a bit more assertive and set some boundaries as far as their visits are concerned. If they stay at your home when they visit, you can still have time apart. Just tell them you have plans and they are on their own for the day.
Post # 3
Sorry, but I didn’t get past your first paragraph. You concealed the fact that you were the live-in GF/FI before your marriage to their son? Did I read that correctly? And, if so, then I’d wonder if you and your DH have some unresolved issues due to that situation long before you try to speculate why his parents being religious has to do with anything.
Just my $0.02.
Post # 4
I’m not gonna lie, your in-laws sound just like my parents. It’s exhausting, but really there is nothing you can do. it is also very possible they don’t even realize how they come off. My advice would be this- be polite and attentive to them, but stop worrying about whether they are side-eying you or judging you. They are who they are and probably won’t miraculously become more open-minded.
Post # 5
Just because people are polite on the surface doesn’t mean they are good people. Being judgmental and expecting everyone to agree with you is immature, ugly, and frankly boring. It’s no wonder you don’t enjoy them.
But you have a problem with your husband, not them, because he prefers to lie to them and cater to their judgments as if he were not a grown, married man. You need to sit down with him and tell him that being asked to lie and cover things up ( like your JOINT decision to live together before marriage) to make him and his parents feel comfortable is not okay with you.
Post # 6
You don’t have to like them but you do need to respect them and be cordial. They really don’t sound all that bad. They’re stuck in their ways.
Post # 7
I fully understand what you mean. I am actually somewhat like your in-laws in my belief system and the no-drinking. And I have extended family that is very liberal. My mouth stays shut most of the time. A few people in my extended family don’t talk to me anymore because I stated some of my views. I stopped getting their phone calls and started being ignored on Facebook.
But I think maybe you can do just babysteps if you feel comfortable, like just state how you feel on a small topic if it ever comes up. And then just let it go if it gets to be an issue. You at least let something out of your system.
I tend to avoid conflict myself by just not disagreeing openly. It keeps my life simpler because I don’t have to get into useless debates with people that make me fume or isolate me later on. It’s a little bit of a protective mechanism, because I’ve been on that side of opening my mouth before.
I don’t think there is a one-size-fits-all answer. It depends on how you will feel if you reveal more of yourself to them.
Personally I just like to keep the peace these days as a small sacrifice.
Post # 8
Holy crap! Your in laws sound EXACTLY like my boyfriends parents. We aren’t married yet but we have been ring shopping and I know the engagement is coming within a year from now. I completely relate to where you are coming from and I feel the same way when I am around his parents! Im serious, as I was reading your post I kept thinking “I wonder if we are thinking of the same people”!
I am also wondering how to be myself around them because I am scared of disappointing them or making them upset. I don’t have a for sure answer yet, but I am just showing bits and pieces of myself at a time rather than throwing it at them all at once. Like asserting my opinion on a topic when I normally wouldnt or being a little less formal and a little more silly and loose at some moments that way I’m not just bombarding them and overwhelimg them with something they would be uncomfortable with. Also, that glass of wine thing you talked about? I SO totally agree with you! So far that approach of mine seems to be going okay.
I am curious if you find the “family time” thing as frustrating as I do. My boyfriends parents are shocked when we dont want to come up all the time and are actually extremely hurt when we choose to spend an evening with my parents. They throw around the guilt card or try a little manipulation with the whole “family comes first and WE are YOUR parents so we should always take priority no matter what situation”
I wish the best of luck to you! I completely agree, this type of in-law situation is NOT fun to deal with. Sometimes I think that these in-laws can be harder to deal with than others just because it all seems so fake and surface level. For a genuine person like yourself who wants a genuine and personal relationship, its the worst and can drive someone like you completely bonkers!
Super sorry about this, it’s frustrating.
Post # 9
I mean this in the gentlest way possible, but it really sounds like you’re set on digging your heels in here on principle.
You know how your in-laws feel (about drinking, for example) but are dead set on having your glass of wine because you should be allowed to… I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be able to do that in peace, but you know how it makes them feel. It wouldn’t kill you to skip the wine while you’re at dinner with them – especially considering they live out of state.
I (personally) think that respecting your in laws includes consciously avoiding things that may make them uncomfortable. If it really has no negative impact on you (other than smiling, nodding, and passing on a glass of wine), it’s probably worth it. Sure, it’s exhausting. But there are plenty of us who have truly venomous, toxic in-laws who survive sucking it up. Pleasant? Nope. But manageable.
You claim that they wouldn’t like who you really are, but it sounds a lot like you’re judging them the same way you think they’ll pass judgment on you. It comes across like you don’t have a lot of interest in building a relationship with that unless that comes in the form of them conceding and compromising, but you doing exactly as you want.
If you honestly want a treasurable relationship with them, you’ll need to start by releasing the judgments you already have about your in-laws. That won’t happen while your heels are still dug in. Sorry Bee. In laws can be a bear.
Post # 10
NOBODY LIKES THEIR IN-LAWS.
I didn’t actually read anything but the title. So maybe they’re jerks, maybe they aren’t. But seriously. 85% of ppl I know have difficult in-laws. Part of life! Good luck.
Post # 11
my best advice to you: be yourself. Stop pretending to be someone you’re not or holding back to please them. Who cares if they judge you? Who cares if they don’t like you? You have to be true to yourself. And the same goes for your DH. Stop catering to their judgements, as PP said. It sounds like they’ll judge you no matter what you do.
Post # 12
It seems like you’re the one being a bit judgy. I think they have their beliefs and you should respect their beliefs. It doesn’t mean that you agree, but let them have their beliefs. I agree with the bee above that it seems you’re being a bit stubborn. If you feel they are being “judgemental” then YOU need to bring it to their attention and tell them how exactly you feel judged. What actions are they doing specifically towards you that make you feel judged. It doesn’t need to be confrontational, but just ask your Mother-In-Law if you could have a five minute chat in the other room. From an outsider it seems like you’re over thinking their actions.
Post # 13
I feel like I’ve met people like them before. It’s really difficult to deal with, because it would be SO RUDE of them to call you on things they disapprove of to your face… so they do it behind your back to their friends instead. And the time suck! “Family time is the most important thing” – but only if you use the time you have wisely. So I can totally see where you’re coming from, and you aren’t really overreacting. It’s a death of a thousand papercuts.
Personally, I would start calling them out (politely) when they are being intolerant of others or rude and judgemental. For one, telling you how shameful it is that so-and-so’s daughter lived out of wedlock is pure gossip the way they are editorializing on it. Second, many people have no problem with living together (like you and their son). Let he who is without sin cast the first stone, and cast the beam out of your own eye first.
Post # 14
Yes, we did cover up the fact we lived together for a year before we were married. And yes, that was a HUGE issue for me that my DH (then FI) talked about constantly during that time. I eventually did agree to go along with the cover-up for several reasons: 1) His family prefers to be blissfully ignorant. They’re not stupid people, and I’m sure they had some idea that we were actually living together. They never asked to come over, and they never asked me questions about my living situation for the very reason that they want to PRETEND everything is as they like it. Forcing them to face the “truth” of us living together causes more drama than just going along with their silly fantasy. 2) We knew we would be married soon, and then the living together would be a non-issue. The last thing I wanted was upsetting in-laws while I’m trying to plan a wedding and all that.
I agreed to it, and I’m not sure it was the best move on my part, but I did. And now I guess I’m trying to avoid a long future with my husband in which we have to do similar, immature, crazy things to please his side of the family.
Post # 15
I totally agree with you, and I would do exactly that… ideally. But it isn’t so easy to just say “I don’t care what they think” when “they” are our primary family social-circle. And it’s not just my husband’s parents; it’s also his grandparents, his sister, her husband, and the entire group of family friends that they spend time with regularly. I would feel awful about myself if I just threw my “real” self out there and ended up alienating myself (or both of us.) I don’t know, does that make sense?
You sound a lot like my husband 🙂 He’s exhausted by them, and sometimes pretty fed up with them, but he says the same thing: this is how they are, it’s all they know, and sucking it up and just going along with it is the way he’s learned how to deal. I have to ask, do you ever feel resentful/angry at your parents, or is it just something you get used to and are okay with? And maybe even can learn to enjoy?