In-Law Problems

I’ve been married 2 years to my husband, my first marriage, his 3rd. I am having a hard time dealing with my in-laws and a brother-in-law. My husband does not defend me when they are rude/disrespectful to me. We had a fight over it and he doesn’t want to speak about it.

I am so terribly sad. I love my husband so much. I made clear boundaries with my parents and they are very kind to him, but he will not set clear boundaries with his parents or siblings. What can I do? I don’t want to even visit them anymore. I can’t take their behavior towards me. We are supposed to visit them in July, but I don’t want to travel to see them. I don’t want to be around them. But I fear this may bring even more problems. What should I do?

Chava L.

Dear Chava,

We suspect that your sad letter is only the tip of the iceberg. We hope to encourage you to be proactive in understanding what steps you can take to build a successful marriage as you are still at the very beginning of this journey.

Your husband not wanting to speak about an issue that has already caused a big fight spurs us to ask more questions. We encourage you to explore why he won’t discuss it. Does he always withdraw when a conflict arises or is this issue different? Are you able to discuss things calmly or do you tend to get emotional (perhaps nasty?) so that it is impossible to exchange ideas? Have you seen this refusal to engage when there is a problem with other people in his life? An ability to face differences and work through disagreements is an important prerequisite for a successful marriage.

A question we find ourselves asking is what would he say were he to read your letter? Would he view your description of him as accurate? This might be a good way to open up a productive conversation.

When you tell us that this is his third marriage, we worry that you may not have gone deeply enough into understanding why his two past marriages failed. Did you sympathize with him about the “terrible women he married” rather than doing more exploration? As an adjunct question, we would ask if you are much younger than he is? Did he have an expectation that you would accept his words and behaviors without question? Perhaps we are wrong and his two failed marriages are irrelevant – but we don’t know that.

If this is the only issue on which he is unreasonable, then he is probably carrying baggage from childhood, as do most of us. While he is wrong to allow his parents to be rude to you, maybe he doesn’t even see it as abnormal based on his upbringing. Comparing your parents to his isn’t helpful. You each grew up in a different home, with different behaviors and expectations. Are you sure that you are not interpreting what might be normative behavior as rude? As an example, perhaps you bristle when his father calls you “girlie” but that is how he addresses all the younger women in his life?

Assuming that you aren’t being overly sensitive and that this is the only problematic issue after two years of marriage, then you face a decision before July. If he is unwilling to work through this issue, whether with you or with outside guidance, then you have a choice. Do you take the high road and put up with discomfort in order to give your husband something he needs? Or do you firmly and lovingly make clear that you won’t be accompanying him? You can present his family with an excuse that is polite and non-confrontational (your cousin is having surgery and needs help…).

Did you both have premarital counseling before this marriage? Perhaps now some marriage counseling is appropriate, provided it is undertaken with a pro-marriage practitioner.

Wishing you clarity,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

What do you think? We’d love to hear your thoughts on this Ask the Rabbi & Susan post.
We Happy Warrior members can both read and write comments HERE.

Not a member yet? Check out our Basic Membership and join the conversation.

Shopping Cart