Dear Wendy: My Husband Can’t Cut The Apron Strings
I am 24 and have been married for about 2 1/2 years. Since getting married, we have visited my husband’s parents, who live about 45 minutes away, at least once a week, including practically every weekend. My husband and I both work full time and weekends are really the only downtime that we have together. He’s really close to his parents — he lived with them until we got married — and sometimes I feel like “the bad guy” if I don’t want to go over. Even when I don’t go with him he’ll still make it a point to go alone, which obviously still interferes with our time. It even goes beyond weekends; forget about trying to go away for the holidays — his family has always spent the holidays together and it would be unheard of not to. I’ve tried talking to my husband because as much as I love his parents and get along with them, I feel like we’re too connected to them. I feel that he’d rather not “rock the boat” and would just feel guilty for saying anything. He just tells me he feels that once a week is reasonable and that he feels holidays are “family time.” I’ve even convinced myself that there’s no way we can ever have kids if we live in the same city as them because I’m worried it will only get worse! Is my husband too attached to his parents or am I making a big deal of nothing? — Annoyed Daughter-in-Law
I wouldn’t say that your husband is necessarily too attached to his parents or that you’re making too big a deal of it, either. Lots of people see their families at least once a week and it’s not a problem, but the issue here is that once a week, especially given the commute and perhaps the length of time you spend with them, is too much for you and he’s being insensitive to your wants and needs. After all, you are his family now, too, and he needs to respect that. It’s time for your husband to cut the apron strings and get over feeling “guilty” for choosing quality time with his wife over another weekend with his parents. He’s a grown man, for goodness’ sake. Decide together how much time you feel comfortable committing to his parents and set that boundary now — before you have kids. Maybe a Sunday night dinner twice a month is a happy compromise you both can make. Or, if you want to avoid weekends with your in-laws altogether, perhaps you can settle on a Wednesday night dinner every other week and use the excuse of work the next morning to make it an early evening.
As for holidays, it’s time the two of you start creating your own traditions as husband-and-wife and get out of the routine of spending every special occasion with your in-laws. Your husband isn’t a child anymore — it’s expected that grown adults with spouses will do their own thing for the holidays sometimes. Furthermore, where’s your family in all this? Don’t they ever get to see you on holidays? It’s not fair that it’s always about your husband’s family. So again, decide together what would be a happy compromise — maybe Thanksgiving with your in-laws and Christmas with your family, or on your own at some warm beachy locale where both of your families are far away. Let your in-laws know that this year you’ll be going away for Christmas. They’ll probably protest, but so what? Let them! Letting go is hard, but it has to be done eventually. Their expectations have been set too high for too long. As soon as your husband married you, his status and his life changed. It’s time for his parents to respect that their son’s a grown adult with a family of his own. That said, it’s probably not a bad idea to start thinking about cities a little farther away where you can raise the kids you may have one day. A nice, four-hour drive seems like a good distance — close enough for a weekend visit every other month or so, but too far for surprise visits by Grandma and Grandpa every night of the week.