Stubborn in-laws

Joey Garcia

How do you maintain a good relationship with your spouse’s family when they don’t like you? After three years of marriage, my husband’s family still hasn’t tried to get to know me. I’m never invited to the “girls nights out” they have, they say that I stop my husband from talking to his parents because “I don’t like them,” and we’re generally excluded from family events. If we find out something’s going on, it’s last-minute and we don’t have time to bring anything. I would like us to move to my hometown of San Diego, but I know they’ll say I’m trying to keep my husband from his family. I’m tired of being the black sheep and the one they blame for everything! I’m so tired of being excluded. It’s hurting my husband. What do I do?

If the rift between you and your husband’s clan is hurting him, then it’s also harming your marriage. So even though it’s painful to be excluded from his family, it’s up to you (not him and not the clan) to help them to see you differently. Here’s your first step: Burn any belief that his family owes you something. They are not obligated to adopt you, invite you or help you feel welcome. Yes, it would be wonderful if they responded to you like that, but since they didn’t, it becomes your job (through marriage) to inspire them to want your companionship. Remember: They don’t have to like you, but you can show them, over and over again, why your husband loves you. Do this by being the loving relative you wish any one of them would be.

The burden is entirely on you. Try to get to know your husband’s family as if you have no history with them. If there is a family member or two that you like, extend an invitation to coffee or lunch. Find out their interests and celebrate their hobbies by mailing articles clipped from magazines or forwarding pertinent e-mails. Be someone who is relentlessly loving and thoughtful. Court your relatives, but do so without expectations of a reciprocal affection. It should be enough that your husband knows that you have done (and continue to do, until death do you part) everything possible to consider yourself a part of his family, even when his family does not behave accordingly.

It’s also vital that you belly up to the washroom mirror, look into your own eyes and honestly assess whether you have behaved unkindly toward your man’s family. If so, apologize by owning what you did and not blaming any of your attitude or behavior on what you imagine they did or did not do. Doing so will make it a lot easier to get from your three-year anniversary to your 30th.

A year ago, I split up with my boyfriend of nine years who is also the father of my daughter. I started dating a nice man who is 15 years younger. I want to know, should I continue with this relationship or move on? He wants to build a future and life together. I am really stuck.

It’s hard to let the next chapter of your life begin, isn’t it? Nine years is a long time, and it’s probably difficult to let go of the rhythm that the two of you established. But if you have met someone new who wants to build a future with you and it feels right intuitively and makes sense rationally, go for it. Don’t let his age be an issue, as long as he’s mature, emotionally and mentally, and at least 25 years old. Any younger and you may find yourself mothering two children.

Meditation of the week
My boyfriend Scott has been teaching me how to keep score at San Francisco Giants and Sacramento River Cats baseball games. It’s a blast, but I find that it renders me an impartial viewer; I celebrate anyone’s home run or double play simply because it’s fun to score. What keeps you neutral?

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