My husband’s mother passed away recently. She was difficult, demanding and never approved of me. My husband didn’t want me to attend the funeral because he said my presence would create problems for his sisters who blame me, as their mother did, for taking their baby brother away from the family. I never took him away, of course, but since my husband’s family never liked me, we spent more time with my family than his. Since the funeral, my husband has been distant. When I pushed him to talk, he said that he resents me for creating a rift between him and his family. He has hardly talked to me lately. What should I do?
Be warm and supportive. Let your actions remind your husband why he loves you. Embody the definition of selfless love by placing his needs before your own. When you begin to take his grief-inspired behavior personally, remember why you fell in love with him, and make a decision to go another mile in that love.
Your husband is second-guessing his choices, but that doesn’t mean he made the wrong choice. It means that he is worried he did. Don’t allow his fear to infect you, but don’t discount or psychologically analyze his crisis, either. This is one of the times in the life of a marriage where you must put aside your own needs, or meet them yourself, while being fully available to your partner. In other words, this is an opportunity to mature in love.
While you are giving your husband the time and space he needs to heal, engage in self-examination. Is there any possibility that your perception of his family motivated you to compete with them for your man’s affections? Did you adopt an “It’s us against them” attitude? If so, excavate the insecurity within you that drove the separation and give yourself and your marriage a fresh start.
My husband was laid off last year and has not yet found work. Our family (we have three young children) has been scraping by on my paycheck, his unemployment and by occasionally tapping our small savings account. My parents and siblings know our predicament because I’ve made it clear, but they continue to expect us to participate in group activities like an annual vacation. I have said no, but my dad has even tried to manipulate our kids by talking about all the fun things they will do together on vacation. My husband already feels like a failure for not being able to support his family. How can I get my parents, siblings and their spouses to see that they are really hurting our feelings?
If your extended family is oblivious to your financial situation, despite your updates, there’s nothing you can do. So zero in on yourself and learn as much as possible from the situation. For example, consider your communication style. When your dad mentions the family vacation, do you say, “We’ll see!” Or are you clear: “That’s not an option for us this year.” Choosing to be direct and transparent in words is a kinder choice, for you and the people in your life who are wading in denial. Another option is to write a letter or e-mail to your extended family. Write about your strict financial plan and intention to be responsible despite the many temptations that encourage you not to be. Then e-mail the document to yourself or, if handwritten, put it aside for two or three days. When you read it again, try to omit any comments that blame, accuse or victimize yourself or others. When the letter contains the right tone and message, send it off, trusting that you have done your best to tell the truth.