How to protect your family's borders from annoying relatives

How to protect your family's borders from annoying relatives
How to protect your family's borders from annoying relatives

Shortly after the wedding, you find out that relationships now need to be built not only with your husband, but also with his relatives. What to do if your life is invaded, and how to protect the boundaries of your family?

How to protect your family's borders from annoying relatives
How to protect your family's borders from annoying relatives

Contract between two families

LYUDMILA (27 years old) SAYS: “My husband and I have been together for 5 years, our daughter is 3 years old. And everything would be great with us if it weren’t for my husband’s relatives, who always need something from him. We fight all the time over this. It seems that their interests are more important to him than my daughter and I.

Some of his distant relatives constantly live in our apartment, he helps relatives with repairs, meets them at the station, takes them to the country. His mother, for example, can no doubt call him late at night and ask him to come - just to replace a burnt out light bulb. In general, she often behaves as if she wants to prove to me that she was and remains the main woman for her beloved son, and I am an empty place. And my husband replies to all my grievances: “I am the only son of my mother, I am responsible for her and relatives, they rely on me, I have to help them.”

Indeed, spouses can have only one child, but at the same time be part of a larger or, as psychologists say, “extended” family. Such a family consists of several generations: old grandparents, wife's parents and husband's parents, sisters-in-law and brother-in-law, uncles and aunts, nephews and nieces. When there are many adults in the family, they have to negotiate among themselves more often, and it is more difficult to do so! As famous family therapist Carl Whitaker said, “Marriage is not an event between two people, but a contract between two families.” Each family seeks to reproduce itself by imposing its own values and standards on the newlyweds. It is no secret that such a desire of relatives to force spouses to live by their own rules often leads to quarrels and conflicts. The cause of conflicts is often not so much the interference of relatives in the life of a young family or unsolicited advice, but the unwillingness of the spouses to grow up and take responsibility for their marriage. Often it is the husbands who suffer from this, who cannot break the symbiotic relationship with their mother, and justify their absolute obedience with “filial duty.”

Do you want your husband to take care of you first of all? Negotiate! Listen to his arguments, offer him your own: tell him that now he is responsible for your family, that your children should see an example of family care in front of them. Marriage is a transition from the generation of children to the generation of adults. Thus, from the very beginning of their life together, the couple will have to solve the most difficult task of reincarnation - how to become husband and wife from a son and daughter. For this process to be successful, you must always put the interests of your couple first. Discuss family boundaries with your husband and decide which relatives to “include” in your family, and with whom it is better to keep a distance. After all, the whole large family simply does not fit in your inner circle! We will also have to work out a system of joint priorities. And the big mistake would be the argument “this is how it was in our family”, imposing on the partner your own ideas about the “correct” family life.

Uninvited guests

MARIA (29 years old) OUTRAGED: “Why do our parents think they are allowed to come without calling whenever they want? My mother, for example, can visit us whenever she likes, without warning. She is interested in literally everything: what is in the refrigerator, how we spend time, where we spend money. And when I ask her to call before coming, she gets angry. The mother-in-law also likes to come to visit unexpectedly, she is also interested in everything. It seems that she comes only to expose my shortcomings: I am a spender, and I take care of my husband badly, and the hostess is useless. And she somehow very rarely invites us to visit her.”

English writer Richard Aldington once remarked: “Relatives are terrible people. They bring nothing good into our lives and believe that this gives them the right to forever interfere in our affairs. Indeed, the care of other parents, especially mothers, sometimes borders on terror. They stubbornly do not want to recognize the boundaries of the new family, they literally invade the personal territory of their adult children, they begin to dispose of it like they are at home.

The reason for this behavior lies in the unwillingness of parents to accept the growing up of their child, in a misunderstanding that a son or daughter has his own separate life, his own family, his own desires, his own plans. They cannot accept the fact that their children no longer need parental care and mother's guidance.

Caring for children, aging parents often replace the inability to make their own life interesting and rich. “When children grow up, parents also have to get used to the new situation,” explains family therapist Inna Khamitova. “They may not be ready to leave because they are afraid of the emptiness that will form in life.”

Try to be sympathetic to the need of parents to feel needed. But you can’t tolerate unceremonious interference in your life. The couple must decide together who and when can come to their house. Here it is important to show character: to clearly and politely mark the boundaries of your personal space, to establish the correct psychological distance. And in order to satisfy the need of parents for communication, you can arrange meetings in advance, call up daily - call and tell about your news, of course, you should. Think about ways to enrich the lives of older parents as well: help them learn the Internet, find new interests in life, keep them up to date with cultural news, or, say, join a fitness class or go on city tours.

What is control under the guise of help

Control disguised as help

IRINA (43 years old) COMPLAINTS: “My mother-in-law sold her three-room apartment and bought a one-room apartment. And the rest of the money I gave to our 20-year-old son - to buy a car. Although she knows perfectly well that we live in a one-room apartment and suffer from overcrowding. Of course, this is her money and she has the right to give it to whomever she wants. But it's a shame that my grandmother explained her act by saying that she does not believe in our decency and is convinced that my husband and I "would not give anything to a poor boy." As a result, my husband is very offended by his mother, he has not communicated with her for six months.”

ALENA (27 years old) CONFESSES: “My husband reproaches me that my parents don't want to help us the way his dad and mom do. And I think that help is voluntary. My husband's parents are not only well provided for, but they really believe that they should help us - we are one family! My relatives are sure that we need to solve our financial problems on our own, and are ready to help with advice. And their position is much closer to me. If only because my relatives do not interfere in our lives, and my husband’s mother, at every opportunity, remembers how much she and her father-in-law did for us, and sometimes reproaches us with ingratitude.”

It's no secret that parents often help young spouses with financial and housing problems. It’s great if they do it from the bottom of their hearts - they don’t assign the right to interfere in your affairs in response, they don’t demand an account, they don’t dictate their own rules. Unfortunately, much more often relatives use material assistance as a way of manipulation and an instrument of pressure on a young family: “I help you, and for this you must do as I say.” It turns out that under the guise of concern for well-being, parents are trying to maintain total control over the married couple, to assert their significance. And sometimes, under the guise of generosity, they demonstrate distrust and a desire to humiliate.

Psychologists are convinced that in such situations it is pointless to sort things out with the parents of the spouse. The main thing is the ability of the couple to agree among themselves. And if you really need parental help, then you need to discuss together on what conditions you are ready to accept it - maybe you will borrow money, clearly specifying the return period, or, say, the apartment provided to you by your parents will be issued to them.

Try to appreciate the very fact that you are helped, but do not feel dependent. It is best to find a tactful and convenient way to thank your parents, but not let them be too intrusive and interfere with your family affairs. With all due respect and love for your loved ones, it is better that some distance is maintained between you - this is the key to a good relationship.

How to live in peace with relatives

"Poor" relatives

YULIA (34 years old) SHARE: “It so happened that my husband and I live financially much better than all our relatives. We don't have any super incomes, we just both work in senior positions and get good money. Our relatives are not in poverty either, but for some reason they are very fond of "pampering" and asking (or even demanding) help them with money or services, they believe that "you are rich, it doesn't cost you anything, but we have problems." Our problems do not interest them at all. Don't get me wrong, I'm not greedy, I don't mind helping, but their attitude makes me feel like we owe everyone.”

Of course, no one argues that close relatives are obliged to help each other. Indeed, there are situations when it is simply necessary to help out a loved one who is in trouble. But it is important that this does not turn into a system and relatives do not begin to abuse your kindness and complaisance. You can help regularly and with amounts that are feasible for you, but you are not at all obliged to solve all their problems and satisfy any requests, just as you are not obliged to support younger brothers and sisters who have already become adults, and pay other people's loans to the detriment of your family. Your loved ones are adults and are responsible for themselves.

You need to remember: if relatives are only interested in your financial capabilities, and they are absolutely indifferent to your problems, needs and desires, this is manipulation. In such cases, you should not be afraid to refuse an overly importunate request, even if you are afraid that refusal will ruin your relationship with them.

Live in peace with relatives

ELENA (39 years old) LAUGHING: “I love my husband's relatives. True, it was not immediately possible to find a common language with them. At first it seemed to me that they did not accept me, they condemned me, they considered me a stranger. It was very disappointing: my husband is friends with my parents, but I am not with him. And then I suddenly realized: after all, it was his parents who raised him such a wonderful person. And once, during a family holiday, she got up and thanked them in front of everyone for raising a wonderful son. After that, it became much easier for us to communicate.”

In life we have to communicate with different people, and this is not always our choice. We do not choose our parents or husband's relatives, for example. And sometimes it is very difficult to find mutual understanding with them. There are no ready-made recipes here. But if we want peace in the family, we need to learn to accept relatives as they are. It is important to look for approaches, to try to get to know the other person, to demonstrate movement towards. The more we understand our loved ones, the less problems we have.

According to the American psychologist Virginia Satir, "family can be a place where everyone will find love, understanding and support, even if life outside the home is not very successful." And the Russian psychologist Dmitry Leontiev is sure that “today we are increasingly in need of family support. It means that our time and energy should be invested in it.”

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