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dh feels responsible for his parents happiness

(13 Posts)
Jsy123 Sun 05-Jun-16 21:58:19

I love my dh more than anything. We've been together over 12 years but his relationship with his parents is driving me (secretly) insane.

They are nice enough people but completely lack any emotional depth. They have never spoken to my dh about anything remotely personal or emotional. They want to see dh all the time - always ringing to try and arrange something yet when we go round all they do is sit in front of TV and don't speak!

They have no interests or friends - dh and now my ds are their life. They have a daughter but she can't stand the emotional void and so avoids them - putting all the pressure on dh.

It was his bday today and instead of doing something he wanted we had lunch with his parents and then they came back to the house for about 4 hours. He did this just to please them yet didn't please himself. This happens all the time and it drives me nuts - I get why he does it (he's super kind) but it just feels so fake. I resent his parents for making him feel responsible for their happiness. He should not have that burden.

Dh gets so defensive if I mention anything but I just feel like something has to change. They are only in their early 60's and I just can't stand the thought of dh giving up more birthdays and fathers days pleasing his parents when he deserves to please himself. He's so loving and wonderful - they've had the chance to live their life and please themselves, why shouldn't dh get that opportunity?

Any advice?

EarthboundMisfit Mon 06-Jun-16 07:54:36

What are your DH's feelings about it, independent from yours?

AttilaTheMeerkat Mon 06-Jun-16 08:16:20

You state they are nice enough people, his parents are not nice people at all. This is all about power and control on their part; they have made your DH responsible for their happiness and he therefore feels obligated so to them. You have a DH problem as well as an IL issue as well. Your DH has FOG fear, obligation and guilt in spades when it comes to them.

You also probably come from a nice and emotionally healthy family of origin so this makes is doubly difficult for you to begin to get your head around. Your DH was not so fortunate, he is truly the product of an emotionally unhealthy and dysfunctional family. Sadly, many parents are very good at making children feel guilty for things that are not their fault, I imagine your DH is carrying a shedload of guilt too. He has been raised to feel very responsible and is very much a people pleaser. He has had years of training in that from his parents as well, he regards it as "normal".

His own inertia when it comes to his parents is simply hurting him though as well as you and your son. He does not realise that sadly and may never do so. He probably cannot allow himself to be angry with these people, one of them may well have used him as a confidant.

Are you all that surprised that they have no interests or friends; such people truly do not and there's reasons for that. They are really emotional vampires who have latched onto their son to further control simply because there is now no-one else around. Its hard being the last one left. Unsurprisingly his sister has well and truly backed away from them, she likely had enough of them years ago. Your DH gets defensive as well because deep down he knows this is not right but does not know at all how to deal with his parents and actually cannot. This is also because his parents gave never given him his own sense of self; they have truly lived through him. He is totally enmeshed with them and they him, its very unhealthy.

You cannot change his parents but you can certainly change how you react to both them and your DH. You need to start talking to DH gently about how his parents are affecting your family unit, do not bottle up your feelings. Make them known gently.

You also cannot afford to let your own son be as affected as his own dad is. Where are your own boundaries when it comes to his parents, do you make your son more unavailable to them?. It does not sound like that they are interested in you as a person. Your DH may well want to continue to have this sort of dysfunctional relationship with his parents but it does not follow that you and your son meekly follow.

I would also suggest you read "Toxic Inlaws" by Susan Forward to further understand the dynamics being played out here.

The above may also be useful for you to read.

RiceCrispieTreats Mon 06-Jun-16 14:32:13

In a way, he is the kind man that you love precisely because they trained him to put his own needs last. His kindness is closely bound with self-sacrifice.

It's unlikely that you can change him. The best you can do is decide how much of your own life you are willing to sacrifice to these people, and stick to that. Be prepared to fight if your DH starts sacrificing your own or your DS's needs on the alter of winning his parents' approval.

But he gets to choose how much of his own life he sacrifices to others.

Jsy123 Mon 06-Jun-16 21:12:23

Earthboundmisfit - dh says he feels bogged down by guilt and obligation and says that when I say anything I'm just adding to his load. The last thing I want is to do that but sometimes I just feel I need to speak up. He doesn't disagree with what I'm saying but simply states he's stuck and has no choice because it's all on him because his sister doesn't bother with them.

Jsy123 Mon 06-Jun-16 21:24:48


Thank you for your reply, it was very interesting to read. You're right - I come from a very different family. We are very open with our emotions and close as a family but our closeness is not linked to how often we see each other. In fact I only see my family a few times a year (they don't live close by) but it doesn't diminish our closeness.

I've been with dh for over 12 years and we spend nearly every Christmas with his parents, I think I've spent 2 or maybe 3 with my family. We also see them for every occasion such as Easter, Father's Day, Mother's Day, birthdays. Now we have a child ourselves I wish we could establish traditions and memories as a family in our own right but the idea of not including them ever is just unthinkable - they would be hurt and upset and dh would be stressed and feel guilty. It's so much stress that we don't even try.

I definitely do not want my lo to grow up feeling responsible for their happiness. I will have to be careful because they are now focusing all their attention on him. My FIL told me that when I had my lo it was the best day of his life and it was like he was reborn. Don't get me wrong, I know it's usual for grandparents to be excited but they go beyond that and it makes me uncomfortable and I don't him to feel pressured as he gets older.

I do very gently try and talk to dh but it just seems to add to his stress. I will keep trying. I'm close to his sister so may also speak to her as well and see if she's got any advice.

I'll take a look at your recommended reads. Thanks again for taking the time to reply.

Jsy123 Mon 06-Jun-16 21:32:37


Thanks for your reply. You're right, I can only really be in control of myself and my lo (while he's young anyway!). I will be vigilant about not letting lo be sucked into the same cycle. I'm all for encouraging children to be kind and think of others but I don't want my son to do things out of guilt because he scared to upset them.

I love that dh is a kind and caring man but it makes me sad that his parents overlook his wants and needs in favour of their own.

AmyAmoeba Tue 07-Jun-16 13:24:34

I have a similar sort of dynamic and what RiceCrispieTreats said about your DH being kind because of the way he has been trained rings true for mine.
In our case his parents are elderly and in doubtful health (though I have had suspicions about some of their medical crises) and I don't think DH's mental health would survive going NC if they died suddenly. So we're trudging along.
I try to keep in mind that while I have the benefits of a very kind man, I have a responsibility to take care of him and not abuse his kindness - I show him gratitude, I encourage him to think of his own needs, I take obvious pleasure in him putting himself first at times and I'm as straight forward as I know how to be.
I don't like to see him feeling guilty, upset or worried as a result of (what to me is blatant) manipulation by his parents. I've finally mastered the art of not getting sucked in myself, and now I'm working hard on letting him have his feelings without getting drawn in to his guilt.
With my kids, I often "debrief" them after a visit, talking through the batshit in the hopes that they will grow up questioning the crazy stuff not normalising it. I particularly want them to see through the propaganda. The ILs seem to have an official version of reality, that seldom tallies with actual reality. DH cannot grasp this but I hope the kids will, and I'll be very proud if they call me on my crazy behaviour too!

AttilaTheMeerkat Tue 07-Jun-16 13:46:10

Hi Jsy

Re your comments:-
"Now we have a child ourselves I wish we could
establish traditions and memories as a family in our own right but the idea of not including them ever is just unthinkable - they would be hurt and upset and dh would be stressed and feel guilty. It's so much stress that we don't even try".

You should try. You should definitely be able now to establish your own family traditions particularly as you now have your son as well to consider. Where has this idea come from that this idea of not including his parents is unthinkable; is that mainly from your DH or even them?. Its come from somewhere and that is a flawed logic. Your DH is very much a product of his own dysfunctional upbringing at the hands of his parents; they have really done a number on him. He sadly does not see it and is very much still wanting to seek their approval at great cost to him overall.

"I definitely do not want my lo to grow up feeling responsible for their happiness. I will have to be careful because they are now focusing all their attention on him. My FIL told me that when I had my lo it was the best day of his life and it was like he was reborn"

Red flag central re that last sentence. Look at his parents, they did a rubbish job with their son, your now husband, and they will do not too dissimilar damage to your son if contact continues. It will all happen right in front of your very eyes. Shore up your boundaries re his parents and keep your child well away from them at all costs. You also need to stay away from them too.

AttilaTheMeerkat Tue 07-Jun-16 13:47:19

Do speak to his sister as well, she may well prove to be an ally to you.

WipsGlitter Tue 07-Jun-16 13:56:39

This is very interesting. FiL is a bit the same, he calls round on a Saturday morning and then can't wait to leave! No interaction with the children at all. Or if we go out for dinner he can't / won't join in the conversation.

RunRabbitRunRabbit Tue 07-Jun-16 14:20:41

I'd start with good old fashioned fairness. Every other Christmas for example.

Asking DH to even think about rejecting them will too hard for him for a while yet.

You could talk about what traditions and memories you want to build for yourselves. Don't talk about them as far as possible. Nothing negative about them. The topic is the memories and traditions you want to be there when you are old and grey. Perhaps discuss the relationship you want to have with your DC when they are grown. I expect that will be much easier for him to connect with.

I'd move several hundred miles away too. In fact we did exactly that. It's great. I highly recommend it. The world is full of amazing places.

Jsy123 Tue 07-Jun-16 19:18:10

AmyAmoeba - thanks for the reply. Sorry to hear you are in a similar situation. I too am very mindful of taking advantage of dh's kindness and try and give him opportunities to do what he wants and make him feel special.

I love my ds more than anything and I'm sure it won't be easy to 'let go' of him when he's older but that's not a struggle I ever want him to see or feel. I want him to feel nothing but support and encouragement from me. My mother always said 'give your children roots and wings' and that's what I hope to do. It feels like dh's wings have been clipped and it's sad.

AttilaTheMeekcat - thanks for your reply. I say doing special things is unthinkable because when we've tried to pull away and do our own thing my inlaws will either cry, take dh on a massive guilt trip or (and this is the worst one) stop talking to him. Not talking to someone imo, is the most hurtful thing you can do to someone yet this is my in-laws go to place, especially my FIL. He once did not speak to my sil for almost 3 months and they were living in the same house!!! This silent treatment doesn't make dh angry it makes him sad and stressed and in turn makes me sad and stress because I hate to see him upset. I understand we are caught in this cycle of manipulation because unless we stand up to them nothing will change but they would sour any enjoyment we would get from doing our own thing so we just don't do it.

Wipsglitter - thanks for the reply. Do you mean your FIL can't wait to leave when he comes around or your kids? Wish my FIL would leave quickly lol!

RunRabbitRunRabbit - thanks for your reply. I like your idea about talking about having our own memories and family traditions and essentially leaving dh's parents out of it. Perhaps if I could get dh to picture doing things just us and how lovely it would be as a family he will be more inclined to do them. I think if I say 'at the exclusion of your parents' he'll start worrying about what they'll do and say so best not mention them at all.

Believe me, I would love to move hundreds of miles away but that just wouldn't be possible at the moment. I've cut my hours down part time since having lo and selling the house and buying somewhere new would be too much of a stretch for us finically for the time being. I do enjoy daydreaming about it though!!!

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