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Sadness over my husband and my family


LRPNJD
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Looking for some advice. I am all out of ideas.

My husband suffers from anxiety. This condition is fueled around my family side of the family and their get-togethers and holidays. This has not always been the case (early in dating and marriage things were ok). Now (about 7 years in) he refuses to attend most things. I’ve tried to be understanding but we have children and showing up alone so much is becoming pretty saddening to me and I’m struggling explaining how well-meaning people are causing him stress and anxiety. I usually try and make up an excuse to diffuse the questions. My husband and I have gotten in countless fights about this topic. At this point, I feel sad and defeated. I have always been really close to my family. I’m not sure if I should confide in someone, leave things be, or what?

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Sorry to hear about this situation OP.

 

Look, I'll try to make this as simple as possible for you.

 

Don't explain or make excuses. Above all do not have "countless fights" with your husband on the matter. He is your husband and your family (stating the obvious here) is not your husband.

 

Just a question: how, in your opinion, are these well-meaning people (perceivedly well-meaning) causing him stress and anxiety?

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Thank you for the response. He has told me that he doesn’t think certain family members like him and compare him to my sisters husband. I definitely agree they have quirks but I truly do not think they dislike or try to exclude him and often want him to be there. I’ve come to a place of asking him to only attend some things but even that is a battle.

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Well, LR, I feel it would be best to cease any battles. Never conducive to reaching any good understanding.

 

If he doesn't want to go, then so be it. Go alone or with your children as and when required. Maybe you might negotiate with him to go with you just once a year to one of these gatherings.

 

So, what about HIS side of the family? Do you see them, often or sometimes, and does he go to their gatherings, if any?

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Ya that seems most logical. With no explanation to my family about why he isn’t there? It feels so uncomfortable most times.

 

His side has less get togethers but those give him anxiety too. I maintain many of the relationships on his side but he at least shows up to their holidays etc.

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Well, LR. I fear that uncomfortable is often part and parcel of life. L.

 

That said, you don't need to explain that your husband suffers from anxiety. Is his anxiety generalised? About other matters aside from family gatherings?

 

Your family should not press you for explanations. Keep it brief, along the lines of "Well,you know, Jim prefers his quiet time on his own. It's how he is. He sends you all his warmest wishes."

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Are there other issues with his withdrawal? He doesn't have to hang around with your family if he doesn't want to. Perhaps you are close to them but many people simply don't want to be joined at the hip with their in-laws.

 

Let it go. No need to "make excuses", that's your family's problem if they keep asking why he "should" be there. Perhaps they get on his nerves, perhaps he's bored, perhaps it's some time he can carve out without the kids around or family time.

 

You need to start planning more things with friends, just you two as a couple or just your own family without the extended family. Having the in-laws constantly in tow is simply too much for some people.

 

Stop fighting about it. Invitations to your family are not subpoenas, relax, let him use it as 'alone time' while you enjoy your family. Problem solved.

my family side of the family and their get-togethers and holidays. I usually try and make up an excuse to diffuse the questions. My husband and I have gotten in countless fights about this topic.
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Make an appointment for yourself for a therapist to unpack and sort some of this out. Don't try to fix him or his family. Just stop that. Instead figure out what's up with the marriage, because family parties is a symptom, not the root of whatever marital issues are there under the surface.

 

Is he withdrawing from you? How is communication or intimacy? Is there someone else? All these things you could privately and confidentially discuss with a therapist. If at some point marriage therapy is suggested, you could ask him to join you.

 

But first, start with you. Don't argue or try to guilt trip him into being with your family to keep up appearances.

I guess now I just have to figure out how to live with a marriage that is extremely different than what I had envisioned for myself and my children.
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True. Thanks for chatting it out. He does suffer general anxiety. I guess now I just have to figure out how to live with a marriage that is extremely different than what I had envisioned for myself and my children.

 

Op, you do NOT have to just " figure out how to live with it" and you shouldn't. You need to try and work this out together. Otherwise if neither of you is really happy, there is going to be resentment for one or both of you or else lead to an inevitable breakup.

 

Anyone who has been married long -term will tell you that all marriages go thru highs and lows, no marriage is perfect. The fact is people change and it can sometimes to hard to process how or why your spouse changed. Whether or not you see it- every single marriage has tough times, even the happiest ones. There is no perfect person or perfect relationship, so get any ideas of perfection out of your head- because it doesn't exist. That being said, sometimes we also make mistakes when we get married. Sometimes we do love someone, but as time goes by, we realize that either we aren't compatible anymore or perhaps never really were.

What to you is so "entirely differrent"? IMHO, you need to ask yourself this question. Then think about if this can be worked thru, or if perhaps if you don't see a long term future. Whatever you do, please do not just stay in this marriage to stay in the marriage. That would not be happy or healthy for any of you.

 

 

If you DO decide you want to try and work things out-

Maybe talk with your family and mention that YOU don't like them comparing your husband to your brother in law. This is where you have to be supportive and ask your family not to do something that hurts your husband. I'm wondering if perhaps you subconsciously agree with the veiled criticism by comparison and your husband has picked up on this? You need to stand up for him, he's your husband. I'll be honest with you, the first MIL I ever had did NOT like me and made it pretty clear with little comments and jabs and my ex-husband never stood up to her. It certainly didn't make me want to visit her and it made me feel like he didn't love me enough to stand up for me the way I would have, had the roles been reversed. No one likes to feel attacked and making sure our spouses feel accepted and loved no matter the circumstance is incredibly important.

Make sure that he knows that you love him as he is, not just an image you had of him or a husband in general. Does he have a medical professional to help him with his anxiety? If not, he should seek care.

 

How old are your children? Something that isn't discussed a lot (because we often just see childbearing and how having children effects women) but many men have issues after adding children to their family. Whether it be fear of the sense of permanence, Anxiety about growing older, viewing their wife in a different light or plain old jealousy that the kids are getting most of the wife's attention. It could be one, none or all of these.

If your children are both young, you probably are more focused on them- which ISN'T a bad thing, but you need to try and notice how your husband might be feeling in this dynamic. Observe. I mention this because you say things weren't this way at the start (Ie Before having kids)

 

You are going to have to keep talking about this, unpleasant as it may be. Try your best to really hear him and not be judgmental. But please, for both your sakes and especially your children's, don't just "live with it". That is recipe for long term unhappiness, resentment and depression and not healthy for anyone.

 

He should be seeing someone for his anxiety alone and you should consider couples counseling. In the meanwhile, you have some hard thinking to do.

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Well, OP, if it is only about your husband not liking to go to family gatherings, that doesn't make a marriage "different" IMO.

 

Your marriage is between your husband and you, your shared moments and activities, the outings you do together and/or with your children.

 

Wiseman does make a point here:

 

" Perhaps you are close to them but many people simply don't want to be joined at the hip with their in-laws.

"

 

Your husband isn't that unusual in not wanting to go to family gatherings.

 

I will endorse Redswim's post, in particular:

 

"No one likes to feel attacked and making sure our spouses feel accepted and loved no matter the circumstance is incredibly important.

Make sure that he knows that you love him as he is, not just an image you had of him or a husband in general. Does he have a medical professional to help him with his anxiety? If not, he should seek care."

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I used today my husband's family celebrated garbage day. Any reason to get together. My family almost never got together for anything so I sure didn't like all of his family gatherings and hated going. He used to get on me about not going and sometimes I'd reluctantly go and then I was miserable. Eventually I stopped going. He did make excuses for me but ultimately he just said - she didn't come, or she's not here. That was that. No excuses, no long winded reasons why I was absent. I was glad when he gave up pressuring me to go.

 

Dont make excuses for your husband, tell the others he couldn't make it or similar words. Then change the subject.

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Are you asking me about holidays? Sometimes I did, as I didn't want to seem totally rude! Many years for Christmas I went to my parents and he went to his, it was just easier that way. My mother would have the mother of all hissy fits if I did not go to her place on Christmas day, so she made things hard too.

 

Eventually we moved pretty far away, too far for a day trip, so that ended all the family BS which is what it was to me.

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Do you mind me asking a bit more about the family dynamics? You're calling it anxiety but it may be outright bullying and condescension in your family and him feeling left out or not fitting in. Not everyone has the same or similar upbringing or the same sense of humour especially if you were raised in different parts of the world or there are different cultures mixing. Some forms of discrimination are subversive and present in tone and type of language used. Not everyone is aware of what they're saying or how they're saying it. Have you heard the saying, "The road to hell is paved with good intentions"? Whether or not a person believes in hell or whatever that is is besides the point. Being well-intentioned is only 50% of the language being spoken to a person. The rest is in the delivery and how people behave towards one another.

 

Don't fight about it anymore or put any pressure on him to conform if he doesn't want to go to those outtings. You can't force someone or cajol someone to do something that makes them so uncomfortable they'd rather avoid it.

 

Look at the big picture whether your marriage is salvageable in other areas and how you can bring more positivity to your outlook. You can't make anyone else positive or change someone else's perspective so stop trying to move these mountains. Focus on you and what you can do to uplift yourself and encourage yourself in your marriage and in your relationships with your family. I think people will feel drawn to you wherever you go if you start working more on you and what you choose to do in your daily life. Don't try changing others for your own motives. It doesn't work that way.

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My husband was bullied by one of my cousins the first time he met my extended family before we got married. This cousin was stupid drunk and kept making loud cracks about my husband's ethnicity (family is Latino, my husband is Caucasian). My husband (boyfriend at the time) couldn't make a move without my cousin making one of his loud cracks. So of course he wasn't a fan of attending family events after that. My cousin did apologize the next time we were all together (I had to really talk my boyfriend/future husband into attending) but still, it was very off-putting, understandably.

 

Has your family made any kind of disparaging or critical comments to your husband? If so, did you defend him?

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LR. I cannot for the life of me understand why people cannot have manners and be kind and polite to others who are visiting at their home. It bewilders me completely.

Gatherings are supposed to be happy occasions, well that is the idea anyhow!

 

WE don't have occasion to attend many gatherings, but when we do it sure is a grand bash. Good humour, good fun, good conversation and all the rest. It is simply not done at gatherings (family and/or friends) to engage in sniping and outright verbal brawling.

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I attended larger family gatherings especially when my son was young because I wanted to be there for my son but I can relate to the husband here - there were a number of situations when I was a new mom and felt overwhelmed by all the input on parenting stuff and wanting to hold the baby when that wasn't ok with me, etc - I went to most of them but when my son was older and my FIL came over- he became quite judgmental when he got older - I left and did my own thing -it worked well because I got me time and my son got grandpa time.

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Don't force your husband to attend family gatherings against his will nor make excuses for him. If your relatives pry, simply remain silent or change the subject. Eventually, they'll take the hint and won't hound you about his absence anymore. They'll learn to accept his nonattendance. They don't have to like it but they'll grudgingly accept his absence.

 

Prioritize your marriage.

 

I empathize with your husband. I absolutely despise my BIL (brother-in-law) to the core. :upset: He has said quite a few disrespectful comments to me, my husband and sons. BIL has a "mouth problem" not just towards us in particular but anyone is fair game. My sister (his wife) defends her meal ticket ad nauseum. We grudgingly attend holiday gatherings and a few restaurant gatherings several times a year since unfortunately, we all reside locally. However, there were times when we declined and didn't attend every single occasion.

 

This Thanksgiving and Christmas, we're hunkering at home and I'll cook a holiday meal, sides and dessert just for the four of us plus leftovers. Traditional family reunions have 50 guests (relatives / in-laws / friends) which is a ton of grocery shopping, cooking, dirty dishes, clean up and stress.

 

I feel bad about COVID-19. However, this pandemic is the best thing that ever happened to me regarding relatives and in-laws. I've been spared obligatory family gatherings and have yet to see them this year! I feel giddy.

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Not getting along with in-laws is common. If he is naturally anxious, the added stress of dealing with people that make you uncomfortable is probably overwhelming. So you shouldn't expect him to go along with you. He married you, not your family. However, if it makes you sad, you should always talk to him. Don't make it a fight or accusation. Let him know you understand his feeling while explaining yours. Reach a compromise. Understand if he wasn't want to go with you most of the time, but he can should be willing to go on major events.

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