When your partner agrees to marry you, they are also somewhat agreeing to become part of an extended family where a host of different relationships need to be juggled. There will be family dinners and special occasions to attend, and the events will all go that much more smoothly if everyone gets along. The problem here is that this isn’t always possible, and there are going to be some family members who will whisper in your ear and give their less than flattering opinion on your choice of partner. Others may not be quite as diplomatic, and may decide to make their voice very openly heard in the presence of your spouse.
This type of scenario is more often than not a very difficult situation for everyone involved, but it is you who is likely to bear the brunt of it all, since you are going to feel yourself pulled in several different directions. You will want to protect your spouse, but you will also feel a commitment to your family that has become ingrained over the years spent together. While an aunt or uncle whom you rarely see can be avoided for the most part, the same cannot be done if it’s a parent who is becoming intrusive.
The question then becomes how to protect your spouse from a family that feels that they should have a say in your relationship. Unless you are willing to sever all ties with your family, which is not always a good option, you are instead going to have to find ways to protect your spouse and keep your relationship separate from the one that you have with your family. This does not mean never being in the same space together, but it does mean setting some ground rules.
The first thing that you should think of doing is something that is completely within your control. What you need to understand is that your family will more than likely take your side in any conflict with your spouse. If you run to them and tell them everything negative that is going on in your marriage, they will eventually turn against your spouse. It may be a situation where you had a fight with your partner over something that they did. You may get over that and be willing to forgive, but there is no guarantee that your family, especially your parents, will do the same.
The other thing that you can do is let your family know that you will not accept them talking negatively about your spouse. Make it clear that you will not stick around to hear such talk, and they will soon get on board. This is not done to make them like your partner, as that may never happen, but they will learn that there needs to be a level of respect for your relationship. This is a particularly difficult thing to do for many people, especially when laying down the law with parents, but if you really want to protect your spouse, it needs to be done.
As with any situation in life, there are exceptions to what I am suggesting in this blog post. If you want to talk to a professional therapist in Long Beach, give me a call. If you are outside of California, try to contact a local therapist. Even meeting for a few sessions to get an idea of how to go about handling your specific situation is way cheaper than a divorce.