WHAT DO I DO WHEN MY WIFE HATES MY FAMILY?
By Lorin Harrott
Nothing can disrupt marital bliss like strife between your wife and family. If you’re a man who’s ever said, “My wife hates my family,” you know what I mean.
Meddling in-laws is a stereotype that spans the ages. There’s probably a cave somewhere with pictures depicting a wife and mother-in-law squabbling over the right way to do, well, everything.
But feeling like your wife hates your family is an extremely uncomfortable and painful position. It can leave you feeling caught in the middle and pressured to take sides. An impossible choice when each occupies such important, yet different, places in your life.
Unfortunately, there are many men who find themselves in this situation.
If you’re one of the many men out there who believe your wife hates your family and are wondering what you can do about it, there are some steps you can take.
Does She Really Hate Your Family, Or Are You Making Assumptions?
One of the first things you need to do is determine whether your assumption that what your wife feels toward your family is really “hate.”
Misunderstanding your wife’s feelings can compound the problems by making her feel
which can cause her to shut down and not talk to you about her true feelings. When this happens, it creates an environment within your relationship that can lead to bigger problems.
Not getting along or having different viewpoints isn’t the same as feeling hate for your in-laws. So, ask yourself the following questions:
- Has she ever actually said, “I hate your family”?
- Do you accuse her of hating them?
Both behaviors are damaging and will need to be addressed, but one is on her and the other on you.
If she hasn’t expressed hate or even extreme feelings of dislike, it’s possible what your wife is actually feeling is,
by your family and these feelings are what contribute to the tension you notice.
The good news is that these are sentiments that can be worked through with proper communication.
To be clear – good communication doesn’t sound like,
- “You hate them don’t you?”
- “I know you hate my family – don’t deny it.”
- “I just wish you didn’t hate my family so much.”
Understanding The Reasons Your Wife Hates Your Family
If your wife does indeed dislike your family in the extreme, you’ll need to understand clearly what has led her to this point.
Dr. Kurt works with couples weekly who are struggling with family conflict. He finds animosity between a wife and her husband’s family to be a common occurrence. When asked about it he had this to say,
I find this to be pretty common. I’m actually counseling several couples right now where the wife hates his family – and for good reason. In one, the husband ‘runs back to his family’ as he wife puts it anytime they have a fight. His parents (not a friend) have actually helped him move out several times. In a meeting with the other couple last week, they disagreed on how many times a day he talks to his parents, so she counted the calls on his phone. It was a minimum of five times and as high as nine times a day, every day, over the past week. Neither of these guys has healthy boundaries with their families that keep their family out of their marriages, and it’s caused huge problems. And women are typically worse at this than men.”
When a spouse feels hate toward their in-laws there’s typically a complicated trio of responsible parties. At the root of these difficulties, the people you’ll find are,
- Your wife
- Your family (or specific member)
- You (yes, you)
The percentage of responsibility for each party will vary widely depending upon the actions and personalities involved. But all three of you have a hand in the creation and eventual resolution of this complicated and damaging conflict.
So, just what are the most common reasons wives come to feel they hate their husband’s family?
See if any of these sounds familiar:
She feels they don’t respect her
One of the biggest reasons for animosity is when there’s a lack of respect. Lack of respect between your wife and in-laws can present in a number of ways:
- Exclusion from family planning or plans
- Disinterest in her work, personal activities, or feelings
- Trivializing her position within the family
- A condescending attitude toward her
Where’s the responsibility?
Your family: Disrespectful behavior is always out of bounds.
Your wife: Putting a stop to disrespectful behavior can’t be done in a passive-aggressive way. She’ll need to speak up and address the problem. Allowing it to continue will only encourage it.
You: By ignoring it or making excuses you’re alienating your wife and giving unspoken permission for your family to treat your wife with disrespect.
It seems like you prioritize them over her
This is a tough one. As your parents age, they may need more from you. And if a family member is in trouble or needs support, your instinct may be to be there for them regardless of the effect on your wife.
Knowing when and how to make them your priority can be tricky.
But if you’re,
- Breaking plans with your wife
- Consistently ignoring her
- Not asking or listening to her concerns
- Always making her a second consideration
then she may have good reason to feel like she hates your family.
Where’s the responsibility?
Your family: Needs to be realistic about when they need your attention and not demand more than is necessary.
Your wife: Should be understanding and supportive of you and your feelings of duty and responsibility to your family.
You: Need to be realistic about when your family needs prioritization. Unhealthy relationships can develop between adult children and their families that are based on misplaced guilt and emotional manipulation.
They interfere in parenting decisions
One of the biggest chasms that can develop happens when grandparents overstep and interfere in the parenting of their grandchildren.
This issue tends to be a larger one for wives (mothers) than for husbands (fathers). A mother whose in-laws try to countermand her parenting can become extremely defensive and angry. This may indeed lead your wife to feel she hates your family.
I have a friend whose wife hasn’t spoken to his father for a year over what she considered the final straw in backseat parenting.
When she excused her son from the dinner table before he had finished his broccoli, her father-in-law said that was wasteful and demanded he come back to finish. She wouldn’t support his demand, they exchanged words and haven’t spoken since.
Where’s the responsibility?
Your family: Parenting decisions are solely for the parents to make – not the grandparents. Even if they feel they know better or have more experience, their involvement should go no further than a respectful and private conversation.
Your wife: Family generally means well. While it can be difficult and tiresome to entertain an in-law’s opinions on parenting, some care and respect need to be given when misplaced attempts at helping occur. It’s also likely they’re trying to feel needed and relevant in your lives.
You: Need to present a united front when it comes to parenting and set appropriate boundaries. This is important for your children to see as well as your family. Doing this with sensitivity and respect is the difficult part.
A difference in values can occur as a result of a few things. Among them are,
There’s no easy way to get around these differences outside of tolerance and acceptance. If your wife hates your family based on mismatched values, you’ll need to encourage both parties to tread lightly when it comes to these topics.
Where’s the responsibility?
Your family: Respect and tolerance.
Your wife: Respect and tolerance.
You: Encourage both your family and your wife to look for a middle ground or topics that aren’t divisive.
What You Can Do If Your Wife Hates Your Family
The question that almost always follows the statement, “My wife hates my family,” is “How can I fix it?”
Things can be fixed – just not by you alone.
The only thing you can do directly is to be aware of your own behavior, take ownership of it, and make the needed changes. The rest is their responsibility.
However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t things you can do to help them get to a spot where they can work together to find common ground.
Consider the following:
- Make sure you’re mindful of your part in the conflict. You don’t want to exacerbate things with your own actions.
- Be clear with your wife on the importance of your family to you and why you need her to find a way to move past feelings of hate.
- Be clear with your family that you support your wife and need them to be receptive to her concerns.
- Encourage an open conversation so that a resolution on behavior, if not the issues themselves, can be found.
There are a couple of caveats, however.
If the issues that make your wife feel she hates your family are too large or complicated to sort out on their own, family counseling may be in order.
What To Take Away
No one wins when there’s family conflict. If you believe your wife hates your family, keep the following in mind:
- Assuming you know how she feels is a bad idea. Talk to her before you determine that she hates your family to find out her true feelings.
- Hating your family is not all your wife’s problem. You and your family have some responsibility in this situation too.
- You can only control your own behavior. Make sure you’re doing your best to modify any of your actions that are contributing to this conflict.
- While you can’t fix their behavior, you can help guide them to common ground.
Ignoring things won’t make them better. If you’re one of the men saying, “My wife hates my family,” it’s time to make an effort to initiate positive change.