I’ve always had trouble with my different worlds colliding, ever since I was in elementary school and I didn’t want my friends who were in band to hang out with my friends who were in Girl Scouts. Looking back, it was definitely a coping mechanism for a girl who was a bit of a people pleaser to not have to reconcile how differently she acted around different groups of people. Now, at 23, I’m much more solid in myself but there is still one significant area where I can’t seem to get my worlds to mesh. My husband, newly married for about 7 months now, still doesn’t really hang out with my family. Part of this is probably my fault, as when I met my husband I carefully kept him apart from my family because I was scared of how they would react about my asserting my own identity. We spend time with his family all the time (usually helping out with difficult situations or holiday obligation), but any suggestion of going over to my mom’s house for dinner or joining her for some event is like pulling teeth.
I think part of the problem is that my husband has a pretty exhausting family where new crises pop up pretty much every week. I’m worried that he thinks getting closer to my family will add even more people that will drain on his energy. How do I help reassure him that my family really does just want to chill? Is there a way I can approach this without entering the “Your family is exhausting and mine is great” territory? Or do you think it’s best to let my husband stay a bit separate if that’s what he wants and just spend time with my family on my own?
Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated!
I think that meshing the world of your parents and the world of your partner is a big challenge in many people’s lives. And, as my wise mother said today, the first year of marriage is also especially difficult for many people. From what I can tell, you and your husband are doing a great job, but bumps along the road are perfectly natural. Let me try to address each of your questions - pulling from our phone convo also - and then address other concerns you didn’t phrase as questions.
You say you want to reassure your husband that your family really does just want to chill. On the phone, however, you made it sound like the issue is more that, no matter how chill your family is, your husband is such an introvert that a dinner or event will definitely drain him. I think that whether your family is chill or not is not the point. Your family could be the biggest pot of drama in the world, but you still get to ask him to spend time with your family for YOU.. This also touches on the second question - comparing families - and makes it kind of irrelevant. I understand that, as an independent adult, being around the family you’re born into can be exhausting. That’s why boundaries sound like a good idea in terms of both your family and your husband’s. It’s good to want to be there for family during a crisis,, but it’s also ok to say when it’s too much. Telling everyone that a scheduled dinner once a week, or once every other week, is all you guys can do each month might give you more time to focus on yourselves..
I don’t think dinner once a month is too much to ask - thereby answering your last question - and here’s why. I understand that your husband is an introvert and may not actually enjoy the dinner, no matter how chill your family is. You said you’re afraid you might feel like a nag for pushing him to go, for not meeting his needs halfway. Well, at this point you’re going 90% of the way, and he’s barely compromising! It is not your job to make him 100% comfortable 100% of the time, and protect him from any inconveniences. It is an inconvenience to YOU to feel the emotional pain of him not spending time with your family. On the phone you said it matters more to your parents than to you, but based on the fact that youwrote me, the fact that it matters to your parents means it matters to you. SO, you are being inconvenienced every time your parents ask to see him and you have to disappoint them (which sounds like it happens more than once a month), and he has been inconvenienced maybe twice in the past 7 months. I get that, based on his personality, seeing your family might be more of an inconvenience to him than it would be to most people. But that’s what loving someone means! It means sometimes (SOMETIMES) inconveniencing yourself to give the other person what they need, and expecting the same in return. That’s why dinner once a month might be a good idea - it makes sure that “sometimes” stays sometimes and doesn’t devolve into “too often”.
Regarding the fact that you think this might be your fault - I know your tendency is to blame yourself. But I don’t think this comes into play here. I know you both grew up in the same town, and you live there now, and both sets of in-laws still do too. That’s a lot of history to blame current habits on. But marriage is a whole new world. It is perfectly natural to ask for things now that you didn’t ask for - in fact actively avoided - in high school. However, if you think the conversation would be smoother if you discussed what the family visits were like in high school, and how that might impact expectations now, by all means, go for it.
On that note... the question now is what concrete advice can I give you for broaching the topic of monthly dinners with your parents, if indeed that’s what you decide to do. You mentioned on the phone you might bring it up in terms of a New Year’s Resolution - or maybe a New Year’s Tradition, since he likes that word better. That’s a good idea! I might start the conversation saying something like, “Because the holidays are a time for family, I’ve been thinking more about what we’ve already talked about - trying to spend more time with my parents. I know that you really value your alone time, but it’s also really important to my parents to see you a bit more than they have these past 7 months. Is there any way we could compromise and start a new tradition of monthly dinners with my parents? We wouldn’t have to stay for hours or anything, but maybe putting it in the calendar and committing to it would make the boundaries comfortable for both parties - not too much socializing for us, and more socializing for my parents than they’ve had with both of us, together, in the past.”
Obviously that’s just a rough sketch of a proposition. But hopefully it gives you ideas for talking with your husband! I think early in a marriage is the best time to practice speaking up about your own needs, even when they might conflict with your partner’s. “Compromise is key” is a cliche for a reason! And your husband might even pleasantly surprise you; after all, you married him for a reason. ;) Good luck!