Dear Stavroula

Ask Stavroula: My Husband Tolerates His Parents Exploiting Him

November 27, 2021

Dear Stavroula,

I am married to a wonderful man, who was born in the United States to Greek parents. He has grown up with very strict principles and his parents have made him realize that he has to take care of them. So far so good. What I find is the bigger problem is that his parents are taking advantage of him and he does not react. They call him and keep calling him all the time, whenever they feel like it, to assign him their own chores, from shopping to anything, while they also have a daughter who lives closer to them than we do. Their excuse is that she has small children, while we have no responsibilities yet. The result is that my husband is running constantly, often neglecting things that concern our family. I should also note that my father-in-law is a very difficult person and many times his behavior towards my husband is offensive. He speaks disparagingly to him, mocks him, and generally does not appreciate anything his son does. My mother-in-law, even though she is a different person, also tolerates this behavior. Every time I make it an issue, we end up arguing. For my part, however, I cannot accept that I am with a man who has his own family and continues to bow his head to his father. I feel that he does not deserve this, and I am very saddened by his passive attitude. How can I help him?



Dear Anastasia,

Even if the parents have the best of intentions, there is no way they will not hurt or injure their children in some way at some point, as may have happened in this case. And the way they perceive their role as parents depends to a large extent on the way they experienced it themselves as children.

Of course, there are parents who are very manipulative with their children. They may use guilt as a means of pressure, thinking that their own feelings are more important than those of their children. They can very easily withdraw their love if they do not get their way or they can be very critical. It is usually very difficult for the child to recognize these kinds of behaviors, because these parents seem to be very close to their children and care about them. That is why they justify them.

That is why the relationship with parents, which is formed from a very early age, is very difficult to change, especially if this is not a conscious decision and is not supported by a mental health professional. We learn from a very young age to act in a certain way towards our parents and changing our behavior can be more painful than adhering to it in this way.

If this is the case with him, the only way to change your husband’s attitude towards his parents is to make him aware of it and to try to change it, which at the moment does not seem to be the case.

For your part, it would be good to consider whether you can accept that your husband’s relationship with his parents is ‘what it is.’ Whether it will change or not cannot and should not be up to you. You can express your opinion to him if he asks you to, but your role goes only that far. By blaming his parents and criticizing his own attitude towards them, he will act defensively and this may cause conflict with you. It is very difficult for each one of us, even if we have issues with our parents, to hear someone blame them.

In other words, it would be good to reconsider your relationship with your spouse. If you take his relationship with his parents out of the equation, how does your husband treat you? Do you experience a relationship of trust, respect, and love with him?

If you feel that your husband’s relationship with his parents is affecting your personal relationship, it would be good to talk to him and set your limits, but only in the part that concerns the relationship between the two of you.

However, if you feel that you cannot accept your husband’s relationship with his parents or that this relationship destroys the image you have of him, you may need to reconsider the reasons why you are together and make your own decisions.


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