GR US

Ask Stavroula: My Husband's Family Avoids Me

The National Herald Archive

Dear Stavroula, 

I have been married for three years to my husband, who also had a previous marriage. I came with him to America last year and we live close to his mother and sister. They both treat me very kindly, however, I have the feeling that they have not accepted me. His mother keeps some distance, rarely invites us to her house for dinner and most of the time my husband visits her alone. I have the biggest problem with his sister. I only went to her house at Christmas and Easter, and she never calls me to do something together even though we are the same age, and she generally avoids any relationship with me. While I have told her how difficult it is for me to adjust to living here, without any of my own acquaintances or relatives, she has not once invited me along with her when she goes out with her friends. I'm thinking of talking to both but I'm afraid it might make things worse. What should I do? 

Sandy 

Dear Sandy, 

You write to me that you have a problem with your husband's family who do not seem to have accepted you. Even though they are kind to you, you have the feeling that they are keeping you at a distance. 

Many times the relationships we have with others depend to a large extent on the "feeling" we have for them. We think that others think of us in a certain way and that makes us behave accordingly. For example, in your case, how do you treat your husband's relatives when you feel that they are keeping you at a distance? Do you try to approach them and win them over? Do you close in on yourself and walk away? 

Think now, what would your behavior be like, if you had given another interpretation to the attitude of your husband's family, and therefore if you had a different "feeling." If, for example, you knew that your mother-in-law rarely invited you to her house, because she did not want to impose her presence on you. If you believed that her intention was to give you your time and space to adapt to the new situation. What if she herself had negative experiences from her relationship with an intrusive, annoying mother-in-law and would never want to behave that way? Or if you knew that your sister-in-law was staying away from you, because she does not want you to feel that she is interfering in your relationship with her brother?

What I would like to help you think about is whether the feeling you have makes you behave in such a way that your husband's relatives feel that they cannot approach you. Many times a negative vicious circle is created, and no one decides to break it by changing their behavior. 

You write to me that they avoid inviting you to their house. Do you invite them to yours? Have you shown them that they are welcome and that you are happy to have them visit you? Have you invited your sister-in-law to do something together? 

If not, try it and you may be surprised by their reaction. 

If you have shown them again that you want them in your life and they avoid you, accept it. We cannot impose on anyone what he will feel and what his attitude will be towards us. It is his personal choice and responsibility. See also the positive side of things. Many women in your position would like less intrusive mothers-in-law and sisters-in-law.