Dear Dr. Buckingham,
I’ve been married for eleven years and have one 8-year-old child. My husband has always catered to his family. However in the past three years, it has gotten worse. His mother passed away three years ago, unexpectedly. Living with his mother (at the time of her death) was his 26- year-old younger sister and 25-year-old brother. Of course because it was sudden, I agreed that they could move in with us.
We live in a two-bedroom condo. I was expecting for this to be a short-term arrangement, so I have them my son’s bedroom. And I put my son into our bedroom. It’s been three years! I’ve told my husband that it’s been long enough. Our son has gotten older and should not be in our room any more. Our love life has diminished and I’m starting to resent him because I feel he’s putting his family ahead of us.
I have talked to him, letting him know this is affecting our marriage. They are grown adults and need to be on their own. His idea is let’s get a bigger place. But, they are never home. They both stay with their significant others most of the week. And my son’s room is basically a storage spot for them.
I think paying for extra space is a waste, it’s not like they are ever home. I tell him the best solution is to tell them both that its time fend for themselves and ask them to leave. His reply is: how could he do that to them.
I once said to him: “It’s either us (my son and me) or them.”
And he said: “I’d rather file for a divorce before turning my back on my family.”
I don’t know if it was said out of anger or not. That plays over and over in my head. Should I just pack up my child and go or hope he’ll see it himself that it’s time to let go of his brother and sister. I am tired of my husband putting his siblings before our family! What should I do?
Dear Troubled Wife,
Thanks for writing me. Your situation is very sensitive because it has multiple factors that require professional assistance. You stated that your husband has always catered to his family. This indicates that you have probably been feeling some kind of way and dealing with this for quite sometime. Individuals who are influenced by families and put them over their spouses typically do not waiver in their commitment. Most individuals overlook this issue in the name of love to only be hunted by it later. Discussions about roles and responsibilities should be discussed on the front-end before situations arise that are emotionally handicapping.
Your husband probably was not very open to discussing his loyalty to his family, previously. And now that he is emotionally handicapped (grieving and feeling responsible for his siblings) he is not in the right place to discuss it.
During conversations, you already probably remind your husband that his siblings are grown and need to move on. I assume that you also mention that they should be able to provide for themselves. While these things may be true, your husband’s emotional disposition and sense of loyalty to his siblings will prevail over logic.
I have provided therapy to hundreds of women and men who feel that their family will always take precedence over their spouse. Initially, I did not understand this kind of thinking and often wondered why they got married. However after having numerous conversations in therapy, I began to understand that many of them felt: that their spouse could leave them tomorrow, but their family would always be there.
My spouse can leave me tomorrow, but my family will always be there.
Given this, I have a few recommendations for you and your spouse:
- I often encourage couples to never make their spouse feel like they have to decide. I encourage them to have discussions about what is best given the situation. What does this mean?
- I recommend that you try to gain a better understanding of your husband’s sense of loyalty to his siblings, without mentioning you and your son. While you may feel that the two are connected, they are not. How he feels about you and your son is different than how he feels about his siblings.
- I recommend that your spouse find guidance on what it means to be committed to his wife and family. I used to think like your husband, until I developed a better relationship with God and started reading scripture (Genesis 2:24, Ephesians 5:25, Ephesians 5:33, etc.) Those scriptures helped me understand my commitment to my wife.
- Try not to let your emotions cause you to become confrontational. Remember that raw emotion blocks logic. If your husband feels that you do not understand him, he will not try to understand you.
- Finally, please consider seeking professional counseling and spiritual guidance. Your husband might benefit from psychological and spiritual guidance as well.
If you have questions for Dr. Dwayne Buckingham regarding relationships (married, single, etc), parenting, or personal growth and development, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Disclaimer: The ideas, opinions and recommendations contained in this post are not intended as a substitute for seeking professional counseling or guidance. Any concerns or questions that you have about relationships or any other source of potential distress should be discussed with a professional, in person. The author is not liable or responsible for any personal or relational distress, loss or damage allegedly arising from any information or recommendations in this post.