My mother and sisters have long interfered with my life. Now that I have my own family (wife and daughter) I want to create our own experiences. They have always blamed my wife for us not seeing them as much as they want. We live 4 hours away and were expected to do all the traveling. In the spring, my one sister lost it on my wife and started yelling at her for something that wasn’t her fault. Although I did stand up for my wife, I also left her to defend herself to keep a dog from jumping on my 6-year-old daughter. So my wife is hurt for that by me and by my sister. She feels that the only way to get away from the hurt is to leave me. We have our own issues but this is a major one and it is stressing my wife. I told my mother and sisters that for a year I would not talk to them and after that I alone would. They hurt my wife and daughter therefore they do not get to have them in their life. I do not miss dealing with the drama of my sisters and mother but my wife feels that when the year is up I will be going to see them and she will stress about everything that is said about her. I support my wife. I do not want her to hurt over this and I feel that even if she does leave it won’t get rid of the hurt. The only people that would gain is my mother and sisters. How can I help my wife? (age 42, from Canada)
You and your wife need to get in therapy now. If things have gotten bad enough that your wife is threatening to leave you, then there are most likely other aspects of your marriage that are suffering as well. It can be very difficult to be caught in between your “original” family and your chosen family, and you could benefit from having a professional counselor help you navigate your way.
The best way for your wife to rebuild trust in you is for you to be trustworthy. You need to prove to her that she comes first and that you understand how much she has been hurt. However, unless your family has truly been abusive toward your wife and daughter, I don’t know that you need to permanently cut off all contact with your mother and sisters, but you need to let them know clearly and consistently that you will not tolerate any disrespect. I hope that you and your wife can work things out.
All the best,
Dr. Holly Counts