My wife and I have been together for four years and she thinks itís absurd that we get together every Sunday for dinner at my parents house. I'm tired of trying to get her to understand that this is something my parents enjoy doing for us and I donít' need to hear her negativity. How do you suggest I handle this?
When people fall in love these days, most are savvy enough to know there will be differences between them. Thereís an old saying that many young couples donít consider as they make their commitment to one another: When you marry someone, you also marry the personís family.
As I often tell the couples I work with, the differences between the two of you are usually not a matter of right or wrong, itís simply that you have been raised differently and have become accustomed to doing things a certain way. Whatever patterns each of you grew up with will determine where your individual comfort level is. The trick in your partnership is the ability to bridge your variations.
My guess would be that your parentsí desire to have the whole family over for Sunday dinner not only gives them pleasure, but also stems from a traditional way of keeping the family close. Itís hard to argue that value.
However, if your spouseís family did not have any similar type of ritual, I have no doubt that going to your folkís house every Sunday will be experienced as a rigid constraint.
What I wonder is whether you and your wife partook in this weekly family dinner before you were married? In other words, did she know that this was what was typically done? If so, it would have been wise for her to raise her discomfort with it then.
If, however, these family dinners either only recently started happening or your attendance at them was only expected after your marriage, itís understandable that it isnít something she expected.
This dispute gets a bit more sticky since it involves persons other than just the two of you. Here are a few suggestions to deal with the situation:
1. Be aware of your feelings. Are you going over there weekly because you are enjoying the experience? Or, is it because you are concerned about upsetting your parents?
2. Be willing to understand your wifeís reactions rather than be annoyed at her negativity. Thereís a good chance she has ended up taking this posture because she doesnít feel you understand her.
3. Talk about it openly. Once the two of you have an open, non-judgmental conversation, it will be easier to consider possible alternatives. Perhaps you wonít go every week or maybe you wonít stay as long. Maybe you will periodically go on your own.
Clearly, you have come to a challenging issue in your relationship. Though you might not end up agreeing, as long as you can remain respectful and accepting of one another, you have handled the challenge well.
Karen Sherman, Ph.D., (www.drkarensherman.com) is a practicing psychologist in relationships and lifestyle issues for over 20 years. She offers teleseminars and is co-author of Marriage Magic! Find It! Make It Last.