I got married seven years ago in a small ceremony by the shores of the lake I grew up on. It was a magical moment that I’ll always remember. My marriage since then has been mostly great.
I love my wife, I love our two kids, and we get through our down times with patience and cooperation.
However, there’s a recurring problem that’s come up which I’ve been having to deal with more and more the past several years.
The problem is this: my wife never wants to spend any time with my side of the family.
Here are 7 tips I’ve researched and developed for those who are also struggling with this issue and similar challenges.
My wife doesn’t want to spend time with my family: 7 tips if this is you
1) Don’t force her
I made this mistake early on when my wife kept turning down opportunities to be around my family.
I tried to talk her into it.
It went…very badly.
She actually did end up coming to a family get together at my uncle’s house, but it was awkward and she glared at me for weeks afterward. She also made a couple of rude comments that really rubbed my family members the wrong way.
They told me that they hadn’t realized my wife was “that type of person.”
She’s not. But she’d played the role of being a really critical and sharp-tongued person because she hadn’t wanted to go spend time with my family at a barbecue and I’d made her feel obligated.
I regretted pressuring her into it.
2) Hear her out
When I noticed that my wife didn’t want to meet up with my side of the family, I first reacted by pressuring her.
Eventually, however, I asked her what was up and why this was such an undesirable experience for her.
She told me some things about social anxiety and how she had personality clashes with several members of my extended family. My first instinct was to dismiss these concerns, but I made an effort to listen.
It paid off, because as my wife explained more about her perspective I put myself in her shoes and saw that spending time with my side of the family really was an uncomfortable experience for her.
I love my family, and I still felt she should try harder. However, I also came to see that she was being genuine in her hesitance to see my side of the family.
I also reflected on the fact that she had never once pressured me to meet up with her dad or extended relatives (her mom is no longer alive).
Well, fair enough. It gave me food for thought and slowed down my desire to be overly judgmental.
3) Get specific
So as I mentioned, my wife had some issues with a couple members of my side of the family. One was my brother Doug.
He’s a good guy, but he’s quite intense and politically active in a way that really clashes with my wife’s beliefs. To say the least…
The other is a teenage niece of mine who is going through a “phase” and has made some really awful comments about my wife’s weight in the past.
Honestly, I can’t blame her for wanting to avoid these two and resist clinking beers with them at a family barbecue.
That’s why I’ve talked to my wife more about spending time with specific members of my side instead of just large group get-togethers.
My wife loved the idea, and we met up with my parents for a lovely meal last week at a Vietnamese restaurant downtown. It was delicious, and my wife got along fine with both my parents.
If you’re dealing with a situation where your wife doesn’t want to spend time with your family, try to get specific. There are probably some members of your family who she likes and others less so.
Specify and simplify, that’s my motto.
4) Embrace transformation
My wife and I have been working on the issues she has with spending time with my side of the family. So far we are making some progress.
The other thing I didn’t mention is that my family in general is a bit rowdy, and they come from a different culture than my wife. This has led to some conflicts and a bit of a different sense of humor – among other things.
As my wife drifted away from wanting to attend get togethers and events with my family, I’ve tried speaking to them about why she’s kind of uncomfortable.
Several family members have said they would tone down some of the less appropriate jokes and heavy drinking that sometimes goes on.
But so far my wife is still kind of hesitant about hanging out with them again, at least in large groups or at family celebrations like Christmas when almost everyone is there.
That’s why for my part I’ve been focusing on spending time more individually with members of the family my wife enjoys being around.
I’ve also been working to become more self-aware about the way my own behavior and cultural attitudes sometimes annoy my wife as well.
And this is a key thing:
If your marriage is in trouble, you can do a lot of good just by becoming aware of your behavior and committing to change it.
Earn back their trust by showing them that you can change.
5) Let her know you aren’t placing any conditions on her
Like I said, I pushed my wife a bit hard at first to come to family gatherings and warm up to my family.
It didn’t go well, and I regret doing that.
Instead, I highly encourage you to focus on your actual marriage and on letting your wife know that you love her and there are no conditions on her going to events.
She has no obligation to love your family. And you have no obligation to love her family.
Try to focus on the love you have for each other.
Here’s what psychotherapist Lori Gottlieb advises:
“You can begin by saying that you love her very much, and that you realize that this conflict is taking a toll on your marriage.
Tell her that you’ve given much thought as to how you can support each other, and that you’d like to work together to learn what each of you can do to strengthen your relationship, even if you don’t always have the same feelings about your family members.”
6) Examine deeper issues going on
Talking to my wife about what was going on also helped me understand some deeper issues at play in our marriage. We have had a largely good union, as I was saying.
But what I hadn’t realized is that my wife often felt I was failing to take into account her perspective when making decisions.
I can be a bit headstrong, and reflecting on her words I had to admit she was right and that I often charged ahead and made decisions for the both of us.
It’s been a trait I’ve prized in myself for years, and one that’s helped me excel in my career. But I could see what she means about overpowering her and becoming a problem in our marriage.
Now, my wife wasn’t turning down time with my family to get back at me or anything. But she was trying to let me know that pressuring her to be around my clan was one of various examples of how I didn’t consider what she really wanted.
7) Get closer to her side of the family
Like I’ve been saying, neither spouse has any obligation to take a liking to the other’s family.
I think it’s a good idea to try your best, however it doesn’t always work out that there’s a courteous relationship in that regard!
But one way you can really do your part if your wife doesn’t want to spend time with your family, is to spend time with hers.
If you haven’t yet had much opportunity to get to know them, try your best to do so. You may be pleasantly surprised.
I ended up becoming much closer to my wife’s family over the past year and it’s been eye-opening. They are such kind and welcoming people.
I find one of her half-sisters extremely annoying, but I haven’t let that spoil the bunch for me. And I’ve also been honest with her about that one half-sister, which has caused my wife’s respect for me to deepen.
She sees that I am trying my best, and it’s part of what spurred her to also make more of an effort to spend time with certain members of my family.
I believe that the tips above will help you greatly if you are struggling with a family rift and your wife doesn’t want to spend time with your folks.
Remember to always leave her free and being sure that you love her deeply.
I also encourage you to take an interest in her family and be as easygoing as possible about this.
Family can be hard, and so can marriage, but in the end, it’s a meaningful and wonderful journey.