Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Dear Carolyn: I wrote in recently about moving into a townhouse with my fiance and his family being offended that we didn’t ask for help. My fiance and I came to the agreement that painting the guest bedroom, guest bathroom and setting up some electronics were all areas where I felt comfortable getting help.
The day his family came over, I was called into work. When I got home, they had rearranged my living room, painted the master bath a color I don’t like, and reorganized my kitchen. They told me that, since this is our first house, we just don’t know yet what is best.
My fiance said he doesn’t understand why this is a big deal — it is just furniture and pots and pans. But I feel like I was run roughshod over and dismissed in our home. I am looking at a life where everything is put to a committee vote, and I just can’t fathom that. I suggested counseling so we can get on the same page, and he told me I needed to stop being so dramatic. Any more advice you have would be great.
A Little Help From My Friends
Yikes. You came through in recognizing and making concessions to his idea of (no) boundaries, but he didn’t do the same for you, and that’s a huge problem.
Or, to tweak the original language: It’s your fiance’s house, yes, but it’s also yours.
The “dramatic” swipe is actually the farthest over the line of all the boundary crossings here. You can repaint a bedroom and reclaim your cabinets, but someone who thinks it’s OK to shame you out of your feelings is a nonstarter – as a roommate much less a spouse. Someone who won’t even validate your viewpoint himself certainly won’t join you in enforcing whatever boundaries you and he compromise on toward his family.
Please tell him plainly it’s not “dramatic” to want your needs to be regarded as equal to his – and he’s not showing you that respect, not even on “pots and pans.”
If he won’t go, then I suggest you go – to counseling, to the exit, whatever it takes for you to feel that you’re not compromising on the core of who you are. And don’t let anyone tell you paint is a silly reason to leave; canaries come in many forms.
Re: Little Help: Before, I was in the camp of, “This person is too rigid. Let them help on some limited thing.” Was that wrong! Letters don’t usually fit into the rubric of sane person vs. insane person (or family), but this does. These in-laws are unbelievably over the top! Yes, get counseling pronto, and while decor isn’t usually divorce-grounds, gaslighting you is.
Re: Little Help: What happens if/when they have children? I can just see them telling new mom how to take care of her baby because, since she’s new, she won’t know anything. Unbearable.
Exactly, thank you.
The alignment has to be between spouses, not one spouse and family vs. other spouse. She asked for something, he ignored it; she said she was upset, he diminished it. That it’s about paint and in-laws vs., say, cars and colleagues is beside that point.
Email Carolyn at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at 10 a.m. each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.