*This article is a work of nonfiction based on actual events recounted to me by a friend who witnessed them firsthand; used with permission
Making sure that your relationship with your in-laws is friendly and positive can be quite hard when they don't like you or your choices for your family.
And when you keep disagreeing and want to avoid them for a while, but your spouse feels they still care about them, then you will have to decide if that's fine or if part of their love for you is in changing their parents' attitude.
Is it ok for your spouse to go on visiting their parents even if you feel like they should apologize to you first?
My friend Andrea, who lives in Phoenix, Arizona, has been married to her husband, Gabriel, for 12 years. They have two sons together, and they both work to keep up with their bills and house payments.
"I thought about staying home and being a full-time mom, but that wouldn't work for us. I need to have a different activity outside my family, even if I love my husband and my kids. Besides, it would be adding stress to our relationship if he had to pay for everything while I stayed home and didn't earn anything to help with costs," Andrea said.
Her mom helped them look after the kids, and the couple also hired a babysitter so their sons could have all they needed. Andrea's in-laws didn't offer to support her while working at all. And that was because her mother-in-law, Sheila, felt that Andrea was making a mistake.
"She told me so many times that a wife should look after the home and the kids. I get that, and I know she lived in a different time, but even so, once I let her know our choice was different, she should have backed off. Instead, she criticized me on every family dinner or visit," Andrea said.
She hoped her relationship with her mother-in-law would improve once both her sons were in school in Phoenix, but it's only gotten worse lately.
"She blames me for every bad grade they get, and she always finds a way to say I can't do anything right. Sheila even threw away the dinner I made when I invited her on my birthday. She said she did it because the meat wasn't well done. That's not how it was, and she did it on purpose, I'm sure," Andrea said.
The birthday dinner took place a few days ago, and since then, Andrea has decided she's had enough. She feels that Sheila offended her and left all the guests without food instead of helping her fix anything that needed to be done.
"She didn't insult me right out, but it was the same thing. She treated my efforts like they were nothing and threw the food away. I'm not going to let this pass. She has to apologize," Andrea said.
Sheila, on the other hand, thinks she did her daughter-in-law and her guests a favor by not letting them have the food Andrea made. And she also believes their relationship can only improve once Andrea understands she has to let her job go and be there for her family all the time.
'It's not too late even now. She has to realize she can't be a part-time mom. And a career doesn't mean much compared to raising your kids the right way and strengthening your relationship with your husband," Sheila said.
Gabriel knows how his wife feels, and he agrees they should avoid family get-togethers for now. However, he doesn't think he should stop seeing his mom, and he still wants to have a close relationship with her despite what happened in his home in Phoenix.
"Why would I avoid seeing mom? She looked after me when I was a kid. I get it that she and Andrea don't like each other, and they can stay away for a while, but she's still my mom," Gabriel said.
Andrea thinks visiting his mom would mean he's ok with the way she behaved, and she's asked him not to go. Gabriel, on the other hand, planned a dinner with his mom, and they went out together to her favorite restaurant in Phoenix.
"He went to have dinner with her after she offended me. That's not ok; it will make her think she can behave any way she wants because her son still cares about her. Are we even a family if he would be nice to her after what happened on my birthday?" Andrea said.
She's argued with Gabriel about it, but he's not willing to avoid his mom. For now, they're not talking much, and Andrea doubts whether their relationship can work as long as Gabriel won't put her first.
What do you think about this situation? Should Andrea expect her husband to avoid any visit or meal with his mom until she apologizes to her? Would it be better to avoid arguing with Gabriel and keep their relationship close instead of letting the disagreement she had with her mother-in-law affect her marriage?