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My husband hates my family

Dear Dr. Ellen,
I need help with family issues. My husband hates my family and refuses to try to get along with them. Instead, he always looks for more reasons to hate them and opportunities to hurt them. My family hasn't liked him from the beginning. He was involved with drugs when we met and b/c of it, my family has never accepted him. They didn't want me to marry him but knew it was what I wanted and my father paid $12,000 for our wedding. At least they try to get along with him but he only sees it as them being "fake" to him. He suspects that they always talk about him behind his back. My sister has a similar problem with her boyfriend (who is also the father of her baby). My husband says that my family will have a problem with anyone we are with, but I don't think that is the case.

My issue - he doesn't respect any of my family members and it makes it really hard for me to be happy. This is especially true at holidays. What can I do? Sometimes I think it's just not worth it and I'd rather divorce and try to find someone that loves me enough to try to get along with my family. I really want to have children but I'm afraid to add anything to this unstable situation. Please help!
- Jennie

Dear Jennie,
When you come from a close knit family, you assume that the person you are going to spend the rest of your life with will embrace your family as well. Often that is true, if your husband also comes from a close family. If, however, your husband doesn't have a good relationship with his family and while he was growing up, holidays meant disappointment, rejection or loneliness, then family get togethers are negative to him. So for him, he does everything in his power to sabotage them.

I'm going to assume that your husband experienced a great deal of pain growing up and drugs were his way of dealing with it. So, every holiday that you look forward to, Christmas, Mother's Day, Father's Day, someone's birthday or anniversary, for your husband, it is a reminder of what he didn't have growing up. So, instead of enjoying every celebration, he makes your life miserable by either not wanting to be included or going and making negative comments about everyone.

Anyone who has read my weekly advice columns for any length of time has probably heard my definition of true love. It is, "When someone else's happiness and well-being is just as important as your own." The fact that you have probably told your husband how unhappy his behavior makes you feel, and he doesn't care, means that he is very self-absorbed and could care less about how anyone else feels. A loving husband would say, "Family is important to my wife, therefore I will do everything in my power to gain the love and respect of her family."

Your mom and dad have always wanted what's best for you and no one can blame them for not accepting a man who was involved with drugs. My guess is, and it's only a guess, that they have issues with your sister's "boyfriend" because, even with a baby, he has not committed to marriage.

It is up to your husband to prove to your parents that he is worthy of their love and respect. That happens over time when they see how happy he makes you feel. That certainly won't happen if your husband "looks for more reasons to hate them and opportunities to hurt them." You are absolutely right in wanting this issue resolved before you bring a child into this world. You must weigh the consequences of your decision to marry a man who wants nothing to do with your family. You really have to ask yourself, "Is my love for this man strong enough to sustain itself if my family is no longer part of my life." If there is a little voice inside your head, which says, "I really do love my family and want them to be part of my life and my future children's lives", then you have to take a hard stand now. In this case, I believe that writing a letter to your husband will be more effective than having a conversation which will probably end in a heated argument. Let him know that every time he speaks poorly about your family, he is hurting you deeply. Tell him that you don't expect him to feel differently but it is important for you to see him act cordial and respectful. Give as many examples as you can where you explain how he reacted in a certain situation and then let him know what you would have preferred to hear him say instead. For example, "When my mom and dad gave us money to get married, you showed no appreciation. I would have liked to hear you say, "That was really generous of them to contribute to our wedding expenses."

At the end of the letter, let him know how much you love him but you cannot continue to have your family attacked. They will be part of your life forever and you are no longer willing to hear anything negative. If that is too much to ask of him and he refuses to participate in family celebrations and events, then you will have to decide which has more value to you, your marriage or your family. Only you can make that decision.
- Dr. Ellen




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