Life Advice


Health & Spirit

People-pleaser caught between her husband and her parents

Carolyn Hax on

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn:

I'm tired of feeling caught between my husband and my parents. They didn't like him and outright told him they thought marrying him wasn't the best path for me.

Friction increased when I moved to his hometown. I am the first of my sisters to marry and leave the area.

I recognize my family of origin is not the most functional. They are temperamental, judgmental, and resort to emotional manipulation. Growing up, I just went with it; I'm a pleaser. However, husband doesn't like to see me get hurt so he tries to head off proposed visits by arguing what horrible things they might do/say (plausibly, based on past behavior).

But I think disappointing my parents is more painful than opening myself up to being burned by them. I don't think they're toxic enough to cut out of our lives!


On principle he opposes giving in to them, I think. And they are actively not nice to him, so I have to balance how much I'm torturing him by pushing for visits. The latest example: They were upset they aren't invited to our house -- it's been too cluttered for hosting for most of a year -- so I caved after they went on about how hurt they were.

-- Between a Rock and a Hard Place

-- "[D]isappointing my parents is more painful"? Translation: You're not choosing toward your desire, but away from pain.

-- Husband opposes on principle? Translation: Your husband and parents have stubbornness in common. Pleasing is your emotional comfort zone, so that figures. Your husband does sound more focused on your interests than his own -- but still, it's pressure, which you react to by scrambling to please, so it's essentially the same problem in a new form.


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