Dear Dr. Dave and Dr. Dee,
I have been married for almost 4 years, take care of my husband's five-year old stepdaughter, and have a baby on the way. My husband works on the road and gone all week, and is also in the military and was deployed overseas for a year. However, it is my in-laws that are frustrating and I feel angry all the time inside. They are disrespectful, talk behind my back to other relatives, but act nice to my face, although they do make condescending comments to me, especially about our financial situation, telling us that we spend too much and will go bankrupt. In addition, they expect to have alone time with their granddaughter each weekend, and if they don't they tell people I keep her from them. I don't mind her being with them, even though they spoil her and feed her junk food, they are still good to her, I just don't know why I can't spend time with my daughter if I want to, and now I have a son on the way and I am afraid that they will want to take my baby all the time, and if I don't give him up, then they will criticize me behind my back. My husband is usually supportive and understands why I am frustrated, and he is frustrated as well, however he won't stand up to them, he just puts up with things "to keep the peace." I am afraid someday I am going to snap, and end up doing something irreversible. And, I know things won't stop until my husband says something to them. It is at the point right now that I want nothing to do with them, I want them to stop calling me, and I don't want to go over to their house for any reason. How do I get the anger and frustration to stop?
It is difficult to have your in-laws nearby, especially when you husband is not around to support you. The support your husband provides is understanding your frustration. However, he refuses to say anything to them in order to keep the peace. Unfortunately, you are ready to explode, and his doing nothing is not the answer. You say things won't stop unless your husband says something to them. So, he has to be willing to have a nice talk with his parents. You, unfortunately, cannot say anything directly to them because they will either ignore you or view you as interfering and have more reasons to talk behind your back.
One way to help lessen your anger and frustration is to know that you are not alone. By hurting you, they are hurting their son, too. They do not respect him if they do not act respectful toward you. Also, if he does have a talk with his parents and nothing changes, at least you know that he tried, and that will help to feel closer to you husband and less frustrated. You also have the support of the relatives who have to hear the in-laws talking about your behind your back, otherwise how would you have known about it? Often people who talk about others behind their back, do so about many people, not just you.
You are already stressing about the grandparents monopolizing your yet-to-be-born baby. Currently, if you feel that you don't get enough alone time with your daughter, then you and your husband need to set limits on how often and how long the visits with the grandparents should last, and have your husband let them know in a nice way. After all, if your husband works all week long, wouldn't he want to spend time with his daughter on the weekends? Also, spoiling a child and letting her eat junk food is not love. Love is looking out for the best interests of the child.
Your husband needs to understand that support of you does not mean he is taking sides and does not diminish the love he has for his mother and father. But, it does mean that he will not allow disrespect towards his wife.
For now, being cordial, but keeping your distance, is often the best way to handle the situation. Keep the visits to a minimum. Do not invest any more emotional effort into trying to have a good relationship with your in-laws because it will only add to the frustration.
It would be beneficial for you and your husband to seek guidance from a marriage counselor. The counselor will be able to give you coping strategies and how best to deal with your in-laws.