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Marriage Advice Needed
My wife and I have been married for over 30 years and have two fully grown and independent children. Recently, things have got testy and its hurting our relationship.
Just for background, my wife is very close to her family and frequently checks in on them as they are elderly and require support. Her parents do not speak any English, and despite my wife having 4 other siblings, takes upon the bulk of the responsibility for parental support. Personally, I don't really have an issue with that and have personally chipped in whenever I can to help out if necessary. So much so, we moved houses about 15 years, just so that she can be closer to her family. Over the last few years, my wife started developing signs of arthritis and its impeding her movement somewhat and so she is getting concerned about her own well-being, which I can understand.
Our plans are that when we retire, we would like to spend a lot of time travelling overseas, especially now that the kids are all grown up, but the timing of it all has accelerated due to her arthritis. It was always the intention to commence travelling once both sets of our parents have passed. As her parents are older than my own parents, she now wants to commence as soon her mum passes (her dad passed about 7 years ago).
My own parents are not young either (both >80) and they too need support from time to time. However, my wife now gets upset whenever I visit my parents, saying that they need to learn to take care of themselves and to not bother me as I am a married man.
The thing that upsets me is that I have always supported my wife when her family needed help, but when its time for my family to need some assistance, her response is that you have siblings, why can't somebody else do it and generally gives me a hard time about it every time we visit.
On the one hand, I sympathise with the situation with my wife's situation with arthritis, but cannot help feeling that her attitude is "now that my parents have been taken care of, I really don't care what happens to yours". I would appreciate some honest feedback here.
Wellcome to our forums!
Im sorry this is happening….
I think it’s great that you have always supported your wife in the way she wants to look after her parents.
Your parents are important aswell and hopefully your wife can understand how you want to take care of them….
Im sorry that your wife is behaving the way she is towards this situation……… you are your parents son and it is understandable that you want to see them and help them when you can…. this is a reflection of the person you are……..
Your parents are your parents and always will be no matter their age and sometimes they can’t look after themselves some times and yourself and them shouldn’t have to feel like they can’t contact you or you contact them.
So please keep doing what you want to do…………
I feel that your wife may really need to learn to open her mind and practice some acceptance to this……. I hope your wife can come to an understanding of love and family……. Because this is all you want to be for your parents.
Sometimes we need to remember that our parents created us and if it wasn’t for them then there would be no us.
We need to be here for each other.
Well, it's nice to see both of you caring for elderly parents. I can relate as we've done the same last year with my wife's parents.
We all grow up differently and develop different expectations of friendships and our partners input into family. My first marriage threw me in this regard. I was heavily devoted to my in-laws as I believed marrying into a new family made them family even going so far as organising funerals and selling of their house etc. However it was never returned. I made the error in comparing my level of commitment to theirs. My second error was that as they failed to reach that level, I missed the fact that their care level was there but not shown until needed, nor in the same way.
If we transform that to your situation, we can see some similarities. When we marry we get in-laws but they are only ever in-laws and keeping that small arms length imo is crucial as that perspective indeed the one your wife has, is more in line with what is common.
The above is not to ignore your incredible endeavour and humanity. It is hard to swallow any correction in character that is over kind, over committed and has taken effort.
I don't know specifically how you'll overcome the issues but "charity begins at home" so it could be that your relationship needs more attention than your in-laws. That might seem odd the hear but elderly parents are sometimes better to seek aged care or home services, even spending equity if they have it on home help than relying on the attentive child and her kindest of husbands.
Some older people are in the desperate stages of needing care as my MIL was last year. 8 weeks prior to her passing she went into aged care. She was really happy there and my wife's and my relationship was immediately relieved of stress.
I hope that helps but feel free to post ongoing and send clarity as we can't evaluate accurately in a single post.
I sympathise with your problem, it may well make you doubt a little about your wife's care for you. I tend to feel it is not something that can be overcome simply by logic, as it seems fundamentally an emotional thing.
Have you set out your feelings of affection and duty to your parents in a gentle discussion with your wife? Talk can sometimes be best, as I'm sure you know.
I can understand your wife may feel the clock is ticking as far as her ability to travel is concerned, if left too long extended travel may not be possible, and having looked forward to it for so long it might seem a really big blow. Many people have a great desire they wish to undertake to complete their lives.
First may I ask if your wife was planning on visiting other relatives oversees that she may never be able to be in contact with again? If so it makes her desire more understandable.
Second may I ask howw well she gets on with your parents? Sometimes in-laws can simply be remote figures, not 'real' people. If that were the case perhaps if you were able to encourage her to interact on a person to person level with them that might help.
Although your travel plans together may always have envisaged long trips, do you feel there is any room for a compromise? Shorter more frequent journeys may allow you to return to see to your parent's welfare and catch up with them while still allowing you both to see fresh places.
If I simply go on the basis of what you have written it does look rather like your wife is not looking out for your needs as much as she might, however as TonyWK says one post is just one post, and can only convey so much.
I do hope you return and we talk some more
The only difference here is that while she cared for her parents, you were healthy (I assume), and supportive; but now there is some urgency to travel in order to enjoy the experience which, in her mind, sees your priorities misplaced - ie, you place your parents' welfare above her own.
Clearly this is not the reality, but you are dealing with THIS reality which poses some conundrum.
I would suggest a compromise: your wife, if sincere in the travel plans, must see that her mother is cared for by a respite facility, or siblings, or even consider retirement village/assisted living/permanent residential care - and naturally, you would be required to facilitate the same for your parents.
In other words, you both make sacrifices and, if it comes to that, carry the guilt equally of not being there in times of need, ... or finality.
The question is really whether you can come to terms with the emotional detachment in the interests of ensuring the parents are suitably supported - it could adversely affect the longer term enjoyment of any holiday you do take, but at least it will be shared mutually.
Hello Bingk6, as your MIL doesn't speak any English, support to read bills, mail, bankng and grocery shopping would understandably mean that she does need to have support in all of these areas, and depending on what type of arthritis your wife is suffering from, could also mean that her mum may also have this illness, as it can be handed down may restrict her movement.
There's an old saying 'what's good for the goose is good for the gander ' meaning that care and support should also be given to your parents.
It doesn't matter how many siblings you have because not all of them have the same care or want to help them as you do, so other siblings can't be relied on.
I looked after an elderly friend while all his sister wanted was his money and no help at all.
It's not fair that your wife wants to look after her mum and not do the same with your parents and being in their 80's certainly indicates that they aren't able to do what they used to do, like opening a new jar or walk to the letterbox.
Both parents need help to drive them to appointments, go shopping with and understanding a letter that's written to them hich they don't comprehend.
Plans for the future may never come true because we don't expect that our own condition will deteriorate.
Can I just start by expressing my gratitude to all of the responses in this thread. The level of kindness and understanding in my situation has gone well above and beyond what I had expected, so thank you all.
My view and my wife's view has always been that parents did all of the hardwork when we were born in raising us, sacrificing their own lives for our benefit and striving to give us the best opportunities in life. This view obviously strengthened when we had our own kids and experienced the process ourselves.
When time comes that our parents need our help, its "payback" time and we need to return the favour, no matter what.
My wife's family is complicated in that despite her having 4 other siblings, 3 of them of them have spouses that do not see eye to eye with my mother in law, and so, in the interest of saving their own marriages - they have largely not had very little to do with them. So this leaves my wife and a younger brother to carry the bulk, which leaves her somewhat frustrated and tired - more so because the level of assistance is much higher due to language difficulties. So a complicated situation - with a potent mix of emotion and unmet expectations thrown in.
So unsurprisingly, when her mother passes, my wife wants to get away from it all - and that involves taking long breaks overseas.
My family on the other hand is much less complicated, and in some ways my wife see how our family interacts and is extremely sensitive to how she deems the appropriate allocation of resources amongst my brothers when it comes the provision of assistance to my parents.
During our marriage, we ourselves have made a lot of sacrifices to do the right thing with priorities going towards raising the kids well and making ourselves financial secure. We've had almost no overseas holidays for us both up till now, even the kids have had more. So I too look forward to spending more time overseas with my wife. We just have to make compromises to take shorter trips and spend more quality time together.
I have given this a lot of thought and think the best way forward is to show more understanding to my wife's situation and hope that it opens her mind. Fundamentally, she understands my situation and so we just have to manage it to our best ability.
Isnt it difficult sometimes managing family/spouse differences? We marry a partner and we want to blend in as part of the process of teamwork, but these topics are hard to overcome at times. These topics range far and wide. Eg
Good Samaritans like yourself - helping out an elderly MIL is commendable but rarely will your wife's siblings thank you for your efforts. That's the way it is now a days, I'm sure it was never the case 100 years ago, why? Because transport wasnt like it is now, families were close by as was work, so people shared information more and helped each other out. Now your wife's siblings are busy people and the consideration for others doesnt extend to your sister nor yourself, odd to some, normal for some.
Like in any dispute of differences in values as a couple we are best to drop all the issues surrounding the details of such conflict (between you and your wife) and have faith that it is not intended that your spouse wants to hurt you or deprive you of anything. It is those differences that is almost DNA in its makeup and accept it.
I would however remind those siblings of the effort you both are making to help your MIL to live the rest of her life in comfort and a little respite by them to share around the workload would be appreciated.
I think you are taking a sensible and understanding approach to a difficult situation.
I would like to mention one thing that maybe has not been brought forward before.
That is the effect on your wife when both her parents will have passed away. If I understand you correctly you parents are in reasonable health and hopefully will continue to be so with whatever support they need..
When both parents are gone this can, for many people, have very deep effects, perhaps you wife is anticipating/dreading that possibility now and it is affecting her decisions.
This is simply a possibility, you of course would have a better judgment of this than anyone, so what do you think?
Hello Bingk6, if and when you and your wife do travel overseas, especially to Europe, some families house their parents when they become old, but that's their culture, unlike what happens here in Australia, where we tend to place them in a nursing home.
This doesn't necessarily mean we don't want to house our elderly parents but it puts another dimension on the situation.
When o/s you can't compare a countries culture and say that's what we should have done because laws, restrictions and governments are totally different.