Relationship Connection: My wife wants me to stop talking to my family

Stock image, St. George News

Question

My wife feels threatened by my relationships with my family members, especially my older sister and my dad. I’ve always had a close relationship to them and it seems like she would rather me not have a close relationship to them anymore.  It feels controlling and jealous.

We’ve been married almost six years and I thought it would get better with time as she got more comfortable with them. When we were first married, there were a couple of times where I shared things about my marriage with them and my wife found out, so I’m sure that has something to do with it. I’m now afraid to talk with them about anything.

I’d like to know what you think about this. I want to be loyal to my wife, but I don’t want to lose my relationships with my family.

Answer

You are caught in a loyalty split between your wife and your family. Even though your family is important to you, your marriage needs the most attention right now. Your family will always be there for you, but the trust and security you long for in your marriage are things that need to be cultivated and protected.

Instead of defending yourself or your family, spend more time with your wife trying to listen and understand why your family relationships are a threat to your marriage. This will do two things.

First, by listening to her with an open and curious heart, you will give her an undeniable experience of your interest in her. This will help decrease the threat that you don’t care about her.

Second, it will open you up to valuable information you most likely don’t have. She may share things about your interactions with your family that will help enlighten you on this struggle. You may learn things that will change your mind about how your family should fit into your marriage.

Marriage is a commitment to be one with another person. The marriage relationship is special and different than other relationships. If you are keeping secrets from your wife, including sharing things with your family, you are sending a message to her that other relationships are more important than your marriage. This is a significant threat to any marriage, especially a young marriage that is still building a secure bond.

If you betrayed her trust with your family members, but never changed the nature of your interactions with them or didn’t work to rebuild trust with your wife, then it’s important to make this your first priority. You don’t need to get specific with your family about the nature of your marital struggles, but you can let them know that you’ve shared too much in the past with them and need to turn more toward your marriage.

A healthy family will understand and support your marriage. If they become critical of your wife’s concerns, it’s even more important that you turn toward your wife.

Shirley Glass, author of Not Just Friends, identified some dynamics that are common to emotional betrayals in marriage. See if any of these questions fit your situation with your family members:

  • Do you confide more to your [family] than to your partner about how your day went?
  • Do you discuss negative feelings or intimate details about your marriage with your [family] but not with your partner?
  • Are you open with your partner about the extent of your involvement with your [family]?
  • Would you feel comfortable if your partner heard your conversation with your [family]?

If your conversations with your family support your marriage and turn you back toward your wife, this is more healthy than using your family as a replacement for your marriage. You’ll have to explore this with your wife and take an honest look at how your family fits in to your marriage.

The family should be there to support your marriage, not the other way around. The purpose of families is to build and support the new families that become part of the bigger whole.

Before you decide that your wife is just a controlling and jealous person, take the time to honestly examine your history with your family relationships and how they’ve impacted your marriage. Ask your wife questions about her experiences and take the time to listen non-defensively. You might find there is a way to maintain your relationships with your family while having a secure and safe connection to your wife.

Stay connected!

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Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are solely his and not those of St. George News.

Have a relationship question for Geoff to answer? Submit to:

Email: geoff@lovingmarriage.com

Twitter: @geoffsteurer

Facebook: facebook.com/GeoffSteurerMFT

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2015, all rights reserved.

 

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8 Comments

  • Hataalii August 12, 2015 at 2:50 pm

    Of course, it is possible that she is an immature, insecure, controlling person. If that is the case, good luck, because you will really need it.

  • anybody home August 12, 2015 at 6:03 pm

    These “problems,” as any good therapist knows, are many-layered and yet presented here is such simplistic terms that off-the-cuff answers are likely to be no help at all. Yes, she may be an immature, controlling person or he may be a daddy’s boy who can’t cut the apron strings (yes, daddy’s wear aprons too) and put on the husband mantle. (You shall leave your father and mother and cleave only unto your wife.) His family may have slighted her in sly ways over the years. There are a lot of possibilities. It’s even possible that his father has hit on the wife – don’t laugh…this happens, and no woman wants to be the bearer of that news to her husband. Or maybe his family is a bunch of foul-mouthed drunks and in that case, good luck to her, because she’ll really need it.

  • Dexter August 12, 2015 at 6:20 pm

    Oh well life is a pain in the neck. then you marry one

  • Roy J August 12, 2015 at 6:56 pm

    It isn’t true that your family will always be there for you. I don’t know why someone would say something like that as if it is a given. Also, it should be pointed out that if it is true that a healthy family would understand and support a marriage, it is also true that a healthy wife would understand and support close family ties. I would think the obvious answer to this Question would be ‘depends on whose relationships in this instance are actually healthy’.

  • ladybugavenger August 12, 2015 at 7:21 pm

    Or he could be talking all kinds of crap about her and turning them against her…..we really don’t know who’s manipulating whom here.

  • Ladyk August 13, 2015 at 12:22 am

    This is exactly the reason that “advice colums” are so bad. Ypu only get one side of the story and inevitably the answer is only one sidded and therefore totally inappropriate. So now you have a “professional” giving out advice that someone somewhere is going to go to their partner and say, SEE IT SAYS HERE THAT YOU DON’T LOVE ME ENOUGH BECAUSE YOU STILL TALK TO YOUR MOTHER. This is a load of garbage and should have come with a warning lable. I don’t think it is ever healthy to try to tell someone that they need to only talk to or have a relationship with their family if their spouse gives them permission to. Especially if it is just over jealousy. If he heads the advice it will just set them up for the next round of jealous demands. This is never healthy. Find out what the real problem is and fix it. If it is time them find ways to spend more time together in a safe loving environment. There had better be a dang good reason for a spouse to try to keep you away from your own family. Yes I concede that their may be some good reasons, trust me I have had some good reasons in the past. But in the end love is about not having an ego or being selfish. If those things are coming into play then you had better find a good marriage therapist. Or just grow the heck up and quit trying to control everyone else!!!

  • Roy J August 13, 2015 at 2:54 pm

    Well put, LADY K.

  • Dexter August 13, 2015 at 9:39 pm

    TRUMP FOR PRESIDENT

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