“My fiancée is having problems with her parents. What do I do?
I’ve got in-law issues! The issues aren’t between me and them, but my fiancée and them.
My fiancée is one of the middle children. She’s got an older sister and two younger sisters. Her older sister is expecting a baby anytime now. And her two younger sisters both have medical issues. Because of all this, the attention naturally focuses on the other girls, and she tends to get ignored by her parents, particularly her mother, a lot.
It’s become quite an issue in my mind. Her relationship with her mother isn’t healthy at all. She can’t get any help with the wedding planning from her. She can’t get the support that a daughter needs from her mother. There just isn’t a real mother-daughter relationship there. She vents to me, but I don’t know what to do. I do understand that she isn’t asking me for a solution. She just wants to vent.
What do I do? Do I try to push the issue, and ask her to resolve the conflicts with her mother? Do I just be the listening ear? I’m lost!”
-The Plunge Reader
Good to hear from you again. Guess what? We’ll have to check the archives, but we think you just might be our first ever Multiple Question reader. Congratulations. We know this is an honor, and the grand prize is in the mail.
Okay, onto your question. Here’s what we recommend:
Without your fiancée knowing, you should take her mother and her other sisters aside, give them a stern talking-to, hint that you might “freeze them out” if they don’t improve, point out that Cinderella’s Wicked Stepsisters were better siblings, mock their choices in life, tell the older sister that the baby will turn out ugly, and tell the younger sisters that the medical issues, in fact, will worsen.
On second thought, maybe that’s not your role.
Here’s what we recommend, instead:
Be the rock. Be a good listener, be supportive, be understanding, be on her side—always—and be good-natured when she gets stressed, frantic, or huffy about these things. You’re her confidant, her co-conspirator. You are not, however, a hit-man who needs to actually solve these problems yourself.
In the coming years, there will be lots of stuff like this. Maybe she’ll have junky bosses, a spat with her gym instructor, a setback in her career. Through all of this, she will have you, and you will have her back. And vice verse.
At the core of a good marriage is a good friendship, and at the core of a good friendship is good listening.
So let her vent. Make suggestions. Offer your perspective. Tell her that you understand and that you hope her sisters and mothers realize that she’s alive.
Other than that? Even if there are things that you can do, there’s nothing that you should do.
For more on dealing with her parents, don’t miss: First (and Continued) Impressions: Hoodwinking the In-Laws.