Saturday, August 12, 2006

Ask the Faithful Readers #2

Dear Faithful Reader,

Before we get to today's Dismaying Story, here is a question for you to consider. For many couples, their families of origin are very different. This often means the two of you have issues to work out. Joy Renee provided an example in her response to last week's question. Apparently her family are habitually late arrivers, while members of her husband's clan tend to show up early. This causes plenty of consternation for both Joy and her hubby when they are getting ready to go someplace. So here is this week's question:

What differences between your two families of origin have led to challenges for your relationship? Have you resolved them? If so, how?

Signed, The Inquiring Advice Guy

Comments are preferable for this one (rather than emails), since I'm sure everyone would like to see the responses. I will post my personal favorite next week with a link to the winner's blog.


  1. his family didnt like me, they thought I was spoiled, my family didnt like him, they thought he was irresponsible...we resolved it by getting a divorce! Im still spoiled and hes still irresponsible.

  2. LOL! WE have issues on SO many levels with this. He comes from a family of West Virginia/Pennsylvania Rednecks ... I come from a family of Wanna-Be Southern Sophisticates! MY family is a mess we just don't talk about! I don't really 'associate' with them anymore... haven't for 25 years... and I like it like that! BUT... It is, nonetheless, the way I was raised. Now, most of the time this isn't a problem. Really. But, when it comes to "occassions" ... things like funerals in particular, I can really feel where I am a major snob ... and the "redneck" comes BLARING out on his side! See, in MY family, funerals were always dressy, black tie affairs. In HIS family it's okay to show up in jeans and flip-flops or even a housecoat will do! Now... through the years I have come to understand that MY family overdoes things a bit... but I'm really sorry... I think the coon dog should really stay in the truck ... at least for the service!

    I did get my hubby into a suit ONE time... and even a TIE! It was for our bosses retirement party and I think he felt threatend... not by ME... by the boss! *G*

    But then again -- I mean, I was perfectly HAPPY getting married in blue-jeans. In MOST cases we are able to reach a mid-way point that satisfies us both... maybe him a little more than me. We just really need to stay AWAY from funerals!

  3. My husband's parents split up when he was seven. My parents are still together. He didn't speak to his dad for about seven years; I am extremely close to mine. I am Australian and my husband is Welsh. Oh...and his mother is a complete pain in the butt. Mentally ill but will not acknowledge it. Instead, she has psychosomatic illnesses that no doctor can find.

  4. My husband comes from a family of conservative merchants, who had no college educations for many generations. My family were highly educated, pie in the sky liberals. I ran off and married my school-bus driver at seventeen, while he was attending the university after the Korean thing. He never did finish college, but unfortunately was able to earn twice as much as any of my family members with Master's Degrees and a dad with a J.D. I guess his personality won the family over, but they never have been able to forgive me for registering as a Republican. But, when times get tough, we are the ones they turn to for help. I went to nursing school at forty and my side of the family finally decided that I was getting educated. Shucks! Twenty-two years of marriage and three children did that.

  5. My husband and my family are really different. How we solved this issues? this is a good question. We became aware of the differences. We became aware that we came from different families. We also became aware that the difference were our families problems not ours. I think that the key here is to start to understand the differences are because of we have learned. So , we started to work on ourselves and become ourselves insted of becoming what our families whant us to be . By being concious of yourself you start to differencite yourself from your parents and your family. When you start to become yourself those issues dissolve. My question now is : would you rather be your parents's traditions and be right or would you rather be yourself and be happy?. Are you willing to cut with your family history and start to live your own life? or would you rather keep you family history and be like them?.

  6. Oh man! Well as you know, my husband is Jordanian, I am American... His family are upper crust villagers decended from beduin, I'm just Scottish/German decent, average, middle class American.

    The differences are insane.

    But we work through them one at a time. The firs thing we do is allow for differences-- we never insist that it be done ONE way, or that ONE thing is right. When we encounter something, we float through the experience, and the next moment we have to talk about something and talk through a compromise or solution, we do.

    Ther is no resolution per se, since every time we get together or talk, something new comes up. But it makes life more fun, and we just go with the flow!

    Probably the most noticeable and on-going challenge, to which there is NO solution really, is my American need to have solid statements and promises, his Arabian and islamic need to qualify everything. I can qualify quite a bit and even understand why this is done just fine. but sometimes, I need for him to make a promise!

  7. andrew, thanks for checking into my blog as well. please feel free to visit from time to time.

    best wishes, kj

  8. My husband comes from a family that is inept with communication. If they have a problem...they ignore it. My family talks things out. Maybe not all the time, but we share almost everything in our lives with each other. My husband's family is secretive. It is hard sometimes to work through. We have been married for nearly 6 years and are still working on communication like newlyweds.
    The biggest difference between my family and his is that my family views in laws as new family members. His family views them as outsiders. My husband is welcome and loved in my family, I am viewed as a threat, an annoyance, someone to endure until an inevitable divorce. (in their minds...they are all divorced).
    I wish we could say that we have resolved this. My MIL is a woman that will never accept another woman in my husband's life. At least I know my hubby CHOSE me and loves and supports me unconditionally which makes coping with his family possible.

  9. We have the late/early thing too. We resolved it by driving seperately to places I really want to be on time for (like church). I have to say that most differences are visible long before the marriage begins, we just choose to ignore them while we're dating and choose to magnify them once we're married. We'd be a lot better off to do the opposite--magnify them when we're dating to make sure we want to marry and ignore them a bit more once we've decided to say "I DO".

  10. You asked for it. Here is my novel.

    My husband grew up in a home where critical remarks were the norm. There was little to no affection, and if you had a problem with your current spouse, you just divorced them. That was his mom's side.

    His dad's side was a different story. His dad is a lawyer and a pharmacist, yet he hasn't worked since my DH was two. He has lived with sisters, parents and children that constantly enable his behaviors.

    Being a child of divorce, he had very little boundaries and adult supervision. His dad was transient and his mom had to work a full-time job and a part-time job. He ran as free as the wind. He had no expectations.

    I on the other hand came from a family where we built each other up and few cross words were spoken. We were a touchy/feely group…very affectionate. When my parents had problems they worked through them. One time my dad had been laid off from his well-paying job because they closed the store in our area. It took a year to find a job. He worked the entire time. He cleaned bars at two in the morning, he did odd jobs, etc. Anything to keep us fed, clothed and sheltered.

    My mom stayed home the entire time we were growing up. I had parents that told me "No" and set boundaries for me. I had many expectations on my head and I fulfilled them under the threat of disappointing my parents.

    When we first got married, I was a full-time student and I worked full-time. I maintained a 4.0 college G.P.A. He worked part-time, went to school part-time and coasted along at a 3.0.

    It took a lot to get us to where we are now. One of our first major arguments was over him getting a full-time job. He didn’t think there was anyway he could do it. That he would be too stressed.

    I really feel like I was his mother those first couple of years. I had to teach him a work ethic. I had to teach him how to live in a loving relationship that you didn’t walk out on when things got tough. I had to teach him that when the world doesn’t go your way, you don’t unleash a war of criticisms on them. I lovingly walked him through the process of learning to love someone unconditionally. I had to teach him to discipline himself as well as our children. I take credit for the man he is today. He was so lost when we were first married, he is now found. It was a terribly exhausting time. There were so many times when I didn’t feel like it was worth it to stay in the marriage. We had a wonderful marriage counselor that helped us figure it out. We discovered he had some major trust issues because of his upbringing. I remember the day our counselor had it with him. He told him straight out “You need to divorce your mother and marry your wife!!” That was a huge turning point for him.

    J has always seen things as black and white where I see things with a lot of gray areas. That has been a struggle. Especially when it comes to religious issues. We are LDS and we have guidelines when it comes to what we put into our bodies. This includes tea and coffee. I love coffee flavored things. He gets irked when I buy coffee flavored ice cream or candies. He refuses to shop on Sundays. I will if the “ox is in the mire.” He won’t see PG-13 or R rated movies, where as I am selective and will see ones that appeal to me. He is a Conservative Republican and I am a selective Democrat.

    We have had to learn to bite our tongues. We know what buttons to push and we try to stay away from those. I think the thing that has gotten us through our trials is the ability to see past them. We are both realistic enough to know that rough parts are just that, a part of our relationship. Not the whole of it. If we give up when times are bad, we would sure miss a whole lot of good.

  11. Sarah5:36 PM

    My family are yellers...his family gets quieter as they get madder. He has walked out when I won't stop yelling. I try not to yell anymore.

  12. Guns, drinking and smoking are big differences with our families.

    The challenges with guns will be ahead when my kids are older and it will be "assumed that he will learn to shoot etc" I will have to think about it at that point.

    Alcoholism is rampant in his family and fortunately it skipped my husband. He has dealt with it all very well and I am proud of him. We will have to maintain a strong foundation for our kids and reinforce (our) beliefs. Incidentally my beliefs are different than my families as well and we have a middle ground on this subject.

    Smoking is a big one as someone with asthma and allergies it's hard for me to visit with his family as much as mine. I don't like punishing them for smoking, but i also have to take care of myself. In response we spend more time with my family, and his family knows it. They know we never spend the night with them etc. Fortunately my husband tells them why and reassures them that we love them. I am rather fortunate that I found someone with a similar background. All of these "problems" were talked about before we even talked about getting married.

  13. It's funny, not many men comment here. I wonder if that's because men tend to dwell less on the differences between families.

    I have that late problem going on with my inlaws. I was brought up to be on time, to be considerate of other people's time and not to assume they always have time to wait on me. In the 4 years we've been together his parents have never been on time and I'm not talking about 5 or 10 mins late...try 1 or 2 hours late. They show up late for dinner, they show up late for holidays, they show up late and then wonder why dinner has finished or my child has gone to bed. It drives me insane...but to save some part of my mental state I've now decided to give them 30 minute windows and if they don't arrive within that time - I leave and go do something else. I have to admit it pisses them off...but secretly I love that. Yes I'm evil.

  14. I haven't thought about this issue in years. In a couple weeks my husband and I will celebrate 19 years married.

    During the early years there were the normal holiday issues to contend with: everyone wanted us home with them for ____ (fill in the blank: Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, Groundhog Day, etc.).

    Once the kids came along we stayed put and invited everyone and anyone to our home for festivities. Often we hosted everyone; my folks and brothers get along great with his dad, step mom, and sister. Unfortunately, sometimes his mother, who still harbored divorce resentment from decades earlier, would not join us.

    Now that our kids are teens we feel like we're caught in a vortex of teen life angst and hardly notice life outside our barely contained sphere. We still have big group gatherings, but also load up in the van and join whomever else in his family is hosting an event.

    Meanwhile, after the 2001 early death of my father, my entire family has relocated to California, mostly the southern area. Once a year my kids and I fly out to visit them; my husband joins us every other year. And my mother lives with us summers and for about three weeks post Christmas.

    I feel like I sometimes forget how either of us were raised, but I know it seeps into our discussions constantly as we deliberate over our ever evolving teen issues, crisis, and events.

    Family. Gotta love 'um! Thanks for prompting this "stroll down amnesia lane" (quick: name the actor who said the phrase...and the movie!).

    [Answer: Robin Williams as Professor Keating in DEAD POETS SOCIETY.]

  15. Where to start? There are more differences than similarities in my husband's and my families. I better choose one to focus on or this could easily become book length. :)

    My family were quiet, staid, serious people. In conversation we took turns talking and did not interrupt. All strong emotion was suspect from exhuberence to anger. I always heard 'Calm down.' or 'Watch your tone.' Anger was equated with hate which was equated with murder. There was a Biblical reference that supported that view as there was for the view that laughter was questionable since the only reference to God laughing was at the calamity of evil-doers. Games without a spiritual, religious or educational theme were taboo.

    My husband's family are just the opposite in all of those areas. They laugh and talk loud. They express strong passionat views. The cuss and tell raunchy stories and tattle on each other. They talk over the top of each other. The play cut-throat cards and scream with laughter thruout the game.

    My first game of cards with my husband's family is something I will never forget. It was UNO with a double deck because there were so many at the table.

    My mother-in-law just so happened to be in the middle of her first week of detox off a decades long smoking habit. At one point after loosing a hand it was her turn to shuffle and she threw the deck!

    She also accused my husband and me of cheating because we sat together and he was kibuting because I was still learning the game. She made us split up and I had to sit between two heavy smokers.

    I had the hardest time doing dirty to my neighbors. For years I would purposefully hold the Draw Four cards until I got caught with them-even drawing extra cards at my turn to avoid giving it to someone.

    Eventually, though I never learned the art of the cut throat repartee, I learned to lay those Draw Four cards down with a small (evil) grin.

    As for conversation with my in-laws, I'm still mostly a listener. Even after five years of living with them, I find it hard to break in and even harder being interrupted. Though one-on-one with my mother-in-law has become easier and helped me loose the fear and intimidatin those early encounters instilled. In fact I credit my relationship with her for teaching me to be willing to stick up for my opinion, that it is OK for a woman to have strong opinions and to express them with passion and even strong words. Without that, my writing would not be what it is today.

  16. yeah it's me again. I forgot the part that accually answers the question. The challenges to our relationship that these differences in upbringing posed and how we resolved them. Well after almost thiry years we're still working on it but I suppose the biggest impact the issue I discussed above had on our relationship was my unwillingness in the first decade to stick up for myself, to be too easily browbeat by his passionate, argumentative style. It wasn't mean-spirited just full of that strong emotion that I was taught to abhor. Add to that the teaching of my childhood that a wife must defer in all things to her husband.... Well it drove him crazy. There was nothing he loved more than animated debae. It took nearly a decade for me to get over the propensity to cry in response to all strong emotion either felt within or suspected in another. This too drove him crazy. But once I was broke of it, I think maybe he began wishing for the good ole days. :) I credit those hours long debates we had with teaching me to think for myself and then to express those thoughts forefully and with passion.

  17. My family never talked about anything or about anyone even though they thought negative things about them while I learned from my husbands family not to JUDGE people and accept them the way they are.

    Now I know not to hold a grudge, to talk things out, to find a solution and if I cannot find a solution to either accept them or move on.

    Man, I could go on for hours....

  18. I think our main problem stemmed from a religious difference. I was raised Christian, and my mother-in-law is Satan. That has made my twelve years of marriage somewhat difficult.

    Luckily, she lives four hours away from me, so I don't have to endure her evil spewings every day, and we only have to go down and visit the underworld every couple of months. Unfortunately, that woman still has a deathgrip on my husband (and the umbilical cord does stretch 250 miles).

    Honestly, things didn't get better until I had children. She then realized that she wasn't getting rid of me. And I realized how obsessive a mother can be when it comes to her children.

    So, I guess we have come to understand each other somewhat. She'll try to control her negative criticism, and I won't beat her senseless with my coffee mug.

  19. In the early years of our 32 year marriage, our main difference was that my husband came from a family of intense arguments, therefore, if upset my husband would clam up rather than express his feelings--to avoid a potential argument or disagreement. I was the exact opposite and wore my feelings on my sleeve; I wanted to talk about everything and get it out there and resolved. It has taken quite a bit of work on both our parts to compromise on this particular issue. I've learned to not say everything that is on my mind, and my husband has learned that it is OK to disagree without an argument ensuing. In some instances, our differences will never be resolved so we have a pact to just not 'go there' as we know we will never see eye to eye on the issue so why bring it up? We allow each other our own opinions and know that we have a safe place with each other in spite of the differences.

    Thank you Andrew for visiting my site and leaving your comment. I appreciate your insight. Hope you visit again!