How Do I Tell My Partner to Stop Picking His Family Over Me?


Is this a big problem or am I being too sensitive?

by Liz Moorhead, Editor, Ask APW

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Q: Am I being hyper sensitive, or is my future husband too attached to his family?

I’ve been working on our wedding day schedule for months now. As our wedding date is approaching, it is pretty much complete. Each five-minute block has been accounted for. Last weekend, my future father-in-law announces that he would like to give a speech at the wedding. I said, “We will have to take a look at the schedule and let you know.”

When we returned home, future husband and I got into a big argument because he announced that anyone who wants to give a speech at our wedding will not be denied. We should be honored, and that goes double for his father. Frankly, he was irritated that I even questioned that his father would give a speech. I doubled back that: 1) I made the schedule. I’ve been doing it for months. It’s disrespectful to me to just move everything around again at the last minute. I had already made a concession for one of his other groomsmen to give a speech, when it was previously limited to just the Maid of Honor and Best Man. 2) I do not want an open mic. People going on and on in speeches is boring. Further, I love my friends, but some of them might take this as an opportunity to “lovingly” embarrass me. 3) We do not have unlimited time. The more speeches we add, the less time we have for other things. 4) Traditionally, the groom’s father does not give a speech. The bride’s father does. So, I didn’t think twice about not including him in the speeches.

I told him that I did not disrespect his father. I was simply concerned about the timeline.

The whole thing felt reminiscent of an argument we had previously where he said if it’s me or his parents, he’s going to choose his parents. It started with a regular visit to his parents’ house for the weekend. I like to be at home early on Sundays to prep for work and rest. Future hubs thinks it’s disrespectful to leave early. Anyway, we have a fundamental disagreement about our parents’ roles in our lives. I believe that once you get married, your partner becomes your family. The future hubs does not agree. I was able to get past this argument because I’m thinking, we live like a hundred miles from his parents. How often will both his parents and myself be strapped to a train track and he has to pick one of us to save? Like, never. Well, until now, maybe?

These problems are not reciprocated on my end because my parents live thousands of miles away.

Anyway, I shortened the time allowed for all speeches at the wedding from five minutes each to three minutes as a compromise and called it a day. Hoping and praying that no one else asks to give a speech.

Is this a big problem or am I being too sensitive?

—Anonymous

A: Dear Anonymous,

Yes, this is a big problem.

Not the speech thing. It sounds like you ended up handling that the way I’d have suggested, anyhow. Yeah, it’s irritating to have to rearrange the schedule, I get that, but letting your father-in-law give a speech sounds like an awesome way to let him feel included and love on you guys. Being flexible to the ways your new in-laws want to be involved is way more important than the few minutes it’ll take away from the dancing. And hey, maybe that’s something you should start doing in regular life, too. Making room for your in-laws, for their Sunday traditions or whatever, is just a matter of being flexible and making them feel valued. It’s a way of supporting your husband in his important relationships and embracing this new branch of your family yourself.

But… your partner says he’d pick his family over you? And you disagree with this? That’s the real problem.

I’m with you. To me, marrying someone means saying, “You are my core family now.” Not exactly that you’re replacing your in-laws, but that you’re his partner, so you’re his priority. I guess it would be fine if he didn’t agree with me. As much as I hate it, it does happen from time to time, different strokes for different folks and all that. But it’s pretty important that he agree with you. You’re marrying him. We’re not talking about a matter of “right” and “wrong.” We’ve seen a whole host of different ways people perceive and define marriage just here on this site alone. It’s a very personal, individual thing. But you guys need to be united in whatever definition you choose.

It might seem like, meh, his parents are far away, this is all just theoretical and won’t come up in practice. But we’re talking about the definition of marriage here. A difference this central could impact a whole ton of other stuff you guys haven’t yet unearthed. If that’s not how he defines marriage, what is marriage to him? What does he think it is you’re both signing up for, and does that look anything like what you think you are?

Remember that post we published a few weeks ago about family involvement in relationships? One of the APW staff members (who is very close with her family of origin) pointed out the possibility that he might be pushing back because you’re being resistant to family time with your in-laws. A speech here, a Sunday there, really isn’t a lot to ask. Whatever definition of marriage you guys agree on, it can still put your relationship at the core, while also meaning that his family becomes your family, and that you work together to encourage those relationships. While I agree with you that marriage could mean you guys become top priority for one another, that doesn’t mean that his parents aren’t a priority, or don’t factor in at all.

Talk about it. Ask him, “What does marriage mean to you?” And maybe give him a little time to mull his answer, if he needs it. It can be a tough question if you haven’t put words to the answer before. Meanwhile, answer that question for yourself, and decide what it means for you if his response doesn’t match.

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO ASK APW A QUESTION, PLEASE DON’T BE SHY! IF YOU WOULD PREFER NOT TO BE NAMED, ANONYMOUS QUESTIONS ARE ALSO ACCEPTED. (THOUGH IT REALLY MAKES OUR DAY WHEN YOU COME UP WITH A CLEVER SIGN-OFF!)

Liz Moorhead

Liz is an illustrator and writer who paints custom stationery and types up impassioned opinions about weddings, etiquette, feminism and motherhood (usually while shaking a fist and mumbling expletives around mouthfuls of cheese fries). Her spare time is spent sipping bourbon with her husband and playing Don’t Throw That in the Toilet with her sons.

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  • Eenie

    Heart break :( I think the only solution is to talk it out. Which will be painful, but really beneficial to come to a resolution now instead of having this discussion keep popping up every visit/holiday/birthday. And maybe it’ll feel good to work through a big problem together as you get ready to start the next chapter of your life. Another thing to think about is what happens if/when you have kids? Do they become more important than the other spouse? Do they become more important than your parents? How will you handle supporting each others needs when EVEN more people enter this equation? Does your partner feel like this will change with time (ex: he still feels loyalty to his parents more than you but that’s been slowly shifting, just hasn’t yet completely shifted).

  • Oh OP, this sounds…extremely difficult. It gave me pause that your FH said he would pick his family over you, and this is after he’s proposed (I’m assuming) and made it clear that he wanted to marry you. Are you guys on the same page for what marriage means, and what you expect from the other? Premarital counseling can help you guys dive into that and have a safe space to talk about your expectations.

    As for your schedule…OP, please consider being flexible. I’m a super planner, and I also had only planned for a few speeches. In the end, we had a couple of not anticipated speeches, and they turned out beautifully. Each person who spoke said the sweetest, kindest things (no embarassing stories, yay!) and I’ve heard from guests that they actually enjoyed our toasts/speeches. Please try to be flexible on that.

    And please please please remember that you’re timeline is going to be completely screwed. You’ve got it scheduled in 5 minute increments? That seems…excessive and it’s really easy to get off schedule in that situation. I don’t want you to be upset and lose sight of the day if that happens.

    • emmers

      I totally echo Jubilance’s comments!
      That part gave me pause too, that he’s said he’d pick his parents over you. It’s possible that he means he wants to balance and make sure he still gets to have a good relationship with them, which may mean sometimes having Sunday visits when you’d rather be home. It could be that he’s feeling the tug of his parents and past, as you form your new family, and he wants to make sure some stuff is protected, but that he still plans to choose you for the big stuff.

      But I would definitely recommend talking to him about this, and seeing what he means. If you had a big work event, and his mom did, would he attend hers instead? Or if you were sick, and his dad was, would he go take care of his dad? Or if you were giving birth, and his parents insisted on being in the room, and you weren’t comfortable, would he have a big problem? Premarital counseling can be so good to talk about this stuff before it actually happens, when it’s theoretical.

      And ditto to the wedding day being so not how you planned it. Since people are involved, and unpredictable factors (like illness, traffic, and caterers), some things will not go as planned. But it’s just one day, and you’ve done your best, so have a glass of wine and enjoy!
      I wish you all the best as you start your marriage.

  • Meigh McPants

    I’d like to gently suggest some perspective. The wedding is one day; you’re going to be related to these people until one of you kicks the bucket. Perhaps being inclusive of your new relatives is worth a 5 minute speech or occasional Sunday. I get that it was probably jarring to hear that your fiance would choose his parents over you, and perhaps that has you feeling very protective of your relationship? That tends to not be the sort of thing one says apropos of nothing, so is there already a tension set up between you and his family? It seems like a good time for some clarifying conversation. Oh, and BTW, as a planner I see speeches from grooms’ parents all the time, so I doubt your guests will find it weird. Good luck!

    • JDrives

      Hear, hear. I get it – I am not a huge fan of my in-laws. Yet I figured out early on that trying to get my husband to “choose” between me and his mom or brother was not fun for him OR for me. I don’t necessarily want him to never choose his family, because they mean a great deal to him. His happiness is important to me. So I grin and bear it, so to speak. And then I vent to my sister or on APW Happy Hour about the weird stuff my MIL says. It keeps the peace.

  • rg223

    In addition to clarifying what marriage means to him, if I were in this situation, I would want clarified what it means to choose his parents over me (maybe it WAS during the fight, but not in the letter). Because it’s hard for me to see this as a blanket statement of “You always come second” when there are so many gray areas. In general, I don’t understand when people make statements like “This person is my top priority” because everything is situational, and just because you choose to make one person or thing a priority over another IN THAT SITUATION doesn’t mean it’s always your top priority.

    I see my marriage as a bunch of different entities: me, my husband, our relationship (the two of us together now), and the family (two of us plus our future kids, or two of us plus all the plans we have for the future). That’s not even including other people like either sets of parents. So sometimes, what’s best for me and my husband individually isn’t what’s best for our family, and we have to put the family above our individual interests. This could happen with parents too – if my mom was living on her own and then fell ill, I would move my family to help her. That doesn’t mean she’s above my family and husband, but she is in that situation. And part of being in a marriage, to me, is sometimes putting the other person’s family above your own needs, when the situation requires it. That doesn’t make you the second priority, it’s just for that situation.

    So, when LW’s finace says he will put his parents above LW, is this a blanket statement that applies in all situations, or is it more like “When my parents REALLY need me, they come first?” Because of the distance, I would assume they don’t see his parents as much, and he might feel more obligated to put their wishes ahead of the LW when they are all together, but the way he phrased it as a blanket statement wasn’t his true feelings.

    • Kim

      So agree with this. The blanket statement is ugly and unnecessary (though I have to wonder if it came in response to an accusation or a direct question from the bride), and loses so much of the nuance of joining two families in the first place. Blanket statement: blanket statements suck.

  • honeycomehome

    I think there is a lot to clarify, here. While I agree that marriage means that you become each other’s core family, I don’t think that means you get an automatic veto on what your partner’s extended family relationships look like. I’m also wondering what it means when he says (or you hear) that he will choose his parents over you. How often is that a conflict? Is he talking about during visits and returning early or late on Sunday? Or does it mean that when he is making decisions about your lives, he goes to them first and takes their opinion/advice instead of yours? Does it mean that if they invite you for a holiday and you want to make other plans he’ll choose seeing them over spending that time with you? There are definitely degrees, and varying situations to consider.

    Saying, “It’s disrespectful to my parents to leave early on Sunday when we visit and I need to respect them in this way” is probably something that you can both come to an understanding about.

    Saying, “My parents wishes for my life are more important than what our relationship needs” is probably not something that you can compromise on.

    It’s possible for him to have a closer, more intimate or frequent relationship with his parents than you have with yours without it being a conflict. Changing a schedule to allow for a speech is a good example. It’s not something you had considered, and it required you to both work through a disagreement where you had different points of view and different expectations. You weren’t being overly sensitive to have these differing feelings and concerns. But he also wasn’t making an unreasonable request or being purposefully hurtful for wanting the speeches. You found a solution that was not at all (in my view) him choosing his family over you.

    And, unexpected bonus, this argument has given you a chance to think through the bigger picture of how you will handle similar conflicts going forward.

  • I’ll write in as someone with issues with their in-laws (not going into details now), even though they are all fundamentally great people. Think of your & your partner’s families as intersecting circles in a Venn diagram – the two of you come from different places but have enough in common value-wise to be compatible and make each other happy (you are in the middle intersection). The differences between the two of you are often magnified between you and his family, and vice versa. The things that are different but you’ve worked through with lots of communication (and because you fundamentally want to make the other happy and value their happiness), will be harder to tackle with in-laws because you don’t have the same motivations and time, necessarily.

    Please please take some time to explore this, as family issues can be lifelong issues.

  • TeaforTwo

    Earlier on in our relationship, there were a few times that I thought my husband was choosing his parents over me, and I hated it. His family made last minute plans that conflicted with plans the two of us had, and he chose the family event. His mother wanted him to extend a visit, I wanted him home, and he stayed with them. At the time, I was furious about both. I felt like he was refusing to stand up to his parents, and that it was setting a dangerous precedent.

    And then, as happens in life, eventually the shoe was on the other foot. In sets of nearly identical circumstances, I did exactly what he did: cancelled our dinner plans, stayed longer with my family. But when I was the one doing it, I realized that it wasn’t that my family wanted me to do one thing, he wanted the other and I chose them: I was choosing what I wanted.

    It sounds to me like that is what LW’s fiance might be doing here. This is his only chance to hear his father’s toast at his wedding. Maybe he likes lingering with his family after Sunday dinner.

    I absolutely believe that in a marriage your primary loyalty needs to be to your partner, but that doesn’t mean giving your partner everything that they want. In our marriage, we are the ones who make the decisions for our family (not our families of origin), but because our families of origin are so important to both of us, that often means making choices that honour them.

    It is a huge red flag to me in the letter above that the choices are framed as letter writer vs. parents, with very little about what the fiance wants.

    • JDrives

      I’m also feeling like, there’s a spectrum of situations ranging from potentially not a huge deal for a person to “pick”/prioritize parents over their partner, to serious problem if that happens. The stuff that falls on the “serious” end of the spectrum has to do with safety and wellbeing. Sometimes, like for timing of visits, the stakes are low and maybe Spouse can be flexible. But from personal experience, if my husband had sided with his brother when I disclosed that his brother had been verbally and physically violating my boundaries, that would have been a huge dealbreaker. Before this BIL mess, I thought my husband was really attached to his family and it might cause friction over time. But his actions when the rubber met the road showed me that actually, when I really needed it, he’d be on my team.

      I get that that’s extreme, and possibly not something anyone could prepare for (I certainly was NOT prepared!). I honestly don’t know if that’s something to have a conversation about, or just kind of pay attention to over time.

      • TeaforTwo

        I’m really sorry that you had to deal with this, and glad that your husband stepped up.

        Although I have to say: I think this is about your husband picking the right side, too. If the roles were reversed and you were the one behaving in ways that his made his family concerned about their well-being and safety, it may have been a different story.

        It seems analagous to a difficult child-stepparent relationship: sometimes the kids are having a hard time adjusting and their parent needs to balance their needs with the needs of the new marriage, and set boundaries with the kids….sometimes the stepparent is the one who’s way out of line and that needs to be addressed within the marriage.

        • A.

          Even in less extreme scenarios, this is true. There have been times that I’ve been petty and oversensitive regarding my partner’s family. And he told me that I was being petty and oversensitive. And vice versa. Then we talked about it, figured out where the root of the pettiness/oversensitivity was, and moved on from there. It doesn’t mean we’re not still each other’s priority, it just means that we still recognize each other as human and fallible, and care for our families of origin as well.

          I think it’s generally a mistake to always respond in the Train early ’00’s song lyric of “always stickin’ up for you even when I know you’re wrong” because it doesn’t allow for personal growth within the primary relationship or with the extended relationships.

  • Sosuli

    I think the speech thing has evidently been resolved reasonably, but I definitely feel the LW on the lingering Sundays with the in-laws thing. It’s not clear exactly how often those are, if the parents live 100 miles away, but my suggestion would be to try to go for the give-and-take approach. The past month we’ve stayed with my future in-laws pretty much every weekend due to various events, and I did eventually say to my FH that I need some time apart from them due to other things that need taking care of and other people that need to be seen. He understood and agreed, but only because we had had several long Sundays with his parents. It’s all negotiation. An “okay, last time we stayed until the evening, maybe this time we could leave earlier because of specific-work-thing-that’s-important.”

    I also wonder what the circumstances for the “me or your parents” conversation were, and how that question came up. Sounds like a pretty nasty argument and an awful thing to have to decide. Perhaps it was a snap reaction to what felt like pressure to choose between the two and not necessarily a reflection of how he really feels? I know if my FH, in the middle of an argument, asked me to choose between him or my family, I would be tempted to answer “My family, because they’re not forcing me to choose.”

  • Rose in SA

    I’ll admit that sometime before we were married, can’t remember if it was engaged or dating, I was the one that said my family came first. Honestly, that’s how I felt at that time – they had decades of my loyalty against a year or so with my future husband. In the years that we’ve been together and married that has completely shifted and my husband is without doubt my primary relationship. So, just a data point to say that one comment like that doesn’t spell doom and a complete divergence on the meaning of marriage. People’s perspectives on these things can and does shift and I think the actual step of getting married is often a big reason why they do.

  • kcaudad

    the speech thing – just give in to whoever wants to give a speech. they are honoring you and your partner and your marriage. don’t deny people that opportunity. also, on the day of, out perfectly planned timeline went out the window early and on in the day, and we just went with the flow of things. I highly doubt that you will really be down from 5 min speeches to 3 min speeches or that there just won’t be enough time for anything else. it will all work out in the moment.
    keep in mind that your relationship with your family might not be the same as your husband’s relationship with his family. since the in-laws are the family that is closer in proximity to you (location wise), you will need to keep making concessions and will probably spend more time with them than you think or than you spend with your family. it’s easier to travel 2-3 hours for the weekend or a fun get together (about 100 miles) than it is to travel 2000+ miles. my in-laws live about 2 hours away – we see them all.the.time. (in my opinion) it works out to be about once a month, depending on the situations and events. when we have kids and/or they retire, we will probably see them even more frequently.
    You will also need to work with your future husband over time to set boundaries on what is okay and not okay with his family and visits and ‘picking them over you’. I have had to ask my husband to stand up to his parents on a few things involving our relationship. but, I have also made concessions on certain things and learned to trust him and their relationship with us more than my far-away family. try to get out of the ‘it’s them or me’ mentality. that will only set you up for trouble in the future. don’t make him choose unless it critical!

    • Laura C

      Oh my god, as someone who has been at a wedding where the impromptu speeches dragged on so long that someone who had made one of the early speeches jumped up to make a second one, all while I was trapped at a table in a corner of the room where there was no way to get to the bathroom without everyone in the room turning to stare at me, PLEASE, for your guests’ sake, do not give in to whoever wants a speech.

      • macrain

        My husband and I would have been heart broken if what you are describing had happened to us! As nice as it is, we’d rather be on the dance floor!

      • Lawyerette510

        I think it’s possible to have open toasting, but it’s helpful to have the right setting (no one cornered at tables) and have an MC who can set expectations/ control it/ cut people off/ keeping things moving, and have it happen along with something, not in addition to. We did an open toast thing, but had a friend MC it during the meal, so after the first course came out, she got up, said that we were going to open the mic for anyone who wanted to make a toast, but for everyone to keep eating and drinking and being merry, then she made a toast, passed the mic off to my mom, who passed it off to a friend, then the MC-friend got up, and said there would be another shot during the next course, and we all kept eating etc, then the second course came out, MC friend turned on the mic, passed it to my dad, and then a couple friends said some nice things after that, mic turned off, third course came out, his parents said something, my sister said something, his siblings said something, one more friend said something, then we all finished eating, then the dancing started. There were long-ish pauses between the toasts, and everyone kept eating during them, and all the toasts were just that, toasts, not speeches. We had planned on a relaxed, drawn-out, meal served family-style in courses, so it didn’t add any time or keep anyone from eating, going to the bathroom, etc. The kids were running around during the whole thing, the wait staff was refilling glasses, and it was all very casual.

  • M

    We live in the same city as my parents, and my husband doesn’t like to see them nearly as much as I do. So, sometimes that means I spend my lunch break with my mom or go visit them by myself. Likewise, he has been home to visit his family for the weekend without me. I do like his family, but if I don’t feel like I can handle a weekend away, he respects my need to stay home. That doesn’t mean that we are choosing our parents over each other, it’s just the way we’ve been able to respect our family relationships while also respecting our partner’s needs.

    There are a lot of opportunities in a relationship where it feels like you have to choose between your partner and something else. I think the distinction is that ultimately, if I absolutely needed him to, my husband would skip his trip home or cancel other plans. That means that I give a lot of thought to whether or not my needs are worth asking him to choose me. I think our relationship is stronger because of the respect we are able to give to our partner’s other relationships, but there’s also a lot of joy and comfort in knowing that my partner would not question putting my needs first if I were to ask it of him. To me, the give and take is one of the amazing parts of marriage. The more we allow each other to stretch outside of our relationship, the more comfortable I feel in our partnership (and vice a versa).

    • Sosuli

      Yes to seeing family without your partner! I feel like it’s really healthy to be able to act as individuals in a marriage. I also don’t think it’s fair to expect one partner to automatically love the other’s family and want to see them as much because they’re legally married. I’m not saying never go see your spouse’s family, just that there’s nothing wrong with not being there every time.

      • Jessica

        My mom made a comment a while back that “we’d like to see J too, it doesn’t always have to be just you!” When it was just that his schedule wasn’t matching up with when I saw my parents.

        • Sosuli

          That’s so sweet of your mom!

          My family doesn’t see my partner that often and really appreciate it when they do, but they get that it’s because we live in another country and flights are expensive, so usually it’s just me. But my future in-laws are literally a 20 minute drive away and I feel like we see them ALL THE TIME. So this actually reflects my recent resolution to myself to not feel pressure to always go with him!

          • JDrives

            This strategy (and permission to not pressure or guilt myself) is exactly how I maintain a positive relationship with my in-laws. I encourage my husband to spend quality 1-1 time with his family while also sucking it up and tagging along as often as I can. I don’t frame it like “Ugh I don’t wanna see your mom for the third time this week,” but rather I point out that his relationship with his mom is super important and should also be a priority. Which is true anyway!

          • Laura C

            Do you get pushback from your MIL on that idea? This weekend, my husband’s brother and cousin are in town. His mom has four tickets to a baseball game. I am not a big baseball fan and have already been to two games this season. I was like “obviously the four of you should go and have some old-school family time doing something you’ve been doing for years together.” And she got all worried that I was saying I don’t feel like part of the family!

          • Eenie

            I think it is definitely how you frame it and how you balance it out with couple time seeing them too. I think it would be easy to pick out a pattern that may or may not be there if it shift too much towards the alone time. As a distance couple, we each see our families about once per month (same with each other). We see the other person’s family about 4 times a year. It’s easy to be even right now because the relative distances and circumstances are the same, but I can see this potentially being an issue in the future.

          • Sosuli

            I’ve definitely had this from my FMIL. To avoid it, whenever I haven’t been along I’ve given a specific reason, e.g. I’ve already promised to do something else or there’s something fairly urgent I need to do. Those reasons have always been more or less true, and just make it a lot easier because she’s reassured.

          • Laura C

            I’m more interested in setting boundaries that say it’s ok to not necessarily want to get together every single week, it’s ok for my husband to have a relationship with his mom independent of me. It’s not necessarily a sign of something bad! Especially in this case where we’re spending much of the weekend together and I’m just opting out of the one thing that we literally can’t all go to.

          • Sosuli

            That’s a good point, and something we haven’t quite figured out yet. I did call it “avoiding” rather than “solving” the problem, after all! It’s nice to hear that others have a similar experience with in-laws too though, I’m trying to fight the tendency to feel guilty when I’m not that excited about the prospect of seeing FH’s parents.

          • A.

            I know that I get push back on my partner for things like this. I’m very introverted and his family is very introverted, so he gets very paranoid when his parents are downstairs and I’m up in the room, even if it’s a reasonable amount of time. He tries to overcorrect rather than let things flow naturally. Though sometimes it IS helpful to get a nudge to make sure I ask his parents questions even if they aren’t asking me questions and vice versa, and make sure we don’t all sit in the living room with our noses in books rather than engaging with each other every single time. So it’s a balance.

          • JDrives

            No pushback that I know of. I think it’s because we’re all on the same page that their individual relationship is important, as well as our relationship as a family (including me). I’m sorry that your MIL misunderstood your very sweet gesture! Perhaps it was the “family time” that threw her? Sounds like it’s really important to her that you feel included. Although I just read your comment below that you’re all together for most of the rest of the weekend too. So perhaps she’s just quite sensitive on this issue.

          • SLG

            There can also be just differences in the way families approach family time. It took me about three years to realize a key difference between my family and my in-laws: My family expresses love by doing their own thing in close proximity to each other. (Like I’m reading and you’re reading, but we’re in the same room, and we chat every now and then, and that expresses “I like you and I like being with you.”) On the other hand, my in-laws express love by *doing the same thing together at the same time* (cooking a meal together, playing a game together, etc.). To them that feels normal and loving; to my semi-introvert self it feels like too much people-interaction. I’m slowly learning how to balance what feels like love to them with what helps me be the most loving.

    • Greta

      This is so good. yes.

    • Sarah

      My married friends used to do separate Thanksgivings with the families and it was awesome for them. Now both sets live nearby so it wasn’t a travel thing, but it seems to work well with them and they can split Xmas. However they have a toddler now so I wonder how this works….

    • elle

      I think this is awesome. My SO travels for work a lot, so when he is away, I take that time to binge on my family. And when he is here, I make sure we do a least one meal a month with them together. It’s all about compromise and being willing to see that no one family is more important than the other or your own relationship.

    • Lawyerette510

      My husband and I have a very similar approach. My mom and I are really close and because we don’t live close to one another, it means either her coming to visit or me going to see her. My mom and husband get along (it’s been a 7 year journey in their relationship, but it’s good now) but neither wants to spend as much time with each other as I want to spend with my mom, so we’ve worked out a combo where when my mom comes to visit, there’s some days of overlap and some days where my husband will go on a rock-climbing trip for the weekend. Or, I’ll find a cheap flight to go see my mom (and other family) for a long weekend and he’ll stay home. Or, we’ll go meet up with my mom somewhere there’s activities he can do (like climbing, hiking, etc) and my mom and I can have our quality time, and we can all enjoy some time together.

      Similarly, we do this just in general with our lives. I think M phrased it perfectly in saying “The more we allow each other to stretch outside of our relationship, the more comfortable I feel in our partnership (and vice a versa).”

  • abby

    Like Liz said, even if you become the priority, it doesn’t mean you supplant all priorities. And I would also add that the definition of “priority” is also important here. I think this can be really difficult to grapple with, since it seems like so many fine lines. For instance, does being the priority mean you get automatic veto with his family? Does it mean you it mean your partner does with yours? Probably not, but it was helpful for me to begin there as a thought experiment to figure out what being a priority really DOES mean, particularly when I get annoyed at his family’s intrusions.

    • jubeee

      Yeah the idea of priority meaning what I say goes, sort of bothers me. The LW might want to spend less time at her FIL’s house but that doesn’t mean what she feels goes. He’s 50% of the relationship and has desires as well. I think communication, negotiation and compromise needs to be a focus going forward for both.

      • abby

        Right because with that logic couldn’t the fiance say, “Well, if *I’m* *your* priority, then you’ll stay at my parents until I want to leave because family time is important to *me*”? You end up in a dangerous control cycle if you go down that path.

        • Laura C

          If he’s really putting all this stuff in terms of respect for his parents, though — it’s disrespectful to take a pause before redoing the wedding schedule last minute around his father’s wishes, it’s disrespectful to leave early enough on Sunday to rest up for the work week — that’s an issue, because he’s NOT making it about his wishes and his place in the relationship, he’s making it about obedience to his parents. Which could be his primary wish, but it makes it a lot harder to be in a relationship with someone who is semi-explicitly acting as a conduit for his parents’ desires rather than talking through his own. Right? Saying “this is what I want” and saying, again and again, “I want this because my parents want it and doing otherwise is disrespectful” are two very different things.

          But again, this letter is a case where the stuff we don’t know about what’s going on is so glaringly huge, it’s really hard to know where to come down on any of it beyond “you guys really need to talk and get on the same page.”

          • abby

            Oh, definitely agreed. Like I said originally, there’s fine lines all over the place and in this particular instance, it’s hard to know whether the LW’s fiance is acting with autonomy or not. Or what autonomy really even looks like when other people’s involvement becomes part of someone’s desires in a relationship. My point is more that if you make veto rights the fundamental meaning behind “being the priority,” it gets tricky and controlling really fast, especially if you have conflicting sub-priorities. I absolutely agree that it looks like what matters most is improving their communication–maybe with the help of a professional.

          • MTM

            This. I think this is the key observation missing from the other threads.

  • Kim

    If my father told my fiance and me he wanted to make a toast at our wedding, and my fiance told him we’d look at the schedule and see, I’d feel like my family was being very disrespected. I mean, last minute changes are tough, but when a parent passes away, isn’t it things like wedding day speeches we want to remember? I guess it just seems less like he’s picking his family over the bride than the family over the bride’s schedule.

    • A

      Bingo. I also can’t tell if he verbatim said that he would choose his parents over her in the argument about leaving his parents’ place early or if that was extrapolated (and was also sort of about her schedule not always getting to take precedence). There’s nuance here from his side that may be getting lost. I mean, maybe not and maybe he really does have very traditional views on his commitment to his parents (which then I would start wondering if there were different cultural values at play?), but it’s worth considering.

    • Thera

      Yeah, it comes across like the LW actively doesn’t like his family. Maybe that’s not true, but that’s how I would take it if my fiance told me that the schedule he’s building for our wedding was more important than one of my parents giving a toast. Like I wouldn’t care if it was “traditionally done” or not, if my [non-abusive, very supportive] mom wanted to give a toast and my partner started talking about logistics and less time for cake cutting, I’d be more than annoyed. Actually, with all of the conflict surrounding it, it would feel almost like a turf-stake (on me!) and/or punishment.

    • Laura C

      Really? When, late in the game, FFIL announces he wants to make a speech that isn’t part of the current wedding tradition OR the plan the couple has spent weeks/months working out, it’s disrespectful to say “we’re gonna have to look at the schedule”? I just don’t remotely see that — except in the context of a problematic relationship where this is not the first shot.

      If it meant a lot to the fiance, it should have been in the discussion earlier. Asking for last-minute changes is disrespectful to the person who’s put in the work scheduling.

      • Eenie

        There should never be an issue with that type of response to any question (maybe a few exceptions). It wasn’t a flat out no and opens up the opportunity for closed door discussions before communicating back to the interested party. That is THE WAY to handle relationships with in laws.

        • Have to agree here. Nothing against anyone who is making any sort of request, and not even restricted to in-laws. My response to anything that would affect both SO and I is “We’ll have to get back to you”, only because I like to make sure that we are both on the same page with things that would affect us both, even if I’m already pretty we are. I just view that as part of us being a team. If that’s not how your partnership rolls, that’s fine too, but i really don’t see any problem with OP wanting to look at the schedule and have a discussion before giving a firm yes or no on it. The only problem I really see is that OP seems to view that as what a partnership is, and OP’s partner doesn’t seem to agree. I don’t think that it means anyone here is in the wrong, they just need to get on the same page with how they want their partnership to function.

      • Thera

        I think couching it in kinder terms would have been nice. Maybe it’s just the way it was written, but her response came across as very terse and annoyed. That’s what would bother me, as a partner, especially if the family member’s request came from a place of love, rather than control.

        BUT our personal mission statement was honoring everyone who helped us in our individual lives and couple lives, so it would be a no-brainer for both of us that a speech from a parent would trump 5 extra minutes of dance floor time. Not everyone has that focus for their wedding and it looks like that actually might be partially the point of contention between LW and her fiance. And you are also right that I missed the “announced” part of the wording, which does change the dynamic more than if it was “asked,” which makes it harder to tell if it IS a controlling pattern from his family.

        • Thera

          (And a note that I do recognize that some people would view the 5 minutes of dance floor time an alternate way to honor guests by getting more time to have fun with them or show them a good time, versus making them sit through extra speeches. We’re just more old-school about what “honoring” looks like and the specific people we’d like to honor in what way :) )

        • Laura C

          To be fair, FFIL might have thought he was asking, not announcing. And yeah, discussions of toast time vs. social time definitely highlight the range of reasonable priorities for a wedding. For us, what we wanted was less about honoring individuals and more about creating/strengthening a sense of community among our people, where time was better spent talking and laughing and dancing with each other, not listening to someone talk about us.

          • SarahC

            Also, some people simply have no idea how organized/not organized some people are. My stepdad (no other dad in the picture) gave a speech at our wedding, and my in-laws asked me later if I knew he was going to speak. I said, “Of course! I was the one who put together the schedule!” But in retrospect, I guess they assumed it could have been a spontaneous thing.

      • Amy March

        Where it rubs me the wrong way is that it expresses no gratitude or excitement for the offer. And how was he supposed to know that giving a toast, which is often a fairly spontaneous thing, is the type of activity the needed to be booked months in advance?

        • Thera

          To be fair, she did say that he had already pushed her to add another groomsman’s speech, so the fiance was aware that the speeches were scheduled. So the fiance could have brought up his family doing speeches then. Unless you meant the father in which case, yeah, still definitely agree.

          • joanna b.n.

            I just bristle at the idea of the fiance asking the bride to be instead of making a joint decision…. Like shehas the final say. Isn’t it Their wedding?

        • Laura C

          This is the problem with responding to these kind of questions — we only have a very partial account and all bring our own experiences to our thoughts about answering. So, for instance, my gut reaction is that there may have been no gratitude or excitement, for very good reasons. I’ve been at a wedding, for instance, where the groom’s parents’ toasts contained a series of veiled insults toward the bride. Nothing you could quite have called them out on, but unmissable.

          Or, less dramatically, I knew at my wedding that if we didn’t tightly control the toasts, there would be no time left for anything else, which it seems LW is concerned about as well. It also sounds like this is shaping up to be twice as many toasts on the groom’s side as the bride’s, which was something my wedding could very easily have fallen into and I strongly wanted to avoid. And so on.

          I also wonder about a rehearsal dinner, which is usually where the groom’s family would be toasting.

          • rg223

            Or there could have been gratitude that was edited out of the letter for space purposes, either by APW or the LW herself… we are definitely seeing only a small piece of the story here.

        • Eenie

          We have no idea how far away from the wedding date they are (it could be a month, it could be three months). I truly believe the closer to the date, the less excitement and gratitude the couple should try to express at suggestions/requests. If anyone asked me to do a speech a month before the wedding date, I would be annoyed quite frankly. If it was really important they should have brought it up earlier so we could make sure we honor their requests to the best of our abilities.

          This stems from my future in laws inability to plan anything in a timely manner and I’ve set boundaries around this specific issue of making requests for out time very close to the time we’d need to do it.

          • TeaforTwo

            Really, though? A month for a brief toast?

            One of my in-laws suggested changing the seating chart while we were at the rehearsal dinner. I expressed no gratitude or excitement for that suggestion, because it would have required hours of work, and came 13 hours before the wedding started.

            A month is probably not enough notice to change the venue or the guest list or the groom. But unless there are serious concerns that the FIL is going to get drunk and give a wildly inappropriate toast, up until the last guest has gone home for the night, there should ALWAYS be five minutes of wiggle room in the day for the parent of one of the people getting married to say a few words publicly.

            If sticking to the schedule is more important than a few minutes for a parent to give a once-in-a-lifetime nod to how proud they are of their child and how happy they are that he’s marrying someone wonderful etc. etc….then the wedding planning has gone OFF THE RAILS.

          • Kelly

            Yeah, in terms of toasting, the context that LW provides is not “my in-laws are violating boundaries”, it’s “I’m being asked (by the person I’m marrying) to make more concessions in MY schedule.” To me, that indicates some larger issues with the entire wedding planning situation.

          • Eenie

            It’s not to say they shouldn’t make time, but I disagree that it needs to be made with excitement and gratitude. As a “planner personality” it would annoy me to rework a schedule to include this in the last month. A LOT of time and thought went into the schedule already. Everyone has been communicated loud and clear that if they have wants, wishes, desires, or suggestions, they need to speak up soon because I’m not stressing out my last month in the lead up to my wedding. Would I make room for a speech? Yeah, I would. But I would grumble if I had just spent time working on the logistics (something my fiance sucks as) and then this request came about. AND LOOK! The LW accommodated the speech. I just don’t like that the LW is getting flak for her attitude about it.

          • Laura C

            I just really see this conversation devolving, more than usually so, into people really looking through the filters of their (our) own values and experience and seeing them as definitive. Maybe LW is a control freak who didn’t consult her fiance and doesn’t respect family and is OFF THE RAILS. Maybe she thought she and her fiance had an agreement about toasts and she talked to her own parents about why they weren’t giving toasts and now her fiance is pushing her to change the agreement in a way that excludes her family or else forces a huge amount of extra schedule work and a conversation with her parents about how her future in-laws get to force changes her parents didn’t. Maybe she’s legit concerned that FFIL is going to give a toast that’s … maybe not drunk or obviously wildly inappropriate, but painful to her in some way. Maybe it will draw attention to her not having family who she is comfortable having give a toast and be painful for that reason. You don’t know any of that, so suggesting that there should ALWAYS be five minutes of wiggle room for a parent or else the wedding planning has gone OFF THE RAILS just seems unfair, and uncharacteristically unfair coming from you.

          • TeaforTwo

            I agree that there are lots of reasons that LW may not want her FIL to make a speech…but none of the good ones are actually about the five minute timeslot.

            You are right that it was strong language, and probably inappropriate. I wasn’t trying to call out the letter writer: wedding planning can make perfectly reasonable people act in all kinds of unreasonable ways. And I think that this sounds like an example of that.

            My own completely off-the-rails moment was when my in-laws gifted us 6 cases of a lovely white wine for our reception. We’d asked them to choose the wine, but I wanted a French wine and they chose a family favourite from New Zealand. I ugly-cried. SOBBED to my husband “IT HAS NO MINERALITY”. And then on our wedding day, of course, I didn’t notice the wine. And for months afterward, every time I opened a bottle of our leftover wedding wine, he would tease me “are you sure you want to drink that? It has NO MINERALITY, you know” and we could both laugh.

            I found wedding planning to be hugely stressful, and not having my mom around, plus huge class differences between our two families made things really hard to navigate for me. So I reacted by needing to control a lot of things that…I see now that I didn’t really need to control.

          • AP

            This wine story is amazing and absolutely reassuring. I’m a month out, and fiancé and I are literally building a deck ourselves right now (why oh why did we think having our reception at our house was a good idea??!!) We’ve been crappy with each other all week because he wants it perfect (because everyone in our lives is coming to this reception and will know he built it) and I want it DONE (because everyone in our lives is coming to this reception and my table layout does *not* include a half-finished deck that everyone must climb over to get to the bathroom!) It’s not quite off-the-rails yet…but the train is dangerously close to careening over the edge…

          • joanna b.n.

            There was a clear point in the last few weeks before our wedding when I realized I was losing focus on the people who were involved in our wedding, BC I was too concerned about timelines, how things are done, etc. And when I stopped to think, I realized I would truly regret it if our wedding and how we managed it on the day of made our people feel unappreciated or unimportant. Just a reminder: pick your battles and consider forgoing things that serve ideas over people.

          • RoseTyler

            I can see my boyfriend and i having this exact argument. My mantra is “Done is better than Perfect”. As in seriously, I’ve asked him to repeat this to me on more than one occasion. It’s just a fundamental difference in priorities and viewpoints that we get to work through but OMG, perfectionism does not run in my blood!

          • To Hell With Timelines

            For reals. Perhaps I’m a little behind on my knowledge of wedding traditions, but I didn’t plan any time into our timeline for speeches, for anyone! We didn’t have any attendants and I guess it never occurred to me, the bride, that my father might like to say a few words. So, come my wedding day, I had no idea my dad had planned a good 10-15 minute speech until the moment he gave it at our reception. Let me tell you, it was the highlight of the entire evening for us and our guests. I’m doubly grateful that we caught it on video.

            That said, timeline-wise, if you are concerned about things, plan for speeches to happen during dinner. Our only stipulation, as set forth by the caterer, was that no speeches were to happen prior to dinner being served because she wanted everything cooked perfectly and served warm at the time everyone started to eat.

          • tr

            Seriously, a wedding that is that tightly scheduled sounds miserable!
            A normal reception is 4+ hours, and consists of toasts, dinner, cake cutting, a couple of first dances, and a dance party. Throw in a bouquet and garter toss if you feel like it. Maybe it’s just because I’m a relatively laid back person, but unless you have 600 guests to feed and 15 different toasts planned, I don’t see how those activities require a schedule that detailed….

          • jubeee

            You might be annoyed and I’m sitting here 3 weeks away from my wedding without a schedule at all. So people are different. One would assume that her husband sees it differently, thats not disrespect its just a difference in how people are.

          • Amy March

            Right. I’d be annoyed if he asked about a toast months in advance! Like, slow your roll we don’t need to be doing that now.

          • Eenie

            Differences of personality maybe. But I still think it’s unfair to claim she needs to be excited and grateful. We also don’t know how the tone of the conversation went either. Stuff can sound a lot harsher when written down.

          • jubeee

            I think I would blink several times and I say “I dunno, if he wants to sure then”

          • Lawyerette510

            “I truly believe the closer to the date, the less excitement and gratitude the couple should try to express at suggestions/requests.” This, in general, for all things wedding planning. We planned ours quickly (74 days from signing the venue contract to the wedding day) and it was not heavily scheduled but even in that short window of planning with lots of schedule flexibility, the closer we got to the day-of the less I was interested in the desires of other people (with the huge exception of my husband, whose desires I cared about very much).

        • macrain

          I don’t think there is a need to express excitement about something she is clearly not excited about. And I get the concern about planning toasts in advance. We kept a tight schedule because dancing was high on our list of priorities. My husband didn’t even want to have toasts at all because of that reason.

      • CMT

        “Asking for last-minute changes is disrespectful to the person who’s put in the work scheduling.”

        Exactly! I’m starting to feel bad for the LW here. I feel like there’s some piling on happening :(

      • Kim

        Yes, really.

        • Laura C

          All I can say is I hope your parents and in-laws are suuuuper respectful of your (plural you, as a couple) boundaries at all times, or it’ll be tough.

          • Kim

            Um, you don’t know me, so please stop calling me out as if you do, kay? Thanks.

          • Laura C

            Gosh, here I thought I was making a general observation about the ramifications of not being willing to take a pause and talk with your fiance about a parental request, rather than immediately saying yes always lest you be “disrespectful.” Sorry if it felt like a personal call-out — it’s actually born of hard experience.

            Also, nice unmarked edit from a two-word comment to a two-paragraph one!

          • tr

            Or you know, just have slightly looser boundaries….
            At least in my view, there shouldn’t be a huge brick wall separating the couple from either set of parents. My parents are welcome to voice their opinion all they want. My fiance’s parents are welcome to voice their opinion all they want. Both sets of parents occasionally say or do things I don’t agree with, but I understand that by getting married, his parents become part of my family. Sure, there are boundaries, but those boundaries are pretty loose, and I do my best to be accommodating and open to both sides of the family.

          • Laura C

            There’s a big difference between “welcome to voice their opinion all they want” and “my fiance says that what his parents say goes, no discussion needed,” though. In the latter case, well, the couple needs to have a serious talk, and boundaries are probably in order. Some parents are really able to express their opinion and then accept that you’re an adult disagreeing with them. Some continue to expect obedience from their adult children, and that can be a serious challenge to said adult children having adult relationships. Some adult children just aren’t ready to put their partners over their parents, which is another challenge to them having adult relationships.

            Again, we don’t know what’s the case here — could be anywhere from LW being way too controlling and hostile to perfectly lovely future in-laws and her fiance pushing back against her attempts to cut them out, all the way to LW reacting against the conveyed expectation that she will always put her future in-laws above her own preferences and her own family and that deviating from their desires in any way is disrespectful. But for those of us who’ve had serious boundary issues with in-laws (even with full spousal support in setting boundaries), suggesting that the answer is to just relax and roll with it is basically suggesting that the answer is to become a doormat.

          • tr

            You have a great point! I swear, this thread is a serious Rorschach test!

      • Kara Davies

        Here here! Really, when planning a wedding, if you want to participate in any sort of way, that NEEDS to be said at the beginning of the process. Waiting this late in the game (no matter who you’re related to) is definitely rude. LW stating that she had to check the schedule is totally the right way of handling things.

  • Eh

    My FIL has repeatedly said that he expects his sons will choose their wives and children over my FIL and MIL. That said, he reserves the right to disagree with the decision. He makes it known when he disagrees with a decision that my husband has made but then will make a off hand comment that my husband has to do what is best for me and our daughter.

    My husband loves his family and used to pick his family over me all the time. Then we discussed how that was effecting our relationship and his life. He would still pick them over me/us but he now discusses things with me first (our compromise – we discuss plans before agreeing to anything). For example his parents wanted to visit just before our daughter was born. We had just got home from running errands and my husband had to go to work a few hours later (they knew he had to work and we’re trying to fit in a short visit). My husband’s knee jerk reaction was that he wanted them to come visit. After discussing things, we decided that it wasn’t a good time since we had a few things that needed to be done around the house before he went to work and I was exhausted (I was probably 37 or 38 weeks pregnant). That said, my husband also would pick his family over himself, for example, drive to his parents house which is an hour away for a family meal when he has only two hours to eat/visit before he has to leave for work. He felt obligation to go to the family meal even though they would not give him enough notice to book the time off work so that he could actually enjoy the family get together. Now we only go if we have the time to visit (eg if they give him enough notice to book the time off).

  • april

    Liz’s response is spot-on, but as a somewhat recent bride myself (does 2 years ago count as recent?) I have one more piece of advice for the bride-to-be: build some flexibility into that schedule of yours! Planning things down to 5-minute blocks is, frankly, unrealistic. Unexpected things can and will happen on your wedding day, and you don’t want to spend the entire time freaking out because an impromptu toast put you 15 minutes behind schedule!

  • Yellow

    Your partner seems truly offended by your distance from his family (who are about to be your family too), and you seem reluctant to let them in. Their son is getting married too on this day – not just you. It will (hypothetically, anyway) never happen again. He may have some wonderful words and wishes for you two that you will remember for the rest of your lives. Your friends and guests will get over the 6 extra minutes of their lives spent celebrating you and your partner.

    That said, the fact that he is willing to declare out loud without qualification “I’d choose my parents over you” is… disturbing to me. Who on earth would even feel the need to say this to the person they are committing the rest of their life to??

  • Sarah E

    The speech issue seems settled, just want to add for the record that when my own dad asked me if he could give a toast or otherwise be involved, I told him a similar thing: I’ll have to check with P. Then, my partner and I looked back over the ceremony that we had written together, found a spot for parental blessings, and invited the rest of our parents to also make a statement. Dad’s was great, everyone else’s was great, too, but though my laid-back partner would have understood, that’s not a decision I would have just made without checking for honest feelings about it first.

    In terms of parents vs. partner. . . oof. Throughout my childhood, our family and extended family were anchored together through Sunday dinners at Grandma’s house. It was a really important family ritual for all of us, and I distinctly remember trying to imagine being an adult and either missing them if I moved away or how would I bring a husband, and worse– what if my husband had the same type of Sunday dinner?! How would we choose?? Just to say that I understand how these deeply connecting family things can feel when you’re in them.

    Between childhood and now, my family changed drastically and our rituals changed drastically. Dinner became more somber for a while after my grandpa passed away, since we lost one of our main anchoring points. Then my aging grandma slowly needed more care and could cook less. At first, my mom and aunt took over, but eventually even the youngest of us went to college or otherwise moved away, drama popped up between my mom’s siblings, and gradually less and less importance was placed on Sunday dinners. These days, it’s not much of a thing at all at my Grandma’s house, unless it’s a holiday or someone is visiting from out of town. And personally, with the change in family dynamics and my own growth, lingering at Grandma’s is no longer as fun and restful as it once was. It doesn’t take long for me to want my own space (and my own space includes my partner– the room we’re sharing for the visit or our car, or out somewhere together, since life with him is my anchor now)

    Long-winded, but circumstances change within families. Sometimes rapidly, sometimes gradually. I agree with Liz that you need to work out what marriage means to each of you. But I’d encourage you to think about the future of your extended families as well. It’s impossible to make decisions about unknown factors, but things like “How can our relationships with your parents be enriched without added stress?” “Can we find time to spend with them outside of this ritual as well?” It’s completely reasonable to need some decompression time at the end of your weekend, and it’s also completely reasonable that your partner sees family time AS that decompression, even if you don’t. So it’ll definitely take some compromise, but I do think you can concede to each other’s priorities while still keeping strong relationships within and outside of your marriage.

  • Alexandra

    PARENTS OVER SPOUSE?? Deal breaker. We became family when we got married. I adore my in-laws. Oh my gosh I scored so big when I married into my husband’s family. I’d move to be on their property (we’re talking about doing that) and we have vacationed with them. They are kind, generous, un-intrusive, easy people to get along with.

    But I’m #1 to my husband. It feels so good when he establishes boundaries between his family and me and makes sure that our family (we have a son) gets his best time and energy. Those boundaries are what make it so easy for me to love my in-laws. I don’t feel like I’m competing with them for my husband. They love him dearly, but they fully respect him as a grown man with no obligation to them.

    You should not be putting yourself into a situation where you and the in-laws are adversaries. I’d get some counseling with the fiance and seriously consider this as an enormous red flag.

  • elle

    I think the most telling/concerning part of this question was when LW said “We have a fundamental disagreement about our parents’ roles in our lives”. Insert screeching car brake noise here. This is the real problem and I would suggest that they get into premarital counseling ASAP to work it out. What happens once they have kids? What if his mom wants to be in their home every Saturday to hang with the baby and LW thinks that is too much, and her husband disagrees and takes moms side?

  • Mrrpaderp

    This, to me, is the most problematic part of the letter: “I believe that once you get married, your partner becomes your family. The future hubs does not agree.” Liz’s advice is on the nose here – LW and fiance have to have a discussion about what marriage means. If he sees marriage as an extension of dating and she sees it as forming a new family, that’s going to cause a whole lot of conflict about things big and small.

    Say, she had a busy work week and Sunday night is the only time they could possibly spend together all week, but Sunday Night Dinner with his family is sacrosanct so he can’t ever cancel under any circumstances. Or what if he’s in a coma, and he’s decided to let his family make medical decision for him instead of his wife, who essentially gets shut out of caring for her husband. I can only imagine how much resentment she would have at always feeling like she’s in second place, and frustration he would have by feeling like nothing he does is ever good enough.

    • A.

      I mean, he might disagree that their new family replaces his family of origin entirely. I would disagree with that statement myself. After marriage, we certainly became a new nuclear family, but ultimately our marriage also expanded our two families of origin as well. I’d be really, really shocked if he believes that marriage doesn’t make the two of them family at all. Because, yeah, if that’s the case, they should RUN, not walk, to counseling.

  • CMT

    “The whole thing felt reminiscent of an argument we had previously where he said if it’s me or his parents, he’s going to choose his parents.”

    Wow. Big, giant, crimson red flag. My first reaction was to say DTMFA, but I know that’s probably not what you want. I don’t know what to say.

    • emilyg25

      I don’t jump straight to DTMFA, but definitely proceed with caution. It took me a while to get used to putting my partner first. My family is really close and they’d come first for 30 years! Of course, I knew my partner *should* come first and I worked hard to change my habits.

      • CMT

        Yeah, I think my initial reaction was harsh. But I would be so upset if my partner actually said those words to me. This is a big deal, and I hope LW and her fiance can talk about it long and hard before the wedding.

        • jubeee

          Its hard to say how it was said though. If it were in the heat of an argument and she asked, I can see someone saying hurtful in the moment. I’m not saying that its healthy but there might be a situation where something is said that is not necessarily meant. I think communication is key here and I’m not sure its happening in the best way. I think a few people said pre-marriage counseling and that seems like a good idea.

          • A.

            Yeah, someone above said that they would be tempted to harshly respond “My family, since they aren’t making me choose.” My husband would…almost certainly respond like that, if he felt pushed up against a wall. And I’d have a valid point if I talked to him about not lashing out (though he’d have a valid point how I handled the argument as well), but it would be wrong for me to hold that statement over his head post-argument since I’d know he didn’t really mean it.

            But overall, this is a tougher letter since there’s so much missing and it’s very easy to project onto.

          • Violet

            This letter is like a Rorschach test. I’m learning so much about the commenters based on how they responded to it.

          • jubeee

            totally. as a very easy going person, i am naturally not going to side with the LW but that doesn’t mean she is wrong or bad. If her relationship is suffering from these difference it might all come down to better communication and mutual compromise.

          • raccooncity

            Totally, or how committed the couple was at the time. She doesn’t say how long they were dating when that came up. Maybe the argument happened when they’d only been dating a few months. This is the problem with bringing up old fights – especially in terms of exactly what was said.

      • s

        I think this is a hard thing to admit in our culture – we’re all expected to just be automatically be ready for that transition and doesn’t leave a lot of sympathy for those who struggle with it. I also think our culture is often harder on men who struggle with it (“mama’s boys” or “a son always leave when he takes a wife…”).

        • s

          *”A son is a son ’til he takes a wife…”

    • Lizzie

      I know, I’m leaning toward that reaction myself, harsh though it may be. If my then-fiance had said he would choose his parents over me, I’d have felt slapped. I’m hoping it’s just a heat-of-the-moment declaration or a miscommunication, but…damn.

  • macrain

    OP- I cannot stress how much the issues you are describing will impact your life together. To me this is not a deal breaker, but it is a big deal.
    I thought you actually had the perfect response to your FIL- “Let me take a look and let you know.” You did not say no! That your fiance finds it unacceptable that you wouldn’t just immediately agree is troubling. Setting boundaries is so important.
    Talk about it a lot and don’t be afraid to revisit this discussion. See a counselor if possible. Good luck and hugs!

    • CII

      Plus one for “Let me take a look and let you know.” This has become my husband and I’s default response to most requests from our parents (which are typically in the context of spending time, attending an event, etc.). Even ones where we are 90% sure the other will have no problem. It really makes a huge difference for us. Emotionally, for both of us, it feels much more like a marriage when we are discussing “how do we want to spend our weekend? Can we make this work with the other things we have going on” instead of one of us announcing that his/her parents have planned an event and we are going. And practically, because I am calendar-keeper, it helps prevent against schedule conflicts.

      • rg223

        Yeah I so agree with this too. After a couple of arguments about double-booking yourselves, you learn “We’ll let you know” is a great phrase!

  • Kathleen

    I agree with what Liz and others have said about the speeches, sounds like all is good on that front. I also think the intense scheduling is sort of fine, as long as you’re either building in buffer, or anticipating that the schedule needs to be flexible on the actual day.

    The “his parents are 100 miles away so it’s fine that we don’t agree on their role in our lives” thing is not good. My husband’s parents lived about that far from us while we were planning our wedding, and a TON of situations came up that really hurt my feelings, but rather than deal with establishing boundaries and a healthy communication style with his parents, I chalked it up to the wedding being a “one time thing.” Boundary and communication issues with in laws ARE NOT A ONE TIME THING. We have been married almost two years, and we are still trying to figure out how to navigate these situations. Start now!

    One of the easiest and most significant things we did on this front was talk about moving from “I” to “we” in discussions about important decisions or conflict. It was super important to me that if we talked something out and were ultimately not going to do something that his parents had asked us to do, they saw that as us making the decision as a unit, not their son taking it back to his wife, who vetoed it, and now they can’t do something they want to do. It sounds like your husband is setting up a sort of them v. you situation, with him in the middle choosing sides, which just sounds like something structurally that you should try to move away from.

    • macrain

      When she mentioned that thing about 100 miles I was like, “Does that seem super close to anyone else? Just me?”

      • rg223

        Agreed, or at least, it doesn’t feel far enough away that they wouldn’t be an issue, especially if you look long-term. Sure, they are 100 miles away and you don’t see them that much now, but twenty-ish years from now when one or both of them need long-term care and you have to decide whether you are going to move to them, or move them to you, or put them in a nursing home, or some combination, 100 miles doesn’t matter at all. And her parents being 1000 miles doesn’t matter in that case either!

      • tr

        My parents are roughly 100 miles away, and I swear, in terms of boundaries, that amount of distance is the absolute worst!
        When you live at opposite ends of the country (or even five or six hours apart), people understand that you can’t exactly come visit on a whim. When you live five minutes apart, it’s pretty easy to work in a quick 20 minute visit that will make everyone happy without really disrupting anything. When you live two hours apart? You will be guilted about not arranging every other weekend around some neighbor’s retirement party or the opening of a new Chinese buffet that Mom really wants to try! If there is any distance that will test a person’s boundaries, it is 100 miles!

  • LTurtle

    For a while there was some friction between and my inlaws, ok there still is but it’s less, and my husband felt caught in the middle. My MIL had a habit of announcing (not asking) that she was coming for a visit (from out of town) usually with only a day or two notice. My husband felt obligated to drop everything, rearrange our schedule to spend time with his mom (without consulting me) I was so not ok with that. His work schedule and our daughters special needs make last minute plan changes very difficult for us. Likewise they would invite us to come visit them and expect us to stay a full week (half my husband’s annual vacation time) but not make any effort to plan family friendly activities while we were there or make their house child safe.

    I started by setting some boundaries with my husband. No making plans (for all of us) with the inlaws without talking to me first, no staying at their house for more than three days at a time, and if it’s not convenient to see MIL when she announces a visit we will say no. He felt really uncomfortable about those at first, like it was rude to not do things MIL’s way all the time, but ultimately he was happier with the changes. After further reflection I realized that MIL was announcing visits because DH never invited her and she wanted to see her only grandchildren. So now we invite her over every once in a while, and accommodate her last minute visits when we can, and it works pretty well all around.

    I don’t think the LW should necessarily give in on Sunday’s with the inlaws because it’s no big deal. If she really needs that time to rest and prepare for her week, and can’t do that at their place, leaving “early” is not disrespectful it’s good self care. Maybe her FH can visit his parents on his own sometimes, or just know that Sunday afternoon is time for him to have them to himself. I do think the LW and her FH should have a serious convo about what they want for their new baby family and boundaries with their respective parents, possibly with a counselor. But I also think that how you handle these things changes over time. They don’t need to solve the situation now and forever, just come up with something that works for now and revisit as needed.

  • anonym

    We’re on the other side of this issue now. It really came to a head when we had kids. My husband grew up overseas, and his mom visits 3-4 weeks/year. When I was pregnant with our first, his mom and I found a time for her to visit (through email) when the baby would be about 6 weeks old. Then she called her son (my hubs) and convinced him that she should come before the baby would be born. I begrudgingly agreed because it seemed important to him. BIG MISTAKE! I did not like her being around for the first few weeks. A few years later, another baby, and she didn’t visit until he was 4 months old. We’re planning our next visit to my hub’s country, and I convinced him that we will rent a small house, rather than try to cram us and our kids into his (divorced) parents’ homes. To appease his mom, he suggested that she take the kids one night while we stay at our place!

  • RJ

    One thing that stood out quite a bit to me was that all the planning for the schedule was done by the bride (at least the way it was explained). When my husband and I planned our wedding, we planned it together. Maybe he feels like he and things that are important to him are being left out of the ceremony? If the bride planned the whole schedule and the groom wanted just five minutes of something that was important to him, I can understand feeling upset. Sounds like there could be room for more flexibility and compromise.

  • tr

    Personally, I view my fiance and my family of origin the way a person would view their multiple children–both are loved equally, and both are prioritized equally. When there’s a conflict, the question shouldn’t be “Who is more important to me?”, but rather “Who has the greater interest in this matter?”
    In this case, the toast is clearly more important to the father in law. Sure, the bride has put a great deal of thought into the wedding day schedule, but this is a once in a lifetime thing for the father in law. For the bride, it’s five minutes out of a day that’s otherwise mostly devoted to her. She can spare five minutes for the sake of his memories.
    Sometimes my fiance gets his way. Sometimes my family gets their way. However, I like to think that both parties usually get their way when it really matters.
    And when neither competing interest takes obvious precedence? I get the tie breaking vote, based on which I’d prefer to do! If that means cutting Sunday dinner short, we’ll cut Sunday dinner short. If it means staying an extra hour, we’ll stay an extra hour. (And for the record, if staying the extra hour is that big of a deal to you, ask if you can stay home when he makes his next trip to visit Mom and Dad…a weekend apart never hurt anybody!)

  • Lanette Lane

    put up with the prick or drop him- cuz he aint gonna change.

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  • Someone giving a heartfelt speech is not the problem. Being a control freak is. Bride-zilla.

  • Nita

    I have a question. I had moved in with my boyfriend . An lived with him almost two years. He has a sister who lived with him to. Well time went by an by. I just got to the point we were never alone. At home. I’m the kinda woman who likes to do candlelight dinner for my man an me an spend some time alone with him. The sister had other family members. Kids of her own whom she could spend nights with. Even if my man an I would sneak off to bathroom. It in a bath together an try to be alone. You could here her on the phone telling other family members we were in a bath or shower together. That’s personal. I had got to the point. That I wanted him to ask her not to do that. An if she could spend a weekend or every other with her kids. So we could have our time together. But I was the bad person for even suggesting such a thing. Am I wrong to want my private time with the man I love. Should I come last. Please reply.

  • Lydia

    Gracias por su correo,

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    También quiero aprovechar esta oportunidad para presentarme a mí mismo, mi nombre es
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    Especialista en este campo estamos especializados en el trasplante de riñón y
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    Le damos nuestra máxima garantía de que no lo encontrará nulo
    Evitar dar un paso audaz a nuestra oferta bien. Pero antes de que
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    Esperamos que aquí de usted tan pronto como recibió este correo okay.and que yo de EE.UU.

  • Jessy

    I’ve been with my husband for ten years now but we’ve been married for a little over one year. We both stated from the door that we are each other’s family now. But, I also let him know- because I know how his mother and sister are, that if they try to intrude in our marriage and he allows them to and doesn’t work with me as our team- I will leave him. If my family who also happens to be 1000 miles away is not even allowed to know certain things then his family that also happens to be down the street shouldn’t be influencing our marriage- especially considering that I know him in a way they don’t. I’ve never once thought about leaving the love of my life until about 6 months ago and it’s been on and off since then because he lets his family get into our business and I refuse to live the rest of my life fighting with his whole family when on paper he’s the only one I’m attached to. And just thinking like this makes me miserable, but dealing with it has me in a dark depression. Marriage I have to say I disagree with the author though I love your writing- isn’t defined however you want- it literally was given and defined directly by God and says that you’re leaving your family to be a family with this person. If your husband thinks that your team includes anyone else that he can side with besides you- then he’s too immature to get married. The way I explain it is- your parents won’t be here forever and then what will you have? And your wedding will be miserable if you really think it will go according to your schedule- it just won’t unfortunately – trust me I’ve had one I’ve planned others- it just doesn’t work that way. And in regard to your flexibility I’m sure you are flexible. I would be pissed off about the Sunday’s too, especially if you have to drive 100 miles afterwards still. Sundays I prep for the week and get everything done I have to and try to rest so that I CAN be a good wife- because I’ll be eliminating stress. Later down the line as you guys have kids- a routine like that is also going to be a big help and if there’s no respect for it then just tell him you have no problem being there every Sunday of life as long as you can quit your job- men genuinely don’t take serious everything we do and that’s why there’s no regard for your routine and why it’s important. When you start stressing out and it rubs off on him then he’ll act like it’s your fault- when truly it’s his lack of consideration for why you do what you do. Marriage is compromise but if my man had ever told me something throughout all this time that he would chose his family over me I’d have made the decision for him by leaving him. I won’t play second fiddle to another woman even if she is your mother. You’re the one now taking care of him and they can’t care for him in the fashion you do- it’s just different very different in regard to the type of intimacy shared in marriage.