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

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


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?


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.


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