My in-laws think I brainwashed my husband

Dear Lisa,

My husband and I have been married 10 years this year and I have had nothing but trouble from his side of the family virtually the whole time.

It all started about 6 months after my husband and I got married when his mother cheated on his father and then decided to get a divorce. We had just had our first baby and were busy dealing with being a newly married couple with a newborn. Both my husbands parents put pressure on us for emotional support which we found hard to give. When we couldn’t support them they blamed me. My husband at that stage found it hard to say no to his parents so when an issue arose I had to ask him to deal with them which he struggled with and I ended up doing it.

My MIL was also abusing drugs and alcohol and we bore the brunt of nasty attacks while she was under the influence. By the time we had our second baby we had my husbands mother living with us and borrowing thousands of dollars off us which I didn’t like but my husband couldn’t say no to her. We also took in my husbands younger brother who we supported during the divorce because he was very angry and bitter with the parents and would only deal with us. After the 2 suicide attempts from my husband mother, we asked her to leave and I was to blame for that too.

Alongside this my husband’s father declared bankruptcy and needed a place to live and ended living with us. We finally had our 3rd baby and bought our own home, which costs a lot of money so we decided not to have any of the family living with us anymore because of the financial burden, which the father and brother blamed me for too.

I feel like all we have done is help everyone else through their difficult times and now my husband has finally realized that we have been treated like door mats for the last 10 years. He decided to speak up after I received an abusive phone call from his younger brother who he has asked for an apology from. As it stands the mother thinks I am to blame for the abusive phone call and it couldn’t be her son, the brother will not apologize because he feels like I am family and he should be able to treat me the way he wants, also I am not important enough to make amends with.

So, my husband and I have have had enough and are at our very limits with them all and have cut them off. I don’t really want it to be like this but we have been bullied for so long now we don’t know what else to do. By the way they all believe its all my fault and my husband couldn’t possibly be the reason he is being brainwashed by me. I have deleted my Facebook page so I don’t have to receive messages or contact from them which is not good, but I feel for my own sanity it is the right thing to do.

Please help :(

–The Blamee ( ♀ Chemainus)


Dear The Blamee,

Before I respond, I recommend that you both read this together, if that is at all possible.

First, I am so sorry for your situation. The pressure imposed by in-laws/family of origin can be extremely trying on a relationship. Specifically, it can really mess with your head to have your family vehemently doubt your decisions and the person you decide to be with. You must have learned extraordinary communication between yourselves to endure the pressure for so long. I commend you both for trying so many things to keep your family together, help them feel supported and cared for even when they can’t seem to reciprocate. Most of all though, I am grateful that you decided to tell your story; I know that many people will read this and feel that they are not alone.

The most important thing to consider in a situation like this the health of your relationship. Not only is it the foundation of your future together, but through it’s strength your children will see the healthiest way to handle difficult circumstances. So, let’s start things off with a little about your relationship. If you aren’t familiar with my work, there are essentially two parts to a relationship – connection and polarity. The connection is your ability to be with each other, communicate and connect; in other words, how close you are with one another. The polarity is the opposite, it is the space between you that causes sexual charge and fulfillment; without it, you are just friends. Both parts of your relationship have likely been affected by the current circumstance, but it is the polarity that I am most concerned with here. On a primal level, polarity is represented by the protected and the protector, the feminine and the masculine. In most heterosexual relationships, the woman is the protected, and the man is the protector and from what I can tell, this is the case in your relationship.

The polarity in your relationship will have been inverted somewhat by the uncomfortable position your husband was in to choose between his family of origin and his future family, as well as your choice to stand up for your families safety for so long. You became the protector and he became the protected. I want to make it clear here that no one is at fault for your predicament, it is natural to run from things that we fear, just as it is natural to stand up to what we fear. In this case, you simply switched roles, which is only a big deal because, as I mentioned above, you are in a romantic hetero relationship. In other words, the inverted polarity feels shitty because you don’t want to be the protector, and your husband does.

What is interesting is that by repairing the polarity in your relationship, there is a chance to re-establish a degree of health in the family surrounding you. Your inverted polarity didn’t only effect your marriage, but it had an effect on the family as well. When you became the protector and started laying down the law, the family likely made up some story that you conquered your man (their firstborn son, blah blah) and that you must have somehow tricked him into doing what you want. So, the stories are due to weakness in your relationship, therefor, the stronger your relationship, the less stories can take hold.

Before we get into the how-to, I want to make the unhealthy patterns clear. For your husband, it is hard to make the transition from son (and eldest son at that) to husband, simply because loyalties must inevitably shift. His new family that he is creating with you must ultimately be a higher priority than his the family from which he comes. Not that they are not important, but their wellbeing cannot come at the expense of his wife and children. This is a painful line to draw, and most men avoid drawing it if they can. For a healthy masculine male, though, it is part of the process of becoming a man and creating his own future. Some men luck out and make the transition as they leave their parents home, long before they begin to create a family of their own, but mostly it happens when they get married or sometime thereafter. He probably feels like a failure because it has taken him so long, and it will take him time to be able to trust himself to act with integrity consistently.

For you, you felt scared and unsafe. Consequently you made the choice to stay and stand up to your in-laws with boundaries that weren’t yours to create. This is something a lot of women struggle with in relationships. We have the capacity to assume the masculine role and are not yet aware of the consequences of doing it. By standing up to his family recently, however, your man is telling you that he will take it from here; that you can relax now, he’s ready. It will probably be hard to trust him as he is learning to trust himself, but it is important that you show him immediately when you feel his strength waning. You will be the best barometer for this work.

Now, I wish I could tell you that there will be a point where his family will accept and respect you, trust him in his choice of a woman, and believe that you are not brainwashing him, but they might not. In some families it is possible to sit down with a family counselor, do family constellations, or even have it out at a big table, but in most, not everyone is up to going to that sort of depth.

So the work needs to be done from the inside. Your husband needs to sit with himself and really consider his boundaries with his family – make them rock solid and clear. His steadiness will not only allow you to relax your guard, but it will eventually be what allows the family to relax as well. Basically, the way I see it is that most people are sort of like children – they will push and push at boundaries, not because they hate the person, or the boundary, but because they want to make sure that they are safe within it; that it won’t fall down unexpectedly. When they feel his consistency – which may take years – they will hopefully see that he is running the show, not you.

But this must come from him – it must come from his mouth, in his words. You really shouldn’t have anything to do with deciding what the boundaries must be, because the only way the family will feel his conviction, and the only way for him to be totally convicted and trust his own words, is that he came to the conclusions himself. You can focus your energy on relaxing into your feminine now and let him enforce the rules with the family, which will help him to resume the role of the masculine with you too. It will take some time and consistency with his boundaries and you practicing relaxing into your feminine for you both to feel the strength of your polarity with each other again .

This isn’t easy for any couple to do, and if you or he needs help, I’m here. There is also a fantastic resource that I use frequently with men who are interested in establishing stronger boundaries called ‘No More Mr. Nice Guy’ by Dr. Robert A Glover. To get a sense of the feminine depth I speak of, I suggest that you read ‘Dear Lover’ by David Deida. In the meantime, I think it might be useful to check out this subreddit on children of narcissistic parents to see that you two are not alone in your situation. It is very hard to come to terms with family that doesn’t act in the way we have always hoped, but once you have both done everything you can from the inside, the decision you make will come easier.

I’m glad you wrote and I wish you both peace,

– Lisa



One Response to “My in-laws think I brainwashed my husband”

  1. Maria

    “We had just had our first baby and were busy dealing with being a newly married couple with a newborn.”
    “Dealing with?” As a mother of two, married to my best friend, I can only attribute my rocky past and 8 years as a CNA for the strength, willingness and understanding of just how much of yourself you give for others as a wife and parent. I never once felt I was “dealing with” my husband or kids. Because of my experience literally taking care of other people, mostly with special needs, I knew going into parenthood just exactly what I getting myself into. Before getting married, my husband and I went through multitudes of scenarios and how we would handle them. One being aging parents, or family members in need. We discus our concerns and worries, literally every day.
    I learned early on with my first husband what I did not want in a person, what I wold not deal with with a person and in laws, I grew and learned more about myself than ever.

    I am not saying get a divorce, or your a bad parent. However, these issues should be talked out, and agreed upon by you both. My now husband and I had a tiff once about his parents, went to therapy, and chose our marriage over his parents needs. YOU and your husband are a family now, not his mom or his brother. You are his wife, YOU come first,. PERIOD.


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