Gripe #3: Does she expect me to fight her family battles?
When Scott married Susan he knew her family was difficult: For years Susan had been at their beck and call. She never missed a family event, even though these get-togethers made her upset when her hypercritical mother and sisters told Susan her makeup was all wrong or that her outfit made her look fat. Also, she'd been under a lot of pressure from her family to get married.
In Scott's view, Susan had always passively accepted this unreasonable behavior from her family. But after they wed, she grew a little bolder. One day, Susan gave her mom a long-overdue piece of her mind and stormed out, demanding that Scott follow. Scott, caught in the middle of the scene, felt unprepared to step suddenly into the ring.
It makes sense that you would expect your new family—your spouse—to be on your side all the time. Susan was likely thinking that her new status as wife would give her the emotional muscle to confront old family issues.
But, says Shea, it doesn't always make sense to bring a relative newcomer into long-standing family troubles with no warning. That said, Scott might help Susan deal with old wounds more creatively.
Shea suggests that Susan sit down and write a letter explaining the anger, sadness, fear and sorrow she would like to express to her family, and give it to Scott to help him understand. Often, writing forces you to be more rational and helps you organize your thoughts.
Then, the two of them could discuss ways to be on each other's side without drawing lines in the sand with family. These are tricky issues, but in-laws—on both sides—are there to stay, and you need to find ways to keep them in your life without making enemies of each other.