If your husband shows more affection, love, or attention to his family than to you, you may feel left out or concerned. There can be various reasons this occurs, which may not mean he values them more than your marriage. Understanding how to move forward and express your needs in your relationship can be two ways to address this occurrence, and couples therapy may also be beneficial.
Why Has My Husband Chosen His Family Over Me?
Marriage is often a commitment for many couples that can come with certain expectations or values. For many, marriage involves starting a family, living together, or taking the next steps in a relationship. Some individuals may believe that married life is a benchmark for taking more separation from one's family of origin and focusing on the marriage.
However, regardless of opinions on how a marriage "should" look, many individuals may value their close relationships with family and hope to spend as much time as possible with them. If one's family does not like their spouse, it can cause conflict and distress on both sides. Understanding why you sense that your husband has chosen his family over you may benefit you in understanding the motives behind his behavior. For example, ask yourself the following questions:
- Do I feel disrespected by my husband's family?
- Do I wish my husband would defend me more from his family?
- Do I want to spend more time with my spouse without his family present?
- Do I suspect that his family is intruding on our personal matters?
- Does my husband consider and validate my fears or emotions?
- Do I feel jealous or resentful about my partner's connection with their parents?
- Am I scared of losing my partner due to his family's opinions?
- Are there any boundaries I want to set with his family or him?
Afterward, determine if your husband's actions are unhealthy or go against your values.
If his actions are normal or healthy but still cause you challenges, you might choose to try individual therapy to talk about your feelings with a provider. If you determine that your husband's actions go against your boundaries, needs, or emotional safety, consider discussing the possibility of couples therapy or changing the dynamics in your marriage.
Potential Reasons For Your Husband's Actions
Below are a few reasons your husband might be spending more time with his family or prioritizing their needs over yours, as well as a few solutions.
He Feels Guilt For Less Time With Family
Men who had a close bond with their parents prior to marriage may feel guilty for spending less time with them as they age and start their own family. If you think spending significant time with their family might be an issue in your relationship, talk to your spouse to see what's happening. If he wants to spend time with his family, you may be able to devise a collaborative solution.
For example, you might tell your husband that you're open to going on more holidays with his family to spend more time together as a group. However, if your husband's family doesn't like you or tends to want to spend time alone with him, let him know how this impacts you. If needs at home aren't being met, such as chores, let him know you need him to carry his weight in the household. Setting boundaries in your relationship can help you target your core concerns without passing judgment.
He Wants To "Keep The Peace"
The "fighting with the in-laws" trope can exist in more than just comedy movies — A spouse might find that they don't get along with their husband's family, or the other way around. You might notice your in-laws treating you unkindly, or you might disagree with the way they treat your husband or children. If your husband feels stuck in the middle of the conflict, he may spend more time with his parents or agree with them to try to "keep the peace" or avoid the conflict.
Significant disagreements with in-laws can be challenging, and you may believe that your husband "should" choose you in the conflict. However, noting that your husband's family are the people with whom he grew up and loves may help you better understand how he feels while raising your concerns. Instead of asking your husband to cut off his family, come to him from a place of empathy and tell him how his family's actions impact you.
Intra-family conflicts can be very delicate and may require compromise. However, if your husband struggles to set boundaries with his parents or family, it may be beneficial to go to couples or family therapy to discuss methods to help the family situation work out for everyone involved. Some couples choose to have their in-laws come to therapy with them so the therapist can act as a mediator if a conflict arises.
He Has An Unhealthy Attachment With A Parent
Some individuals may grow up and remain firmly attached to their parents, wanting to spend most of their time together, telling them about everything that happens in their life, or treating them like a best friend. Although being close to a parent is not necessarily unhealthy, there may be some signs that it is, including the following:
- Needing daily and constant contact with his parents
- Consistently choosing his parent over his spouse or children
- Choosing to live with his parents instead of his partner
- Treating his spouse like a stand-in for his parents
- Being financially dependent on his parents and not contributing to the household
- Refusing to set boundaries with his parents, even when he admits they have done wrong
If your husband is showcasing these behaviors, bringing them up in conversation may benefit you. Let him know why you're concerned and if you have any needs in the marriage that aren't being met due to it. An individual, couples, or family therapist may also benefit you or your husband as you navigate these behaviors.
He Wants To Live At Home
According to a study conducted by the Pew Research Center, men ages 18 to 34 are more likely to live with a parent (35%) than with a spouse or partner (28%). This extended living arrangement could enforce strong emotional attachment and dependency traits with his parents, causing difficulty in switching priorities from his parents to his spouse. In this case, you may benefit from setting boundaries about what you need and expect from a relationship.
You All Live Together
If you, your husband, and his immediate family live in the same household, there may be conflicts that arise due to his parents' roles and the power dynamics that may exist between your relationship and his relationship with his parents. You might perceive that you do not get space or have your boundaries disrespected. If boundaries and house rules are not agreed on before living together, you may find that conflicts arise when one person's expectations aren't met.
In these cases, it could be beneficial to try family therapy. With a therapist, all parties can lay down their expectations and rules for living together. The person who owns the house may have more say over what is acceptable regarding chores, cleaning, or child-rearing. If you and your husband are considering leaving his family's home or asking them to leave, you can also have this potentially difficult conversation in the presence of a professional.
What Can You Do When Your Husband Chooses His Family Over You?
Below are a few ways to address your husband's choices and your boundaries in a healthy manner.
Communicate With Your Spouse
Unlike when you're single, dating and long-term relationships require consistent honesty and communication. Studies have found that commitment doesn't lead to marital satisfaction unless healthy communication patterns are also present. Try to speak honestly with your spouse about your feelings and why you think he is choosing his family over you. If it's due to your own fears or past experiences, let him know. Try not to come at him with labels such as "unhealthy," "weird," or "unnatural." Instead, start with "I" statements such as, "I feel left out when you spend all your weekends with your mom."
After expressing your emotions, ask him how he feels about the situation and why he's been partaking in the behavior you're concerned about. You may reassure him by letting him know you don't want to break up his connection with his family or make him choose sides but are respectfully requesting that a healthy changeoccur. If you're open to compromise, let him know. If you're setting a firm boundary or want a drastic change to be made, let him know it's a non-negotiable issue for you but that you are willing to discuss it in therapy if he's open to attending.
Act As A Team
Married couples may benefit from seeing each other as a team working against a problem together instead of treating each other as the problem. Building your relationship daily may help create a foundation you can both trust when in-laws and other relatives come between you. Try not to put your spouse in a situation where you ask him to choose you or the family unless you mean it and are prepared for potential separation.
If you believe your husband is experiencing abuse, mistreatment, or unhealthy relationships with his family, you can let him know. However, it is up to him to make a decision that he believes is healthy. If you think the situation is not changing and causing psychological, emotional, or physical harm, reach out for support from a professional.
Many adults may still love and respect their parents as they did as children. Your husband may have a close bond with his family and want to please them, make them happy, and include them in his life. If you have a strained relationship with your family, seeing someone else have a healthy relationship with theirs can be difficult and may cause adverse childhood memories to arise. Understanding attachment and how it can differ between families may benefit you in these cases.
If you sense that your spouse's attachment to his family is unhealthy, you can talk to him about what healthy attachment means to you and why you're concerned. If his parents treat him like a child, try to make decisions for him, or ask him to give all the intimate details of your life, you can set a boundary by letting him know you're uncomfortable with these behaviors or requests and that you need them to change.
Try To Avoid Resentment
If you feel resentment or hostility toward your husband due to his family's behavior toward you, try to avoid showcasing these feelings toward your husband. How his family acts may not be under his control and may not reflect how he feels about you. If you're worried that he doesn't love you or talks poorly about you behind your back, bring this up with him. You might decide to speak to him about this topic in therapy if it's challenging to be impartial at home.
Let Your Husband Make Choices For Himself
If you have asked your husband to make a choice or respect your boundaries, it is up to him to do so. If he's unwilling to make the requested changes, you can decide to stay in the marriage, ask for a separation, or consider therapy. Trying to understand where he's coming from may benefit you. However, if you believe that the situation is unhealthy or toxic in any way, it may benefit you to see an individual therapist to ask about your options and discuss the pros and cons of staying or leaving.
Understand Extenuating Circumstances Can Occur
There are times when your husband might choose to attend to his family. For example, if his parents are sick, in an emergency, dying, or requiring immediate support, he may choose to support them. Consider how you might act if you were out at a best friend's graduation from university and your husband had a health emergency. You might choose to visit your husband in the hospital instead of seeing your friend graduate, even if it was important to them. In these cases, you may not be "choosing your husband" over your best friend but instead prioritizing an emergency for someone you love.
Your husband may do the same for situations he deems an emergency or essential. If this occurs in your marriage, consider asking your husband how you can help or if he would like you to accompany him as he attends to his parents.
Seek Professional Support
If you find that conversations about your husband's family priorities end in arguments or you struggle to find the words to say what you need, it may benefit you and your husband to try couples therapy. Family matters can be complex and come with many underlying emotions from childhood and throughout life. A mental health professional can validate both sides and offer research-backed advice. These professionals are trained not to take sides and can remain impartial as you come to a decision with your husband.
One option for couples looking for ease of services is an online platform like Regain, which is dedicated to couples seeking flexible support through the internet. Through online counseling, you can choose to partake in phone, video, or live chat counseling with a licensed professional. In addition, you and your husband can attend therapy from separate locations if you have different schedules.
Working with a professional can allow you to learn the tools to communicate better and work through your issues as a family. A therapist can also assist you in creating helpful boundaries, explaining your viewpoints to your spouse, and learning practical ways of communicating. In addition, many couples report that online therapy is more effective than in-person therapy.
“In a short time my husband and I have gained a lot of clarity of each other’s actions and communication with his help.”
“My husband and I have been having a wonderful experience with Keith Welsh (LCSW). We have never felt like we truly connected with a counselor before, but now we leave each session with a sense of ease and an action plan to continue working on our goals, both together and individually. He provides tools and insights that give us ownership over building a stronger relationship instead of just allowing us to vent and continue the same vicious cycle. We are very appreciative of his expertise and care!”
You are not alone if you perceive that your husband is prioritizing his family over you. If you don't know what to do, tools are available to help you move forward. Speaking with a nonbiased professional can help you take the first step toward change and resolution to these concerns.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Below are several frequently asked questions about a husband choosing family over his spouse.
Should A Man Choose His Spouse Over His Family?
Every family dynamic is different, and the individuals in a family can be too. For many, the healthiest dynamic may be one where the husband's family and spouse get along, and everyone feels respected. However, the situation may not work out this way. Often, the choice comes down to what the individual feels is healthiest and needs for their well-being. Some husbands may choose to cut off contact with their family in support of their spouse. Others might find this behavior unhealthy or not fitting to their circumstances. If you feel you are being asked to choose between your family and spouse, you might benefit from talking to an individual, couples, or family therapist before deciding.
Should Your Spouse Or Parents Come First?
An individual's spouse and parents can both be cherished to them simultaneously, and choosing between the two may be painful or difficult for someone to do. If there is no unhealthy or toxic dynamic in either relationship, but the two have conflict against each other, it may be beneficial for the entire family to try family therapy to discuss what can change for the relationship to become healthy.
What Should I Do If My Partner Lets His Family Disrespect Me?
If you find your husband does not speak up when his family makes unkind comments, disrespects your boundaries, or treats you poorly, it can feel hurtful. Let your partner know what you want him to do in these situations. For example, you could ask him to remind his parents of your boundary or ask them to leave if they continue to act disrespectfully. If he is unwilling to do so, it may benefit you to go to couples therapy to discuss why this dynamic is occurring and make a plan to address it.
What Should You Do If A Man Doesn't Tell His Family About You?
If your husband or partner doesn't tell his family about you and you are married, it may be beneficial to ask why. Knowing the reason may help you devise solutions to help him tell his family. For example, if you are an LGBTQ+ couple and your husband doesn't feel safe coming out to his parents, you might choose to accept this factor until he feels ready. On the other hand, if you don't understand or accept his reasoning, you might consider setting up a therapy session with a couples therapist to discuss ways your husband can break the news to his parents in the future.
Is There A Correct Order For A Household?
Every household has different traditions, values, and ideas about marriage. In traditional marriages, one might believe a man should "lead" the home and provide for his partner and children. However, many types of households exist, including LGBTQ, polyamorous, and culturally-based families with different customs. Regardless of your religion, beliefs, sexuality, or gender, you and your husband can decide what type of household hierarchy works for you and your family. If you have differing ideas on this hierarchy, consider reaching out to a couples counselor to develop solutions in a safe and respectful environment.
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