I just need some advice. There are times when I cry out of self-pity. I have exhausted all my savings and been buried in debt. I have also borrowed from my own parents just to send my brothers-in-law to school. Now that they are 23 and 25, already finished in their studies, they refuse to work and are still dependent on us.
I welcomed my wife’s brothers to live with us. It was going well at first, until it came to a point when they invited their girlfriends to live with us. They made a motel out of my house.
Once, I asked them to save water and electricity, but they took it against me, and made me look like I’m the bad guy. I am also the one who spend for their food and needs. What hurts me most is using the money allotted for my kids to support them.
I am so exhausted. Recently, my wife and I have been arguing a lot about this. But it seems like they are her priority.
First of all, you have the right to be angry. Anger is what we feel when our boundaries are being violated. And in your case, your privacy and financial resources, which rightfully belong to your immediately family, are the boundaries being abused and disrespected by your wife’s siblings. It is okay to give a helping hand, but not to the point when they also take your arm.
Your wife is in a better position to draw the line between your family and her siblings. I recommend that you and your wife act as a team, as one unit. And I recommend that your wife be more loyal to you and your family than to her own.
High conflict with in-law relationships usually arise when the spouse has not yet psychologically detached from his/her family-of-origin. In other words, when he/she feels more obligated to the family-of-origin and shows more loyalty to them.
Given all these, here are my suggestions:
1. Communicate with your wife.
I know you have done this several times. But do check how you approached her when you raise your issue with her. Saying, “I’m already tired and exhausted in sustaining for your siblings” is more effective than saying, “your siblings are a lazy bunch of people.”
The first one focuses on your feelings. The second one judges her siblings. And when you judge her family members, she would also feel judged and attacked. It is natural for us to attack our loved ones when we are drained, stressed and frustrated. However, this approach is counterproductive.
You need some breathing space for you to focus on your feelings. Because when you focus on your feelings, it would activate her effort to problem solve with you. This is me hoping, that she do care about what you feel and empathetic towards you. After all, you are her husband. That empathy is maybe just buried by the negativities in your relationship, but nevertheless, it is still probably there.
2. Be assertive of your rights and needs.
Do not be passive, yet also do not be aggressive. When you’re passive, you just take it all silently. And when you’re aggressive you would tend to judge, criticize, or shout at them. Some people verge from being passive to aggressive. First, they endure it all silently, and when they reach the end of their rope, they suddenly become aggressive.
In your case, when you speak to your siblings-in-law who are being too much in their behaviors, try to speak in a calm and firm voice. Of course, it would be inevitable that irritation would color the tone of you voice, but at least they wouldn’t feel attacked. I know that this is very difficult to do as your complaints about them have piled up.
3. Let your wife deal with most issues regarding her brothers.
Your wife knows them better than you do, they are her family. So she knows more on how to deal with them. I don’t know if she’s being an enabler by allowing her siblings to depend on your family’s resources. If this is the case, she should also learn how to be firm and draw the line. She needs to learn how to give tough love. If on the other hand, she herself disregards your feelings and abuses your generosity, then that is a different problem.
In the end, the key here is your wife being one with you, of empathizing with you, of prioritizing your family above her own brothers. Like what I’ve said before, it’s okay to help, but not to the point of being abused.