Couples therapist for conflict with family of origin

My partner is one of five brothers.  Two of his sisters in law have taken over the role of 'running the family'.  ALL events are organized by them; everything goes through them.  The biological family (parents and brothers) are happy with this.  I have been with my partner for eleven years.  For some reason, these two sisters in law have always acted like two high school girls in a click.  They have never included me in email invitations.  When I used to go to family events, they would not talk to me.  When we hosted something, in his house as we don't live together, they would literally give me the silent treatment.  They would say hello to everyone except for me.  They would spread stupid but very offensive rumors about my son or me.  Those rumors were always lies.  I have told my partner from the beginning of their behavior.  His response was always that it's not possible that they would act that way because 'they are great people'.  The truth is that both are very manipulative and know how to act really nicely with the brothers or the parents. When he has seen some bad behavior on their part, he just writes it off and says maybe I did something that offended them.  I think that me having a foreign accent has made it easier for them to bully me. My partner always told me this 'war' was in my mind only; that I was welcome by them and was invited to family events through the invitation they always sent to him (without my name or my son's name).  Finally, after years of endless arguments, he asked them to include me in emails.  Well, then they started inviting him by phone, instead of email.  Again, after endless arguments, he agreed to ask them to include me in any type of invitation. Since they haven't anyway, he has called them to confront them, to which they FINALLY replied they don't want me there.  They both proceeded to list their reasons, and they are all complete lies.  My partner, and this is an ENORMOUS progress for him, has finally acknowledged they are not being nice to me, but still wonders why they are 'hurt' that they can't include me.  He cannot believe they are just being mean. It is so humiliating, hurtful and offensive that he won't support me.  It has caused so much damage to us!  My point is that I need a therapist that will be able to help with this.  We used to do therapy together just about this issue.  The therapist, however, dismissed my complaint about my partner's lack of loyalty to me.  He kept on saying "what can we do so that they will 'get along' better?"  These women are bullies.  We do not not get along; they are a click and act like one.  We have never had a disagreement about anything.  They have just decided they will exclude me and my partner just goes along with that.  He spends Thanksgivings and Xmases with them, while my son and I spend them with my family.  He says it's my choice.  I don't really have another choice if I'm not welcome.  He doesn't get it and the therapist didn't either.  Do you have a recommendation for a therapist that has worked on situations like this one, where one partner will place his primary loyalty to family of origin and not partner?  I would really appreciate any leads.  Thanks!

Parent Replies

Parents, want to reply to this question? Sign in to post.

I’m sorry for your difficult situation.  It sounds to me like the best approach at this point is couples counseling for you & your husband, so you can understand his point of view & vice-versa.  If the women are in fact forming a “click” (I think you mean clique), is it possible there’s some validity to their observations?  I think the primary focus would be your partnership with your husband, then after you work through some of that, try and understand the potential clique and reasons why that may exist.  Best of luck.

I have been in your situation and its not fun.  But you do have choices to make.  You do not need an invitation to go with your partner for a family event.  It really depends on how much you want to put up with this uncomfortable situation.  His family is NEVER going change and he would rather not rock the boat. He made not want to confront them as this can make the situation worse for all of you.  It does not matter if your name is not on a invite.  Go if you want to go, or don't.  Stop beating up your partner because this is not helping any of you.  Do your own personal therapy without him.  In his situation, he cannot support anyone, and while not a popular way to think, you are going to have to deal with that.  There were many times, I went to a family event know that I was not wanted and that everyone hated me.  I did nothing to cause the problem, but I became the problem in my relationship and his family got their way in my not being present at family events and all the fighting at home.  I finally just decided that it was not important for them to win, I chose which events I would go to and unless something horrible was said to me at a family event, I did not make it a big deal with my husband.  You can also send both these woman a card that apologizes for any misunderstandings that have occurred and want to move forward in a positive manner.  Saying it that way does not mean you are saying you are to blame, just that you acknowledge there has been and issue and want to move forward.  See if that makes any difference.  

I hope others will give you therapist recommendations but I will point you to some online resources that helped me. 
 

On reddit, browse the JustNoSO and JustNoFamily forums. On Babycenter browse the All in the Family and DWIL Nation forums. They provide a lot of support for how to deal with families of origin and families you marry into (which might happen in this case). They are all about helping you and your partner with prioritizing your chosen family. 
 

I hope I am later proven wrong, but your partner sounds so unsupportive and if he doesn’t take a stand or prioritize your happiness and mental health then maybe he’s not the right one for you and your son. Be really careful before entering into any contracts like marriage with a person like him. I can handle just about any mean girl behavior as long as my partner is truly by my side. Hopefully you’ll get there. Good luck. 

I would highly recommend Dominique Lambert-Blum, PsyD (510) 229-4380 dlambertblum [at] gmail.com
I'm so sorry for what you are going through, it sounds very painful. I just want to say that you should be proud of yourself for standing up for you and your son. I think Dr Lambert-Blum would be very good for you because she is strong, kind, empathetic and knowledgeable. She was our couple's therapist for four years until our schedule could no longer work with hers. I found her to be strong on women's issues, past trauma and helping me find my voice to stand up for myself. I think those strengths could be helpful for you.

I'm very sad to hear about your situation. I hope you consider individual therapy. You stated your husband already admitted there is bullying and yet he goes without you. It seems to me that your are stressing yourself out trying to change someone who isn't going to change. You have more choices than you are likely comfortable considering. A good therapist can help you figure out what is best for you.

Female aggression is out of the closet and is being increeasingly taught and recognized. ODD GIRL OUT, the Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls by Rachel Simmons (2002) was and still is a "best seller". You are not alone. Sorry for this miserable situation. Hope the book, and its list of resources is a help.

I agree with the poster who said you could enter your own therapy.  Your own therapist will try to understand you and empathize with you, and may provide support to you or help you gain insight.  But you could try couple's therapy again if you want, then maybe if you saw a man last time, try seeing a woman this time, or vice versa.