Dear Dr. Archer,
After my wife and I returned from our honeymoon, we moved in with her parents, due to the fact that we don’t have enough income to live on our own. One month after we married, she became pregnant. We would visit my parents, but as time passed, we started seeing my parents less and less. Sometimes I’d want to go see them, but my wife would say she was too tired. Everything my parents told her regarding the pregnancy was wrong, while her parents’ advice was considered the best advice in the world. I started seeing my parents less and less. When they’d point this out, I’d tell them she was having a difficult pregnancy. To make things even worse, every time we did see my parents, my wife would find at least one thing my parents said that was not to her liking. And I’d be the one in the middle, trying to make things work out. Soon the baby was born, and oh my, a whole new hell was unleashed! Everything her parents said about the baby was the right thing to do, according to my wife. Everything my parents said was wrong. Her parents helped us with the baby, since we live with them. My wife saw this as the best solution. Whenever my parents came over to see the baby, my wife would always find something wrong. They wanted to take pictures of the baby with a flash. That was bad. They wanted to be all over the baby. That was bad. My parents wanted to have the baby at their house. She was too young. My parents stopped visiting my in-laws’ home, saying they’d wait until she was old enough to go out. That was fine with my wife! However, in the month and a half of our baby’s life, she has barely seen my parents 10 times. She’s almost two months old, and dad’s birthday is coming up. They’re making a family lunch, inviting just my siblings, my wife and baby and me. My wife doesn’t want our baby to go because, according to her, she is still too young. She says I can go alone, but I want the three of us to go as a family. My wife told me they were welcome to come to her parents’ home. I feel our baby is old enough to go to my parents’ home and for them to babysit her. My wife doesn’t agree. My wife is always making me feel like her family is better than mine. It seems every time we talk about my parents there’s a bad comment from her. If I defend my parents, I’m not defending our family. She has even told me I should leave and go with my family since clearly I see them as my family, rather than her and our child. The funny thing is, I love her, and I love my baby. To me, they’re my family. I have given up on seeing my parents, despite the short distance of our homes. All I want is to have a family relationship with my parents, my wife and my child. I want my baby to enjoy her paternal grandparents as much as she does her maternal ones. I’m tired of feeling I have to ignore what my parents say and blindly agree with my wife just to be fine with her. I never say anything bad about her parents. I let her be with them, even when I come home from work, even when I would love to have time alone with my wife. I don’t feel my wife has the same attitude or feelings towards my parents as I have for hers. I’m at a loss as to what to do. Rod Dear Rod, The biggest problem here is that the two of you need to become a couple again, and it’s impossible right now because it’s your wife and her parents versus you. Living with parents is a complicated situation. Instead of turning to you for support, your wife is turning to her parents and leaving you out in the cold. The first thing to do is talk. Be respectful and polite, but tell her exactly how you feel. Tell here the two of you need to be the primary unit; otherwise the marriage will be a constant struggle. The longer things go on this way, the more complicated it’s going to become. The ultimate solution is for you two to find your own home. This would instantly put you on the same page. In the meantime, make the best of your circumstances. Don’t complain about things you cannot change, and change the things you can. Also, reconnect with your wife. Her parents can watch the baby while you go out on a date — say dinner or a movie. Strive to do this once a week, and bring a phone in case there is a problem. Your wife is a protective new mother, and the more you make her life easier, the better she will do. Don’t allow flashes in the baby’s face, and make sure everyone washes their hands before handling her. Always remember, better safe than sorry. The last thing you want to hear from your wife is “I told you so.” I know this is a trying time, Rod, but it is what it is. You’re both living under her parents’ roof. As long as there’s animosity, there’s going to be a wedge. Suck it up, get along, and get your own place as quickly as possible. Good luck! Dr. Archer, I am a 57-year old married female with two adult children. I come from an abusive childhood, and jumped into abusive marriages. I’ve been married three times, maintaining my current marriage for 25 years. I’ve had years of therapy and have actually become a marriage family therapist myself. Currently, I remain in therapy to keep myself grounded so that I don’t experience too much cross transference with clients. My marriage has failed, yet I won’t leave due to my high religious convictions about divorce. I believe my husband has had and will continue to have adulterous affairs. He refuses couples’ counseling, and as much as I want to save the marriage, I can’t save it alone. I am on a second career. My first was 18 years as a deputy sheriff, a job I wound up having to medically retire from, leaving me depressed. My concern is that if I don’t leave a legacy to the world, then what purpose have I served? I have two daughters that are grown and busy in their own worlds. I have one sibling that is so busy he can barely take time to talk to me. I’m looking for a fresh opinion. Also, I am a devout believer in Jesus and daily speak in prayer with him. Sharon Dear Sharon: You are experiencing a severe values conflict. You want a loving and healthy marriage, but continue to choose to maintain a relationship with a man who has a totally different idea about marriage. You are kind and helpful to others as a therapist, but you don’t want to follow the solution for your own problems. From what you write, it appears that your current husband wants a stay-at-home, keep-your-mouth-shut wife. You can either accept his lifestyle or make the difficult decision to leave and pursue your own values. This doesn’t necessarily require divorce. The truth is, you have been unsuccessful in finding a healthy companion, and until you recognize why, you will continue to find yourself in destructive relationships, and the likelihood of living happily ever after is remote. I seriously doubt your religion would want you to endure a lifetime of marital suffering. We should live the best life we can, regardless of religious convictions. No one likes divorce, but sometimes divorce is necessary. Even the Bible allows for divorce, and states infidelity is a reason to end a marriage. Ultimately, however, your happiness, how you live your life and how you pave your future is entirely up to you. Every marriage will have its problems. Some should end, while others are worth fighting for. I urge you to consider Richard Bach’s words: “If we must lose a wife or husband when we live to our highest right, we lose an unhappy marriage as well, and we gain ourselves. But if a marriage is born between two already self-discovered, what a lovely adventure begins, hurricanes and all.” You had a rough beginning in life. Being an abused child often leaves many emotional scars and distorted ideas about relationships. It’s good that you continue your own therapy, but keep in mind all therapists are not created equal. If you haven’t been making progress in overcoming your self-defeating behaviors, then perhaps another therapist specializing in adult survivors of childhood abuse may give you another perspective. You still have a lot of life to yourself and now to make the most of your life. You won’t be good for others until you’re good for yourself. Good luck. Dear Dr. Archer, I have a dilemma. My sister was married four years ago and is quite happy. She is 38, and my mother is pressing her for grandchildren. Her husband would like children, too. However, I am not sure she wants to have the responsibility of being a mother now, if ever. She always says this world is so bad and asks how one can raise a child in today’s world. Plus, with their current financial situation, I don’t think they can afford children. It would be a shame to miss out on the beauty of bringing forth life, but while I tell her my own opinion, I certainly feel guilty that perhaps I should not advise her at all. But if I don’t speak my opinion, and she makes a mistake, what will I do? What should I say or do? Also, I fear that if she were to have a baby then I might want one myself. And then my life would change, and I’m not ready for it to change now. I want to remain a girl, not become a woman and not a mother now. Is this wrong? Marcia Dear Marcia, I think you are confusing your values and beliefs with those of your sister. Your own ambivalence about having children is being played out in your sister’s life. I don’t think everyone is programmed to be a parent. Having children is very different than raising children. Becoming a parent is a life changing event, requiring not only financial resources, but also the time and skills necessary to raise a child in a healthy way. I believe that one of the great mistakes someone can make is to have a child when they’re not able to provide a stable and supportive home environment. Your sister seems to be clear that now is not the time for her to have a child. I would urge you to tell your sister that you will support her in any decision she makes. After that, you need to stay out of it as much as possible. You can also tell your mother — once — that it is your sister’s choice and to stop harping on it. I repeat, it is no one’s decision except your sister’s and her husband’s. Your sister is not the only person hesitant to bring a child into today’s world. But, as Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “We may not be able to prepare the future for our children, but we can at least prepare our children for the future.” If your sister decides to have a child, then be the best aunt you can be. Being involved in the child’s life will feed your maternal urges without adding all the responsibility. There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to remain a girl and not become a mother. I urge you to only take that giant step when you’re one hundred percent sure you’re ready for that incredible responsibility. Good luck. Dr. Dale Archer is a board certified psychiatrist who founded the Institute for Neuropsychiatry in Southwest Louisiana. He is a frequent guest on Fox News, CNN Headline News and other national TV programs and the author of the New York Times best-selling book Better than Normal. Visit him at DrDaleArcher.com.