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Cut ties with my controlling family only to have to deal with fiancés controlling family

Tagged as: Family, Troubled relationships<< Previous question   Next question >>
Question - (13 May 2024) 10 Answers - (Newest, 17 May 2024)
A female United Kingdom age 36-40, anonymous writes:

I feel like im reliving my past and cannot go through it all again.

I have a very toxic family- I’m not going to go in to details however they had zero boundaries and never took accountability for anything. They mentally wore me down.

I ended up moving to another part of the country, far away from them and had to rebuild my life which took me 15 years to get to where I am now. I have no contact with them and it was the best decision I made.

4 years ago I met my fiancé a great guy. He too lived away from his family but unlike me they have a brilliant relationship. We met a handful of times and they were such nice people, so when my fiancé 15 months ago had the opportunity to relocate back to his hometown with work I didn’t hesitate to agree.

Unfortunately after spending alot of time with them,I’ve come to realize his family are very similar to mine - they come over when they want, they expect us to do what they want all the time. His mum has a spare key to our house (which my fiancé gave to her) and she and his sister come over as and when they please. This is just the tip of the iceberg. They are starting to take over wedding planning now too and as they are such big loud family I feel I’m being pushed aside like I don’t matter.

I’ve spoken to my fiancé that we need to set boundaries and it is unacceptable what they are doing, however he is un phased saying it’s how his family are and he doesn’t mind. He knows about my past so I’m a little hurt he can’t see it from my point of view. I expected better from him!

I however respect his feelings so I am now going to break off our engagement and move back to where we used to live.

I cannot and will not be controlled or dictated too again. I will not have a fiancé that cannot stick up to his family and put me as a 2nd option.

I’ve been in touch with my old employer who is happy to give me my job back and a friend has agreed I can live with her temporarily until I sort myself out.

I need to pluck up the courage to tell him I’m leaving as I will never ask him to choose between me and his family.

I love him but as selfish as this sound I love me more.

Any advice on how to do this as painless as possible for him?

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (17 May 2024):

I've met lots of people like this over the years. It is your choice whether you are servile or assertive when you speak to them. Your husband is not there to protect you from being subservient and too compliant, you are an adult now, you must speak as you find and stick up for yourself. You make a big issue about his family but such people are neighbours friends colleagues,. all over the place, you cannot avoid them.

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (16 May 2024):

To a female anonymous - please remember that being a high achiever is academic. You can read many books and remember many things, you can pass exams and get qualifications. But it is logical and intelligence that helps us make wise decisions not knowledge about geography, history etc. I know a lot of academics who could never run a business in a million years, who could barely sort out their own finances, a high achiever is very different to an intelligent person. The truly intelligent person ends up with money, a nice house, a great partner, good health or whatever it is they want out of life because the work out how to get it and do it.

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (16 May 2024):

To a female anonymous - please remember that being a high achiever is academic. You can read many books and remember many things, you can pass exams and get qualifications. But it is logical and intelligence that helps us make wise decisions not knowledge about geography, history etc. I know a lot of academics who could never run a business in a million years, who could barely sort out their own finances, a high achiever is very different to an intelligent person. The truly intelligent person ends up with money, a nice house, a great partner, good health or whatever it is they want out of life because the work out how to get it and do it.

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (15 May 2024):

This is not just about family. I have no family whatsoever and am a very independent and busy lady, I own and run a business with a lot of staff, my time is spoken for a week or more in advance. Yet there is also a sexist thing going on here.

People see women as less important than men. Because women are often only mothers or housewives (another way to say unemployed and watching television). It is as if women are not allowed to be busy or choose how to spend their time or have the same feelings as a man.

When people ring my husband they ASK if he is available to do this and that. They ask if they can pop in later for this and that. People used to think they could tell me that I was going to do this and that or that they would come around later as if I had no say in the matter and would cancel any other plans I had just to suit them. You have to be assertive and firm. You cannot expect your partner to do it for you.

The other day I was chatting to a woman I have only met a few times for a few minutes, barely an acquaintance let alone a friend. She told me she is going to have an art exhibition soon at such and such and told me I must go to look at all of her paintings. The exhibition was a long way away and I had no interest in it - and as I said, my time is booked in advance. She then talked to my husband asking him if he waned to come - you see he is a man so his time is more valuable etc!! I told her straight I would not be going. She pushed and pushed and eventually demanded to know why. Which is a cheek. I said well when you can work out ways for me to be in four places at once I will reconsider.

And walked off.

SOmetimes it is not you being rude it is them. And when people try to take advantage of you or ignore boundaries or nicities you are entitled to react that way.

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (15 May 2024):

I can relate to this situation - it's similar to mine but also has some marked differences in that I met my partner when I was going through a divorce, had a young child, and marriage was never on the cards as I didn't want it - however, I realised years later that, to all intents and purposes, I was in a 'married' mindset in the sense that, having been through marriage and really believing in my vows when I took them, and never having had a 'boyfriend / girlfriend' kind of relationship prior to marrying, I was trying to offer the same devotion and loyalty as you'd expect in a marriage - I'd literally never known any other mode.

The others have given you great advice and I'd strongly recommend you follow it.

What I would add though, and what I've learned but yet to fully resolve myself, is that when we come from a toxic family, we gravitate towards toxic partners from toxic families without realising we are doing so. At an almost unconscious level, details and stimuli from the new partner and new family that for other people would be red flags / warning signs MUCH earlier on, tend to pass us by - these are the very subtle, often almost undetectable behaviours and patterns that slowly and steadily creep up on us until there is a more glaring, obvious, red-flag moment. The desire to be loved, not just by a partner but by a whole family, can also over-ride our more negative feelings ie. the way our own body and mind tries to tell us that something is not right. If you look back now, and reflect on your earlier times with him and his family, you will probably see more subtle warning signs and how you ignored what your own body was trying to say to you, because you wanted everything to work out.

I'd strongly suggest that once you have called off this relationship - and it seems very wise to do so - you work on understanding how oxic family experiences affects our psyche so that we can fall into the trap of creating repeat patterns over and over again - surrounding ourselves with toxic work places, toxic friends, toxic partners and their families.

Without wanting to seem negative or cynical, I can tell you that there are a LOT of these people and groups and situations out there. That doesn't mean that the whole world is like that but, as with many people from toxic families, I still have a tendency to be quite child-like and naive about how toxic people can be, despite being a very high achiever with a doctorate. A different kind of awareness and intelligence is needed here. I know now that I tend to trust and accept people 'up front' in quite a child like way, and offer far too much of myself in terms of empathy, patience, willingness to work things through with people (when I haven't actually caused a problem in the first place), and wanting to believe that humanity is fundamentally good and benevolent, or that I can bring this out in people if I keep trying, only to find I've let myself be used again, and created a pattern of suffering for myself yet again. As I said, I still haven't quite resolved that yet, but I'm working on it and I wish someone had given me a head's up about it when I was much younger. Your way of creating toxic patterns for yourself may be different to mine or anyone else's, but there are fundamental similarities - being blown away initially by the possibility of what we think is on offer - ie. what we never had - so that we overlook or try our best to work to overcome the signs that this is not really what's on offer at all.

A good therapist can help, or your own research - online and reading around toxic and abusive families and the longer term effects.

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A male reader, kenny United Kingdom + , writes (14 May 2024):

kenny agony auntI think you are absolutely totally right in breaking it off and moving back to where you used to live.

Its good you have found out this out now and not once you tied the knot. If you found this out when you were married you would be a bit of a predicament.

Its not selfish to say that you love you more, self love is the greatest love of all, self love is what makes to world go around.

I can't see how things will ever get any better, I don't think he is all of a sudden going to grow a pair and put you and your feelings first.

So on that basis all you can be is brutally honest and find a good moment where it's just the two of you and just tell him what your plans are. He will probably beg you to stay and this is where you have to be strong and stick to your plan.

You have already got your old job back and a friend that you can live with while you sort yourself out so this is all positive.

Tell him sooner rather than later and head back to where you used to live and leave this life behind you.

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (14 May 2024):

My mother used to say you don't marry a person, you marry a family and I agree with this opinion. Therefore I am pleased for you that you have decided not to go ahead and get married to him. It shows you are thinking clearly and not ruled by your emotions.

My advice is that you speak as honestly to him as you have to us, using I statements. As you love him, be as kind as you can be in how you word it. He has effectively chosen his family over you. Once both of you have healed you will be better able to choose a marriage partner, if that is still what you want.

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (13 May 2024):

You are NOT the bad guy. You know where this is leading to and how this is going to end.

Calling off the wedding in your situation is a healthy, NORMAL thing to do.

Your fiancé has done a lot of things without asking you first, he's acting in the exact same manner his family is and your family was. He is no better than any of them.

The fact that he doesn't think his family is acting inappropriately is a huge red flag, a deal breaker.

So,if you cannot leave straight away, which I believe is not the case, put everything that's important and irreplaceable in a safe place (your documents, credit cards...). Move out when he's not at home and leave him a "Dear John" note.

The other option is to talk to him in a public place.

I'm sorry if this sounds too much, because "he's such a great guy". You never know how's someone's going to react to this. He will feel blindsided (which he is!!!), he will feel betrayed (which he's not, but could be understandable) and he will feel wronged (and be wrong in thinking so). I would do it like a surgeon. Keep it sharp and as brief as possible.

Whatever you tell him, he will not be able to understand it. From his perspective, you are selfish, difficult, demanding... he is not equipped to understand your point of view, which he proved by agreeing with his family taking over you private life. Once he felt secure, literally on his turf, surrounded by HIS support system, while you uprooted your life, he showed you a face you hadn't known existed. And that's just the beginning. Things will only get worse from this point on if you accept this.

So keep it short and show him that you have already made the decision and acted accordingly, that this is not some sort of strategy to make him bend to your will (the way he does with his family). You see, from what you're describing I wouldn't be surprised that underneath it all, there are a lot of things you don't see and he's simply used to them - emotional blackmail, manipulation... so it's only natural that he might think that you're acting the same way his family would when they're not getting their way.

Don't over-explain. Just state things matter-of-factly. You're grateful for everything, but you are not suited for each other and you have already moved out. Going into details would give him material to try and disapprove and prolong the agony. Honestly, when I think about this, I get more and more people who just write a letter. That way they get to explain, give the details the other party seems to be desperately looking for, without having to sit there and listen to them trying to explain how they should feel about things that bother them.

It's going to be unpleasant, stressful and it will probably NOT go the way you imagined it. So accept the uncomfortable feelings and do it. You will feel so great afterwards.

Thank God you're an independent, strong person, with a job and friend(s) who wants to help you out get your life back on track.

Don't overthink it. Make your exit and tell him your're done.

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A female reader, Honeypie United States + , writes (13 May 2024):

Honeypie agony auntOK you have a fiancé problem not an in-law problem.

"he is un phased saying it’s how his family are, and he doesn’t mind. "

So he is OK with it. He is also OK with YOU not being OK with it.

I'd hold off on the wedding. This is not going to work out.

If he WILL not set boundaries, this is your life going forward. His family will barge in as they see fit, "borrow" your stuff" and stomp all over your PERSONAL boundaries. And your fiancé is OK with this.

"I however respect his feelings so I am now going to break off our engagement and move back to where we used to live."

GOOD! You need to put yourself first.

"Any advice on how to do this as painless as possible for him?"

It's not going to BE painless, no what you do. But sit him down tell him you can't go on with the engagement and marriage, that you feel that HE has shown that you two are not compatible long term. Or that you have realized that you two are not compatible long term.

The fact that he doesn't seem to GIVE a shit or he is oblivious to YOUR need for privacy in your own home, for having some set boundaries in your own home means you are NOT compatible.

If he tells you he will change and tell his family this or that or he will take the key back (which They NEVER should have gotten without you knowing and agreeing)

Tell him, that is not how it works. You HAVE brought up the issue before and he disregarded your feelings.

Just pack up your stuff (before telling him.) And make the exit short and sweet.

Also, as soon as you get back to your old place and job make SURE you block him and his whole family.

Good luck.

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (13 May 2024):

In order to be painless you have to give as few mixed messages as possible.

So first you tell him to cancel the wedding.

When he asks you why you have to tell him that it's because you are leaving him!

When he asks where you are going you tell him it's back to the beginning you were at before you met him.

You tell him that you are not happy in this relationship you are in and you are starting to feel trapped.

Tell him you can't express your feelings without anyone being offended and that you don't see this as being a successful relationship with a future.

When he queries why you agreed to marry him in the first place you tell him you were wrong.

You ask for space to heal. You cry if you feel like it but not so much he calls the ambulance.

A calm manner is best.

Then it would be best to leave that night to stay in a hotel prior to travelling.

A night can be a long time and acceptance may become resentment according to his belief system.

If he believes in beating the woman to make her see sense ( or just because he feels belittled) then you leave a note with exactly the same information.

You could also thank him for all those years he brought you happiness.

If he can't accept your decision it would be best to let him know that you find commitment difficult.

Do not leave the door open to remaining 'friends'.

You don't need to see his next partner on his hip.

Also don't agree to friends with benefits.

It's sidestepping the issue.

It's no good saying he would never hurt a fly!

Maybe if you're leaving him he might take it as rejection of deception.

Just don't ended up in a situation where you are afraid that you won't be alive to see the morning light.

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