Jackie, Can you give me relationship advice? What would be a good response to in-laws (both parents and siblings) who feel it is their place to comment and ask questions about the relationship, and place judgment on me because I am not doing or being who they want me to be?
I will get to the advice, but first I want to explain to you why in-laws (both parents and siblings) meddle. It’s simple: They LOVE your wife. She is their blood. They care. They are looking out for her. The don’t want to see her unhappy, which brings me to my next point: she is UNHAPPY.
That is the real issue you should be addressing. Why does she feel the need to talk to her parents and siblings instead of talking to you? Or, maybe she has tried talking to you and you aren’t listening or trying to resolve the issues with her. I’m not blaming you for anything, so please don’t take it that way. I just want you to understand why she might be going to her family for support.
Now, onto the in-laws. I highly doubt they want you to do something or be someone you are not. Honestly, they don’t really care. What they care about is their daughter/sister’s happiness. So, don’t focus on the thinking they have expectations of you that are unrealistic or that you don’t want to be the person they want you to be. Again, they just want HER to be happy, and it seems like they are saying things to you in an effort to facilitate that.
What I would suggest saying to your in-laws is something like this:
“I can understand your concern about so and so (your wife) and our relationship. I know you love her very much. But we, as a couple need to work out our issues. We have a therapist who is helping us (or, we are looking into getting a therapist). While I know your intentions are genuine, it would be much better if you and I don’t talk about my marriage. I’m sure so and so would love to talk to you and I support her being close to you and feeling comfortable confiding in you. But without sounding offensive, I don’t wish to talk to you about us, so please stop asking me.”
Even better, I would sit my wife down (if you care about your marriage, which I think you do or you wouldn’t have written me) and say something like this:
“I love you. I want to work on the issues that are making you unhappy. But I don’t want to work on them with your family. I want to work on them with just you, and possibly a therapist. I know they are just looking out for you and that they are concerned, but can you understand how I might feel? They can’t help us. WE have to help us.”
The in-law dynamic can be very difficult at times. But remember that they are her family, and really they are yours, too. So, isn’t there a chance they want happiness for you, too? Sure. That’s called family.