Q: My wife has always claimed she's much better friends with her family and prefers them over friends. I thought this was an exaggeration until I realized she doesn't maintain friendships at all!
Anyway, her parents came into town today, and even though she talks to them almost daily, they've taken over the family room discussing medical directives and other extremely personal family matters without a worry about me.
I know my wife will say it's because she doesn't get to see her family often (true). But every time we do see them, she ditches me to discuss family matters while I fend for myself. I love her family, but I feel marriage should be a lot more inclusive.
Vaping in the Boys' Room
A: I don't have great news for you on the "should" front, because people don't do what they should, they do what they do.
The good news is, a marriage — a life — built around reality is so much more satisfying than whatever we think "should" happen, messier though it may be. Your wife doesn't have to have outside friendships for a happy marriage. You don't have to be included in the medical-directives conversations for a happy marriage.
The more important thing to have is always available: awareness of what you can and can't change. You can't make your wife cultivate outside friendships, but you can cultivate them. You can encourage your wife to join you when you see these friends, and choose not to mind if she opts out.
Likewise, you can't change how she conducts family visits, but you can choose to make an effort to join their discussions; to tell her you feel shut out instead of hoping she'll notice you're gone; and/or to treat her family visits as your chance to do your own thing.
Couples don't need 100 percent shared interests, they just need love and support for whatever those interests are.
Good family therapists can help with this process.