Question

Since my daughter got married four years ago, they have continually spent more time with his family than ours.

His family lives out of state and when my daughter and her husband lived close to us, they used to use that as an excuse and tell us that, “since we’re traveling so far, we make an extended vacation out of it.” However, on holidays with us they would come only for an hour dinner and then leave. We hardly got together the rest of the year.

Now my daughter and son-in-law have moved out of state from both families and still continue to spend the majority of his vacation days on visits with his parents.

We were always close with our daughter before she got married and don’t understand why she doesn’t speak up. His family is very kind and we are grateful that they have accepted her. She does enjoy spending time with his family.

We have tried to do the same with our son-in-law, but of course, he likes spending time with his own family much more. We always thought that once you get married, compromises come in, such as sharing equal quality time. He’s the breadwinner, so since it’s his scheduled time off, he understandably uses it for time with his own family.

We’ve tried to ask my daughter to visit us without him and she says, “he would miss her” and then doesn’t come visit us. So, I guess that’s not an option.

We all seem to have a good time when we’re all together, but they’ve only been short visits, because she says he doesn’t have that many days off – but then when they take a trip to his family, they stay several weeks. So, he obviously saves all his time off for his family.

We just don’t think it’s fair and miss them greatly. When grandkids eventually come along, we will definitely want to spend more time with them. Do we just take what we can get? Do we start scheduling more vacations to visit them? How do we resolve this?

Answer

Your relationship with your daughter is changing and it’s painful to experience more distance and fewer connections than you’ve experienced in years past. You haven’t lost your daughter, but your relationship with her can’t be the same now that she’s forming her own family. Let’s talk about how you can best navigate this swirling sea of change.

As you already know, your daughter’s priority is her marriage. The commandment to “leave [her] father and [her] mother, and…cleave unto [her husband]” isn’t something you want to disrupt. Of course, if her husband was abusive or controlling, then it would require some careful intervention on your part. However, since this isn’t the case, I’m going to recommend you err on the side of maintaining a respectful distance to allow them time and space to figure out the balance of how they want to spend their time.

Even though it’s been four years since she married, there will be plenty of years that will bring new seasons of change. These changes will also include different types of needs that you can’t possibly anticipate at this point in time. Your daughter needs permission to go through these different seasons knowing that you’re accessible and responsive to her changing needs. Your job is to support her new marriage, even if that includes less time with you.

Your daughter may also feel an equally strong connection to his family and doesn’t want to hurt your feelings by setting up a comparison. Perhaps she doesn’t feel a need to speak up to spend more time with your family. She’s a new member of his family and may be experiencing some healthy dynamics that are helping her grow and develop as a woman. Remember that it’s impossible for one family to provide all of the needs of their members. It might be helpful for you to learn more about what she loves about his family as you visit with her.

It’s natural to keep score when you feel neglected, but it’s important to temper your jealousies and, instead, create an environment where she knows they’re both welcome. I don’t recommend going around her husband by trying to get her visit you alone. She is prioritizing her needs and already knows you want to spend time with them. It can put her in a position where she has to choose between you and her husband. All you can do is invite and then relinquish.

If you want to address this further, then I encourage you to have a conversation with both of them together as a married couple. Let them both know that you love spending time with both of them. Ask them if there are things you can do to make your visits with them more meaningful. Don’t try and figure out their schedules or how they should spend their vacation time. And, please don’t imply that they owe you equal time or send a message that they’re making a mistake by spending more time with his family. They get to manage their lives and where they spend their time.

Enjoy the time you have with them, continue to invite them to spend additional time with you, schedule trips to their home, and do everything you can to keep in touch with them long-distance. Your daughter is thriving and has two supportive families who will welcome their future children with loving arms. Don’t pit your family against his family out of your desire to spend equal time with them. Welcome them when they decide they want to spend time with you without any covert (or overt!) guilt.

Geoff will answer a new family and relationship question every Friday. You can email your question to him at [email protected]

About the Author

Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples, pornography/sexual addiction, betrayal trauma, and infidelity. He is the founder of LifeStar of St. George, Utah (www.lifestarstgeorge.com) and Alliant Counseling and Education (www.alliantcounseling.com). Geoff is the co-author of “Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity”, the host of the Illuminate podcast, and creates online relationship courses available at www.trustbuildingacademy.com. He earned degrees from Brigham Young University and Auburn University. He is married to Jody Young Steurer and they are the parents of four children.

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