Since my partner lost his job, our household finances have been very tight. My parents-in-law gave us quite a large sum of money so that we could get out of debt, but I feel as if they’ve used this as an opportunity to criticise me (we’ve never had a warm relationship). They’ve started to make a lot of comments about our daughter, how she wears the wrong clothes and isn’t disciplined enough, and if I try to defend our choices, they insinuate that I’ve already failed as a parent, because I work outside the home. My partner thinks I’m overreacting, but I think that’s because he feels guilty about having taken their money.
Lucy Beresford replies: Not getting on with the in-laws is not, of course, an unusual situation. People often feel criticised, and they can also feel, as you do, under-supported by their spouse. I hear a lot of deflation in your letter, which is such a shame – even something you can take pride in (your job) is being questioned, despite the fact that this presumably contributes positively to the family finances.
It’s worth bearing in mind that, by your own account, you’ve never had an especially warm relationship with your in-laws. What’s changed is the money, and how you feel about being ‘rescued’ by others. My sense is that this has knocked your self-esteem, which is making it even harder than before to withstand their criticisms. I wonder if your partner is also struggling with self-esteem issues, after losing his job, getting into debt and having to be rescued by ‘Mummy and Daddy’.
Set aside some quiet time to have a proper conversation with your partner. Agree at the outset to speak calmly, taking it in turns to hear the other one out. Explaining your frustrations, and hearing his, will give you both a chance to create a more united front. At the same time, work on your own self-worth, by exploring the positives of both your career and your relationship with your daughter.
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