I married my wife 2 years ago after we dated for about a year. There has been ongoing conflicts between my wife and my family, which I will elaborate below. My wife is Korean, I am Taiwanese. We both live overseas. My mum lives in Taiwan.
During the time of these conflicts below, I had a visa passport issue so I wasn't able to travel overseas to visit my mother-in-law nor go back to my home country.
I am now visiting my Korean mother-in-law in 2 days. My mum was originally going too with flight booked but she got pissed off about an Uber incident (explained below) so she cancelled her flight because she doesn't want to recognise my marriage.
Meeting between mums
My mum wanted to visit my wife's mum (her father has passed away) right after we got married. However, her mum originally disapproved our marriage so it wasn't a good time to visit.
After a few months, her mum began to recognise our marriage. My mum, again, wanted to visit her. Her mum's response was that she's very busy with work during summer and it's best to visit during winter since she has no work during that time.
Winter in Korea is very cold, so my mum much prefers to visit in summer even just for 30 minutes. At that time, my wife told me she doesn't want to push her mum too much for the meeting as she's already stressed about work. On my mum's end, she doesn't understand why her mum can't even spare 30 minutes to meet the parent of her son-in-law. My mum felt very offended at that time. I tried to express to my wife that this doesn't really make sense but she was very upset at that time I kept pushing for the meeting. My mum even grew suspicious about why her mum didn't want to meet immediately.
In my opinion, I didn't think it was necessary to push for the meeting, however I also felt weird why a 30 minutes meeting would be difficult.
However, the way I handled this back then was that I tried to make both parties happy (which I know now is wrong). I tried to find explanations for my mum why her mum felt it difficult, and at the same time tried to talk my wife into the 30 minutes meeting. But it didn't work out. I think they both didn't understand each other as a result and the meeting didn't happen.
Learn Chinese conflicts
Ever since I got married, my mum has been pushing me to teach my wife Chinese so she can speak to her. I have told her many times that I will teach her at my own pace, considering she also needs to focus on English as my wife and I live in a English-speaking country. However, my mum would try to call us through chatting app every now and then and request to speak to her. If my wife didn't show much improvement in speaking Chinese, my mum would complain she is not learning much.
My wife actually is interested in Chinese but felt it was too pressure from my mum.
I, again, tried to please both parties. I tried to convince my wife to just 'pretend' you learn few new words each time you talk to her. At the same, try to tell my mum maybe not pressure too much.
In my opinion, I totally think my mum should just back off.
Chatting app conflict
In the second year, my wife started sending some photos of us to my mum and my mum would send some text back for me to translate. I thought it was a good way for them to connect since they have difficulties talking with each other. However, my mum accidentally sent some photos of my ex with my sister traveling in Japan together (my ex and my sister remained friends).
My wife was very upset about the photos and replied to her 'Thanks for the photo but please do not send Ray's ex-girlfriend's photo as I don't feel very good' and deleted the chatting app. My wife also started a huge arguments with me as the first time I said was she probably sent those by accident (maybe she felt I was siding with my mum).
I personally think deleting the chatting app was her way to stand up for herself cause back then I often didn't seem to have my own opinions and I was easily influenced by what my mum said about my marriage. However, the way she handled it was very extreme.
My mum was very unhappy that my wife deleted the chatting app for those photos because she said she didn't send those intentionally. She just wanted to show traveling photos of my sister and she didn't pay attentions to who else were in those photos.
They seemingly apologised to each other last time my mum visited. My mum told her she sent those by accident and if that had offended her she is sorry, my wife told her she was too sensitive and she is sorry too. However, my mum was still upset about it and brought it up many times after that (because she thinks my wife did not apologise first).
In my opinion, I think my wife overreacted but I somehow could understand why she handled it that way to protect herself as often I don't always protect her first between my family and her.
Sister's Uber conflict
Last time we moved, my sister was moving in with us temporarily (she was staying for 2 weeks). Because her furniture didn't fit in her room, she had to put her furniture into a storage bit far from where we were moving to. The weather was pretty bad that day, raining heavily and quite windy. After my sister has put her stuff into storage, she called me up to ask me if I could pick up her as the trains weren't operating and she didn't really want to take the bus.
At that time, I would've gone to pick her up but my wife told me we still had a lot to unpack and she wanted to finish unpacking over the weekend as I will be very busy doing overtime the next week (there was a huge project due at my work at that time) and she wouldn't know how to unpack my clothes.
So I caved in and told my sister to take an Uber. She was not happy of course and questioned me if this is my wife's opinion. I stupidly told her yes. My mum was incredibly upset after hearing the story from my sister and blamed my wife for giving me 'bad' influences. I felt really guilty at that time and apologised to my family.
In my opinion, thinking back, I would pick up sister up because I was happy to and find alternative solution for the unpacking.
Psychologist and books
As you can see, I was often torn between my family and my wife. I was really depressed and didn't know what to do. I started finding helps from books and psychologists. I read a little of 'No more Mr. Nice Guy' and 'Toxic Parents' and 'The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work'.
My current conclusion after seeing psychologists and reading books:
I was too influenced by what my mum or my wife thinks in conflicts like those. I should focus on how I actually feel and express my opinion even that leads to arguments with wife or disappointments of mum.
I focus too much on making others happy. I should ask myself if I am happy. Follow what makes myself feel fulfilled and happy.
I was too afraid of arguments, divorce, guilt and disappointments from other people. I was always afraid to express my true feeling because I would be afraid to argue, afraid my marriage would break, afraid of the guilt I would feel to stand up to my mum, afraid of the disappointments my mum would have if I set boundaries.
I was too afraid to set boundaries.
I am not talking to my mum too much and I've told her I am already an adult and wished to handle my marriage on my own. (Before, she would call me often to push for a divorce). She is still upset over what happened before and has told me she won't recognise my wife as her daugher-in-law until she dies because my wife 'bullied' my sister for telling her to take Uber.
But I am not too afraid of the guilt messages she sends me these days such as 'I cried all night', 'I am so disappointed in you', 'you disappointed me like your father' (my parents divorced), 'I can't believe you married with someone as terrible as that'. I just choose how I react to these comments.
I still sent her flowers and card on her birthday. She is still my mum and I appreciated what she has done for me, but I felt she was getting way too involved with my marriage.
I have been a lot more expressive about what I think is right or wrong with wife and she has been adapting quite well somehow. She would say sorry to me and often we work out a mutual agreement. I feel a lot better because I was no longer afraid and I think expressing would help my wife respect me more.
My question is..
Is it actually necessary to help them, some days, see eye to eye? How I feel about it is: If I keep doing what I am doing, my mum will respect my marriage and my wife more and gradually she will accept my marriage and my wife. Also, my wife will respect, accept my family more and feel more protected (since I am now expressing how I feel more, not afraid to stand up to my mum).
The psychologist said maybe at some point I need to have a conversation about this damaged relationship with my family and my wife, but the timing is very important.
If it is important to restore this damaged relationship, am I now doing the right thing? How would I go about it?
I went to South Korea to meet my wife-side's in-laws and they were really welcoming and lovely. During the trip, I finished reading Toxic In-Laws: Loving Strategies for Protecting Your Marriage by Susan Forward.
The book has helped me tremendously to see that my mother has been making countless unreasonable requests, overstepping boundaries and attempting to control decisions in my marriage... such as protesting about where our baby should be born ( she even made remarks such as "I won't allow my grandkid to be born in Korea, that's not right"), belittling my wife when she quitted her job to focus on studying English for few months (she made contemptuous comments about how the money come from my earning anyway when we gave her some money as birthday gift, which was not true because we already saved it together before she quitted), and disparaging my wife's personality as a cruel, disrespectful person whenever she talked about how she got married with me at the beginning without her family's permission.
Sadly I have allowed her to do so in the past, but no more. I also admit that the cause and continuities of their attitude toward my marriage is also my responsibilities. I did not communicate and express myself clearly where I stand in the whole mess.
Now I can clearly see why my wife has pushed back the way she did because I have been too meek to protect our marriage fortress. I was too afraid to upset my family and putting my family's priority above priorities for my marriage or for my wife's.
Now I am aware that we have rights to protect our own mental health, to express our own beliefs, feelings, opinions, convictions, values, and traditions. To state what we stand for and state what we are willing and unwilling to do.
Allowing yourself to be treated badly is much too high a price to pay to keep people from getting upset with you.
I highly recommend anyone who has in-laws problems in your marriage to read this book by Susan Forward. It has helped me immensely.