in , ,

Guy Refuses To Attend Family Holidays With Wife’s Divorced Parents Who Demand ‘Equal’ Time

couple seated on couch arguing
Srjdanns74/Getty Images

Children of divorced parents often find themselves splitting holidays. But what about when they become adults?

Is there any obligation to give equal time to each parent? And what about their spouse or their own children?

A husband whose wife is trying to juggle her divorced parents’ demands turned to the “Am I The A**hole” (AITA) subReddit for feedback.

Buckupaita asked:

“AITA For refusing to attend family events on my wife’s side unless she stands up for herself?”

The original poster (OP) explained:

“My wife (35, female) and I (36, male) have been married for 4 years and have 2 kids—age 3 and 1. My wife’s parents divorced when she was a teenager and both her mom and dad have since remarried.”

“There is a lot of competition between her mom, dad, and stepmom in terms of ‘family time’. Everything has to be equal.”

“Meaning if we spend an afternoon with her mom, then we have to do the same thing with her dad and stepmom. Mom and stepmom especially put a lot of pressure on my wife and guilt trip her about it.”

“My wife has a lot of trouble standing up for herself and saying ‘no’. Before we had kids, this wasn’t as big of a deal.”

“If we had to attend 2-3 different Thanksgivings or Xmas gatherings, not a huge deal. I mean, it sucked, but it wasn’t the end of the world.”

“Now though, with 2 young kids, it’s exhausting and I absolutely hate it.”

“My wife and I have had numerous talks about her setting boundaries about this because I am at the end of my rope with it. The bickering and pressure is constant and the need to keep everything ‘equal’ essentially determines our entire non-work schedule.”

“We had to attend 2 separate Easter events this Spring—we’re not even religious—because we went to one with her mom, so we ‘had’ to do one with her dad and stepmom. After that, I told my wife I was done with this BS.”

“I told her that she needs to stand up to her parents and start setting boundaries and saying ‘no’. I told her I won’t allow her parents to continue to dictate how we live our lives. I told her if she is incapable of doing this, then I will absolutely step in and tell them off.”

“But she begged me not to do that because she doesn’t want to ruffle feathers and promised she would do better. Of course, that didn’t happen.”

“We ended up having to run around to 3 separate places on Memorial Day weekend because of this same stuff. After we got home from the last stop, I told my wife I am done with this and will now pick and choose which things I want to go to.”

“I won’t stop her from going and I will stay home with one or both kids if she doesn’t want to take them, but I’m done.”

“Lo and behold, this past weekend she was talking to her mom and 4th of July came up. My father-in-law had already invited us to his house for a pool day and my wife told her mom about it.”

“So, of course we have to do something with them that weekend as well. When my wife told me about this, I told her that I will not be attending both and I will choose if I want to attend either.”

“My wife must have vented to her mom about this because a couple days later, I got a call from my wife’s stepdad—the only sane person in this, really. He told me that he completely agrees with me and that he’s talked with his wife numerous times about not pressuring my wife, but she doesn’t listen either.”

“He suggested that whenever his wife pressures my wife into keeping things ‘equal’, that he and I go golfing together instead. When I told my wife about this idea, she called me a jerk and told me I’m being unsupportive.”

“Time spent with my side of the family is drastically smaller than the amount we spend with her side. Thankfully, my parents are not insane and feel bad for my wife’s situation.”

“But I do miss spending extended time with them over holidays rather than rushing from place to place to see everybody. We live about 20 minutes from both her mom and dad, but in opposite directions from our house. My parents live about 90 minutes away.”

“This might shock you, but my in-laws’ ability to be civil with each other in social settings is pretty limited. We do things separately for a reason.”

“It’s definitely come up during our multiple talks about this. I’ve gotten messages from my older brother expressing his frustration that all of our family events are now scheduled around when my wife has time between her family obligations.”

“Or us showing up for only a couple hours because we have to be somewhere else. My wife got upset with him last Thanksgiving because we missed the meal that he hosted because we were running to too many places.”

“Instead of leaving food out for us to heat up, he purposely made up one of those tinfoil swan to-go bags because he ‘knew we wouldn’t have time to actually stay and eat’.”

The OP summed up their situation.

“My wife’s parents are divorced and she gets a lot of pressure from both sides to keep their relationships ‘equal’ in terms of time spent together. I hate it and told my wife that I will not be attending every single thing that her mom and dad pressure her to do.”

“Her stepdad and I now have a plan to go golfing together instead. I think I might be an a**hole for refusing to attend every family event my wife gets pressured into because she can’t say no.”

Redditors weighed in by declaring:

  • NTA – Not The A**hole
  • YTA – You’re The A**hole
  • NAH – No A**holes Here
  • ESH – Everyone Sucks Here

Redditors unanimously declared the OP was not the a**hole (NTA).

“NTA, but you two need to work on this to find a solution.”

“Personally, the solution should be along the lines of telling everyone ‘With two young kids, it is just not possible to keep running around to different households for events and holidays. We are finding we don’t have time to establish our own traditions with the children because we are trying to “keep the peace” between you two’.”

“‘With this in mind, we will be alternating holidays, and choosing to skip some that we will want to keep to ourselves. Should we host, invitations will be extended to everyone, and we expect a civil gathering. If you don’t feel you can contribute to that environment for the sake of the kids, then please RSVP “No.” Thank you for understanding’.”

“Your wife calling you unsupportive just reads as she needs someone to stand up for her because she doesn’t want to do it for herself. Have a talk with your wife about how exhausting this is for you.”

“Focus on wanting to spend more quiet time with her and the kids instead of not wanting to do things with her family.”

“Let her know while your family has been understanding about this, she has been rushing you all around for the sake of ‘fairness’ in consideration to her family’s needs, but has been so overwhelmed and flustered, your family has been getting the short end of the stick.”

“If she truly wanted fairness, she would be considering their wants as well.”

“I really empathize with you here. Both my husband and my parents are divorced, so holidays can be a mess.”

“We finally set the boundary of ‘You got Christmas/Thanksgiving/etc… last year, so this year we are doing it with *insert family*’. We got some guilt-trippy responses at first, but we stuck to our guns on this one, and it’s been pretty smooth for the last six years or so.” ~ Discount_Mithral

“Possibly hearing from a neutral third party that ‘MA’AM, your mother and step-mother are making irrational demands, are doing the “but SHE got X so *I* should get X too” like a couple of kindergarteners, and apparently have more concern for shoring up their own egos or “beating” the other mom than they do for the strain this puts on your own family, WTAF‽‽’ will make her see the light.”

“Hell, I’d do what the kids of divorced parents USUALLY do—alternate holidays with each family. This year mom and stepdad get Thanksgiving and Easter, next year they get Xmas and 4th of July or whatever.”

“And if they can’t get down with THAT, then fine—NONE OF THEM gets to see you on ANY holiday—from now on you do all of them by yourselves at home or with friends, and you will do dinner with each of them once or twice a month, NO MORE.” ~ OrigamiStormtrooper

“NTA. My parents divorced when I was two. I alternated holidays with them until I was an adult.”

“Then I sometimes didn’t spend a holiday with them so I could have my own traditions. My family also was just fine celebrating a holiday on a different day instead of the official calendar date.”

“Nobody’s going to die and the holiday isn’t going to be less special if you celebrate the weekend before or after.” ~ Spinnerofyarn

“I get the feeling that OP’s wife is getting something out of giving into the demands. She complains but she won’t let her husband speak up and put a stop to it. And she doesn’t stop saying yes to everything either.”

“IN FACT, she even goes so far as to TELL her mother she’s going to see her father for July 4th. Why is she sharing that info‽‽ She bloody well KNOWS it’s going to mean they get told to spend equal time with her mom. Then she goes and tells her mom about her husband not wanting to come over!”

“This woman has some serious enmeshment/codependency with her mom/stepmom and it is feeding her ego to be so ‘selfless’ for family. Or it’s feeding some other drive. Bc obviously it’s not bothering her enough to put a stop to it.”

“I think OP has done enough. He’s enforcing boundaries around his OWN time. He’s not placing demands on his wife or trying to control her behaviour.”

“He’s simply telling her that he will no longer run himself ragged trying to attend all the things his wife keeps agreeing to. That’s perfect. That’s what a therapist would advise him to do.”

“NTA. I think the best course of action is for OP to follow through. Hopefully his wife will see he’s actually serious about sticking to his guns and she’ll get tired of giving into every demand of her parents. Or she won’t. But OP will be a whole lot happier.” ~ Epsilon_and_Delta

Being the rope a tug-of-war between parents is difficult for a child. It should get better when they become adults.

At some point, OP’s wife needs to be responsible for her own choices. Her parents aren’t able to force her to run from place to place each holiday.

Setting his own boundaries sounds like the best thing OP can do.

Written by Amelia Mavis Christnot

Amelia Christnot is an Oglala Lakota, Kanien'kehá:ka Haudenosaunee and Metís Navy brat who settled in the wilds of Northern Maine. A member of the Indigenous Journalists Association, she considers herself another proud Maineiac.