Ask E. Jean - Tormented? Driven Witless? Whipsawed by confusion?

Advice Vixens

Hi vixens!

So, being married was wonderful while it lasted. I love my husband so much and I know he loves me too. We're happy with he way things are. But there's going to be a huge problem very soon. I don't know if he will still want to be with me when it happens. I don't think there is anything I can do to prevent it.

My 4 siblings live in big cities several hours away with jobs and lives of their own (2 are married, 2 are single, everyone works, no kids yet). They all have good jobs in the fields they studied. I went to school too, but it didn't work out. I live in our hometown, where I work a very maligned public service job. I'm much happier with it than where I would have ended up if school had worked out, but I suspect my family sees me as the disappointment. I make much less than they do, but the cost of living here is manageable. I bought the house next door to my parents when neighbors gave me a deal on it, so we share a back yard. I don't depend on my parents for anything financial and haven't in at least 5 years.

My husband takes care of the house and does all of the yard work and maintenance. He faithfully cuts grass and plants/maintains my mother's flower bed in addition to working full time and also maintaining his parents' property. He shovels all the snow (we get some nasty snow events) and cuts all the firewood and repairs the foundation, etc. Our house is a fixer-upper with no end of work in sight, but he never stops except to go to work and sleep.

He is extremely attached to the desire for a simple life because even this is all the work he can possibly do. He's said to me over and over we can't add any more projects until we get a lot more done. He's right.

My mom and siblings have decided that we all need to get together and redo the backyard this spring, all in one weekend. They've made plans to have a new fence put in - naturally, I'd have to pay for the part that's on my side. No one has told me how much it's going to cost, or even asked me if I want a new fence. Not only that, but the kind of fence they are making us get is exactly the kind my husband strongly believes to be crap. All of this is bad enough, but then they want to have contractors do it. Every contractor my parents have ever hired has done shit work that looks fine til the crew is long gone, and my husband thinks they're all crooks. This one thing alone is going to piss my husband off so bad. But there's going to be several other huge jobs - a concrete parking area that will require us to remove a 50-year-old boxwood on our property, the lack of a large gate so my husband won't be able to drive right up to our house when he comes home with 90-lb bags of concrete, etc. I don't even want to know what else they've decided for us.

I'm expected to go along with all of this. Maybe I'd get used to it after a while if I lived here alone, but my husband is going to lose his shit. He has already said he thinks my family walks all over me, and that I always look nervous and ill at ease when they are around. But they get along well. I love my family and my husband. I'd rather chew broken glass than take sides and I'm mad my family puts me in this position.

I spoke up when my family was making plans and immediately got shot down by my mom and siblings. I started to gently suggest the idea of a new fence to my husband and he immediately shot me down because we have too many projects going on already. Supposedly everyone is coming in at once to do all the work, but where do they get the idea you can get a fence installed in one weekend, let alone also a parking area, three porches painted, and a possible hand built fire pit? I think they watch too much HGTV. It'd take at least a month to get so much done properly.

The worst thing is, my parents and siblings never even use the back yard. I haven't seen them out there enjoying it once in 3 years. My husband was aware they want to fix up the yard (probably thinking all they mean to do is paint the porch and mulch the garden) and he said, they should focus on the front because they never sit out back. Even when we have parties, my husband makes a fire and tells everyone to come outside and nobody ever does except me and a few of our friends. Does everybody hate me and my friends?

My family also doesn't show much appreciation for all the work my husband does for my parents. I don't know if they just expect it or don't notice. It's very unlike them to be inconsiderate. But if he has one board leaning against the back porch that he's using for a home improvement project, they make sure to tell me to stop cluttering up the yard with all our junk.

I feel like I'm about to go through a sawmill. What advice should I even be asking for? Is there anything I can do besides savor these last days when everything is good and loathe myself because other people have worse problems and I'm getting too upset about nothing?

At this point I just want to put it on my parents and siblings to convince my husband to accept the new plans for they yard. But then I am so scared they won't get along after that and nothing will be the same. I feel helpless and no matter what, people I love are about to be extremely angry with me.

I also don't feel respected as an adult or a property owner. While I'm used to disappointments of that nature, my husband does not tolerate disrespect, especially after he's done so much. He can be loudly opinionated and brutally honest. Although he has always been respectful and amicable towards my family, seeing that they're not returning the favor might change that this time. Nobody seems to respect that he's the one who is going to be maintaining this new yard, he's the property owner of half of it, so he should have some say in the plans. Is there any way to preserve peace between my husband and my family? Is there any way out of taking sides and hurting feelings?

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    One thing that I think is what do you want? It is your house too as much as your husbands and do you like all the ideas for home improvement that your family has?
    You need to have an honest conversation with your family and let them know how you feel. Family is family for a reason. They are supposed to be the people that dont care about how much money you make or how far along you are in your career.
    If they dont respect you it is not your fault, it is theirs.
    You need to stand up for yourself and politely but firmly tell them what will work and what wont.
    If they get angry so be it. They are lucky to have a sibling that cares so much about them and if they dont value it their loss.
    You care a lot about peace but you need to prioritize yourself. Thats what they are doing anyway.
    If this was their house would they even consider something like this?
    None of these are your actions and you cont control how your siblings act. If they are being unreasonable and that spoils their relationship with your husband it is their problem.
    I know its hard but dont worry about what you cannot control/change.

    reply to Shalini
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    Neighbour disputes are always difficult, because there is no walking away from them -- the people you are irritated with are *always* going to be right next door. And when the neighbour is a family member, it's even worse. So my long term-advice is ... move. Any financial and/or property advantage to staying where you are is more than cancelled out by the misery of living in a place where you're *always* on edge.

    To be clear, you don't need to move to another town, or even another neighbourhood! Just somewhere that's far enough away that you and your husband can actually be on your own when you want to be, and not right next door to people that constantly drive up your blood pressure.

    BUT .... I recognize that this may not be possible to do in the next week or two. So that's more of a long-term goal.

    For now? One thing to stop doing is to stop being the middleman. Have your parents and your husband talk to each other about the situation directly. It may not go especially smoothly, but it's GOT to be better than what's happening now ... which is that it's not going especially smoothly AND it's all coming down on your head! You're trying to take on all the responisibility for being the peacemaker.... which is unfair. These people need to take some responsibility themselves. So let them talk it out. It will get awkward, and maybe even ugly, but again, it can't be worse than what's already starting to happen.

    The other thing is to keep in mind is that you personally need to take a stand. You can't stop neighbours from doing what they would like to do with their property (within zoning limits and legal statutes, of course!) But you and your husband have absolutely every right to insist on how you want YOUR property to look. Unfortunately, there is no way to do this without taking sides -- and the side you should take is your own. What do *you* want?

    Note that the question above isn't "what do you think will be satisfactory to your husband and your parents" -- it's "what do *you* want?" Not just in terms of property, but financially, AND in terms of how you see the property continuing to be shared....

    That list of what you want should be your 'side', and your starting point. It doesn't mean you can't listen to other points of view and incorporate them into your thinking. But right now? You're running around trying to figure out a way for everyone else in your life to get what they want. But you're actually completely ignoring a fundamentally important question: what do *you* want?

    Oh, and yes, unless they are hiring a crew of 12, the amount of work your family expects will get done in one weekend is insane.

    reply to Kal
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    Shalini wrote: One thing that I think is what do you want? It is your house too as much as your husbands and do you like all the ideas for home improvement that your family has? You need to have an honest conversation with your family and let them know how you feel. Family is family for a reason. They are supposed to be the people that dont care about how much money you make or how far along you are in your career. If they dont respect you it is not your fault, it is theirs. You need to stand up for yourself and politely but firmly tell them what will work and what wont. If they get angry so be it. They are lucky to have a sibling that cares so much about them and if they dont value it their loss. You care a lot about peace but you need to prioritize yourself. Thats what they are doing anyway. If this was their house would they even consider something like this? None of these are your actions and you cont control how your siblings act. If they are being unreasonable and that spoils their relationship with your husband it is their problem. I know its hard but dont worry about what you cannot control/change.

    Thank you so much for your kind replies. Shalini what I want is a good marriage and peace in my family; yardwise I am flexible - I want it to look nice, but most of all I want people to use it, to gather there at parties and enjoy themselves. If they're not going to do that they can leave it the heck alone. I don't mind most of my family's ideas, but I mind how fast (read: sloppy) they expect them to get done, and I don't want anything interfering with what my husband needs to work on our house. I am on my husband's side but open to compromise - but only if we're being respected. I think their ideas can be very nice, but depend upon being done well, and not rushed. If they are rushed or done by crooked contractors, I don't think anything will look nice more than a few weeks.

    And Kal, thank you so much for your good advice. Moving isn't an option at the moment but I will absolutely put it on my family and my husband to work this out. Also, I think my family would be nicer and more accommodating if they were dealing directly with him. Thank you - I had thought of that but feared it would get bad.

    Thank you both for helping me see what I want and thank you for being kind and reading so much. One thing I didn't count on was my dad. Yesterday when I got home from work, my dad was out in the yard with some drawings and a guy I know from work. The guy I know from work is going to be our cement guy for the parking pad. What he and my dad were discussing was much more logical and husband-friendly than the TV-show expectations of all my sisters.

    My dad said we're not going to have to do anything or pay for anything we don't want; he's just going to have some things done on his side, including a fence that will open to allow cars to pull up to the house like my husband wants, and my husband isn't going to have to do anything. My dad's also saying we're going to deal with one thing at a time, starting with the parking pad, which isn't going in until the end of May. (My siblings wanted to do all this May 4-5).

    The cement guy I know from work, also, did a great job on the sidewalks of someone I know and I feel better about contractors if he's doing it. I asked my dad what I should tell my husband and he said nothing yet, when we know for sure what we want we'll sit down and show it to him and talk about it. Meanwhile, my husband has accomplished more with our existing yard, and it's looking great. He straightened some sidewalks and repointed the foundation stones, so my parents are really happy with the work he's done in the last few days. I think it's his way of trying to make everybody realize our yard doesn't need such dramatic change, and my parents have appreciated it so far. Thank you for encouraging me in my moment of panic, and giving me good advice for when this gets rocky. It might still, but hopefully not to the extreme I anticipated. You've been very helpful!

    reply to anonymous
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    Thanks for checking back in and updating us! It sounds like a few of the problems are solving themselves ... there's a little more communication and compromise from your parents, which I hope will continue.

    There will also continue to be discussions (and possibly negotiations) about the issues of yard remodeling, Remember that you shouldn't be the person relaying thoughts from one side to the other -- encourage people to talk *directly* to each other.

    Good luck and keep us posted!

    reply to Kal
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    Kal wrote: Neighbour disputes are always difficult, because there is no walking away from them -- the people you are irritated with are *always* going to be right next door. And when the neighbour is a family member, it's even worse. So my long term-advice is ... move. Any financial and/or property advantage to staying where you are is more than cancelled out by the misery of living in a place where you're *always* on edge. To be clear, you don't need to move to another town, or even another neighbourhood! Just somewhere that's far enough away that you and your husband can actually be on your own when you want to be, and not right next door to people that constantly drive up your blood pressure. BUT .... I recognize that this may not be possible to do in the next week or two. So that's more of a long-term goal. For now? One thing to stop doing is to stop being the middleman. Have your parents and your husband talk to each other about the situation directly. It may not go especially smoothly, but it's GOT to be better than what's happening now ... which is that it's not going especially smoothly AND it's all coming down on your head! You're trying to take on all the responisibility for being the peacemaker.... which is unfair. These people need to take some responsibility themselves. So let them talk it out. It will get awkward, and maybe even ugly, but again, it can't be worse than what's already starting to happen. The other thing is to keep in mind is that you personally need to take a stand. You can't stop neighbours from doing what they would like to do with their property (within zoning limits and legal statutes, of course!) But you and your husband have absolutely every right to insist on how you want YOUR property to look. Unfortunately, there is no way to do this without taking sides -- and the side you should take is your own. What do *you* want? Note that the question above isn't "what do you think will be satisfactory to your husband and your parents" -- it's "what do *you* want?" Not just in terms of property, but financially, AND in terms of how you see the property continuing to be shared.... That list of what you want should be your 'side', and your starting point. It doesn't mean you can't listen to other points of view and incorporate them into your thinking. But right now? You're running around trying to figure out a way for everyone else in your life to get what they want. But you're actually completely ignoring a fundamentally important question: what do *you* want? Oh, and yes, unless they are hiring a crew of 12, the amount of work your family expects will get done in one weekend is insane.

    Love youR advice Kal! You NAILED IT!

    reply to E. Jean
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    I'm not really sure why you are so afraid of standing up to either your family or your husband.

    You love them no matter what, right? Why do you think they won't love you back if you have a need or a want or an opinion?

    If it helps you to think in generous terms, think of it like this: It is insulting to them to think they can't withstand any backtalk from you.

    As Kal says, you need to figure out what you want. And then, with the calmness of a sociopath, state it and don't back down. Let them try and figure out how to please you, for once.

    reply to Samantha
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