Sharing a close bond with your family can be one of the greatest parts of your life. And seeing your partner have closeness with their family is often a good indicator about how your future family might operate. Still, can someone be too close with their family… even obsessed? It is one thing to be family oriented, but if your partner is family obsessed it can actually turn into a wedge in your relationship.
Here are some ways to tell the difference and how to handle a family obsessed partner.
What is the difference between family oriented and family obsessed?
Being family oriented means the family spends quality time together, celebrates with one another, and supports each other during difficult times. On the other hand, a family obsessed partner will make you feel like you are always competing with their family – and can never win. It can be hard to feel like a priority when you are dating someone who is enmeshed with their family. Your partner’s mom may feel threatened by your relationship and throw a tantrum for attention. Your partner may be too worried about upsetting their parents so they always “takes their side” to make them happy. It can feel like your family obsessed partner is always on stand-by for their parents and siblings, not completely present with you. Or that relationship decisions aren’t between you and your partner, but between you and your partner’s family. Family obsessed partners won’t take a stand for the relationship. They may even ask to bend or violate your boundaries in an effort to “keep the peace.”
Should you consider your partner’s relationship with their family?
When you date someone, a relationship with their family is often included. You have to make sure that the family dynamic is something you can work through. Don’t let the family be the only factor when you decide if you should continue dating, but take it into consideration. If you don’t get along with the family, examine how you and your partner can work through these issues. Does your partner seem like they can hear you out? You’ve got to make sure that the relationship is solid and can handle their family feeling threatened.
If you and your partner are trying to overcome one of you being family obsessed, it’s important to build a strong, secure attachment. Your partner needs to know that even if you love your family, you will still stand up for the relationship and not always take your family’s side. Communication and boundaries are key in making this work. You can learn to say “no” to your family to make more time for your relationship. It’s not all or nothing. The family obsessed (hopefully soon family oriented) partner can still call and spend time with their family. Just within the boundaries of your relationship. For example, if you are going on a vacation with your partner, wait until you get back to give your family the updates instead of a constant play-by-play. Figure out, together with your partner (not their family), what your relationship boundaries are when it comes to family.
Come visit us at Estes Therapy if you need the tools to talk about this issue and move forward with a stronger bond.
About Jennine Estes, MFT
Think of me as your relationship consultant, I'm your neutral third party that can help you untangle the emotions and help you figure out what's really going on. I am a Marriage and Family Therapist in San Diego, CA. Certified in Emotionally Focused Therapy for Couples. Supervisor. I write relationship and self growth advice for my column Relationships in the Raw. Creator of #BeingLOVEDIs campaign. MFC#47653