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Question 

I recently married a great guy after being divorced for more than 15 years. We’re really happy together, even though we’re trying to blend two families. My question is about what to do with my family. My mother was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and I want to spend more time with her. She lives with my father who is caring for her. The problem is that she lives next to my other siblings and I don’t get along with them.

They are rude to me (I’m the oldest) and treat me like I’m not welcome when I want to visit my mom. They are constantly over there visiting with her. I can’t ever have alone time with her. I’ve started bringing my husband with me, but he just tells me to stop visiting because of the drama with my siblings. He hates to see what it does to me and how they treat me. I don’t want to cut off my mom because my siblings don’t get along with me. I have no idea what to do.

Answer

Your new husband is on to something. He recognizes that the effect this is having on you isn’t good for you, him, or the marriage. Even though you want to preserve the relationship to your ailing mother, your biggest priority right now is to tend to your marriage and children. The days of trying to fight out your problems with your siblings need to be over.

This doesn’t mean you can’t find ways to connect with your mother. Perhaps you don’t spend as much time when you visit. Maybe you work with your father to find a time when you can swoop in unannounced and spend an evening with her in her home. There are ways to still connect with your mom.

It’s probably hard to see how much these visits drain energy from your marriage. All of the anticipation, the actual visit, and the processing afterwards all require tremendous energy from you and your husband (as the listener) that could be better spent somewhere else. Imagine how nice it would be to not talk about this on a regular basis.

Blending families requires a tremendous amount of focus and energy that you don’t need to waste on siblings who aren’t interested in helping you build a successful marriage and family. As much as I would love to help you resolve things with your siblings, this isn’t the focus of your question and may not be the best use of your time right now.

Ask your husband what it would be like to drop the drama with your siblings. You’ll probably see his face light up. He’s caught in a dilemma between wanting peace in his marriage and wanting to support you in your relationship with your mother. What husband wants to tell his wife she can’t support her mother? It’s a tough position for him to take. However, he most likely recognizes that this is draining precious resources from the goal of blending two families.

Find ways to connect to mom and turn toward your husband and family. You’ll feel stronger and better capable of solving the problems with your siblings after you have a secure base under your feet. A strong marriage and family will give you the capacity to solve these other problems.

 

Geoff will answer a new family and relationship question every Friday. You can email your question to him at geoff@lovingmarriage.com

 

About the Author

Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in St. George, UT. He is the owner of Alliant Counseling and Education (www.alliantcounseling.com) and the founding director of LifeStar of St. George, an outpatient treatment program for couples and individuals impacted by pornography and sexual addiction (www.lifestarstgeorge.com). He is the co-author of “Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity”, available at Deseret Book, and the audio series “Strengthening Recovery Through Strengthening Marriage”, available at www.marriage-recovery.com. He also writes a weekly relationship column for the St. George News (www.stgnews.com). He holds a bachelors degree from BYU in communications studies and a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from Auburn University. He served a full-time mission to the Dominican Republic and currently serves as the primary chorister. He is married to Jody Young Steurer and they are the parents of four children.

You can connect with him at:
Website: www.lovingmarriage.com
Twitter: @geoffsteurer
Facebook: www.facebook.com/GeoffSteurerMFT