How Should I Deal With His Abusive Parents?

It's vital to create and maintain clear and robust boundaries against abusive or toxic people - which can be difficult when they're your partner's family members.

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Q - I have two kids from a previous relationship, and I’m now in a new relationship with man who’s been brought up by very religious parents – although he’s ‘lapsed’ and doesn’t go along with it any more. He says his mother and father were both very strict and physically abusive to him as a child.

I haven’t met his family yet but I know they don’t acknowledge or celebrate Christmas. I don’t want to spoil it for my kids when they come over to visit us in the new year. I don’t want to have to tell my kids not to mention Xmas or the presents they got. I don’t want to cause an atmosphere and I don’t know what to do for the best or who to please.

A - There are two issues here. Abusive parents, and their religious beliefs. Assuming that you don’t suspect that they will be physically or emotionally abusive to you or your children (or to your partner in your presence) this leaves you with how to ‘accommodate’ their views when then visit you; and your own feelings towards them based upon what your partner has told you.

I suggest that you do whatever best suits you and your children. Your partner’s parents' beliefs are not shared by you and there’s no reason that they should be.

You may also find that they ‘disapprove’ of other aspects of your life too. Such as the type of mother/parent you are, or your marital status etc – and you have a choice about how you handle any such negativity if it comes your way.

It’ll be worth rehearsing a few assertive statements to have at the ready – just in case you need them.

I’m wondering whether your new partner has had this problem before with any of his former girlfriends, and if so, how he handled it.

Children should be allowed and encouraged to show their excitement, pleasure and gratitude for gifts at any time of year – irrespective of anyone else’s religious views (which would hopefully be about unity, compassion and loving care, and not about division or negative judgement).

I’m also wondering if you have a pattern of trying to please other people - and putting aside your own needs, wants and preferences - so as to be liked by them.

If so, maybe it’s time for you to have a deeper look at that, and explore how some old childhood conditioning might still be getting in the way of you being your authentic, assertive and adult self.

Please don’t allow yourself to become afraid of upsetting someone just because they are different to you and choose to hold different beliefs.

You can be respectful of their choices without bending yourself out of shape to accommodate them.

He will have his own level of emotional attachment and loyalty to his parents, and he may also have to consider how their views, attitude and behaviour might get in the way of his own future happiness. 

That’s something he’ll have to work through and decide upon the type of contact he has with them, and the extent to which he allows them to influence his relationship with you and your children.

I wish you all a peaceful and pleasurable time when his parents visit you. Being prepared to hold your boundaries and communicate assertively will help you to set a precedent with them for the future. 

Maxine Harley (MSc Psychotherapy) MIND HEALER & MENTOR – Helping women to make peace with the past and to stop allowing an unhappy or abusive childhood from influencing their present and future. There's a page of FREE RESOURCES, self-help guides/courses, and Recovery From Toxic Parents coaching programmes. - Therapeutic self-development mentoring for women who want to understand and manage their emotions, boundaries and FEEL better, so they can BE, DO and HAVE better! -10 online self-help workshops of Psycho-Emotional-Education - to help you to understand and manage different aspects of you life - A new paradigm in therapy - to review and revise your sub-conscious belief system and S.C.R.I.P.T.(c) ... Sub-Conscious-Rules-Influencing-Present-Time

Maxine Harley