I was raised as an only child, having only one stepbrother born when I was 14. I am married to a wonderful man, who has a wonderful family. I get along with my mother and father great. I have no children.
My husband's entire family consists of wonderful people that I love. My problem is that many times with regard to the family I feel left out, or not involved, which really wears on my highly emotional personality. I know that his family loves and likes me as a person, but I wish I were at a higher level of closeness with them - which I never seem to reach. I guess I want to feel as I am one of their own, not just an in-law. Another in-law in the family feels the same as I do, but it does not bother that person as we have completely different personalities.
I feel that during encounters that make me feel more of an in-law than sister or daughter I act childish, as if I were 5 years old instead of 27. I'm sure that this display probably doesn't warm their hearts to me. I also find myself, acting like I need to be the center of attention, and if I don't get my way, I end up making it known. I am a high maintenance person who wears her emotions on her sleeve, which bears a heavy personality I believe. Am I distancing my in-law family with my emotions? I want so much to be "family", instead of "in-law family", why is that so important to me? And why do I have tantrum tendencies when I am 27 yrs old? I feel that his family is so close knit that I can't weave myself in, but they do love me with all their hearts, so why is it a problem to me? Am I weird?
I certainly don't hear anything that I would consider weird about you or how you are feeling. We all want to feel included and a part of whatever group is important to us. However, each of us has a unique set of experiences and a point of view based on our personality and those experiences. This influences how sensitive we are to different situations.
It certainly seems from what you are saying that your husbands' family loves and accepts you as an in-law. The problem is that you would like to be closer, and more like one of the parent's children. The type of closeness that you desire is possible, but extremely rare. It is hard enough for two people to love and care for each other. To have each of those peoples family feel that way for their children's mates would be truly amazing. They did not choose them for themselves. It sounds as if your husband's family is accepting you as an in-law, which is exactly what your position is in the family. It doesn't sound as if anyone is doing anything wrong.
If you believe that there might be a possibility of getting closer then it would make sense to talk with your in-laws about this. The direct approach is always better than to try and repress emotions and later to have them come out in inappropriate ways. You describe the way you do express them as a tantrum and feel about 5 years old when this happens. I think this might be very accurate and that in some ways you are reacting from the past.
Often an only child is the center of attention in their biological family. This is very natural, but can be damaging if the child is spoiled. This can give the child an exaggerated idea of their own importance and a sense of entitlement. There is often no one to share with and therefore an only child doesn't learn that critical skill to the same extent that a child with siblings would. Therefore, what is normal to you, being the center of attention in a family, is probably confusing to people who have been taught to share and see their place in the world in a very different way.
Because of this it is quite possible that you are sending mixed signals to your in-laws and thereby pushing them away. It would help everyone if they knew what was going on with you and why you are so hurt. Most of us feel that we grow up completely. This however is not accurate. For the most part we grow up and change. We view things differently and learn more sophisticated coping skills. However, we also have within us all younger versions of ourselves that exist alongside our adult selves. Whenever the right cue, either from the outside or inside, hits directly it is possible to automatically revert to a younger age and act in younger coping behaviors. This is scary and confusing to most people. It is a mini form of Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder, where we are ambushed by repressed feelings long after a traumatic event. Everyone to a greater or lesser degree experiences this problem. Maturing is to a large extent learning how we are still being affected by problems from the past and resolving those issues.
It is possible that just by talking to your in-laws this situation would improve. If it does not you may benefit by some continued counseling.
This question was answered by Jef Gazley M.S. Jef has practiced psychotherapy for twenty-five years, specializing in Love Addiction, Hypnotherapy, Relationship Management, Dysfunctional Families, Co-Dependency, Professional Coaching, and Trauma Issues. He is a trained counselor in EMDR, NET, TFT, and Applied Kinesiology. He is dedicated to guiding individuals to achieving a life long commitment to mental health and relationship mastery. His private practice locations are Scottsdale and Tempe, Arizona. You can also visit Jef at the internettherapist, the first audiovisual mental health online counseling center on the net.
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