How to get your husband and his family to treat you better.

Pritzel asks:

I got married recently, an arranged marriage. I am suffering from, let’s call it “manic introversion.” I don’t know the exact term it goes by, but you get the idea, right? His family is old fashioned and full of nitpickers and I’m extremely sensitive to those people. I am utterly incapable of confronting such people, so my only tactic is evasion. I am otherwise bright making steady progress towards building a career for myself, but this marriage shattered all my dreams. In the one year since we got married, I slowly gave into all the terms of arranged marriage. I have one final request – staying away from his family until I am ready to meet them one day. Complete avoidance. Is it wrong? Most of the time he is good to me, but when we fight about it, it sends me down a vortex of depression. He breaks stuff and manhandles me when I refuse to budge and go meet his relatives. What am I supposed to do?

Hi Pritzel –

Okay, I have to start with one issue, before I answer your question.  As a dog I’m very sensitive to the concept of “manhandling.”  When my human friend, Handsome, handles me, it’s either to do something nice (petting, hugging, or playing), or to protect me (grabbing me as I walk into a street, or stopping me from getting into a fight).  But when you talk about your husband manhandling you in anger, I get very concerned.  It makes me think of my friend Aria, who was grabbed and beaten when she was younger, and so still today, living in a happy loving home, will scream out and snap when someone reaches to the back of her neck – which is always out of wanting to pet her!  It’s so sad, and for those people, scary!

So I don’t like this at all.  Every couple has differences and arguments, but I want him to STOP TREATING YOU ROUGHLY RIGHT AWAY!  I don’t know what resources you have, but I’d love it if you could threaten him in some way, like “If you hurt me again, I’m going to go stay with my parents” or even “If you grab me like that again, I’m going to have my big brother come talk with you about it!”  I know I’d love to be in the room and come at him with all my teeth bared – and I’ll bet that’d be all I’d need to do!  Not even nip him, just give him a little scare, and then leave you two to work out this difficult situation in a fairer, safer manner.

But on to your question.  You’re suffering from his family being excessively judgmental, it seems.  I’m not sure what you mean by giving in to “all the terms of arranged marriage,” or how it’s shattered all your dreams, but I sure do know that no one likes feeling judged like that.  And you really have no say in it; you’re the new wife, wanting to be liked and accepted, and his family, who chose you, or at least agreed to you, are making that hard or impossible for you.

I can mainly think of two solutions to this.  First would be if you could get your husband to stick up for you.  I don’t mean for him to abandon his family, but could he just be strong and say to them, “Mother, you need to treat Pritzel better.  She’s my wife, and the way you act toward her is an insult to me.”  Or “Aunt, you’re being unfair to Pritzel, and making our family look bad to her.  I’ve been trying to make her happy, but you’re making her feel like she doesn’t even want to be around you.”  Or just, “Brother, cool it!”  Him doing this would not only help you out, but build his confidence as well, making him feel some power in his family structure.

But second, if he’s unable or unwilling to do those (or even if he does do them), is there one member of his family you feel is more on your side?  Maybe his sister or his aunt?  Who you could talk with, away from the others, and get to support you more?  I’m thinking something like “Hey sister-in-law, you’re always so nice to me, and I just need to talk with you because I need some help when the other family members are being harsh!”  Is there someone you feel this way toward?  You see, if you can get just one of them on your side, that’s usually enough to make the difference. 

And of course I’d love you to get your confidence built up anyway, as it’s clear you’ll need that for dealing with all of these folks.  So please feel free to write me anytime, even for just a supportive tail-wag and bark.  But anything else you can do to feel stronger is going to be great too.

Marriage ought to make your life better, my friend.  I hope there’s a way to make that happen.  Let’s see what we can do!

All my very best,


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