Me and my SO have been together for over three years already and during that time I've had some contact with his parents. I say some, because most of the time I am too shy, I still am, and I'm concerned with making a bad impression. It took them a while to warm up to me, seeing as I'm black and they're Chinese and we were teenagers when we got together. As a result, I've never been confident in talking to them directly and I have been relying on my SO to transfer whatever I wanted to say, seeing as their English isn't too great and the three of them speak Cantonese when together, even when I'm around.
In summary, I've been awkward, shy and insecure for the past three years around them.
Last year we moved to another country together for our education and since a few months we've been living together officially. My SO and his parents kept up contact through Skype throughout the year and it was him who ultimately told them that we planned on living together. They went along with it, saying that if we really thought it through (which we did, about the living occasions, social life, finances and pretty much everything) they trusted us.
Now, they were planning to come on vacation here to visit my SO and enjoy some of their vacation. In order to save on money it was decided that they could stay here, seeing as we're currently renting a small floor consisting out of two rooms and a small kitchen. Obviously this isn't too much when shared between four people, but I was willing to go along with it as they are his parents and I would like nothing more but to have them spend time with their son and for me to be able to show them that I am a viable future daughter-in-law. They are staying here for a month, till the 23th of October and this is where the real problem starts.
First I want to make clear that I do not want to put my SO in between me and his parents. His parents did raise him throughout his life and I don't want to make him feel as if he has to choose between either me or them, that is too much to ask of anyone and too selfish if you ask me. As such, I have told him about my feelings about the arrangement and the stress it puts on me, but I have done nothing more but ask him to help me communicate better and to not put me on the spot as much by asking questions when they're around (we communicate in English together, but his parents also understand this, so I prefer he asks me things in Dutch so I don't feel awkward whenever answering something trivial or emotionally loaded with them around).
Now the issue is that I am still very shy and uncomfortable around them. At first I was hoping that this would dissipate, as it would be our, but also my, home they would be staying at and that I would feel a lot more comfortable than I have been throughout the previous years, when it was me visiting their home. However, this only lasted a few days and it has come to the point where I don't feel like it's my home anymore. I feel like I can't move around freely, because they're staying in our bedroom and if the door is open, I feel like they're paying attention to me and I need to make a good impression. We're currently sleeping in the living room, which isn't too big either, and because it is used for eating and sometimes throughout the day by them too, I have no place for me to retreat when I feel like I need it the most. If they're in the kitchen (which is really 1,5 square meter at most:(), I forego getting some water or brushing my teeth, because I feel it is just too awkward and because of the language barrier I often times don't know what to say, or I don't wanna stand in the way of them doing whatever they are doing.
This on its own wouldn't be so bad, but aside from dealing with health issues at the moment and being prescribed birth control pills(which makes me even MORE emotional and easily aggravated, as if I wasn't enough already!), I have to deal with all of this while going to high school throughout the week. I have a lot of things to do this year which leave me really stressed, I have to get the best grades possible to have a bigger chance at studying Medicine next year and overall the drama surrounding school is really tiring and I often times find myself just wanting to take a break. Obviously, my current living situation does not allow for this and I've already broken down multiple times due to this and because of my self-destructive tendencies(I haven't cut myself in over three years) this has been really tough on me and my SO.
I'm only 18 and feel just overburdened by all the things I try to achieve. At school I feel more mature than all the others, seeing as I'm the only living on my own, trying to sustain my relationship and trying to keep my mental health in check, which leave me with no one I can really talk to, let alone confide in, besides the school counselor, who only works there two days a week. I feel like I'm trying to do everything the rest of my class can do, but even better, while dealing with more responsibilities and traumatic shit messing with my head. This leaves me very worn out and while some teachers and staff sympathizes with my situation, I feel like just screaming it out just to get even a bit of understanding from those around me. Lately it's been pissing me off when classmates claim we're in the same situation when it comes to preparing for presentations and classes, because I firmly believe we are not. I know I asked for these responsibilities myself, but I do not agree with just accepting these things being requested of me I'm dealing with so much already, as unfair as this may sound.
So when I get home, I'm not exactly the happiest person to be around. My SO will be talking to his parents, probably planning what more to change about our place on his parents' behalf, or making schoolwork. I can barely get an hour to myself, because either he or his parents are walking around, his dad is right here in the living room helping my SO with homework, or they're out for whatever reason and I have to scramble those few moments together, because they might be back before you know it.
Then at the dinner table, the three of them are all talking Cantonese. Again, I have nothing against it and I wouldn't ask them to change it, because it's just the way they've always communicated with each other and it's easier for them. However, it does leave me feeling awfully alienated and invisible at the table. Sometimes I feel my throat closing up because it is just a bit too much for me to handle right now and I would like nothing more but to curl away in a corner all by myself. I stare out of the window, I look at the tv, I focus on eating just to not appear awkward, just to appear like it's not a big deal for me to not be included in the conversation, because I have no idea what else to do. I've asked my SO to include me at times or talk to me in English or Dutch at times, but I know this hard for him too sometimes, because sometimes they're just conversations I can be included in for whatever reason, or his parents talking leave him with no time to pay attention to me.
Again, I'm not blaming them for their habit, I don't want to take away from the family time they have or the habits they've had over the years, but they just don't understand what it feels like to me. Even my SO doesn't understand, because he hasn't experienced anything that even closely resembles my situation with them. My school counselor has told me that I should just request for English to be spoke at home, but I personally think that this is overstepping boundaries and I don't want to lay that on them just like that. It is my SO's home too and they should feel comfortable at it, even if it means this comfort is being taken away from me.
I'm so sorry this is so long! There are just so many things that are bothering me, I wish I could just summarize this into one simple paragraph, but I can't.
So the main issues are: How do I get more comfortable around them? How do I make the dinner table situation more comfortable for me? What can help me get rid of this pent up stress? How can I make sure I'm putting my SO in the middle of all of this?
And just in case, I'm already seeking counseling for dealing with my issues, so this isn't an issue as much.
Posts: 10 | From: Netherlands | Registered: Feb 2011
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Hey Kylia - you don't need to worry about the length of things here - we're here to listen.
I'd say talk to your SO. I don't think it's putting him in the middle to communicate your needs to him; relationships are about commuincation.
Tell him everything you feel - exactly how you feel. I know it's difficult with his parents there, but arrange to go on a nice long walk or a trip out somewhere to have a nice, long, in-depth talk about how you feel. You deserve it. You don't dislike his parents and genuinely want them not to dislike you.
Perhaps ask him how he thinks they see you and feel about you; you mention that it took them a while to 'warm up to you' - how did you find this out?
It's not likely that you will put your SO in the middle - you are very caring not to do that, and it's not like you dislike his parents - so there's actually nothing to put him in the middle of - if you know what I mean? There's no conflict there at all, only your needs that need addressing. It isn't unfair on him or his parents to commuincate your needs. It is your home as well, not just his. It's also your relationship with a part of his life, which is impacting yours and his relationship.
Perhaps your SO will be able to tell you how his parents feel about you. His parents should also be making an effort to be friends with you - they are guests in your house, for an entire month - which is a heck of a long time. If you know how they feel about you, as well as discussing what the issues were before (race issues, age issues). If you know that those issues are completely gone, you will feel much less stressed, and much more comfortable around his parents. As for them changing things about your house - what have they changed? Would you like to tell me more?
As for the language barriers - no wonder this is making you feel so alienated and unliked! I think, again, definately bring this up with your SO. As I said, his parents should be making an effort to make friends with you - this includes speaking in language you can understand. Perhaps, without requesting English to be spoken in the house completely, you and your SO could come up with a compromise - perhaps that his parents communicate with you in English a lot more. Perhaps everyone involved should be aware of who is in the room when they are speaking - if you are present - his parents should make an effort to speak English. As part of that compromise, perhaps if you speak English more to them and in front of them, they will communicate back and you will feel better about being friends with them. At the dinner table, you will be present and so will his parents, and your SO, so English should be spoken. Of course, accidents wkill happen due to habbit, but a team effort may be a good idea here.
I think an idea could be that, whenever you are in the room, they make more of an effort to speak English. However, whenever they are in the room, perhaps you could make more of an effort to speak English too. That way, everyone will be more included.
Because I hate to think of you putting so much pressure on yourself to please them like this: something else remember is - no matter how lovely we are - not everyone will like us. That's how it is. It's nothing to do with our worth as people. It may be for reasons such as not wanting their son to grow up and gain independence. I know you want to make a good impression - but it's up to your SO who he has relationships with now that he lives independently from his parents. He can make his own choices. You can be polite and kind, which will be best for everyone, and that's all you do I'm afraid. You really have done a lot letting them stay for an entire month.
That said, I'm sure the nervousness and insecurity is caused by a lack of communication between yourself and your SO's parents and also your SO and yourself. Hopefully this will lead to everyone talking.
Also, about your stress from studying, are you taking the time to do the things that usually make you feel happy and calm? Taking a nice long bubble bath? Taking the time to listen to your favorite music? Taking time to go out an have fun?
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