Waving, Not Drowning

Dear Viv: My in-laws refuse to 'share' our son

On this week's podcast, Viv discusses striking out on your own, possessive parents-in-law, when your dream job turns out to be not that great, and when you don’t want to visit your boyfriend’s parents ever again

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By Viv Groskop on

Dear Viv,

I am a 20-something girl who has just kick-started a fantastic, exciting career. People keep telling me that I’m in a great position and that I have it all in front of me. I love my job, I have hobbies and I have a good social life – everything is technically great.

But my 5-year relationship with my boyfriend is coming to a slow end and it is painfully apparent to both of us that this situation is no longer a source of happiness for either of us.

I do not love him and have told him that I don’t want a relationship anymore. I feel as though my life is about to change drastically and I am very scared. We met when we were young (I was 17 and he was 18) and have lived together for over a year. I have essentially gone from living as a child and teenager with my mum to living with my boyfriend as a young woman. I have never gone it alone.

But I have decided that I am going to take the plunge, end a relationship with the man who has been my best friend for five years and move out. But I am scared. All of my friends either live at home comfortably with parents or are living in shared accommodation so I have to look for a house share of my own.

I have not been single for over five years and I have never in my life lived by myself - perhaps I’m being fatalistic, but I am overwhelmingly frightened of ending up alone. However, I know that this is the right thing to do as I have been feeling increasingly down due to my situation. Perhaps this time next year I will look back and feel glad that I was brave.

Quite simply, Viv, I would like you to tell me: how can I brave the unknown, build a new life and combat loneliness?

Yours sincerely,
Very Scared Girl…

Dear Very Scared Girl, This is so easy for me to say to you: Don’t be scared, you’re already doing it! The only thing you’re not doing here is reminding yourself that it’s perfectly natural and normal to feel fear. Although not everyone talks about it -- and frequently a lot of us talk a load of bollocks to make it look like we’re coping better than we are -- everyone is fearful of everything most of the time. The trick is to allow yourself to be afraid and then just go ahead and do the things you wanted to do anyway. Once you get to the other side, you will be so busy dealing with whatever happens over there that you will forget that you were going to be scared of it all.

I can understand that you don’t want to let go of the comforting situation you know. But I can tell from your letter that in your head you’ve already moved on and you’re ready for this. There’s just a very small part of you that is saying, “But what if...?” Don’t listen to that part of you. Listen to the part of you that knows what the true source of your happiness is. I can tell you’re tuned into it because you mentioned it. You know what’s good for you. Don’t be afraid to trust yourself. You are entitled to what you want. You are entitled to take risks. And you are entitled to make mistakes, loads of mistakes. What you are not entitled to do, is not do the things you want to do just because you are a bit afraid, even a lot afraid. This is your time. Go for it.

Dear Viv,

Ever since my son was born 5 years ago we've had issues with my in-laws as they are unable to 'share' him with other family members. The latest issue has come about because my parents in law are taking my 5 year on holiday for 9 nights in August. Weirdly they've chosen to go to a campsite a mile away from where my side of the family live. So when they confirmed the dates of the trip I suggested that they could leave my son with my sisters or mum for the day (not least so he could see his cousins who are the same age!) but also to give them a child-free break for the day. I had verbally suggested this and then followed up on the in-laws What's App group and the response from my MIL was "Oh no we want to make the most of it!!!"

Possessive much? I sent a thumbs up in reply. 30 minutes later I got another message saying "Sorry that sounded a bit harsh. It would be lovely to spend some time with your sister especially at the seaside." But what about my mum - is she not invited? Do they only want to see my family at the seaside? They are literally 4 minutes from my sister's house I think it's strange to say they don't want to see my family but they've booked a campsite on their doorstep - for 10 days!!

Oh dear. This is a bit of a minefield, isn’t it? However, I think you’re trying to control the uncontrollable. You’re trying to matchmake your parents with your in-laws from a distance and that is never going to work. I can see it from your point of view. Clearly your in-laws didn’t think about where your family lived when they booked this holiday and -- however painful and weird this is to you -- they obviously haven’t given your family a second thought. It would be rude of me to say that they sound a bit caught up in their own stuff but... Hmm.

The trouble is, you gave up your control when you agreed to let them take our son on holiday. Where they take him and what they do when they get there is kind of not your business now. (Sorry I know I’m being harsh, but I’m trying to be realistic here.) I can see that it’s maddening and weird that your son will be so close to the rest of his family, but to your in-laws it’s just a coincidence.

I wonder if when it comes down to it, they might actually be glad of a break when it comes to the time. Could you send them a message when they’re on the holiday, saying, “Oh, by the way, the invitation to leave him with my mum/sister is still open.”

The most important thing to realise for your own peace of mind is that you can’t control this situation. And you can’t make them be different to who they are. If they are possessive and a bit weird, that is how they are. Sorry this is a harsh reply but I think you might just have to accept the benefits of getting some time to yourself and let go of the downsides.

You can hear the answers to these and the following questions on Viv’s podcast, Waving, Not Drowning, above.

Dear Viv,

I recently started what I thought was a dream job. It came out of nowhere and was too good an opportunity to miss so I jumped feet first into it. Now I've been here a few months I think I've made a huge mistake because the job is making me miserable even though I can't quite articulate what it is about it that is making me so unhappy. However I worry that if I leave I will be throwing away an incredible opportunity, and I don't know whether I should try to find a job similar to my current one or go back to something that's like what I was doing before. Please help.

Dear Viv,

How do I tell my boyfriend that I don't want to stay at his parent's house because I don't like them and they make me feel shit about myself? They're an incredibly competitive family and bond with each other by insulting one another. For the first year or so of our relationship, they were on their best behaviour around me, but now I'm essentially part of the family, that's long gone. I also don't like the person my boyfriend turns into when we're there. Normally, he's the sweetest, most considerate person in the world, but when he’s around them he becomes despondent and irritable. Help!

Got a question for Viv? Email her at DearViv@thepoolltd.com. The Dear Viv podcast airs fortnightly on The Pool at 5pm on Tuesdays. All letters will be edited for length. Unfortunately Viv cannot reply to your emails personally. 

You can subscribe to The Pool's podcasts on iTunes.

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