I’m an African-American woman and respected professor married to a great man. My husband, “A,” is a white male who never graduated from high school. Like his brother, “B,” he works as a coal miner. Despite never bringing it up, he’s very jealous that I make much more than he does.
My father-in-law is a Christian minister and insisted that the entire family meet in person despite COVID-19. Our Christmas gathering was a disaster.
My brother-in-law got drunk. He called me the N-word when I disagreed with his belief that homosexuality is a deviant choice. The three men went deer hunting.
When they returned, they were livid that I didn’t support Donald Trump’s re-election effort. When I wouldn’t apologize, they agreed that “B” didn’t owe me an apology.
I love my husband, but he and his family don’t seem to understand racism and my right to support who I wish in an election. I want to start a family. How can I save my marriage?
Coal Miner’s Wife
I cannot imagine you being able to sustain a lasting commitment to a marriage with someone who doesn’t “get” racism when it’s directed at his spouse.
This is a core issue from gut to heart and brain, and one of the most important calls to justice of our time. It’s not something that can be dismissed based on different upbringings.
There’s no acceptable excuse for a racial slur, neither from a drunk brother-in-law, nor from a husband who doesn’t denounce his brother’s offensive comment, which he knows is insulting and denigrating to your heritage and the past struggles of your ancestors.
The evidence that this brother-in-law also has other ignorant prejudices regarding homosexuality, and that all three men are polar-opposites to you regarding political leanings, also doesn’t speak well for a peaceful future within your marriage.
Imagine hearing that slur regarding your future children from the man who’d become their uncle!
If your husband is truly a “great man” in his basic character and his love for you, you need to help him see that his family’s attitudes are harmful to your union.
He’s unlikely to be able to change the ingrained views of his brother and father, but he must insist that they respect you. If that means that he has to choose sides, his answer must be clear to you, soon.
Other potential conflict factors in your marriage stem from very different educational backgrounds, employment and earnings.
However, these differences are NOT necessarily a deterrent to a good relationship. Rather, they can add insight, depth, and a broader life experience to both partners. But it’s not possible without the bond of mutual respect.
From what you’ve written, the latter has not been assured between you two... at least not yet.
Reader’s Commentary Regarding the woman’s live-in mother-in-law who’s “taking over (her) life” (January 30):
“Three years into our marriage, my husband and I moved in with his father, to save money for a down-payment on a house. My father-in-law worked nights, we worked days.
“It was hell. I’d return "home" from work to a place that wasn't mine. There was no social life because I felt uncomfortable entertaining in someone else's home. I was on antidepressants and various tranquilizers. It lasted nine horrible months.
“I remained silent on many issues, to "not make waves." As for "saving money”, it never happened.
“To this woman: Don't walk. RUN! Things will get worse before they get better, especially if your husband doesn't think there’s a problem.”
FEEDBACK Regarding the wife and mother who felt taken for granted (January 28):
Reader – “Her husband says about her needs and their relationship, “I gave her space to work through transitioning from a full-time mom to a woman in the workplace again, with interests, a personality, etc.”
“As a reader, I wonder: Was it he, or she, who believed that in her role as a full-time mom at home, she had no personality or interests?”
FEEDBACK Regarding the mother who works from home and also helps her two children, both good students with good teachers, with their home-schooling schedule and efforts (Feb. 1):
Reader – “This mother needs a private workplace in the home, and time for her own job allotted and respected.
“The four family members have to take turns making meals, even if it is just prepared soups, salad or sandwiches, along with shared clean-up duties for all.”
Tip of the day:
Marriages can flourish despite differences, but not without mutual respect.