Hi Dr. Love:I have been with my current boyfriend for four years. He got in trouble with the law and is now serving several years in prison. I love him and have stuck by him for the last year and a half he has been incarcerated.My situation is accentuated by the following problems:1) He is divorced, with two children. I spend whatever money I have making sure the kids receive birthday and christmas gifts from their dad and myself. I take them to the park, dinner, whatever comes to mind once every couple of months to make sure that they know their dad still loves them.In addition to this, I send him packages once or twice a month, each totalling approximately $200. I do not receive financial help from any of his family, nor do I get so much as a thank you. I know that I am doing it to help him out, but his family has come to ‘expect’ me to do it, without any help.I am 28 and make about 20k a year, so I scrimp and save to help. I feel that his family, who goes to visit him without inviting me, should at least thank me for the help. How should I go about talking to them about the situation?2) His ex-wife tries to keep in contact with his family. They treat her like she is still married to him. I understand she is the mother of their grandchildren, but they treat her better than me. I suppose I am jealous because his ex-wife left him because she had an affair with a married man and had his child.I guess what I am asking is: Will I be able to see past his family and their inability to assist/thank me in order to marry him when he is free? I know you marry one’s family when you marry them, but his whole family is dysfunctional and selfish. What should I do? Thank you.
You are one supportive and generous woman to give so much to your boyfriend and his children. You had two questions, how to talk to his parents about their lack of appreciation for your efforts and whether you will be able to see past his family and make a happy marriage with this man. I will answer your questions, but I want to make a few observations before.I hear you saying that you feel unappreciated by your lover’s family but you don’t mention that you feel used by him. You are putting yourself out terribly for him not for them, and I wonder why you don’t you feel put out by him. Is it possible that you do feel unappreciated by him and that you have transferred all your hopes for recognition onto his parents? I want you to also know that it is very common for people who give above and beyond to end up feeling used and unappreciated. People who give to extreme were often deprived of love as kids and suffer feelings of inadequacy.These people often dream that if they give a lot that they will win love or respect. Instead of feeling appreciated, excessive giving results in feeling used, hurt and angry. This is because the receiver comes to expect the giver to keep on giving, and, in no time, the giver is taken for granted. So, the giver gives more hoping to win that love and the cycle becomes worse.If you were to examine your psyche, would you find that you, too, have fantasies attached to your giving. Ask yourself what you secretly wish to obtain from all your giving. If you are giving to receive love or appreciation, you must realize that you won’t obtain what you want in this way. Excessive giving is doormat bate. If you can say, I don’t care, I am doing the giving because I want to do it, no strings attached, then you can continue giving and feeling unappreciated won’t be an issue any longer.So, in answer to your question, how can you talk to his parents and get them to appreciate you, if you can accept that you are giving so much because you want to, then you won’t require their appreciation any more. By the way, if anyone were going to talk to the parents, it should be your friend, not you. You have no power with them. (Mind you, you still need to surrender all hope for recognition, even if he does speak to them. )I can’t help but wonder if he has neglected to inform them of all that you are doing for him and the kids. Which leads me to wonder, once again, whether you are actually feeling taken for granted by your boyfriend. More important than their appreciating you, does he? Does he take your efforts for granted? Even if he does appreciate you, do you know that what you do for him is far beyond what is expected of a lover? I wonder where you learned to put yourself out so far? And, what do you hope to gain from your lover by doing so. Also, his love and respect?You ask whether you can marry this man anyway and see past his family’s lack of appreciation for you? Again, if you are giving without strings, you won’t care whether they appreciate you or not. As long as your lover doesn’t make you feel taken for granted, this is the main thing. I do wonder if you are prepared for the possibility that your extensive giving may become a lifetime pattern in which you may give more than you get? Can you be sure that he won’t go to jail again in the future? Are you prepared to give so much to him if he goes back to jail again? I hope that my reflections help you to understand more about your motivations for giving and free you from the need to be appreciated by his folks. All the best.