As a person in their nearly-mid-20s (emphasis on the nearly), I have friends who are married. These friends have healthy, happy relationships, but also maintain their own independent lives outside of their marriage.
While it's perfectly fine to enjoy a dinner with parents, siblings, friends or colleagues without your spouse, being purposefully and repeatedly excluded from your significant other's family gatherings does raise a red flag.
This is the dilemma one woman is facing after three years of marriage. Searching for advice, the 32-year-old shared her story earlier this week to the popular Reddit forum, Am I The Asshole. For the uninitiated, the subreddit is basically a sounding board for strangers to float their opinions on other user's pressing predicaments and moral conundrums.
Taking to the forum, the woman explained that while her husband is "a really good guy in other areas", he has a habit of excluding her from his family's monthly dinners - despite his brothers' significant others always securing an invite.
"My husband's parents, his two brothers (ages 38 and 40ish), and his brothers' girlfriends/fiancées have a tradition of going out to dinner once a month. I am invited about 50 percent of the time. I've talked to my husband's brother's fiancée, and she says she is invited every time," the woman began.
"When I say I'm not invited, I mean that my husband tells me, 'I'm going to the family dinner. It's probably best if you sit this one out'. When I expressed that I wanted to come, he told me that it would be for the best if I didn't. It has caused several fights."
Fed up with the family's behaviour, the woman decided to take a stand. When she was once again excluded from the most recent dinner, she explained she made a reservation at the same restaurant for herself, unbeknownst to her husband.
"I was very pissed. So earlier that day, I called and made a reservation at the restaurant they were going to. My husband left the house, not knowing about my reservations, and I left 15 minutes after him," she said.
"I ended up seated at a table where I couldn't see his family. So I got up as if I was going to the bathroom and walked right past them. They were all there, including his brothers' SOs [significant others]. My husband looked completely shocked and asked me what I was doing there. I told him that I had just been dying for a steak, so I came and got one at the restaurant.
"My mother in law said it was very rude of me to interrupt their family dinner. I pointed out that I wasn't trying to join them, I was just going to the bathroom. I told them to have a good meal and I left. I went and finished my steak by myself."
When her husband returned home, the woman said he was "really pissed" and told her he couldn't believe "how much of an asshole" she'd been. She argued that he was the asshole for excluding her from what is also meant to be her family, to which he shot back that the decision whether or not to invite her was between him and his family and it should be respected.
Turning to the strangers of the internet, the woman posed the big question: "Anyway, with the way the word asshole was thrown around, it made me think of this [subreddit]. So I wanted to ask if I am the asshole. Am I?"
And the answer was a resounding 'no', with the online community quick to reassure the woman that she wasn't in the wrong - and if anyone should be branded an asshole, it's her husband.
"Your husband and his family are all assholes," one said simply, while others expressed they were "gobsmacked" by the situation.
However, readers of the woman's predicament were quick to pinpoint perhaps a deeper issue behind the drama, with the woman later clarifying that while she is mixed race, her husband and his family are white.
"Is there a major [difference in] race or religion between you and the rest of the family/in-laws?" one reader asked.
"I am mixed race and he is white. We are both Christians, but neither of us are particularly religious. My in-laws are fairly religious, but none of their kids are avid churchgoers and they don't seem to mind," the woman responded.
Without any additional context to their relationship or history as a couple, readers were quick to assume that racism may play a role in the family dynamic.
Replying to similar comments, the woman confirmed that the partners of her husband's brothers are also white.
"If they are racist, they aren't super forward about it. Maybe it contributes to their dislike for me, but I can't imagine that it caused their dislike of me," she said.
"NTA [not the asshole] OP [original poster], but your in-laws and husband are racist. OP stated that she is mixed race, and then when she asks her husband why his family doesn't like her he is cagey and never gives a real response," one reader concluded.
A second added: "They only exclude her and not the other spouses, she's the only one who's half-black while everyone else is white. Unless OP is leaving something out, the family being racist makes the most sense."
"As soon as your MIL [mother-in-law] said you'd interrupted their 'family' dinner, [that] spoke volumes: you are not and never will be considered family to them. Get out now, no matter what other 'good' aspects you see in your husband. You are worth more than this," a third added.
"My parents have been married 50+ years, and my grandmother will STILL tell my dad things and then tell him, 'Don't tell (mom's name). This is a family affair'. Then my dad will come home and tell her the entire thing in detail because his wife is his family," another shared.
"It's one thing to have horrible in-laws. They can be kept at a distance. But when the man you literally sleep next to is acting that way, it's time to pack your stuff and go."