Sunday, August 20, 2006

Some Families

Posted by Anonymous.

As always, if you'd like to use this space to tell stories/secrets/confessions of your dangerous maternal (or paternal!) mind, send me an e-mail and you too can enjoy the refuge of the Basement...

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In a manner of speaking, I have been dooced. My harmless blog has sparked a hurtful family rift and I don’t know what to do next. Advice, please!

I have a problem with the in-laws. I never thought I’d say that, because for the entire six years of my marriage, I didn’t think there was a problem at all, we got along just fine. I always knew we were different—I’m a vegetarian, don’t go to church, very liberal. But I tended to hide my true thoughts to avoid conflict (I’m a huge conflict-avoider). They know the basics, but I never told them how I really feel about anything. It didn’t seem necessary. We weren’t extremely close, but I think we knew what to do with each other: avoid politics, focus on the kids, make small talk and enjoy our time together. I didn’t need them to be my best friends. It all seemed to be fine.

But then we went on a trip to Texas to visit my husband’s sister.

He had not seen her in 8 years. I had never met her. She has NEVER EVER come north to visit us. So we visit and had what we thought was a fine time. I endured her racist and homophobic comments. I played nice. We stayed in a motel because she has lots of animals and I was sure my daughter and I would stop breathing if we stayed there (bad allergies, asthma). I had to defend myself 5 times on that. She thought I was being rude I guess. Perhaps I should have brought a doctor's note to explain ALLERGIES.

Three weeks or so after we got back, my husband posted a short entry about our trip with pics of the cousins and all. We had been so busy until that time and he just didn't have time to write at length. He said "we had a nice time...blah blah" in the first paragraph. In the second paragraph he decided to get witty, so he talked about some of our observations of Texas. Like how Texans like pickles (reference the pickle available for sale at the movies, also at gas stations). Or how the weather in Houston sucks and we wouldn't want to live there (reference the two unbelievable storms we drove through that almost killed us). Or my favorite, when we drove past the Huntsville prison there was a blue visitor sign that said "For visitor information turn here." I thought that was HILARIOUS.

The sister didn't like his comments about Texas. The unfortunate thing was that my husband wrote it in the third person, so she ended up thinking I wrote it. Then she sent me a NASTY email saying I was hateful and what I said was unforgivable. That if the only thing I took away from Texas was pickles, prison, and weather, she's sorry for me. She yelled at me about staying a hotel too. Bullshit about not letting my husband stay with his family and reconnect. Then she said I was "lucky" she didn't post her comments to my blog. Ahem.

So the husband calls her back and leaves a VM saying "if you have a problem, talk to me cuz I wrote it" and then I start to feel sicker and sicker, like maybe her vile attitude will rub off on their parents: I don't want them to think badly of me. So I beg my husband to call his mom to make sure she still likes me. Bad idea.

My usually very quiet mother-in-law then proceeds to go off and say she thinks I'm driving a wedge in the family, I'm godless and I should be raising my daugher to know god, and that I FORCE my daughter not to eatmeat.

In case you’re keeping track, so far I'm hateful and godless. I should interject here that my in-laws no longer go to church. And she’s asked me for veggie recipes to help her husband whose cholesterol is very bad.

So the next day the husband writes a long letter to his parents about how they have no right to judge how we raise our daughter etc and he’s sorry they have problems with the very things that he loves about me. That night his mom and sister both call him to talk about it and they both say they're sorry to him and when he says, "you really need to say that to my wife" they both (separately) say, "Oh, not tonight. I just can't tonight." Poor ladies. It must be so hard for them, you know, finding out after six years that your in-laws HATE you, oh wait--that's me.

That all happened almost two months ago. I have received NO call of apology. Now, I'm pissed.

Then it gets worse.

The sister emails to say that her husband has cancer. So obviously my husband calls her and talks to her and we both feel terrible for him and for her and the kids. But then, she's started emailing jokes like nothing ever happened. And 60% of the phone conversation was her asking how everyone was. Like normal. Asking how I was. But he doesn’t say anything because this is an awful time for her. Inside I’m screaming, “I’m still waiting. Please apologize to me. I’m a very nice person. You’re wrong about me.” And deeper inside I’m screaming, “God you suck! YOU are hateful.”

Now his mother has been hospitalized for complications following a surgery. He called as soon as he found out, which was last night. This morning we get an email from the sister saying that she really hopes he can put his feelings aside and call Mom. That she made the first step in apologizing to him and that Mom really isn’t in a good place to deal with me just yet, but he needs to “start the healing process.” That families always argue, but that doesn’t mean that any love is lost. Meanwhile, I’m having a hard time believing there was any love there in the first place. And not all families are like this. I have to believe that.

The whole thing makes me sick. I don’t know what we should be doing. I’m not worried about our marriage—that is very strong. But I hate drama. I go to great lengths to avoid it. I haven't blogged since and I'm actually thinking of moving the blog so they can't find it. I don’t know how to get past this. I know I should, but I don’t want to be the better person. If I move on and don’t expect an apology, doesn’t that mean I’m subtly telling them it was okay to do this to me, that they can do it to me again?

19 comments:

Andrew said...

Hi,
I read your entire post. I'm sorry you have so much apparent conflict come into your life and I can understand your frustration.

This is exactly the sort of relationship issue I deal with at To Love, Honor and Dismay, answering reader questions like this every day. If you would like, I could put this in the queue and give it some thought. Let me know if you are interested.

All the best,
Andrew McAllister Ph.D.

Crunchy Carpets said...

Well...I have psycho inlaws and so my heart goes out to you!

I don't think you are going to 'win' with them except in your own sense of 'not getting down to their level'...

Don't play their games...but also give up on the apology.....

I have had to listen to years of the truth being rewritten and twisted and am loving being the 'EVIL INFLUENCE' in my dh's life!

I am waiting for an apology for screaming at me and my mom and threatening to oppose our wedding---8 years ago.

My mom, while will be polite, refuses to be around them.

We do separate christmases and birthdays for the kids!

If your dh loves you and understands how wacked his family is....let it go.

Play humble to the mom. Grit your teeth and avoid them as much as possible.

I let dh deal with them as much as possible and I try to stay away as much as possible.

I can't stand their rascist and ignorant attitudes anyway....

Hugs to you....being disliked is hard.

Andrea said...

I have had my share of in-law problems, (and some of them are continuing now).

First, APPLAUSE to your hubby for standing next to you throughout all this.

Second, you can probably give up on the apology. You can take the high road and treat them as you always have, however with a newly wary eye. You truly have done NOTHING wrong. The hotel thing happens in most families (mine included) and there's no getting around it. Just keep explaining the allergies again and again.

Hubby writing them a long letter probably went a long way in explaining your parenting position and your point of view, but they don't appear to be paying attention. They're going to think what they want. Your trick is to get to where you don't care what they think as much.

My sister-in-law and I had tremendous amounts of trouble for many reasons I won't go into. I will only say that her opinion is very important to my husband and therefore important to me, but I often found myself feeling judged by her and belittled in her presence. This only served to make me try harder, which made me feel inwardly and seem outwardly desperate to fit in. It was only when tensions regarding something to do with our child increased that I finally blew up and said the underlying problem had more to do with her dislike for me than what was happening with our son. She actually agreed and we fought like cats for about three hours. It all came out. By the end, I realized that nothing I could do would change her opinion of me, so I just stopped caring that she didn't like me. I returned to myself around her instead of trying to be someone I thought she would like. And the strangest thing happened. She started to judge me less. She started to treat me with more respect. She stopped outwardly ignoring me. Today, you could almost call us friends.

I don't tell you all this (novel, sorry) to simply say I've been there. I bring it up because I've learned the hard way that I could only be happy being true to myself, their opinions be damned. We still have tension sometimes, but it's a lot better.

Yes, taking the high road and not stooping is one thing, but sometimes getting all the dirty laundry out in the open can be cathartic. But if things can be improved with a good long talk, keeping silent isn't always the high road. It's not like by talking to them you're stooping to nasty emails and behind-the-back accusations.

They haven't apologized to you because they haven't been forced to talk about the subject in front of/with you. Maybe a good talk, with the whole family sitting down is in order.

Good luck to you. Whatever you decide, I hope things improve and you're able to resolve these issues.

bubandpie said...

People apologize only when they have some interest in healing the relationship. And what your SIL and MIL need to apologize for is their revelation that they have no real interest in knowing or understanding you. So I agree with the previous commenters that the apology is not likely to be forthcoming - the trick is to figure out what to do about that.

One option I see is withdrawal - interact with them as little as possible, let your husband run interference, and when you are forced to see them, be polite and distant. This will work for you IF you can let go of the anger and resentment and just accept that these people are who they are.

The other option is confrontation, as described by the commenter above. The idea terrifies me (another conflict-avoider), so it probably terrifies you too, and the only positive that could come out of it is a potential to clear the air and lay the foundation for a more open and honest relationship. If you don't want a closer relationship with them, I would NOT recommend a confrontation just for the purpose of venting your anger, or deterring future confrontations.

Your SIL's email was incredibly aggressive and hurtful, but it's not the kind of ongoing, repetitive problem that requires an aggressive response - if you want to just withdraw, you can probably get away with it and minimize the injuries all around. Letting go of your anger and your need for an apology is not letting them get away with it: they've already lost something significant based on their behaviour: the opportunity to get to know you, and, most likely, to have a closer relationship with your daughter as well. Letting go just keeps the situation from continuing to poison YOUR life.

Anonymous said...

The facts are very similar to my situation (sister-in-law in Houston, being a vegetarian, religious relatives, etc.) that I was creeped out at the beginning of your post, and I've always feared something similar would happen to me. Good luck in the future. I guess bad things do happen to mean people!

Anonymous said...

I have a similar situation in my family, and have actually seen a therapist about it. Who said something to the effect of: why are you waiting for an apology that obviously will not be worth the paper it's written on? In other words, based on my BIL and SIL's behavior ALL THE TIME, even if they did apologize, they wouldn't mean it. ANd would I really feel better once I got an insincere apology? Probably not.
The sister in law I feel like you can just avoid. You'd never met her before this, so just withdraw from that relationship and let your husband deal with her. The parents are a little more difficult since you've had a fine relationship with them so far, and because they are your daughter's grandparents. My only suggestion would be to be civil and pleasant, but not overly friendly. I'm sure that your in-laws do care for you--you've been getting along for 6 years--and maybe after some time passes you can all get back to a friendly spot.

Anonymous said...

Oh my god, this sounds just like what happened with my in-laws and me about a year ago. Give or take a few details, of course.

I'm so glad that your husband backs you up. That is essential.

That said, I would not expect an apology, but nor would I hold back your feelings or apologize for your beliefs. You have your reasons for what you do and what you believe, and they - including your SIL - can take it or leave it. And I would keep blogging at the same address, saying whatever you like, as long as you'd be willing to discuss it with them openly if confronted.

Anonymous said...

There was this line in Rocky I that I remember to this day: "Some people just hate for no reason."

AS hard as it may be, as unfair as it seems, sometimes, you just have to shake it off. Though the anger and hate is directed at you, you have to let your husband deal with it his way.

My mother in law is a monster, but we have an unspoken understanding and she leaves me alone, I leave her alone. I think she's afraid I won't let her near her grandson if she gets too far out of line.

I have a girlfriend who was married to her husband for 5 years (FIVE YEARS) and she just found out her monther-in-law is able to understand and speak conversational english. And they dated for 4 years before they got married. For 9 years her mother in law pretended not to speak any english, so she wouldn't have to talk to my friend. My friend was to shocked to be angry when she found out and then I think she just let it go because it was too painful for her to deal with - especially since her husband let his mother go on with that lie for so long.

I know another woman whose in-laws refuse to speak to her. Her children are ostracised by their own cousins at family gatherings. Her husband finally said to his mother and sister: "She is my wife and I love her. This is my family. We come as a package. If you can't respect her, then you don't respect me. YOu have to decide whats more important: holding onto your petty hate or being a part of my life, my children's life, my wife's life." They haven't been in contact with his family for over a year now. Imagine trying to explain to your children why Grandma and Grandpa don't come visit anymore?

Anyway, you can't fight the battle yourself. As much as it hurts, as much as it goes against what you feel, you just have to be the bigger person. Just don't open your heart to these people too easily. YOu never know when they could turn again.

Anonymous said...

I felt so awful for you when I read this. In law relationships are hard. I have gone through similar stuff, and I don't quite know how to deal with it.
For me it's when they say such unkind things, and then don't get it when you are hurt.
For the record, I did get an apology once for something, but it was so awkward that it didn't mean much.
And, then they thought things were okay, which they aren't. And now my MIL sends me e-mails with marital advice (thanks, I need your advice on how to fix my husband who you raised!). I think I'd go back to stormy given the chance.
It's never easy and you don't forget.
I'm not saying suck it up. That's difficult advice to follow. Be glad your husband is behind you. I always feel a little bit on my own in those situations.
And, also, I say the gloves come off when you criticize my parenting. Seriously.

Jaelithe said...

I don't think you should move your blog. Clearly, these people have the problem, not you. If it's really getting to you mentally to the point that the thought that they might possibly read a post is seriously compromising your ability to write, you may have to move it for your own sake, but I don't think you should move it for theirs.

I think a lot of others have made a good point in noting that even if they do apologize to you, it probably won't mean anything to them. But still, I understand wanting the apology on principle.

Maybe you should ask your husband to talk to them about this one last time? Have him remind them that HE wrote that post, not you, and tell them, again, since they apparently did not get it the last time, that their overreaction and their assumption that you were the writer of the post really hurt your feelings. I know he feels like it's not the right time to bring it up again given all the stress in the family, but if he could say, "My wife really wants to help me be supportive of you in these tough times, but she feels like her support is not wanted and she thinks you despise her because you never apologized for unjustly attacking her," or something like that, sort of framing it in the context of your family wanting to help with their current problems (even if you don't, heh) . . .

By the way I am also a liberal vegetarian heathen who married into a religious, conservative family . . . so I feel some of your pain.

nonlineargirl said...

Moving on is telling them that you aren't going to invest time and energy in them. I am not sure that people like that will ever recognize what they have done and be willing to apologize. Wanting it and putting energy into asking for it may just drive you crazy.

JennC said...

Withdraw your anger from them. From what I understand these people aren't worth the angst. Keep your blog up where it is. You've done nothing wrong.

That being said, I'm more inclined to think that the real issue is less about what happened (ie, the blog post) and more what you think they think about you, personally and your life choices and how you believe you are being perceived in relation to the care you give the little one. (Condescending note to self: How's that for being sharp as a tack? Gosh, I can be so obtuse... I think the person posting her angst might have even said that right out. *S*)

What's important: Are you secure in your beliefs? Yes! Your husband is supportive? Right on! Your daughter in perfect health? FABBO! That's the most important thing so let his family blow itself out with its own fury.

Take heart. Be there for your husband as he deals with his mother and just let the anger go.

Rosie B said...

I agree with all of the above....don't move the blog. If they are logging in to get inside your mind...then I say good... they might learn something. Remember that most conflict, be it the wars of this earth or the wars in a family, are all, at their very core, rooted in fear. Fear of not getting enough...money, love, attention, status, power. There's is obviously so much jealsousy behind your MIL and her behaviour. My son is only 9 and I only hope I can let go with grace and dignity. Pity her. She's got nothing better to do. Critcizing you makes her feel better and bigger. Her ego rules her. The fact that your husband supports you is the most irritating thing in the world for her because in a sense she probably sees it as a betrayal. She should grow the f&ck up. 'Nuff said. Rosie B.

michele said...

I'm so sorry you have to go through this... I, unfortunately, don't have any advice for you, I can only commiserate. My in-laws and I are on barely, really barely, speaking terms. My husband and I have been married 8 years. I've had tensions with my mil for the last 5, with her passive aggressive behavior. But we live 350 miles away, so I deal, live and let live and all that. Then! My son with through a mental diagnosis process. They then attacked, because we wouldn't take drugs off the table. Turns out they're probably not needed, but we weren't willing to make that decision until we knew what was up. Well - that just made them flip out. Told my husband it was all my fault, because I work, and care about my career more than my kids. If I actually paid attention to them, he would be having his "issues." (Turned out to be a severe learning disability with frustration turning into violence.) It was merely lashing out because he needed love from his mother. My husband then reminded them of our other son's (the one they completely ignore for some reason) upcoming heart surgery and the fact that I'm the only one with insurance - oh and would they like to pay our rent for us so I could stay home? Then my husband hung up on them. He's put out tentively so heal, they are his parents after all. But Me? He says it's up to me. So last visit, I escaped to my friends house. I lied, and said she was sick. I still haven't talked to or seen either one of them.

Mom101 said...

The most you can hope for in this case is a husband who sticks up for you and supports you. You seem to have that in spades. You can't change stupid people though.

The church thing kills me by the way. How homophobic, racist, judgmental people can tell you you need to find God...well if that isn't just the height of hypocracy.

I made some jokes about North Carolina once and my sister in law's mother got annoyed - she lives in South Carolina. Close enough, I suppose. I had to point out to her that I make fun of all places equally, first and foremost my own home city.

Some people.

Jenn said...

Family Drama! Isn't it the pitts?!?! Being 100% Italian on my AND my husband's side it's a daily occurance. It doesn't even effect us anymore. We just ignore it and laugh at it, and go on with our lives. It's much easier that way!

crazymumma said...

Oh yuck yuck yuck...
It sounds very horrible right now, BUT, what I do read is that the most important person on that side stood up for you...your husband. Good on him.
My inlaws have 'issues'with me as well, and they are, well...just plain wrong.
Sounds like yours are as well. Bon Chance.....

Gillian said...

I don't think the problem has a thing to do with you. These people are behaving as if your husband is a sixteen year old who is defying the rules and should be putting their wishes ahead of his marriage and his own family's decisions. Clearly he needs to stop being influenced by some outsider and return to being influenced by them. Your husband is an adult who is choosing the life he wants with you. He cannot please them and neither can you. Given that, we would drop any expectation of a respectful, normal relationship with them and simply set our own ground rules for their interactions with our children and us. You don't need to get their agreement or cooperation. Your husband can just state that 'Our family stays in hotels when we travel so allergies don't keep us from enjoying our visit'. Actually, you are probably going to have to treat them like toddlers and be consistant, calm and you decide if anything is negotiable. As for moving your blog. Who cares how they will interpret what you do? If you want to change it because you will feel comfortable do that. If it would be a pain and you don't care if they read it or not then ignore them.

Melissa said...

Oh.....oh oh oh oh....how I know in law problems.

Toxic In-Laws is a book I wish I'd read years ago.

In your case I think it's as simple as the motto of Texas: "Don't Mess With Texas"

How dare anyone say Texans LIKE PICKLES! Pickles are cucumbers soaked in evil! (http://threadless.com/product/491/Pickles_are_just_cucumbers_soaked_in_evil)

What I read is the core issue which has come up with my in laws (I've not spoken to them for 3+ years and have had constant issues with them policing my website).

"....not letting my husband stay with his family and reconnect"

I think this is a common in-law vs. wife issue. I don't exactly know what the answer is (since I've cut all contact) but that's one of the issues which came up over and over again with my husband's family.

I wish I had more advice but I am in the remedial class for In Law relations.