Saturday, June 21, 2008
Dear Aunt B,
What does one do when in-laws don't seem to like you? I don't know what I've done. The past few years, they've really seemed cool to me.
Sometimes if I DO dare speak out or do something different than they must think is right with my children, they sort of coolly ignore me.
I was very depressed during our last holiday visit. We have made as many trips as we can to visit the in-laws (we are across country and have a large
family - so it is expensive to fly and LONG to drive). We've been conscientious of maintaining a balance between visits to my family & husband's family.
Calls are much less frequent, interest less frequent. When my spouse was gone for a while working, they never called to say hello or see how things
were going with me & the children. Unless my husband hands the phone to me or I happen to answer they don't often seem interested in speaking with me.
We did have some plan changes with a trip there a while ago - had to cancel (postpone really) due to a medical problem I had & the Doctor indicated I shouldn't travel.
I get the "feeling" they don't particularly like the school or religion we've selected (mine) for our children. I also have felt they never particularly "liked" me....as a
partner for their son. I don't know....I just feel left out and disregarded.
I thought maybe they wanted more control with our children without us around - so we've had the children there to visit without us. But they never seem o.k.. with anything unless its their idea, their timing or whatever. If we change anything - they seem really upset. This family does NOT "talk" about feelings or have
discussions easily. We've had a lot of job stress (my husband's career/job) and they haven't expressed much (if any) support or interest. When we tried to
bring it up over the holidays (we visited there), they ONLY seemed concerned for him. They had no comments on the impact on me. In fact one comment was made
to me (out of my husbands hearing) that was related to why I didn't get a job and help. My husband & I chose together to have me quit after our 3rd child and be
an at home mom. They almost seem like they think I'm lazy and question what it is I do "all day".
When planning a special event over that visit time, they asked opinions and timing questions of my other in-laws but not me. When I dared ask about this event or offer an idea I was ignored. When I brought it up to my husband, he said I was overly sensitive. He does not want to cause any rifts with his family so he doesn't want to do or say anything or find out what is wrong. The only thing I can say is they never seemed to like me - my religion, my age, the fact that we relocated a long ways away due to my career at the start of our marriage. I don't know. When I try to inquire, again - they ignore or dismiss it as nonsense.
Life is too short for these head-games and I just want to get along, but I am increasingly angry and now with another trip upon us/visit ...I don't want to lose my cool. But I feel so undermined as a parent and disrespected. Please...what should I do? I have done all possible to try and show I care - I've sent BOOKS of photos over the years of the kids, given the kids over to them for visits with NO restrictions from me (even though we have certain guidelines on foods, etc..),
tried to always send gifts, cards, etc. for events. I don't know what more to do. Our marriage is now very strained and I just feel upset. Unless it is "their way" it is no way. We have been to counseling (my husband is not a believer at all) and what advice was given was pretty uninspired - basically that this is how it is and anything we say or do won't change it. I'll be blamed no matter what. Is this how in-law relations are? Am I just supposed to be quiet, allow my parenting guidelines and self to be disrespected? They are now very discreet in how they comment to me - since they know I tell my husband. They say/do things in a way he doesn't hear or is kind of passive - aggressive. Clearly, I'm confused!
Distraught Daughter In Law
Dear Distraught Daughter In Law,
Boy do I feel for you and you betcha, I can relate. I hope you will allow your husband to read this. If nothing else, he might grasp or understand the impact this has had on you. I tend to think I'd probably take it all personal too. How can you not? Even the hardest of hard would have difficulty just blowing it off.
Right from the jump though, in your husbands defense, I will say, you've got to leave him out, for the most part. He's caught in the middle, helpless and hindered. He is not a wave maker and does not deal well with adversity. He wants everybody to "just get along, why can't you just get along? Why do you take things so personal, honey? Let it go!" But you can't "just let it go" can you and you do take it personal, don't you?
Now, in your defense, I will say that, while you can't "make" them like you and your husband certainly can't make them like you, they must always respect you. He must require that they respect you and nothing less. In fact, that should be his only statement on the subject, "You will respect my wife. She is my life partner, the mother of my children and your grandchildren, the woman I chose to marry, the woman I love and whom makes me happy and you will show respect." It is so simple, "Required Respect." That's it and that's all.
You know, they can and may go the rest of their natural born lives, disliking you. It is their prerogative. But from this minute forward, they will and must respect you. Short of hurting "their" grand babies, they can keep their opinions to themselves. What I mean by that is they might disagree with your child rearing decisions, etc. etc. but they will have to learn to keep it to themselves. Like it or lump it.
It's not far fetched for them to disagree or expect you to listen to their take on the subject. Hell, I hate the way my daughter in law raises my grand kids. In my mind, she doesn't know how to say "No" to them, she allows them to argue way too much and debate what she's told them to do. She lets them get away with things I wouldn't and she doesn't follow through on discipline, i.e. if they've done something wrong, she hardly punishes them, i.e. she puts them on restriction and that very day, they'll wear her down and get off restriction. If they know they can do this, they know there's always a loophole. If they know there's a loophole, they will do whatever they want because there are no consequences for their actions. I see this every day and it makes me crazy, if I let it but I must remember that they are not my children. I do respect her though and will often look for opportunity to speak with her, as a woman and address these things I disagree with. That's not to say that she will follow through but I do see improvement here and there. But the chief ingredient to this recipe between this daughter-in-law and mother-in-law is that respect factor.
Change the Recipe
Put on your Bitch Belt and begin to command the respect you are due. No longer will you allow them to run the show. You afford them the respect due to them as your husbands parents but they will no longer abuse you, abuse their power as his parents and this recipe will call for a mutual respect. Now, I don't suspect that this will happen over night. This transformation will only come about, starting with you.
Look in the mirror, deeply into your own eyes. Are you due respect? You damn right you are. Will you command respect from his parents as well as anyone else who comes down the pike? You damn right, you will. Yes, it starts within you. It is read from the way you hold your head up high and tell yourself that you will no longer allow them to own you, your thoughts, your feelings or emotions. If you feel you are due respect, you will be given respect. If you show your soft pink under belly, they will see it because that's what they do. Stop it!
Lastly, may I suggest writing a letter that states exactly how you feel? You state that while you realize that they might not always agree with you or your methods, it is putting a strain on your marriage as it stands. You might mention that nothing would make you happier than for you both to get along, if nothing else because of the hardship it puts on their son. (It's important to mention this. If they do not make an effort, from that moment on, they will only be able to see that they will be portrayed as selfish and not having their own sons best interests at hand. It will be transparent that they are not willing to work things out for the sake of their own son. See?)A little fluff will go a long way by mentioning that if you've done something wrong, you'd like to make amends but at this point in time, you don't understand what it is that has you both at odds. And you mention that you want nothing more than a mutual respect.
As I said before, this all starts with you. Do not allow yourself to be a victim any longer. It's all in the respective perspective.
Keeping It Real,