Confrontation with in-laws?

sipsyDecember 18, 2009

My DH is one of 5 siblings. His maternal grandmother passed away in 1991. I had given her some furniture and gifts through the years since I married my DH in 1978. She was placed in a nursing home and her home was sold to pay for her stay there. In 1991, her personal property was divided up my husband was not informed. They all live about 6 hours away from us. He had just helped his mother with her income tax the month before the property was divided up since his father had died a few months earlier.

Not only were his 4 siblings there when the division took place his aunt and her 4 children were also there. We learned of the property division when we attended his little brother's HS graduation about a month after it was done. His mother announced when we arrived at her home what all everyone got. We said nothing at the time, but my DH assured me that he would take it up with her later. We brought her to our home for a 2 week visit and still nothing was said to her about being left out. He was taught as a child to be seen not heard and he just couldn't confront her. The entire family is well known for sweeping things under the rug and being non-confrontational.

After about 6 months DH went over to visit alone and told his mother that we were left out. She didn't really acknowledge that it happen but didn't deny it either. She sent me a pair of earrings that belonged to his grandmother and gave my husband a couple of old framed photos of relatives. He has a sister who is close to my age who has always been jealous of me and who lead their mother around making most of the decisions in the family after their father's death. I blame this sister for us being left out. His mother just went along with whatever since she had just lost her husband. The other siblings other than an older sister were all minors when this happened. When we asked the older sister about it she said she wasn't given much notice and that she thought that we had been contacted and that we would be there. I believe her and we have had a decent relationship with her.

I have "hung on" to this for all these years and have not been able to let it go. I have had problems with them every since I married my DH. They are very stingy and selfish. Being left out has caused our relationship with them to not be what it could have been. After this happened we didn't visit for a good while. We seldom visit them now. They were never confronted about us being left out like I felt like they should have been.

The reason that I feel so bad for being left out is because both of my parents died when I was young and I desperately wanted a family. It had nothing to do with the material things. I would just like to have them tell me why we were left out. This has caused my DH and I a lot of problems in our marriage because I wanted him to speak up for us. It just has a way of coming up often.

Now that nearly 20 years have gone by and I realize we aren't getting any younger and I would like to confront his mother and sister and let them know how much they have hurt me and let them know why our relationship hasn't been what it could have been. I have talked to DH and he is fine with it especially if it will improve our relationship.

I feel bad that I can't get over this. I have decided to confront my MIL and the sister while we are visiting them over C-mas next week. I don't expect their behavior towards me to change I just want them to acknowledge what they did. I know that when we are around them things will continue to happen to hurt my feelings, but I just can't get over this? Has anyone here ever confronted their in-laws with anything like this? Also, any advice for doing this right?

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I believe your real problem is with your husband. I'd start there. The rest is inconsequential.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2009 at 2:50PM
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You've been holding a grudge for 18 years. Now you want to go and bring up all of these ill feelings over Christmas. Exactly what do you think that will accomplish? I don't mean to be rude, but don't you think it's about time to let it go?

To bring up something that happened so long ago, something that clearly no one can do anything about now, is destructive. It can only revive ill feelings. Believe me, you aren't going to feel better. Nothing can or will be resolved. Everyone will just get upset discussing this.

You want to improve relationships with your inlaws? Do it by putting the past behind you and treating them the way you want them to treat you. Try to enjoy your time with them. Behave as if you're glad to be sharing your holidays with them. If they don't respond in kind, that's their choice, but you should take the high road.

My personal experience: My MIL in my first marriage waited till I'd been married to her son for several years before one day hitting me with a barage of complaints about our wedding. She held that grudge for all those years, and to what purpose? I couldn't go back and change anything that had happened back then. I could only apologize, but how empty and meaningless it was after all those years. I apologized only because, well, what else could I do? But honestly, I didn't care a whit if she was mad about something that had happened years ago. Too late to tell me then, and too late for me to care! All that did was clarify what kind of person she was.

I'm sorry to say all this so bluntly but I believe that people who hold grudges for years are either already very unhappy or make themselves very unhappy by holding the anger in their heart. The very best thing for you, for your marriage, and for your relationship with your inlaws is to let all that go. Forget it. Look to the future and forget the past. Be happy in the now.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   December 18, 2009 at 5:13PM
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If your in-laws have not acknowledge any wrongdoing after all these years, they probably won't do so now. I agree to let it go and move on with a good life with your DH. My DH family also sweeps everything under the rug. I say what I need to say, they are used to that now, and move on. I am cordial to them, but I do not volunteer to spend any extra time in their presence.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2009 at 8:07PM
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My late parents were married 71 years. For about 69 of those years, they quarreled weekly about a watch he had given her which she inadvertently ruined. The cost of the watch was negligible, but they couldn't put the issue down. Silly? Ridiculous? A bit sick?

Try putting a nice thick rubber band on your wrist. Every time your mind takes up this stale grievance, snap the band hard and tell yourself that you are an adult and you are getting over this. Then start mentally listing the blessings life has given you.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2009 at 12:00AM
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"Confront" is so adversarial. Do you really mean that you want to "confront" them, which has me picturing it being an accusing, unpleasant interaction? That sounds awful, and as though you're taking the opportunty to get it all off your chest while you are their guests.

Even if you mean sitting down with them and having a kind conversation about it, I still don't think it's appropriate to do it over Christmas. I do understand the feeling you have and I understand wanting what you want. I just think that it would make things worse.

My 2 cents.


    Bookmark   December 19, 2009 at 8:37AM
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" I blame this sister for us being left out....When we asked the older sister about it she said she wasn't given much notice and that she thought that we had been contacted and that we would be there. I believe her and we have had a decent relationship with her."

So it sounds like you have had a confrontation of sorts. You say you believe the sister, but also that you blame her. If you believe her -- that she thought you had been contacted -- then why do you still blame her? And really, shouldn't everyone there have asked "What about Bob and Sue?"

"Being left out has caused our relationship with them to not be what it could have been. After this happened we didn't visit for a good while. We seldom visit them now....I desperately wanted a family. It had nothing to do with the material things. "

If it's the 'family' that you want, take positive steps to build that closeness. FORGIVE the past and forget it. Know that you nurture positive family relationships not by saying "Why did you do that to hurt me 18 years ago?", but by initiating contact -- visiting, writing, calling. By offering warmth and love. By assuming all 'slights' are unintended until proven wrong, and even forgiving those where possible. The ones who initiated the distance appear to have been you and your husband -- all due to a slight that may have been inadvertant.

'Sweeping things under the rug' is what lots of families do to keep the peace, and as family dynamics go, if those lumps under the rug are relatively small, it not the worst strategy...

    Bookmark   December 19, 2009 at 12:07PM
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I have to agree - xmas is such a stressful time anyway. What do you hope to achieve? You'll probably look silly bringing it up after all this time, and yes, from the outside it seems trivial. I understand your feelings are your feelings, but you should consider going to a therapist so you can move on.

Sometimes it's best to write a letter to the person you feel wronged you, and not send it. I wrote many to my ex-wife, then deleted them. It gets it out, but doesn't cause the rift you probably will if you confront her/them.

It's too late now and will serve no purpose. Just do what you need to do to get closure for yourself.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2009 at 12:57PM
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You had already been married for 13 years, and you'd had problems from the beginning. What makes you think things would have turned out differently even if you had been there?

Just because you hate being around them is no excuse to ruin Christmas- and I say this as someone who has horrible in-laws.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2009 at 5:09PM
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Let it go.

Live in the moment, enjoy your Christmas, it's sounds, smells, yummy food, happy times. Really work hard at this.

Every time you start living in the past, which is what you are doing, stop that thinking...say to yourself "what is happening now". Eventually you will find that this horrible grievance, that has haunted you for so many years, will drift way from your thoughts and you will realize how you have wasted your years dwelling on this situation.

Look for the good in all situations this will bring you happiness and peace, and contentment.

The correct time to confront this issue would have been when it happened.

Your time has passed for doing that so let it go.

I hope you manage to find some solution to this problem.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2009 at 9:51PM
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Sipsy, you have received a lot of really good advice on this thread. I hope you find it possible to take it and use it to end this now.

It seems to me that even if you are completely right and this issue was an intentional slight by one sister that they all allowed to happen, you have to recognize that these people see things differently. You have told your MIL and another SIL about the issue and it made no difference (other than your MIL giving you some small items). So why keep beating a dead horse? These people will not and perhaps cannot change things now. This situation that was handled badly in the past, can never be changed.

Oh sure, they might all get together and say "Wow, how could we have been so blind and mean and thoughtless to poor Sipsy and her DH? We were really horrible to them. How can we ever make this right?" They could then spend their lives making it up to you. But you and I both know that will not happen.

As has been pointed out by others, all you will achieve by making an issue of this over Christmas is to show that you are bitter and uncaring about how your actions will affect the whole family, some of whom at least were not even born when this happened. Is that likely to endear you to these people who you say you wanted to be closer to? Will their reactions to your "confrontation" likely make you care about them more? No, so don't do it.

You need to decide what you want the most. Is it a loving, if imperfect, family? Or is it to be right and have them grovel and beg forgiveness? The second will not happen no matter what you do. The first you have the power to create but only if you give up your determination to keep fighting for what you can't have.

Accept their imperfections and dysfunctions; all families have them. Its part of what makes for great family stories and "in jokes" and love that goes beyond what we deserve and what others deserve and instead focusses on accepting each other just as we are, warts and all. If you can forgive their unkindness of 18 years ago perhaps they will forgive your holding this grudge for that long. You have to take the first step towards building the family you want - they may be happy with the relationship as it is. You are the one who wants change so you have to be the one to reach out with love not resentment.

I know leaving this kind of hurt behind when it has been a companion for so long may not be easy but once you let it go it will free you. You are the one who has been suffering all these years and that has been your own doing. Had you accepted 18 years ago that this is just how these people are whether you like it or not, you could have had 18 years of building happy memories with them. It is never too late for you to change course and start to make up the time you've lost.

Act out of love, not hurt, and be kind especially to those who you don't think deserve it. It is not weakness; in fact it may be the hardest thing you ever do but it is the kind of thing that builds happy families.

Is that what you really want?

Good luck and have a "peace-filled" Christmas.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2009 at 3:40AM
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people do bizzare stuff and you cannot chyange it. I know a lady who comes from a family of 5 kids.

when her mother died, she left ALL of her money (A LOT!)and property to one of the kids, that was the only one kid who had very limited contact wiht her mother, lived out of state, almost never visited or called. the other four took care of the mother in old age and they got nothing. None of the kids ever found out why their mother did that. M

    Bookmark   December 23, 2009 at 12:48PM
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