Reorg of family relationships!

claire_de_lunaOctober 24, 2007

You know, I've spent a lot of time and energy getting my house in order lately (physically speaking!) and I realized after attending a family event this weekend, that it makes sense to get my idea of what's best for me regarding these relationships in order as well. What struck me most about the weekend is that the boxes and ''systems'' that families use to relate to each other that worked so many years ago, often need makeovers as well.

It was an interesting experience, and illuminated clearly how as a family we have evolved in different directions and ways. We all operate differently. For example, the event was a HUGE wedding that was absolutely ''meant to impress''. For example, the wedding program which had listed under Wedding Party, 82 (yes, eighty two!) of the family's ''closest friends and relatives''. (I eloped and had a wedding for two, so I am not interested or impressed by this type of affair. It seemed obscenely excessive to me, but hey...Whatever floats their boat, you know? I'm a ''live and let live'' kind of person.) We did find that we had been listed on the program as Reception Attendees, which is a job we had politely refused when asked only a few days before the wedding. Had we not refused, my dh's mother would have had to sit alone at the reception. Obviously, we were ''included'' before we were ''asked''. The way we were asked seemed to offer the option of refusal, which we exercised very politely. We weren't actually needed, as there were a total of 6 Reception Attendees listed. (You know sometimes, excess is simply too much!)

We didn't realize what a problem it was for them, until we experienced a complete (and pointed) lack of interaction from most of the family members, one in particular I haven't seen for eight years. I tried to engage in conversation, where I was ignored, and physically turned away from twice. My dh felt shunned and ignored by his brothers, as he chose to sit with his mom so she wouldn't be left alone. The next table over, the family was fussing over the grandfather of the mother of the bride's family, while pointedly ignoring the grandmother of the father of the bride. We could only apologize to dh's mother for being part of the reason she was so ignored.

We heard from his mom later that the others were so hurt by us, which completely confused me as I thought we'd been pleasant and happy to see everyone. What I learned is that the Perception of Family is more important than Loving One Another. The other obvious lesson is that Size Matters! (In case you didn't know, Size relates directly to how important you are, and a visual marker of how much $$ you have to spend.)

After much contemplation, the only thing we can figure out is that because of age/experience/time, the relationships have changed in a way that's frustrating for them. Years ago, we used to welcome this part of the family to our home, where they would stay happily for days, taking advantage of my penchant for planning. This meant the refrigerator was stocked with ready to eat food which had been lovingly prepared, the house was clean, the linens fresh, and all they had to do was show up for their vacation which was good to go. They'd scatter their things to the winds, use my laundry facilities nonstop, and veg out in front of the tv like they would do if they were at home. We did expect a little bit of energy to come back our way however, and learned over time that this wouldn't be the case. They might leave a few dollars on the mantel to ''cover their share of food'', which made us feel like a free full service hotel, that didn't require them to engage with us. It was great for them...not so good for us. We don't operate on the ''Just Show Up'' plan anymore, nor have we ever needed taken care of. Our role as caretakers was shelved by us quite a few years ago. I can imagine that it doesn't feel too good when your family quits being the satellites that revolve around your planet!

Anyway, it's obviously more convenient now to be a victim and talk about their ''hurt'' than to give any energy back. Evolution involves some work, and not everyone wants to evolve. All of these Feelings are being related to my MIL, who feels obligated to share them. I wouldn't think of burdening her with my emotional stuff about her sons; the last thing I'd ever do is make her feel bad! I realize that I needed to ''organize'' my thoughts about my family and make it okay to send that old ''Stuff'' with them packing!

Forgive me please for making this so long. There were other incidents equally bad, so believe it or not, this is the condensed version! Here's what I'm wondering...Has anyone thought about this aspect of organizing your life? Has the physical act of putting your ''house in order'' affected the relationship aspects of your life as well?

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as a guest, weren't you a reception attendee? What the heck is a Reception Attendee anyway? I work at a weddings magazine, and I have never heard of a "Reception Attendee." What did they DO?

And why wasn't your MIL a "Reception Attendee"? (I think I'd start being mildly offended on her behalf. And maybe call up a SIL and chew her out that MIL wasn't so honored. Be "hurt" on your MIL's behalf: "you understand this is not about me, I just feel so hurt on MIL's behalf")

I'm not sure that you alienated these relatives by PHYSICALLY putting your house in order, so much as that you emotionally, logistically, put your house in order and now now reaping the "rewards."

Long overdue restructuring, that's for sure! But not exactly "where the towels go" or "how to space the shelves in the pantry" or even "don't need so many guest towels."

This backlash is certainly a logical result of your refusal to be taken advantage of anymore. You have clearly indicated to them that they are not as important to you as they used to be, and they are reacting.

They used to be so important that you would bend over backwards (or forwards?) for them, regardless of whether they were polite or considerate or reciprocal. Now, they don't matter anymore the way they did.

They're too dense to understand that they have created this situation themselves. All they see is the decrease of YOUR investment in the relationship. They never did see a deficit in their own behavior.

But I do applaud your for "organizing" this aspect of your life, and I hope you can successfully "declutter"--try first of all to train your MIL not to pass this stuff on to you. It's hard for her, because she probably "detoxes" by doing so. They are being SO unfair to her to dump their ill feelings on her.

Maybe if you can frame the situation for her, it'll be easier on her. If you can create some way for her to successfully live with the "rift," or view the new relationships without discomfort, that might help her, and thereby help you by making her less needful of passing it on to you.

"We're sad too, because we spent a lot of years hoping that we were important to them, but we've finally adapted to a more distant relationship; it seems we just weren't meant to be as close as we'd hoped"

Something like that--make it sound like "destiny" and "not every relative is your bosom buddy" and "freeing them up to spend the time and energy on the people they've chosen instead of the people they've been assigned"

Good luck!

    Bookmark   October 24, 2007 at 12:54PM
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Tally Sue put it quite a bit more eloquently that I will. So, here goes.

I just organized my bookmarks on my computer. That means I deleted over half of them. I either don't need them anymore or I will remember the url if I decide to visit it. They were a visual burden to me. Now, my bookmarks are much more organized.

Organize your life and family relationships in a similar vein. I politely suggest that you delete them from your "family bookmarks". You will call/visit when you decide to, when you need to.

Delete them from your list. They sound like nuts to me!

Sorry they treated you so poorly.


    Bookmark   October 24, 2007 at 1:02PM
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Reception attendees??? You have got to be joking! Your poor MIL. For your nephew and his new bride to put you and your husband in the position of choosing is absolutely outrageous. You did what was absolutely correct. Your (and their) first priority should have been to make sure that your MIL was treated with the utmost respect that she deserved!

I think as we get older, our lives change to fit our needs. What were priorities years ago (to have an "open house", to allow family to treat you as a caretaker, etc) are no longer even an option. You have your own needs, immediate family, work, hobbies and whatever that you need to do for YOU.

I know putting our "house in order" affected our relationship with my dh's family too. He is the youngest of multiple siblings and they always expected him to drop everything if one of them needed or wanted something (and he did!). It would cause discord between us. Until one time when HE needed something and then all of a sudden they were all too busy to be there for him. It was a real eyeopener to him. He learned really quickly where his priorities needed to be.

By cleaning our 'house' and knowing where our priorities are, it has actually made for my dh to have a better relationship in the long run with his siblings and family. He knows how to say NO and when to say YES-- and his siblings respect that. Some families figure this out quicker than others-- or not as quickly as their spouses would like!!

You need to be comfortable in your decisions when it comes to relationships. Our lives all change as we grow older and mature. I am sure you don't have the same best friends that you did when you were 19-- because we change. It just happens that family is still there as we change and we can't get rid of them as easily LOL

    Bookmark   October 24, 2007 at 1:14PM
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Thank you Talley Sue and Donna. Of course I always appreciate someone else's insight.

I don't blame my MIL for her need to share. TS, you are absolutely right that it's her way to detox from the family dynamics of the situation. She also knows we can hear it from her without judgment. We are the most respectful of her, trying to give her as much attention as we can while we're together and she is very appreciative of us. My MIL prefers to focus on a Pollyanna point of view where she would like to believe everyone cares about and helps each other even if when don't act like it. I get it because my mother operates from a very similar point of view, even when the facts don't support the fantasy. I respect her right to think the way she does, even if I don't agree with it. Frankly, I'd rather know the score, than wonder what in the world went wrong! She's really conflicted sometimes, as she has to vent often because of the way(s) she treated.

One thing that really bothered both of us is one brother (and wife) dropped in on her ''to spend more time with her'' and invited themselves to spend the night. She insisted on giving them her bed, and she slept on the sofa bed. Now my MIL is 83 years old! Who in their right mind would take her bed for themselves? They didn't want to spend $ on a hotel room, and why should they if ''Mom'' will give up her bed? She wanted to make it very clear that it was she who insisted. Of course she did, but that doesn't make it right.

Yes, TS, they meant us to be Reception Attendants, not Attendees. Servers! There were many wedding faux pas, but etiquette was not a big concern. Does anyone else besides me find it very odd to list 82 people as The Wedding Party?

My (very sweet and darling of a) nephew had to join in the ''hurt'' feelings by mentioning he was ''hurt'' when he offered me a rose which I declined. It was after the ceremony was over, we were headed to the reception in another location, and when I looked at that rose, all I could see was I would have to do something with it like giving it a drink! I declined, because I didn't want the responsibility of having to take care of or do something with it. I suppose it was stupid (of me) really, but not anything I would expect him to get bent out of shape over. I didn't take the rose, but instead spent time talking and conversing with him about things he was interested in. I guess that wasn't what was more important. Oh well!

Donna, they are officially deleted, thank you very much. The brothers have humiliated me many times (which I choose not to share with my MIL) and I have no need to attend family functions anymore. I have supported my dh's need to see his family without feeling like I had to accompany him. That's why one member of the family I haven't seen for 8 years! He thought in the past it was the right thing to do to see them occasionally, even if they treated him badly. I think this is the event that will allow him to turn that corner once and for all.

iasheff, interesting, my dh is the youngest as well. I've noticed my oldest sister also expects me to show up for whatever she plans, never asking about my schedule or what's going on with me. Of course the fact that she lives in Idaho when I'm in Kansas is irrelevant! When I couldn't attend the last Cousin's Reunion because I was very ill And Remodeling the Kitchen, my name was MUD. My other sister was also ill at the time, but was too scared not to attend. She ended up in the Emergency Room while she was there because she quit breathing and almost died! I've learned to say No. The important thing is not to care. They have no problem on insisting on what's good for them...I can only do the same.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2007 at 2:05PM
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I just noticed my horoscope for the week, which is very interesting...especially the closet cleaning reference!

Goals and dreams you had in the past that seemed too hard to attain now appear to be within reach of your grasp. The Full Moon in Taurus on Thursday helps you get rid of any troublesome people or situations in your life, and you will be able to clean out your closets, mentally, emotionally, and literally. You are well aware that one door needs to close before another one can open, and you are all in favor of that happening right now.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2007 at 2:12PM
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I feel sad on your MIL's behalf, but glad for her that she has such understanding from you. I think I would cry and cry and cry if my children, when grown, were unable to be friendly and affectionate with one another.

My big brother is a source of some sadness. He's a great guy, but he just doesn't invest any time and energy in his family. Now, NONE of my siblings call me very often (and I don't call them), they don't live near me, they don't spend lots of energy on me, nor do I spend a ton of them. We live far apart, We see each other seldom, and we hold our family ties quite loosely. So it's not as though my expectations are THAT high.

But my big brother came to my city for nearly 3 days (2 overnights) and didn't call me. Didn't tell me in advance. Made no attempt to have lunch, or even just to say a quick hello on the phone, LET ALONE come to my home or my office. It still breaks my heart. And this is a typical thing for him. If I went to his city and called ahead of time to arrange dinner, he'd blow me off (he has done so). It just doesn't seem to matter to him.

I used to vent about it to my mom. Then one day I realized that I was putting her in a position in which she felt she had to explain him, or apologize for him--and yet he treated her much the same way. And she's his mommy--he was her FIRST BABY!

I would hurt SO much if one of my babies blew me off so easily, even as a grownup. So I bite my tongue, and I don't express my hurt to her anymore.

I'm glad you are as considerate of your DH's mommy. And I hope you can help her frame it in a way that causes less stress for her. That would be a huge service. (It was actually something my mom did for me, a bit)

    Bookmark   October 24, 2007 at 3:04PM
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I'm still wondering, what does a Reception Attendant DO?

    Bookmark   October 24, 2007 at 3:05PM
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Re: Reception Attendant...I can't quite fit the term to the action either. I know they meant for us to cut the cake and pour beer from the keg. There was a cash bar next door. These people live in a very small town. This was their failed attempt among many at trying to be posh.

TS, I'm sorry for you about your brother. I have a brother who is exactly the same way, and has done exactly what you are describing. He's been in my town and never called; he has no interest in me. My dh's brother has done exactly the same thing to him. My mom (and dh's mom) makes excuses for him by blaming the brother's wife, and refuses to acknowledge that he makes accountable choices. I'm sure dh's brothers blame me for some of it, even though I don't show up anymore much to be the scapegoat. I tend to tell the truth which nobody wants to hear. My SIL was friendly when I first arrived, and the longer I was there and tried to engage her in conversation, the more I felt she absolutely hated me. I still don't know what I did, but I don't care enough any more to be concerned. Here's what I do know: a person's actions are a true reflection of who they are. I believe these people are mean and small, with no feeling for anyone but themselves. I can't help that they are self-centered and self-righteous, with an elevated sense of their importance. If I make them important enough to hurt me, I've given them too much power. No, I'm keeping my power for myself, as I need all the help I can get ! On the other hand, I must have some powerful mojo to create feelings like this in others.

It's not my responsibility to nourish anyone's hurt feelings any more. If I had a friend who treated me like these people do, we would cease to be friends. Simply because we are drawn together by the circumstances of birth doesn't mean we are required to be close. I would happily give back positive energy were I to receive any, but I can't be responsible any longer for anyone else's feelings about their perceptions. Because I show up regularly and make an effort, my mother acts like it's all up to me to make changes. No thanks; I don't accept that!

    Bookmark   October 24, 2007 at 4:01PM
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It may not have been as much an attempt to be posh as to include as many people as possible. There are worlds in which being asked to cut the cake is a MAJOR honor. They may honestly have been trying to be nice.

Your mom's assumption that you bear the resposnsibiity bcs you try at all is really an extension of that maxim: "if you want something to get done, ask a busy person." You are the only person who has evena prayer of achieving what she wants--of course she pressures YOU.

My mom is savvy enough that she doesn't delude herself regarding my brother, and she has never encouraged me to do so either.

My brother doesn't exert the energy bcs it isn't important to him. There's no malice, no negative energy. He's not a user, or rude or anything bad. It's just that being close to his adult siblings isn't important enough to him to use his energy.

His wife makes no effort w/ our family, though she DOES make a huge effrt (as does my brother) w/ HER family. My mom's take on this is, "it's not his wife's job to maintain his ties w/ his family. It's his." My mom had to make her own husband call his mom on Mother's Day, or dad might not have. Mom took on that responsibility when she realized Dad wouldn't, but she doesn't think it's a requirement in a wife.

And once Mom & Dad lived in the same metro area as DB, they made a major campaign to force DB to pay attention to them. Invited him and his wife over, went over there, asked for very specific help w/ projects, etc. Faced w/ this, DB would cheerfully show up (he just doesn't initiate contact himself). As a result, they have a much more frequent relationship than before.

I don't live close enough to do this, and I'm just not willing to anymore. It's sad, sort of, but it doesn't tear me up anymore.

I think the secret to success is adjusting your expecatations. Just because he's my brother and I admire him doesn't mean he'll be a different person.

It also sounds like all those relatives of yours need to adjust THEIR expectations--they expect you two to act a certain way simply because of the relationship. So there's the other side of the coin. They're having trouble w/ that adjustment. They think you're being snotty, and self-centered, probably.

In fact, I sometimes find it really tiring to be all friendly and caring to all the extended ILs, who are lovely, lovely peoplle, but not that important to me.

We have a wedding coming up that I would love to skip. In recent years, DH and I have each lost (to an early death) a close friend that we didn't see enough of, and yet we have to carve out time to attend the weddings of people we aren't that involved w/, emotionally. They're nice people--just not someone we're close to. But we give up an entire weekend to them--but don't see the friends whose presence in our lives gives us a greater emotional boost.

That's the "organize your relationships" that I'm facing. I don't want to spend my limited social time on xtended family that I don't care about--especially when it means I have no energy or space on my scheule for the people I have chosen to care about.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2007 at 4:44PM
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I'm confused about this wedding. You said something about the wedding party but then said the 82 people were close friends and relatives. How many guests were there at this wedding? You also said that the wedding was obscenely excessive. Excessive in what respect? You said that six guests were expected to serve the other guests and that they was a cash bar next door. You said you weren't impressed with the affair. It doesn't sound like an impressive wedding to me.

No guest should be sat at an empty table. That is rude. Guests also shouldn't be expected to act as servers. I think you should have accepted the rose. It was a nice gesture on the nephew's part.

It sounds like you have distanced yourself from these family members awhile ago. Perhaps they had expectations of you and you had expectations from them at this wedding. It really is sad that family drifts away from each other. Every family has difficult relatives and good cause to distance themselves. A wedding should be a nice opportunity to see relatives that you normally don't see. I do think it is sad not to have good relationships with siblings. Life is short and they won't always be there.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2007 at 6:03PM
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TS, I hear you about not wanting to spend your limited time on extended family that doesn't mean much to you. We are expected to show up and bring gifts, although no one would consider showing up for us. I might have at one time thought (serving) might considered a major honor, however, at the 80th birthday party we threw for my MIL, it was obvious the brother/wife did not want to be there. The only thing we asked them to DO, was to take my MIL home after the event, which is 10 minutes from where it was held. They chose to take her home after what she described as one of the best days of her life, and asked for the Christmas present they gave her two months before, so they could return it to the store for their money back. They made an issue of telling her they didn't like her choice of hats, and after getting her something that was so completely not her style, made her feel like an ingrate because she hadn't worn it. On her Birthday.

I don't care how little energy they had to give for my MIL's party, but I did resent them taking my efforts to give her a memorable day, and making it about themselves.

The weather had turned icy and they were concerned about driving home 1-1/2 hours. We had to clean up after the party, which took over an hour, and drive 3 hours to get home. There were other out of town guests who had the same commute we did. No comment was made by them about anything, except they needed to get home, and it was obvious they did not want to be there.

Premier, the wedding party of 82 were listed to be ''perceived''as close friends and relatives. It is more important to deliver the impression than anything based in reality. The wedding had about 300 guests. Obscenely excessive is my impression, since as I said, I had a wedding for two. I do know how badly the sister of the bride was completely burned out because of how very much was expected of her, while all the attention was going to the bride. (I left a gift for her to find a little later on after she went home, just so she'd know someone was thinking about her.) The registry information for the couple was on the back of the invitation (for gifts?), which I was startled by. The couple couldn't decide which picture to include, so they picked four pictures of themselves. There were 12 songs sung by seriously tone deaf individuals, the wedding lasted an hour and it was my first Catholic service, which I haven't had any experience with, so you might understand where I'm coming from. (Or Maybe Not.) Most of the weddings I have attended last no more than 30 minutes. The cake was very plain, yet there were three photographers with huge telephoto lenses taking picture after picture. Forgive me if I think that seems excessive!

I agree with you about it being sad, but we can't be the only ones who ''try'' any longer. My only expectation was not to be hated, 8 years later for something I didn't know I did. If that's an unreasonable expectation, then yes, you could say I had them...

    Bookmark   October 24, 2007 at 8:07PM
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Dear Father in Heaven,

Thank you for the two brothers
and two sisters you gave me.
If I'm ever in trouble,
All of them will save me.
Aunts and uncles, cousins galore,
Nieces and nephews, I want more.

I am truly blessed. Thank you to my grandparents and parents.


    Bookmark   October 24, 2007 at 8:50PM
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I have never heard of this listing of names of close friends and relatives. If they had 300 guests and three photographers, why on earth did they want family members to serve? And then a cash bar? That all sounds so strange. 300 guests is a large wedding. It doesn't make sense to invite 300 guests and then have a cash bar and expect family to wait on guests.

Catholic services can easily last an hour. If you are not used to it, it can take you back.

The last wedding I went to was so excessive. Only 250 guests but it was held out of state even though the bride and groom were not from that state which required expenisve hotel stays for 2 nights. The reception alone cost $150,000. Three photographers and assistants walking around with huge lights on tall sticks for $25,000. Then 2 guys who were video taping. During the actual ceremony, all the photographers and video guys stood blocking the view of all of the guests. I guess I'll have to watch the video as I couldn't see through the photo/video group. The day after the wedding, the brides' sister came up with an Excel spreadsheet noting how much money each guest gave. The bride had four showers with the same guests and the groom had three stags. The bride was also taken out of state by her close friends and so was the groom. After all of this cost and the bridesmaid gowns, the bride hooked up the bridesmaids to have their hair and makeup down. Each girl had to purchase $160 of makeup and pay $250 for the makeup application plus tip. These girls were never warned in advance about this cost. One bridesmaid didn't have enough money and had to use her wedding gift cash towards this. The only way I know is that I am very friendly with her and I gave her the cash for her wedding gift. This was excessive.

You are right. It can not be a one way street. Its unfortunate but so very common. Don't get me going on my crazy relatives.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2007 at 9:03PM
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Perhaps Talley Sue is familiar with the place the reception was at. jericho terrace in mineola ny.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2007 at 9:09PM
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I just wanted to respond to this:

"I have supported my dh's need to see his family without feeling like I had to accompany him."

I do think that there are situations when choosing not to be involved with your in-laws is justified, and your situation may in fact be one of them. But I also think it's important for people to really be thoughtful when they decide to "reorg family relationships," because it creates a situation in which it's possible to be very cruel to people if you're more important to them than they are to you.

I knew of a MIL-DIL situation a few years ago in which the DIL wouldn't come along when her husband visited his mother. These were short visits-- an afternoon once every couple of months. The MIL wanted to have a relationship with her DIL, and her DIL's unwillingness to even spend a few hours with her was deeply hurtful. The MIL was a perfectly nice woman, but she wasn't very sophisticated and (from what I know) the DIL was very sophisticated. I have always thought that the DIL in that situation was horrendously rude and self-centered. She may have been spending time with her friends or doing activities that were more rewarding to her... but she was also sending the message that her MIL was not worth even a few hours of her time.

Obviously, this may not be your situation, Claire. But in general, when people are tempted to start cutting off relationships that aren't meaningful to them, I think it's worth thinking about the flip side of the coin. The MIL wasn't important to the DIL. But the DIL was still important to the MIL. The DIL didn't care that she was hurting the MIL's feelings, but I think she should have. It would have cost her so little to be kind.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2007 at 2:19AM
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Sovra has a point.

i mentioned to my DH that I didn't want to attend this upcoming wedding, that I'd rather, frankly, go see a former work colleague, her DH, and their new babies--but the groom's mom is Dh's godmother, and though we don't see them often, and the godmother role is completely honorary, she would be really hurt if we said no.

Perhaps the many years of sending DH on his own have sent a message that stung more than you intended. Maybe you've sent them the same message my brother is sending me: "I can't be bothered."

I don't go to my ILs every time DH does; if it's mostly just dropping off and picking up kids, I don't go. I don't see the sense in two of us spending an hour on that. But I go at enough other times that I don't send an "I don't care" message.

And bcs I work at a wedding magazine, I get sad about some of the over-the-top weddings; I worry that I'm earning by daily bread by promoting some of this excess. Though most of the weddings we actually cover aren't that huge, that excessive, or that inconsiderate.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2007 at 9:29AM
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Sovra (and Talley Sue), Your point is well taken. I would never hurt my MIL, which is why in fact I haven't ever told her of the humiliating experiences I've had with two of her sons. (They however, have no problem sharing their feelings.) We spend a lot of time with her individually, picking her up and taking her home in a town which is three hours from here; Respectfully listening, while she talks about her favorite subjects which are her grandchildren, whom we've never been allowed to have a relationship with. I remember a conversation where my SIL said to her young son in front of us, ''Be nice to them, they might give you money some day.'' Inheritance/entitlements have always been a big topic of her conversations.

My dh gives his mom extra money to live on every month, which no one knows about. Knowing how I feel about weddings (from many former soul-sucking wedding experiences where I have been used/abused in the past), my MIL knew I attended this wedding out of respect for her. We have shown up for the rest of the family, who have never called us directly and ignored us when we got there (which required a six hour drive and hotel stay every time.) One brother brings a ''friend'' every time he comes, who is a little brother substitute, because he is willing to be used if he can be included. In fact, he brought him to the wedding, even though he wasn't invited! One BIL made rude fu gestures to me at their dad's funeral, because I had a light hearted moment with his daughter while trying to fix our hair. This is the same one (who needed hearing aids at the time) who ''heard'' me say I thought their uncle was ignorant when what I actually said was I thought he was elegant. I completely understand this is a reflection on who he is, and not really about me. I don't have a mean streak, but I do sometimes tell people the truth (which I don't have a need to do always, especially when it doesn't change anything.) Sometimes it's truly best to say nothing at all. Neither am I passive aggressive, which is a common trait among those I get to deal with.

My SIL hadn't attended a family function for six years, and I've shown up (to be abused) far more than she has. No, I can easily say with a clear heart this isn't the case.

What's funny is my family may have treated me badly at times in the past (which happens in families), but they wouldn't even consider hurting my dh. ''He's a Prince'' is what I've heard for 27 years and he is highly respected. Some people are respectful, and others just believe ''It's All About ME(Them).'' What I believe is important is to maintain a relationship with my MIL, but what's good for her fantasy of her ideal family life, isn't good for anyone else, any longer. At some point you have to Just Say No.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2007 at 12:57PM
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Miss Manners would definitely have something to say about this.

I'm not sure I can decipher the whole thing, because there would be so many nuances--"you would just have to be there"--but, just try to see who's acting like a grown-up, and stay grown-up yourself--which includes doing some things to please others besides yourself, and tolerating small snubs for the greater good of some relationships, and enduring difficult times--because most families aren't perfect--but doesn't require repeated toxic exposures.

One thing I would try to avoid, that has happened to me before when really frustrated with a family relationship, is trying to outsmart someone else in any kind of snub game, or be calculatingly polite, if you can avoid it. Stay as genuine and kind as you can, even sometimes apologizing if there was a misunderstanding (as I have had occasions where something was important to someone else and I was clueless, but willing to accomodate if it meant a lot to them) --you'll often be able to tell when you're falling into a trap and not being yourself.

So at the end of the day, you can say you are a person who values family relationships, knows they aren't always easy, went the extra mile, tried to find ways to be with people on their different terms if it's not destructive, and all that. That's what helps me.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2007 at 6:55PM
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Frankie, I appreciate your point of view. I am however, done with tolerating small snubs as it serves no relationships. These are usually directed at me, and I'm DONE. It's much kinder, and healthier for me not to show up. They're going to talk about me whether I do or not, so it doesn't make any difference. I'm not going to encourage or discourage the two-faced, backstabbing tendencies anyway, and if I'm not there, they have less to discuss. IMO, that would most certainly be for the greater family good all around!

    Bookmark   October 25, 2007 at 8:33PM
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claire - I think you have made a wise decision. I have come to believe that sometimes people cannot get along, even superficially, especially after years of interactions where people have felt offended. There is just too much history to rise above.

My larger family has separated that way from my sister-in-law, and thus my brother and their children. It was mutual but unspoken, and everyone is better because of it. My SIL would probably write a post such as yours listing my family's affronts to her, when, from our perspective, all we were doing was treating her like we treat each other. Nothing we ever did met her approval - the way we spent our money, how we raised children and pets, how we dressed, how we cleaned or didn't clean our houses. Mine is too fancy, organized and uncluttered, which she translated into my "taking on airs."

I realize it sounds like I am taking the side of your in-laws. I am, but only to the extent that you seem to hold yourself blameless, and I firmly believe these situations are never one-sided. For goodness sakes, if someone hands you a rose, you take it, unless you are allergic.

There are some "tells" in you post that are hauntingly similar to ways that my SIL thinks. She seems to look for ways to find discord, reading into events beyond what is said and done. I can imagine my SIL in your shoes and making the same evaluations about people's motives and intentions that you do. She, just like you, would look at the lack of proper attention to the grandmother as a slight directed at her. There are times when I just wanted to say to her, "you know, sometimes it just isn't about you."

For all of your claims that you are a "live and let live" kind of person, your commentary on the wedding sure makes you sound judgmental. I have read that a common trait among people who suffer from depression - as I believe my SIL does - is that they feel the need to judge situations and people. I have noticed that my SIL can't talk about a person or a situation without giving her thorough and lengthy judgment of the person.

I suspect that the next time my family gets together, it will be at a funeral. And though sad, maybe it is for the best.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2007 at 9:58AM
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Graywings, I am sorry for your family situation. It's sad when there doesn't seem to be common place where everyone can come together.

Am I blameless? Heavens, No. In hindsight, yes, I should have taken the rose. It wasn't until I ''heard'' about it, that I even explored and understood why I didn't want to. (Yes, that one was ''all about me'' which I didn't realize at the time.) I certainly own that and recognize I could have done better. Interestingly enough, my dh had a similar experience involving something else, completely unrelated (although he handled it better than I.) Knowing my horrifying wedding history and myself as I do, I do blame myself for attending, although I was trying to be respectful of my MIL, who asked me to. I certainly do ''own'' my feelings about weddings; Unless you've walked a mile in my shoes, I would hope you respect my right to have reasons for feeling the way I do whether you understand them or not. If I am to have empathy for your situation, I would hope for the same understanding.

I realize it sounds like I am taking the side of your in-laws. I am, but only to the extent that you seem to hold yourself blameless, and I firmly believe these situations are never one-sided...I have read that a common trait among people who suffer from depression - as I believe my SIL does - is that they feel the need to judge situations and people. Graywings, forgive me, but it seems in your pronouncement that I am being judgmental, So Are You.

I realize you don't know me well enough to know that I am not your SIL. I don't care about how you (or anyone else) spend money, raise children/pets, dress, clean or don't clean your house. That's your business, and really, none of mine. What I do care about is someone's strength of character, which is revealed in how people treat one another. Hopefully that is with kindness and respect. If indeed, you treat each other with passive aggression, make rude and offensive gestures, and expect entitlements from relatives you do not feel obligated to give any time or energy to when they have knocked themselves out to invite and welcome you in their home, then perhaps your SIL may have a legitimate complaint. I wouldn't presume to assume that you do however. We just have to all work it out for ourselves, in whatever way we can.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2007 at 12:48PM
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This is the most articulate discussion to take place regarding this subject.

claire_de_luna, I've been there done that with ex-SISIL. I said many years ago that I got so tired of turning the other cheek that my neck hurt.

Fast forward over 20 years to a recent encounter, and silly me, thought we might be able to re-connect, but the family dynamic hasn't changed. Screw everyone/everything in the name of money.

You are right on; don't vary. Claim your freedom.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2007 at 8:27PM
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Ah...Thank You wantoretire_did. It's lovely to feel understood, and even more to feel like I could ''articulate'' my thoughts on the matter!

I will have no trouble claiming my freedom...Thanks again.

Sunday, October 28 is Mother-in-law Day. Did anyone know there was such a thing? I sent mine a card, telling her how much I appreciate her. You know, things would be worse! After all, she's the one I really care about...

    Bookmark   October 26, 2007 at 10:14PM
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People with Kind Loving unconditional families are so lucky.Hang on for dear life. I let go years ago. It was very painful at fist because it turned out I had been let go of WAY before I let go. Sigh. Oh well.

Clair_de_luna. Hubby and I also had a wedding for two married by the City Mayor. His secretary our whitness. On our way to go look at property to buy in the sticks. We were both wearing boots and jeans. We still laugh over the events of the whole day. Was a wonderful wedding day. :^)) Spening so much money on a one day deal seems so wastefull to me when it could be used for something much more important than show.


    Bookmark   October 26, 2007 at 10:28PM
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"Knowing my horrifying wedding history and myself as I do, I do blame myself for attending, although I was trying to be respectful of my MIL, who asked me to. I certainly do ''own'' my feelings about weddings; "

There seems to be some kind of undercurrent about weddings. Is it possible your own feelings about weddings made the event worse than it really was?

    Bookmark   October 26, 2007 at 11:29PM
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Chris, I agree with you 100%! It seems to be more of an exception these days than a rule for someone to come from ''kind, loving, exceptional families''. I always want to believe the best about people, and it has taken me a while (years in some cases) to realize when they don't look at situations the same way. It sounds like you made memories on your wedding day, which didn't include anyone's expectations but your own. That's a great day in my book!

premier, No, it wouldn't have made any difference simply because of the people involved. Most of them don't know my (wedding) history (what would be the point?), because I choose not to share it. This was one wedding where I didn't have enough of a relationship with anyone that I thought I could attend and be an invited guest for a change. That seemed ideal at the time, although I should have known better. You know what they say about hindsight being 20/20!

    Bookmark   October 27, 2007 at 12:19PM
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