Are the Holidays a Good Time for Mending Relationships

flowergardenmuseDecember 10, 2008

I wonder if anyone has tried to mend a relationship during the holidays? If there has been no communication, unanswered phone calls and letters how does one repair such a relationship? Do you send an email, letter or card. Do you send a generic letter or card or do you acknowledge past issues with the attempt to reconcile? Or do you ignore the issue and just communicate as if nothing ever happened? Are the holidays a good time for trying to repair relationships?

Here's a link to an article that I found on this subject

Here is a link that might be useful: Holiday's are also Times for Mending Relationships

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We are on the verge of seeing MIL after a two year absence. From the past it will likely be another round of pretending nothing happened which is not the way I'd like things to go.

I'd like every one to come clean and air any grievences so we can move forward right. It is in Gods hands though. I believe He will work it out for everyones good.

Holidays or a major family milestone (birth/marriage/illness/death)are a good time to reconcile I feel. The desire for peace instead of maintaining pride seems to be greater at those times.

    Bookmark   December 10, 2008 at 10:01PM
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I was thinking about your question. I believe if one can send an invitation to your own gathering or go where invited (estranged person will be there too) it could be a very good thing. It is not a good time or place to rehash, just be in the presence of each other. Polite without confrontation. Expect nothing - just be there. It is an opportunity to be together with lots of others around. Some people can't agree to disagree or can not apologize but this could be a chance if one is willing to swollow the lump in your throat, hide the tears and "let it go" and go on from there". If a few such gatherings could occur it could get easier as time goes on.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2008 at 10:34AM
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To answer your question. My eldest daughter has broken off all ties with me for the past few years, with the exception of Christmas a couple of years ago. She lives in Ohio and we went to spend Christmas with my mother who also lives in Ohio. While we were there, all of sudden the phone rings and it is my daughter asking us to come visit her and my grandchildren before we returned to Virginia.

So, we did. All went well, and then we also went to Ohio for Thanksgiving of 2007 and all went well until the last day when my daughter made a fool of herself and had a fit when I tried to tell a family story that happened years ago that someone else requested to hear. So that ruined our Thanksgiving. Then two months after we got home she called and accused me of having her Dad's bank account frozen for back child support and alimony. He owes $54,000 and is a dead beat Dad.

When I told her I had NOTHING to do with it, that the state does that, not me, and that I knew nothing about it, she refused to believe me and hung up on me. This was Thankgiving of 2007 and she has cut me out of her life since then.

So, now we are going to see my mother again for Christmas and I highly doubt any phone call will come to visit them for Christmas. In fact, if it did I would probably refuse UNTIL she can apologize to me for the past five years of cruel and horrible treatment that she has inflicted on me.

I hope some of you are able to mend your estranged relationships with your children, but I think that ALL of us on here should insist that the mending be genuine, and not just some flim of theirs, to be undone the next month.

I hope yours will be a mending holiday for you though.

Patricia Angel

    Bookmark   December 11, 2008 at 4:35PM
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Good question!

I dont know.I think in theory it is good to try to mend relationships around the holidays,but in reality it probably wont work (for some).
I feel that we should be working on our relationships year round,not just because we want to share the holiday spirit.
Although,trying couldnt hurt I guess :)

I think the holidays is a time of reflection for many,so maybe if it can cause them to look at their relationships and reconsider what went sour,then that is a good thing for all.
I think if one does take the time to send a letter,e-mail,card,or gift to melt the ice and say sorry that is commendable.As long as they dont expect miracles in return.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2008 at 5:56PM
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Thank you everyone for your responses.

Patricia Angel, I agree with your sentiments when you say,

"...I think that ALL of us on here should insist that the mending be genuine".


Thank you for this insightful response..

"I think the holidays is a time of reflection for many,so maybe if it can cause them to look at their relationships and reconsider what went sour,then that is a good thing for all."

organic brice...

I've been reading your posts and your MIL sounds similar to the kind of MIL I had.

"...another round of pretending nothing happened which is not the way I'd like things to go."

What you said describes how I and my husband experienced my MIL. And pretending doesn't feel healthy, nor does it feel like a genuine attempt at making amends.

I, too would have liked for everyone one to "...come clean and air any grievences so we can move forward right." This was not the outome.

One of the previous questions about annoying Xmas letters got me to thinking about these questions, or even if it would be a good time. My MIL would only send a yearly card with a brief note. It was addressed very formally to mr. and mrs. Inside she would write a small note with his name and mine, although it was basically to him, otherwise she ignored issues and pretended that nothing ever happened. No other attempts were ever made by her throughout the year and no one could move forward. Eventually, the yearly cards served as a constant reminder of the status quo with no resolution. It became emotionally painful to receive them. Eventually, I just gave the unopened cards to him and didn't even look at them. At times, I tend to feel that her cards were written more out of some strange obligation, rather than demonstrating any real attempts at reconcilation. I'm not really sure. My husband didn't like dealing with her explosive temper and rage. The times that he did see her, he would tell me that she wouldn't even mention my name. He told me that they buried the issue (his father too).

His grandfather tried to reconcile with her. He died with no resolution with her either. I did talk to him briefly about the problems. At one point he looked at me and with slight tears told me that he wasn't as close to her as a father and daughter should be. My husband didn't want to talk about it and said nothing. I recognized how estrangement and emotional distance impacted the whole family.

I believe in theory too, that it may be good to try to mend relationships around the holidays, but it probably won't work for some. I would hope that it will work for others.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2008 at 2:48PM
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flowergardenmuse-What a sad story. I think the lack of honest communication just strangles the relationships. So painful.

I understand what you mean by the cards too. My MIL was sending a reminder for birthdays, mothers day etc. But they were the pre printed message with just her name signed. What ever was really going on with her she kept to her self. (buried as you said)

I have never heard her real feelings on the situation from her and the reminders that there is no reconciliation (token cards) make me ill. My husband finally told her if she wasn't going to communicate any more than that she shouldn't send any cards or gifts because they were unwelcome if she wasn't going to make an effort to work out the issues.

So no more cards.

I think she'd be happy to pretend again and just do more of the same "I adore you when you say yes"/"I will resent and punish you if you say no" kind of back and forth with us which we can't handle. It was like a poison in our lives.

She requested we come with our kids and see her last month. The things we need to work out are not anything that we want to involve our kids in. (She is a very teary and aggressive person under most circumstances.) We did not go or respond but there may be some other opportunities during the holiday season. It is in Gods hands.

We are not sure how to do differently than we did before which was to go to her just my husband and I and try to talk things out. She was outraged by that (and by that fact that wedidn't bring the children)and there is no indication that another attempt would be met anymore open heartedly.

We are not going to involve our children with her unless there is some serious indications towards real resolution. As they are getting older we do not want them to be involved. I brought our oldest child the first time we tried to talk things out years ago and I totally regretted that even though she was probably to young to remember it.

flowergardenmuse do you have kids or an opinion on how kids effect the reconciling during the holidays question?

    Bookmark   December 12, 2008 at 7:58PM
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Hello organic brice,

I agree with you that lack of honest communication strangles a relationship. It sucks out the emotional safety (goodwill and trust) out of a relationship. Once you remove those elements then all you have left is an empty, strained superficial relationship.

I also agree that it is like poison. That's the exact word I always use when I think of her and my sil who behaves like her, only more manipulative.

Your MIL sounds very selfish (like mine). Mine was an alcoholic (very angry and rageful). I don't blame you for not wanting to involve the children. I don't think they are as oblivous to situations as people may think. I think they are aware when relationships are strained and unhappy, no matter how people may try to hide their emotions. I'm with you 100% and it sounds like you and your husband agree. I'm certain the "experts" may disagree on the subject, but I personally don't feel it good to have the children around behaviors like that. Initially, it may feel good to them at the time--that they get presents and attention, but I think we would be doing them a disservice down the road. I just don't feel that children are as oblivous to all the problems and undercurrent of hostility between adults. I would say if you do decide to try to take them, then down the road you may want to think about how to talk to them about the situation and the reasons why. I haven't really read anything where I see a consensus about such situations.

My husband didn't want to set boundaries and wanted to capitulate to her demands. He didn't see her much, but when he did he followed her "don't talk" rule. He would say that she was a "lost cause," so he didn't bother. There was always a reason as to why he didn't set the record straight or at least try to talk to her. He just didn't want to deal with it. He avoids conflict at all costs, but that hurts him in the long run, because you have to learn to stand up for yourself and there are a lot of situations where it behooves you to learn how to do that.

I would like to see people work out issues year-round. I asked my husband what he thought about the card business (just this past week) and he said, "what was with all the formality". The mr. & mrs. part. I think the card meant something to him though, because it was the only time that she remembered him and wrote him a note (she didn't bother with his birthday) and she never acknowledged our anniversary. She never mentioned my name either (when he would occasionally see her). She pretended that I didn't exist (his entire family does that), so when she sent the card that is the only time she used my name. I felt so sad for the grandfather too.

The grandfather called us a month before he died. He lived in another state and moved from there and into her place to take care of her, after she returned from a 6 month hospital stay (she almost died). She raged at him over some small, petty ridiculous thing and he moved out. He died a month later. During the phone call he told me about how she mistreated him, and then he said he should have known better. They didn't even bother with a funeral for him (not that I know of). My SIL just hired an attorney to get what money she could. It was a sad situation. My husband doesn't like dealing with it, so he retreats and has learned to not ask questions. I believe my SIL stole money from his mother too (almost $200 grand) that she had saved. I wouldn't even know how to begin to research that (she is extremely clever and manipulative). I don't know for certain, but she made comments to my husband and I have a feeling, based on that and her previous behaviors.

During the holidays I think of them and not in a happy way. I try to focus on positive traditions for us, but it's difficult when you have relatives that behave in that way....I'm certain you know.

Thank you for responding back and lending an ear.

    Bookmark   December 14, 2008 at 11:13AM
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"I tend to feel that her cards were written more out of some strange obligation, rather than demonstrating any real attempts at reconcilation."

I think alot of families are like that! I think that is maybe one reason we have so much estrangement.Some families dont ever want to admit anything is wrong,but only keep the peace and live in denial.And you are so right,the relationship cannot grow that way and gets suffocated.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2008 at 1:07AM
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I agree. Not being able to admit anything is wrong and living in denial consigns everyone to superficial, stagnant, and unhappy relationships, but for reconciliaton that takes more than one person and that will not happen, if people are unwilling to admit to a problem.

I believe on another thread someone wrote about how it appeared that people seemed more obsessed with the idea that they were right, rather than focusing on moving forward and being more concerned with healing. That observation struck a chord with me, especially when I think about my MIL. Stubborn was a consistent word that came up when people (her family & relatives) talked about my MIL. She did not reconcile with anyone and never took responsibility for her behaviors. She did not reconcile with her father, not with her children and not her other relatives. They talked about how stubborn she was, how hurtful and destructive her behavior was. They talked about her emotionally abusive behaviors, about her cruelty and meanness and how hard she was to get to know. And eventually, after her funeral--they also talked about the lack of closeness.

When I think about her I feel sad. She lacked empathy towards others. All she could think about was herself and she could never make the connection of how others may feel being on the receiving end of her behaviors. Her family members responded to her volatile temper and accusations with denial and with distance. They responded with keeping the peace (peace at any price)and the price was very high. Keeping up appearances and maintaining the illusion of family is a suffocating experience--estrangement being the outcome. You can even be in the same room with someone and still feel miles apart when all they want to do is pretend or deny the existence of problems.

Everyone has a need to feel heard and to have their feelings acknowledged. It's a sad commentary that people do this so poorly.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2008 at 9:38AM
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when people can't pretend any more that's when estrangement begins. i suppose pretending is the socially accepted form of estrangement. your alienating without being obvious. i suppose for some it's a necessary evil or even polite not to tell people how you really feel about them. but look what trouble it gets us in to later on and are we not just postponing the eventuality of estrangement. i mean pretending is kind of lying isn't it?
you're saying you don't like or respect the other person but rather pretend to. is it the parents fault that the adult children pretend to like you but in actuality don't? why invest so much time and energy in the deception? i suppose it might be because they need the deception in order to mask their own fears/insecurities about themselves, so it's easier for them just to blame their parents. so is it really out of politeness or is it out of fear that one pretends and doesn't tell the person how they really feel? so whose the one being disgeniune?

    Bookmark   December 19, 2008 at 10:33AM
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I don't think that my husband did like or respect his mother. I know he had a very hard time dealing with her volatile temper and rage. I'm certain he would say that he "loved" her, because that would be more socially acceptable, and acceptable to him. I think a lot of adult children may feel that they should like/love their parents, when in reality their parents don't inspire those feelings (instead they inspire very conflicted and unhappy ones) and it would feel terrible to admit that.

Instead of letting her know how her behaviors felt and the distance it created, he made comments such as "she's a lost cause". He would always say that his parents (and sister) made it very hard for him to be open and honest and to talk about issues and what mattered. I think he found it easier just to "not rock the boat" and assume a very familiar role, "pretend" everything is okay, by not talking about it. Bury the problems. I do think his family has a lot of responsibility for this unhealthy dynamic. I don't feel that is assigning blame to the parents, nor are all problems equally shared. As an adult he shares some of it too. The family focuses on other people as the problem and always frames others as the problem. I personally feel that he has a lot of suppressed anger that he doesn't want to deal with--it conflicts with his view of himself as a nice guy. He would have every right to feel anger towards his family for their behavior and mistreatment of him. However, dealing with it probably would be very overwhelming to him and make him unhappy. I think it easier for him to live with the pretense and denial than face the hard, uncomfortable truth.

So, yes I agree that pretending is a type of lying and it masks much deeper problems fears/insecurities. It serves a purpose in some families as a way to avoid chronic conflict, but that is a symptom of weak, unstable relationships and plays a large role in undermining growth and healthy maintenance of relationships. If you have other family members locked in this type of unhealthy dance, and if they refuse to participate (or you've given up trying) then what options does one have. For him, I think he sees them occasionally and plays his role, buries the problem, and doesn't rock the boat to feel like he has a family. It's not a happy outcome, but I suppose it meets a need of occasionally seeing them and feeling that he has a family (not a loving, close, supportive one). He goes through the motions. He says he has a relationship, but admits that they are not close and he doesn't trust his sister and has issues with her (he doesn't tell her that), because she would just deny, minimize the problem, run to daddy or other relatives to get them to "take sides" and then say, "she didn't intend too". So back to pretending--it's what they do and how they operate and it feels safer for all. They were not inclined to hide their hostility towards me, except my SIL. She's the epitome of the dog that licks your face and wags his tail, while peeing on you at the same time, except in her case she makes sure that while she's peeing, no one else is looking. They're all very practiced in the art of deception.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2008 at 11:53AM
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thankyou for your response flowergardenmuse. i'd like to explore with you a little bit about how the act of pretending affects our life.

the problem with pretending is if you legitimize it in one case you'll tend to incorporate it into many other aspects of your day to day world. perhaps you repress your feelings at work maybe you don't like your boss or you're bored and don't feel like you are challanged or growing professionally or you just want to get along and don't want to rock the boat. one begins to rationalize the use of pretending by making it seem as if it's a positive virtue. perhaps as well you repress feelings about your wife or husband and now you're pretending to be in love when you are not. is this tactic real effective? and is this all still the fault of the parents? when do individuals take responsibility for their choices? it's a choice to pretend. the act of pretending can't be real fulfilling. if you are pretending it's because it was the easy way out for you. your the one that chooses to pretend or utilize deception inorder to disburden yourself of the responsibility of being truthful/honest with yourself. pretending is actually a form of self-deception. it's not that you hate your parents, it's more like you hate yourself but you are pretending your situation is the result of something your parents did or didn't do. i say empower yourself. take a chance and stop pretending. it doesn't mean go and start telling everyone what you really think of them. but rather if you don't like your job then go become who you think you should be and know everyone will support you. don't pretend you have to stay in a job you don't like. if you don't like your relationship then let the other significant person know what you need and how you feel and don't pretend they can't take the truth. don't take the easy way out; have the courage to face your fears and insecurities head on rather than pretend everything is your parents fault. you will feel better about yourself and you'll be happier and you may find that you're more tolerant of others without pretending.

if this doesn't make sense then just ignore it. but there's always something one can do. i made these changes in my own life and, though radical at times, i began to have more respect for myself. this reality in itself empowered me and allowed me to formulate new styles of relating that helped take the burden off the past and put it into the present moment.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2008 at 11:50AM
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I think the Holidays already have too many expectations attached to them-that is why there are so many depressed people and suicides around the holidays. I wouldn't add more. I think emotional reunions are better in quite, neutral environments where we are free of preconceived expectations.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2008 at 1:59PM
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I dont disagree with your viewpoints about pretending, especially if you want or desire genuine heartfelt connections in your relationships and that includes relatives and parents. People can be honest about their emotions and express themselves with compassion. They are not exclusive of each other. I do think it very important to be able to express yourself and your feelings.

I donÂt like using the word hate when it comes to parents. Some adult children may not like behaviors they see demonstrated by their parents, because manipulative and controlling behaviors are alienating and do not foster a sense of trust or emotional safety, necessary for honest, supportive relationships. Because they may strongly dislike certain behaviors and they may not respect the parent for behaving in destructive ways, doesnÂt equate to that they hate them. They may observe and recognize that certain behaviors create difficulties that cause alienation and thus, estrangement.

Many parents are self-absorbed and destructive people, so they do not act in supportive ways towards their children. Likewise, these types of parents pose other problems because typically they do not take responsibilities for their behaviors and go through life denying problems. When an adult child is faced with a parent who exhibits these types of behaviors, the result is often estrangement. Some parents cannot hear the truth, refuse to listen and deny problems. They remain stuck in unhappy, negative patterns of communication. The desire for family is very strong, and that is why despite abusive legacies, children often maintain some kind of family attachment. That doesnÂt mean that the resulting relationship will be either fulfilling or healthy for them, and certainly not fraught with difficulties. These types of relationships foster pretending and going through the motions. If a parent denies a problem exists, then they are also pretending and trying to control others. It is a form of self-deception and they are trying to "disburden themselves of taking responsibility" and being truthful and honest with themselves and others. One cannot have a healthy, supportive relationship with a parent who behaves in this way and the response is distance. ItÂs difficult to abandon a relationship with a parentÂsome people do for their own mental health and well-being, but they cannot force a parent to change, to listen or to even accept their part in the difficulties. This may not be your family experience, but it is certainly the reality for many.

As for adult children they need to take responsibility for their own life and try to not perpetuate negative family legacies. We learn our style of emotional connection from our parents (our families of origin). Because we have learned a particular style doesnÂt mean that has to be all we can learn. Understanding and Acknowledging where we have come from and what we have learned is important. THAT IS NOT BLAME. Understanding our style of origin does give us a foundation to look at our own choices and styles and make the necessary changes to form better emotional connections with everyone in our lives. Our parents may not be willing or able to participate in the process, because of their own deficiencies. Change is a matter of choice and itÂs a choice only the person in need of change can make. No matter how much you may desire someone to behave differently, the fact of the matter is that they may choose to stay that way. You canÂt make them change. You are left with the obligation to make a choice for yourself: stick around and hope for the best or decided that the best may never be any better than it is and leave the relationship. Estrangement is the outcome of weak, unstable relationships and unhealthy ways of relatingÂpeople feel greater connections when they feel heard and understood. If you try to communicate to someone that their behaviors are hurtful, destructive and unhealthy for you, and they deny or refuse to listen, then there is little you can do. The result is often estrangement and distance if they will not participate in healthy change.

Relationships are a two-way street. ItÂs a positive choice to focus on strengthening yourself and good relationships will foster and support healthy changes.

    Bookmark   December 24, 2008 at 1:08PM
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After having read many of the posts in this thread and others, and I have say that I am thankful many of you are not related to me nor are in my circle of friends. It's all about you, isn't it?

    Bookmark   December 25, 2008 at 9:54AM
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I could say the same thing about you, but unfortunately, I think a lot of us already have someone like you in our family. No compassion or empathy whatsoever.

    Bookmark   December 25, 2008 at 10:09PM
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thankfullynot mine-

WE are working on finding a solution; and have worked very hard on mending the relationships with our children. But our children as all people even you-see things (the world, others,themselves) through their own garbage and I think that is why a lot of conversations get screwed up. Yes, I also see things through my garbage-but that doesn't make me-you-or anyone else "all about me." Now does it? The fact that we are all here searching tells a story-a story that we are trying, no matter how what we say or do appears-we are trying and after all...that is what it's all about in the world of relationships is trying. Because that in itself SHOWS we care.

    Bookmark   December 25, 2008 at 11:51PM
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It's quite interesting that two posters to whom my original post was not aimed responded but those at whom it was aimed totally missed it, if they read it.

    Bookmark   December 26, 2008 at 8:00AM
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thankyou flowergardenmuse for your indulgence. i respect your views but i do believe the word "hate" is not to strong of a word to describe what many adult children feel towards their parents. i would even go further and say that many adult children act as though they are bigots when it comes to their parents. their rationalizations and justifications for their views are misplaced and disporportionate. many adult children have already made up their minds and are unwilling to suspend judgement they read all sorts of books that help them legitimize their biases not inform or promote understanding. if they spent a fraction of the time honestly assessing their own denial rather than imbellishing that of their parents they would make greater strides in releasing themselves from the endless cycle of blame and become happier and more fullfilled individuals.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2008 at 8:35AM
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I've so enjoyed reading this post! I have to ask - do we have the same MIL?! Although my in-laws aren't alcoholics we have been the victims of manipulation, rejection, verbal abuse. etc. to such an extent that we don't go to family gatherings at all (it's been several years) but they do visit here for a few minutes about once or twice a year and the obligatory card at Christmas. MIL called DH a couple weeks ago and tearfully said " I don't know what we've done but I'm sorry, you know we're getting older and we want to see you". . . I, since I met her 18 years ago, am still amazed at her ability to say and do very hurtful/rude/hard-hearted things and forget them all so quickly! Since her call I've really played with the idea of writing them a letter so at the very least she won't be able to truthfully say that they don't know what they've done and there are several parts of this post that I'm going to copy and use if I do decide to write it. So many thanks to you all, (especially beginnerseye and flowergardenmuse and organic brice). Who knows, maybe this time they might listen and things could actually get better for us all. Nancy

    Bookmark   December 27, 2008 at 6:39PM
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Your welcome Nancy : ) When my husband and I tried to sit down and talk things out with his mom I made sure to stress the fact that we wanted a better relationship not no relationship. It didn't go very well, she was very, very angry. But I still think that stressing the fact that we did want a better more honest relationship was the right way to go.

A list of greivances might be cathartic for you to write but I'd question actually sending it before you have thought out what level of interaction you would like and what boundaries you have about those interactions.

If you don't want a relationship, reiterating what they have done would be almost pointless and if you do want a relationship you might be better served if you focus on what you do want in a relationship with them. I don't know if that makes sense.

Clearly writing out what has happened that has hurt you or behaviors that are not acceptable would be useful notes for you to have on hand when talking the issues out. Just sending a letter with a list of what they have done often ends up as a 'so this is why she hates us list' and ends up being evidence of why they see you as the bad ones- you thought they were rotten all along. Sending a grievance list can back fire. Talking it out face to face with the list in hand if you need it is probably better.

In the interest of having a more balanced view of my MIL when I was dealing daily with my fear and upset about her I also made a list of qualities I admired about her. Things she did that I admired, accomplishment that I respected etc. Things to be grateful for about her and how she raised her kids.

I had more sympathy for her after I made the list. It didn't make the relationship more honest or work better in the long run but it could have helped me see the situation with more balance.

Best Wishes with the relationships however you decide to proceed Nancy. These relationships are worth valuing, I wish you a heartfelt, open response from your in-laws, I hope they hear you and you can all move forward.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2008 at 1:26PM
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Oh, you're absolutely right and I hadn't thought of that. Truthfully? I'm not completely sure I even want a relationship with them anymore, isn't that sad? I have much soul searching (and praying) to do but that list of grievances is out of the question now. We did try making a list in the past, both written and face to face and it was like sweeping back the ocean - useless, painful and tiring. What you've mentioned about your MIL sounds so much like mine with the "I'll resent/punish you when you say no" and seeming to want to involve our kids with the mess - wanting to see them, using little (poisonous) games against them now that they don't want to see them/her anymore. It's been very hard to keep my 16 yo son out of this but my daughter (26 yo) has been the recipient of so much already (she's a step grandchild to MIL) nothing I could say at this point would make a difference. Also the pretending that everything is good when you can cut the tension in the room with a feather when they show up. I have never met any one like this family. I guess I'm at a loss as to what's next. But I will just wait, things can and do change. Thanks again, very wise and well thought out advice from someone who's there. Best wishes/prayers for you and your situation too. :> Nancy

    Bookmark   December 29, 2008 at 7:50PM
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Hi Nancy,

You're welcome. These situations are so difficult. I can really relate to your comment, " still amazed at her ability to say and do very hurtful/rude/hard-hearted things and forget them all so quickly." Sad part is, if you try to revisit the past she may accuse you of being "unforgiving," rather than take responsibility for her behaviors. I've found this rather common with my in-laws and relatives. They just try to control the conversation and sweep everything under the rug pretending that nothing ever happened. It is crazy-making.

I also thought of the idea of writing her (my MIL). I didn't, because I didnt' feel that my husband would be very supportive of the idea. He caved into her demands. I think he enabled the situation to continue as it was too. Writing is a good way to release a lot of feelings and is very cathartic, even if you just keep the letter for yourself. I agree with organic brice's observations above. I find it helps with clarity and if you needed it to refer to if you were to talk issues out. My in-laws were dismissive and their favorite expression was that they, "didn't intend too," or "didn't mean too". When my FIL destroyed our financial credit, he never took responsibiity. He just said he, "didn't mean too". I'm certain there was a similar excuse when he went to jail for embezzlement. The family excuse was that he was set-up by someone else.

I stayed away from my MIL. Her anger and rage issues were too difficult to manage. Her husband did work the AA program and sobered up, she didn't. She complained about them (the people) and didn't stop drinking until almost a year prior to her death and that was only due to her doctor. I think my husband's sister was an enabler. During the few times that he would see her (MIL), my husband told me that it was only when she was out of ear shot that her husband would inquire about me. She was unreasonable and very selfish. She spent her whole life blaming other people for her life choices and the family blamed her mother and childhood. Being stubborn and right at all costs was far more important than reconcillation, making amends or just even relationships.

I think had she not been an alcoholic she still would have been emotionally and verbally abusive. Her rejection was very hurtful and I know right until the end she was very manipulative too. It is what my husband reveals to me from some conversations from his sister. The outcomes were not what I would have liked, but I also realize that I cannot shoulder the burden for other people's behaviors. They have a responsibility in the relationships. I got to the point where I felt there was little hope and little that I could do.

I hope your situation will change and wish the best for you.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2008 at 5:10PM
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Oh absolutely I've been accused of unforgiveness. FIL is a pastor and that has been flung on us (mostly me) since the very beginning and they are not at ALL willing to sweep THAT under the rug. Bless your little heart though, you sound like you've had a harder time of it than we have, flower. I'm very thankful that our finances are pretty good - much to MIL's chagrin. Several years ago while visiting she started instructing us to open a savings account and start saving at least 10% of our paychecks each week. I laughed and told her that we had been doing at least that (10%) for years - how in the world did she think we were able to pay cash for our car/truck and other big items? I asked her was this something that they had just read or heard and had started doing and she reluctantly said yes. FIL is 70 and she's 68 and they have, as long as I've known them, been broke. Always complaining about it in such a way that DH feels GUILTY (?!) and wants to help them. We don't at my request (we have our hands full anyway). My daddy says "Don't have a steak appetite with a boloney purse". They do. And for the life of me I can't figure just how forgiveness fits in this mess, I think in the IL's minds/thinking that it's a responsibility remover for them, and if we just forgave them, everything would be hunky-dory. I dunno. Like you said "being right at all costs" - the cost IS the relationship! I dunno, I dunno, I dunno... I've thought about it so much my head hurts. One good thing though, I'm a daughter, mom, MIL and a DIL and this mess has helped my relationship skills with the other parts of the family. But we stay away from them, like you. Sad it has to be that way, but nesessary. Who knows? Maybe the New Year will be better. I hope it is for you and your family, flower (love that name!) as well as for us. Thanks again for your wise insights. Nancy

    Bookmark   December 30, 2008 at 7:43PM
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So how did every ones holidays go? Was there any progress towards mending any of the strained or broken relationships?

I sent a decoration made by my kids and card to MIL I don't know if it was a bad choice on my part or not. I was not acknowledged.

We had a nice visit with my SIL and my husbands ex step mother whom we had not seen in a long while and that was very special.

I do not know how to be involved with MIL other than to pray for her so I have just kept praying for Gods will for our lives. I am grateful to Him for what we have.

    Bookmark   January 13, 2009 at 3:27PM
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Hello organic brice,

I was sick over the holiday. My husband called his father (his father never calls him) prior to the holiday. He said he didn't hear from his sister (only when she is needy and wants something). I called my mother prior to the holiday. No contact of any kind with the sisters. His aunt sent him an email (about the weather) and a few pics with the grandchildren (nothing else). He received an email from a cousin (sporadic emails) with a few sentences. Nothing else and nothing different--the status quo as usual. My husband doesn't want to rock-the-boat. They all want to pretend--the status quo is easier than to accept personal responsibility.

I don't have the energy to cope and deal with any of them. I no longer care to try because they will never take responsibility. I used to try to make attempts, but this backfired and resulted in anger, rage and hostility. I was an easy scapegoat and the target of their rage, malice and misery. I think my husband okay with this (he says it isn't, but he doesn't talk to them about their unacceptable behaviors). He says, they will not change and they are a lost cause, etc. I find it easier and less emotionally stressful to stay away and avoid contact. It takes more than one person to find a solution and by their actions they have clearly demonstrated that they are unwilling to the invest time and energy into improving relationships. The status quo and pretending is their preferred outcome.

A few years ago, my husband's step-mother sent him an email letting him know that she had left his father. He told me that at first he thought it was a joke. He called her and found out otherwise. The problem had been brewing for a long time, but he ignored it. She sent a Thanksgiving card addressed to Mr. & Mrs. with an inside note to him and me. I noticed that his father's name wasn't on the card and his name wasn't on the return address. (She sporadically sent cards to my husband for his B-day and Xmas and signed them from his father and her). She never acknowledged me. Then she sent another card for Xmas and it was basically the same, except this time, on the inside note she wrote my name first, instead of his. She'd never done this before (she'd never communicated to me, as it was always to him), so I took notice. I asked him what's up, and then he told me that two months prior she had left his father. I asked why he never said anything to me, and he made some excuse, saying he thought it wasn't important. To make a long story short, I repeatedly asked him throughout the year, if he was going to contact her (they had each other's emails and phone numbers--she would forward him email jokes) and all of her prior communication was to him. He told me there were a few emails, but really nothing to speak of. He'd made comments about her, which I felt were negative. I think he felt he had to choose sides (this is a consistent and very destructive behavior pattern), or else pay the price and as is typical of his behaviors--he didn't want to deal with it. He always told me his parents were the, "Do as I say, don't do as I do types". They make unreasonable demands and do not care who it hurts or the destruction it creates.

I had health issues and surgery, so almost a year later I wrote her myself (I did not tell him). I finally had an opportunity to speak my peace, without his interference or control and she responded. She mainly vented her anger and frustration about his family--his father's manipulation and control and his sister's manipulative behaviors. She said that she had always stood up for me (to all his relatives), something that I never knew and was unaware of. She told me that she didn't want anything to do with their hateful, cruel and malicious existence. (This was his father's 3rd wife). If she told my husband about how she stood up for me, it was information which he never shared. I do know that she was upfront with him and direct about his sister's manipulative conduct. This was something that he did tell me about. I wrote again, but she didn't respond. I let her know that if she wanted to see me alone, I would be willing to do that, but if she wanted to visit with my husband that it was between her and him and I didn't want any involvement period. I told her that I don't want to blamed--my husband can take responsibility for his own behaviors and speak for himself. I want absolutely no part in any of it. Since she didn't respond, I left it at that as I've had too much on my plate to deal with.

My MIL is deceased. She died two years ago. She didn't want a relationship with me. I've never written completely about her cruelty--someday I will. It probably would be good for me to let it out.

I'm glad that you had a nice visit with your SIL and your husband's ex step-mother.

    Bookmark   January 20, 2009 at 12:53PM
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i thought about getting in touch with estranged siblings over the holidays but chickened out. a part of me thinks that they would only entrenched themselves further and actually reinforce their uncompromising perspectives. what good would that accomplished. it's been three years now. why ruin their holiday they have each other and they appear to be happy with the situation as it is.

i would try and get in touch if i knew a way to approach them with out them being so ambivalent about trying to ressolve our differences with family mediation. they weren't motivated three years ago i don't know why they would be now. any suggestions how to approach it.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2009 at 11:06AM
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