Help! My SS's visits are a nightmare!

wowsmJuly 16, 2014

I need advice to deal with very stressful visits from a grown step-son, his wife, and my husband's former inlaws. Here is the situation: My husband of one year lost his former wife to cancer three years ago. He has two sons in their late twenties who live out of town. I have a teenage daughter who lives with us. As soon as we got married last year we began to remodel his huge old farm house where the boys grew up. I was fearful of moving, changing, or getting rid of something that would upset the boys. Even before we got married I was concerned about this so I brought it up at our l premarrital counseling with our pastor. She suggested I write this to the boys which I did. I got not response. So I asked my husband to talk to them. They said they were fine with whatever we did.
I'm sure you can see where this is going. My husband's former wife allowed the boys to live like slobs. The house looked like a tornado full of their stuff with legos everywhere. Despite the fact that they had been gone for years, they still had clothes from their teenage years and older items that mice had gone threw. We cleaned, ripped up carpet, threw out trash and boxed up what was salvageable. Things were painted and remodeled. Then the boys came home. One freaked out. He immediately wanted to know what I did with his stuff. He pulled out all the boxed up stuff, dragged it out throughout the upstairs. Then he and his wife left for their home out of state. So I cleaned things up again.
Ever since there has been tension and anxiety. We don't talk. I keep busy and try to stay out of their way. They now have a baby and came for the past week. The day before I got the house ready, put clean sheets on their bed. Spent the entire day making a big dinner for them. They also along with my husbamd invited my husbands former wife's mom and sister (the other grandma and aunt) to come down to visit for the five days son/daughter-in-law, baby, and their dog would be with us. The aunt and grandma showed up to dinner two hours late, expect to eat after I just cleaned up the kitchen, and walked in my front door with two photo albums of the late wife to show everyone how much the baby looks like her. Needless to say that was not a good start to the visit.
The tension during the week continued to build. I avoided everyone as mich as possible (they know I have a VERY small family and aren't used to crowds. We had an open house for friends/family to see the new baby. I got a sheet cake and got everything ready for that. An hour after the event was supposed to end, the house was still full. I went upstairs with a guest and my daughter to watch tv. The stepson came up and asked if he could have the room so he could play video games with an old friend. They are almost 30 and had the whole house! So my daughter and I left. The night before their flight, the daughterinlaw approached me with, "can I have a word with you on the porch?" I said you can talk to me with my husband. She said we don't feel comfortable here. You avoid us.
That is true. I do avoid them because I don't want a fight and I feel provoked. Also, I am not used to a big family and need some quiet time. Plus the whole situation with my husband's former inlaws makes me very uncomfortable. How can this be fixed? Is there any hope? I have a very srong feeling of trying to escape their presence. How can I deal with this? But most of all, my husband is now not talking to me. This bothers me the most. How can I heal this? Any help would be appreciated. Thank you.

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I wish you and your husband had purchased another house to live in. My husband and I each had a home and we could see where his children felt his home was still theirs (even though they didn't live there anymore) and mine felt the same about my house. We knew moving into either house would never work, so we built a new one for us. That said, you remodeled this one and live in it now so maybe you could do something in the house with memorabilia to help them remember their good times in the house, I think that might be good for your husband as well. I mean this was their house for many years, I can understand how they might feel. Remember this woman passed away, it's not like there was a bitter divorce and she's still in the picture. As for you not feeling comfortable with crowds or a big family, well you married into one so I think you need to start getting comfortable with it. It's not a bad thing, have fun with all the people in your house and try to make them comfortable being there. A messy house afterward is a small price to pay for keeping peace in the family. I remember complaining one time that I was constantly changes bed sheets and towels for guests one summer and a friend told me that was a good thing, that meant people liked staying with us. She was right and I stopped complaining. When you feel like hiding in another room or avoiding people, make a conscious effort to start up a conversation with one of them or offer some snacks, anything to be part of the group. I wish you all the best in your new marriage. Second marriages where there are adult children are not always easy, you have to constantly work at those relationships. In this case especially where there was a death of a family member and people are still grieving.

This post was edited by Karen10125 on Thu, Jul 17, 14 at 11:27

    Bookmark   July 17, 2014 at 5:50AM
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Is there one or two people you do like? The aunt or stepdaughter-in-law? Maybe try to hang with those people? It is still early, you havent known these people very long. Do the grandma and aunt get to see the baby at other times? if so, I dont see why they need to stay at your house for a week. That is a long time. As for bringing pictures and saying the baby looks like her...they are probably still grieving the loss and just trying to remember their daughter/mom? I can see how this would make you uncomfortable, but it is possible that they are not intentionally trying to irritate you. (If it is intentional, that is a different ball of wax.)

How did the conversation on the porch end up? was anything worked out? Unless they do something outright rude, try not to take it personally. And if the boys are out on their own, just give them their belongings, they can keep them now. Is it possible to have some shorter visits to get used to each other? If there is a long distance which makes the visits long...try to schedule something for yourself in the middle, or a couple times. A night out with your friends, let them know ahead of time that you will be out and that they can make their own dinner plans - nicely of course. This gets you off the hook for preparing a meal, and gets you a break from the crowd, and gives them some of their family unit time. Hopefully with time you will find something in common. Or, you may find it best to take your own vacation during the visits, or just find a way to cope with the stress and anxiety of the visits - know that it is for a limited period of time, and just focus on the light at the end of the trip, and keep xanax or wine handy, or when you need some alone time, you could say you have a migraine and need to lie down. I hope DH finds some empathy for your situation. Good luck!

    Bookmark   July 17, 2014 at 9:44AM
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Before he stopped speaking to you, did your husband say why he was angry?

My initial reaction is that your husband should call the boys about their boxed stuff and ask if they want it shipped to them to have in their own home. If no, he needs to give them fair warning that it's going to the trash or Goodwill. Then, you won't have to worry about them dragging stuff out every visit that you'll have to then clean up and put back in storage.

Secondly, if your husband invited his former SIL and MIL to visit without seeking your input yet expecting you to prepare for their visit, cook for them, etc., he needs a wake up call. Even if your relationship with them is very cordial, that's a lot to ask of you without allowing you to have some say in the duration of the visit and the goings on during the visit.

Lastly, It's obvious that you are introverted or have some introverted tendencies (hence your distress at having a houseful of visitors with the requisite lack of privacy and "down time" that entails). I totally get it -- there are times when my in-laws visit that I think I'll go out of my mind. Fortunately, my husband "gets it" and will take them somewhere for the afternoon so I can re-charge by myself.

If you've explained your need for this to your husband and if he's still not listening, I think you and he need a few sessions with a marriage counselor to work out a solution. With the counselor, you should also discuss how you feel your stepsons "provoke you". I tend to think that, if your husband "had your back", your stepson and wife would no longer feel that you are avoiding them because you wouldn't be as the tension would be better managed.

Best wishes to you.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2014 at 7:46PM
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Thank you all for your suggestions and advice. I really appreciate it. I'll try to address some of your questions.

It would have been great if we could have started fresh with a new house, but with our situation it just wasn't possible. And I LOVE the rest of his big family. They are very kind and sweet to me, so I try to focus on them. I keep trying to remember that it's only been three years since her death and we have only been married for a year. Everything takes time.

I have put a picture of the boys with their mom and dad in the room where they stay when they visit. I've offered them nostalgic items (son's baby cup, pictures, etc.) but they won't take them. My husband has been somewhat helpful with cleaning/getting rid of things, but the mess doesn't bother him as much as it does me.

As for the talk with the DIL, I wouldn't go out on the porch with her. I told her she could talk to me in the living room with my husband. We live on a very busy street in a small town. I don't want everyone seeing me on the porch having a discussion with her. Plus I wanted my husband to hear everything that was said so something didn't get twisted. I didn't say much. I refuse to fight. I just said it will take time. My heart was pounding and I was so afraid I would say something I would regret. All that was solved was that they expressed they didn't care if I cooked/ had room ready for them/ etc. (so I won't do it), and I told them that I wanted them to keep house picked up (If you get it out, put it back). So when they left they put everything back. When I cleaned today I noticed a window blind was broken and the rug had a huge pulled place and it ruined.

They have been gone for three days and my husband is back to being the normal sweetheart that I married. He's very affectionate and acts like nothing happened. I suppose I may just have to come to the realization that a few weeks out of the year will be tense. I know they are coming for Christmas. I'm dreading the holidays.

How should I let them know that I appreciate that they cleaned up after themselves? I'm upset about the rug/blind, but can't really bring myself to say anything. I want to spend the holidays with my husband, but don't see that possible. I fantasize about taking a Christmas trip to the beach/Disney to escape it all. Please give me more suggestions. I really appreciate it!

    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 6:02PM
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Yes that escape to Disneyworld sounds appealing. So instead of doing that in lieu of spending the holiday with the crew, can you split the time up? I would suggest the first few days with them followed with you and hubby taking a few days alone somewhere. I find I can get through most any kind of task or challenge by focusing on the reward to follow.

I agree with Jewel about the childhood momentos. Have their father (not you), send them an email or note and tell them he's been gathering a lot of stuff for charity donation, and when they come for the holidays, they should plan to take their stuff with them or he's going to add it to the donation. This assumes they will not be flying and/or not caught by surprise. I wouldn't put any ultimatum in the note. See how it plays out when they get there. Also the email/note will be a good time for DH to advise what days exactly they are welcome to stay at your house - especially if you two are going to be getting away.

I don't think I would bring up that they cleaned up after themselves. As far as future visits, it's a given you'd put clean sheets on and fresh towels out for any guests. Costco makes some very nice platters of sandwiches and meat and cheese trays. Pick up a few of them next time and they can all have at it.
Heavy duty paper or plastic plates with holiday motif.

I might even consider making up a few casseroles ahead of time that could be microwaved as needed. Also for a bigger family holiday dinner, there's no shame in going to a a restaurant for that where you can relax, drink up, and not worry about the messy cleanup.

DH has to step up and take lead on more of these interactions. I can understand they may still be grieving the loss of their mother, but most caring mature adult children can reconcile those feelings with the reality that a surviving parent has found love again.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2014 at 3:47PM
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