Wednesday, January 15, 2014

New situations, old hurts

I think I mentioned, in passing the other day, that my brother-in-law got engaged on New Year's Eve.  Hooray for him, if he's happy, and if she treats him well.  It's also brought into sharp focus family dynamics that for years (my husband and I will be married for 15 years in May), I have observed.  These observations are painful, frustrating, and sad for me. I have seen my husband's milestones and accomplishments downplayed, ignored, or belittled, except when his accomplishments make his family look better (like family reunions or when Grandmother is visiting).  My kids are basically ignored, and I am treated like a servant (which is even more ridiculous when you know that housekeeping really isn't my thing).

When we announced our engagement, my mother-in-law threw a temper tantrum in a restaurant (that wail is still legend in my family).  She wouldn't cooperate with wedding plans, and ultimately showed up an hour late to pre-wedding pictures (in spite of my mom lying to her by two hours, knowing her tendency for lateness). She even left the tuxedo bill unpaid, so my parents picked it up, along with all the other wedding costs.

She couldn't be happier with the new daughter-in-law, who I don't know well, but who I so far don't think much of (yes, I'm mean, but I am entitled to not like people). She adores my mother-in-law, and pretty much ignored anything I said the whole weekend.  Her kids already call my mother-in-law "Grandma", and "Grandma" celebrates their holidays and birthdays with them, while she doesn't do the same for my kids (they all missed Aiden's birthday last year- not even a phone call).They are all jubilant, but I am hurt, irritated, and not optimistic about how this works out for my sons and husband.

Now comes the moment of decision: do I simply stop engaging in any way, shape, or form, or do I fight back against how they treat me (and they treat my husband far worse, but in a more subtle way)?  Can I change this relationship, or do I wash my hand of it and say "I don't care"?  My better self, the one who wants to heal my relationships, thinks I should let bygones be bygones. My more passionate self, who refuses to allow hurtful behavior in my life, is of the opinion I should give them all an earful, light a match and watch the fireworks while dancing naked around the conflagration with glee.  The me who strives for balance is not able, at this moment, to see either of these working out well for me, so I'm doing nothing while thinking on what middle ground there may be.

As much as I try to focus on healing, some situations wound me repeatedly (and I know many people have a similar sore point in their life that is constantly being re-wounded). I'm not sure what to do here because I can only change my behavior and communicate my thoughts and feelings, but I can't change other people's behavior. I'm tired of doing nothing. I'm tired of watching my husband and kids get hurt in a myriad of little ways, and I'm tired of always being the one to deal with it.  Sometimes, being a grown up is no fun, because it means you have to face the fact that sometimes there isn't an answer, or least not one you can live with.

4 comments:

  1. This situation rings all too familiar for me. My Grandmother sounds much like your mother-in-law. Sad to say from the children's stand point I know exactly how it feels. My Grandmother played favorites my brother and I being the ones she didn't favor. Even as a child I felt as though she felt it was her obligation to feign affection for us, and she didn't even bother to put much effort into it. I could easily see how she cared for my cousins (who I dearly love and they can't be blamed) much more than my brother and I. As a child it was confusing and hurtful by the time I was a preteen, though it might not be what was right to do, I turned my back on her. While I was nice and always respectful when family events brought us together I never reached out to her as one might to their Grandmother. I made no effort to make her a part of my life. I choose to remove the negativity from my life all together and not let my Grandmother hold any control of my emotions. I made her no better than a distant family friend. I guess that is the type of woman I am though. If there is a constant negativity in my life then I will remove it opposed to fixing it the majority of the time. This isn't always the right path but for me personally I see more hurt for me and others in the end if I had tried to make my Grandmother face or change anything. I imagine your situation is much harder seeing as you are married and it is your husbands mother.

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  2. Just cut them out of your life. If the kids ask why, just be gentle about explaining that they did some things that you didn't agree with, and it was best not to try to be friends. But that it's okay if they still want to talk to their Grandma, if they want to. You have already shown interest in being part of the family; they have consistently made it clear that they don't care about you, your husband, or your kids. You owe them nothing. Nada. Zilch. You don't have to make a big deal out of it, but you also don't have to keep trying to "make amends" for a battle that was never yours to begin with. Just stop talking to them.

    Don't go to their family dinners; they've made it clear that you're not family. Don't return or accept their calls. If it's an emergency, they can leave a voicemail for you to review. Don't answer them on FB; block them if you can. All the energy you waste on trying to be in their lives will not gain you their respect, and it's energy better spent on being there for people who DO want you in their lives. Focus on what you've got. Leave the rest.

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  3. Thanks for the advice, L M. For the most part, I can avoid them, but the constant hounding of my husband is tougher to deal with.

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  4. We are in the process of ridding ourselves of the negativity, thanks of sharing your experiences.

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