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M in-laws have always been unhelpful and unwelcoming and its really starting to bother me

Tagged as: Family, Marriage problems, Troubled relationships<< Previous question   Next question >>
Question - (31 August 2015) 6 Answers - (Newest, 2 September 2015)
A female United Kingdom age 41-50, anonymous writes:

My-laws have always been unhelpful and unwelcoming.

I am married 25+ yrs.

Have 2 sons in their 20's.

Moved to my husbands hometown after marriage.

My hometown is almost 100 miles away.

My mother died within 3yrs after we married.

There has been family arguments and falling in and out since my mother died so I avoide my family and dont want to be part of all the backbiting and taking sides.

My sister-in-laws have on occasion, visited my sister 100 miles away, whom they have no connection with but for an xmas card and yet they would hardly acknowledge me on the street if they met me (or my children either), and no I'm not somebody people find offencive.

They only know each other through us and my sister is 20+ yrs older than me ( and my sister-in-laws).

This same sister, i used to be close to has snubbed me for over 10 yrs now.

This snub is over my questioning her (well really relaying back to her what my Uncle told me, I didnt accuse her of anything)of her treatment of my elderly Uncle whom has since died.I actually do believe my Uncle because of the way he told me, it was just so like her character in the way he told me she asked for a large amount of his savings!I really got my eyes open as to what she was really like!

Now I have found out that yet again my husbands sister has visited my sister 100 miles away (a day visit) even though my mother-in-law has on a number of occasions seen how upset and hurt I was to see my sisters xmas card to them and has snubbed us for years.

This cant be right.

I have done nothing wrong.

Thing is my son has my husbands sister on his facebook, she made request a few months ago, he accepted, what could he do!

But now Im uneasy and really hurt to the point of feeling angry with my son now too (who i used to be close to)that she has access to his life, his conversations with his friends, where he is going, what he is doing. Basically pretending she was an active Aunt while he was growing up!

She now knows more about my son than I do!!!

I feel so hurt that they have (my in-laws)been so unwelcoming and nasty for years and now want to use my sons fb account to network for themselves for jobs ect as he is popular and has over 3000 contacts!

I dont think he needs them after all this time.

I dont know wheather to say or do anything about this situation, as we of cource will be in the wrong no matter what we do!!!

Please help me get some insight on this, I really need it, as its actually causing me to be depressed.

Confused Mum and Sister

View related questions: depressed, facebook

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (2 September 2015):

Thank you for putting so much time and thought into your answer.

I have always encouraged my kids to talk and share their experiences and feelings from an early age, always getting them to resolve their differences and understand each other (and their friends) point of view because I did recognize those issues you spoke of in mine and my husbands families.

My Mum always said “you should never go to bed on a cross word” and I have always remembered that, but my siblings definitely didn’t! They are all much older than me.

Their way (I find this with both families) seems to be “agree with me and say nothing or I will ignore you and put you out in the cold”. This leaves others (family, friends, neighbors, in-laws) believing that you were the one at fault and they are encouraged to believe it. Unless you decide to wash your dirty laundry in public you are left looking guilty. I would rather keep family matters private.

I have tried to talk openly and honestly with members of both sides of our families about some issues that have risen over the years and each time ended up coming out the worst for wear! They are so offended that you would possibly think, or dare say, that they might have done, or said, something to offend you! They would belittle your feelings and even deny they done or said anything, basically dismissing you and not talking to you until you give in and stay quiet. Even then you can still feel the cold, you are never properly accepted back in, and you are let known it! Not very adult like is it!

My response to both my family and in-laws behavior was to just gradually cut myself off and keep to myself and focus on my kids, husband and home.

Coping mechanism.

I do agree with you that a good debate is healthy but in my experience it’s better to keep your thoughts to yourself especially where in-laws are concerned! If they don’t like what you are saying, or even your knowledge on certain subjects, they dismiss you or end the conversation, ignoring you and giving their attention to the telly, or another distraction, or changing the subject. That doesn’t do anything for the heart or the soul, believe me, it just eats away at your confidence.

Now you might be wondering how could they be so ignorant, but their manners to the outside world are a lot different as you probably already have guessed. I’ve seen sides to them that have truly opened my eyes and many people wouldn’t believe!

I know your advice is good and again I thank you for taking so much time to help me but to be honest my son thinks it’s “no big deal” her (sister-in-law) being on his fb cause he says there is nothing “bad” on it. He can’t see that, that is not the point. She has already been through his ex-girlfriends profiles back a few years ago, as it was public, my mother-in-law let it slip by mistake and we put 2 + 2 together! It was obvious! I was embarrassed she done this!

I know you’re saying give her the benefit of the doubt, maybe she is trying to mend fences between me and my sister. She doesn’t visit her regularly, she just used to years ago visited now and again, hadn’t visited her for years.

When she did visit she never told us she was going or contacted us when she came back, as I said she wouldn’t visit us! There has been no falling out; they just don’t bother with us! But then I would have been the first person not to bother with them! I found them a bit overbearing and smothering. They liked to keep their own privacy and boundaries but had no respect for mine or my husbands. She (s-i-l) has never tried to make me feel welcome in my “new family” but is happy to push herself onto my family like she was a long lost relative! She has even showed up (after being told that it was family only) at a family party! Traveling 100 miles to do so along with friends and then looking to stay over with my family!

Then 18 months ago I returned to my hometown for a family funeral, first time back in years, wasn’t easy. I got a good reception from family who turned up, was quite emotional, hugs and kisses from nieces and nephews I babysat and asking us to stay over and to keep in touch. I’m still keeping my distance though, can’t help myself, I have been so hurt in the past and I just can’t go through all that again. There are still family arguments, or maybe it’s better to call them cold wars, going on that I don’t want to be dragged into.

I only found out a week ago that my s-i-l had visited last year, about 6 months after I had reconnected! My in-laws knew I had been back and my husband told them of the good reception I had. A year after her visit I find out she had visited my sister! She didn’t tell me. So I don’t think she was there mending fences!

My sister did speak to me at funeral, was awkward, she still sent my in-laws Xmas card, none to us! Even though she is godmother to one of my sons!

I’m not comfortable with the whole situation. I think it’s weird behavior to say the least!

One time I remember my sister-in-laws friend went to find her at her mothers house and over stayed her welcome. She stayed and had tea. My s-i-l was unimpressed I spoke behind her back that the friend was out of order staying so long. She was having time with her family and that the friend should have not called but phoned and waited to visit her at home.

Gosh I really don’t feel comfortable with these people having a snoop into my sons or our lives!

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (2 September 2015):

Thank you for putting so much time & thought into your answer.

I have always encouraged my kids to talk & share their experiences & feelings from an early age, always getting them to resolve their differences & understand each other (& their friends) point of view because I did recognize those issues you spoke of in mine & my husbands families.

My Mum always said “you should never go to bed on a cross word” & I have always remembered that, but my siblings definitely didn’t! They are all much older than me.

Their way (I find this with both families) seems to be “agree with me & say nothing or I will ignore you & put you out in the cold”. This leaves others (family, friends, neighbours, in-laws) believing that you were the one at fault & they are encouraged to believe it. Unless you decide to wash your dirty laundry in public you are left looking guilty. I would rather keep family matters private.

I have tried to talk openly & honestly with members of both sides of our families about some issues that have risen over the years & each time ended up coming out the worst for wear! They are so offended that you would possibly think, or dare say, that they might have done, or said, something to offend you! They would belittle your feelings & even deny they done or said anything, basically dismissing you & not talking to you until you give in & stay quiet. Even then you can still feel the cold, you are never properly accepted back in, & you are let known it! Not very adult like is it!

My response to both my family & in-laws behaviour was to just gradually cut myself off & keep to myself & focus on my kids, husband & home. Coping mechanism.

I do agree with you that a good debate is healthy but in my experience it’s better to keep your thoughts to yourself especially where in-laws are concerned! If they don’t like what you are saying, or even your knowledge on certain subjects, they dismiss you or end the conversation, ignoring you & giving their attention to the telly, or another distraction, or changing the subject. That doesn’t do anything for the heart or the soul, believe me, it just eats away at your confidence.

Now you might be wondering how could they be so ignorant, but their manners to the outside world are a lot different as you probably already have guessed. I’ve seen sides to them that have truly opened my eyes & many people wouldn’t believe!

I know your advice is good & again I thank you for taking so much time to help me but to be honest my son thinks it’s “no big deal” her (sister-in-law) being on his fb cause he says there is nothing “bad” on it. He can’t see that, that is not the point. She has already been through his ex-girlfriends profiles back a few years ago, as it was public, my mother-in-law let it slip by mistake & we put 2 + 2 together! It was obvious! I was embarrassed she done this!

I know you’re saying give her the benefit of the doubt, maby she is trying to mend fences between me & my sister. She doesn’t visit her regularly, she just used to years ago visited now & again, hadn’t visited her for years. When she did visit she never told us she was going or contacted us when she came back, as I said she wouldn’t visit us! There has been no falling out; they just don’t bother with us! But then I would have been the first person not to bother with them! I found them a bit overbearing & smothering. They liked to keep their own privacy & boundaries but had no respect for mine or my husbands. She (s-i-l) has never tried to make me feel welcome in my “new family” but is happy to push herself onto my family like she was a long lost relative! She has even showed up (after being told that it was family only) at a family party! Travelling 100 miles to do so along with friends & then looking to stay over with my family!

Then 18 months ago I returned to my hometown for a family funeral, first time back in years, wasn’t easy. I got a good reception from family who turned up, was quite emotional, hugs & kisses from nieces & nephews I babysat & asking us to stay over & to keep in touch. I’m still keeping my distance though, can’t help myself, I have been so hurt in the past & I just can’t go through all that again. There are still family arguments, or maby it’s better to call them cold wars, going on that I don’t want to be dragged into.

I only found out a week ago that my s-i-l had visited last year, about 6 months after I had reconnected! My in-laws knew I had been back & my husband told them of the good reception I had. A year after her visit I find out she had visited my sister! She didn’t tell me. So I don’t think she was there mending fences!

My sister did speak to me at funeral, was awkward, she still sent my in-laws Xmas card, none to us! Even though she is godmother to one of my sons!

I’m not comfortable with the whole situation. I think it’s weird behaviour to say the least!

One time I remember my s-i-l’s friend went to find her at her mothers house & over stayed her welcome. She stayed & had tea. My s-i-l was unimpressed I spoke behind her back that the friend was out of order staying so long. She was having time with her family & that the friend should have not called but phoned & waited to visit her at home.

Gosh I really don’t feel comfortable with these people having a snoop into my sons or our lives!

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (1 September 2015):

Reading your post it's very clear that your family (I mean your sister and, to an extent your son who is on Facebook) AND your husband's family (his sister) suffer from a very common problem, which is not ever having had the mechanisms within the family to discuss upsetting issues and deal with hurt and pain - either caused by external events or by family members themselves. Often this is down to bad parenting - it's upto parents to put in place, at an early stage, some ground rules for how to handle family disputes, but it so often simply never happens. I have a dear friend with a wonderful family and she told me that one of her parents rules was that, as children, they simply were not allowed to remain in a "fallen out" state for very long - they always had to talk it through and apologise to one another and this set a pattern for life. Her parents were very fair on the children, treating them totally as equals and encouraging them to work as a team.

Without this kind of guidance, siblings often feel unequal and arguments can grown and grow and can so easily get 'out of hand', often causing huge rifts over something like one or two sentences that a family member said years and years ago. Really early memories of feeling overshadowed or unequal to a sibling can emerge as arguments about seemingly unrelated issues. This may be what's underlying your rift with your sister. OR it may be that you were simply never shown how to talk through and resolve a dispute and that in itself has caused problems with you all acting like mature adults.

My own family was like this - parents constantly arguing and never once showing us children how to discuss issues and how to cope with arguments. I was determined not to create such a situation for my daughter and encouraged her always to discuss something if it upset her. If a family is unable to enjoy healthy debate about a neutral issue eg. an event that has happened in the world - and ends up arguing about it, then this is a sure sign that they definitely cannot discuss painful family issues in a way that will reflect a mature attitude. A good practice is to get children to learn how to discuss general issues early on, then the more difficult ones become easier to handle.

The attitude of everyone involved in your family - and I'm sorry but this also does include yourself and your husband to a lesser degree - is VERY immature, and yet so very normal for the vast majority of families. You are very far from alone in having this kind of dispute and rift. So many women, in particular, get forced into a feeling of powerlessness because they effectively have no voice in the family and they have to accept a painful, passive role when other members hurt them. Often no-one knows any better, quite literally, so negative ways and patterns just keep going and going because no-one knows how to change it.

How to put those mechanisms for discussion in place is the very tricky issue. It may be impossible with your sister and your sister in law - all parties have to want to resolve the issue for any debate to work.

BUT you could begin initiating regular discussions with your immediate family - your sons and your husband, about the situation and how you feel it should be resolved at all. This could be for half an hour with a coffee at first, but make sure they know you want it to be a regular thing and they are free to bring issues 'to the table' to discuss. You have probably discussed this with them before - either individually or together - but it's worth starting to put in place a family meeting, where you all sit together and try to talk, as calmly as you can, about how you all feel about the situation. They may not immediately react well to this, but keep trying with it and be strong because it could prove a really good way forward. If they are reluctant to discuss then get them to discuss their reluctance to discuss!!! That really is a good way of beginning.

I suspect that you are actually very upset about your son accepting his aunt on Facebook, and you see this as a spiteful victory to her (it may be this), but you are also battling with being a decent Mum and just letting him make his own decisions. That's tough for anyone. But It's still very much worth talking this through and being clear with one another how you feel about this, even if you end up disagreeing, the point is to agree to disagree, respectfully and calmly, rather than have some immature rift develop. I really feel that if you can put this kind of discussion in place with your immediate family, you will feel stronger in yourself; you need a show of loyalty and this is not necessarily going to come by ever family member agreeing; the loyalty comes through the debate itself and an understanding of one another's views and actions and each other's differences. It may well be worth pointing out to them that you are the only woman in your immediate family of four and women need to discuss things and men would do well to at least try to accommodate that. It will help them in their own relationships and they need to recognise that, as a woman, you DO respond differently to them; I am sure it can be tough being surrounded by three men all the time, no matter how much you love them.

As to your sister, I suspect you would actually really like it if SHE said to you that she wanted to resolve your relationship because I think it is really hurting you that she doesn't seem to value you AND that you have been effectively "replace" by this sister in law (I will come to her in a minute). Unfortunately, i don't think this will ever happen. I really think, again, that the first step is for you to discuss how you feel about her with your family and see what they think might be best. Even if none of you know what to do, the fact that you've talked will help to ease some of your pain. I don't know what exactly happened between you and your sister, or she and your uncle, but it sounds like she was either a. caught in the act when you said what you said to her or b. she was 'innocent' and extremely hurt. Either way, lack of this mechanism for discussion has meant that neither of you have been able to resolve the issue.

This rift with your sister has now been aggravated further by your sister in law. I can completely understand why she gets to you. She is acting like a nuisance factor, like an unwanted fly buzzing around. HOWEVER, there are two things to consider, both relating to the fact that she is trying (however hurtfully) to forge some sort of family relations rather than none at all. This in itself shows family does matter to her - I know that you cannot stand how she goes about it and I understand why, but my point is that this is important to consider, compared with someone who has absolutely no interest in family at all, it could potentially be a starting point for change.

First of all, a good business saying is that "when someone keeps knocking on your door, invite them in". What is meant by this is not that someone literally knocks on your door, or that you literally let them in, but, if someone is making a nuisance of themselves and you think it is to get to you (even to annoy you) or to get to your attention, then instead of remaining annoyed by it and having it spoil all of your time by being in the background as an annoyance, you actually bring it right to the foreground and create a space and time for them to engage with you.

Before you shriek in horror, hear me out on this one please! I am not suggesting for a minute that you actually have to like the woman. Or give her much quality time at all. I am thinking more along your lines of just speaking to her when you have to, out of courtesy BUT with a slight difference. Instead of waiting for some event or other to 'force' you to speak with her - which will keep you feeling out of control and passively waiting for the dreaded time to do so - you TAKE CONTROL and you actually invite her to do something with you and your family. Doesn't have to be much, and you don't have to say much. It may be unpleasant. BUT by doing this, you start to stake out your way of doing things and you start to shape whatever relationship you have. It's quite psychological, but it really does work. You must be consistent and persistent with this. Be polite and courteous. No sarcasm, no put downs, no false affection no arguing. You are simply 'neutralising' her for now by bringing her into your territory/your way of doing things. Remember, you are in control of this, not her. She may well bitch about you behind your back or act up. It's not the point. The point is to be adult about this where she is being childish. Slowly and steadily, you can change the pattern of how she interacts with you, work on eliminating the things she does that annoy you, because you are taking control. She may always annoy you. But this way you increasingly get to set boundaries and no-one can accuse you of being uncooperative because you are offering space and time for her to see you and your family. At these times it will really help if all of your family can meet with her together. She is used to you NOT being proactive and being passive and shying away, right now, she is playing that, including by being on Facebook.

The second thing to consider in regard to your sister in law is your husband. He is her brother and, ideally, HE should be the one saying to her that her behaviour is upsetting. However, the mechanisms just aren't there and, in any case, it would be quite pointless without those discussion mechanisms, to say anything to her at all about your upset. It seems like she might just go back to your sister and relate it in a gossipy way and accuse you of making trouble. So, best to bear in mind that hubby could be doing more in an ideal situation, but it may take a very long time, if ever at all, before either of you can talk honestly and openly with her about how you feel.

I think what is really making you despair about all of this is that you feel so powerless within it. Take back that power in the ways suggested above, starting with strengthening your own family unit. It does seem that these three men - your sons and your husband - could be doing more to proactively take into consideration your needs and feelings as a woman, not just as mother. But you may have to assert them and express your needs and feelings first. Another thing to bear in mind is that, as well as the family meetings, fun and pleasure play a huge part in forging strong family bonds. So try to have some good times together too and raise your own self esteem by being kinder to yourself and treating just you now and again. You've raised two sons in a situation that sounds far from easy, and you should feel very proud. But its also time for you to get to know yourself again - if you can, get out more and make new friends through a group or regular meet up. Expand your own horizons however you can, so that you're not thinking only of this negative family stuff and so that your own family don't err on the side of taking you for granted.

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (1 September 2015):

Thank you both for your reply.

I Don't feel so alone to think there is someone out there who cares, thank you again, i feel so emotional about this im in tears.

My husbands sister did contact my other son but he ignored it. He likes to keep a smaller group of close friends.

My son who she contacted and he accepted plays a lot of sport and has gathered quite a lot of face book friends.

I just feel she wants part of the limelight, she has always been like that. She is commenting on his fb in a way to let know he is her nephew and taking credit for his achievements (in a joking way).

I'm not on fb, never really was interested in joining but i do feel annoyed that my so called sister-in-law can see all that my son is doing or saying to his mates!

I have never monitored my kids and ease-dropped in on them and i don't want her to be either!

I know she carries stories about other people and family and exaggerates them.

She likes to exaggerate about herself too!

I would rather my family had little to do with her and her family and just have polite small talk when we meet.

My husband feels the same about his family, he knows how little they have ever been there for us and the boys.

He just doesn't want me to be annoyed and distracted by it and end up getting the "rough end of the stick" again, he told me to be careful of her causing trouble for us! She has done it before, years ago by twisting stories!

So we say or do nothing so as there is no fall out and let her snoop and report back to gran parents twisted stories!

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (31 August 2015):

Before answering more fully, can you say something about your husband's stance/position on all of this? You don't mention him at all? And is it only one of your son's sister in law is targeting? What about the other one?

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (31 August 2015):

If they hurt you like that & didn't welcome you into their family i wouldn't bother with them & i would ask my son to do the same. Facebook is so false. Your story just proves that. As for your in-laws, you are still married after 25+ years! Well done! I had in-laws like that "had" being the operative word! People like that put a strain on the best of relationships especially if they are involved in your life. Good Luck for the future & follow your instincts.

I've been in your shoes so i sympathize.

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