View Full Version : In-laws & the Holidays

12-22-2006, 11:31 AM
This situation has little to do with Lupus, although it does have an impact on my stress. I would love the board’s opinion on it.

I am the eldest of three children (two younger) born and raised in the Midwest. To my mother’s dismay – our lives carried us off in three opposite directions as adults. Me to NYC, middle brother to the deep coastal south and youngest brother to the Pacific NW. When they retired, by parents wanted to be by family – so they split their year between my brothers based on the season of the year, having sold their house in Missouri and purchased homes about 15 minutes from my brothers. The PNW is their primary base -- with the south being their winter get-away. Ironically, a job carried me back to our hometown after they relocated.

They don’t love NY, housing's expensive and it didn’t make sense to purchase there. Plus I was unmarried and childless. I totally understand that. Anyhow – back to my story.

Both brothers married “hometown” girls with all of their family living in town and a very active part of their lives. Middle brother’s wife and family are very welcoming. You kind of follow the path of chaos left behind. They manage the kids very differently than I would but everyone’s different. That's just life.

Youngest brother’s wife is the polar opposite – very controlled, and exceptionally polite, but not at all welcoming. She’s reserved by nature, but not so much so that she can’t cope when she chooses to. She was an All-American in college sports and very successful in business before she became a stay at home mom.

I chose to spend Christmas in the NW this year. Baby bro has the youngest kids, and I really wanted to see the holidays through the eyes of the kids this year. Experience that joy after this first year of being diagnosed. He knows that’s the main reason I undertook the hassle of the travel.

One more bit of background. My sister-in-law’s father’s birthday is December 25th. Their tradition is that they spend most of the day after celebrating Christmas lauding him. (The sister-in-law’s father.) She wants to keep the morning to just my brother, her and the kids – then spend the rest of the day on her Dad.

We (Mom, Dad & I) are not invited to either get together. (A side note – there will be all matter of her extended family at the afternoon celebration.) We instead get to come by for a few hours on Christmas eve.

As a contrast, Mom & Dad, however, are hosting a holiday brunch one day during the season however for our family and all of her extended family.

A few other nuggets. Most of the time my brother invites me over the house, it is when my sister-in-law is doing errands. (E.G. when she’s not there. She always looks distressed before she leaves, like I’m going to break something.) Generally the get together involves something that doesn’t leave me in the house too long.

My niece keeps asking why I can’t come over for a slumber party like her other aunts do (my sister-in-law’s sisters) and my brother just keeps telling her that there are plenty of beds at grandma’s house. My niece can also show me on a map where my sister-in-law’s friends live – but not I or middle brothers.

Mom & Dad’s experience has been similar if not worse. Rarely does my sister-in-law join him when he brings the kids over for dinner every month or so.

In-laws can be a difficult adjustment. I understand that. A few of my friends have some that are real terrors – I’ve seen it firsthand. But my friends are more welcoming to those terrors than my sister in law is to us. We’re not that bad. I know Mom has opinions about a few things – but she certainly doesn’t voice them to my brother or his wife. There’s nothing so awful about us that should make our company so excruciatingly painful to my sister-in-law.

In addition, I need to note that my brother is actively involved in her life, going with her to family events – flying around the country with her to attend weddings and college events, visiting her extended family etc. By comparison, they have only come to see me twice in 10 years.

My mom's position is to complain to me, but just take it graciously in public. I have tried broaching the topic with my brother a few years ago -- but he believes that my sister-in-law is making real progress and that I should just be more patient.... She's very fragile and the death of her mom back in the late 90s from breast cancer didn't help any.... Nor did her father remarrying within a year...

Right now I've got my game face on for the the sake of the family. It's tough though -- Mom's pressuring me to move out to the NW instead of back to NY because I have "family" here. Realistically speaking, my parents are elderly and my Dad is in poor health. I would spend more time taking care of them with energy I just don't have even for myself. In metro NY (NY/NJ/CT) I have a large network of friends based on 15+ years there.

Baby bro loves me -- but I feel totally unwelcome in his house, and when he comes to visit us, there's a certain sense of him watching the clock, like he's sneaking out or something. He's an adult and that's just ridiculous -- I know he enjoys my company. He's said he would like to see more of me -- but I don't think it's enjoyable for either of us given the situation.

I don't think expecting my sister-in-law to change is realistic. She uses her "fragility" to get what she wants from my brother. And he makes a concious decision to let her.

However, neither is expecting me to spend time in such a stress-laden climate. And act grateful for whatever time I'm allotted

What hurts the most is that until this last visit -- I thought we were making progress and that my mom was just exaggerating. I thought that my sister-in-law and I were building a friendship. But the way she has shut me out lately is very painful. It also just kills me that I have to fight for any piece of visibility in my niece & nephew's lives.

Thanks for letting me vent. It helps me keep that "game mask" on. However -- if anyone has any brilliant suggestions to make this situation better I would really appreciate it.

I would love to be better friends with my sister-in-law and be more than an annual visitor to my nieces and nephews -- but this isn't a situation where I can just bulldoze myself into.

12-22-2006, 03:36 PM
Thank God we can choose our friends because we are "stuck" with our family like it or not!!

Take it with a "grain of salt", have you ever thought that you may remind your sister in law of more interesting and freer , times when she was successful in the business or college world and not "just a mom and wife". Is it possible she resents your freedom (her perception) even if it is not true?

All families have their quirks. I think it is more common for in-laws to not get along than the opposite, for no particular reason. Really, go on and enjoy your vacation and if they are a part of it wonderful, if not have a good time anyway. It sounds like the shear distance between you may also have contributed to you both simply not having much of a connection with each other and she is less likely to entertain a change in that situation than you are. And remember "blood is thicker than water".

My step daughters now both adults live a few provinces over from my husband and myself and usually I pay for them to fly home for the holiday season. I have always been a terrific, caring, concerned and contributing step-mother in their lives. The eldest daughter turned 18 when we got together and was supposed to move to Europe but didn't and moved in with her sister who lived with her mom at the time. I have been with their dad 10 years, 9 of them married and I seldom get the time of day from them even when they lived near us. When they fly to our city for a few days or a few weeks (trip almost always paid for by my air miles +) we seldom see them for more than a quick get together over coffee and if we are really lucky lunch. They stay with their mom, have dinner with friends and other relatives, visit and spend time with everyone but us. They love their dad very much, count on him and call him frequently when they are back in Montreal, and they tolerate me no matter how much I tried to change that situation. In person we seldom connect. I gave up feeling hurt years ago and just take it for what it is. That has been really freeing for me, and I no longer feel rejected or hurt as a result.

Have a happy holiday my friend and enjoy life anyway including your visit with your parents .

12-22-2006, 04:04 PM
I'm sure the distance doesn't help -- at least in terms of ease of contact. In our case -- it's actually convenient. It's only part of the year she has to put up with us.

I don't think jealousy is an issue in this case. My understanding is that she needs a great deal of control over her environment. And I agree about the typical in-law situation. However -- that being said ...

What irks me is that that -- at least from my perspective -- the "compromise" involved in the blending of families is so heavily weighted to one side.

Basically -- she has her pre-married life -- into which she incorporated my brother -- and their children. But not us. Plus there's the factor that they kind of look down on us. Yes -- her Dad went to Harvard and her Mom went -- I think to Vassar or Bryn Mawr --- or one of the seven sisters. And they are all big jocks as well as intellectual. And active in community service.

But let's get serious. Those things are nice -- but shouldn't be what you base a person's value on. If I wanted to get snippy with her -- I would talk about our genealogy which can be traced back the 1200s and European royalty. Or about graduating with honors from a more selective school than her siblings. Or success on Wall Street. Or my active volunteerism that far outweighs any hours her she and her sisters put in together.

The situation is what it is and isn't going to change. Nor would I want to put my brother between us. But realistically speaking, it really does hurt that he's not willing to stand up enough. I sense that he's had to pitch a few fits with her to even get things up to the level where we are now.

I described it to a friend as being similiar to a divorce (although I do not want to intimate that bro/sister-in-lw are having problems) and we have limited visitation rights. I just don't think it's fair.....

12-22-2006, 04:29 PM
Well, it's not fair. But many things in life aren't. Sadly, in real life most families aren't the Waltons. But when it's a situation you can't change, the one thing you can change is your own attitude about it. That's true of everything in life, not just family relationships. So you can allow it to eat at you, breeding stress and resentment, or you can accept that it's an unhappy situation not of your making, and get on with your own life. Enjoy the time you do get to spend with your brother, and don't worry about the rest of it. You have enough stress with lupus without worry about someone's social pretensions, even if that someone is your SIL. I think the serenity prayer probably says it best - God grant me the courage to change the things I can, the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, and the wisdom to know the difference.

12-22-2006, 05:08 PM
Try to adopt the same attitude I have adopted with my awful stepdaughter...I feel SORRY for her...carrying around alot of bitterness and bad feelings can make her sicker than Lupus ever would make me. I do feel sad that there is a sweet wonderful girl inside her, and regret that the others (her family) got to know that person, and I never did. AND I consider it HER loss that she has not opened her heart to ME...I could have been a friend to her, someone else to love her...and she has hardened her heart against that.
When she visits, I grit my teeth and respond sweetly to whatever she says that is tacky or unkind...it frustrates HER and makes ME look like the angel that I am!

Good luck to you. You'll get through this somehow. Just don't take it to heart. It is THEIR problem (and loss) not your own. Love, Kathy

12-22-2006, 07:35 PM
Funny, this sounds soooo much like my big brother and his wife. Only his wife has absolutely no bragging rights as far as background, education or accomplishments. But for her, blood runs much thicker than water, and those that are not 'her' family are just not very important in her life. Unfortunately, my brother has always allowed the non-inclusive behavior to continue unchallenged. Our dad is goine now and mom has advanced Alzheimer's Disease, so it's too late to do anything about it now. My brother and I are fairly close; we talk a lot because we both visit our mom several times a week. But, we probably wont even see each other over the holiday - and he lives in the same town! Such a shame. Make the most of the time you have with your brother, and don't blame him too much. He's painted into a pretty tight corner and it would probably be hard for him to change things.

12-23-2006, 07:15 AM
I will work on letting go of it. It won't be easy -- but it really is what I have to buck up and do.

12-23-2006, 09:12 AM
It's hard - no doubt about it. I've been having Christmas with my in-laws for years now and still haven't developed a warm relationship with them - just finally had to accept that I'd have better success thawing an Artic glacier than my MIL! So I finally stopped trying to change myself to please her - it's a lot less stressful that way.

12-24-2006, 02:27 PM
I would gladly trade your brother for mine any day.....

My brother (my only sibling) conned me and stole at every opportunity in his life.

Tried to molest my 8 year old daughter (now an adult).

Tried to pull an insurance scam and lit my mothers house on fire with her in it, (she escaped, just).

Took advantage of my mother at every opportunity (he was her shining star) and she believed in him and trusted him even when she almost died in a house fire.

Stole every cent my mother had once she went into a nursing home and then spent the money all on himself leaving her without and never saw her once he got all the money.

Left her in the nursing home after she died without so much as a phone call as to what happened to her body.

Left her estate bankrupt with no money to pay for burial expenses and my mother was a wealthy woman.

Guess who picked up all those pieces?????? Do you want to trade????

12-24-2006, 02:49 PM
Don't things like that make you wonder if maybe he got switched at birth, and your real brother is living with some other family? Every time I think I've seen the lowest people can go, I hear a story like this that makes me realize I haven't. I am so sorry for what you've endured - even sadder for your mom.

12-27-2006, 11:15 AM
I'm sorry to hear about your brother... I don't want to trade either of them... Yes my brothers are fantastic! And I am really lucky and do appreciate that. I joke that of course as the oldest sister -- I trained them to be that way.

They are both incredibly intelligent, hard working guys who take an active role in their kids lives and projects around the house -- but have very demanding careers as well. And they treat their wives and kids like gold.

As a matter of fact -- they are so great -- that few men I have dated measure up to them. (Nothing wierd implied here.)

Anyhow -- I wasn't looking for a "Brady" lifestyle. It just hurts to be shut out. But I'm dealing and moving on....

psalm 56 3
01-05-2007, 12:00 PM
It sounds to me like your sister-in-law may be jealous of you, or perhaps even threatened by you. That is not uncommon given you are the only female in your family (siblings) and it is sad that people can be like that. I would try and not allow it to consume me. Enjoy what time you have with your brother. Keep in mind, he knows what sacrafices the two of you are making. The best piece of advice I know to give is, pray for her. Ask God to soften her heart and to open her eyes to the pain she is causing. I know all do not believe as I do, but God has not lead me astray yet. I will pray for all of you.....