Throughout my lifetime I’ve experienced a lot of treatment that I thought was less than appropriate or deserved. I’ve felt wounded, have been physically, emotionally and verbally abused, excluded from important life events, been judged and misunderstood, in some cases after years of involvement with people – still not been accepted, and I’ve been discarded.
Even though I’ve experienced so much rejection and hurt, I’ve tried to put bad experiences behind me and start fresh with a number of people. I’ve tried to put hurt feelings behind me and look to the future. I understand, because of my own growth and self-exploration, that people change. People grow, evolve and their continued life experiences change them, sometimes helping them to gain further understanding of things once beyond their comprehension, in other cases, people become more exclusionary, fearing changes and differences.
I know that I’ve done things that have hurt others. When I was younger I really didn’t care much about other people’s feelings. I was blunt, direct and very opinionated. Honest to a fault. I regret some of the thoughtless things I did and said and have tried, whenever possible, throughout the years, to apologize. In many cases, the people I thought I may have hurt, didn’t even remember the insensitive things I had said or done.
I’ve tried to grow, mature, and to think about the feelings of others. I have really made a concerted effort to adjust the way I share, by holding back, thinking about the way I would feel if someone said or did something to me. I’ve searched for other outlets, as a means by which to ‘let off steam’ and to work through bad feelings.
I have been married for nearly 27 ½ years and still do not feel accepted as a member of my husband’s family. I have openly expressed this to them on several occasions. We are often the last to find out about important family events, we have never been invited to a ‘family’ holiday meal, and for the most part haven’t really had much communication with them throughout the years.
In recent years I’ve really tried to create occasions for us to get together as a family. I’ve suggested including my mother-in-law (mil) when we’ve gone to brunch, suggested getting groceries for her and delivering them, asked her to come to dinner, invited her for Thanksgiving, we’ve had her over for Mother’s Day dinner, for Easter and for New Year’s Day. We’ve extended that invitation to include my sister-in-law (sil) and her husband (bil), my husband’s uncle, aunt and our youngest niece and her husband. I’ve pleaded with mil to spend Christmas morning with us, offered for her to stay with us after surgery, etc.
I really feel I’ve tried very hard to put past hurts aside and to keep moving forward.
When we have entertained ‘family’ there have been hurtful and sarcastic things said, even racial comments made (though we adopted a son 15 years ago who is bi-racial, who has special needs and lives with us as an adult).
In the 15 years since we adopted our son, there were only two occasions when ‘family’ attended a birthday party for him and not one member of our family has ever come to our home at Christmas time to spend time with him. My sil ‘babysat’ him one time when he was 7 or so. Not one of my in-laws has ever taken him out shopping, to a movie, a parade, for a picnic, nothing.
These things hurt us, hurt us terribly, but we decided we could never go back, couldn’t make anyone be the person or people we wished they would have been. Rather than hold on to those hurts and to keep them from preventing us from having an opportunity for ‘family’ interaction in the future, we put those things aside. We kept creating ways we could all be together, kept extending invitations.
Recently it became apparent to me, after seeing my oldest niece and wanting to reconcile with her (there has been a long separation as the result of a horrible letter she sent me more than a decade ago), asking my sil to try to facilitate that, that I did still harbor resentment toward my sil for not properly handling the situation when it happened. When she continued to refuse to do anything to help reopen the lines of communication it really triggered the feelings from all those years ago, feelings of not understanding why she didn’t communicate back then, why she didn’t talk to her daughter, reassure her that her aunt would never have intentionally ignored her or hurt her, that there were many things going on at the time and she would need to be patient. Lack of communication and a kind of ‘self-imposed’ isolation by my husband’s family members has really hindered any level of understanding or relationship between us.
This past weekend my mil revealed that she blamed us for ‘cutting her out of our lives’ after we got married. I told her we always thought she cut us out of her life and she quickly responded, “I did.” She has been holding resentment for 27 years toward my husband for not writing her while he was in basic training. He hardly wrote to me, we talked on the phone more than he wrote because he’s not a ‘letter writer’. Somehow she attributes his lack of ‘attention’ to being with me, or that I controlled everything he did, even when hundreds of miles separated us.
I have pleaded with her at numerous times throughout our relationship to please be a mother to me. My own mother is not part of my life, I really just wanted to feel accepted. My husband had confronted her and asked her, many years ago, why she did things for and with his sister, but didn’t seem to ever be interested in us and told me she responded by telling him she knew his sister still needed her, she wasn’t having an easy time of it, but that he didn’t really need her, she was proud of him for taking care of himself.
At our 25th Wedding Anniversary I gained some insight into what all that was about… as she had given odds on how long we would last as a couple when we were first together. She told us and others that we would never last more than 6 months, she would give it 2 years at the outside, but it would never last. Here we are more than a quarter century later and still together, have a wonderful son, a beautiful home, happy and contented. She had been very wrong. She looked foolish to anyone who remembered her ‘predictions’.
It had hurt me for a long time that someone would bet against their own child’s happiness rather than be supportive, but understanding that my mil had been married twice, both marriages ending in divorce, had a daughter who had been married three times and divorced twice, having the youngest member of the family succeed when you told them they would fail, has to be a hard pill to swallow.
There has been and is apparently a lot of resentment toward us that has never been resolved. I’m not sure how many people could have dismissed being told you will never last, you’ll fail, and just continued to move forward.
There was resentment expressed toward my father and family of origin over something that happened approximately 50 years ago.
Never letting go of old wounds only causes the hurt to fester, it keeps us from moving forward, from growing and maturing emotionally. It never allows us to experience and enjoy the company of other people.
I have let go of so many hurtful things that have been said and done. I’ve had to, in regard to my in-laws, because my husband wanted to keep the lines of communication open on his side. I’ve put my own hurt feelings aside, I’ve allowed my child to be hurt and ignored so that some sort of ‘connection’ could remain intact.
We are always told to put what’s passed in the past, to not dwell on the past, but live in the here and now and focus on the future. I realize, now more than ever before, that in some cases, to protect oneself, we also need to put toxic and hurtful people behind us. We can’t go through life pretending not to be hurt, not to see the indifference of others, not to recognize which relationships are beneficial to our personal emotional growth and which ones are poison to our psyches.
Conclusion? We have to find a way to let go of the pain, perceived slights, wounds and sometimes even the people of the past that have been detrimental to our emotional well-being if our goal is to be ‘healthy’.