Once again our ‘family’ issues have reared their ugly head and we find ourselves at a ‘crossroads’ of sorts. We have been here before, it’s a place I don’t like to visit, but sometimes, as I’m learning through some very tough lessons, it’s a place you come to on your journey.
Many years ago, when my niece wrote me a hateful letter, while I was already spread very thin, trying to help my sister, managing my grandmother’s finances and living situation, helping my aunt and uncle who were struggling financially, dealing with my physical disability and trying to manage the emotional fall out of surviving child abuse and the abandonment of my family of origin, as well as help a long time friend and her son and handle my son’s special needs and educational placement, I made the decision that I had to prioritize, that there were things in my life that needed my immediate attention and others, like the selfish demands of my oldest niece and the unwillingness of my youngest niece to compromise a little, that couldn’t be assigned a great deal of importance. I decided to focus on my immediate family, where I was most needed and let the rest of it wait until a time when I was better able to deal with all of that.
My husband and I came to the conclusion that this was the right thing to do, he encouraged me to put some distance between his family and us, that I did NOT have to accept the treatment I was getting from them, the disrespect and hatefulness being expressed. He told me he was through as well, if they couldn’t accept me and treat me with respect then they were ultimately disrespecting him as well.
Neither of us understood why all their anger and resentment was aimed at me, as he had been instrumental in making the decisions that my oldest niece had taken exception to.
I, my friends and my support group (at the time) all believed it was easier for his family to point fingers of blame at me, to assign me the fault for any family fall outs that included us because I was the ‘outsider’ as they had never fully accepted me. When my husband and I married and struck out on our own, there was very little contact from his family and to be honest, we didn’t reach out to them much either. We were struggling to get by, to make a life of our own, and trying to do it without asking anyone for help.
During the decade that followed the decision to just distance ourselves from them and take care of the most pressing of our responsibilities my husband continued to talk to his family members when he saw them in public, stopping to carry on lengthy conversations or to just say ‘hi’, though he told me the best thing for us to do was to shut them out.
This hurt me, for a couple of reasons, the first being that he had been as responsible as I for making the decisions that so infuriated my oldest niece, bringing about that letter, yet she had no problem with him, continued to have a relationship with him and secondly, he had told me he was tired of all their petty nonsense and it was better for us to just walk away for a while… which I did, but in reality, he had not done, which on the surface would give them reason to justify their ill will toward me because I was not involved, but he was.
We had many discussion about this dynamic that had been created. I felt like he was dishonest with me in telling me that he was through with them, that he felt when they hurt me they were hurting him too, that he just wanted them out of his life, as he clearly didn’t mean what he said if he was having a ‘hush-hush’ relationship with them behind my back. I told him he wasn’t being honest with them either if he was telling me that he wanted them to just leave him alone and to be done with them, but was ‘making nice’ to their faces. It seemed to me that he was contorting himself into a position that he would eventually be caught in, that was going to hurt everyone around him.
Things happened in his family that I thought required him to reconcile with his sister, though I didn’t know they had continued to have a relationship while he was telling me he wanted nothing to do with her… HA HA, the joke sure was on me. I pushed him to have his sister over, to see if we could mend things… though she was adamant that nothing from the past would be discussed, we did begin to see her again.
This brings us to recent events. I, and my son, who had always felt neglected and ignored by my husband’s family, reached out and tried to solidify a ‘new’ relationship with my husband’s sister. I agreed, though I thought some discussion should have taken place, to allow my youngest niece’s husband to attend our 25th Wedding Anniversary (which we had to throw for ourselves… that spoke volumes), and then I agreed my youngest niece could come to a dinner at our house.
When my youngest niece shared that she was pregnant, I jumped into motion, began crocheting baby things, taught her how to crochet so she could make some things for her own baby, was a sounding board of sorts for my sister-in-law who shared all kinds of things about the history of her son-in-law with us, every disappointment she was experiencing as well as every bit of excitement about the birth of her granddaughter. We were visiting regularly, talking on the phone regularly, we worked on a project for the nursery, and she asked me to host the baby shower.
Once the baby shower was over all communication ended on their part, and then the ambush a week ago, when I learned they had been snooping through my personal blogs, the blogs I shared with a circle of other folks who are survivors of abuse, persons with disabilities.
When we left my husband’s mother’s apt. that night he told me in the car on the way home that he was through. He didn’t care how much his mom wanted things to be ‘okay’, what they did was wrong and he was finished with all that insanity. He reminded me, as I cried on the way home, having an anxiety attack, that the 10 years or so when they were not part of our lives was much less stressful, there was much less drama and it just wasn’t worth it.
Since this recent nonsense started over ‘facebook’, and my niece deleted and blocked me from her friend list, my husband removed her from his ‘family list’. I thought he told me he removed her completely… last night, he told me he was still ‘friends’ with her and had not taken any action to restrict her ability to continue to ‘snoop’ in our personal business.
Again, I don’t understand why he’s telling me he’s through with them, supports me, a position I didn’t ask him to take, one he volunteered himself… but yet, he does not discontinue contact.
If one of my family members were to mistreat him, I would not hesitate to stand up to them, to take action, to let them know how I felt about that and if he were excluded, I would not be able to find it in myself to continue to have a relationship with them, because to exclude and/or hurt him is to exclude and/or hurt me.
I think it looks as if he condones their treatment of me, by continuing a relationship with them, especially when he’s telling me he’s through with them. It brings into question, who he’s being dishonest with… me? them? himself? or all of the above.
I have never asked him to cut them off, never asked him to not communicate with them… he has, numerous times, volunteered to take that position, but has not followed through. I don’t understand his point of view and frankly that has become a source of great pain for me… I feel as if I never really know where he stands, where we stand and I find myself hesitating to take his advice on such matters, because it feels as if he is willing to sacrifice me and my feelings so that he never really has to take a stand with his family.
I’m sure he feels like he’s in a difficult spot and perhaps he doesn’t think he needs to take a stand for his wife, but they have mistreated, ignored and been dishonest with our son for most of the 15 years since we adopted him, they have never shown interest in him, his schooling, learning about his disability, nothing. His ‘Grandmother’ doesn’t even have one of his school pictures sitting out in her apartment. I would think if he doesn’t feel the need to ‘defend’ or ‘stand up for’ me, he would at least do so for his son.
What to do, is the current question… how to handle these feelings, whether to speak up or not.