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The other night my husband and I were in the backyard with our dog when our neighbor came over, bringing a rubber ball to our yard, thinking it might be our dog’s. She stayed for a bit to talk, we thanked her for the Christmas candy she shared with us and as she was walking away she stopped and called back to us, “Was the man who died in that car accident related to you? I saw the name and wondered if it was your family?”

My husband turned and looked at me, then as I could see him rallying his strength, he asked her where it happened. When she told him, the color drained from his face. He followed her back to her house where she showed him the newspaper. After a few minutes he came back down the street and called out to me, “Yeah, it was Uncle Bob.”

When we came in the house, I could see the pain in his eyes. I told him I was sorry, but he said, “There’s nothing I can do about it, I can’t change what happened and I’m sad that my Uncle died, that my Aunt is hurting, but what really hurts is that no one in my family bothered to call and let me know, they let me find out from a neighbor.”

My husband’s family on both sides has been less than accepting of him.

We talked this weekend about what ‘family’ means to us, all the things we had discussed when I was so hurt by what his mother and sister did in September.

It’s a shame that both of our families are so divided by resentment, pettiness, and jealousies. My husband’s family has made an issue of the fact that we haven’t kept in touch as much as they would like, but they seem to forget that phones work both ways. They also seem to conveniently forget that my husband works two jobs to take care of his family, his wife is disabled and his son is as well. We’ve had a lot on our plate for the past 17 years. In all that time, we have never asked anyone for help, but they have also never thought to offer help, never thought to ask if we needed anything,not included us in family events or activities.

They’ve expected us to follow them, be aware of what they are doing and what’s been happening in their lives, to chase after them for a relationship, with no thought for our needs or concerns.

My husband has decided that he can’t take any more of their ‘punishment’, their attempts to ‘guilt’ him into behaving the way they want him to, he doesn’t have to meet their expectations and deserves more respect than he’s given.

I’m very proud of him for making the decision to take care of himself and his family, to not allow his family of origin to continue to hurt him, to control or manipulate him.