Sunday, October 20, 2013


I don't have the good fortune of having in-laws I get along with.  It is what it is.  We just don't get each other and likely never will.  At first I thought it was a nervousness thing.  In time, I've concluded we are just very different people with vastly different communication preferences. 

By that I mean they don't communicate effectively or at all whereas I like conversation and make an effort to ask questions and find out what's been going on.  In the 10 years I've known them, they have Never asked me how I was doing.  I just get to hear a lot of ramblings about neighbours and their kids, people who I don't know.  It is totally one sided.  Times that by 3 days and I want to kill myself. 

It feels like (is) a huge chore to spend time with them.  I dread it.  I know D would like it if we got along better.  But you cannot force what isn't there.  Plus I don't have much of a tolerance for mediocrity.  It's downright painful to be around them.  And though I've never met her, D's ex-wife felt the same. 

I consider myself to be a fairly decent communicator and have a wide interest base but seriously, I cannot find any amount of common ground outside of some hobbies with D's dad (target shooting and fishing).  If they weren't my in-laws, I'm sure we wouldn't chose to be around each other. 

They just aren't very caring or giving people but insist on a certain amount of "face time" to appease some social norm.  I've managed to duck out of a number of such events because they aren't pleasant and I hate pretending to be interested in something I'm not.  That's not respectful to either party.  I'm at the point where I don't care what they think of me.  The unbelievable part is that they feel they have been so successful in creating a "close and loving" family!

I wish they could be honest with themselves and admit they don't really care about anyone.  That they prefer being alone on their 9 acre property in the middle of nowhere.  It would solve a lot of problems and take the pressure off of everybody.  D is used to having parents who are more into themselves than their children.  His brother is cut from the same cloth but with sarcasm and mean spiritedness added in.  So no, I don't get along with him either. 

D tolerates it because it is what he knows.  After all they aren't "bad" people...He is used to them not caring enough to ask about what's going on and who manages to forget things like him losing his job a week after he told them...A lot of times I get so angry for him.  He just shrugs it off which makes me even more angry.

So am I surprised when they didn't bother to ask how I was doing after I broke my arm?  Not at all.  If they were my real parents, I'd have some serious issues.   

I'm of the school that you teach people how to treat you.  And if you continue to allow someone to treat you like crap, then you are consciously propagating an unhealthy relationship. 


  1. You don't sound yourself at all today MW, best to stay away as much as is reasonably possible |I feel.

    1. This situation doesn't bring out my best, that's for sure -- Bubbles up a few times a year. If and when D and I do fight, 85% of the time, it is about them. There's an unbelievable gap between my/our relationship with them and the rest of our life.

      The situation has been getting better though (very slowly) in the last 7 years as we have communicated what doesn't work for us (ie. no more overnight stays etc.) and what will (meeting half way for lunch/brunch a couple times a year). Keeps things public and as pleasant as it can be.

  2. I dread time with my MIL and FIL too. They don't do ANYTHING (I'm not exaggerating) so the entire time is spent hearing about their dogs (not interesting-I can't even stand their yippy, not house-broken dogs and I'm a dog person). My mother in law is the queen of passive aggression. It used to get under my skin and make me absolutely insane. Somehow, after I had my son, a switch flipped in my head. It's like I couldn't invest the energy in her BS anymore. I ignore her or disagree with her (which I was afraid to do before for some reason). It has improved things immensely from my perspective (don't know about hers-kinda don't care). She is totally fixated on appearances and body size, something I don't care much about at all, but she makes horribly mean comments about my hair, weight, size, and doesn't think anything of them. When I got up the gumption to call her on it once, she said, "I would never do anything to hurt you. I didn't mean anything by it." That's when I realized that she saw those comments as totally appropriate. From that point on, I didn't care if she liked me. I think she does, strangely enough, as she brags about me and my SIL (married to DH's oldest brother) as if we're her own daughters, but I don't care if she approves of me, my appearance, or my parenting. Huge shift for me. I tolerate them a few times a year because I don't want to keep my son from his grandparents (he sees my parents a few times a week, as they live 5 min away and love spending time with him) and they are too far away for day visits only. Unfortunately, they barely interact with my son, so I sometimes wonder why I bother. Funnily enough though, now that my son arrived, DH's frustration with his parents has increased, while mine decreased. I think now that he's a dad, he sees how differently things can be from how he grew up. It's sad really. Yikes-I guess this started a rant of my own. It is certainly a touchy subject, and you are not alone in your frustrations. I'm so envious of people who have easy-to-get-along-with inlaws (like my husband-ha ha). I am just grateful that they live far away and I don't have to have much contact! Glad you were able to negotiate some tolerable boundaries to your relationship.

    1. Oh the conversations we could have...

      A large part of the angst and resentment I felt/feel is from my going crazy trying so hard to "get" them and integrate with them in the first 3 years. After all it couldn't be so different from what I would do in a foreign country...Boy was I wrong. I've worked through a lot of the scars since but it still twangs.

      Communication is the number 1 thing D and I work on. We both have moments where our respective upbringings rears its ugly head in the way we behave . Over the years D has gotten a lot less defensive when I would point out sometimes scary similarities and has made great strides to rid himself of habits that don't serve. Despite both of us being the black sheep of our families, it's difficult to realize the depth to which those early familial associations can run.

      At this point in my life, I don't accept "mother/father/family/in-law" cards as an excuse for inappropriate behaviour. If they want a relationship with me, they will have to be reasonable. I don't expect the moon, but I do expect decent and polite. Totally over the idea that they will grow and change. They don't want to so they won't. I will only see them when my gut tells me I have enough energy to handle it as I get nothing from being around them.

      They tell D that they miss me when I do not show up for lunch. I don't believe them but lately I've gotten my head around the idea that perhaps just having someone show up is all the quality or quantity they need out of a relationship. They too use what I do for a living, our lifestyle and the list of all the places I travel to as conversation currency.

      Those hurtful physical comments is something my side of the family (Grandmother) is known for. It drove one of my cousins to get plastic surgery at the age of 18. I was so upset for her because there was nothing wrong! The only reason I managed to escape most of those remarks is because they knew I would argue back and make them justify their words. I can't believe your MIL would dare say things like that. Zero filter!

      I often wonder why it is that this part of my life had/has to be so hard and what am I doing to attract this, what is the lesson in all this etc. It has made me stronger but sometimes I just think "come on already!" It is exhausting to have to fight for everything. And to think how many people who don't really know us think we have it "so easy".

      It's a great thing your husband is seeing his parents in a more "true" light. Because there is significantly more impact/weight coming from their son. I wish you continued strength! Feel free to rant anytime. We should start a support group for Reasonable Women With Unreasonable In-Laws... : )

    2. I love your last line :) I think that support group would be wildly popular! I think you're so right about the depth of early familiar associations-even after 16 years together, DH and I will sometimes comment on something that seems so strange to one of us, but the other sees as "normal", due to our upbringing. I guess it's one of the challenges of being in a marital relationship to negotiate your own path together, which can be easier or harder, depending on how you grew up. Well said about excuses for inappropriate behaviour-you're right! I think that's why I stopped putting up with some of the passive-aggressive junk. I don't tolerate it in other relationships, why did I for so long with this one? Oh the conversations at that could occur at the support group...

    3. I tolerated it because I didn't want to come across as someone who wasn't a "team player" and I honestly wanted to give them/myself a chance. After all they were going to be my extended family unit. What I shouldn't have done was so openly trusted the idea that "everyone is inherently good" thus making myself completely vulnerable to all the craziness.

      Meeting them to the extent that they were able to meet me would have been a healthier strategy. When I finally realized what I was getting into, I mistakenly thought that I could somehow influence or facilitate more openness being it was something I felt I was good at -- Something I could bring/add to the family unit. Again, was shut down.

      So now I feel like I'm coming across to them like I am taking a hard line with respect to visit frequency. But for me, it is self preservation time. I don't expect them to grasp the depth to which I've agonized over my relationship with them or appreciate the efforts I've taken. I'm OK with being misunderstood and labeled the "bad guy" because I feel I've really given it my all.

  3. How about the possibility that they feel inferior to you? You seem an accomplished , educated woman, you travel to very interesting places, you have your own business(?) that gives you a good income, you have "exotic" hobbies ( ballet ,violin, etc), you make your own decisions etc - that makes you quite unique. ( plus it's the reason I read your blog:-)). As I get older I see that envy is a motor for a lot of our actions - be them good or bad. - either it stimulates you to do better, to take more action, achieve the same results OR it can make you do mean things ( snide comments, gossip, backstabbing etc). It might not apply at all to your inlaws, but it might explain the weird attitude.

    1. Corina, you made me blush! Thank you for your kind words. I don't look at myself as doing anything out of the ordinary -- Just someone who is moving towards what moves me. I'm sure there are tonnes of people who wouldn't care for the way I live.

      When I reached out to D for his opinion on your question, we disagreed on how primary or secondary it may be but he felt you were on to something. Some of the things he says about me below is embarrassing so please keep in mind, he is my husband and to take his descriptions with a grain of salt.

      > I don't think jealousy is the motivation, intimidated would be a
      > better word.
      > My mother went to a one room school house in a town with a population of
      > 300?
      > You have 2 degrees. My parents have their high
      > school equivalency.
      > You travel to foreign countries SOLO. Adventurous for the them is
      > going to an all inclusive resort they have never been to WITHOUT
      > people they know.
      > You can passably speak several foreign languages and are not
      > intimidated by not knowing a language.
      > You were born in a foreign country, not the USA.
      > You are very attractive and definitely exotic -- meaning you don't sport a bleach blond bob, >rectangular glasses, clam diggers.
      > You have (at least to others) unlimited confidence.
      > You are extremely intelligent and can speak knowledgeably on countless
      > subjects.
      > They have pretty much had the same friends for the past 30 years, and
      > very seldom meet anyone new/not exactly like them.
      > You do not need external validation by others, whereas my mother can
      > not function without it.
      > You own 3 properties.

      Whereas my answer to their "weird attitude" can be summed up in one word -- Alcohol. It explains how and why they behave the way they do.

      I don't believe I've ever spoken to them in a way that would make them feel small. Honestly you know more about me than they ever will so there isn't much they currently know that could make them feel inferior or intimidated about. When I am with them I don't talk about myself and they don't ask. So we just sit around and eat and we get to listen to an assortment of mostly meaningless words. As I said, it is what it is.

    2. I can't resist adding to the list: "And you take helicopter flying lessons..."


    3. Finally!!! Something truly worthy of the list... : ) Thanks for remembering.