ETA: Mine will be up sometime this weekend, at another blog. If you want to read it, feel free to email me and I'll send you the link.
When the man-who-would-be-Hubbz and I started to really get serious, we used to talk about lucky we were that our families were so great, so supportive, so non-drama-causing. We had friends whose own families or future in-laws would do the most selfish, meanest, rage-inducing things to them. And it broke my heart to see my friends suffering at the hands of their own families. Hubbz would just sit back and say, “If that happened to me, I’d say ‘Screw you. You don’t support my new wife? That’s your problem.” Cough, cough, ahem… if only.
My struggles with my ILs, my FIL in particular, are well documented on my own blog. But I always feel that I have to restrain myself because my husband will stop by from time to time unannounced. He claims it’s to check in on me to see how I’m doing when he’s traveling (I suffer from depression and am not always great at expressing myself and how I’m feeling to him), but more often that not, his visits correspond with an incident with the ILs that has set me off and we end up in a fight because Why didn’t I just tell him what was wrong? He has to find out by reading my blog? Something that anyone else in the world can read?
Well, yes. Actually. Because that’s the only place I feel safe in honesty and openly expressing myself. You see, he never says “Screw you” to his family when they treat me like shit or act inappropriately. He says “They didn’t mean it. That’s how they are. You have to deal with it.” And I can’t imagine a less supportive thing.
They are a clan, Hubbz and his family. They lived on the opposite end of the country from their extended families during their formative years as a family and they are a tight-knit gang of four. And they can do no wrong. If you ask them, at least.
Hubbz and I have never had bigger arguments than when we butt heads about his family. And he always takes their side, even when he says he’s taking my side. Because he never actually does or says anything to try and change their attitude or behavior.
My FIL is openly hostile to me at times, to the point where I’ve been brought to tears (in private, I wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of crying in front of him). Hubbz says he understands why I’m upset and that his dad was out of line. But only to me. Never to him. FIL disguises his passive-aggressiveness with laughter. If he says something nasty, but does it with a smile on his face, he can always fall back on the “What? I was only joking” excuse if I ever push back.
It’s gotten to a point where I am actively resentful of him and everything he says and does. I I question the motives behind every conversation, every suggestion. And I absolutely dread spending time with my ILs. I expect our get togethers to go badly, and they often do. Self-fulfilling prophecy? Perhaps. But I can only let so much go. I can only ignore the veiled insults and second guessing for so long.
Every decision we make in our lives – for ourselves, for our children, for our family in general – he feels the need to comment on. He treats his children as though they are incapable of making a decision unless he first points out every single obvious question they should answer or issue they should consider. He is an over-bearing know it all, who, more often than not, knows absolutely nothing about what he’s talking about. He’s an obnoxious blowhard who always has to be the center of attention, even at the expense of his own grandchildren. He’s controlling and domineering over his wife and children, and it absolutely makes my skin crawl.
I know he has a lot of good qualities as well, but it is very hard for me to see them most days. I find myself wondering what our life will be like after he’s gone and we’re no longer under his thumb, and I know that makes me a horrible person. I would never wish ill of him, but I have to say there’s a part of me that will be breathing a sigh of relief when the sad day comes.
It’s that bad. And I can’t talk to Hubbz about it because he just gets defensive and starts pointing out things my family does to irritate him. Oh really? My dad is a low-talker, so it’s hard for you to have a conversation with him? And no one in my family likes sports so you don’t have anyone to talk to at family gatherings? Wah wah… at least no one is flinging passive aggressive arrows directly at you. And only you.
That’s what gets me. No one else gets this treatment. My BIL – the other member of the family by marriage – gets treated like a second class citizen along with me, and my boys get the shaft in terms of time and attention. But no one else gets attacked so directly.
And I don’t know what I did to deserve it. Other than be myself. And stand up to him. And be sarcastic and joke around with him and – gasp! – not treat him like he walks on water or put him on a pedestal. I treat him like I treat every one else I know. But the difference is his self-esteem is so wrapped up in feeling revered and being the center of attention that he doesn’t know how to take my ribbing and well-meaning barbs.
Now, I will say that 90% of our interactions are perfectly pleasant. But the 10% that isn’t has just ruined our relationship. They put me in therapy. Well, not literally. But last year when I was in therapy, after I got through the initial issues I was trying to work through, the remaining time was spent talking about them. What they did to undermine my parenting. What they said to me or about me. I finally had to quit because I could bitch about my ILs to my girlfriends over cocktails. I didn’t need to pay someone $150 for that. That, and the more I talked about it, the madder I got. I wasn’t able to just talk about it and move on like I can with other issues. The talking about it only brought it closer to the surface and made me realize how powerless I am do do anything about it. I finally resigned myself to the fact that I’m just going to have to take it – with a smile on my face – to keep Hubbz happy and to not impact my boys’ relationship with their grandparents.
I don’t really know how to end this, other than to thank Julia for letting me spew a little bile all over her pretty little place in cyberspace. I’ve said things here I’ve never said out loud to anyone. Not my husband. Not my therapist. Not even to my girlfriends over cocktails. And it does feel good to get them out of my head. Maybe I can try to let go a little bit now. Yeah right…MIL’s birthday party is this weekend so I’m in full-on dread mode right now. Pass me the chardonnay folks.