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Reflecting on Keeping Up Relations with the .....IN-Laws

My Thanksgiving visit to both sides of the family up in New Jersey was okay, but it has left me with a deep feeling of sadness. Acceptance, but sadness. I enjoyed seeing my sisters, my brother, my dad, step-father, nephews, nieces and a bunch of other relatives and friends. However, I was happy to return home to Texas to the peace and serenity of my humble dwelling. I was happy to escape from DYSFUNCTION JUNCTION!!

The Thanksgiving visit showed the true colors of two of my unmarried brother-in-laws who happen to be my son's favorite uncles.  One pretended that he never received the e-mail that we were coming up for Thanksgiving as well as pretended that my son never mentioned our visit, so we never even saw him once during our week long visit. My son was angry and disappointed. When this uncle did call us on the phone on Thanksgiving Day, he was in New York City "dog-sitting" for some "friends." Nice to know that his friend's dogs are more important than his one and only nephew and his one and only sister-in-law who is a cancer widow, and this was our ONCE-PER-YEAR visit.  Thanks for making us feel welcome, dude! This guy never answers his cell phone. We learned almost two years ago, while my husband suffered from cancer, not to expect for him to answer his calls nor to expect timely return phone calls. 

The other "favorite" uncle we saw for 15 minutes the first day, but he proceeded to blow us off the next three times we called to try to get together. Then, perhaps he had a change of heart, and we did see him for a couple of hours on our last day there. Then, when he calls our home here in Texas, it seems that he really does not want to speak with me, the widow, only my son. This guy is in his 50's, yet instead acting like an uncle to my 15 year old son, he seems to treat my son as his peer. I have wondered if it is "transference" - that is - he acts like my son is the brother he lost to cancer??? I have to admit, this brother-in-law is moody, angry and .....weird.

My mother-in-law who lives in Puerto Rico, does not remember the date my husband passed or his birthday. It is a one-sided relationship. She never calls, but I call her. I find myself asking myself WHY DO I BOTHER??

It makes me wonder - is it worth even trying to keep in touch with these in-laws??? Death took my husband and I had no choice. However, I feel as if I am NOTHING to my in-laws. My brother-in-laws are all well into their 40's and 50's, none have ever married or ever stayed in a long term relationship nor had children.  I'm trying to be objective, but I have observed a blantant lack of social graces, excessive negativity, a deficiency of relationship skills, and emotional UNavailability. These are things I encountered in my husband as well, but these guys take the cake!

As a widow still raising a child, I thought I should attempt to keep in touch with my husband'ss side of the family. However, now I believe perhaps I should just let the relationships FADE into oblivion. It is not what I really want, but they are hurting my son with their unavailability. 

How long am I supposed to continue keeping in touch when I feel that it is not reciprocated?

Quite frankly, I am ready to throw in the towel.

Thanks for listening.

~Mariposa

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Comment by Mariposa on December 21, 2013 at 5:44am

Thanks everyone for your understanding and support. It is nice to know that I am not alone with this type of situation. (((HUGS!!)))

Comment by Teresa on December 19, 2013 at 7:44am

It sounds simple but it's difficult because obviously you do care.  But keep positive, caring and loving people around you and your son and if the in-laws want to be a part then that's their responsibility.  Concentrate on your well being.

Comment by MrsBooBooBear (Mimi) on December 18, 2013 at 6:44pm

You have enough to do with adjusting to a life without your husband and you have a son. Focus on your son and your healing. If your husband's mother does not even remember the date HER SON died, nor his birthday it seems to say quite a bit about that family! Do what makes you happy and your son too. I am sure your son is terribly hurt by his uncle ignoring him. It is a life lesson, one of the very sad ones. Focus on your side of the family and help your son build meaningful relationships with them. It seems that your in laws are not a close group of people.

You do raise an interesting question with your particular situation. I lost my husband 4 months ago ( how time flew by) and I wondered where I stood with his family members now. Thanksgiving gave me the answer..My BIL is dating one of the caregivers I had when I needed more help. He is so " twitterpated" with this woman that he does not think. He and she had all sorts of plans for Thanksgiving and when his sister heard I was not coming, as I could not drive due to a hip injury and PT on going, she gave him what for! Told him he was wrong..that his girlfriend is new and NOT family. She told him I was married to their brother for almost 37 years and known the family for 40 years and " SHE IS FAMILY. YOUR GIRLFRIEND IS NEW AND WE DON'T KNOW HER" M needs to be here now more than ever having lost her husband, our brother! So plans did change and he was grumpy about it but as R said, " you and Karen can go to Santa Barbara any time you want...and you already have' or some words to that effect. It was so rewarding to know that my husband's family considers me family, one of them. I am blessed. However, I was prepared for just what you are facing and not sure how I would contend with it.

Comment by MsKris12 on December 17, 2013 at 11:51am

 You are not alone in feeling this way Maripsa, I have read posts like this over and over again.  Amazes me how people behave.  I too have dysfunctional in-laws, really just a sister-in-law, who at this moment , also controls my dh mother, which adds difficulty to keeping or not keeping some sort of relationship going.  BC my MIL needs supervision in her aging years, I have become more of a caretaker for my MIL when my SIL wishes to travel/shop than a valued member of the family.   When I express concern for my MIL health or well being, it is dismissed, I even expressed my love for MIL and my SIL response was , " I know you are FOND of mom", no not FOND, I truly love and care very much for her. For 10 years my MIL has spent Thanksgiving at our home. She didn't bother to call or return my calls or text messages as to what the plans would be.  SIL makes no effort to be an active part of my daughter's life (her only niece) , nor my life, not that she really ever did.  And I don' t care about me, my I do care about Madi.  Steve only had THIS sister, no brothers, his father already gone.  Tragic really.  I feel so blessed that I come from a herd , have a herd and will always be part of a herd.  Anyway.  I really needed to read this today and to read the up lifting suggestions.  I too, am going to try and keep in touch without great sacrifice and not be bitter.  Madi is 10 and I don't really allow her on the internet and she isn't a phone talker, but I do have her write thank you notes for gifts, adding up dates of her happenings, maybe that will grow later.  Did I mention SIL home is 800 feet behind mine????  Yay me! 

Comment by Mariposa on December 17, 2013 at 9:42am

Thank you grammy, laurajay, and liz for your support and thoughtful comments.

While I'm tempted to let the relationship fade away, for the sake of my husband's memory and for my son, I'll keep in touch with the in-laws without great sacrifice. I won't go out of my way, but I will encourage my son to call his uncles and his grandma.   ((HUGS!))

Comment by grammy on December 17, 2013 at 5:06am

Maraposa. I agree with laurajay. Stay in touch with this side of the family - if only for your son's sake. These are the people that will be able to tell him things about his father that you may not know.

If you let them fade into oblivion, your son might resent you later. He may think that you did not try to keep the relationship open to the in-laws. Your son is also 15 he is oldest enough to e-mail or keep in contact with his uncles & grandmother. You may have to remind him every once and awhile.

Next time when you go visiting New Jersey. Send each of the uncles a text or e-mail letting them know that you will be town. Give them a couple of dates to meet with them. It is then up to them if they want to meet up. Hugs and prayers to you grammy

Comment by laurajay on December 16, 2013 at 8:04pm

Maraposa.  You want to do whatever it takes to keep love free in your heart.  We do not love others expecting anything in return.  We love them because it keeps us free to the good in life.  Anger, resentment, judgment, expectations  etc wear out our personal resources and as widows we need strength to carry on our grief work.  Stay in touch  without  great sacrifice  because they are your husband's family...your son's too.  But not out of your comfort zone-  just because it is the right thing to do.  You know what they are like so drop the expectations and just be thoughtful.  No reason for you to sour or pass judgment...keep your own counsel  and find additional people to fill your life.  We rarely change other people,  but we can adapt ourselves  to those that do not meet what we feel are decent and thoughtful behavior practices.   Now I do not have a magical formula for doing that  but if I find one I will send it to you.  laurajay.

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