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Topic of Concern (*air quotes*)

I need to vent!

I’ve been married to my DH for almost 15 years.  We have 2 great (I mean GREAT) kids – boy 11 and girl 7.  I stay at home and enjoy teaching my kids to become kind, upstanding, resourceful, respectable, independent future adults. 

My MIL, FIL, and 2 SILs and their 2 husbands seem like upstanding, loving, concerned people on the surface.  I think it’s a show.  They talk about each other behind each other’s backs under the guise that they’re “concerned” about whomever is the topic of the moment. 

I’m often told how I’m equal to the other children in the family and my opinions matter but when I give my 2 cents, unless it’s what they want to hear, I’m punished for it and so is DH.

Years ago, one SIL (age 22) was contemplating adopting a 6 year old child currently in foster care and with many emotional issues.  MIL and FIL made this a topic of choice whenever SIL wasn’t around – much concern, too young, not experienced with how to help an emotionally scarred child, etc… much wringing of hands as to what to do.  They seemed genuinely distressed and worried for her. 

I have experience with adoption of an emotionally scarred 6 year old child (my own younger brother).  I grew up watching my two very well educated, financially sound, well meaning, experienced parents try to help my brother grow up as well adjusted as possible given that his first 6 years of life were hell.  It was a very large strain on their marriage and our life as a family.  I thought this information might be helpful to SIL, especially since she would be a single mom, young and fresh out of college with very little real life experience or a bank account (for therapy) to draw on.  I relayed some of the trying moments and years my parents faced with my brother.  I thought my sharing my experience would be appreciated by FIL and MIL, if no-one else.  Dumb move on my part.  She didn’t want to hear it.  It “upset her” that I would talk to her like that.  She stopped speaking to me and ranted at MIL, FIL and DH about how “hurt” she felt.  MIL, FIL, and SIL2 declared me “insensitive.”  DH supported me but took lumps for it.  To this day, if I say anything they don’t want to hear, they remind him of my “insensitivity.”

Well, SIL did adopt this child (Nephew1).  Then, she married a BIL1 who really didn’t want to raise Nephew1.  Nephew1 has lived in group homes the last 8 years (he’s 20 now) under state care on the other side of the country from SIL and BIL and their since born children.  FIL and MIL raise this as a “topic of concern” when SIL and BIL are not around.  I say as little as possible.  They want to know why I’m so distant. “Why doesn’t she like us?” they ask.

At last year’s New Year’s Dinner, SIL and BIL skipped the family dinner and went to a hotel to celebrate their anniversary.  MIL asked one of their children to call them to ask permission for something.  SIL yelled at MIL over the phone for interrupting her and her husband while they were having sex.  As if that wasn’t bad enough, FIL thought it appropriate to  relay the whole story to the rest of the family (me, DH, SIL and her husband AND SOME GRANDKIDS!).  Remember, this is FIL’s daughter he’s talking about!  What topic would he be willing to raise about a lowly daughter-in-law?!  I did not open my big mouth.  They asked DH why I was so quiet and not willing to engage with them. They asked if I was depressed.  Suggested I talk to someone.

When SIL2 and BIL2 aren’t around the “Topic of Concern” is BIL2’s temper.  They see MIL and FIL the most often and I think he just has to let off steam at times. For the most part, they agree wholeheartedly with MIL and FIL’s opinions on “Topics of Concern.”  It’s a little sickening.  Again, I try to say as little as possible. 

MIL, FIL, SIL and SIL2 repeatedly, together and separate, ask DH what my problem is.  They want to know why I don’t “open up” to them about the intricacies of my life. I’m just guessing, but I’m pretty sure when I’m not around, this a “Topic of Concern.” 

I try to chuckle about it sometimes but it affects DH.  This is his family – the people he knew his whole life.  He’s the oldest.  He wants his parents to be pleased with him.  He can’t win because I can’t win with them.  He’s a really good guy.  He wants to “do the right thing” but what is that in this situation?

Just last night, SIL2 told him over the phone that he doesn’t appreciate their parents enough.  She essentially said I have influenced him in his negative thoughts about MIL and FIL as grandparents (they’re very hands off and neither DH or I appreciate driving many hours to visit them only to have them say they’re off to a party or lecture or one of the other countless “adults only” events they go to).  We’re both fed up with MIL and FIL promising outings to the kids only for them to bow out and then we “make it up” to the kids with our own outing.  I do not say this to MIL, FIL, SIL or SIL2.  I keep my mouth shut.

Thank God we only see these people 3-4 times a year.   DH was upset after his SIL2 told him he’s too hard on MIL and FIL.  Apparently, I’ve been insensitive again.  I asked how.  I don’t “open to them.” They “feel” I’m distanced.  DH wants me to fix this.  Any advice?


10 responses »

  1. Yes. I would explain to them the reason you keep to yourself is because they made it very clear you’re too “insensitive”. [Give example of trying to relate your family’s experience of adopting a 6 year old boy here, complete with SIL being hurt].

    So, to avoid hurting their feelings, you’d rather keep your opinion to yourself as it’s been made very clear that, apparently, you’re just too damned insensitive.

    It won’t sink in with these people, and thankfully you ONLY see them 3-4 times a year. But I’d at least put it out there that you tried to help with relevant information only to be spurned.

    I know what you mean. My ILs are so emotionally volatile I can’t speak to them on certain issues. Or, I can, if I just nod and agree with them. My DH is the ONLY one who knows how to handle them.

    I wish you all the best with this – update when you can and good luck! 🙂

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