How might I have better conversations with my in-laws?
August 30, 2012 5:06 AM Subscribe
How can I change the conversation dynamic with my in-laws? I'm so frustrated!!! Help!
posted by saturn~jupiter to Human Relations (39 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
So, I have a real problem with my husband's parents. Mainly his father. I don't see them very often, -which is a relief- maybe a handful of times a year. But every time there is an impending encounter, or after a recent encounter, I make snide remarks to my husband about them that more or less express my displeasure at spending time with them. These comments upset my husband but I still make them.
I was wondering why I am compelled to make rude comments about his parents when I know it upsets him. And I think to myself, why can't I just endure it a few times a year and be nice about it? Is that so hard? But I just always feel compelled to say something rude about them.
So I am thinking about this. And I realise I have some anger towards them, because of the way I feel when I'm around them, which is completely un-self-expressed. I feel like I have no freedom of expression around them at all. I feel stifled and frustrated by this and it makes me hate hanging out with them.
The reason for my complete lack of self expression when I am around them is that they are TERRIBLE conversationalists. (Maybe you are thinking, who are you to judge what is a good or terrible conversationalist? But I know I am a good conversationalist. I pride myself on this fact. I am a good listener. It's my thing, okay? I have been told it many many times throughout my life. I love listening and drawing people out. I love the give and take of a good conversation. I am interested in what people have to say. I enjoy exploring ideas with another. I am conscious of not interrupting. You know, basic human etiquette.)
I have many friends with whom I have conversations that are very satisfying. I am aware that a conversation works when people take turns to talk and listen.
My husband's parents seem not to be aware of this. They do not listen. They will ask a question and when you begin to respond they cut you off and just keep talking themselves as though they knew exactly what you were going to say.
My father-in-law is a very successful academic. He is a professor. He is very esteemed in his area. He is a man. (he is someone who has been listened to by all and sundry his whole life.) He converses with you as though he knows it all and has nothing to learn from anybody (or at least not me). He asks a question as though he is curious but does not give you any chance to reply.
So, having learned that this is how it is, I dont even attempt to respond thoughtfully to anything I am asked, I just give the quickest shortest response because I know I will get cut off regardless.
I refuse to be a competitive, aggressive conversationalist and talk over him and force him to listen to me. This holds no interest to me. I don't want to try and make someone listen to me if they don't want to.
So I find the experience of hanging out with them, and having my words cut off and interrupted hour after hour, completely … infuriating. And demoralising. I just feel so... un-heard, and it makes me feel kind of crazy. Because feeling un-self-expressed for hours on end makes you feel sort of powerless.
It is the same with my husband, who is a fairly quiet person, very smart and interesting and has a lot to say but will not say it unless somebody shows interest. His father does to him what he does to me – asks him questions and then cuts him off. It enrages me almost more seeing him do it to my husband than when he does it to me, because I just want him to fucking listen to what his son has to say for once in his life. My husband acknowledges that his father does this and is not a good conversationalist, but still defends his father when I complain about him and wants to see him and gets offended why I say rude things about him.
So, I know my father-in-law is not a “bad person”, I can see that he loves my husband, and me, and our daughter. But I just find his conversational arrogance extremely hard to bear and it really makes me resentful of spending time with him. I know that I should change the dynamic, I know I'm being a whinger, that I shouldn't be a victim, and I should take responsibility and stop complaining about feeling powerless and do something different... But I don't know what to do! I seriously don't know how to make it different! How do I break this pattern???
Has anyone ever felt this way with someone in your life and have found a way to change the dynamic?? I often fantasise about losing my shit mid-lunch and screaming “Just let me fucking finish a sentence for once!” but I don't know if I would ever do it or if it would even be a good idea.
Does anyone have ANY constructive advice here???