Getting unwanted inlaws to go away
October 14, 2007 8:16 PM Subscribe
How do I handle a perceived threat from an inlaw, and get her and the rest of that family to just go away?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (37 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
First, the backstory: My wife (let's call her Mary) has been estranged from her dysfunctional family by her own choice for the last 15 years or so. The reasons are complex, but the biggie is that as a young child she was abused at the hands of two of her brothers. Eventually the rest of the family was made aware of the abuse, but dealt with it by asking when she was going to "get over it." Eighteen years ago while in therapy, she decided that it was time to cut off all ties with her siblings and father. I should point out that she came from a large family and her mother died shortly before we were married, and all siblings are over 40 now.
Mary's method of staying out of contact has been to simply not respond to any attempts. Fast-forward to the mid '90s. Shortly after we moved across the country, one of her sisters (let's call her Cathy) phoned my place of work and left a rambling voice mail about how she wanted to reconcile with my wife, then sent a couple of handwritten letters along the same lines. My wife then contacted a lawyer, who wrote a cease and desist type of letter, Cathy made no further efforts to contact us at that time. If it matters, we have reason to believe that Cathy has been treated for depression in the recent past as well.
Things had been quiet since then, until this year. Cathy was getting married last month. She somehow found our current mailing address and sent us an invitation. As has been the case with other family communications, the invitation was not responded to. Earlier this week I started getting emails from Cathy. It seemed that she was back to her old ramblings, which were once again ignored. Yesterday's email, however, concerns me.
Here is the email in its entirety (the "Fred" referred to here is me): "I will keep trying. I am not going to go away Fred. If anything happens to you, God forbid, we all want Mary to be able to return to the support of her brothers and sisters. Make this wonderful thing happen Fred. I know that you can."
I'm not sure how to take this, but the first part sounds like a threat to me. Against her better judgment, my wife is considering breaking our silence by writing Cathy a letter to request that she stop contacting us. We've considered getting a restraining order, which might be tough since the words quoted aren't an overt threat and we're over 2,000 miles away from her. I've been tempted to make the emails public by posting them to the web non-anonymously, but am not sure what that would serve. We could go back to silence and see if it works, but are concerned that these attempts to contact keep popping up every 6 or 7 years, and my wife and I would really like it to end.
The bottom line is that my wife has gotten on with her life and just wants no further contact with her family of birth. Has anybody else here been forced to deal with a similar situation? If so, what did you do?
Throwaway email, just in case anybody needs it: firstname.lastname@example.org.