Kill 'em with kindness strategy is not going to work on me.
March 4, 2015 7:21 AM   Subscribe

Have I lost perspective here?

This question contains a saga. If you don't want to hear about somebody else's family drama, stop reading here :)

Over a year ago, a family member made a decision that was extremely offensive to me. The family member expressed unwillingness to support my husband's new business. Family member questioned his competency and stated that he needed to prove himself before the person would consider being supportive. Support requested by my husband was not financial, it was a request that family member share information about the business to their network of friends and contacts.

My husband sat down with family member a couple months later to try to understand their decision as we were both very surprised by it. Family member got very upset during conversation and began referencing situations from when my husband was a teenager (he is 43 now) and how he hadn't managed emotions well then. Family member expressed hurt feelings around a number of issues from years past. Family member was not able to stay on topic, was defensive and generally not respectful during the conversation.

After that conversation, I decided family member didn't have a place in my life. My husband eventually agreed. We have not been in communication with or seen this person since last spring. Family member has contacted both of us repeatedly by text, email, ecards, and gifts and we have never once responded. Never has this person attempted to address the issue between us; the communications are more of the "kill 'em with kindness" variety. This person likes to send us chatty, cheery, superficial messages and pretend this issue between us doesn't exist.

If you are bored to tears right now, I totally understand. I'm bored to tears by this myself. I'll force myself to get to the question now.

I did not value my relationship with this person before this happened and am relieved to not be in contact but I find myself getting really frustrated by their continued messaging. Their messages feel invalidating and disrespectful. If I haven't responded to you in months and months, it means that I don't want anything to do with you. Family member apparently can't or won't digest this. Question is, have I lost perspective here? I've become so focused on the person's tenacity that that has become the major issue now. I question whether to tell them to stop contacting me because I don't want to feel that I was bated into speaking to them.

I have been tempted to suggest to family member that addressing the issues might benefit all of us (and other family members who are caught in the middle). And then I realize that micromanaging this person's efforts to rectify things are not my responsibility. I have no idea if this could get resolved, am open to a conversation about it, and realize that it would likely create a nothing more than cordial relationship at best.

Question again: Have I lost perspective here? What is the more important issue (lack of support initially or the bating behavior)? Would there be value in sitting down with this person to tell them blatantly how I feel (though then I'm reacting to the person's reactivity)? I feel very stuck in this situation and would love some perspective from others out there.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (49 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Is this person your blood relative, or your husband's? If the latter, why not let your husband take the lead on handling the situation?
posted by Scram at 7:30 AM on March 4, 2015 [4 favorites]

I'll be honest, I can't really figure out why the family member deserved to be cutoff. For refusing to "share information about the business to their network of friends and contacts"? The only kind of business I could imagine that would ask a person to do that is some sort of MLM-scheme, and I would make the same decision as your family member to not get involved. If you're cutting them off as part of carrying out your ongoing grudge about that, I would call that a poor decision on your part. Why not just let it go? Really ask yourself that question. You don't have to be close to them, you don't even have to be in contact, but why continue to be mad about it? Does it do anyone any good?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:32 AM on March 4, 2015 [94 favorites]

I know this is not what you want to hear, but one thing I am not hearing is empathy for your family member.

Family member got very upset during conversation and began referencing situations from when my husband was a teenager (he is 43 now) and how he hadn't managed emotions well then. Family member expressed hurt feelings around a number of issues from years past. Family member was not able to stay on topic, was defensive and generally not respectful during the conversation.

Clearly this person, whether rightfully or not, had reasons to not share out information to his or her network. You asked this family member a favor and he or she didn't do it. I do think it is a little extreme to cut off this person from contact as a result.

This person clearly still wants a relationship with you guys.

The question for you and your husband is if you want to resolve the root issues - the ones that upset this family member many years ago. Or if you want no relationship at all, of which you simply just need to ignore his or her attempts at communication - eventually they will go away.
posted by pando11 at 7:33 AM on March 4, 2015 [7 favorites]

Really the only thing I see your family member having done wrong here is being very defensive and getting off-topic when your husband asked them to explain their previous behavior. But in their defense, I don't understand why your husband made such a big deal about their not offering support; lots of people would be reluctant to advertise an unproven business to their contacts. And were they blindsided by your husband's question?

One big question: what could this person do that would make you consider this matter resolved? What kind of "rectification" would be appropriate? I guess they could apologize for being weird in a conversation eight months ago?

If you want to cut this person off to the point of not receiving messages from them anymore, it's your right, but it looks like you're going to have to be explicit about it and say, "I'm still angry about your failure to support Husband's business, and I don't want to be in contact with you anymore." That seems wildly out of proportion to me, but I'm not you.
posted by mskyle at 7:34 AM on March 4, 2015 [13 favorites]

I have been tempted to suggest to family member that addressing the issues might benefit all of us

It's a positive thing that husband and family member began to discuss their past relationship and clear the air. I think they should continue with that process. Granted, the cheery emails are annoying. I think your husband should begin a more constructive email chain of his own and explicitly raise the issue of whether after all these years, husband and family member can begin to trust each other again.

Unfortunately, the initial contact was derailed by the dispute over not receiving the family member's support of the new business. Put that aside. A business should not depend on the support of any individual; it should stand on its own. (Your question doesn't indicate that such support was initially promised and then withdrawn.)
posted by JimN2TAW at 7:34 AM on March 4, 2015 [4 favorites]

It sounds like your family member was uncomfortable mixing business and family, and then tried to hamhandedly explained why, and since you didn't like them that much anyway, you used this as good excuse to cut them out completely.

I'm not saying you need to have a relationship with someone you don't really want to- but it all sounds really dramatic for the situation. Slow fades work a lot better than cold radio silence if you want this to stop without any more drama.

It more sounds like you want that person to KNOW and acknowledged that they did something horrible (or are horrible? If you didn't 'value' them before?) and you can't really do that with less drama. You also aren't garanteed that they are ever going to agree with you, so... It probably would be pretty frustrating on your part.
posted by Blisterlips at 7:34 AM on March 4, 2015 [5 favorites]

If I haven't responded to you in months and months, it means that I don't want anything to do with you. Family member apparently can't or won't digest this. Question is, have I lost perspective here?

In general, you can't expect someone to respect your boundaries if they don't know what those boundaries are. From what you've said here, it sounds like you just stopped communicating with the family member without providing an explanation at all. And if that's true, then that means they're not in a position to know that they're attempting to regain contact inappropriately. If you want to keep this person out of your life, I think you need to tell them to stop contacting you. Tell them once. After that, just take everything they send and put it in the trash.

Would there be value in sitting down with this person to tell them blatantly how I feel (though then I'm reacting to the person's reactivity)?

I don't think you've given us enough information to really answer this. The immediate cause of the rift, to me, doesn't seem that big: to me, sending out information to all my friends and contacts about a family member's husband's new business would be a big deal. I wouldn't be comfortable doing it, even if I thought the business would be a grand success, and I definitely wouldn't feel comfortable doing it, if I thought the business would have some troubles. Without any further details, it seems to me like the request you made of this family member was a bit inappropriate and like their refusal doesn't justify the anger you present here. If the only issue between you, your husband, and Family Member is their refusal of that request, I'd say you and your husband probably owe them an apology rather than the other way around.

But, with that said, it sounds like this wasn't the major source of the rift. Instead, it sounds like just was just the straw that broke the camel's back. That changes things. Maybe you could work out all those background issues if you sat down and expressed your anger, maybe you couldn't. We're not in a position to say, given how we don't know what you are like, what this family member is like, or what those background issues are. Your descriptions of the family member, here, make it sound like you don't actually think further communication would be fruitful. So... Maybe that's your answer.
posted by meese at 7:35 AM on March 4, 2015 [18 favorites]

Not everyone is going to support you in the way you want, and if that results in cutting them off from all communications, then you're going to wind up as an island of two sooner or later.

It sounds like your husband's relative had some deep-seated issues from the past that made him wary of giving his support to your husband. At that time, the thing I would have advised you and your husband to do would be to express any hurt you felt, but agree that any talk of business should stop, then get back to being family.

Starting a business is incredibly hard, and not everyone is going to want to help you, which is why entrepreneurs who last are so rare. I think both you and your husband need to develop a thick skin about engaging with people who don't support you or are seemingly against your interests, in order to not only save your familial relationships, but your business relationships, as well.
posted by xingcat at 7:41 AM on March 4, 2015 [18 favorites]

I have been tempted to suggest to family member that addressing the issues might benefit all of us (and other family members who are caught in the middle).

If you want to actually have a meaningful conversation, I think it's great to suggest that. My concern is that you seem very hurt and angry, to the point of not being able to hear their perspective, and vice versa. You guys could use a mediator or counselor if you could get one.
posted by salvia at 7:46 AM on March 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

Maybe we need to know more about this person being a jerk? Because TBH, it kinda sounds like you are your husband are being bratty.
posted by Blisterlips at 7:48 AM on March 4, 2015 [47 favorites]

If I haven't responded to you in months and months, it means that I don't want anything to do with you.

You state this like it's a known fact -- but there are lots of ways to interpret a lack of reciprocal communication. If you really want to stop family member's communication, you need to tell family member that the missives are unwelcome and ask them to please stop.

That being said though: Yes, you have absolutely lost perspective here. You lost it right at the beginning of your story. Endorsing a person's business to one's network is a HUGE ask -- the network's impression of that person is going to be strengthened or weakened based on experiences with the business, and this is not something that family member could control. I personally wouldn't recommend the business of any of my family members to friends unless I had worked with the business extensively before and been happy and/or the business was already independently successful with 3rd party reviews that I could refer people too, etc.

Family member was entirely reasonable in declining the favour that you asked for. You and your husband sound like you were entirely UNreasonable by demanding an explanation. Family member may have screwed up under pressure when put on the spot and said thing that he/she shouldn't have -- but here's the thing, it's not like Family Member went around talking behind your husband's back or anything, Husband asked about Family Member's concerns, and Family Member told Husband and Husband alone. Maybe Family Member should have been more diplomatic but honestly I can't find a huge fault there.

The situation as it sits now is that Family Member obviously still wants some kind of relationship with the two of you -- the continued communications seem to prove that. You and your Husband seem to be harbouring hurt feelings that I don't, from your description, feel are completely fair.
posted by sparklemotion at 7:51 AM on March 4, 2015 [57 favorites]

I think you are contributing a lot of drama to this situation and leading your husband somewhat reluctantly with you. It was very unfair for you and your husband to demand that the family member use their network to support the business. It sounds like the initial reasons given were totally reasonable. When you asked for more and more reasons the family member brought up some issues from the past, fairly or not. But even if your husband were a perfect person with a genius business plan, you don't know your family member's life. Networks are really valuable (and you seem to appreciate that, otherwise this wouldn't be such a big deal). You wrote that you did not value your relationship with this person before this happened-- so why in the world should they be expected to support someone who doesn't value them?
posted by acidic at 7:51 AM on March 4, 2015 [14 favorites]

I would be extremely hesitant to share information about a family member's business venture with my other family and friends. That's just the way I operate. I don't like using my personal contacts for financial reasons, whether it's to benefit me or even someone else I love (lots of people feel differently and that's totally cool though!). I do my best not to do business with friends or family and I do my best not to involve friends or family in my business. The only situations I would feel otherwise is something like patronizing a family-owned store. I still wouldn't take well to being asked to advertise this kind of thing to other people. I would be offended to be pressured over this, or yelled at or talked to, etc. In that way I think you have lost perspective, in that you guys were in the wrong to begin with for having the "sit down."
posted by sallybrown at 7:53 AM on March 4, 2015 [13 favorites]

I'm sorry to "pile-on" here, but

> Have I lost perspective here?

Frankly, yes, I think you have. It sounds like y'all asked "Family Member" (is there really a reason why you can't say something like "father-in-law" or something that might help us understand the situation better?) for something, but you didn't really "ask", because you weren't willing to accept a "no" from them. It is unclear just how big of an effort it would be for "Family Member" to promote the business, but it could quite possibly be a large effort, and also one that puts "Family Member"'s reputation on the line.

Honestly, I think you would all be better off trying to let this go and attempt to patch up your family relationships.

One thought: you husband's business has been going for a year now? If it's doing well enough, perhaps "Family Member" might reconsider?
posted by doctor tough love at 7:55 AM on March 4, 2015 [8 favorites]

Yeah, I think you've lost perspective. Unless you explicitly stated that you wanted no more contact with family, they aren't baiting. They're doing Exactly what counselors and the good people of askmetafilter suggest when someone wants to keep in touch with over-reactive fighty family - keeping it light, staying in touch. And initial business support, as others have stated, is not something they "owe" anyone.

Rather than sitting them down and telling them exactly how you feel (hurt, unsupported), sit down with your husband (or a therapist) and figure out exactly what you want out of this situation. Is it to never talk with this person again? Then tell them that. Is it to have an easier relationship with the whole family, including those stuck in the middle? Then you should drop it, and try responding to their light and easy communications with some of your own.

I found therapy Hugely helpful when I felt stuck and needed perspective. Your therapist will likely be less harsh than the answers here, but they will help you figure out what you're feeling, why you feel that way, and how you can have better relationships and boundaries in your life - which leads to unstuck happiness!
posted by ldthomps at 7:55 AM on March 4, 2015 [5 favorites]

Yes, you HAVE lost perspective. They're reaching out to you and being nice and you're behaving very badly and ignoring them.

It seems like they didn't want to support this business, they didn't explain their reasons well, and now you've made this DRAMAZ because they're trying to maintain a cordial relationship with you.

If anyone here needs to apologize in all of this, it's you. Pick up the phone, tell this person you're sorry you've been out of touch and ask how they're doing.

Don't talk about the business; they made it clear that they don't want to help and that's their prerogative and that's FINE. Family members don't owe each other financial or business support and they also don't have to justify that decision. Sitting them down and trying to explain WHY they should be supporting the business AFTER they said no is the height of rudeness.

I think both you and your husband owe this family member an apology. And if you've been dragging others into it, you owe them one as well.
posted by kinetic at 7:56 AM on March 4, 2015 [27 favorites]

I wonder if, in your concern for anonymity, you're not leaving out some important details.

Like, if this person was a difficult pill before all this, that gives things a different feel. Or if you asked them "hey, would you mention on Facebook that [husband] is doing some [popular, widely-used service that is low stakes] now" and they refused, that's different from "would you send all your network a press-release-like document of Joe's new accounting business suggesting that they employ him". For the first one, it might be reasonable to be a little miffed - I think a lot of people would be okay with mentioning in passing that Joe is doing electrical work now and would be glad to help out if you need short notice repairs, or something similarly low key.

And when the family member brought up all this stuff, if they did it in a mean way that's different from if they did it in an "um er I just didn't want to spam my friends and now I am really reaching and whoa, now we're way into the weeds" way.

And it's important to know why you didn't value your contact with them before - small differences versus them being a racist mess, for example.
posted by Frowner at 7:57 AM on March 4, 2015 [14 favorites]

I am INSANELY loyal to my friends and family - I would take a literal bullet for them - but I would still not agree to promote a new business the majority of the time. I have many reasons for this (not mixing family and business, finding marketing unsavory, being shy about approaching people, etc.), but it doesn't really matter what they are - no one is ENTITLED to free marketing/promotion/buzz from their family.

They are not in the wrong, except perhaps for not IMMEDIATELY disengaging and deflecting when you demanded to know why they didn't promote your business.
posted by julthumbscrew at 7:58 AM on March 4, 2015 [14 favorites]

It would be helpful to know a bit more. I'm assuming family member is a relative of your husband? How close a relative? Cutting off a second cousin is one thing, cutting off a grandparent or sibling or uncle is something else entirely. There are a couple of things that seem worrisome to me. One is this: I decided family member didn't have a place in my life. My husband eventually agreed. Have you really talked to your husband about whether he wants to keep cutting this person off? Also, this: other family members who are caught in the middle. You may want to be careful about being the one perceived by your husband or others as causing a rift in your husband's family.

Also, if I could favorite what xingcat said multiple times I would. These are wise words.

Finally, I am going to share a story. Let me first say though that I am telling this story not to doubt your husband or his business skill in any way.

Mr. gudrun's father needed money for a business venture, and went to Mr. gudrun's mother's family and friends to ask for money for it. He went behind Mr. gudrun's mother's back, though she probably would have been supportive if he had been up front. Well, things did not work out, and Mr. gudrun's mother had the humiliating task to tell everyone that the money was lost, and they would never be able to pay it back. They pretty much lost everything, and the only way they saved their house was because Mr. gudrun's grandparents bought it. This situation destroyed friendships and relationships and strained family bonds to the breaking point. Mr. gudrun's parents subsequently eventually divorced, partly due to the stress of this situation.

So anyway, I share this because everyone has heard cautionary tales like this, and they are why many people (myself included) make it a policy not to mix family and business for any reason, even if they are the first in line to express their best wishes for the success of the business.

I do see why you are upset on your husband's behalf though, because indeed this aspect of things is upsetting: Family member got very upset during conversation and began referencing situations from when my husband was a teenager (he is 43 now) and how he hadn't managed emotions well then. Family member expressed hurt feelings around a number of issues from years past. I would indeed be peeved if this had happened to my husband, but even so, this is really an issue for your husband to work on, and you should follow his lead if he wants to get back in contact with family member and not cause a permanent rift in the family.
posted by gudrun at 8:05 AM on March 4, 2015 [8 favorites]

This grudge seems really important to you, and you've set a bar to entry that you will only forgive it if this person engages in a dialogue with you about how terribly wrong they were and how terribly sorry they are. You clearly won't allow that they are not wrong and don't have to be sorry.

For whatever reason, this person still wants a relationship with you. Maybe they're a glutton for punishment, maybe they like you in spite of your behavior, maybe they feel awful that they had to enforce their boundaries with you and when you demanded a reason, they came up with something dumb and embarrassing for both of you in their panic.

It also sounds like your husband had hurt this person in the past, which you think they should suck up even though you have cut them off forever, and convinced your husband to do the same, just for not doing what you want.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:09 AM on March 4, 2015 [9 favorites]

My husband sat down with family member a couple months later to try to understand their decision as we were both very surprised by it. Family member got very upset during conversation and began referencing situations from when my husband was a teenager (he is 43 now) and how he hadn't managed emotions well then.

I'm wondering if the problem really is that this family member doesn't see Husband as a mature adult? Is the family member's attitude "You are a grown and married man now but you'll always be Flaky Fred to me?" Because older family members sometimes won't give younger family members credit for growing up. Has your husband talked to your family member about this?

I agree with Frowner about the business notification - I wouldn't expect my family to put out a press release about a new business I've started up, but mentioning it in passing on Facebook, or even a "Congratulations to Joe on his new graphic design business!" on Facebook wouldn't be out of line. (Now if this business is a pyramid scheme/MLM like Amway or something, ugh, I'd run far far away!)

I'd recommend sitting down and having a heart-to-heart with Relative and all of you airing your concerns before the decision to cut one another off is made.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 8:13 AM on March 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

Yeah you've lost perspective. I can see why, you are defending your husband & that's great & noble & all but you've picked a very silly "hill to die on".

Now while it may have been silly for them to still think of your husband as he was as a teenager, they very reasonably said show me you can do this & I'll support your business, which is fair enough if you are recommending something you need to think it's worth recommending, especially if your husband & you are expecting him to risk his reputation recommending a business to his friends & business contacts.

How it seems on the outside is your husband hurts them they have to forgive & forget, this person hurts you you are allowed to cut them off until they jump through a certain number of hoops. Despite this the person is still trying to keep in contact & smooth things over. You are the one carrying the grudge, you may well be the one that needs to apologize.

They didn't want to promote the business, that's their choice, you pushed for a reason, so they gave you one. It may or may not have been a stupid reason, but they didn't demand to tell it you pushed for it.

I am wondering if there is more to it, does this relative have connections that would be super important to your business, high level buyers or something, his own business partners. It seems like it's more than just hey tell your friends I'm selling Amway/running a print shop/designing websites thing going on here. In which case if they have access to high value clients or connections they really do have every right to make sure your husband can do what he says before risking his own reputation recommending him. Btw if it is by some chance a MLM scheme your husband is doing your family member is immediately in the right.
posted by wwax at 8:24 AM on March 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

So let me get this clear - your husband tried to get Relative to help with his business venture and Relative refused. You say Relative "made a decision that was extremely offensive to me" and that "after that conversation, I decided family member didn't have a place in my life. My husband eventually agreed."

As far as I can see, none of this actually has anything to do with you at all. It was your husband's business, not yours, and it sounds like he took this response from Relative just fine, until you decided to make it a relationship-ending huge massive Thing.

Honestly, it sounds like you never liked this person and you like having enemies to be better than, so you chose this person somewhat arbitrarily and put them in that role.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:33 AM on March 4, 2015 [24 favorites]

"I did not value my relationship with this person before this happened and am relieved to not be in contact but I find myself getting really frustrated by their continued messaging."

Wow, so you have never valued them, but were attempting to use them for your own financial gain? And when they wouldn't help with your scheme, you got angry and have since been giving them the cold shoulder when they reach out to be nice to you? Frankly, I think your family member is better off without you.
posted by cecic at 8:39 AM on March 4, 2015 [59 favorites]

I know it's not really a similar situation, but emotionally, it sounds a bit like this question from the opposing perspective. Where the advice was given to keep contacting, checking in, sending emails etc. as if nothing was wrong.

Because it doesn't sound like, in the absence of any other information, your family member did anything overly egregious. Some people don't like to mix business with their personal life.

It sounds like you are in the "angry because you are angry" stage of being mad at them (to quote from an answer in the linked question). So, how are you going to get over it?
posted by gaspode at 8:41 AM on March 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

Yes, you have lost perspective. Family Member's original decision sounds not unreasonable - some people simply prefer not to promote others' businesses, even family members. They made it awkward by framing it in some sort of "but maybe later, if you do well enough" way, but your husband made it awkward in the first place by mixing business and family in a way that many people prefer not to do, so the whole thing seems like the sort of thing one shrugs, moves past, and hopefully later on your husband's business does so awesomely that you can secretly feel smug and vindicated if you want.

Cutting Family Member off, especially when it sounds like you drove that decision and not your husband, seems like a major overreaction. But sure, it's your choice who you want to have in your life, so if it makes your life better to not have that person in it, that's a fair decision for you to make. But in the wake of that decision, you get to either A) actually tell Family Member you no longer wish to speak to them, or B) shrug off their continued contact attempts.

It doesn't sound like they have any way to know you're not speaking to them, and in the absence of that, are just trying to maintain friendly contact. Maybe they think you have bad personal life stuff going on, don't want to weigh on your mind with serious discussions, but also want to keep an occasional presence in your life so you'll know they're still thinking of you. Maybe they know you're still mad but have no idea how mad, and again, are just trying to make the occasional friendly gesture to keep the door open for when/if you're ready to resume contact.

If you say "don't ever contact me again" and they still do, you get to be mad about them being disrespectful. In this situation - you're way up in your own head and probably making yourself more unhappy and tense than you need to be.
posted by Stacey at 9:04 AM on March 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

For some people, their contacts are worth more to them than their money because their contacts are more closely tied to their reputation. If a family member asked me for $20 and then threw it away after I gave it to them, I would be annoyed but that wouldn't be a huge deal to me. If a family member asked me to recommend them for a job and they then did lousy work, I would be more annoyed. My sister in law recommended her cousin for an internship, then the cousin was a total flake and quit. My sister in law won't recommend her for anything again and I'm sure several other family members feel the same way.

My husband is an entrepreneur. I would not dream of asking family for their support, financial or social. He would never ask for it and would probably turn it down if offered. That said, my father uses the thing my husband created and likes it a lot. Once when he was saying how much he liked it, I think my husband asked if he would mind writing a short testimonial about it that they can include on the website and he agreed. So my father is supportive but he didn't have to tell anyone about it. It's just one of a few endorsements on the website. And all we did was basically ask him to write the words he had said to us repeatedly about the product and attach his name.

I don't think it was appropriate to ask for family support, especially since you were not prepared to take "no" for an answer. It was not appropriate to bring it up with family member again. Also, it's pretty rough that you decided that this family member's professional contacts are worth more to you than your relationship with family member. In that case, it was especially inappropriate to ask for their help. You just want to use them and I don't blame them for not cheerfully signing up to be used.

Family member also has no way to know that you don't want to be in touch besides you passively not responding to their inquiries. My sister doesn't want to have much to do with my aunt. My aunt and I talk and my aunt was very hurt at first. It sucks being in the middle there. My aunt has been much better about it but she has repeatedly asked for my sister's phone number and having to say "no" makes me sad. I respect my sister but I'd really prefer if she just reached out to my aunt once in a while.

If you're asking which is worse, repeatedly reaching out to you despite your non-responses or not initially jumping up and down to tell professional contacts about your husband's new line of work, I would have to say that neither strike me as problematic at all. Not knowing anything else about you, this question makes me think that you place a really low value on family. In the absence of additional information, I think you should let this whole thing go. Life is too short.
posted by kat518 at 9:23 AM on March 4, 2015 [5 favorites]

Completely cutting off a family member for this sounds like an aggressive (passive-aggressive) over-reaction.
posted by Flood at 9:24 AM on March 4, 2015 [4 favorites]

I am also someone who would be unwilling to recommend something that I have not personally vetted and used their service/product. Yes, this means that I have people in my network that I would never refer for jobs/businesses. It doesn't even mean that I think they're incompetent. It could be that I know they work in a different style, or that they charge too much, or they are scheduled out longer than potential customer would like.

I think you definitely over-reacted by 1. not taking a "no", 2. having a sit down chat about this person's "behavior" (it was supposed to be a favor!) 3. cutting this family member off for refusing a favor (a favor! not a life-saving thing), and 4. getting annoyed at this person for trying to keep in touch.
posted by ethidda at 9:27 AM on March 4, 2015 [4 favorites]

Going to this much trouble to obfuscate who family member is makes me assume it's his mom (+ sending cards and gifts, +unable to detach from idea of your husband's childhood self). If it is his mom, you can't really just cut your mother-in-law off like an acquaintance. Of course she doesn't get it.
posted by tomboko at 9:29 AM on March 4, 2015 [7 favorites]

"If you are bored to tears right now" Nope, not bored and completely understand your situation.

People are not going to like my answer.

Family member can go get bent. You have every right to exclude that ass from your life. Referencing events from teenage years is ridiculous and shows a certain amount (LARGE) of pettiness. Who among us was a model citizen during our teenage years?
Bottom line: Drama you don't need coming from someone you don't really want a relationship with.
Being family doesn't earn you a free pass to infect you and your husbands life with BS.
Best of luck to you both with the new venture.
posted by a3matrix at 9:35 AM on March 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

Their messages feel invalidating and disrespectful.

Could this be because the family member is utterly baffled by your expectations and reaction to being told no? The messages probably feel invalidating because they do, in fact, refuse to validate your overreaction.

I agree with the above posters wondering about who exactly is the family member. If it's your mother or mother-in-law, this is hard. Try to be kind. If it's a meddling second cousin who's always been toxic, that's another story and I'm more sympathetic to your wanting to sever the tie.
posted by witchen at 9:40 AM on March 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

From my perspective, it's you and your husband who were out of line. Family or friends have no obligation to promote or market or spread the word about your business just by dint of being family. If they see that you're doing good work and want to share it, that's great, but it's a bonus not an expectation. It was wrong of your husband to try to make the family member explain him or herself way back when, and you've overreacted by cutting off contact since then.
posted by amaire at 9:55 AM on March 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

You’re getting a lot of heat for cutting off a family member, for reasons that others deem as “not really worthy” of it. But I kind of get it. I pretty much cut off my brother a little more than a year ago, after a falling out that was a year before that, and years of some generally assholey things.

So the thing that maybe instigated the cutting off may not seem that major, but for you it could have been the last straw, the last of your fucks to give. For me, the thing that made me decide “enough is enough” was my brother sending me a video of my niece opening her Christmas presents from me. Being 2 at the time, she opened the puzzle thing I gave her, looked at it strangely, and immediately tossed it to the side. No big deal - toddlers gonna toddler. But my brother announced “oh, she doesn’t like that” and then sent me a video of it and him saying that. That was the final “done with this shit” for me, even though months later, he sent me an e-mail telling me that my two sisters didn’t care about me, and that he was the only family member that cared about me. Now that’s some really bad manipulative, abusive language. Far worse than the present thing, but I still pushed through to try and repair things.

So when you really, truly, have absolutely zero, no more fucks to give, not even half a fuck, sometimes the thing that is the last fuck, isn’t even that momentous. It's just a long time coming.

I have made it clear to my brother that I do not want to have any kind of relationship with him going forward. Polite, firm, but to the point. That was over a year ago, and he still sends me the same kind of messages and comments that your estranged family member does. I do not respond. Do not engage. Ignore. I have learned that even though they can seem pleasant and kind, that it’s an opportunity to gaslight, and get drawn into a drama spiral. Ignore. Trash bin. Just like spam.

I agree with you, that the continued contact can come across as disrespectful. They KNOW you don’t want anything to do with them, but still they persist. I understand that if can feel invalidating, but for me, it’s actually very validating - it makes me realize I made the right decision. I see the veiled manipulation through the “kindness” and I know the tricks now. I see my brother’s still up to the same old patterns, and I know the best thing to do is to continue disengagement. Yes, it can be annoying, but it can be confirming in a weird way. For now, try to completely ignore. Telling them to stop contacting you will be validating to THEM, seeing “ah-ha! I’m getting through!”

YMMV, but I'd strongly suggest that you not contact them. Delete.
posted by raztaj at 10:01 AM on March 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

You never liked this person, so you always have and always will read their behaviour in the least charitable possible light to the point that apparently you have convinced your husband that he should do the same. If you don't want to have any contact with them ever again, man up and tell them that. It'll be less aggravating to you in the long run even if it causes a short term fire storm of family angst.

But first make sure your husband is actually okay with cutting off contact with his family members and hasn't just been bullied into it by you.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:16 AM on March 4, 2015 [9 favorites]

Have I lost perspective here?

Oh yeah.

What is the more important issue (lack of support initially or the bating behavior)?

Neither of those things is the more important issue. The most important issue, which far outstretches the two things you've listed, is your bizarre overreaction. Have you even considered that this person had their personal reasons for not wanting to mix business and personal stuff - that is, and that they might genuinely want to patch things up with you?

Would there be value in sitting down with this person to tell them blatantly how I feel (though then I'm reacting to the person's reactivity)?

No, not unless you're willing to do the proper introspective work first - that is, to realize that you have made serious mistakes yourself here and are not 100% in the right, even though you think you are. And also not unless you can speak to this person in a mature, adult way. Your question belies a LOT of grudge-holding, snarkiness, and nastiness...I have a hard time envisioning you speaking to his person politely/kindly.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 10:22 AM on March 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

it was a request that family member share information about the business to their network of friends and contacts.

Count me as another person who feels this request of yours was a much larger imposition than you think it was. I think your reaction is pretty out of line.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 10:36 AM on March 4, 2015 [5 favorites]

Question again: Have I lost perspective here? What is the more important issue (lack of support initially or the bating behavior)? Would there be value in sitting down with this person to tell them blatantly how I feel (though then I'm reacting to the person's reactivity)? I feel very stuck in this situation and would love some perspective from others out there.

My suggestion is that you two be asking different questions:

Is it likely that a business relationship with this person is not going to happen?

If so, what kind of relationship you do want with Family Member? You are entitled to have or not have people in your life. But if you cut this person out, be aware of how that affects your relationship with other people in this circle - including your relationship with your husband. Other family members are likewise entitled to agree or disagree with your perspective and may decide to cut you out as well.

What kind of relationship does your husband want with Family Member? Just like you, he is entitled to have or not have people in his life. If your husband decides he wants to mend the fences and have relationship with Family Member, can you to find a way to be okay with that?

What's more important to each of you and the two of you together? Holding on to your position (right or wrong) or a family relationship? (Note that I'm not saying pick family here. I'm not particularly close with mine and I have chosen to stop trying to contact a family member who behaved badly.) It doesn't sound like this person is going to apologize or share the business contacts. So do you want to just be cordial? Friendly? Close family? No contact whatsoever? You can change your behavior or your reaction. You can't force others to feel differently or behave differently. So assume this person isn't going to think/act differently, and find a way to move forward in that new environment.

Good luck!
posted by Beti at 10:37 AM on March 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

The family member expressed unwillingness to support my husband's new business. Family member questioned his competency and stated that he needed to prove himself before the person would consider being supportive. Support requested by my husband was not financial, it was a request that family member share information about the business to their network of friends and contacts.

To be honest, if I had been your family member I would have done the same thing.

As other people mentioned in their answers - though it seems like you think that asking for endorsement is less of a burden than asking for money, your family member may not have seen it that way. (I know I wouldn't have.) Investing money in a non-viable business is a one-off loss, but putting your reputation on the line by recommending a non-viable business may cost you the respect of valuable business contacts and may hurt your earning capacity down the line.

My husband sat down with family member a couple months later to try to understand their decision as we were both very surprised by it.

I'm not sure whether Miss Manners has ever written something about business endorsements, but my guess would be that they're like gifts - if you don't receive the gift that you expected, or you're not given the thing that you wanted, complaining about it simply isn't done.

It seems like your family member is trying to maintain a cordial family relationship with you, in spite of what happened. If you prefer to sever al contact, the best way ahead might be to just politely let them know that you'd prefer them to stop contacting you.
posted by rjs at 11:08 AM on March 4, 2015 [4 favorites]

So, there are two different issues here:

1. The blowup over the networking request. Although the relative may not have handled this in the most mature way (i.e. bringing up incidents from the distant past), you guys made the first error of judgement here in asking for this huge favor and then not taking no for an answer. Although I think it is okay to ask for this favor, depending on the relationship you have with the person, I think it must be done with a lot of maturity and consideration. This is actually a really big "ask" (in some ways potentially greater than a financial investment, depending on the context). If one is going to ask about this, one has to be 100% willing and able to gracefully take no for an answer. Instead, you stewed about it for months and then pushed for answers until you got something you didn't want to hear, which if anything, reinforces the idea that the relative was right not to want to promote the business and risk their professional relationship, since you guys were unable to act in a professional manner. Certainly it is not acceptable that you have gotten OTHER family members involved in the issue and tried to put them in the middle (and again, probably an indication of why the relative didn't feel comfortable with a professional recommendation). While I don't know all the details, on the whole this sounds like a case where you guys were pretty firmly the party most in the wrong here and pretty much need to get over it (and be the ones doing the apologizing).

2. The question of whether you want this person in your life, otherwise. There may be a whole separate back story of reasons why you don't much like this person, legitimate or not. Hard to tell. If it is your husband's blood relative, I would let him take the lead on it and not try to insert yourself in the situation. If it's your blood relative, I think the ball is more in your court. I'd consider things like how close the relationship is (i.e. third cousin once removed vs. aunt vs. parent) as well as how much pain this could cause to everyone involved (including innocent third party family members). I have some relatives who aren't my favorite people ever, but I can still exchange polite emails from time to time and act civilly at family gatherings. I would think about what your real reasons are for cutting this person off -- i.e. actually getting a toxic or abusive person out of your life (a great goal!) versus choosing to be petty and hold onto grudges when a more appropriate solution might be simply avoiding super close/personal interactions (i.e. no one-on-one dinners) while still doing the minimum to maintain a polite family relationship.
posted by rainbowbrite at 11:25 AM on March 4, 2015 [6 favorites]

I have been tempted to suggest to family member that addressing the issues might benefit all of us

What would "addressing the issues" mean to you? Are you okay with them still not sharing their network with you?

I think Family Member's biggest mistake was not sticking to Ms. Manners's script of "I'm sorry, that won't be possible."
posted by small_ruminant at 1:51 PM on March 4, 2015

OK I'm going to ignore the issue of whether or not you were right to cut the family member off, because the way I see this, all those details are irrelavent. Let's put the question this way, "My husband and I felt that we needed to cut one of our family members out of our lives. After an argument with this person we cut off all contact with them, and have not spoken to them in a year. The problem is this person keeps trying to contact us without ever addressing the original problem or acknowledging there is an issue at all. They simply pretend like nothing ever happened. What should I do?"

Firts, you should decide what you want to have happen. It's OK if you don't want to have this person in your life. I cut a family member out of my life and the sense of relief I felt was profound. You sound like you haven't had any regrets, and maybe even feel some relief as well. If you decide you want to keep this person out of your life forever, I would begin by writting them an email saying that ,while you have no ill will toward your family member and that you wish them well, you have decided that it is best for you and your husband to have no further contact with them. Do not go into detail, do not bring up old arguments or rehash things that happened in the past. Your goal is to get them to stop contacting you. I would bet that this alone will be all you need to do. However if this person persists in trying to contact you I would copy your original email and send it to everyone else in the family. Do not ask anyone to choose sides, do not involve them in the argument at all. If any one tries to talk to you about it, stick to the bare bones; you don't wish your relative ill, you just don't want a relationship with them any more. Stick with this and eventually everyone, most especially the family member in question, will just have to accept the situation, and you can enjoy the peace your decision will bring you.

If, however, you are not ready to drop the original disagreement/lack of business support and give up on the idea of ever having a resolution or an appology. Then I don't think it's productive to go no contact with this person. If you're looking to resolve an issue, or for an appology, then you will have to engage with them in order to try to get what you want. Might as well be direct. Send an email saying, I'm angry with you about X and X and X. I need to get these things resolved before I can continue with our friendship. Please don't contact me UNTIL you are ready to talk about these issues. You may or (more likely) may not get a response that satisfies you, but at least you laid it out for them and they can't continue to passive aggressively pretend t they don't know what is wrong.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 1:52 PM on March 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

You really glossed over the fact that you two were asking a huge favor of a person who's had a strained relationship with your husband for decades and that you didn't like in the first place. It sounds like you never saw any value in having a relationship with him beyond your assumption that he would promote your husband's business to his own friends and acquaintances. Have you considered that maybe he values his family relationships beyond that?

In your question, you read a lot into not only your family member's actions and motives since this happened but also into how he might view any possible response you give him, and how that might be interpreted as rewarding his behavior, etc. It's all very manipulative, and at this point that's really not necessary or beneficial to anybody. If you and your husband truly don't want to be in touch with him anymore, just tell him that and be done with it.
posted by wondermouse at 3:20 PM on March 4, 2015 [6 favorites]

I'm not entirely sure WHAT went on here enough to advise, but I strongly suspect given the vagueness of this description that you and your husband's behavior might not have been 100% fair and nice to the relative either. And ah, maybe you're aware of that because of how vague you are being.

Not everyone is cool and froody with pimping a relative's business--they may not be good at it, or comfortable with it, or like having to buy those crappy candy bars for the band sale, etc. And if your husband gave the relative enough reason back in the day to come off as a bit dubious, they may have extra reasons not to want to get on board. It doesn't sound like they were anti-business so much as not wanting to get involved themselves...which is probably a good idea when it comes to potential family drama. Except clearly THAT didn't work out.

It really does sound like you disliked your husband's relative even before this and now you had a "justifiable" excuse to cut them off, and you convinced your husband into it. I don't know how severely bad this drama was--maybe it's a lot worse than you let on-- but it mostly sounds like you instigated the cutting off. And since this is his relative and not yours, I'm guessing that you probably are coming off as, well.... a crappy in-law who's keeping her husband away from his beloved family. And I have to say that as an in-law, it's rocky territory to categorically decide to cut someone off for something that isn't super harsh like "relative molested my kid." I'd guess the relative is trying to keep the connection (and keep their nose out of the business) and they're trying to be polite.

If you never ever ever ever want to speak to them again and your husband is also 100% on board with that, then I guess you just keep ignoring them until they finally stop. But there really isn't anything else we can tell you to do to make him stop. It's not like you could get a restraining order for that activity.

I dunno...I just have the suspicion here that y'all just blew this all out of proportion and everyone needs to calm down and chill out and call for a truce. And preferably avoid discussing business. On a scale of 1-10, how horrible is this relative anyway? Because estrangement from relatives also causes a lot of awkwardness and drama and I'm just not sure this one is bad enough for that particular price to be paid.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:07 PM on March 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

My grandfather was a pretty wonderful man.
With his flaws like any person, but honorable and determined to do what he felt in his heart was right.

Driving home, if he saw a neighborhood tree with a broken branch, he'd load up an old red wagon with a stepladder, a saw and a bucket of paint; saw the branch cleanly off and then paint the end--so that the tree might live on, without fear of bugs or disease getting in. He loved trees.

One of the last letters he wrote to his three children
--who were spaced 5 years apart and each had their own struggles, sometimes with each other--
the line he ended this letter with, knowing that his passing was coming soon, boiled down to this:
"Stick together!
You guys fight for each other because I love you all so very much!
I want you all taken care of,
and taking care of each other"
I carry his words with me, and it keeps my grandfather in a special place in my heart. When I work with children, my interactions are partly guided by the memories of the time I spent with him and how well he treated me.

What I see in the long question above, however, is a terribly sad collection of too many words trying to paper-over the hurting of a spouses family member all over something embarrassingly petty.

Dismantle your anger; it only poisons everyone, yourself (and especially your spouse) included.

posted by blueberry at 9:56 PM on March 4, 2015 [9 favorites]

To posit one more sympathetic reading - if you sent an email to extended family saying "hey tell your friends about my husband's new business" the expected response would either be "looks cool I will" or nothing. If they chose to describe in detail exactly why they think the business sucks and so the man behind it that's odd and insulting. This is assuming you were not assiduously following up to see if people did as you requested, which would be really weird. Or if it's a weightier request - "you are in this business, introduce us to your business partners" - that you're forcing them to accept or decline, then they certainly don't owe you any particular action.

In any case the bit where you say you did not value or like this person before [except where it looked like they could help you out with your personal endeavors] is one of those things that's pretty astonishing to see written out unselfconsciously.
posted by atoxyl at 12:02 AM on March 5, 2015 [3 favorites]

You were not there when your husband confronted this Family Member a couple of months after s/he rejected your husband's request to tell everyone s/he knew that he had just started selling insurance or whatever. So you only have your husband's version of that conversation to go on, and your Ask reads like you haven't accounted for the possibility that vouching for your husband professionally might not be prudent at all for this Family Member. NThing that was a huge ask. You need to accept that this Family Member might know things about your husband's past and character that make drawing that boundary extremely appropriate, understandable, and necessary for that Family Member. It does not mean that this Family Member or your husband are bad people for failing to agree about giving support at that time. Your loyalty to your husband and understandable self-interest in your husband's new venture succeeding is blinding you to obvious social realities. On these facts, you have no call to tell your husband to cut one of his Family Members out.

We really needed more information about who this Family Member is, and what exactly your husband's type of business is, and your husband's track record for holding down a long-term entrepreneurial job commitment.
posted by hush at 6:01 AM on March 5, 2015 [3 favorites]

I think this: “Family member questioned his competency and stated that he needed to prove himself before the person would consider being supportive.”

And this: “Family member got very upset during conversation and began referencing situations from when my husband was a teenager (he is 43 now) and how he hadn't managed emotions well then. Family member expressed hurt feelings around a number of issues from years past. Family member was not able to stay on topic, was defensive and generally not respectful during the conversation.”

are things that people haven’t really addressed at all here. People seem to have missed that you were really hurt by that.

I’m going to speculate from your point of view. It was insulting that they questioned husband’s competency and he needed to prove himself. Basically, they’re saying, you’re not good enough or worthy of my support. I think that’s the message you received (not sure about husband) and it was hurtful. So this is what happens when you ask family for support? You have to prove yourself? You’re not good enough as it is? What happened to unconditional love? You see how family can be so fraught. And why you don’t mix family with business.

Then you went back to family member and asked, “what was up with your denial of support?” and basically got, “well, you suck. You suck now, and you especially sucked when you were a teen.” Seriously, how does one respond to that?

People are piling on you about why you asked family member in the first place if you don’t even value their relationship (honestly, this feels like something I would do, and I’m not proud of it!) and not to mix business with pleasure and I agree with that, while empathizing with the hurt you felt from family member’s responses. Family member did NOT handle it well. They could have been more tactful in saying no. They didn’t have to bring up the past, but that’s what family does, because they can. We’re all little shits to our families growing up, and we all remember the hurtful things that family did to us. It’s too easy to drag that up.

So now family member is contacting you and acting as if nothing’s wrong, nothing happened, that they didn’t say hurtful shit to you. Yeah, I’d hate that too. But you know what? It’s time to let things go. You’ve both made mistakes here. Sometimes you just have to swallow your pride and be the bigger person – yes you were wronged in how they spoke to you. Like Pink Superhero said, why continue to be mad about it? Does it do anyone good? It’s obviously affecting you. Them contacting you is saying, “hey, I still care, this is my way of apologizing even if I can’t come out and say, ‘I’m sorry for saying all that hurtful crap.’” Saying that stuff is HARD, so just take what you can get. You’re not going to be able to make them say the things you want. So just bury it (and I’m a champion grudge holder!). Just have the cordial relationship. Maybe over time things can get better, but just start small. (i.e. don't have a sit-down chat and talk about how upset you are with them and why - that will NOT get you what you want.) Now you know not to mix business with family (at least with this member), and that they’re capable of dredging up the past.
posted by foxjacket at 6:36 AM on March 5, 2015 [4 favorites]

They said things to hurt your feelings and those of your husband. They don't have confidence in your husband's business acumen for reasons that go waaaay back. They're not going to do you the favor you ask of them, which is, incidentally, also a big favor. They maybe, in your eyes, rubbed the reasons why they're not going to help you out in your face, so you are not happy. Therefore, you do not want contact with this person anymore. Meanwhile, this person is trying to smooth things over with cards and calls that ignore what happened. You are ignoring them because you think the least this person could do is acknowledge what happened.

I suggest you tell them or email them: We're disappointed with the way you handled it. It's your prerogative if you don't want to help us and we can see how it was a big favor to ask, but we also think you could have handled it better. If the cards and calls are meant to smooth things over then it would be more respectful for you to actually say, I'm sorry I can't help you out, I wish I could. etc. Because just sending them and pretending like this didn't happen is weird and uncomfortable for us, and they are not doing the job you are hoping them to do.

I also think you need to realize that, again, it was a BIG ask and that clearly something deep went on years ago that this person has sat on all these years, until now, when the moment seemed appropriate, to them at least, to bring it up. They're essentially saying, you've asked me a big favor. You're family so in a way I should say yes. But I can't because of 'these things that happened and damaged my perception of your husband." I think you need to respect that their feelings are also valid, whether or not your husband agrees with how the 'event from the past' happened.

Maybe this past event can be healed with some open conversations, maybe you can't be bothered, maybe it'll take years of therapy, but now you know the limits of your relationship with this person, but that's no reason to ignore them for the rest of your lives, so in that sense yes you have lost perspective.
posted by lillian.elmtree at 7:06 AM on March 7, 2015 [2 favorites]

« Older the mother of all ladies raincoats!   |   Help me figure out what to charge this high... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.