Grandparents hate us, want to continue loving baby. Now what?
August 12, 2015 4:27 PM   Subscribe

My husband's parents are the only grandparents my child see regularly (we live in his country rather than mine) have decided that they no longer want a relationship with us. They do, however, want to continue their bi-weekly visits to see the baby which I would be "hosting". We don't want to cut them off, but I am not enthused. Reassurance and tips on navigating this requested. I am so confused!!

My husband's parents and the only grandparents/family that see my child regularly (we live in his country rather than mine) have, over the course of the last week, gone from "Wow, we are really upset with you about some random inane things going back a long time!" to "We won't tell you what exactly you've done, what could be done differently, won't talk to you about it at ALL, and don't really want a relationship with you anymore". We are super confused, hurt, and my husband is positively gutted. Please trust me when I say the examples provided are minor at best, and some had been held on to for a very long time. They haven't spoken to me directly about any of this and they won't tell us much, so I'm trying not to expend too much energy hypothesising. We intend to be polite, leave the door to reconciliation wide open, and have therapy appointments lined up.

They would like to continue their bi-weekly visits to the grandchild, who is almost one, and occur at our house, on my day off (husband will be at work). They've made it very clear that it is not to be considered "babysitting", so I would be providing primary care/parenting while they play with the baby. We've thought about making grandchild access contingent on them working through some of this with us, but it seems extreme since they will most likely just choose not to see the grandchild (apparently talking objectively about and negotiating relationships doesn't work, people don't change, etc... = very sad!). But it also seems extreme that I/we are supposed to just accept this and host them in my house every other week while they hate/ignore/don't talk to us/pretend everything is "fine" and play with the baby. He's not really old enough to have his own relationship with them independent of us and again - this is not babysitting. What happens when I need to step in to do a parenting type thing?!

This seems like a terrible relationship to model - in my book/world/family behaving like this is very much NOT OK. I feel weird about facilitating a relationship between my child and people capable of acting like this. I want to do what's best for kiddo, but I'm not sure exposing him to people like this IS what's best, and my/our feelings still matter too - don't they? Are we bad/terrible/crazy people? Up until a week ago I thought everything was fine and going well - this has really caused me (both of us) to question ourselves, our ability to read people, conduct normal relationships, etc. Very unsettling.

If this continues, would it be unreasonable after an extended period of time to move back to my country to live near my family (we fit in better, have more in common, get along, etc... and this is their only grandchild)? The only family my husband (and I?) really had a close relationship with was his parents and one of his three brothers - now it's down to the one brother (we're on good enough terms with the other brothers, but they are busy and have different interests, etc). The only family who sees kiddo regularly is the grandparents (3hrs every other week). I don't want my kid to grow up with no family! and WE don't want to live with no family!!

Reality check please... are we being reasonable based on what I've described? What boundaries would you draw for the time being, and how would you navigate these play dates (would you keep having them)? I've NEVER had this sort of thing happen before! Obviously this will all be hashed out in therapy, but I'm not sleeping and feel nauseous now. Ugh.

I can't believe this is happening. Still kind of in shock. It's all just so.... weird. Weird like, if it was one of the grandparents I'd been wondering about a medical issue - but it's both of them!
posted by jrobin276 to Human Relations (91 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
are we being reasonable based on what I've described?

Yes.

If you don't have a positive relationship with someone (anyone), it's not only the case that you are not obligated to provide them access to your child, it's the case that you shouldn't provide them access to your child. To do otherwise would be at best irresponsible and at worst unsafe.

They don't have to talk to you, but if they don't talk to you, you have no idea what they will do with your child. That's not appropriate under any circumstances, even with relatives.
posted by saeculorum at 4:31 PM on August 12, 2015 [87 favorites]


Your one year old doesn't need this kind of bullshit and neither do you. The adults in the situation can either act like adults or they need to stay home and away from your family.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 4:32 PM on August 12, 2015 [153 favorites]


Wow. No you are not being unreasonable. I would be very concerned about anyone capable of pulling that kind of manoeuvre dragging my child into all sorts of inappropriate drama if allowed continued access, and causing damage in the process.

Please note that I do not have kids, but have a lot of experience with disfunctional family dynamics. Nothing you can do will change them, all you can do is decide what is right for you and set boundaries accordingly.

I would move back to your country pronto given what you've described if you have a better support network there, and cut all contact.
posted by arha at 4:35 PM on August 12, 2015 [11 favorites]


I think no visits at all would be better for your kid than tense, obviously fraught ones conducted regularly.

Inform them that they will not be conducting visits unless and until they have made an effort to work through their issues with you and your husband. It's not blackmail; it's just a reasonable assertion that you won't knowingly allow hostile people into your home.
posted by delight at 4:37 PM on August 12, 2015 [96 favorites]


Also, yes, move to be as close as you can to the people who unambiguously love and support you.
posted by delight at 4:38 PM on August 12, 2015 [34 favorites]


I am angry, for your sake, that they would expect you to accommodate these visits without getting anything in return. Your time is valuable, your caring work for your child is valuable, and they shouldn't get to take advantage of you. This whole plan of theirs involves using you as a prop, and that is not okay.
posted by meese at 4:44 PM on August 12, 2015 [65 favorites]


What the hell? No. This is bonkers and they are bonkers and THIS IS BONKERS. If they don't want a relationship with you, that is their prerogative, but they have no rights to a relationship with your child beyond what you are willing to provide. You owe them nothing, your husband owes them nothing, and their proposed solution of treating you like the hired help while they play with your child in your home is so far afield of what could reasonably be expected as to call their judgment and possibly sanity into question.
posted by KathrynT at 4:45 PM on August 12, 2015 [109 favorites]


i would be most concerned about what this is going to do to your relationship with your partner and i'd be very careful to include them in any discussion about future plans. if he wants to stay and try sort things out, and you want to fly back home you need to resolve that... worrying about nutty parents should take a far second place to making sure you as a family are ok.
posted by andrewcooke at 4:46 PM on August 12, 2015 [5 favorites]


This is weird. As you recognize, they cannot have a relationship with a one-year-old independent of a relationship with his parents. You're not being unreasonable and moving back to your country doesn't sound like a bad idea.

"We won't tell you what exactly you've done, what could be done differently, won't talk to you about it at ALL, and don't really want a relationship with you anymore"

Your kid is better off not having to deal with relatives who hold on to minor slights for years and can't communicate to resolve their issues with people.
posted by prize bull octorok at 4:50 PM on August 12, 2015 [21 favorites]


I can't even.

They seem to be playing some very strange games here. They have fallen out with you over whatever but expect to be treated as guests in your house while enjoying the best bits of grandparenthood? While not talking to you? They are trying to make some giant point with this frankly odd behaviour. Why do they get to make you feel awkward in your own space without even having the courtesy to explain why they're upset and be willing to work things through with their own child and you? Your baby will likely have enough other kids to play with that they don't miss these two.

I would not be party to such behaviour and I don't think it would hurt your child to skip it either - family is important, but good and loving beats weird and manipulative so go find the good bits.

People.
posted by Martha My Dear Prudence at 4:50 PM on August 12, 2015 [7 favorites]


Agree with the others that they are being crazy. Just because they are family doesn't mean you have to tolerate their really terrible behavior. To me in this situation, it's perfectly acceptable to cut them off if they are unwilling to make peace with you and have an adult relationship with you. It's not right for them to expect that you just give them your free time like this. As someone also from a dysfunctional family I think ultimately it's better to not expose kids to this kind of crazy because then we believe that that kind of relationship is normal (speaking from experience here). Please feel free to set your own boundaries and if they don't like it, they can fuck right off.
posted by FireFountain at 4:50 PM on August 12, 2015 [5 favorites]


I'm sorry, but no. Grandparents don't get relationships with the grandkids without working through their issues with the parents. They just don't.
posted by fancyoats at 4:51 PM on August 12, 2015 [28 favorites]


Ha ha ha NOPE. You are so sweet to even be considering this.

Ignore these people. Their behavior is abysmal and is not the kind of "grandparent" behavior that deserves respectful facilitation from you

Grandparents ask respectfully for access; grandparents tactfully offer assistance; grandparents give generously when asked.

Grandparents do not dictate terms; grandparents do not undermine parents; grandparents do not insist on their own convenience at the expense of parents' well-being. Well, sometimes they do, but they are being butts, not good grandparents.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 4:54 PM on August 12, 2015 [65 favorites]


I had a friend who tried to do this, so you're not alone. No, you're not obligated to facilitate inconvenient "visitation" while they still, what, hate you? They can do like every other estranged grandparents and send cards.
posted by corb at 4:58 PM on August 12, 2015 [10 favorites]


Your husband needs to put his foot down and formally cut off his parents. They are a very very toxic influence and eventually (if not already) your marriage and child will suffer.

Yes. Move away from CrazyMaking. Those folks get arm's length politeness, at best. This is not behavior you want your child exposed to.


PS - sounds like a power and control game. Avoid by not playing when they crawl back apologizing. Expect more shenanigans if you forgive them down the road. Shield your child from this. Shield your marriage.
posted by jbenben at 4:58 PM on August 12, 2015 [33 favorites]


Reassure them that you will try to make sure they are invited to important events like your child's graduation and marriage, heh.
posted by ryanrs at 5:05 PM on August 12, 2015 [5 favorites]


If it's feasible to move back to your home country then absolutely you should. It's not unreasonable to move away from people who have told you in words and actions that they don't want a relationship with you.
posted by bleep at 5:08 PM on August 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


Ok I am you further down the road, in many ways. We have other grandparents but my parents are the ones who pull this kind of thing.

I believed originally that preserving a grandparent-grandchild relationship was important. I could be the bigger person! So now my kids are 9 and 4, and my parents have continued to waffle between fine and treating me like crap. They treat my kids fine, although we are pretty careful.

So first of all, a baby just plays but a 4 year old like my youngest comes back with statements from them. As your child grows, the amount of potential damage -- not abuse, but things like opinions -- grows. If you're not in the relationship you have to trust whatever they are saying is ok. Can you? I wouldn't.

Also...now my 9 year old loves them, loves me, picks up on the tension, asks me why my mother said X thing to me...it is hard. I am me, and I am not sure me could ever talk me out of trying this road but...it is so not that my child got a great relationship without the drama. He is now stuck coping with their behavior towards his mum.

So...I might take the opportunity to cut ties. Me mail me if you want more details etc.
posted by warriorqueen at 5:09 PM on August 12, 2015 [44 favorites]


If they want to visit their grandchild, they can look after the child. You are not the hired help.

And yes. Move.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:10 PM on August 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


That whole situation is a bunch of Nope Nope Nope. That's not how family works. If they want to see their grandkid, they have to find a way to tolerate spending time with you and your spouse. Once the grandkid is an adult and capable of choosing whether to hang out with the grandparents on her/his own, they can cut off all ties with you and your spouse.
posted by joan_holloway at 5:11 PM on August 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


You're not being unreasonable, but what you're doing may be seen as unreasonable by the culture found in your husband's/in-laws' country and family. That doesn't make them right and you wrong just because you're there-- really, you're in the right here -- but be prepared for the social pressure, which might come in from unexpected angles.
posted by Sunburnt at 5:11 PM on August 12, 2015 [5 favorites]


LOL, what the hell?

These people are unpredictable, irrational, and not what you want near your child. Take your kid and your husband and move home, my God. If they want to apologize later you can cross that bridge when you come to it, but don't hold your breath.

One more thing. If you can, have your parents call your husband and without too much into getting into the whole narrative, tell him that they love him and that they will be there to support him and your family unit with open arms. Unconditional kindness now from a parental unit will be a comfort to all of you.
posted by fingersandtoes at 5:15 PM on August 12, 2015 [8 favorites]


And now you know why we don't have kids. I could absolutely see my MIL pulling something like this. In fact, she has -- and I completely cut her off for almost two years. It was stressful on my husband and it just was not necessary, but it's important to stand up to people who want to treat you like dirt for some mysterious (stupid) reason or another.

Do NOT let them use you for play dates. No grown up behavior on their part = no grandkid access.

If moving back to your country is feasible, do consider it.

Make sure your husband is fully on board with all of the above and what could happen.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 5:17 PM on August 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


have decided that they no longer want a relationship with us. They would like to continue their bi-weekly visits to the grandchild, who is almost one, and occur at our house, on my day off (husband will be at work). They've made it very clear that it is not to be considered "babysitting",

What the ever loving what? No. No no no. This is delusional and manipulative and cruel of them.

I don't want my kid to grow up with no family! and WE don't want to live with no family!!

They may be blood relations, but they're not your child's family, not like this. Call bluff on their attempt at emotional blackmail.

Don't worry about your child having no family. Your family are the people who choose to be an important part of your life, whether they're biologically related to you or not.

I am so sorry for how painful this must be.
posted by desuetude at 5:19 PM on August 12, 2015 [12 favorites]


I don't have kids, but growing up I was extremely aware of the tension between my mom and her in-laws. Like some of my earliest memories include my grandmother being snide and rude and downright weird to her, while being generous and loving to me. It was extremely awkward. To this day I don't have the kind of relationship with her (my grandmother) that she thinks I have, all because I could not get over that situation when I was little.

A couple of years ago my mom finally broke down and let slip some stories, and my reaction could only be "Holy shit she did what?"

There is no benefit to this for the kids involved. None. Zero.
posted by erratic meatsack at 5:20 PM on August 12, 2015 [48 favorites]


Maybe take a total break from them for a few months, then have an opportunity to reconnect.

Also: Just to be on the safe side, maybe consider that what may be "minor at best" in one culture (national, or even a family's culture) could seem bigger to people in another culture. That absolutely doesn't mean you should put up with unfair or damaging treatment, but I put that out there in case this might turn out to be a cultural, communication, or other similar issue.

However, even if you were a terrible person, making you be there as babysitter while they visit their grandchild seems...like a weird request.
posted by amtho at 5:21 PM on August 12, 2015


The situation between the adults here is really weird and not something I could endorse, but let's restrict ourselves to looking at it in terms of what's best for the kid.

If you have play sessions for the kid and grandparents that you supervise, will that be a tense environment? Combative? Kids will pick up on that even if they're pre-verbal, and I assume it will confuse and upset yours. If the grandparents can pretend to be cordial during the play sessions, then maybe it would be OK.

But the other bullshit would incline me to say No anyhow.
posted by adamrice at 5:21 PM on August 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


Man alive, this just burns my butt.

Of course they can't see your child without you, whether or not they call it babysitting. OF COURSE CRAZY ANGRY PEOPLE CAN'T BE LEFT ALONE WITH A BABY.

And of course you don't have to sit around with a couple of crazy angry people while they hiss at you and gurgle at your baby. People who cut other people off have to live with their choices.

And why would you consider subjecting your darling child to this kind of model? If they can turn on you for no reason, why wouldn't they do the same to their grandchild down the road some time? I can't imagine being a parent and knowing that some day some person unknown to you now will deliberately be mean to your child, but to know in advance that it will be a grandparent? Ugh, I wouldn't touch that with a ten foot pole.

Better to save the innocents and leave the adults to stew in their own negative emotions.
posted by janey47 at 5:25 PM on August 12, 2015 [26 favorites]


I don't want my kid to grow up with no family! and WE don't want to live with no family!!

The absence of a thing is often better than a shitty thing. Repeat this until you absorb it.

My mothers grandparents had this sort of adversarial relationship with my family and my mom. I still visited because she thought i would be worse off if i didn't or whatever.

They were shitty people, and they treated my mom like shit, and i could tell even from a very young age. Some of my shittiest childhood memories are stupid manipulative bullshit things they pulled or just their weird negative/manipulative behavior in general. They were nice to or respected my parents, and seemed to always basically want this dynamic.

I said HAHAHA FUCK NO out loud when i read the title.

After enduring basically an entire childhood of what the setup you described turns in to when it's agreed to, including random bouts of confusing fake(or maybe even sometimes genuine) niceness randomly interspersed, the happiest experience i ever had with my grandparents were when they freaking died and i got some money. Nicest they ever were to me.
posted by emptythought at 5:26 PM on August 12, 2015 [43 favorites]


Bad family is worse than no family. You are not being unreasonable AT ALL.
posted by sutel at 5:29 PM on August 12, 2015 [13 favorites]


Oh, I'm so sorry! How awful. The worst part is when someone's behavior is so out of synch that it leaves you uncertain about your entire reality. That creepy crawly feeling will end in a bit.

My grandparents were awful people and I was still forced to have relationships with them. I'm an adult and I'm still really hurt that my parents traded my security and sense of safety for. ..propriety, really. A strange, potentially dangerous relationship with unstable people has the potential to be far more damaging than the lack of that relationship.

I am thinking of your family! Be very gentle with each other during this.
posted by Pardon Our Dust at 5:34 PM on August 12, 2015 [22 favorites]


No, do not give your baby up to their dysfunction. This is not the way to ensure that your child grows up with loving, supportive family.
posted by stowaway at 5:36 PM on August 12, 2015 [6 favorites]


I was wondering the same thing as Sunburnt - whether there are cultural issues that help to make sense of the conflict and the request. But if your parents in law belong to the land listed in your profile location, that is no kind of explanation! I wouldn't anticipate widespread social pressure to comply with the inlaws' wishes, in any case.

I agree with everyone above, please don't subject yourself to this indignity, or your child to the whims of these people.
posted by Cheese Monster at 5:41 PM on August 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


FWIW, I grew up with no grandparents, and it didn't scar me for life or anything.
posted by Poldo at 5:45 PM on August 12, 2015 [9 favorites]


Oh hell no. There is no culture in the world where disowning your kid but demanding that his wife act like their servant while they play with her (YOUR) baby is not a massive, purposely degrading, fucked up power move designed to make your husband feel like shit and to make you know your place. They are making a statement of disrespect and trying to shame, hurt, and humiliate you and your husband. Right now, your baby is the most effective tool for them to try to use to accomplish this goal. Later in life, that baby is going to need to be shown their place too. No, no, no, fuck no.

Reality check: you are feeling nauseous right now because you and your husband have just been the victims of a huge, staggering knife to the heart. It's okay to feel like you're reeling and questioning reality. But here is the deal: you need to cut these people off like you would if you found out one of them was a pedophile. Please understand that if this is the way they treat their son, there is ZERO CHANCE that they aren't going to similarly abuse their grandchild. It's going to take a while for you and your husband to adjust to his parents showing their true colors, but your kid will be better off without insanely emotionally abusive, power-gaming grandparents in their life. Good luck. I'm so sorry this happened to you.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 5:46 PM on August 12, 2015 [39 favorites]


Thirding that bad family is worse than no family. I don't miss the jerk relatives who cut us off and their crap no matter how empty and lonely it gets at Christmas without them, I'll put it that way. Also, ain't no way I'd let them have the privilege of getting to keep the baby. And your kid will figure out at an early age that Grammy and Grampy are jerks who don't like their parents in a few years if you let them see the baby.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:47 PM on August 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


As someone in a similar situation, I think I have to disagree with everyone so far. As long as it's in the best interests of the child, grandparents deserve some access. I cut off my father years ago without a bit of guilt, but he still gets pictures and occasional visits as long as he can be polite to all parties. Sometimes people can have a quality relationship with a child that they can't manage with the parents. For one thing, they are aware that the parent will police any misbehavior. To me, the parents have a responsibility to the grandparent-grandchild relationship, as long as the grandparent doesn't screw it up. What they're doing to you and your husband is fucked up, to be sure, but it's being done to you, not your children.

However, let me flip the question around a bit. Would you really let them alone with the child? I wouldn't. I would be too concerned about manipulation. I'm still questioning what the right age is to permit unsupervised visits, maybe 12?

That said, the situation is fraught, and I can easily see it veering into "not good for the child" territory. If they can't treat you respectfully, it's off. If they can't treat the child respectfully, it's off.
posted by wnissen at 5:52 PM on August 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


The only thing you have to gain from continued visits is teaching your child that there's a classification of person you have to put up with, and that class of person is allowed to treat you like shit.

Nope. That's a bit heavy for any kid to deal with.
posted by furnace.heart at 5:53 PM on August 12, 2015 [21 favorites]


Yes, just to clarify - husband is Australian (his mom came here from Germany when she was 2, definitely from a messed up family; step-dad's family is Latvian but I think he largely grew up in Australia). I am American (my great-grandparents came over, so pretty "American" now - family of west-coast lefties mostly).

EVEN if when we were talking on the phone last week I ended up yelling "That's bullshit." (That's it, promise!)? I shouldn't have, but "leaving the room is really rude" so I stayed.... eek! I never yell! (Grandma has a history of yelling though - just saying. No one's been perfect - but two of us are still trying and it seem the other two have hitched their horses.)
posted by jrobin276 at 5:56 PM on August 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


Not that you need one more person joining the dogpile of unanimous responses, but yes, their request is absurd, and no, I wouldn't have them in the same room with my kid.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 6:05 PM on August 12, 2015 [6 favorites]


Wait so you can't leave the room? You are expected to sit there and take their abuse?

I know you are strong and you are not falling for this--because you're asking us; because you're skeptical and calling bullshit; because you are thinking critically. GREAT. You just need to put yourself in a position where you can be even stronger. Getting feedback from other people is a great first step.

If it's possible, you seem so immersed in this that you're losing touch with what is appropriate. Can you take a break from this, maybe even take your baby on a little vacation for a few days and do not talk about this with ANYONE so you can center yourself and your needs again? Or even just see a friend who is outside of this dynamic? A phone call with a wise third party who makes you feel strong, safe, and capable?

Two, I would tell your husband that you no longer care what you are "supposed" to do, and I would tell yourself the same thing. You are a mother, a parent, and that carries with it a profound and sacred duty to take care of yourself, first. You can't take care of your child without being centered, whole, and reasonably healthy. Then after that your job is to take care of your child. That is what you are "supposed" to do as a parent. Everything else is bull.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 6:09 PM on August 12, 2015 [25 favorites]


My husband's parents are the only grandparents my child see regularly (we live in his country rather than mine) have decided that they no longer want a relationship with us. They do, however, want to continue their bi-weekly visits to see the baby which I would be "hosting".

Lol, no.

Your kid, your rules. Not a piece of property you jointly own. 100% your call and your husband's and yours alone.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 6:09 PM on August 12, 2015 [9 favorites]


Be the type of people you'd want to see your kid as as an adult. Don't raise kiddo to think that silent treatment and disrespect are normal parts of life. If they can't play nice around kiddo, they don't come over.

People teach their kids sign language so they can still convey the word even if they can't yet speak it. Raise your kid around people who know how to use their words.
posted by SillyShepherd at 6:13 PM on August 12, 2015 [6 favorites]


"EVEN if when we were talking on the phone last week I ended up yelling "That's bullshit." (That's it, promise!)? I shouldn't have, but "leaving the room is really rude" so I stayed.... No one's been perfect."

Wow. You have been the victim of a really frightening amount of manipulation and psychological abuse. Like internet fraud said, some part of you knows this and is fighting against it, or you wouldn't have even posted this question. Please, please do whatever you can to get yourself and your child out of the gaslighting orbit of these people.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 6:21 PM on August 12, 2015 [19 favorites]


I've just skimmed over all the other outraged-on-your-behalf responses to add a definite yes; get away from these people. They don't get to play with baby on their terms while being so awful to you.

But I want to add this. Your child is very young now but their capacity to read emotional cues will soon grow exponentially, and keep growing. Little snips at you will be noticed even before they can articulate what the discomfort is. My MIL used to say lots of passive aggressive things to my daughter when she was a toddler, like "oh what has your silly mummy done to your hair...". On its own, it makes me look crazy to make a fuss but just always letting it slide over time teaches your child how you let people treat you, something you want to provide the best model of.

Moving countries is a huge decision but the benefit to your family of having loving, supportive and sane people around you? I think that's worth moving for. Keep in touch with the nice brother. The mean and dysfunctional grandparents can reap what they sow.

Good luck to all of you. I'm sorry your in laws are like this. Baby won't be harmed by being away from people like that.
posted by stellathon at 6:21 PM on August 12, 2015 [19 favorites]


The kindest thing for your kid's future is to put an end to a deeply disrespectful family relationship. Move to be with your family while your kid is still a baby without permanent memories of people they're supposed to, but should not, trust.
posted by theraflu at 6:23 PM on August 12, 2015 [10 favorites]


Ha ha ha. No. Fuck them. And your husband needs to be the one to tell them in these exact terms. Ready for it: "Mom, Dad - your request is unacceptable. You can go fuck yourselves"
posted by JPD at 6:29 PM on August 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


My husband's parents are the only grandparents my child see regularly (we live in his country rather than mine) have decided that they no longer want a relationship with us. They do, however, want to continue their bi-weekly visits to see the baby which I would be "hosting".

Nope. Noooope. Fuck these people. You have no obligation to put up with this heinous disrespect. They have no intrinsic right to access your child. If they want to have a relationship with their grandchild, they need to learn how to act like decent human beings to the kid's parents. And make this up to you somehow.

There's no reason for you to feel obligated to expose your child to these toxic, dysfunctional people. You don't need this nonsense. And neither does your kid. They are bluffing with no cards - they want access to your child, and they have nothing you want. They aren't going to magically become good people - the loving family you want. So call their bluff. Tell them to take a hike.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:30 PM on August 12, 2015 [11 favorites]


My father and stepmother have never met my son. The kid is alright.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 6:38 PM on August 12, 2015 [5 favorites]


Just so you know that this kind of stuff has been going on for a long time, the following is a quote from C. S. Lewis in his book "The Four Loves", published in 1960.

“We hear a great deal about the rudeness of the rising generation. I am an oldster myself and might be expected to take the oldsters' side, but in fact I have been far more impressed by the bad manners of parents to children than by those of children to parents.

Who has not been the embarrassed guest at family meals where the father or mother treated their grown-up offspring with an incivility which, offered to any other young people, would simply have terminated the acquaintance?"

Lewis describes the above not as love, but "barbarism".
posted by forthright at 6:50 PM on August 12, 2015 [21 favorites]


lol no. there are no australian "cultural differences" that mean you have to take this kind of shit, or god forbid subject a young child to it. at 1 year old it might not be that terrible, but as soon as the kid can reason and understand, kid is going to absorb all kinds of harmful, hateful shit that the grandparents are going ooze out like poison. move back to the US and rid yourselves of these jerks free and clear.
posted by poffin boffin at 7:01 PM on August 12, 2015 [9 favorites]


My parents had strained relationships with both sets of in-laws and as a kid it was very awkward for me and my sister. My sister and I are 7 years apart so we had very different perspectives on it, but we both knew that the dynamic was really weird and wrong. People shouldn't fawn on us and be rude to my parents. The best thing that happened was when my parents cut off contact for an extended period. It forced everyone to reset their boundaries and it established that my parents - not either set of grandparents - had control of the situation and the people who had access to me.

When we started seeing them again (and I'm talking years here) things were much healthier and in control.

Based on my experience, I would cut those grandparents out without a second thought.
posted by 26.2 at 7:05 PM on August 12, 2015 [8 favorites]


lol no. there are no australian "cultural differences" that mean you have to take this kind of shit, or god forbid subject a young child to it.

100%. I've lived in Australia for 17 years - this is not some baffling element of Aussie culture. This is just assholes being assholes.

And even it if were cultural, that would not be a valid reason to agree to it.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:17 PM on August 12, 2015 [18 favorites]


I don't want my kid to grow up with no family!

But...your child has a family. He has you, and he has your husband. Mommy, Daddy, and Baby = family.

And your family is a unit, that your in-laws need to accept as a package deal. And if they can't take that, tough for them.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:21 PM on August 12, 2015 [17 favorites]


SEE A LAWYER. It seems like they may be setting you up for a "grandparent's rights" case, where eventually they could get a court order mandating the time they get with your child.
posted by Sophont at 7:26 PM on August 12, 2015 [10 favorites]


I don't want my kid to grow up with no family!

It's also worth noting that your choice for your kid is not Loving Grandparents vs. No Grandparents.

It's between Vicious Jerk Grandparents That Have A Deeply Awkward And Hurtful Relationship With Your Parents vs. No Grandparents.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:28 PM on August 12, 2015 [15 favorites]


Seconding almost everyone - but especially warriorqueen.

I have a family member that is similar to this. My children are teens now, and she actively tries to damage the relationship between my children and me. She's been fairly successful with one of them, who is gullible and cannot seem to see through her like the others do. You know how some kids will play the parents against each other? Even though I'm single, she's actually managed to set up dynamics where she encourages that child of mine to do exactly that - play me against her - except she's 100% on board with whatever she can do to harm me and disrupt him.

It's not healthy for the kids. We're better off without that person in our lives, but given our particular situation - and lack of distance - it's been incredibly difficult to set the kind of zero-exposure boundaries that would be best. I've had to settle for limited exposure, which is getting more and more difficult to tolerate, because she constantly pushes.

I'd say shut the door and don't ever risk opening it again, if your husband is on board with it.
posted by stormyteal at 7:30 PM on August 12, 2015


Adding a further voice of agreement - this is an awful situation you are in and you should totally get these horrible people out of your child's life.

To err on the side of caution and seconding Sophont's comment - see a lawyer. Here's a brochure from the NSW gov about the NSW law relating to Grandparents rights relating to their grandchildren. It doesn't read to me like they would have a leg to stand on but I am not a lawyer. You should start documenting all of this - hopefully you'll never have to use it but just in case.
posted by coleboptera at 8:35 PM on August 12, 2015 [6 favorites]


One set of my grandparents was openly contemptous of my mom. She put up with them to preserve my relationship with them, and all it did was wind up confusing me and teaching me that it was ok for my mom to be disrespected. I cut them off myself when they turned their ire toward my baby sister, and have no relationship with them to this day.

Kids are smart. They pick up on things, possibly things you don't intend them to. Your in laws have proven themselves to be capricious and vengeful. Do you really want to expose your kid to this kind of toxicity? And what happens when they turn on him? Your first priority is to protect your child. Tell them biweekly visits will not be possible.
posted by snickerdoodle at 3:44 AM on August 13, 2015 [11 favorites]


To me this behavior is so bizarre that there almost has to be some additional explanation for it. Is the brother with whom you keep in touch a possible source of information?

But if there really is nothing more to it than grandparents thinking they can rule by fiat, no question you should move to where you will have good family support. This isn't like a divorce situation where it's important for each parent to rise above the discord and facilitate a relationship between the child and the other parent. Your child won't have a gaping, painful hole in his or her life because this set of grandparents isn't in it.
posted by lakeroon at 4:33 AM on August 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


It's not worth it for your mental health or your child's to try to make this "arrangement" work.
posted by drezdn at 5:09 AM on August 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


Your update makes me wonder whether your husband's parents are holocaust survivors/refugees. There is a decent body of scholarship on the intergenerational effects of trauma, and the sad truth seems to be that some of the people who survived the worst things, had their families and social supports torn from them, end up playing out their trauma and alienating their future families from them. (I think this must be the case for other survivors of trauma as well, I just happen to be most familiar with the post-holocaust scholarship). It can lead to all kinds of messed-up-ness - a weird entanglement of inappropriate closeness and scary alienation, plus survivor guilt (and guilt in their children) plus vulnerability, etc. It's really tragic.

If there may be some of that going on, doing some reading on that might help you, and especially your husband, make some sense of his parents and his relationship with them. And it would be great to find a therapist who is familiar with these kinds of issues. Your husband *is* Australian, but in some deeply formative ways, his parents sound like they may not be.

IF this is applicable, I think this knowledge might be useful for your husband and for you, for having more perspective on his parents behavior, and being able to talk to your kids about them with some compassion.

I don't think it would mean you have to facilitate their visitation with your child! The worst case scenario for that is yet another generation exposed to unfiltered, reckless trauma.

But I think it would mean that sorting this out with your husband might be more complicated. You two really really really need to be on the same page on this. I think that is the most important thing. He will probably have some pretty complex feelings and cutting off his parents from his child, however sensible/appropriate/healthy it may be, might be incredibly hard for him, and ultimately impossible. The worst thing would be him feeling like he needs to sneak around behind you for his parents' sake, but the experienced obligations of a child to their parent, especially to a vulnerable and traumatized parent, can go very very deep. So I think it's great that you're all going to therapy, and I guess I would recommend moving slowly and indecisively with his parents - i.e., not making any big dramatic rules that would be difficult to walk back from if things got complicated with your husband.

One way of doing that might just be, 'sorry, we can't do the visit this week.' And again the next week, and oh, what a coincidence, again the next week. That's very different from 'no more' but the immediate effect for you and your kid is the same. Depending on your husband's feelings about this, it might even make sense to (temporarily) let the visits continue with a paid (very very trusted) babysitter in your house in your stead. I don't think that's 'fair' or 'ideal' by any means, but it might be a workable intermediate measure that lets the family that really matters here - you, your husband, and your kid - move forward together in a healthy sustainable way.

One worst case scenario I have in mind is that the immediate pain of his parents cutting him off spurs your husband to be willing to cut them off and move with you and the kids back the USA. Then his parents come around just enough, or *act* like they are coming around, or manage to make him think that maybe you're the problem and not them, to add extra stress into your life in the States. (And the move will be a big stressor for a while, even if all goes very well). And then he begins to second guess the decision, and wants to move you all back to Australia (the economy in the US is a lot worse than in Australia now, what if he can't get a comparable job? etc. etc). Then what? Intercontinental custody is a nightmare.

So what I think is most important is working slowly and thoughtfully on your relationship with your husband and your husband's relationship with his parents (not necessarily his *active* relationship with them, but the way that he relates to them emotionally whether he's in touch with them or not). Do what you can to manage the situation with his parents and your child for the time being in a way that is as un-dramatic and un-definitive as possible, not for their sake but to create the most mental/emotional space for your husband to work stuff through with the least external pressure possible. You can always move to a more definitive stance later, including completely cutting them off and moving to the other side of the world (which I agree with other posters seems like a great long term plan) but you need to make sure the process gets *your* family there as intact and healthy as possible.

Good luck!!
posted by Salamandrous at 7:07 AM on August 13, 2015 [9 favorites]


I know they "won't be babysitting," but you can't trust them to respect any of your wishes or boundaries about how your child is going to be raised. (In my family, that means no leaving babies alone with their aunt, who will have them lick black coffee off her finger. Ugh.)

No no no no no no. And yes, it is ABSOLUTELY reasonable to move to be near the family who embraces and loves you, and I hope you do it.

Later in life, that baby is going to need to be shown their place too.

This is absolutely true as well. I was my grandfather's "favorite" as a child, but once I hit 18, ooh boy. Not that he still doesn't love me, but I am just another adult to boss around now. Not sure it's overall a great thing to subject a child to.

Your child will notice the tension and one of many things will happen, but a worst case outcome is that they will learn to disrespect/dislike you because you didn't stand up for yourself or protect them. Don't let that happen so your bitch in-laws can play with a baby they don't even want to sit.
posted by easter queen at 7:54 AM on August 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'm so sorry you are in the middle of this awful situation. At present there are 62 answers already, which I haven't read yet. Just wanted to say to you: THERE IS NO WAY. There is no way they can come in your house, disrespecting you, and have contact with your child while you're in the background, conveniently so they can have a witness to them disrespecting you, and this witness is planned to be your child.

Did they buy you your house or something, that they think they can come to your home and insult you?

I think you should throw a fit, call them all the names under the sun, and be as evil towards them as you jolly well please. Let them see how they like it. - well, not quite, because it's not easy to be evil if you're not an irrational unreasonable person. But you don't have to put up with this, and you shouldn't because it enables really nasty, damaging bullying behaviour, which your child needs to be protected from.

And you should be vocal about how hurt and offended you are. The more vocal you are the more likely you are to find allies. I bet this couple have hurt plenty of other people around them.

You are in a different country and culture than your own - don't let these people take advantage of your trying to accommodate different cultural mores by JUST MAKING STUPID SHIT UP. I've never in my life heard of anything like this in (highly patriarchal) West Africa or South Asia - and due to differing expectations and profound economic changes we get a lot of stories in UK about Pakistan/Anglo culture clashes in particular. (Whereas in actual Pakistan, you might be surprised to find daughter-in-laws vigorously not putting up with crap.)

Also, this is an afterthought but it's highly suspicious they want their visits to take place when your husband is not around. YOU NEED TO BE VERY WARY OF WHAT THEY MIGHT BE PLANNING to get up to when you're on your own with the kid. Please don't give them any benefit of the doubt and imagine the worst that could possibly happen. They've already proved that their thought processes aren't something you can anticipate or understand at all.

Sorry for all the caps but: PLEASE DON'T LET THESE PEOPLE HURT YOU. Also it sounds as if your husband could really do with some emotional support - but equally, he needs to worry about not just your emotional well being but your physical well being as well.
posted by glasseyes at 7:55 AM on August 13, 2015 [9 favorites]


My mother did this, encouraging my visits with my grandmother (dad's mom) who hated her. When I was little, I didn't really understand why mom would never join us, though I was aware of the tension and sadness. As I got older, my grandmother poisoned my (already difficult) relationship with my mother, with made-up stories of perceived slights, misinformation, and just plain, really cruel, lies. (When I was 17, she told me the my mother never wanted me and only had me because my father threatened to leave.)

This internet stranger gives you permission to tell them to stuff it.
posted by ApathyGirl at 8:07 AM on August 13, 2015 [8 favorites]


If this continues, would it be unreasonable after an extended period of time to move back to my country to live near my family

Looking at the bigger picture from your past questions, you've basically given up having good career opportunities by moving to a small town so you could be near your husband's family and in return get treated like this? Movemovemove. You, your husband, and your child deserve better.
posted by Candleman at 8:07 AM on August 13, 2015 [13 favorites]


I'm so sorry you're going through this. Trust your instincts and don't feel guilty.
posted by mermily at 9:00 AM on August 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


I'm so sorry you have to deal with this; it's a rotten situation. I would just add that the grandparents appear to be disrespectful and even contemptuous towards you and your partner, and I would not want my child to have that role modeling.
posted by theora55 at 9:23 AM on August 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


I also want to second warrierqueen about really examining the idea that it's even possible for your kid to have a relationship with his or her grandparents that doesn't put them in the middle, and thinking about how much harder it will be to put boundaries in place as your kid gets older.

For what it's worth: I had a different set of challenges with my son's grandparents, but it was similar in that my son was about the same age (this occurred between 6 months and 18 months old) and I was also weighing what my responsibility to my son, my husband, and my in-laws were in terms of facilitate a baby-grandparent relationship that I wasn't 100% comfortable with. Early on, when my son was an infant, I thought things would get easier as he got older and could communicate to tell us if something his grandparents did wasn't okay (as opposed to feeling like I would never know if they were doing something dangerous or damaging when he was pre-verbal). The opposite turned out to be the case. Right around 14 months he started getting extremely attached--and especially attached to my one in-law with addiction issues--and when the inevitable happened and my in-law fell off the wagon, it was exponentially harder to put boundaries in place limiting my in-laws' access to our son without feeling like I was threatening one of his major sources of secure attachment.

Now that I'm on the other side of this struggle, I have to say: if I felt like there was any reasonable chance that the grandparents would suddenly cut ties with the grandkid over the next year or two, or do something else to damage their relationship with him that would force you to cut ties--I'd strongly consider pulling back hard on the relationship now, when your kid isn't strongly attached to them. It won't get easier to navigate this in the future.
posted by iminurmefi at 9:26 AM on August 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


Our 8 and 6-year-old children have never met my husband's toxic, identity thief mother, his rageaholic, narcissist father, nor his enabling stepfather and stepmother, who thankfully all live 3 time zones away. It has not turned out to be any type of a loss at all, even though part of us feared it would be when we first made the choice to go no contact immediately after our first baby was born. Today our kids are absolutely thriving-- so much so that some friends we all just vacationed with and had not seen in several years asked us what we were doing to "raise such incredibly happy kids." (Partial answer: we do not hesitate to make tough choices wherever necessary to avoid exposing them to any people who would be horrible role models for them.)

What they are asking of you is downright GALLING. They want to come over and "play" with your baby but not "babysit," in your house, while you have to be there presumably doing all of the heavy lifting/feeding/cleaning/diaper changing, on your day off, while your husband is away? Hell no! FWIW, I wouldn't even allow that type of a shitty "no babysitting" arrangement even for my own wonderful parents who I adore-- no way! In my house, we fully expect family visitors to chip in with childcare and clean up the messes their play causes. I mean, there is just no way what they're asking is even feasible. Also, your day off is super precious time for you to be spending 1:1 bonding with your baby and just relaxing together in your own space, NOT entertaining a couple of entitled, unhelpful, asshole visitors who've shown you they hate you and your husband.

You teach people how to treat you. It is an obvious, unspoken rule of life: If a grandparent cuts off their grandbaby's parents, they give up all expectations of ever knowing their grandbaby. Plain and simple. They don't get to avoid the logical consequences of their actions here. Personally, I think the immediate boundary that needs to happen is from now on, they're going to have to engage with your husband/their son to request visitation with your baby, and he gets to decide if they ever get to see your child. Because: his country, his parents, and you don't need to be the one to do the emotional labor dealing with them. Just continue to support your husband (this shocking news has got to be especially hard for him), and for now just refuse to engage any further with your in-laws. This sucks, and you've seen their true colors now, but it might turn out to be a blessing in disguise if it leads you to a healthier place in terms of expectations, boundaries, and getting real and true family support in other places.
posted by hush at 9:57 AM on August 13, 2015 [14 favorites]


Uncharacteristically yelling back at grandma could be what is called reactive abuse. It's not your fault.

Also, what everyone else said.
posted by LoonyLovegood at 10:05 AM on August 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


What? No. There's not something magical about grandparents that makes them good for kids. They're just people. These are bad people.
posted by Ragged Richard at 10:08 AM on August 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


Also, random thought but: your child is the only grandchild right now. Your husband has two siblings, at least one of whom is probably capable of producing a child as well. What happens when Not-Hated-Son produces a child? Will your child be suddenly pushed aside? I saw that happen (a few steps removed, thankfully) with some of my inlaws, and it was awful. The suddenly-shunned kid had no idea what was going on and blamed it on himself, wondering what he'd done. It was pretty heartwrenching to watch.
posted by RogueTech at 12:38 PM on August 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


Just another vote against the arrangement they are proposing. If they treat you this way, there is no reason to think they'll behave decently towards the kid either. They may not even be deliberately mean; their sense of how to treat people is just so off. That could be very scary for your kid.
posted by BibiRose at 1:16 PM on August 13, 2015


Roguetech - he is their sixth grandson on my husband's side. He is the only grandchild on my side (for now).

Thank you everyone - this has been hugely helpful to both of us. Many things mentioned above were already taken into account (husband taking the lead, week to week, not moving soon, checking in with brothers, etc). We can see root causes (yes, certainly some traces of WWII) and are not without compassion... But still! Anyway, feel free to keep adding - the pile on is great!
posted by jrobin276 at 1:22 PM on August 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


As far as I'm concerned, you, your husband and child are a packaged deal. I wouldn't want my child to have a relationship with the kind of people who may say negative things about me or my husband either.

I would tell them to f off, personally, and move towards my own parents. It's not worth it.
posted by Sara_NOT_Sarah at 1:48 PM on August 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


Go go go. End this abusive crap. Huge boundaries for now, but plan to leave anyway. They are not going to magically be able to treat you two with respect, your kid will be damaged by this crap. My aunt was the same way, bad mouthing her own sister out of jealously. Took me way too long to figure out, and by that time she had been doing the same to me for years.
posted by TenaciousB at 2:57 PM on August 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


You don't need my addition to the discussion because all the people above me are correct and firm in being on your side and I have nothing useful to add. We had some struggles around grandparenting, but for the most part if I was in doubt about a relative (anyone, really) interacting with my kids I just hovered around and intercepted things, and then we had to go. Fast.

But I was delighted at the number of answers that started with "lol NOPE" and hope they made you laugh and not cringe.
posted by old gray mare at 2:59 PM on August 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


Whoa. This is crazy.

If they don't respect you, they are not going to respect the boundaries and rules that you have for your child. This sends up all sorts of red flags and I don't think it's safe for them to be interacting with your child.

Some people are toxic. These people sound toxic. You don't owe them anything. Go and do what makes YOU happy and don't look back.
posted by Ostara at 3:58 PM on August 13, 2015


Yes, another voice saying that this is crazy. And that I can totally understand how, when they made the request, the sheer audacity of it would throw you off base enough to not recognize just how truly outrageous it is.

But I think this sounds like a wonderful opportunity to get (your child) the hell away from these crazy and potentially toxic relationships. I would actually disagree with the idea that you should wait "an extended period of time". It sounds like you're "putting in dues" and I understand that feeling too, but this isn't about meeting some quota, it's about your life. And most importantly and your child's life.

The longer you wait, the greater the chance that they'll become enmeshed in your child's life and it will become much harder for you all to then justify moving away. not that you should have to justify moving away, but I suspect you'll feel like you need to justify it.

You all have tried, you've given them time, you've made sacrifices in many parts of your lives so that you can have a strong relationship with them. They have said in no uncertain terms that they don't want ANY relationship with you. You owe them nothing more. But you and your child deserve to have the chance to have loving and healthy relationships with family.

This will be the easiest and cleanest time to disentangle yourselves from this icky, sticky web. That doesn't mean cutting ties, you can still be open to reconciliation, but it should be on you and your husbands terms from now on.
posted by pennypiper at 4:33 PM on August 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


I grew up in Australia and saw some pretty dramatastic families but never anything like this. If you are looking for a culturally appropriate response, your main concern should be fine-tuning the number of f-words in your single-sentence reply indicating your unwillingness to accept their ridiculous, insulting proposal. (The traditional number would be about three or four, I think.)
posted by No-sword at 5:53 PM on August 13, 2015 [12 favorites]


(That said, probably best to say that sentence aloud in an empty room before focusing on the more diplomatic suggestions upthread. But it's absolutely not even the tiniest bit unreasonable or culturally insensitive to refuse to accommodate their bullshit demands in any way, however politely you want to deflect them.)
posted by No-sword at 8:29 PM on August 13, 2015


I just want to echo this: It's also worth noting that your choice for your kid is not Loving Grandparents vs. No Grandparents.

My situation was different. My father passed away when I was 2. My mother spent the next few years trying to build a relationship between his parents & me. The last we heard from them was just after Thanksgiving when I was in kindergarden. There may have been a Christmas gift mailed to us, I don't recall, but I know the conversation over the Thanksgiving was about what size I wore. They lived all of 20 minutes away. My mom was crushed. She very much wanted me to have a relationship with my dad's parents.

Me? Not so much. I never really knew them. I couldn't tell you what they looked like or, really, anything about them. I don't harbor any ill will towards them, though I was hurt when they listed me as "loving Granddaughter" in the survived by section of his obituary - really?! That hurt quickly turned to sadness for them. They did not have healthy relationships and for as much as my mom tried to build one, I'm likely better off that it didn't happen.

The point of that story? Do what you can, but look out for the best interests of your immediate family - you, your husband, and your child. Maybe that is playing this game with your in-laws for a few weeks to see how it plays out before making any decisions or hard rules of engagement, maybe it's limiting the contact, maybe it's moving to the States. I don't really have an answer for you on that, but I do know that you don't need to fear the idea that your child may never have an idealized relationship with them. A close extended family is nice, but it's not everything. And it's definitely not nice if it's not a healthy family environment. That's not a place where children can easily thrive.
posted by imbri at 8:36 PM on August 13, 2015


And why would you consider subjecting your darling child to this kind of model? If they can turn on you for no reason, why wouldn't they do the same to their grandchild down the road some time?

Quoted for truth.

And they probably will turn on their grandchild, frankly. They need to manipulate the situation, and so they will try (maybe subconsciously, but nevertheless try) to put ideas in your kid's head to justify this weird arrangement. And they will lash out at their grandchild when he/she disagrees or calls their bluff, and this will also be your fault, and when they reject the kiddo they will consider your child's pain about this to ALSO be your problem.
posted by desuetude at 9:46 PM on August 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


I wrote this in your update/ask that got deleted....

What your husband emailed was just excellent.

I, uh, don't really understand why your in-laws dislike you and their son. Can you explain beyond what seems to be control issues? Or is that literally as much as you can figure out?

How is brother3's partner regarded? I assume he/she would become the new scapegoat if you guys leave the country?

Overall, theydon't seem to want a relationship with you and your husband. I don't think that is fixable. Do your and your husband think it is fixable?

Is brother3 biological offspring of the stepdad? Is that part of the issue here? Just curious.

There is no downside leaving this weird gossipy toxic mess behind. None at all. Get some therapy so it doesn't effect your marriage. That's all.
posted by jbenben at 6:02 PM on August 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


Cathartic update for anyone still reading (and again, big thank you to you all!):

We’ve learned a lot in the past week. Responses from my husband’s brothers have been as follows:
1. Aw, you know how mum is. I’m sure they mean well. It’ll blow over in time etc…
2. Hm. This is tricky. Maybe just let bygones be bygones and start over with a clean state.
(I feel like we’ve tried this. It worked for me, but apparently not for them. So no.)
3. Hey, you guys should just talk about this! (*Headsmack*)

From recent conversations with my husband and brother #3, we/I’ve learned that:

They’ve been bitching about us to brother3 for years.

They think (my husband) is naiive, easily led, and doesn’t know what’s good for him, that I’m not family oriented, and that we’re just blundering through adulthood and have no idea what we’re doing.

Every time we’ve communicated with them about trying to sort this out, they’ve called brother 3. (He’s told them to stop.)

Conversations get wildly distorted. Last time my husband talked to his stepdad, this (which I heard first hand, on speakerphone):
Stepdad: “Saying you feel like you don’t fit in at Christmas really hurt your mother. If it’s too awkward for you, you don’t have to come. Nobody would mind.”
Hubby: “Oh. I’ve actually been working through a lot of this in therapy. I felt pretty good about last Christmas, even if I don’t really fit in. I guess I’ll think about it.”
Came back to us via brother3 as “Why are you refusing to come to Christmas?” Us: “What???”
(Many other issues here… why is this suddenly about his mom? Why didn’t she say anything? Are we being uninvited or what?)

Some of their complaints were “we feel shut out” and “we just want to be part of the family”.
They are also still upset about things I did eight years ago – the specific incident mentioned was me walking out of the room (rude) in the middle of a conversation (they weren’t listening and had started yelling at me, I think over wedding stuff).

Hubby has confirmed that they had disagreements over previous girlfriends and took early attempts at asserting his independence personally, but hadn’t thought it was still an issue.

They don’t want to have a social relationship with us for the immediate future. When my husband pressed, his mum said “Maybe in time”.

They made it extremely clear that they are never helping us with anything ever again.

Also made it quite clear that they are “…never discussing any of this with (me). EVER.”

When my husband brought up mediation/non-violent communication techniques/general idea that there are constructive *ways* to work through things we were told that this stuff doesn’t work, relationships don’t work like that, people don’t change, etc.

My husband has sent a very polite email to the effect of (paraphrasing) “Anytime you’re ready to try to work this out let us know. Here are some links to sliding scale family mediation centres we could use, articles on how to approach reconciliation etc. We want to model healthy respectful adult relationships for our child (plus, he’s an infant), so we expect anyone who wants a relationship with kiddo to have working respectful adult relationships with us first.”

Brother no. 3 has referred to the above boundary as “blackmail”. Super disappointing. He’s asked that we not talk to him about it anymore, so we’re not.
posted by jrobin276 at 8:19 PM on August 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


Jbenben - to answer: (and thank you for your reply)
No idea, other than the above/DIL2 and DIL seem liked, issues with DIL1/not fixable/stepdad has no bio children, all kids have the same dad.

OK. I'll read any replies, but won't threadsit.
Thank you all.
posted by jrobin276 at 8:29 PM on August 23, 2015


My husband has sent a very polite email to the effect of (paraphrasing) “Anytime you’re ready to try to work this out let us know. Here are some links to sliding scale family mediation centres we could use, articles on how to approach reconciliation etc. We want to model healthy respectful adult relationships for our child (plus, he’s an infant), so we expect anyone who wants a relationship with kiddo to have working respectful adult relationships with us first.”

That's a very measured and kind response. Far kinder than I could have been, in your position. Well done for being the better people while still enforcing clear boundaries.

Brother no. 3 has referred to the above boundary as “blackmail”.

As for the brothers, well they're entitled to their opinions, but that's fucking bullshit, and hypocritical bullshit at that given Brother 3 has set his boundaries as he sees fit but for some reason doesn't think you are similarly entitled. His opinions don't matter, especially since he's noped out of the entire thing. The only opinions that matter in this entire kerfuffle are yours and your husband's and child's. All else is stuff and nonsense.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:55 PM on August 23, 2015 [5 favorites]


Oh wow. I'm so sorry. To this uninformed stranger, it sounds like they've cast him in a role (probably since childhood) and are unwilling to to let that go. If so, their actions are more about what's going on in their heads than reality, and nothing you can do will change that. My mother is has been telling me I'll never be a "good wife" since I was a teenager. It hurts and it sucks, but this is who they are. Do what you need to do to protect yourself and your family from their toxicity. Move back home, build your life, and thrive.

As for your BIL, it's clear that they've put him on the role of favorite son. Don't use him to mediate/triangulate. Understand that he's steeped in this distinction too. Try to build relationships with him based on who he is, and don't talk about your In-laws with him at all. That sounds unfair, and it is, but either he's going to realize how this dynamic has shortchanged him too or he isn't, and you can't make him see it.
posted by snickerdoodle at 4:03 AM on August 24, 2015 [2 favorites]


This is one of the most obtuse things i've ever read on here because this is some hardcore gaslighting in that the entire rest of the family is in on it.

Rest assured that your husband's response was awesome. The blackmail response is because they don't want to engage in a situation where they aren't in power. If they can't set the terms of the discussion, and move the goalposts wherever they like, then they're not going to play the game and are going to try and blame their unwillingness to play on you... And rally the rest of the family around your unwillingness to not just meet them halfway, but over 100% of the way into their version into the margins of pruning yourself back, as you being unreasonable and blackmailing.

It sucks that this kind of shit can rip families apart, and you will probably encounter people outside of your family(possibly family friends, etc) who are Grandparents Always Get To See Kids or Oh My God It's Family! traditionalists who will side with them, but you're doing completely the right thing here.

There's a lot of shitty things going on here that they're perpetuating, and the hardcore triangulation is only one of them. The glib "hey i don't agree with it but blah ridiculous thing they said" attitude and presentation of brother 3 is a lot more shitty than it seems, underneath it's disingeneous "hey i don't agree and i'm not getting involved" shell. It's ranges from shitstirring to gaslighting depending on which segment of the story you're talking about. The blackmail line was just the mask falling off a bit.

I mentioned one side of my family above, but this sort of thing has happened on both sides of my family. Especially the hardcore triangulation.

You offered to meet them in the middle and they declined, saying they were only willing to move forward on their own terms. Your husband seems on board with this being crazypants and really needing to be clamped down on. Move forward with confidence that disconnecting, at least for now, is the right thing to do and doesn't make you a bad person or selfish or whatever.

I watched my parents go through this, and as an adult only hang out with my extended family(and only hung out with my grandparents, on either side) in fairly limited and pre-planned ways... and the shittiness STILL randomly reared it's head, which would lead to more stepping back or taking of breaks.

When they do come crawling back, and agree to sort-of-but-not-really meet you in the middle and you accept or are whittled down or something, expect to repeat this backing off process essentially... forever, unless you 100% cut them off. And i'm not saying you should, i'm just saying that this is a process that never ends.

Just remember, in the midst of their bullshit misrepresentation and revisionist history stuff, where you came from. Especially when the other family members start repeating their version of it, or parts of their version as fact. You didn't overreact, this was Some Bullshit.
posted by emptythought at 4:27 AM on August 24, 2015 [6 favorites]


You guys did great! His family, not so much.
Sometimes, to get through totally batshit times with my family, where someone goes completely off the rails whether addiction-related or not, I repeat the following mantra to myself over and over:

You didn't cause this
You can't control this
You can't cure this

You've done the best you can, as has your husband.
posted by RogueTech at 11:07 AM on August 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


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