How to discuss an argument with someone who avoids discussions?
April 13, 2016 1:12 PM   Subscribe

I am feeling such anxiety about an in law family incident about a month ago. I am a conflict avoider. I don't think fast on my feet. But on the other hand, I am trying to stand up for myself more, because I have noticed how much it affects my health to hold my anger/resentment inside. It literally makes me sick to my stomach and tense all over. I wrote about the incident and how I feel my sister and brother in law are very inconsiderate about other people's time and money. I understand this is not my problem except when it affects me. My question is, what am I supposed to do now? I am not sorry for standing up for myself. But this family does not discuss problems, they give silent treatments for 10 years. It makes me so so so uncomfortable and I feel anxiety just anticipating the next family event. I don't want to feel like I am getting the silent treatment. However, I cannot avoid these people for the rest of my life.
posted by tangomija to Human Relations (8 answers total)
The number one question here is: Where does your husband stand in all this?
Does he have YOUR back, or is he taking the side of the in-laws?
It's his job to be your champion, your defender and your husband.

You should always be able to be vulnerable, honest and discuss these types of things with him.
If you can't, or you won't, then it may be time to get a third party, such as a counselor or a therapist involved, either individually (for yourself) or as a couple.
posted by Major Matt Mason Dixon at 1:19 PM on April 13, 2016 [5 favorites]

Who is it you want to discuss this with? Your husband? Your sister-in-law? Your mother-in-law? If they don't want to discuss it, there's not much you can to do make them do this. You have to do what you need to do for yourself.

Personally, I'd go the 'catch more flies with honey' route, and kill 'em with kindness.

You can say something like: I'm sorry I spoke in anger last month. I didn't intend to cause offense. Then move on. Write a letter to them, but don't give it to them. Burn it for catharsis. You're stuck with these people for a long time. Don't let their drama become your drama.
posted by hydra77 at 1:29 PM on April 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

You seem to still want to discuss this with your husband, but he won't (hence the title of the post), is that correct? I think the answer is still counseling, as many recommended in your last question about this matter. Is there some reason you don't want to talk to a counselor (either with your husband or by yourself)? A counselor will at the very least be able to give you tools to help with anxiety. Even better if your husband agrees to attend with you, but if he won't, go for individual counseling. It's apparent you need to talk to someone about this.
posted by WesterbergHigh at 1:38 PM on April 13, 2016 [3 favorites]

I read over your last question. The silent treatment is totally a thing in these kinds of families. I have a beloved family member who hasn't talked to me in five years. A lot of it is around "respect".

The best way to resolve it, imho, if your husband is really invested in being El Jefe, is to tell him that you feel like your position as his wife is being disrespected.
posted by corb at 1:43 PM on April 13, 2016 [6 favorites]

What do you want to happen and is the thing that what you want to have happen realistic? If your sister-in-law doesn't accept/agree with the boundaries you are setting, your interactions with her are likely to be strained (this is regardless of whether those boundaries are reasonable or not). You can't make her talk things out with you, and even if you could, she might well say that she still thinks you are wrong and that you're a big terrible meanie.

But hashing things out with the people you're upset with and keeping your feelings bottled up are *not* your only options - you can unload about this to someone else more sympathetic (maybe a friend or relative, maybe a therapist). And you can choose to let these things go for the sake of your relationship with your husband and his family.

You may just need to radically accept that these people are in your life and this is the way they operate and presumably other aspects of your relationship with your husband are good enough to make up for that.
posted by mskyle at 1:45 PM on April 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

These are your in-laws, and you're married to someone in their family. I think a compromise and kindness are good ideas. You could absolutely do something nice to try to 'bury the hatchet' and also to campaign for your side of things. Invite them to lunch, and say that you wanted to do it to say sorry, and really want to have a good relationship with them. While you're at lunch and having a good time, explain how you come from a different family background where people weren't expected to do each other such favors and it's taken/will take some getting used to. This could also help in getting them to rely upon you for 'favors' less. You said yourself in your last question that they considered your previous argument/complaint blunt; maybe this would help with that.
posted by destructive cactus at 1:49 PM on April 13, 2016

[One comment deleted. Hey there, tangomija, moderator here. AskMetafilter isn't a discussion or debate space; it's an ask-then-sit-back space, where you ask a relatively-concrete question and then people can offer the best answers they have. It's not a space to vent, or to process things in an ongoing way. You can mark the answers that you find most helpful and just ignore the ones that don't seem that helpful.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 2:11 PM on April 13, 2016

To offer a different view. My family is all about silent treatment, but eventually it became more important for me to stand up for myself than to have a good relationship with them. It doesn't quite sound like you're at that point, but you are totally allowed to say what you think even if it isn't their "culture".

For me the issue is really being comfortable with their silent treatment. They are the ones choosing to be jerks. You have the right to stand up for yourself, and if they can't handle it, that's their problem. Perhaps you could figure out some way to enjoy the contortions they go through to not talk to you, perhaps you can play a secret anthropology game to see who is talking to who and not to you, perhaps you can have something at (or before or after) the next family event you really enjoy so you don't care as much about what they think.

Do you really want to have a relationship in which you have to constantly avoid speaking up for yourself, or repeatedly apologize for doing so?
posted by lab.beetle at 8:25 PM on April 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

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