The Secondhand Reported Offense

by admin on October 9, 2013

About six months after my mom passed, and approximately eight months before my husband’s brother and girlfriend (I’ll call her Lisa) are to get married; Lisa, her sister Penny, and another friend of theirs came for a visit at my house, and turned a rather pleasant afternoon into something I’m still amazed over.

We all sat down to chat, and then Lisa started the next hour of conversation with:
“Why do you always talk to Mother-in-law about bargains you’ve found or garage sales, and why do you shop at Goodwill? You shouldn’t shop there, you have enough money to shop at (list of stores) and it looks bad when you talk about how much money you saved.” I was a little taken aback but responded that since my mom passed, I was conversing with mother-in-law about the things I used to talk about easily with Mom and was probably hoping to fill in the gap.

Nods all around.

And then the list of things I shouldn’t do went on: “I only call Penny when I need something” (not really true, I help Penny out with her son’s school projects occasionally, but I guess this is their perception). I apologized. And previously, when Lisa showed me the engagement ring, I exclaimed how big it was, which was off-putting. Yes, that was a gaffe on my part. I apologized. My parenting skills were addressed. My son is a happy, thriving child, full of smiles and he sleeps through the night. I’m very proud of him, albeit I’m a new mom and I’m sure I make mistakes. Lisa has no children yet. This continued while I looked for a way to escape my own home or change the subject to bean dip, but Lisa was on a mission. Finally, they left and I was utterly depressed for days. I wasn’t sure if Mother-in-law had mentioned her annoyance at my subject matter to Lisa, although it seemed unlikely. Mother-in-law never said anything bad about anyone.

The wedding is fast approaching and I’m still unsure how to approach or deal with Lisa. Since our conversation, I have “laid low” and have been civil, or as my mom would have suggested, I have smiled and been polite. I haven’t mentioned bargain shopping or saving money to Mother-in-law, and she hasn’t mentioned that she’s noticed any change in our conversations, which are always pleasant. Maybe one of these days, I’ll ask. I haven’t reached out to talk to Penny at all, nor has she called me.

I know it’s been a few months since this happened, but I still feel stung and astonished. I haven’t mentioned any of it to anyone else, except for right now at this writing. Has anyone ever been in a situation like this? Is it common? I’ve never had such an experience, and would rather avoid having it occur again.  1002-13

Lisa has ensconced herself as the family busybody before she’s even married.    And that is exactly how you should view her….a meddling, divisive busybody.   Almost every family has one and the way I deal with it is to refuse to discuss problems with people who are neither part of the problem nor the solution.    If a relative has an offense against me, that person is free to come discuss it with me but I do not entertain secondhand reports of someone else’s alleged offense from people who thrive on this kind of family drama.   Several years ago I was approached by a relative who claimed to speak for another relative about an offense this person had against yet another relative.   Did you get that?   Person A is allegedly offended at Person D so it goes through Person B to Person C (being me) and I am supposed to either be the mediator for Persons A and D or be the gossipy reporter to Person D.    I promptly took Person B to task for being willing to listen to Person A’s gripes and then come gossiping to me about it.   Person A can put on their big kid pants, grow some Spauldings and arrange to address the issues with Person D at any time but I will not be drawn into this drama.   And until Person A does speak with Person D, I’m going to assume there is no current issues between the two.   Person A never contacted Person D.

If your MIL has not mentioned any issues she has with you, I would continue living life as if nothing were amiss and dismiss Lisa’s lecture as the work of the family gossip.   Meanwhile you should examine yourself to make sure there is no crumb of truth to what Lisa claims.   Talking to MIL about issues that are of special interest to you only or using her to fill the motherless gap you have is somewhat selfish.    Unless your child is a raging brat, I would ignore Lisa’s ignorant child training observations, too.

Where is your husband in all this?   What does he think of the situation?

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