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A Sticky Family Problem

I am currently living a family situation that is becoming tiring and cumbersome. Since I cannot intervene openly, for reasons that I will make clear later, I am asking advice on how to discreetly handle the situation with the people concerned. But I will tell the story in my own point of view. I understand that this is only one side of the story, but I hope it will be clear enough to understand the situation.

Our family consist on FIL and MIL, respectively in their seventies and eighties, who are the sweetest. MIL is manipulative, but not in a damaging way. She wants to keep the family together, that’s her prime directive.

FIL reacts negatively to manipulation. He abhors that, and I cannot blame him, since I also despise manipulation, if done to damage people.

Their oldest son, S#1, is a good man, but prone to get into situations that requires usually tact and diplomacy, which he has, in small doses.

The youngest son, S#2, is also a good man, but has no backbone. He is ruled in everything by his wife, the DIL. She is also a manipulative person, with a tendency to step on others in the family to get her way.

Me? I am the lover of S#1, accepted by the family, treated as a family member. But with no marital status, I feel that I am in a kind of limbo with them, even if I love some of them dearly.

The players are in place. Here’s the story :

MIL had bad health for quite a few years. She manages to get by, as best she can, with the support of FIL, who is in perfect health. DIL has been pestering the family for many months now to put MIL in an institution. Since she works in that field, she appointed herself the expert on that topic, as well as many others. Usually, the family simply brushed her pretentions and demands aside. But a recent discussion has ignited the fires of discord, and even I am not immune, even if I try my best to relate the facts in an objective manner.

FIL recently celebrated his 75th birthday. To that effect, a small party was organized by DIL. Things went from good to bad, because there were imposed restrictions right from the start. The family was not permitted to invite some guests close to them, but DIL had made provisions for members of her own family to attend. No problem there, as they were welcome, but why not extend the courtesy to the family of the birthday man? A battle of wills erupted between MIL and DIL. S#1 tried to interfere, and was rudely brushed aside by his brother and his wife. After a heated exchange, DIL decided she didn’t want to organize anything anymore, and left everything in the hands of S#1.

Fast forward to the party. It was a beautiful one. I helped my lover, and I have not regretted it. What was regrettable, however, was the attitude of DIL, who arrived early in order to boss everyone around. We had organized the seating at the restaurant so that the birthday man and his wife would be sitting at the end of a table (that was thought so that MIL would get an easy access to the restroom), and the immediate surviving family of FIL around him, which amounted to seven people. The rest of the long table was free for the rest of the family. DIL threw a fit, declared the arrangements inadequate, felt insulted to be seated so far from everyone else (which would have been the third seat from MIL/FIL at the end of the table). She later told that she envisioned a table “just for the old people”. My lover and I didn’t give her any footing. So she decided to dine at another table in the restaurant, and…sulk, with her own family. In fact, I was so infuriated by her childish attitude that I answered quite dryly at a question she asked me.

FIL, who had seen the way she behaved, wrote her an email the following morning, carefully worded, extolling her many qualities, but telling her why she was not endearing herself to anyone with her attitude. Her answer was to, in that order :

1. Read diagonally the email, and keeping in mind only the bad things the email said about her
2. Wrote another email, including a copy of the former, underlining all that was aggravating to her
3. Said that she would retire from any family functions from now on
4. That what was done to her was unthinkable, and couldn’t be mended
5. She destroyed her Facebook page

MIL, who was quite affected by the whole story, phoned her, asking what’s wrong. She said that FIL told her in the email that she shouldn’t phone them again for a few months, which is a lie, as some of us have seen the “offending” email.

Now, things are becoming ugly, as MIL is manipulating FIL in order to keep the family together, FIL is having none of it, and S#1 is upset that the same chain of events will begin all over again in a few months, if DIL has her way.

The reason I cannot intervene directly is that when you are a guest and a semi-relative (again, no marital status), you shouldn’t meddle in family affairs. But if I can pass discreetly a few words of advice from someone wiser than me on those topics, especially if it can allow the peace to return in this troubled household, I would gladly do it.

My frank point of view on the DIL attitude is this. I believe she is under a lot of pressure, for reasons unknown. I base my POV on the destruction of her FB page. Why do that, and deprive her own side of the family of her news, while it would have been simpler to just unfriend FIL and my lover? The move struck me as irrational. Any thoughts? 1112-13

Some things don’t make sense.   The MIL and DIL have a series of epic fights regarding FIL’s birthday party yet it is FIL and S#1 that are the villains?    It would appear to me that DIL has learned what buttons of her MIL to push and despite the cat fights, she views them as worth the effort since she achieves her desired goals in the end.   Such tactics don’t work on the menfolk.

And what constitutes “manipulation” by MIL to FIL?   Nagging? Pleas? Whining? Or just appeals to be reasonable?

My other thought was, when FIL’s birthday was pending,was there any family discussion to figure out who was doing what to celebrate the event?   Did the event planning fall to DIL by default or did she assume control over the objections of S#1?  One remedy to family members who take commanding control of family functions is to take the initiative to plan early, assume a leadership role from the beginning and lay claim to the responsibility to delegate duties as is expected from an event host.

As I get older my tolerance for the drama queens in the family diminishes. I have discovered that it is healthier to have harmony and happiness among a smaller population than attempt for years to bring or keep the drama llama into the family fold.   Life is more peaceful when the habitual liar is allowed to prance off in a huff with no one chasing them to appeal that they come back.   Let them go.   This new reality does burst the illusionist bubble of a happy family but the sad truth is, there may never have been a happy family at all to keep intact.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • MM November 11, 2014, 7:44 am

    I would suggest contacting a family mediator, a 3rd party objective neutral, to help sort through the various hurt feelings and conflicting ideas.

    Also, putting your feelings about someone in writing is never a good idea. No matter how carefully you word things, the reader will focus on the negative and the letter will seem like an attack. No one deserves to see their faults in black and white, it’s a very cruel thing to do.

    • mark November 11, 2014, 3:35 pm

      Me personally I would just take a timeout for a few months before trying to get a mediator. Give everyone time to cool down.

      • Kimstu November 11, 2014, 7:52 pm

        Yeah OP, I’d say just ride this one out. Be supportive to your partner, be as kind and helpful as you can to everyone else (and that includes swallowing down the “dry answers” you feel tempted to give DIL when you’re feeling “infuriated” at her), but don’t volunteer for the role of anybody’s unofficial private advisor, mediator, counselor, etc.

        No “words of advice” are going to produce “peace” among family members who enjoy being manipulative and/or quarrelsome. Keep your resolve of not meddling and stay out of the drama as much as you can, and when you can’t stay out, stay quiet. It’ll save both you and your partner a lot of unnecessary hassle in the long run.

  • Michelle November 11, 2014, 8:44 am

    I don’t know, OP. I think I would try my best to stay out and just support my partner in his choices. However, that may not be possible (staying out of it), since DIL is determined to strike against everyone who does not support her and her drama.

  • SusanB November 11, 2014, 9:15 am

    She wants to huff off since she didn’t get her way, let her, good riddance. Serious high fives all around that she’s gone. Beyond that stay out of it unless you are directly asked for help because there is no dealing with people like this unless you’re a therapist. What everyone’s expected role is now, is for family members to come crawling back, apologetic for unseen slights to hiss her ring. That is the whole point of the huffing off.

    Don’t engage, don’t play the game, don’t kiss the ring. Ignore her and interact to the minimum extent strictly bound by etiquette.

    • Lizajane November 11, 2014, 6:04 pm

      “hiss her ring” haha. I don’t think it’s what you meant…but I like it.

  • Abby November 11, 2014, 9:16 am

    I’m very confused by this submission, particularly the way OP worded the SIL’s response to her FIL’s email- reading diagonally and such. The best that I can figure is, DIL was organizing the party, when she got into an argument with her inlaws she withdrew from any planning, and was offended by the seat arrangement at the party. Then, when her father in law sent her an email, she said something along the lines of, fine, I’ll never come to any function again. I can’t figure out what “destroyed her facebook page” means. Do you mean she deleted it? Wrote a bunch of cryptic angry status updates?

    And now, MIL is possibly pressuring her husband to apologize to DIL in order to keep the peace, and FIL says no way. MIL is probably concerned that if DIL is mad, MIL won’t see her son either.

    OP, I think too much information is missing to accurately assess whether DIL is just a psycho drama queen or if there was something in the email that was legitimately hurtful, or if any backstory exists to explain DIL’s behavior. If not, then I agree with Admin that DIL is throwing a tantrum right now, and best just to let her cool off on her own. MIL can still try and reach out to Son #2. If he chooses to ignore any overtures out of solidarity to his wife, not much can be done. There are plenty of people in this world who are successful in cutting their spouse off from his or her family. It’s sad, but not much can be done.

  • acr November 11, 2014, 9:31 am

    “MIL is manipulative, but not in a damaging way. She wants to keep the family together, that’s her prime directive.”

    This right here made me instantly on DiL’s side. I think it’s very possible that MiL has been interfering in DiL’s marriage and life in ways you don’t see. You didn’t mention if there an any grand children. If DiL S#2 have the first or the only grandkids, they may be recieving a LOT of pressure and manipulation from your MiL to “keep the family together”. I wonder if your MiL has been making an effort to make her family the primary extended family in DiL’s life, and that’s why DiL invited her family to FiL’s birthday – to show them that her family is just as important as they are.

    Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t think DiL’s behavior is okay either. But I think she may be lashing out against things that are happening behind the scenes that you don’t see, as your MiL manipulates to “keep the family together”.

    I think the only advice you should pass along (and only if asked) is for MiL and FiL to leave DiL and S#2 alone, and let things cool down.

    You need to NOT try to position yourself as “family mediator”. MiL, FiL, DiL and S#2 are adults. It is rude, condescending and self-righteous for you to take the role of managing their relationships with each other.

  • Yasuragi November 11, 2014, 9:52 am

    Clearing away all but the bare bones of this the problem seems to be that SIL was planning a birthday party, felt criticized by her MIL and brother-in-law, left it to them to plan since they felt they could do better and then she gets an email pointing out why she’s the problem. From her side of things there’s reason to be upset. Sounds like drama coming from both sides.

    I also echo Admin’s question. How did DIL get to be the host?

  • Puzzled November 11, 2014, 10:15 am

    “As I get older my tolerance for the drama queens in the family diminishes. I have discovered that it is healthier to have harmony and happiness among a smaller population than attempt for years to bring or keep the drama llama into the family fold. ”

    I have found this to be excellent advice. I have never felt it necessary to keep trying with toxic people just because they are family members or family members of a significant other. My advice is to stay out of it as much as possible. I have actually found some peace in my life by eliminating this kind of drama. Don’t offer to march in other people’s crazy parades.

    • mark November 11, 2014, 3:07 pm

      +1 as well. Life is too short and sweet to spend a lot of time on toxic people.

  • B November 11, 2014, 10:24 am

    Just let her get on with it. Seriously, the DIl is being ridiculous and you’re all wasting far too much time and energy on a grown woman’s drama. Aree with admin – stay out of it.

  • Nancy November 11, 2014, 10:37 am

    Admin has it spot on. For a minute I thought I was reading a description of a row that occurred in my family a couple of years ago. The manipulations of DIL were called out – her husband (my brother) took his spineless self off in defense of his wife and they were both told if you can behave you are welcome to attend family events, HOWEVER, if you bring drama, you will be asked to leave. They stayed away and pouted for a couple of years, and we all enjoyed the calm in the smaller group. Recently they started attending again. The first hint of drama they were told to bring it under control. They did and life is much better. Not all peace and light and rainbows and puppies – but better and drama free. Don’t feed the drama. The drama, and the reactions they get from it, are just another form of continued manipulation. We found it just took one family member to stand up to the games and then the others who had been too timid to say what they were feeling quickly felt comfortable in letting their feelings be known as well. The emotional bullies can just carry on with their ways – but somewhere else.

  • Livvy17 November 11, 2014, 10:38 am

    I’m with the Admin. The “rationale” to destroy the FB page, and throw a huge fit, is for attention, and to have someone chase after her with apologies. Everyone should stay out of it. Let her huff and puff, and wear herself out, like when a two-year-old throws a tantrum. Giving in to the tantrum only verifies that it’s worth it to throw the tantrum in the first place. Lots of people are under lots of different pressures. That doesn’t mean that we should excuse or allow them to behave as badly as they wish.

  • JWH November 11, 2014, 12:18 pm

    Even if you did have marital status, I’d say stay clear of this brand of crazy.

  • Mary November 11, 2014, 12:50 pm

    I’m sorry, during this story I coul get past the constant use of lover. Wouldn’t boyfriend, significant other, partner or a pseudonym be better? Use of the term lover to me implies that the relationship would be considered illicit or that the writer is married and this is who she is having a long term extramarital affair.

    • Raymee November 11, 2014, 2:20 pm

      My thoughts too! Very odd choice of words!

    • Miss Merlot November 11, 2014, 2:21 pm


    • Meegs November 11, 2014, 3:04 pm

      Lol, I was thinking the same thing.

    • Lanes November 11, 2014, 4:05 pm

      Yes, I agree. I kept replacing “lover” with “partner” in my head when I was reading the story. The term “lover” certainly indicates a lesser relationship with someone, and the story certainly sounds like the OP and DS#1 have a much stronger bond than that.

      We shouldn’t assume the OP is female, however…. This could be a same-sex relationship (hence no marital status, as it’s still illegal in some places), and thus the OP felt “lover” was more suitable than any other term. Though I still think “Partner” is much more suitable for a long term relationship.

      • Mary November 11, 2014, 6:18 pm

        I was thinking about my phrasing after I submitted my reply. I meant to use gender neutral phrasing and obviously one “she” slipped through. I was trying not to assume anything.

    • remi November 11, 2014, 4:46 pm

      I don’t see anything wrong with the term “lover” here. Significant other and partner are both very clinical sounding to me, and boyfriend and girlfriend can be seen as childish to an adult couple. Plus, “lover” is gender neutral and works in both gay and straight relationships, without being as awkward or sterile as significant other/partner.

      • hakayama November 11, 2014, 9:37 pm

        With you on that!

    • B November 11, 2014, 5:02 pm

      Where I come from, someone’s ‘lover’ is the person they’re having an adulterous affair with.

      • hakayama November 11, 2014, 9:39 pm

        That is not the first definition, nor a synonym where I double checked to see if senility set in. 😉

        • B November 12, 2014, 8:38 am

          I didn’t say it was.

      • Otterpop November 12, 2014, 5:36 am

        Agreed. “Lover” connotes a sexual relationship only whereas “partner” includes every kind of connection and helpmate position. I’ve never heard anyone use the former phrase except in the movies.

    • RC November 11, 2014, 5:45 pm

      Ditto, I was distracted by the use of the word Lover rather than Partner, Boyfriend/Girlfriend, Significant Other… and I am curious about why that term in particular was chosen!

      • admin November 12, 2014, 5:54 am

        Because perhaps the OP doesn’t use English as his/her first language of choice? Why are people making a mountain out of this incredibly tiny mole hill?

        • B November 12, 2014, 8:39 am

          Because where some of us come from, the choice of the word ‘lover’ is deliberate and signals something very different to eg partner?

        • Ai November 12, 2014, 12:19 pm

          I’m with you admin. I gave a little bit of an aside glance to the usage of the term at the beginning, but in the end I was able to read this story without batting another eye. I’m not sure what the big deal about using ‘lover’ over ‘partner’. Really doesn’t matter here.

        • RC November 12, 2014, 3:17 pm

          That possible explanation does make sense, when considered with some of the other terms in the letter that I found unusual. I simply meant to convey that I was distracted by the use of the term, which in my country would imply a primarily sexual, rather than emotional or spiritual, connection.

          I was also probably prone to be distracted by such a trivial thing as a word, as I found it very difficult to follow the story with all the characters and drama. But that’s on me, no one else. OP, I apologise if my previous comment offended, it was not my intention.

    • AIP November 11, 2014, 6:00 pm

      I know, I started getting distracted as it reminded me of those old Saturday Night Live skits with Will Ferrell and Virginia Klarvin as “lllllllovers”.

    • joleaco November 11, 2014, 6:08 pm

      Oh thank you! I thought that it was just me. The word “Lover” makes me think of the 70’s when someone was having an affair. A lover is someone you see just for the “loving”, in my mind anyway. I think “partner” is a more appropriate term in this situation.

      • admin November 12, 2014, 5:53 am

        There are people who submit stories who do not use English as their mother tongue. I simply assumed it was a case of not being an English speaker.

    • Cat November 11, 2014, 6:58 pm

      I was unsure exactly what their relationship actually was. I am thinking of alternative words to clarify their relationship that would satisfy everyone: Boy/Girl Toy, Friend with Benefits, Spouse-in-Waiting, Sugar Daddy/Mommy, My Stud Muffin, Potential First Spouse, Current Beau/Lady, Non-Voting Partner…
      If you are happy in your relationship, use whatever word suits you.

    • Lacey November 11, 2014, 10:04 pm

      I think it’s just that English probably isn’t her first language (although her English is very good). That would explain “lover,” “read diagonally the email,” and “destroyed” her FB page.

      • burgerking November 13, 2014, 9:55 am

        I agree. Lover denotes a relationship NOT close to the rest of the family, and could have played greatly into this story. It did not, which made it more confusing for me to get through. Extra points to the storyline (Dil wants Mil in a nursing home, etc) does not add to the story, but immediately sets us up to be on one side or another. I actually don’t know which etiquette problem to address here? It’s wrong to address Dil by email (poor taste ), wrong for DIL to not let FIL invite friends, but totally classless to expel the Llama drama from the family (sorry, life is too short to ditch your relatives and friends for every perceived annoyance)

  • Denise November 11, 2014, 1:45 pm

    My first question is: Are you sure she deleted her facebook page and didn’t just block you all? Blocking you all would make it appear that she never had a page to begin with while she still has it.

    To play devil’s advocate:

    * perhaps when she said she envisioned all the “old people” together what she meant was she wanted all of the same generations to sit together to share family memories, thoughts and conversations.

    * perhaps she wasn’t clear in who she felt she was seated too far from?

    * Perhaps the guest list excluded part of the birthday man’s family because of suggestions by the meddling MIL?

    Meddling is meddling. Manipulating is Manipulating. Neither are acceptable and both lead to these sorts of issues.

    I would keep out of it (married in or not), turn a blind eye and be kind to all those around you.

  • Lizajane November 11, 2014, 1:46 pm

    Ignore the fact that she’s in a snit. Treat her as you always would. Invite her as you always would. The holidays are coming and now’s the time to nip it. If she chooses to stay away and offended, that’s on her. It will only get more awkward as time goes by, especially if a Christmas goes by and a son and grandchildren are left out. That’s a hard fence to mend. That doesn’t mean you have to cater to her “eccentricities”

  • Amara November 11, 2014, 1:57 pm

    May I say, eHellDame, that your words today are incredibly wise.

  • Laura November 11, 2014, 3:00 pm

    Honestly, I can see multiple sides to the story. Yes, the woman was acting childishly, but maybe she just snapped! In-laws, even ‘nicely manipulative’ ones can do that to a person!!! 🙂

    Perhaps organizing events usually falls to S1 and she’s tired of having to spend her time, energy and money to organize events for her husband’s parents and family. If I were hosting a party in a restaurant (and presumably paying for it) I would impose restrictions on who could be invited, too. Maybe the criticism of the event was enough to make her snap.

    …or maybe she’s just a childish control freak…
    …or maybe she’s dealing with her own family/work/health/etc. issues and dealing with her husband’s family is too much…
    …or maybe she feels left out or disliked.

    My best advice would be to give her space. Let someone else take up the planning of events. Don’t try to manipulate her back into the family. I would just carry on as usual. Invite her to holiday events, etc. and if she’s the one who usually organizes them, then offer to help her so she doesn’t feel so overwhelm.

  • Leah November 11, 2014, 3:20 pm

    this was so over-dramatically written I doubt any advice will help, because LW seems to be enjoying the soap opera stance.

    • Yasuragi November 11, 2014, 6:37 pm

      I thought the same thing. I could actually hear the bum bum BUM swell of music a few times as I read this.

  • Jen November 11, 2014, 3:51 pm

    I am with Mary. I found the constant use of the word “lover” kind of creepy.

  • don't blink November 11, 2014, 3:59 pm

    Stay out of it – let SIL and MIL/FIL figure it out. SIL will eventually get tired of sulking and come back, or FIL will apologise, or something else will happen, but none of those scenarios need your help or guidance ( even if you feel you may be able to facilitate things. ) This is not your drama.

  • Christina November 11, 2014, 4:22 pm

    I can’t imagine how anyone can come to DIL’ s defense, honestly. OP said she wouldn’t allow the guest of honor to include people he wanted there in his own party….understandable, IF it’s a space issue or the like. But inviting who SHE wanted to be there makes it perfectly clear that she wasn’t doing it to honor her FIL, but to get her own attention. They weren’t out of line to complain. She was being selfish. Isn’t the point of a birthday party to make the person having a birthday happy and comfortable? Second, referring to her in laws as ‘old people’ is disrespectful and immature. Complaining about the seating chart was, too. How could it possibly matter? Sulking off to another table, dragging the man’s son along with you, is childish. Granted, Son#2 needs a backbone, also. Third, calling him ‘lover’ does imply you aren’t serious. I’ve been with my fiance 4.5 years. It’s very serious, we will be married soon, and I can’t imagine telling him and his siblings how to take care of THEIR parents. DIL needs to be knocked down a few pegs or it will only continue indefinitely. If you let someone walk all over you, they won’t stop on their own. MIL and FIL and Son#2 all need to stand up to her.

    • Laura November 11, 2014, 7:22 pm

      I don’t excuse her behavior, but I can kind of understand…at least if it went down how I can envision it going down with my husband’s family:
      For some reason it falls on me to organize holidays and birthdays for my husband’s family. If I don’t organize something, then they don’t do anything, or they’ll call me and ask why I haven’t planned anything. (keep in mind I have a demanding career, my own immediate family, and my own extended family, too, and my in laws aren’t the most pleasant and welcoming people). I actually have invited my inlaws out to dinner to celebrate a birthday. I invited them, their adult children/spouses and grandkids and my parents who happened to be visiting from out of town that weekend. Because I was paying $50pp, I did draw the line at them inviting other family members. If they dared complained to my face (I’m sure they did behind my back) I would throw my hands up and be done with it, too. I would certainly act more gracious than the woman did here. I wouldn’t complain and move to another table. But if her family dynamic is anything like mine, I can understand her frustration and annoyance, although she was definitely rude for letting it show!

      • B November 12, 2014, 8:40 am

        Why is your husband letting this happen? Why are you? Why don’t you tell them that it is not your responsibility and you have enough to do?


        • Tracy P November 12, 2014, 4:57 pm

          Where is the like button?

          I’d start “dropping the ball” if I was you Laura. What did his family do to celebrate before you came along? Let them figure out their own celebrations unless its something that you really want to do. Sounds like his family found a way out of doing work and even having to pay (since you covered everyone for a birthday).

        • Laura November 13, 2014, 11:59 am

          Without boring you with a ton of details, it’s just the dynamic of the family. It’s really not that much effort to make a reservation and pick up the tab. Sometimes I find it ungracious when people complain about the hospitality being shown to them. Either accept it gracefully or decline. But, if it makes my husband happy, it’s not a really big issue.

  • ColoradoCloudy November 11, 2014, 4:33 pm

    I had a friend who was a drama mama. Nothing could ever be good for too long. It was too warm, the vegetation would dry and a huge conflagration would ensue. Next, it was rainy, how depressing, now she can’t get out to mow her yard. It was like that every day. She also made remarks that were far from the truth, but no one would challenge her because of her temper. One day, she crossed a line, I responded in as kind a manner I could, and all hell broke loose. She blocked me on Facebook, told all of our mutual friends how awful I was, and how I picked on her. She blocked friends who protested on my behalf. After she had blocked me, she told people that I “unfriended” her, knowing full well that blocking causes an “unfriend”. So now it’s been almost a year since I didn’t go beg her forgiveness and try to win her back. Life is much more calm, stress has been eliminated, I am no longer drawn into circumstances of which I want no part. Let the drama queen go, support FIL and your partner and live a drama-free life.

  • Charliesmum November 11, 2014, 5:57 pm

    I have a friend who, when confronted with drama, says ‘not my circus, not my monkey.’

  • David November 11, 2014, 6:43 pm

    The best thing to do here is be a good listener for your FIL, MIL and partner and carry on with no drama. Don’t chase after the drama.

  • Cat November 11, 2014, 6:47 pm

    I have a sneaking suspicion that people who get involved in email/letter “wars’ over slights, real or imagined, find a kind of thrill in the ensuing drama and those they can involve in it. I can only suggest my solution if I am the target. If I am not the target, I don’t get in the way of the spears being tossed.
    For example, I, at fifty-two years of age, finally found my birth family. One of my sisters decided, without ever having any communication with me, that she disliked me. She came to the first meeting with several other relatives, but refused to speak to me or even to look at me. For several years she ignored me and then, after other relatives who liked me complained about her behavior, she sent me a Christmas card which read, ‘ Since you are my “sister”, I am willing to see you.’
    “Hmmm”, I thought ” If someone sent me a card which said, ‘Since you are my “friend”, I am willing to see you”, would I consider that person a friend?” Honestly, I would not.
    I sent her a note which read, “Thank you for your sweet note. I am so sorry that our relationship did not work out. I wish you and your family all the best always. Sincerely, (my name)”
    If I were you, I would allow the parties involved to resolve it as best they can, keeping in mind that, if I don’t play, they cannot drag me into their games.

    • Weaver November 12, 2014, 1:44 pm

      Ugh, what a snotty little note that was that your sister sent. I think your response was perfect!

      • Cat November 12, 2014, 7:19 pm

        Thank you. I was not surprised by the note she sent. I invited her to my home two weeks after I found my family. She replied that she preferred to help a friend pack for a trip.
        I thought that, if I were given a chance to meet a sister lost to me for fifty-two years, watching someone pack a suitcase would not be my first choice over meeting my relative.
        Odd woman.

        • Alex May 16, 2017, 12:07 pm

          That sounds very hurtful. I’m sorry they said that to you

    • RC November 12, 2014, 3:12 pm

      I applaud your gracious response Cat, in the situation you describe. Your answer was perfect.

      • Cat November 12, 2014, 7:19 pm

        Thank you.

  • Lizajane November 11, 2014, 6:49 pm

    My husband’s sister is just plain mean. She’s jealous, conniving and greedy. She fancies herself as some sort of matriarch, yet always goes out of her way to cause problems in a family with already fragile relationships, then plays the victim. She’s also probably insane. She drug two of her grown daughters into her last debacle (the other won’t speak to her at all) . After our son died, one neice contacted us with sympathy and wanting to have a relationship again. I told her we wanted that, but I made it clear that I wasn’t riding the crazy train every time her mom got mad about something. It didn’t fix the crazy, but it’s kept it off my doorstep. And that’ll do.

  • hakayama November 11, 2014, 8:15 pm

    Looks like THE DIL (Nurse Ratched) is jockeying for the position of top dog (female one) in that family.
    Whoever said that it does not matter if the manipulator is a benevolent one, it’s still wrong, might consider tempering the absoluteness of that statement. At least a bit. Give the poor old lady a bit of pleasure at thinking that she can pull the strings of the puppets around her…
    At least the MIL did not wind up in a nursing home (yet) in spite of her DIL’s efforts. Heck! I have two housebound almost totally invalid neighbors that are chugging along nicely, in their own homes, alone with assistants, thank you. One is 90+, the other age unknown to me. They are lucky that they do not have relatives like Nurse Ratched.
    Just because DIL is in “the field” can be a very clear warning of imminent danger…

    People managed to criticize the OP for using what THEY think is the wrong word. Excuuuse me!
    I got to hate the word “fiancee” after having a guy introduce the mother of his four (4) children under 10 as his “fiancee”, where there was no intent of marriage in sight. The poor woman’s first name would have sufficed. Not every occasion requires the honorific (if you see it as such). 😉
    So, where are the language mavens going to pick on “gaff” vs. “gaffe”, “low and behold” vs. “lo and behold”, “their pregnancy” when so far it can be only “her pregnancy”? Those just a few examples of what grates on my language and logic sensibilities, but I feel that this is not the place to work out THOSE types of issues.
    There was also an accusation of the OP being “rude, condescending and self-righteous” for ALREADY being involved in that family’s squabbles. The OP was asking for advice on how to proceed, NOT telling us that there already was an involvement.
    See how easily things can snowball… 😉 The game of the “telephone” used to result in gales of laughter. THIS is quite unfunny.
    Dear OP: I hope that you remain unscathed in this circus. Just let this stupidity play itself out while YOU stay in the sidelines. You are smart enough as to realize that you have no voice, but do not let anyone spit you in the face and say that it’s raining.
    Best wishes.

  • Marozia November 12, 2014, 3:29 am

    Yes, I entirely agree with what Admin wrote.
    In regards to the email that FIL sent DIL – isn’t DIL cutting off her nose to spite her face?
    This drama llama isn’t worth it. Do not be a mediator, it will backfire on you.
    Be happy with your S1 and love and support your F/MILs.

  • Otterpop November 12, 2014, 5:44 am

    Seems DIL is aiming to usurp MIL in some way, even so far as to have MIL committed. What right did she have in taking control of organizing FIL’s party, then creating drama when she didn’t get her way? Best to ignore DIL and let her take herself out of family gatherings. Otherwise you’ll end up having a new female master manipulator with lots of emotional screws loose.

  • acr November 12, 2014, 9:36 am

    DiL could not have “taken control” of FiL’s party if FiL and MiL did not allow it. Given DiL’s past behavior of wanting to have MiL institutionalized, either MiL should have planned the party herself (with the help of OP and Son#1), or she should have hired somebody to do it.

    “The family was not permitted to invite some guests close to them, but DIL had made provisions for members of her own family to attend.” Honestly, if DiL is spending a lot of time and perhaps $ organizing this party, it’s not unreasonable that she’d want some of her own family there – ESPECIALLY if she’s paying for some or all of the party. Again, problem solved by MiL, OP and Son#1 planning and paying for the party.

    If somebody is doing you a favor, I think it’s rude and ungrateful to complain if they don’t do it exactly the way you’d prefer. I think it’s very interesting that this man’s actual children just let the planning fall to DiL, rather than handling it themselves from the beginning.

    “Keeping the family together” may be MiL’s Prime Directive, but hopefully it’s not her sons’. They now have their own families – Son#2 has DiL (and possibly children) and Son#1 is building a life with OP. They are no longer 1 family under MiL’s matriarchy – they are three families who are part of the same extended family.

  • Jewel November 12, 2014, 12:01 pm

    Surely MIL remembers when her kids were little what would have happened if she’d given in every time they had a tantrum? This situation is essentially no different. If she twists herself into a pretzel to appease DIL, she sets a precedent. Perhaps son #1 needs to remind her of this, while encouraging FIL to stay the course.

  • PWH November 12, 2014, 3:31 pm

    Hi OP,
    Your in-laws sound much like mine 🙂 My husband has a SIL who is much the drama llama. On many occasions it has taken a lot of patience and holding my tongue not to speak up. I’ve even talked to my husband about taking a step back and not attending family functions with them (Brother and SIL) there. I think having a break will be good for the entire family.

    In your case, I think your marital status is a moot point. If you have been with your partner long enough, you hold the position of spouse (trust me, I was with my husband for 11 years before we got married). But nonetheless, I wouldn’t get involved. Just be supportive and hold your judgement for private times with your partner. Keep in mind that there may be more going on with the relationship between your MIL and DIL than you see.

  • Willynilly November 13, 2014, 4:19 pm

    “…MIL had bad health for quite a few years. She manages to get by, as best she can, with the support of FIL, who is in perfect health. DIL has been pestering the family for many months now to put MIL in an institution…FIL recently celebrated his 75th birthday…”

    Being a caretaker/home health care provider is a full time, demanding job. A full time demanding job for strong, young, trained-in-the-field people. And by full-time I mean 40 hours a week exhausts them.

    MIL’s health is doubtful to improve to any great degree as time marches forward, and the job of caring for her will not get easier.

    I have been witness to several people close to me age out of life. Some at their home, some in nursing homes, and some in assisted living or elder community type situations. The ones who fared best (longevity and emotional health-wise) were the ones who established realistic long term health and life plans well in advance of *needing* them; Such as moving into an assisted living or elder community while still mobile and having one’s wits. Having a certain level of health allows the person to make friends, explore the activities offered, set up their living space as they like, perhaps get and acclimate a pet to the situation, etc. For those living at home until death, those who fared best had a professional home health aid start coming early on for light help, so once the aid was truly needed the person was used to the aid and was accustomed to having assistance in the home.

    DIL, working in the field probably has a lot of experience as to why early planning for the inevitable is wise and caring. A decision made with slow care and concern before an emergency is generally the better decision then the one made scrambling to catch up after a devastating accident or turn of health. That DIL has had concerns for months does not make DIL a demon in my opinion, it makes her prudent.

    • hakayama November 14, 2014, 12:04 pm

      Very good points, BUT… it seems that DIL wants to DICTATE rather than suggest, and that’s the proverbial rub.
      Her behavior in connection with and at the b-day party does hint at lack of balance. I just do fervently hope that no one of that ilk winds up around me at my TRULY old and feeble stage of life.
      The statement that MIL is ailing, does not tell the full story. The fact that she uses the lavatory, as opposed to adult diapers, is a plus. No wheel chair or walker were mentioned, so mobility is still there, and that’s a big plus.
      Could it be that DIL may have conveyed her thoughts on “institutional care” in perhaps a panicky manner, just might have been quite a turn off?

  • ClockworkBanana November 13, 2014, 6:37 pm

    Late to the party, as ever..

    A small tangent of tomorrow’s discussion (taking offence and one’s right do do thus or express it) is the issue of whether one can legitimately take offence on someone else’s behalf. It was not decided definitively whether one can or not, but I think I am doing exactly that right now.

    Offence based on no knowledge other than the OP #1:

    1. I am in no way an expert, but I presume to know enough about the gay community to know that the use of the title, honorific or appellation of ‘lover’ is common and acceptable. To my understanding, this is because partner, boyfriend, girlfriend, significant other et. al. can be viewed as coy, inexact or misleading. The admin’s alternate suggestion that in this case it was used by someone who has English as a second language is also a small possibility. Where my offence on behalf of the OP comes in, is the fact that the answers to this person’s story and question were initially derailed by a discussion about the use of the word, and how somehow it was offensive to some responders, or at the very least, unknown in this context.

    Offence based on no knowledge other than the OP #2:

    The main topic was further derailed by responders deciding that the OP’s rather dry, ironicly bent delivery that seemed to try to remove emotion from the mix was somehow deserving of negative comment, insomuch as apparently the message and query was unclear. I visit this site, both here and on the forum because I credit a goodly number of fellow participants with intelligence, insight and often radically different opinions than mine, but usually presented in ways that make me interested in at least considering such. So, I take offence that it almost felt like wilful misunderstanding of the original post.

    Offence based on no knowledge other than the OP #2:

    Ok, this one is much more generalized. I find it frustrating when an original submission is treated such that it is not taken at face value. In other words, I mean where people make suppositions and interesting assumptions that are just not there, often based on their own situations. I am sorry, but it bothers me. For example, in this case, where it has been posited that the SIL had been doing all sorts of work to make this party happen, but was blocked at every turn, so therefore it is the family’s fault for the strife. The OP gave enough information, however cryptically, to indicate that this was not the case. It is always better when the original poster comes back to add more information, such as on the forum, but that rarely happens on this page. Which is why I personally like to answer and respond (two different things) to the information provided, not to speculation based on other possible scenarios that rely on non-existent information.

    NOW, having said that, of course there are many times where it is obvious that one can read between the lines and discern that the originator is completely off base, and speculation as to the true nature of the situation is not only warranted, but almost required! But this not necessary for every story or situation, and I do find it offensive and quite Ehellish (ok, I mean rude) when people completely rewrite what they think actually may have occurred in order to make the stori’s details fit their own paradigm.

    So, tying this back to tomorrow’s topic: Do I have the right to be offended on some internet stranger’s behalf? Someone who submitted their story and may well not even be aware that it has been posted and commented upon? I don’t actually know for sure, but I think I do.

    • admin November 18, 2014, 5:56 pm

      For what it is worth, I, too, find it disconcerting how frequently commenters extrapolate and speculate based on very little information as if reading comprehension was passed through a personal filter first. All we can do is offer advice on exactly the situation being presented as best we can.

  • danmar7 November 15, 2014, 10:33 pm

    Jimminy Crickets. How about you (the OP) schedule your own celebration with the parents, and let DIL-from-heck schedule her own separate event? She’s a wanna-be control freak, but throws her hands up in a temper tantrum when she doesn’t get her way. So let her walk away, do your own thing, and let her be left out.

  • chechina November 16, 2014, 12:47 pm

    This is really more a comment to admin. May I ask why these stories arent edited before posting? I find myself skipping a lot of the posts when there is so much material thats irrelevant. For example, the OPs summation of the major players added nothing. Her intro paragraph is also very typical of the intro paragraphs I usually skip.

    If any other regular readers disagree with me, please feel free to counterargue. But I dont think Im the only one whod appreciate a little editing.

    • admin November 18, 2014, 3:16 pm

      I recently edited one submitted story by deleting one sentence and heard from the OP who wasn’t very happy about it. Some are so poorly written that they will never see the light of day on the blog.

  • Angel November 17, 2014, 10:32 pm

    The DIL is clearly looking for some kind of reaction here. Don’t give her any. Ignore her. The red flag to me is that she is trying to put the MIL in an institution. Unless the FIL came to her and asked for her advice and had a desire to look into this–she is WAY out of line here!