Laughing Amongst The Egg Shells

by admin on April 8, 2015

Last weekend the Hubbage and I hosted my sister-in-law “Bernadette”. Two or three years ago, she divorced a very angry, abusive, and viciously sarcastic man.  She is, to put it lightly, EXTREMELY sensitive to sarcasm, as well has harmless humor she deems as sarcasm.

The Hubbage is one of the funniest people I’ve ever met, and his humor is mainly silly. Like, REALLY silly. Not sarcastic. Not off-color.  Add to that he has not a mean bone in his body. The only problem with his stories and jokes is that they sometimes go on a tad too long, or it’s one funny observation after another. He’s aware of this, and points to his side, where there’s an invisible ‘button’ I can push to shut him up.

More than once during the weekend, she accused both of us as being sarcastic and hurtful — even though at no time did we poke fun at her in any way. It wouldn’t even have occurred to us to do so. Yet on the last day, she gave my husband a lecture on his humor. (She’s all about confrontation, and because I’m a total wuss, I sort of admire that in her.)  But her going after my husband had me stunned.

I get that the ex did a number on her, but she’s doing us no favor by having us walk on eggshells around her.

She’s scheduled to go on a trip with us later this year.  I’d appreciate any wisdom on how to handle her without having to check ourselves every time we think of opening our mouths. 0316-15

So, Bernadette is your husband’s sister?  This story would have made sense if Bernadette is your sister and she was not used to her brother-in-law’s humor but she grew up with her brother, your “Hubbage”, so she well knows of his sense of humor long before she married and divorced the vicious ex.

In that light I can offer several observations.    The first being that if Bernadette is offended by her brother’s humor which she grew up knowing and living with and which predates her bad experience by years, then I suspect there is baggage from childhood that has not been resolved.   How well did Bernadette and Hubbage get along as children?   Did she find him funny and kind back then like you do now?  If they enjoyed a good relationship through most of childhood and early adulthood,  it is baffling why that foundation of the relationship does not carry through the bad times she had with someone else. In other words, the many years of happy times with her own brother should outweigh the few years of bad times with the ex husband.

The second observation is that some people seem to never move forward from being a victim.   While new victims desperately need tender, loving care to get them through the trauma, there are far too many people who stay in that victim role for years after the event is over.    Being the victim has become a familiar behavioral habit with patterns of thinking that never transition into a positive, “forward to the future” outlook.   It’s as if the memory tape or mental conversations are on a rewind loop that plays over and over again.   Just like recovery from an injury or surgery requires physical therapy to work those bones and muscles so they remember how they are designed to move, build strength and train them to behave differently after a long hiatus, so too, is mental recovery from traumatic events.   Victims need help breaking the habit of their thinking and move them into more positive modes of viewing the world and people around them.

I think I would shelve, at least temporarily, any humor that could be construed as sarcastic.   There are so many other ways to be humorous and things to laugh about that limiting sarcasm-type humor shouldn’t feel like a deprivation.   Watch humorous movies, play games that have a high probability of causing laughter, perhaps go to a improvisation comedy club while on vacation.    It seems to me that Bernadette needs to relearn how to laugh first and then move on to being less sensitive to humor she perceives as sarcastic.  And it’s OK to gently and kindly tell her that laughter is OK and that you enjoy laughing.

{ 121 comments… read them below or add one }

Jewel April 8, 2015 at 7:14 am

Has Bernadette received any counseling? If not, your husband might gently point out that her hyper-sensitivity is creating difficultly for her loved ones, could limit/damage her relationships, and that most people who have been the victims of abuse find it helpful to re-learn normal reactions to other’s actions with help from a therapist.

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AMC April 8, 2015 at 8:24 am

Yes! This x 100!

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JO April 8, 2015 at 8:56 am

Second this.

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Michelle C Young April 8, 2015 at 8:46 pm

Yep.

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Enna April 11, 2015 at 11:50 am

I agree with this 100%. Three years might sound along time but depdning what happened during the marriage it could take more than three years to recover: even then moving on completely might not be possible.

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PhDeath April 8, 2015 at 8:18 am

I feel this is one of those situations in which it’s nearly impossible to be objective, as we have one side of the story. While I tend to agree that it’s likely Bernadette needs help in moving along with her life, I can also see the possibility that her brother’s humor is over the top, has always annoyed her, and she’s just discovering the spine to tell him so (even if said spine is expressed a bit vociferously).

I know a few people who are like “Hubbage,” based on the OP’s description. They are not nearly as funny as they think they are. It’s worse when they know they have the tendency to go over the top, but still continue on and on. The “button” in his side that his wife has to push to shut him up? I think this speaks to a bit of self-indulgence on Hubbage’s part, as well.

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Daphne April 8, 2015 at 11:50 am

I agree with you PHDeath. The pretend “off button” on Hubbage totally changes the tone of what I was imagining. Could it be, OP, that Bernadette may be substituting “sarcastic” for “annoying” in her complaint? It sounds like Hubbage just doesn’t know when to be quiet and she may be interpreting that as being nasty.

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Michelle C Young April 8, 2015 at 8:50 pm

It’s possible that she means annoying, but says sarcastic. There again, some therapy would help her sort out what she really means, and feels, and help her express herself in a clear way, so that they can all move forward positively.

After all, if he’s annoyingly over the top, without any sarcasm, then her telling him that she hates his “sarcasm,” isn’t going to be fruitful, at all. However, if she says sarcasm, but means annoying, then once she has that sorted in her head, she can say what she really means – “I find your over-the-top humor to be annoying. Please tone it down.”

It’s also possible that he’s inadvertently pushing some buttons he doesn’t even know she has. He may be going over-the-top on a topic about which her ex was extremely sarcastic, himself, so there is the possibility of projection, there, as well.

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Daphne April 9, 2015 at 12:30 pm

Either way, the “off button” that the wife pushes leads me to believe that Bernadette has a valid complaint here. Whether his conversational style is annoying, nasty or sarcastic, sounds like Hubbage needs to rein it in a bit. Or, maybe not hang out with Bernadette so much if they really can’t be themselves around her.

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Wendy B April 9, 2015 at 11:45 am

This.

There are people in my life who really are funny, but they don’t know when to quit…even when they’re told. I’ve found myself going from laughing to crying with them because they went over that edge and, in the interest of being “funny” became hurtful. Truly, I don’t think they really understand the difference.

Just from what we’ve been told, it sounds like Hubbage (really?) is one of these people, and I think his sister has had enough of being hurt by his inability to control himself. She needs counseling…but so does he!

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vjcole April 8, 2015 at 8:24 am

While I think Admin’s advice to “shelve…any humor that could be construed as sarcastic” is good – the way the OP describes the situation, it sounds like ANY attempt at humor sets Bernadette off. I tend to have a snarky sense of humor, and have learnd to rein it in when necessary – but that doesn’t mean I stop laughing completely. IMHO, Bernadette needs to get over herself and learn that not all humor is directed at her. And OP and her husband need to give serious thought to that planned trip. If things were this bad over a weekend, I shudder to think how it will be during a week-long (or longer) trip.

As a side note: I almost didn’t read the whole post because I was so turned off by the term “Hubbage” in the first line!

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Anna Wood April 9, 2015 at 1:24 pm

I thought ‘Hubbage’ was kind of cute until I asked my DH if he would like to be called ‘Hubbage’ and he replied, “Why? It sounds like I am a cross between a Hubbard Squash and a Cabbage.”

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just4kicks April 8, 2015 at 8:41 am

I had a coworker who used to say the most heinous and inappropriate things to people.
Most of us learned to just blow her off, and tune her out.
But, even people on their best days would be offended by her spiteful comments and attitude.
If anyone had the audacity to call her out, she would be supremely offended and huff, “Well! SOMEONE clearly does NOT have a sense of humor!!! I’m just joking for Christ’s sake!!!”
…And yes, her behavior was brought to the higher ups attention…nothing changed, as we were “all humorless idiots who cannot take a joke!”

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vjcole April 8, 2015 at 10:47 am

I would have probably been in jail for murdering the woman. I have a pretty high “offended” threshhold, but when someone goes over it, there is NOTHING that will make me angrier than for the person to say “Can’t you take a joke?” I know that with me, it’s a visceral reaction – my paternal grandfather would say incredibly mean things and if you reacted, his fallback would be “Can’t you take a joke?” , “I was only kidding”, or something similar. On top of that – if ONE person is calling someone out on her “humor”, it could be construed as lacking a sense of humor, or being oversensitive – but when it’s the whole office? Yes, it’s HER fault, not yours.

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A different Tracy April 8, 2015 at 3:59 pm

When someone says “I was just joking,” one good response is “If that was a joke, we would be laughing.”

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Rebecca April 8, 2015 at 10:12 pm

Best response to the “I was only joking” comment I’ve heard was on Downton Abbey, where someone says that and Lady Mary says, “The bully’s defense.”

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Michelle C Young April 8, 2015 at 8:52 pm

Wait. You’re ALL humorless idiots who cannot take a joke? ALL of you?

There’s an old adage: If the entire class is failing, it’s the teacher’s fault, not the students’.

If the entire audience is adamantly NOT laughing, then it’s the comedian’s fault, not the audience.

Moreover, some humor may be sidesplittingly funny at a bar, but not at an office. Time to start documenting, methinks.

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just4kicks April 8, 2015 at 11:11 pm

These are the same managers who gave me a written warning for once helping a young girl who was crying because she couldn’t find her mom.
She was terrified, and the place was packed during the holidays.
I pulled up a photo of my little girl on my phone, said I’m a mommy too, and took off my nametag for her to hold.
Then I held out my hand, she grabbed on and we found her mom shortly afterward.
I got in trouble for “touching a young child”…..I was told I should’ve had her “follow me” to customer service and not hold her hand.
So…Yes, they did take “it’s just a joke!” over the objections of all of us.

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just4kicks April 8, 2015 at 11:16 pm

Sorry, hit the send button too soon.
This woman used to say things like, “hey….isn’t your husband a cop?!? I just heard a cop got KILLED this morning!”
Or, “Hey…don’t you have kids in XYZ school?!? Heard there was a school shooting there this morning!”

Of course all this was met with an “oops, must’ve heard wrong!” or “Jeez…lighten up, will ya!”

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Samantha C April 9, 2015 at 9:03 am

Wow….in no universe are those jokes. Jokes are supposed to have this thing called….what was the word….oh, HUMOR.

My respect for putting up with that.

Goldie April 10, 2015 at 8:39 am

Wait, she thinks these things are supposed to be funny? This is insane.

lakey April 10, 2015 at 11:47 am

Some humor is veiled hostility.
Also, the situation with your getting criticized for helping a lost child by holding her hand is truly sad. Unfortunately, they may be justified in telling you not to do that anymore. The young child could mention to her parent or parents that you touched her, and if the parents are a bit flakey, they could make an issue out of it. It happens.

Miss Mercy April 11, 2015 at 1:54 am

Good grief.

I do not recommend the following course of action, but I would be so tempted to adopt a threatening stance and say something along the lines of “I’m getting really sick of these comments. One more, and I’ll knock your [expletive] teeth out.” And when she looks shocked/ frightened, break into a huge grin and tell her “It’s only a joke! Relax! Lighten up! I thought you had a sense of humour!”

(No, I would not actually do this. Especially in a work environment.)

just4kicks April 11, 2015 at 3:48 am

@Goldie: She was mean, but not dumb.
What she found funny after a comment like that was watching the person scrambling for their phone to find out if it was true….all with a self satisfied gleam in her eye.

just4kicks April 11, 2015 at 3:52 am

@Lakey: I do agree with you, that’s why our youngest daughter is not allowed to have friends sleep over.
My husband or son’s would never hurt a child in a million years, but my husband is a very sound sleeper who sleepwalks once in a while.
A mid night trip to the bathroom, forgetting to put on pj’ s could be, “Guess what? I saw Mr. K in his underwear!”
By the same token, if my daughter returned home from a sleepover and said she saw her friends dad/brother in his underwear, I would do an investigation.

just4kicks April 11, 2015 at 4:00 am

@Miss Mercy: She pulled the “cop got killed this morning” on a very nice gal who also was pregnant at the time, and had lost (a brother I think) on 9/11, and whose husband was a police officer.
One of this gals friends who had heard the comment, got right in this vile woman’s face and said through gritted teeth, “God help you if something happens to “Sue” or the baby because you like to play these games with people’s emotions….you won’t even see it coming….And you WILL BE VERY, VERY SORRY!!!”, and then ran after “Sue”.
Of course, no cop was killed that morning, but “Sue” was so upset she just clocked out and left.
…..And you guessed it….we all just kind of stared at her in horror, and she just smiled and said “well….isn’t SOMEONE touchy today!!!”

Tracy P April 8, 2015 at 8:43 am

I don’t think the admin’s suggestion of avoiding any humor that could be construed as sarcastic is at all feasible. From what it sounds like, Bernadette perceives any humor as sarcastic. So the OP and hubbage would have to avoid anything that involves laughter around her or fear her lecturing them. And that is no way to live.

I think the OP needs to develop a polite spine and tell Bernadette that (and words fail me here, but I know there are other commenters here that can say it much better than me) she needs to get over herself. It stinks that she went through abuse, but that doesn’t mean that she now gets to dictate everything else in the world.

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Michelle C Young April 8, 2015 at 8:57 pm

It may be that there are certain topics to avoid, and that certain topics are safe. It’s worth discussing with her.

However, if the sis-in-law cannot make any suggestions for acceptable humor, then that cuts out *all* humor, and she needs to see that either she will force people to avoid laughing at anything when in her presence, or they have simply avoid her presence.

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Shalamar April 8, 2015 at 8:54 am

No advice from me, but the name “Hubbage” is making me cranky.

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admin April 8, 2015 at 10:20 am

Hubster? Hubbikins? Hubmuffin? Yeah, I like “hubmuffin”…gonna use it on the DH right now…..

“Honey, can I call you ‘Hubmuffin’?”
“Humpmuffin?”
“HAHAHAHAHAHA! No, ‘HUBmuffin’.”
“You can call me whatever you like, Wifecakes.”

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JO April 8, 2015 at 1:33 pm

Nearly sprayed my water all over my phone reading that one!!

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Mary April 9, 2015 at 1:50 pm

Ow, I just sprayed soda out my nose!

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another Laura April 8, 2015 at 2:27 pm

It makes me picture OP’s spouse as a sort of green leafy veg, something in the cabbage family.

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vjcole April 8, 2015 at 5:05 pm

And that made ME spray water all over the place!

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catvickie April 8, 2015 at 5:17 pm

Same here–ick!

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Michelle C Young April 8, 2015 at 9:03 pm

These are too funny!

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just4kicks April 9, 2015 at 9:41 am

Those are awesome, puts my “old ball and chain” to shame!

One of my son’s earned the nickname “Slappie” when he was a toddler.
One day he was trying to get my attention by slapping on his high chair tray, and it had been a particularly hectic day, and I said to him, “Hey!!! Slappie!!! Give it a rest, please!”
And….it just stuck, he is now a teenager and a few years ago he asked us to please stop calling him that.
After a few days of everyone saying “Hey…Slap–? Uh….Sorry!!!” he conceded and said “ok, call me Slappie, just not in public, PLEASE!”

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iwadasn April 8, 2015 at 9:02 am

That second-to-last paragraph really bothers me: “I get that the ex did a number on her, but she’s doing us no favor by having us walk on eggshells around her.”

Someone who has recently gotten out of a long-term abusive relationship doesn’t need to be doing their relatives any favors; it should be the other way around. OP and her husband should be doing whatever they can to help “Bernadette” transition back into a normal life, including avoiding any humor that might bring up bad memories for her. This whole story just strikes me as painting the OP and her husband in a very self-centered light: “Someone we know and love was a victim of a terrible experience, and look how inconvenient it is for US!”

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vjcole April 8, 2015 at 10:49 am

Except that I wouldn’t consider “two or three years ago” to be “recent”. By this time, Bernadette should have at least started to work through her issues.

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Jess April 8, 2015 at 10:53 am

It wasn’t ‘recently’, it was 3-4 years ago.

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Linda April 8, 2015 at 11:36 am

Yes, there comes a time where being the victim has to end. At least end with everyone but the person who abused you to begin with.

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Lady Anne April 8, 2015 at 2:11 pm

I agree completely. Bernadette has had more than enough time to get a grip, as the saying goes. I left my first husband when I discovered he had been molesting our daughters. I was only in my new apartment five days when a neighbor broke in, beat me up, raped me, and then tried to smother me with a pillow. To this day I can’t get my face underwater when I swim, but I’m not afraid of every man I see, I’m not afraid to drive alone at night, etc.

It may be that B’s husband was emotionally abusive, and made fun of her every move. “Oh, a chapel veil. Who do you think you are, Jackie Kennedy?” If his shirts aren’t folded properly, she’s a slob, and if they are, she’s little Miss Perfect. That would explain her touchiness about what she perceives as sarcasm. Even so, she needs to learn that the entire world doesn’t revolve around her, and most people don’t even notice her. Move along, lady, move along.

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Kate April 8, 2015 at 8:01 pm

That’s what I was thinking – the emotionally abusive bit. With people like that, you just cannot win. If I ate healthy food, my ex would make comments about anorexia; if I ate lasagne it was “you’re gonna eat THAT?”. That may explain why B is hyper-sensitive to anything she perceives as criticism, when in fact it could be what OP’s husband thinks of as observational humour.
However, if this is the case, she would probably benefit from counselling to help her realise that cruel, emotionally abusive people are thankfully in the minority, and that most people aren’t trying to cut you down and wreck your self-esteem every time they make a comment.

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Kate April 8, 2015 at 7:55 pm

For me, it depends on the humour. I was in an abusive relationship which ended seven years ago. I don’t go around playing the victim card, but I also absolutely detest rape and abuse ‘jokes’. I won’t get all up in someone’s face about why I hate their sense of humour when I hear “I like my fish battered…like my wife” sort of jokes, but I will certainly choose to avoid that person if it becomes evident that most of their humour is along those lines.

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viviennebzb April 8, 2015 at 9:06 am

I agree with Jewel. Bernadette needs professional help to learn how to cope with normal people and normal life. I hope she gets it.

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A different Tracy April 8, 2015 at 9:19 am

“I think I would shelve, at least temporarily, any humor that could be construed as sarcastic. ”

While this isn’t bad advice, according to the LW, Bernadette considers non-sarcastic humor to be sarcastic. So somebody’s perception is off, and either Bernadette will consider them sarcastic no matter what jokes they make, or the LW and her hubbage are incapable of detecting their own sarcasm. Either way, I don’t see how this advice will be effective, and it might be best for them to pump the brakes on ANY humor, at least for now. (And since I’m married to The Hubbage’s clone, I know that’s going to be difficult or impossible, and maybe it would be good to postpone the trip until Bernadette is in a better place.) I also suggest the LW and Hubbage ask some trustworthy friends about their brand of humor, and see if it’s really as silly and harmless as they think.

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Tex Carol April 8, 2015 at 12:07 pm

I like the suggestion in your final sentence. I, too, often open my mouth only to have to insert foot, so some honest feedback from a good friend really opened my mind to the idea that sometimes my remarks could be considered hurtful.
I’m concerned that OP said she realized husband “did a number on B.” That would indicate to me that the “joking” went on even after B made it clear she didn’t find it funny. Not good. and certainly doesn’t bode well for a congenial trip.

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Tex Carol April 8, 2015 at 12:12 pm

Oh, so sorry. I just went back and reread the original post and see that it was the ex who “did the number.”

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AnaMaria April 8, 2015 at 9:29 am

In a lot of ways, Bernadette sounds like my mom- she won’t admit to ever being physically abused by her stepdad, but the stories she has told about him (as well as the stories from my cousin, who is granddaughter of said stepdad) point to a real monster. My mom has been married to my dad for 40 years now and my dad will move heaven and earth for her but would never dream of hurting her. Still, for years, my mom would throw a fit every time someone cracked a joke. When I was in junior high and came home crying that nobody liked me at school (typical teen-girl drama), she would say things like, “Well, if you’re as mean to your friends as you are to me, I don’t blame them.” The worst part was that she would dole it out but couldn’t take it back. She would call my dad an idiot if he did something that wasn’t up to her standards. A few months ago, she heard me say something to my aunt about things I wanted at my future wedding and jumped in with, “It will be a miracle if you ever get married!” My aunt was horrified, but my mom didn’t understand why her comment was so upsetting when she was “just teasing.” But if anyone else made a joke, it was hurtful and mean, even if it had nothing to do with my mom.

My mom was diagnosed with cancer a year ago and the entire process actually brought a lot of healing into our family- I think mainly because she saw my dad selflessly caring for her around the clock, even when she was at her lowest. Of course, I would never wish cancer or any other trauma upon Bernadette, but I do agree that she may need to seek counseling or therapy. I think my mom could have dealt with her issues much sooner if she had been open to professional help. Of course, I’m betting the hard part will be getting her to admit she needs to work it out with a pro and not just expect her family to walk on eggshells around her.

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PlainJane April 8, 2015 at 9:53 am

If OP and her DH have any way to get out of the future trip with Bernadette, I think they should. Who wants to go on a trip and basically not feel free to be yourself?

Since B. feels it is ok to lecture you and your DH on his humor, she has opened the door for at least a comment on the lack of hers.

(Does confrontation=steamrolling for SIL? She doesn’t sound pleasant)

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Cerys April 8, 2015 at 9:56 am

I wonder what Hubbage and Bernadette’s family life was like when they were kids. It’s possible that Hubbage’s humour is the result of him being the family scapegoat, and that Bernadette unconsciously turns to him to play the same role when she needs to vent her anger and the person she’s really angry at isn’t available.

On the other hand, I’m saying this from a very comfortable armchair and can probably be safely ignored.

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VM April 8, 2015 at 10:21 am

It’s possible that Bernadette is married to a sibling of the OP, thus “my sister-in-law” but not related to the Hubbage…though that more distant link to the couple seems to make shared plans slightly more unlikely, so I don’t know.

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Skaramouche April 8, 2015 at 2:39 pm

Doubt this…the OP would not have referred to the ex-husband as an “abusive man”, hehe :).

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Rani April 8, 2015 at 5:43 pm

Unless ex was a first marriage and current is a second.

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Amanda H. April 8, 2015 at 10:24 pm

This is what I was thinking, given the story seems to imply that Bernadette hasn’t had prior familiarity with Hubbage’s sense of humor.

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vjcole April 9, 2015 at 9:52 am

If Bernadette had been married to a sibling of the OP, I assume the OP would have referred to her as “my ex-sister-in-law”.

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NostalgicGal April 8, 2015 at 10:23 am

I’d say Bernadette better get therapy now, or decline the trip as it will be horror from the first word.
Some just do not want to move on with their life when something traumatic happens and Bernadette needs to be shoved onwards to a better place.

An acquaintance had two lovely children, then lost a son at about a year old, and her grief firmly stayed on day one. She had another son, and resented that boy because he wasn’t the one she lost, and finally her husband divorced her and took the kids; as she was such a mess. Nobody could force her to move on; the universe revolved around her grief over her dead child and nothing was going to shift that. (when she told her youngest toddler she wished he was dead and she had the other boy back instead, her husband packed up and hauled out with the kids).

Bernadette sounds like she’s in a similar rut and needs to get therapy. As I mentioned OP, if she doesn’t, don’t go on the trip. It will just be a horror and not worth going.

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Jess April 8, 2015 at 10:57 am

Good on the husband for putting those kids first.

I understand there is grief for the wife, but to say that to a child, especially one of your family, is just cruel.

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Lady Anne April 8, 2015 at 2:01 pm

We had a family “friend” who was very much that way. The couple had a son, and then a daughter. The son was hit by a car and died. All the father would say was “why wasn’t it her (his daughter) instead?” At the funeral parlor, and for years afterward, that was his theme song: “It should have been her”. They did have a third child, but that was another daughter, and she was “no good” because she wasn’t a boy. The mother was my sister’s godmother, so we had to have some contact with them, but none of us could stand to be in the same room with the man for very long.

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Ergala April 8, 2015 at 6:16 pm

I was the “replacement” in a way. My mother lost a daughter at birth and a few months later became pregnant with me. You can def tell I don’t exactly live up to her expectations but she was never purposefully mean to me. Just less involved with my life than my older sister’s. I didn’t even know why it was like this until I was in elementary school and overheard my mom talking to my grandparents about going to the grave. Then they told me when I asked about it. My deceased sister came out looking like my mother. I came out looking like my father whom everyone hated. I’m just thankful that my mom truly tried to not hate me for it….but you could tell that I was treated differently.

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Kate April 8, 2015 at 7:57 pm

How truly horrific for the surviving child, and I’m sure nobody would blame the husband for doing what he did.

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Michelle C Young April 8, 2015 at 9:12 pm

She said that out loud to her own child? To a TODDLER?! Oh, I have no words!

Good for her husband for putting the children’s safety first.

I’ve seen too many times when the “responsible” spouse complains at the “irresponsible” spouse, and how that irresponsible spouse needs help, and can’t even take care of herself, let alone their children, so… the “responsible” spouse leaves the irresponsible spouse to fend for herself AND the children. Which means the children have to take responsibility, in place of both parents.

I know someone who absolutely hates his father, because his mother abused him, terribly, and his father left his mother, AND HIM. He doesn’t blame his father for leaving the abusive woman. Nope. He blames his father for leaving HIM with the abusive woman.

So, HOORAAAAAY for Dad in this story! And I hope the mother got the help she needed. She was certainly in no fit shape to be raising any children at all, though. YIKES!

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NostalgicGal April 8, 2015 at 11:19 pm

The oldest child had said to mom after one of her bits, “Mommy I know that S is no longer with us, but WE are.” (older two kids) while she was pregnant with the one after the one she lost. That one didn’t go over well either, oldest child was I think 6 at the time. It just pointed out that where she wanted to live was not where her family needed her. The youngest was hopefully too young to know or remember what mom had said, but. Judge was wise enough to cut that one short and award total custody to dad, at least. Dad had heard her say that last gem, and that was the end for him.

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NostalgicGal April 8, 2015 at 11:27 pm

In a lot of places, the judge in a divorce proceeding will bend over backwards to keep the children with the mother. I used to live in such a state. They would go to weird lengths to keep the parents with the mother, though I knew of a few exceptions. Hence if the mom is the problem, she still ends up with the kids.

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just4kicks April 14, 2015 at 3:35 am

@Lady Anne and Ergala: Both of your stories made me tear up, I’m so sorry people can be so cruel.
Everyone says things they don’t mean in the heat of the moment, but those comments are just unnecessary and downright despicable.

When my husband and I were expecting our third child, we picked up my husband’s daughter from a previous marriage for a special day out to tell her she would be a big sister again.
We had told my husband’s ex we were expecting prior to this special outing, and told the Ex we were telling “Janie” the exciting news this weekend, in case she came home with questions or whatever, so the EX wouldn’t be blindsided.
On the way back to our house after telling “Janie”, she was very quiet in the backseat.
After several minutes, I hear her crying! We pulled over and said, “Awww, Honey….what’s wrong?!? You are the BEST big sister to your little brother’s….we thought you’d be excited!”
She looked at us and choked out, “Why are you having ANOTHER baby?!? My mom said I’M the ONLY kid it takes to make HER happy!!!”
Holy hell….I was just gobsmacked that this girl’s mother would put such a thought in her own child’s mind, not to mention, it wasn’t her (the ex wife’s) place to share the news.
We told her first out of respect, not so she could use the info as ammunition.

MPW1971 April 8, 2015 at 10:54 am

One of my friends once had this great idea for a short story – aliens visit the earth but leave in confusion as they are unable to understand sarcasm.
The thing is that sarcasm is everywhere – if Bernadette is so sensitive to it, she is going to have difficulty functioning in the real world and being exposed to any form of entertainment or mass media. Even serious news articles use sarcasm as criticism. The woman needs help, and she’s carrying around her issues and just waiting to hit people over the head with them. That can’t be good for anyone.

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Xarcady April 8, 2015 at 11:04 am

I will say that I am in my 50’s and only in the past 10 years or so have I stopped wincing when one or two of my brothers gets into a joking spree–because so often in the past, especially when we were kids, the “jokes” were aimed at me and were. not. funny.

So I agree there may be baggage from their childhood that is affecting B’s reaction.

Hubbage can tone things down a bit. He knows he goes overboard on the jokes. He knows his sister is still recovering from Ex. I’d walk on eggshells for a bit for a sibling who has been in pain and is still recovering.

It took one of my brothers about 3 years with counseling to recover from an emotionally abusive marriage. Change can’t always happen overnight.

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Cat April 8, 2015 at 11:08 am

Without specific examples of what was said that was deemed sarcastic, it is hard to tell if most of us would find it funny or hurtful. It puts me in mind of something that happened over forty years ago and impressed on me that I cannot begin to understand another person’s thought processes.
Mother had been diagnosed with terminal cancer my senior year of college. About two months later, Dad collapsed in the bathroom and was taken to the hospital. He had bleeding ulcers- which he had never had before.
Mother decided to confide in me. She said, “You know why he has bleeding ulcers, don’t you?” Naturally, I was going to respond, “He knows he is going to lose you and it is tearing him up inside. He has never been able to express emotions to anyone.” I didn’t get the chance, as Mom told me, “He’s jealous that I am getting all of the attention. This is his way of getting attention for himself.”
That had never occurred to me. I have no idea why she thought he had willed himself into bleeding ulcers to gain attention for himself. It did show me that I don’t know how others think.
The only recommendation I would make is to discuss why SIL regards certain comments as sarcastic/hurtful when she brings them up. What she believes she is hearing may not be what you and your husband believe you are saying. She may be hypersensitive or your husband may simply be pushing buttons from childhood that are so old he has forgotten where he learned them.

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Justine April 8, 2015 at 11:09 am

We too, in my family, have a relative with a sarcastic sense of humor. Now another relative, “R” has taken it upon himself to correct every.single.time sarcastic gets going. “That is hurtful” or “did you mean that to be passive-aggressive” while the rest of us just go “Huh?” Everything is picked on. I noticed that at Easter sarcastic would barely speak to R. Sad. Sometimes people just read too much into it and, as someone else pointed out, they just play themselves the victim.

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Carrie April 9, 2015 at 12:31 pm

I think I also have that relative. We have a “R” in our family who wants to correct every thing and everybody and can’t just let people be who they are. Frustrating.

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Skaramouche April 8, 2015 at 11:10 am

It’s never ceases to amaze me how we all read these incidents through the lens of our own experiences. I’m doing my best to be objective but since I’m married to “a clone of the hubbage” as someone mentioned above, it’s a bit difficult. My husband can be a bit much also but he knows his audience and he is silly and little-boyish more than sarcastic and inappropriate. He is extremely entertaining, not just according to me but according to others as well. The reason for the “off button” is that so much wit and humour can be exhausting so sometimes, a gentle reminder to dial it back is handy.

I understand that Bernadette has been through a difficult experience but it has been two or three years and while the wound has not healed, it should at least be scabbed by now. Obviously, we only have one side of the story and we have to guess at the other half. However, given the OP’s assertion that her husband’s humour is “silly” and that he would never intentionally hurt his sister, I’m inclined to believe her. They are aware of her issue and are trying to accommodate it without changing themselves completely. OP’s husband is who he is and to ask him to become serious would be like asking an otherwise shy and quiet person to explode into humour on command. Bernadette’s lecture suggests that she thinks people should change for her benefit. There’s a very simple solution to this: don’t like the humour? Don’t spend time in its company. This isn’t help that she is requesting from her brother, she is choosing to spend time in his company. A compromise on both their parts would go a long way and I don’t know about the rest of you but a lecture isn’t the way to make me compromise :P. A quiet talk about how the behaviour hurts me would be much more productive but where’s the drama in that? 😉

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Raven April 8, 2015 at 11:30 am

Bernadette would definitely benefit from some counselling. Since she’s so good at dishing out confrontation, hopefully she will be able to handle it when the two of you tell her she needs to sort herself out. Yes, everyone’s sense of humour is different, but this sounds way over the top. What’s the alternative here, really? Is she going to make a list of acceptable jokes? Is she going to insist on a humourless future trip? Count me out. Also, I would be really ticked at someone sitting me down (or my husband) and lecturing us after being our guest for the weekend. If she was really so offended, she could have left. This seems like unnecessary drama, probably unfolding from her inability (or unwillingness) to address the real issue. Some people are very comfortable being victims.

Also, “Hubbage” is really off-putting. Yuck.

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Dee April 8, 2015 at 12:40 pm

Hubbage and OP and Bernadette are not a good match. Limit visits to short ones only. And if Hubbage can point out his “button” to his wife then he has enough self-awareness that he can turn off his “humour” himself, if he wanted to, which he clearly does not. He expects others to put a stop to what he knows is bordering on inappropriate behaviour. That makes me a bit more understanding of Bernadette’s angst.

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Kat April 8, 2015 at 3:24 pm

I have a very sarcastic sense of humor. For me, that comes with people I love letting me know when I’m going too far. The flipside is that my loved ones are always nice about letting me know. They don’t rail on me, they just say, hey, that’s bothering me, and I know it’s time to shut it down.

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Michelle C Young April 8, 2015 at 9:24 pm

You’re very fortunate in your loved ones. Some people sit and stew, and then get even angrier when people don’t read their minds about why they are sitting and stewing.

Speaking up is a good thing.

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Miss Mercy April 11, 2015 at 2:09 am

It sounds as though Kat is understanding and approachable when people tell her she’s hurt their feelings. Unfortunately, not everyone is quite so empathetic and reasonable when the hurtfulness of things they’ve said gets pointed out to them 😛

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AD April 8, 2015 at 3:47 pm

Perhaps try just not going on the trip or not taking her with you, if you can’t tone down the inappropriate humor? My husband has his moments where I need to tell him to stop because it’s getting on my nerves. If everything I’ve read on this comment thread is true and you can’t assess yourselves and figure out how to modify the situation, don’t permit it to happen. It’s only going to end in misery.

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Louise April 8, 2015 at 8:45 pm

To me it seems like Bernadette would be her brother’s wife or something, rather than being the husband’s sister.

I had an experience a few years back that left me feeling pretty bitter at the time.

My good friend Anny had a girlfriend called Elise, I met her and she seemed like a nice person. She added me to facebook and that was the end of it. Then perhaps a month or two later I made a post about a news article regarding a rather violent sexual assault. I was expressing my outrage at the situation most people agreed with me and I had a discussion with friends over it. Then, Elise comments and says that I should take it down, it was disgusting that I would comment on it. I couldn’t understand Elise’s point of view and suggest if she was that offended perhaps she should just “delete me” from facebook. It went back and forth for a while and eventually Anny got involved and tore strips of me for being inconsiderate when it came to Elise’s feelings.

Eventually I found out that Elise had been sexually assaulted as a child (20+ years before) and apparently she saw my post and took offence to it. I did apologise but suggested to both of them rather than verbally attacking me as they had done perhaps it would have been better to just let me know over the phone or via text message and I would have removed it but apparently they didn’t see it that way. I also suggested perhaps Elise talk to a therapist if it was still causing her so much grief.

I couldn’t believe just how much some people play the victim over some things.

Bernadette strikes me as the kind of person that would use this so she could “fire up” over insignificant things.

“Oh you said something that could slightly be considered sarcasm.. DO YOU NOT REMEMBER HOW BAD THINGS WERE FOR ME.. HOW COULD YOU?!”

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vjcole April 9, 2015 at 9:57 am

I mentioned this above, but it bears repeating – if B had been married to the OP’s brother, then she would be her EX-sister-in-law. I also think she would have said “divorced my brother, who was abusive, etc.”. To me, it’s clear that B is the brother’s sister.

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Ergala April 9, 2015 at 11:25 am

Or perhaps Elise simply could have scrolled past and NOT read the article or comments. I was sexually abused as well and I don’t freak out at people whom post articles about it on their FB. I can choose to read them or skip them. I usually choose to read them and perhaps offer a comment. If it’s too close to home or the people commenting are being really really offensive I just keep on going. I had to block a friend’s news feed because of the people she was friends with. They would make absolutely derogatory remarks about people on welfare….like really really bad comments. Finally one day I had enough and mentioned that they don’t know on their list is on welfare and that they should be careful because they could be insulting someone they consider a close friend. I was verbally attacked and it was then that I chose to block the news feed of one of my best friends. It wasn’t her..it was her other set of friends and relatives I found distasteful.

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Jessiebes April 9, 2015 at 12:14 pm

“To me it seems like Bernadette would be her brother’s wife or something, rather than being the husband’s sister.”

Your conclusion seems weird to me.

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MM April 8, 2015 at 9:51 pm

Both siblings need to check themselves, to be honest.

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Gabriele April 8, 2015 at 10:36 pm

Let’s start at the beginning. Bernadette married an abusive man (there must have been some sign before the marriage) and stayed with him. Sounds like she has issues going way back.
Hub is a jokester, has to be told to stop. Sounds to me like there are issues dating way back here also…that Hub was the family either clown or peacemaker…but both of them have the ‘please don’t hurt me’ as part of their lives.
My ex–well, when I met him I thought he was the happiest person I’d ever met.
And for the longest time, he was. Then it started coming out in not-so happy ways. He’d have promised to be home for X event (tickets paid for, etc) and then show up very late with the excuse of being eith friends who didn’t want him to leave.
That ended up being an ongoing part of our lives. He always ‘played’ to whoever he was with. He’d promise me he’d only drink beer at a party we were going to. We walk in the door, the host offers Wild Turkey and he couldn’t say no…his excuse…Gene had offered it and he didn’t want to insult him by refusing. So instead he got quite drunk insulted everyone in one way or another but because he couldn’t remember, he thought it was ok…I was the one who should lighten up. He had a great laugh…I remember one party where when he walked in, he laughed and someone said, ‘hey, the party can start now, Mike’s here’….
It wasn’t until after the divorce that I found out there had been serial abuse in his family…
So now when I see or hear someone being overly ‘entertaining’ or funny, I wonder why.
And of course the ex had no insight into why he acted as he did (his mother had been an alcoholic also…but he didn’t see himself as one…more denial).

I would suggest Hub write down the things he thinks are so funny…and then have someone else read them back to him…
OP doesn’t say (or I didn’t see that) how old they are…if he is sarcastic, this needs to be dealt with before kids come along…kids hear words but they feel the emotions behind them even more….
And if he did write them down maybe he could ask Bernadette to read them and tell him (in writing) why they bother her. It’s not therapy (which is needed) but it’s a step away from confrontation and a step toward discussion/understanding.

On the subject of people who excuse what they say as being meant to be funny, I look them in the eye and just say that I have a rather odd sense of humor, more British so that sort of humor leaves me cold, and curious why the speaker thought it was funny…could they explain—I find different types of humor interesting, intellectually.

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K April 9, 2015 at 3:15 am

“Let’s start at the beginning. Bernadette married an abusive man (there must have been some sign before the marriage) and stayed with him. Sounds like she has issues going way back.”

Am I misreading or are you actually suggesting that women who get into abusive relationships do so because they ignore signs as a result of their “issues”? If so, this reasoning is an appalling example of reductive victim blaming.

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Goldie April 9, 2015 at 10:38 am

“It wasn’t until after the divorce that I found out there had been serial abuse in his family…
So now when I see or hear someone being overly ‘entertaining’ or funny, I wonder why.”

Um, what? No. That’s not how any of it works.

My last ex came from an abusive family and had ZERO sense of humor. There is no correlation. I’m sorry that your marriage didn’t work out – neither did mine – but to suspect everyone who, to your taste, is overly entertaining or funny, of some horrible dysfunction or past abuse, is… mind-boggling to me.

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Goldie April 9, 2015 at 10:43 am

Wanted to add – now the fact that your ex was non-confrontational and couldn’t say no to people – which resulted in him throwing one person under the bus to accommodate another’s last-minute request etc – as well as his drinking problem – those could indeed be due to his history of family abuse. But being funny… that’s neither here nor there. Sounds to me that he had issues stemming from growing up in an abusive family AND also happened to be funny. It’s like if he had red hair and now, anytime you’d met a man with red hair, you would wonder… there is no link at all.

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crella April 10, 2015 at 6:57 pm

“My last ex came from an abusive family and had ZERO sense of humor.”

I don’t think she’s talking about just funny, but constant clowning. I have a relative with a lot of problems, alcohol among them. This person cannot have a straight conversation in a normal tone of voice. All utterances are accompanied with exaggerated facial expressions and hand gestures,in constant motion, they’re always ‘on’. Very hard to describe, but it’s jarring.

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Cami April 10, 2015 at 9:18 am

Please do not propagate the myth that abusive people always show their true colors and victims choose to ignore them. MANY abusers know enough to hide their true colors until after a marriage (or other commitment has been made, such as having a child). They then believe their victim is “trapped” or “theirs” and they feel free to show the truth.

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Vandalia April 9, 2015 at 8:14 am

The OP’s use of a pet name for her husband–“Hubbage”–has provided an unintended social experiment regarding humor. I thought it was hilarious. Then I began reading the comments and was surprised to discover that many hated it. It illustrates the problem better than the rest of the OP’s story–different people, different flavors of humor. It’s not an easy thing to change your sense of humor, and I would add–unnecessary, unless your “humor” is really just racism/sexism/some-other-mean-spirited-ism.
Personally, I think it sounds like Bernadette has learned the “art” of verbal warfare from her ex a little too well and needs to reconsider her attitude on confrontation. She’s not the only one with feelings.

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Lady Anne April 9, 2015 at 8:14 pm

Ogden Nash once said:
“There’s nothing so numerous
As people’s sense of humorous.”

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Goldie April 9, 2015 at 10:29 am

My family’s approach to life (and by my family I mean my parents, my grown kids, even my ex-husband) is to not take life or ourselves too seriously, and to laugh at ourselves as much as possible. (One of my kids does standup, to paint you a picture.) A few years ago, I was in a two-year relationship where my sense of humor and his were completely incompatible. He found my jokes abrasive, I found his jokes… not jokes. I tried to tone it down to accommodate him and doing that just wore me down in the long run. I worked so hard on being something I’m not, in that aspect and many others, so my partner wouldn’t feel offended, ignored, taken for granted, and so on and so forth, that at the end I changed into someone I didn’t quite like. By the time he walked out on me, I was always tired, cranky, irritable with everyone but him, I started having anxiety attacks for seemingly no reason… and I really did to a great extent lose my sense of humor. This was an experiment on myself that I don’t plan on ever repeating. But this was a relationship, and a person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with (don’t ask me why, lol). I’m pretty sure I could keep my mouth shut for a weekend, or a week even, around a relative whom I don’t see often. I do realize that my family’s kind of humor is not for everyone, so I won’t force it on everyone. At the same time, I’d let the relative know upfront that we’re trying our best to accommodate her, that it’s not easy for us, and that in return we’d appreciate not being lectured. We are busting our arses to make her feel comfortable and are doing the best we can. If our best still isn’t good enough, then, I guess, “sorry, relative, we’ll miss you” is the only answer I can come up with.

Also, like most other commenters, I, too, wonder if Bernadette has been in therapy to help herself heal from her relationship, which, as horrible as it was, ended a few years ago! After my dysfunctional relationship described above, believe me I got myself into therapy as soon as I realized what I’d been through for two years, and what effect it’d had on me. I want to enjoy the rest of my life, not spend it getting triggered by every little thing and having flashbacks to my weird relationship with my weird ex; let alone blaming other people for it when I feel that way. If that’s how I go through life going forward, then my ex has won.

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Vicki April 9, 2015 at 11:02 am

I disagree with one piece of the Admin’s advice: someone who is that likely to be upset by certain kinds of jokes probably shouldn’t go to an improv comedy club, because you don’t know who will be on stage or what they’ll be joking about. It might be completely harmless–or it might be someone whose shtick is to insult the audience. Or one of the comics might be joking about a situation enough like what Bernadette got out of that she finds it painful.

Watching something like that on Comedy Central, sure: you can easily leave the room or change the channel. Asking to leave mid-act when you’re traveling with other people is trickier and more disruptive. We know that the letter writer and her husband disagree with Bernadette about what’s funny, so they might resist leaving, or agree to leave in the middle of someone’s act but then complain and/or say they don’t see why she can’t lighten up.

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Deb April 9, 2015 at 11:41 am

To those who are offended by the term “hubbage,” please understand that it is not meant in a disparaging way. It is simply an example of current slang. If you are losing at bowling, you need “strikage.” If the band sounds awful, they need some “tunage.” And so on. I think it’s delightful when young people play with language. As long as they punctuate it correctly, of course. 😉

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Miss Mercy April 11, 2015 at 2:21 am

Right, it’s Nitpicky Linguist Time:
I’m not disagreeing with your overall point, but the analogy you’ve used to support it doesn’t quite work:

But “strikage” (presumably from “strike”) and “tunage” (presumably from “tune”) are both nouns formed from verbs- the “-age” suffix is added to the verb to create a noun.

Yes, “tune” and “strike” are also both nouns, but from the examples you gave above, it sounds as if “strikage” has a different meaning to “strike”, and “tunage” a different meaning to “tune”: “Xage” appears to mean “has the quality of X” (e.g., having more strikage would better enable someone to strike more at bowling.)

So by the analogy you’ve proposed, “hubbage” and “husband”/”hubby” would have to have different meanings- “hubbage” would be an abstract noun referring to the quality of being a husband. I don’t think that’s what the OP meant when she said “Hubbage” in her post.

I hope you don’t interpret this as me being disparaging, I’m just a young person having some fun with language (and punctuating it correctly).
😛 🙂 :3

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Deb April 11, 2015 at 9:48 am

You go, Miss Mercy! It’s a wonderful discussion, although we might be asked to take it elsewhere. It is true that my examples were not as tight as they should have been; they were just the first things that popped into my head. We don’t know exactly what the OP means when she uses the term. (Maybe she just thinks it’s cute! There’s certainly nothing offensive about it. But if you go looking for offense, you’re bound to find it.) Just between you and me, Miss Mercy, I might argue that hubbage is indeed an abstract noun and The Hubbage is the person who embodies those qualities. But there’s no right or wrong here, just fun!

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Visitor May 4, 2016 at 1:10 am

For Pete’s sake…..I would think that hubbage is just another nickname for husband, as in hubby or hubs. Didn’t require a grammar lesson!

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A different Tracy April 13, 2015 at 8:20 am

Is anyone actually *offended* by the term? I thought they just found it annoying.

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Jessiebes April 9, 2015 at 12:02 pm

Good evening.

My brother is like this. Sarcastic very funny, very silly, entertaining and the live of the party, especially when the family is together. He justs demands and gets lots of energy and attention. Which is fine and good but after a few hours, I find it exhausting. Sometimes when I am tired, or having a bad day, I find it annoying that I can’t get a word in without being overshouted.

My annoyance is my problem. We don’t see my brother that often as a family together. I do however see my family one on one a lot – which as a introvert suits me better anyway. So I have learned to just appreciate my brother as he is: loud, funny but the sweetest brother I could ever wish for.

My point. The sister in this story is missing out – both in the laughter department and in the love her brother and sil are showing her. She needs to do some soul searching why she would behave the way she did. Therapy seems a good option. So don’t feel bad OP, you have married a gem.

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Angel April 9, 2015 at 1:14 pm

I would say that if “Hubbage” is Bernadette’s brother, she likely knows his type of humor. The ex probably did do a number on her self-esteem so that could be part of the reason why it is such a bother to her now. But she needs to have a heart to heart conversation with her brother and not just call him out on his humor. She needs to let him know that it bothers her and why. I would be willing to bet that if she took this approach, “Hubbage” would tone things down a bit when she is around. I have one of those brothers with a sarcastic sense of humor too, but if I ever went through a nasty divorce he would support me and help as much as he could. Even if it meant toning it down a bit temporarily. I have a feeling “Hubbage” is the same way. A little kindness can go a long way–on both sides though.

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starstruck April 9, 2015 at 1:38 pm

I dont particularly like spending time with people who have to be funny ALL the time. I have a good sense of humor and I can take a joke , but after a while if its relentless it can start to get on your nerves . Especially if its at someones expense. Or iam just not in the mood. I think there is one like this in every little group lol usually its someone who is insecure and thinks being funny is all they have to offer . That ” stop button”you mention leads us to believe he goes to far often so its probably not just your sis in law who finds him obnoxious. No affense, iam sure he’s great.???? Of course their are always too sides so maybe he isnt directing anything at her but considering this is his sister, unless she is just crazy, I seriously doubt it. Heres the thing. It isnt walking on eggshells to simply let someone be . She doesnt get his jokes. So. It wouldnt kill him to tone it down a little. Maybe she is a little sensitive. Maybe he isnt as funny as he/you thinks he is. All the more reason to be more considerate.

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starstruck April 9, 2015 at 1:39 pm

Those question marks were supposed to be smiley faces lol

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mark2 April 9, 2015 at 3:38 pm

ok just a few thoughts – number one she is her sister in law but that doesn’t make it her husband’s sister. I have found that a lot of people will call a lot of different people their sister in laws when in fact they’re not.This could have been in fact her own brothers wife which of course would mean that OP is talking about her brother being the abusive husband but that is very possible. I have a friend who has a brother -in-law, who has a sister. My friend calls her her sister in law when in fact she is not. on 2.2, I have also found that a husband and wife are so close and connected that they often don’t see the flaws within each other and it very well could be that either or both parties are in fact being sarcastic when they think they are just being silly but they just can’t see it themselves without somebody pointed it out.

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Jocelyn April 9, 2015 at 4:26 pm

I think you need to have an honest conversation with Bernadette, about how your husband’s sense of humor seems to irritate her. ‘Do you really think that we can have a congenial trip, considering that we’ll be spending X hours a day together/sharing transportation/sharing accommodations? I really don’t see how it’s going to work, do you?’
Put her on the hot seat- she says he’s too annoying for her comfort right now, how can she possibly endure his sense of humor for days on end, with no way to get away from him? It’s not that either of them are bad people, but there are just some folks you can’t travel with, and is he one of them for her? I don’t think it’s fair to either of them, to put him under pressure not to make jokes, or her to endure them.

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BagLady April 9, 2015 at 6:26 pm

From Admin’s response: “I think I would shelve, at least temporarily, any humor that could be construed as sarcastic.”

But here’s the problem: Neither OP nor her husband perceive his joking comments as sarcastic. He may be sardonic, snarky, smart-alecky or any number of adjectives that may or may not start with S. But I’ll take OP’s word for it that Hubbage is not being sarcastic. That’s a very specific kind of speech, and not every (insert S word of your choice from above) comment qualifies as sarcastic, although all those types of comments *can* be hurtful, even if hurting someone was the last thing from the speaker’s mind.

Example: “Barry Manilow’s music sucks, and you’re an uncultured idiot for liking it” — obviously cruel and hurtful.
“I don’t care for McDonald’s at all, but it’s pretty popular, so I guess there are a lot of people who like it” — not cruel, but if the hearer is used to being told, “You’re an idiot for liking (Thing),” she could be hearing an unspoken “There’s something wrong with people who like (Other Thing).”

I think Hubbage needs to sit down with his sister, explain that the last thing he wants to do is hurt her, and he honestly doesn’t perceive his humor to be anything like her ex’s cruel “jokes,” and ask her to name some specific comments he made that upset her.

(Let’s not get into a debate over Manilow or McDonald’s here, mmkay? They are for example purposes only.)

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Marozia April 9, 2015 at 6:49 pm

It sounds like you can’t even have a serious conversation with this SIL!

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just4kicks April 10, 2015 at 2:23 am

@Samantha C: Thank you.
Many of us tried to be her friend as she was an older woman who was divorced a few times and her grown kids had moved away and didn’t keep in contact.
After a few weeks of my employment and her constant awful attitude, paired with my overhearing her one day saying awful things about me personally, I had an epiphany about WHY she was divorced and her kids wanted nothing to do with her.
I really did feel bad for her, she was a sad and lonely person, but there is only so much you can do.

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David April 10, 2015 at 5:03 am

I’m kind of appalled that Bernadette felt that it was appropriate to lecture one of her hosts in their own home, to be honest. A discussion with a sibling about feelings is one thing, a lecture is another.

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Awestruck Shmuck April 10, 2015 at 10:11 am

There have been some interesting theories raised, about where the responsibility for protecting bernadettes feelings should lie – but I do have one thought myself. My brother and I do not always get along – and he is pretty clever when it comes to seemingly innocuous remarks, that to someone who doesn’t know the specific history of a story or incident, sound pretty funny. My sister in law has laughed hysterically at some of his ‘jokes’, only to realise I am on the verge of tears. Not because I’m a victim, or over sensitive, but because context, history, and the relationship between the joker and the joked-about, can really impact how funny something actually is!!

I have friends with who I can joke, tease, and make (gentle) fun with – but we know each other well enough to know what can be said, and how to smooth feelings if something goes too far. There is probably quite a few things that would NEVER be joked about in front of anyone else too, but when it is said between two of us, we can giggle at our own expense.

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JD April 10, 2015 at 10:22 am

I just thought about this — I had forgotten it ever happened. I was married to a man who was mean, controlling and manipulative, and very good at hiding it, as he had me completely fooled before our wedding, always deferring to whatever I wanted to do and being charm itself before we married. The real personality appeared after our wedding, and my life became hell. One of the things he did was he compared everything I did unfavorably to how his mother did it — everything, right down to how I made the bed. I put on both sheets, then a blanket, then the spread, but his mother never used a top-sheet, and her way was somehow better to him and my way was stupid to him. Ditto for everything else, and he was cruel about it, too, as though I was always too stupid to do it “right.” That marriage ended, no surprise, and I remarried almost 2 years later. Some years after that, I served a dish at one meal that my (second) husband asked what it was, and when I told him, innocently said, “Oh, okay. That’s not how my mother cooked it,” meaning that’s why he didn’t know what it was. In just half a second, I had turned on him viciously, telling him I didn’t give a rat’s behind how his mother did it, he’d better never compare me to her, and so on. At the look of his complete amazement, I stopped and immediately apologized, explaining why I had flared up so, and I’ve made sure to NEVER do it again. If Bernadette is still reacting so strongly to humor, she should really be aware by now why, and she should definitely be making herself stop, or seek help to do so, not blame the OP’s husband for it.

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Cat April 10, 2015 at 5:35 pm

This reminds me of a poem I wish I could find again. A man was constantly complaining about everything his wife did as he wanted it “just as Mother used to do.” It ends with, “And then she turned and boxed his ears-just as Mother used to do”.

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Mustard April 11, 2015 at 5:48 am
Cat April 11, 2015 at 6:52 pm

It was probably a more Americanized version of that. I think it’s great. Thanks.

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crebj April 11, 2015 at 9:18 am

If it’s not too late, I would bow out of the trip. I can’t think of a strategy by which Hubbage can be himself, and SIL can remain unhurt. I would explain it to her in that way, gently but honestly, and then walk away. Of course, if SIL came up with a strategy that would address both goals, I’d be all ears.

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Goldie April 14, 2015 at 8:39 am

I would too, if possible. This trip sounds like a massive waste of time and money waiting to happen. I’ve gone on a few of those and it’s painful to spend the year afterwards thinking about how you no longer have any vacation or any vacation funds, and what little you did have, you spent on a trip that no one enjoyed, with a person you couldn’t get along with.

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Enna April 11, 2015 at 11:58 am

Admin – the OP has said that Bernedatte had a very nasty, abusive and unpleasent husband so it can take more than three years to recover from soemthing like that. Depending on what happened between her and ex when they were married and living togther it could mean that the “victim” time takes longer to get though and she will still have bad days.

How about OP and her husband talk to Bernadette?

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K April 13, 2015 at 10:48 am

“She is, to put it lightly, EXTREMELY sensitive to sarcasm, ***as well has harmless humor she deems as sarcasm***”

Right. So you knew this about her before she arrived and your ‘Hubbage’ still didn’t lay off.

If you cannot handle her demands – reasonable or not – don’t. But given you knew she had this problem, I don’t see why you’re complaining after the fact. There were no surprises here.

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Goldie April 14, 2015 at 8:37 am

They did lay off: “at no time did we poke fun at her in any way.” What else were they supposed to do, give a vow of silence?

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Alice Garner April 13, 2015 at 2:17 pm

Why on earth would you consent to take a trip with such a person? She feels free to criticize you and your husband, and you are afraid to stand up to her. I would not waste a second on such a person, let alone allow them to ruin (and she will) what should be a time of relaxation and enjoyment.

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Cheryl April 14, 2015 at 2:22 pm

It is your husband’s sister, so he should talk to her, you don’t have to walk on eggshells, it has been a year, she may not be fully ok (for lack of a better word), but the tenseness should have calmed down. Be yourself, if she doesn’t like it then have your husband deal with it, but make sure that he has a conversation with her before this trip so that she is prepared that the two of you plan to be yourselves, it is not meant to be vicious, or directed towards her unless during the entire joke one has contact strictly with her only. Some people after verbal abuse it takes a while to realize that not everyone is talking about them specifically every time.

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Callalilly April 15, 2015 at 4:29 pm

Original poster here.

I probably should have put this in the post, but Bernadette’s abusive husband was actually MY BROTHER (whose behavioral lapses would warrant not just a post, but an entire website). I didn’t think that was a necessary detail, but obviously I was wrong about that.

So she has no history with my husband, and in the past 5 years — she first laid eyes on him in August 2010, a week before he and I got engaged — she’s seen us for maybe 10 days total, since she lives long plane ride away from where we live.

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JeanFromBNA April 16, 2015 at 4:29 pm

I’d shelve the vacation with Bernadette. If she has to approve what may be deemed funny, it sounds like a very un-fun vacation.

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