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A Good Update

Hello Miss Jeanne! I wanted to write and update about the family disagreement between my husband (B) and his nephew (J) which I sent in a year and a half or so ago, here: http://www.etiquettehell.com/?p=4676

The original dispute actually started 2 years ago in January, and they finally resolved it this past Christmas Day at B’s mother’s house. There were several attempts by B to resolve the dispute between himself and J, which were rebuffed. He resolved to keep trying, even going so far as to speak to J’s father about the issue when they providentially ended up at a gas station at the same time some months ago. J’s father was aware of the situation, and said he would speak to J if he could.

The morning before we went over to the gathering at mom’s, B was clearly distressed at yet another holiday with the elephant-in-the-room weighing on everyone. So we discussed how, if the situation presented itself, B might again attempt to open up a discussion between them and iron it out. Something along the lines of, “J, please tell me what is it we need to do to get this worked out between us?” I actually heard most of that sentence being spoken from the front room when they were in a spare corner, so the rest of us looked at each other and immediately vacated the area and moved into the kitchen.

20 minutes later, B was so elated with the mended fences that he and J left the gathering, went back to our house and started loading J’s truck with metal parts and tools to help build a workbench for J’s garage.

I later learned that despite our thinking that J was uninterested in B’s friendship because of the repeated cold shoulder, during this past late fall or early winter J had come to the house to speak to B about it, but B was out with the dogs working in our back woods. I don’t understand why he never made another attempt or called or something. Nevertheless, I cannot express how relieved I am that the unpleasantness is over, and wanted to share it with you all. B even told J and myself that patching this over was the best Christmas present he has ever received.

Happy New Year!

{ 15 comments… add one }
  • David September 26, 2017, 2:51 am

    Yay! great update.

  • Mustard September 26, 2017, 4:10 am

    Good to know everything worked out!

  • TracyX September 26, 2017, 6:55 am

    Oh goody! The thief has been so gracious as to forgive your husband! All it took was giving the thief more things!

    OP, your husband is a doormat. And just giving in to J’s belief that he was in the right to steal.

    • Carrie September 26, 2017, 3:03 pm

      Her husband’s anger issues aside, I don’t recall J ever apologizing for his theft.

    • Ernie September 26, 2017, 5:47 pm

      Agreed generally, though I don’t know If I’d call the husband a doormat. He’s just doing what he can for peace in his own life, since he has to live with these people. Sometimes you just have to do that, and make a personal mental note to watch out for untrustworthy people.

    • Claire September 26, 2017, 9:17 pm

      Agreed. J is being (doubly) rewarded for taking what wasn’t his and having the sulks for being told off for taking what wasn’t his. That’s one big old broom your husband rugswept with.

      J: 1 – B: 0

  • JD September 26, 2017, 9:54 am

    Thank heaven for a happy ending. It’s nice to see that sometimes families do actually work it out instead of carrying the grudges on and on.

  • Dee September 26, 2017, 10:13 am

    I could see why J wouldn’t want to make attempts to reason with B, considering B has a tendency to be quite aggressive and verbally violent. The whole issue got diverted from J’s taking what wasn’t his to B’s reaction to that. B wasn’t professional about the issue at all and that has become the focus. If B had treated the situation properly in the first place and notified the appropriate authorities and/or given the issue to council to rule on then it would simply have been a matter of law. As B handled it, it became a matter of verbal abuse, so much so that it eclipsed J’s original behaviour completely.

    It’s virtually impossible to respect and want to obey a person who behaves as B did.

    It’s good to hear that fences have been mended. Perhaps anger management counseling, on B’s part, would help to prevent such a reoccurrence in the future. If B can’t handle governance issues dispassionately then it would appear he is not suited for his job as an authority figure in the village.

  • staceyizme September 26, 2017, 12:31 pm

    I’m torn between joy for your family’s happy ending and puzzlement over your blind spot with respect to your spouse. J made an attempt to visit and reconcile and it speaks very well of him. However, it seems to me that your spouse was the one who owed an apology for his twice having lost his temper. His lack of self-awareness in this respect may not bode well for a long-lasting peace between the two. (As, perhaps, his inability to “let it go” when he believes himself to be correct similarly does not bode well, an impression one receives both from your description of his escalating temper during the original phone call and his failure to contain his temper upon his first attempt to reconcile with J…). People who lose their temper inappropriately often go “over the top” when they get around to making amends, a kind of relational reboot that feels good to the abuser and the abused. It’s just part of a cycle, however, in that people who rage in anger inevitably cycle around to loss of control again and the family system is faced with the impact (which they themselves should manage but refuse to!).

  • InTheEther September 26, 2017, 9:39 pm

    I can already see this starting up the argument about B being more in the wrong than J was.

    And I still don’t get that logic. Say I’m in the wrong if you want, but if I got a phone call that a relative had committed a crime (and yes, the theft of city property for personal use was still a crime even if the village president decided to be remarkably lenient about it) that implicated me as well there’d be plenty of cussing and assurances that I was going to throw them under the bus when time came for repercussions.

    Yes, maybe B should have kept his cool more. But now and even back in the original post responses, there seems to be the vibe that because B was “mean” to poor J it negates the fact that J’s actions could have gotten B in serious trouble via association (it wouldn’t be the first time an elected official lost his position because a family member tried to take advantage of it) and that J showed absolutely no remorse over the fact, doubling down and insisting that B validate his actions. So I guess being mean is worse than committing acts that cause actual harm (city’s still out a few grand (seriously, gravel is expensive)) and showing a distinct lack of care about the ramifications it may have on others. Which I think is part of the definition for psychopathy now that I’m reading the last sentence. (No, I’m not accusing J of being psychopathic, just pointing out how weird it is to be villianizing harsh words and cussing to the degree that other actions are being excused)

    • Dee September 27, 2017, 12:00 pm

      InTheEther – I agree with you, except J’s behaviour is not an etiquette one, but a legal one. The law should have been invoked to deal with him. The whole thing went off the rails when B became aggressive and verbally abusive. THAT’S the etiquette issue. If B had kept his cool and let the law/village handle the problem then there would have been no issue beyond that. If J hadn’t complied then the law would have dealt with that, too. But J did not need to apologize to B for stealing the gravel – it wasn’t a personal crime against B – so B taking it personally turned it into a family feud.

      I wouldn’t expect any member of my family or any of my friends to apologize to me if they broke a law that didn’t impact me personally. I would expect the law to handle it. Depending on the issue, I might not bring it up in conversation, as the infraction might not affect our relationship at all. In this case, J’s crime was a victimless one, in that it doesn’t impact any one person. It’s still a problem and it still needs to be dealt with, and how J handles the consequences would be telling, but none of that is B’s concern. B’s responsibility is to report the issue and let it be handled appropriately, same as if he wasn’t related to J. Now that B has exploded on J it has become much, much bigger than just the theft of some gravel. Very unprofessional on B’s part.

      • Ernie September 27, 2017, 1:49 pm

        B was an elected trustee of the village. That his nephew stole gravel from the community is absolutely J breaking a law that directly affects J and his reputation. You don’t think neighbors and other members of the community notice when people do something like this? “Oh, there goes B’s nephew, stealing gravel, getting away with it because his uncle is on the committee”. He brazenly did it and then called back to ask when more would be delivered.

      • InTheEther September 27, 2017, 3:11 pm

        J is associated with B. Whether B ever has anything to do with J’s actions, people still know that B and J have Christmas dinner together, and I don’t doubt people have made the connection (assuming this went outside the family and the council didn’t hush it up) that the thief was a council member’s close relative. And J involved B by calling him, essentially looking to be told that it was all cool, making B be the one to report it to the village president. And had B gone straight to the police rather than the village president, chances are probably good that J’s mom or some other relative would have gone to him either wondering if he could help J get off or to harangue him for turning J in, so there would’ve been a family split anyway.

        You’re argument works great in a vacuum of pure logic. But this situation involved people.

        B was blindsided by the 1st phonecall, and likely was in panic mode, hence the high strung response. And then B tried to bury the hatchet pretty quickly (I don’t think he ever even asked for an apology), but J decided to be petulant and insist that B agree that J was in the right. THAT started the family feud. B was going to let the matter drop, but J was going around to everyone drawing them into drama, going behind his uncle’s back and telling people he had brain damage and how terrible B was for not agreeing that J was completely entitled to take whatever he wanted. B definitely should’ve kept his cool in the second meeting, just walking away and rolling his eyes. But if you’ve never had a relative try to draw you into their battle and insisting that you be on their side when they’re clearly in the wrong, I’ll let you know that it makes you want to strangle them. Especially since in those situations they won’t let you stay out of it, and if you don’t agree you become their personal enemy (hence all the talk about his uncle being brain damaged).

        • Dee September 28, 2017, 11:21 am

          As an elected official, B can’t be going into “panic mode” over a load of stolen gravel. If the ordinary issues of running a village provoke such strong emotions then he is not suited for the job. He’s very unprofessional.

          There are two issues here, the legal one and the etiquette one. B had no business getting emotional over the legal one, since his only power is to report it and then follow up with the authorities to ensure a resolution and a return of the gravel. If B can’t keep the two issues separate then, again, he is not suited for the job. His overreaction to J and his verbal abuse of J are what caused the family rift, not the theft of the gravel, and that’s what can be addressed here. What J did is illegal but not personal, what B did is rude and very personal.

          I think everyone has family or friends who try to involve others in their battles. But the person who has the problem is the one who cannot stay out of those battles, not the person who’s trying to draw them in. If you don’t know how to walk away or shut down a conversation then that’s on you. You can’t change how they behave, but you can change your own behaviour. But I really don’t understand how that pertains to B and J’s situation, since there was no reason, on B’s part, to escalate things, and no reason why B and J couldn’t continue attending family functions peacefully, and no reason why everyone else felt affected by the events. Of course, if people WANT to get drawn into someone else’s drama then that does explain a lot of what happened here …

          • TracyX September 28, 2017, 2:52 pm

            J’s theft put B’s position on the board and reputation within the village at risk. It was very personal to B.

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