Etiquette Hell = Where the ill-mannered deserve to go


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It's All Relatives

2002 Archive

2003 Archive

I love my husband and my in-laws dearly, but getting over his little sister's complete lack of interest in others took some doing! A few months before we had become engaged, she, at age twenty-one and unmarried, had given birth, which is certainly *not* a faux pas, but I found it a bit odd that her deeply Catholic family had been opposed to my now-husband living with me before we were married but was fine with their youngest child having an out-of-wedlock baby. We made plans to visit his family for a small engagement party. I was looking forward to meeting everyone, but nervous, as I only knew his parents. Well, I shouldn't have worried at all, because "Bernadette", as we'll call her, made sure that every person's attention was directed at her and her new (and admittedly adorable) baby girl! All we had to do was *try* to discuss our engagement and wedding plans and suddenly she would appear to dangle the baby in front of whichever relative had been trying to converse with us, and immediately begin to steer the conversation around to HER. I'd heard from my now-husband about his sister's selfish exploits, but I was amazed to see her in action! It was incredible! Our engagement party-and our only chance to interact with his relatives, who live 12 hours away from us-became a "Let's all pay attention to "Bernadette" and no one else" party; she really couldn't stand being out of the spotlight! She used the baby as an attention-getting ploy, which nauseated me.

In addition to this attention-grabbing, she also waited two days to acknowledge the gift of baby clothes we had handed to her personally the day we'd arrived! Since my sister doesn't want children, this was my first chance to spoil a niece and I'd spent weeks shopping for adorable outfits to supplement the ones we'd already sent to her. I didn't ask for an engraved card, just a verbal 'thank you'! I bit my tongue as our visit progressed and she was nothing but rude to her parents and to us, including handing her daughter off to her mother so she could hang out with her little friends whenever she liked! A baby is *not* a toy to be played with only at your convenience! Worst of all to me? Maybe I'm old-fashioned (at 27!),but here in the South, where I was raised, if you get a lady pregnant, the LEAST you can do (if you haven't already!) is to introduce yourself to her parents, preferably to ask for her hand in marriage! Apparently, her boyfriend missed out on that vital information, since it took him six months before he bothered to introduce himself! Tacky!

Luckily, nearly two years of motherhood have changed her from a spoiled, selfish brat into a grounded and good-humored woman, and we're now very close to her and to her (very caring and devoted ,as it turned out!) boyfriend--now my future brother-in-law!

Relatives 0815-03

My father's aunt passed away after decades of being afflicted by various ailments. His uncle had nursed her for years. It was unfortunately one of those events where you could say "at least she's not suffering anymore" and mean it. She had been unhappy and semi-coherent for years.

That does not excuse what my father's cousin "Ann" said (we are talking about a fifty-something woman here, not a kid).

I was standing with my father and his cousin Ann, making small talk. I was about 19 at the time. We don't see my father's extended family all that often so they were having a pleasant conversation about what my sisters and I were up to. So my father starts talking about my boyfriend at the time, "Jim", and what a very big guy he is . We are talking six foot eight, around 250lbs - we are talking about a tall, solid guy. Ann takes this in and then turns to me, winks and asks "Is ALL of him that big?"

I was mortified! I couldn't look at my father, who tried to make light of it saying in a joking tone, "She better not know!"

I still run in the opposite direction when I see her come towards me.

Relatives 0821-03

For my daughter's christening, my in-laws flew in from another state to attend. The morning of the christening, I was upstairs getting dressed and when finished came downstairs to gather up daughter's things and get underway to the church. When I came downstairs, I must have taken my in-law's by surprise, because they hurriedly took pictures of my daughter in her gown and they had opened up her gift they had brought for her, a little gold necklace with a heart pendant and put it on her and snapped the pictures. They acted all embarrassed and flustered when I walked in. At first, I was slightly upset that they took it upon themselves to open the gift they had bought for her instead of waiting for everyone to get together afterwards. I also noticed that they had hurriedly gathered up the gift wrap and what appeared to be a mailing box and throw them out in the trash. But, as it was a busy important event for my darling daughter, I blew it off as one of their nutty picture taking things. Imagine my surprise, a few months later, when my mother asks me if I received my aunt's gift for my daughter's christening in the mail as she had not heard a reply from me. I said, no, I would have dearly loved that since it was my deceased father's sister whom I take after quite a bit. I then asked my mother what it was. She said, a little heart locket on a necklace! Uhhhh. What? So, I told her that no, we didn't get it in the mail. So, my aunt resends a necklace and guess what? It's identical, in the same box as my daughter's that was given by the in-laws. Coincidence? Not when I realize that these are the same people who steal from their own children. I was so pissed. Now my daughter has two necklaces. Guess which one I let her wear, folks? Oh, to cap the story. My mother in law sends me a birthday gift later that year. It's a silver heart shaped box. She TOLD my husband to tell me that it's for me to store the necklace she "bought" our daughter! Uhhh, thanks for the gift? It's stashed in the closet along with the necklace.

Relatives 0903-03

My husband and I married in 1963 while college students. We had practically NOTHING and were existing on Savings Bonds that I had purchased while working for 4 years after high school. He hadn't ever held a job and had no money.

Our wedding was in my parents living room, we purchased our rings and wedding clothing, our cake was donated by parents of one of my best friends (her family owned a bakery), food and punch was provided by my family. Groom's parents had only a short commute of about 100 miles at the most. They did not have to incur any hotel or meal charges. Our honeymoon was a weekend in my family's modest beach-house. You can see that this is the ultimate low cost wedding: no limos, showers, dinners, alcohol, etc. I thought it was a comfortable, pleasant wedding - we left in my car which I had bought and paid for before I started college.

My mom and dad, comfortable, but in no way wealthy, bought us a small refrigerator and a mattress (I had an unused new bed frame which I had bought after starting work after high school, chest, dresser and mirrors and a single bed -that is all). His parents showed up in Houston with our gift, a re- cording machine (large and bulky in those days). That was nice and he recorded our ceremony, but not very practical in our situation. They were nice people, but extremely up- tight and disapproved of their little boy (21) marrying an "older woman" (23). His mother especially was very "cool" towards me from the start. A little later, my MIL's sister buys us a small dining set for which we were most grateful.

Skip ahead a few years, I finish my courses at the university (a 3-1/2 year program) first while my husband works at a menial job for the state - I was closer to finishing, had a better chance of supporting us and he had not really decided what he wanted to do. I got a degree in Medical Technology and had to do a year of internship in a teaching hospital rotating through the various departments in the lab (chemistry, microbiology, hematology, etc.) During this time I received a stipend of about $150/month. My husband quit his job and returned to the university, we moved to an incredibly-priced 1-bedroom apt. for $15.00/month! It was owned by a Baptist Church, and was a very old 2-story with an identical apt. upstairs. We made it into a very pleasant home and even bought 1 acre of land outside of the city limits and paid $50/month for it out of my stipend. I think the total purchase price was about $2500.00 (now it is worth about $80,000).

The boy upstairs renting that apt. is late paying us the shared utility bills. Finally, he moves out and we rent both apts. for $30/month. We cut an access in the kitchen ceiling, install a folding staircase and now have double the space. Now we can set up a brick-and-board bookcase and arrange our extensive book collection in an large L-shaped arrangement. AND! we have 2 kitchens, 2 bathrooms - it is so freeing and we are enjoying all this space.

Then a girl at my lab is crying, she has no place to live. I offer her the upstairs until she can sort out her life. A few days after her move-in, she proudly informs us that as a thank-you gift to us, she has rearranged the books in our bookcase by height and color! We managed wan smiles and said thank you.

Lots of other weird stories, but I will FF to one of the biggest: I GET MY DEGREE! - husband's parents have decided that I am OK after all in spite of being 2 years older than their baby boy. So their graduation gift to us to a trip to ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD! Very generous, but we don't want them to overextend their finances (they are very comfortable, but again not wealthy) - so we choose a trip to Canada (we are in Texas and have never been there). It is the year of EXPO in Montreal. Well, this would prove to be a HUGE mistake. (YOU SEE THIS COMING, DON'T YOU???) I don't know  where they thought we would choose to go, but our choice so delighted them that they announced that they would be accompanying us!

Yep - didn't ask, just announced the news! This was our chance to say something, but they were just so excited that we went along with it, thinking....well, how bad could it be? Poor little naive babies!!!!! We flew to Montreal, I had made advance reservations at a private residence for our stay - hard to find at EXPO time. When we arrived, the taxi driver drove to the address and said it did not exist - he suggested another place close by. (In retrospect, I think he was in league with the new place, it was fine BUT - only one large room that we had to share with husband's parents.) We enjoyed EXPO, and Montreal (went our separate ways most of the time, then booked on the train that traveled across Canada to Vancouver. HehHeh-we were in a sleeping cubicle WITH his parents for days! The scenery was magnificent and we enjoyed meeting people in the eating car and the viewing car - but we were on our vacation and only married a few years, ARRRRGGGGHHHHH! 

We get to Vancouver and proceed to the hotel that his parents have thoughtfully booked in advance. What a surprise when we arrive at the ONE large room that we are expected to share with them for the remainder of our vacation! We stay about 10 minutes, collect our modest luggage and announce that we are going out to find our own accommodations. His parents are truly astounded! Only a few blocks away, we find a small hotel that we can afford on our own and check in. We are so happy to have a private room and a nice bed. Gee - we notice that it even has a little slot on the side to put in quarters to shake the bed! You will probably will not believe this, but we were so naive that we had no idea what that was for, except that it was NEAT! When we went back to Parent's hotel to tell them where we would be, we even mentioned that to them! I guess, at that point, they felt we were hopeless and quit bothering us for the rest of the trip. We rented a car, drove to Seattle and used our plane tickets to get home.

Relatives 0904-03

Although this didn’t happen at a shower, I thought you would enjoy it. When I was pregnant with my first child my MIL and FIL told my husband they wanted to buy the crib for the new baby. Both my mother and my father had previously said they wanted to buy the crib for the baby, but since this was my in-laws first grandchild (I have older sisters who already have children) and they seemed really eager to buy the crib, I asked my parents if it was ok. My husband and I had registered for a crib for our baby shower, nothing fancy just an ordinary crib. My in-laws had decided however that they wanted to go all out and go to a baby furniture specialty store to get an expensive crib and dresser. The set was very nice and we were very grateful to them for buying it for us.

Fast forward a year and a half later, my MIL tells my husband that when our daughter is out of the crib we have to give it back to them. My MIL and FIL tell my husband that they didn’t buy the crib for US, they bought it for the entire FAMILY and that they need it back for when his brother decided to have children (mind you his brother was nowhere near getting married at this point in time, didn’t even have a girlfriend). They had never bothered to explain this to us in the first place; I guess they just assumed we wouldn’t think they would spend a lot of money just on us. Well we ended up keeping the crib for a little while longer because we had a second child. After she was out of the crib they TOLD US we were to give them the crib for his brother to use, even though he still wasn’t in a relationship or anywhere near having children. Finally it was decided that we were allowed to hold onto the crib for safekeeping. About two years ago, while I was pregnant with my third child, my brother-in-law finally met someone and was in a relationship. My MIL thought he was going to tell her his girlfriend was pregnant too (she wasn’t). My MIL actually said to me (8 months pregnant) on the phone, "I just started thinking, oh no how are we going to do this! One crib and two babies."

Relatives 0922-03

This is story involves the MIL of a former co-worker of mine. A few years ago, the ILs' 50th wedding anniversary was coming up. My co-worker's DH and his three siblings decided to put on a big party. Because the ILs were both very difficult people, particularly the MIL, it was decided that it would NOT be a surprise party, and that all the details would be run by the ILs for approval as the planning proceeded. First of all, they were asked if they would even want a party, since they are not really "party" people. The ILs responded with enthusiasm, "Yes, that would be very nice, we'd love that."

Fine. The planning went ahead. They booked the banquet room of the local Legion hall. Like some older people, the ILs were somewhat prejudiced against this particular organization, looking on it as a somewhat disreputable establishment. But this banquet room was very nice, newly renovated, and had a total separate entrance from the main building. As with all the other details, this was run by the ILs, and they said it would be just fine.

The party ended up being quite expensive. In addition to the room rental, the ILs' children were having it catered (for 200 people), having a wedding cake made, decorations and flowers, printing invitations and mailing them out, etc. There were many people coming from out of town and staying in hotels. MIL was telling everyone how excited she was, and how much she and FIL were looking forward to seeing everyone. Everything was going wonderfully up until the morning of the party.

FOUR HOURS before everything was due to get rolling, MIL phoned her DD and said, "I'm not coming." DD said, "Why, what's wrong, are you not feeling well?" MIL answered, "You know perfectly well that I would never set foot in the Legion." In a panic, DD phoned my co-worker's DH, because sometimes he was able to reason with his parents when nobody else could. He called, and she refused to budge. He demanded to speak with his dad, and he backed her up. "You should have respected your mother's feelings about the Legion." Umm, hello, they had known for SIX MONTHS that it was going to be at the that hall, and they hadn't said a word.

The upshot of all this was that the party had to be canceled at the last minute, but it still cost their children a fortune, because they couldn't get any refunds on anything on such short notice. To the kids' credit, when they were phoning everyone to let them know not to come, they didn't lie. They told everyone the unvarnished truth about why the party was canceled, because this was the culmination of many years of unreasonable behavior by these parents. (I told my coworker that if it was me, I would have had the party anyway without them!) The ILs and their kids didn't talk to each other for about six months afterwards because everyone was so angry at each other.

My coworker told me that in a way it wasn't surprising, because her ILs were notorious for not showing up at weddings when they had already said they were coming, making up some stupid excuse at the last minute. They had even backed out of some of their grandchildren's birthday parties, christenings, graduations, etc. But nobody thought they would have the gall to refuse to attend a party that was in THEIR HONOR, especially when they knew how much effort and expense had gone into it. I hope there is a special place in etiquette hell for people like this. 
  Oh, yes, there is certainly a special spot in Etiquette Hell for people like this.

Relatives 0921-03

My stepmother has never been too thoughtful or gracious about gifts that she gives or receives. Of course there have been times that I have received a gift that is not what I would have chosen. I always try to find some way to use the gift, though. Or sometimes, if possible, I will exchange the gift for something that I really like.

Here are some of the ways in which my stepmother has demonstrated a complete lack of class and tact over the past 15 years:

When I was a teenager I gave her what I considered to be a very thoughtful gift for mother’s day. That gift turned up, still in it’s box, in the yard sale she held the next year. I was helping with this yard sale and she made no attempt to conceal from me the fact that she was selling my gift.

Once the wife of my friend’s wife sent over some bags of clothes that she was planning to send to the Goodwill, so that I could go through them to see if there was anything that I wanted. My stepmother went through the bags as well, and took out a few things. One of the items that she took was a new shirt that still had the store tags attached. Later that year she wrapped the shirt up and gave it to her mother for Christmas.

A few years ago I was having some severe financial problems but did manage to buy my stepmother a small bath set for Mother’s Day. She gave that set to my brother’s girlfriend as a birthday present a few months later. Same gift, same gift bag, and right in front of my face.

My dad bought my stepmother some clothes from a nice department store one Christmas. She was telling me how she took them back to the store and got the money instead. No mention of getting her something she liked better – I guess she just took the money and ran.

And the most flagrant example of all: for my stepmother’s birthday last year my dad gave her a gift card to another nice department store – I guess he figured it was a sure shot. On his birthday, one month later, he was opening his presents and opened a card from her. There was the same gift card. He took it out and stared at it. She said, with a wink and a smile, "Back at ya, Daddy!"

Shopping for this woman is agony. I will pick up an item, look at it, try to imagine if she will wrap it up and give it to someone else, and put it back down. Her birthday is next week. I’m giving her flowers. Hopefully she won’t be wrapping those up and giving them to someone else. But if there is a way, she’ll find it.

Relatives 0918-03

First off, let me tell you I LOVE your site. I read and re-read stories then I wait anxiously for updates. One of my office mates never fails to ask me if I am in "hell"; referring to your awesome site. Most of the time I am. My story falls under "Everyday Etiquette - It's all Relative" Here it goes:

Background: My boyfriend and I have had what most people would call a whirlwind romance. While we have known each other for some time, we hadn't seen each other for about 4 months. When he was in my town, about a month ago, we got together and during the course of dinner, we realized how the we felt about each other. Now we are planning our lives together.

So on to meeting each other's family. The story I want to tell is about his family. My BF comes from a rather large family as do I, so I know families can be eccentric. His mom is a bit off but nice enough and I really like his dad. This past weekend I met some of his siblings. The one who stands out most is his oldest brother, whom I shall call Quint and his wife, Amber. 

Yeah, Quint and Amber were quite the interesting mess. My wonderful BF told me before we went in the house a little background and that they were a little strange, which was good, cause I would have FREAKED out if he hadn't. First of all, this was his parent's house. BF still has one sibling living at home, so that explains one of the younger children, but there were six other running around the house, touching everything, getting in to things and then promptly getting screamed at by their parents. I love kids, want to have a bunch someday, but these kids were very trying. And who did they all belong to as four of them appeared to be the same age. We were there for a few minutes when BF was called away by his father to look at something. So there I was sitting in the living room when it occurs to me what they are talking about. Rationing toilet paper. Why you might ask? It appears that some of these children stopped up the toilet. Quint and Amber talked about how the kids ransack the house (i.e. their home) and block up the toilet all the time. Nice "how do you do". BF told me they were a little "off", so I thought "whatever" and started talking/playing with his younger sister.

My BF and I missed dinner, but were offered leftovers, great, not a big deal, as we had missed dinner. We had a sandwich and some cake. While I was eating my slice of cake, Quint decides this is a nice time to find out about the girl (me) that his brother is going to marry. Well, that amounted to sitting at the table with Amber, BF and me and talking about HIS job. He is a guard at a state prison. He pretty much held us captive while sharing stories about the "mating habits" of the inmates and the whole prison "culture". So here I am, ready to lose the dinner I have just had, and they just keep going on and on. My (again) wonderful BF is trying to break up the conversation as he is offended by it and I am turning green, but they keep on talking and talking. Finally, a change in the subject, mainly because one of the kids came in with her underwear showing. Amber then felt the need to compare her OWN child to a race she deems below us. All this in front of ME a person they had never met before.

Just to let you know, I am all for feeling at home and not putting on "airs" with new people, but how about a little decorum? I would never dream of sharing my views on "touchy" subjects with a person I had just met 10 minutes prior.

Relatives 0917-03

I could write all day about my husband's family! Pretty much all interaction with them takes place in etiquette hell. I'll give you the most recent. My husband's brother and his wife have deliberately lived as far from the rest of the family as possible without actually leaving the country. Consequently we have almost no relationship with their two children. Not much of a problem, as the four of them are socially retarded and rarely condescend to speak to anyone except each other. Even if they're sitting in my living room, they will ignore me and start a game of cards, or a conversation among themselves, without making any effort to include us. ( I feel sorry for the kids, they're being brought up without any social skills.) 

In June, the oldest child graduated from high school, first in her class. For such an important event (which was too far away for us to attend) I felt she deserved a nice gift. I took a day off from work to find an appropriate piece of jewelry that she could wear all her life. It was not inexpensive, but well worth it. I heard from other family members that she LOVED it. But the only thanks we ever got was an E-MAIL! And it wasn't even sent to both of us directly, but to my husband, who forwarded it to me. I really don't blame her. Her parents are responsible for seeing that their children learn manners. MY parents made sure I hand wrote thank you notes from the time I was in the first grade! But I guess my in-laws didn't think that the time, effort and money we spent warranted the time it would take to write an actual letter, stamp it, address it, and walk it to the post office.

The next gift we send them will be a book on letter-writing etiquette, along with a box of note cards.

Relatives 0929-03

About 4 years ago, my hubby and I were going through hell trying to get pregnant. At a family gathering, we talked to his cousin 'Demona' who was also going through infertility problems. We commiserated about the whole thing. It was nice to have someone else who 'understood what we were going through'. Ha.

Fast forward 4 months to Christmas time. We are severely down in the dumps about the continuing fertility issues, no kid in sight. Haven't really mentioned to anyone but this one cousin that we are even trying, just because it is so heartbreaking to talk about. So we get the Christmas card from Demona and her hubby. In it is one of those wonderful (gag) Xeroxed Christmas letters where they announce that they are expecting in May. They then add "Hope that we hear good news from (me and my husband) soon!" So not only do they (who should really know better) send us the "we're pregnant yippee for us" letter, but also basically announce to the whole family that we're trying unsuccessfully. I cried for about a week. Fortunately, at least two other relatives who got this letter also thought it was pretty insensitive and obnoxious of them.

We have since adopted two beautiful sons. No way are we passing on those genes!!

Relatives 0929-03

With the exception of his mother, my stepfather's ("Bob") family has never made much of an effort to consider my brother or me as true members of their family, even though my mom and he have been together since the early 1980's. This is a story from a Christmas visit back when I was in college in the early 90's.

It was Christmas Eve and we were all at Bob's parent's house ("Fred" and "Wilma"). After dinner, my brother (also a young adult at this time), our two young step-cousins, and I spent the evening watching TV in a back room, as we were uninterested in the adults' conversation. The adults (Bob, my mother, Fred, Wilma, Bob's sister, and her husband) had a lovely time sitting around the table and talking in Fred and Wilma's combination kitchen/family room. (The kitchen is divided from the family room by a built-in table; if you sit at one side of the table, you're actually in the kitchen and if you sit at the other side, you're in the family room.)

The evening winds down, Bob's sister and her family leave, and the rest of us get ready for bed. My brother got the bed in the second guest room and it was my turn to sleep on the sofa bed in the family room. As he was ready to turn in, Fred came in and started the dishwasher, (which, for all intents and purposes was in the SAME room I was sleeping in) and informed me, "This won't bother you." I was FLOORED. Evidently, it would have been too loud to run the dishwasher when they were all awake, sitting around talking, but it was perfectly okay to run it when it was time for me to go to sleep. This story is just one of many of how I was made to feel like I was less than everyone else (except my brother, whom they also treated poorly). Perhaps you can understand why now, as an adult, I refuse to attend their family functions.

Relatives 1002-03

My husband and I have been married for nearly ten years and together for sixteen. When we first met I thought that his family was terribly nice but that one or two of his older brothers were extremely self-centered. As it turns out I was pretty much correct but one brother (we'll call him G) has proven himself not only to be ridiculously self-consumed but an outrageous liar as well. To make things worse he married a woman (C) that one SIL describes as "dumber than a box of rocks." Thankfully, they have remained childfree. It's horrifying to imagine what a child of theirs would be like.

Being childfree has afforded G&C lots of perks over the years. They live in a big house, they drive nice cars, they take nice vacations and have a nice retirement fund. Now in her mid forties C doesn't even work full-time anymore. These are all things they are entitled to for sure. They are not entitled, however to the monetary loans G occasionally seeks from his brothers and never repays. He does this despite being openly critical of two of his sisters-in-law--myself included--for bleeding his brothers dry by choosing to stay at home and care for their small children instead of working full-time. He has been particularly critical of me because my husband and I have decided to raise a large family. We are currently expecting our fifth baby. Apparently according to his way of thinking this is all my doing though I can assure you my husband and I have had equal parts in conceiving all our children from the initial planning to seeing it through.

The most recent spate of jaw-dropping entitlement by G started about two years ago. In October '99 my husband made up his mind to break out of a horrible job situation by striking out on his own and purchasing a small print & copy shop. He had 15 years printing experience before doing this and tripled sales at his shop in the first year. The business has steadily grown but has had only marginal profits that have all been reinvested into the business. As a result we've been living on the absolute bare minimum salary for the past four years. G seems to have the impression, however, that we're rolling in dough.

Nearly three years ago G started lobbying for a cushy sales job from my husband. He talked about taking my husband's clients out for golf outings to generate sales and showed up at the office every now and then with coffee in hand fishing for an offer. This despite the fact that he was gainfully employed and had NO printing experience. It wasn't long before he decided a loan was as good as a job and asked for $500 to help renew his country club membership because C refused to let him use money from their joint accounts. My husband unwisely handed him a check from the business requiring a promise that it be paid back by the end of the month. It's still unpaid. We later found out that he borrowed $1,000 from another brother to cover the remainder of the membership fee. That brother was eventually repaid despite the fact that he has a sizeable income and is without a wife or children to suck the life out of him as G's so worried that our children and I are doing to my husband.

Recently my husband and I were invited to a 40th b-day party for G by C. None of my husband's brothers attended only my husband and I. The remainder of the party was made up of my MIL and FIL, C's parents and her brother and SIL. Though it was planned on less than a week's notice and my husband wanted to decline I persuaded him that we should go. After all, though they've probably attended only about half of the important events for our immediate family (Christenings, First Holy Communions, etc.) they have attended some and we hadn't even been invited to anything important for G since his wedding. During dinner C's mother clearly confused me with someone else when she started yakking about how I'd finally "bagged" my husband. She asked when we got married and I was almost embarrassed for her when I had to reply "ten years ago." I'm not sure who she could have been thinking of because G. was the last of my BIL's to marry eight years prior. Later, C. was crowing to her mother about how adorable our children are when she called down the table to me asking, "When are you due with the next one?" a normal question which I answered. I was taken totally off guard the next moment though when she said, "How many will this make now? Three?" Um, hello? She's been involved with my BIL since before we were married. She's been a part of the family at the time that each and every one of my FOUR children were born and she can't remember how many we have?! Until this year she's shown up at Christmas with gifts for them. I looked at my MIL with a bemused laugh to see that she was mortified and answered, "Five, C." In the next breath she said, "You've got S and A and what are the other ones named?" Good God! They're two and four! Four years seems enough to remember your nephew's first name, don't you think? All this would be merely an amusing story, however, if it weren't for what happened the next day.

The following morning my husband and I were doing yard work when I came into the house to make lunch and do some housework. Apparently while I was upstairs folding laundry he watched as all the kids followed me in. Unfortunately, our two year old must have entered and exited while I was still upstairs because I never saw him in the house. In the five to ten minutes that my husband and I each thought he was with the other he got into the basement via the bulkhead and caused a flash fire by spilling gasoline. The fumes were ignited by the pilot on the water heater causing an explosion and trapping him. Though our son was miraculously unharmed it was a truly harrowing experience for all of us and he spent a night in ICU at regional medical center for observation. We eventually ended up seeking therapy to help us help him and the other children deal with the emotional after-effects. We were also out of our house for six weeks while the smoke damage was repaired. On a positive note I was surprised and touched by the emotions expressed by most people who heard our story. Some people even teared up. Virtual strangers were extending sincere offers of help.

During that first week all of our family members called repeatedly or stopped by to offer support--all except G. We didn't even notice at first that he didn't call. It wasn't as if we were keeping track or anything but when my husband realized his brother didn't even care enough to pick up the phone he was VERY hurt. He started spouting about being done with him forever. Not wanting to see that happen and not wanting to alert his parents to the fact that G never called--because I knew they'd be angry but also because I knew they would eventually tell my husband that they made G call--I asked his oldest brother to get in touch with G and make sure he called my husband. It took several more days before G called and when he did he made cursory mention of our son, launching instead into a monologue about himself. This seemed to smooth things over as far and my husband was concerned--at least he called--but you can guarantee that I'm done interceding for him.

Recently my husband and G. went on a golf outing with two other brothers. G paid for lunch and made a big production about doing so. For the first time my husband reminded him that he owed him $500 so he shouldn't be so glib about picking up the lunch tab. What did he say? "Oh yeah! I forgot." He still hasn't sent a check. Now G is apparently on the verge of being laid off from his job. Is he looking for a job in his field? No. He's gone to my MIL and FIL to seek their help in securing a job from my husband, the one who hasn't had a raise in nearly three years, the one who is being financially broken by his wife and children, the one he's owed money to for years while he's enjoyed his country club membership. My husband told his parents no, he's not carrying G when this business is just about to turn around and provide something more for his family. They, of course, countered with "G would do anything for you," a familiar refrain which has proven repeatedly untrue. It's really something MIL and FIL have to tell themselves to keep from seeing what a loser they raised. I hope to God my husband sticks to his guns. Though I was sorely tempted I didn't tell my husband that G only called about our son because I orchestrated it but you can bet I will be in the background opposing any idea whatsoever about hiring this totally unqualified opportunist. I don't want to help him and I want him as far away from my family as possible.

Relatives 1017-03

I've been reading the stories on this site recently and I've seen some real pieces of work. I think mine ranks right up there with them. Please bear with me as there is a good deal of background story that must be included. (All names have been changed)

When I was 19, my father met a woman over the internet and they began chatting and exchanging emails. Now my father and mother were still married at this point and had been for 30 years. They shared an email account, which just happened to be the one he had Anne sending email to. Surprise surprise, my mother stumbles upon an email from my father stating "I love you Anne Hanks, I wish it were Bryan (his surname)"

Flash forward about 4 months, my parents are getting divorced and my father moves Anne in BEFORE my mother has moved out, I overhear them saying to each other that "that's okay, Juliet (mom) can sleep in the garage until she moves out."

Three months later, my mother, my little sister and I have moved to a different state, on my sister's birthday, my mother calls him to remind him of that fact, and he says to tell her happy birthday, and oh, by the way, can you tell the girls that Anne and I got married last month?"

Relatives 1203-03

The story about the groom who wouldn’t stand up to his controlling mother really resonated with me. When my wife and I were expecting our first child, my parents pressured us about the decisions we were making for the baby (their first grandchild). Not new behavior for them, but I was unprepared for the intensity of the pressure.

My parents would go behind our backs, such as acquiring used car seats and cribs without checking with us to see if we wanted to use these items. In those situations, I had to tell them three or four times that Decision X was our decision before they would back down. In retrospect, I should have been more forceful about it. When we found out the baby’s gender through a sonogram, my parents asked, "Are you sure it’s a girl?" not once, but five or six times. This behavior just got worse as the pregnancy progressed.

Because of this, I almost dreaded Thanksgiving and Christmas that year. My family has an addiction to passive-aggressive behavior and conflict avoidance, and my mother is the worst offender. Whenever she has a grievance with someone, she will complain to the rest of the family instead of discussing the issue openly with the person involved. She has been especially bad during the holiday season, when everyone has to coordinate schedules with in-laws. My wife and I had less flexibility in our schedule, since her extended family is very close and spends part of each holiday together. But no matter what arrangements or compromises anyone made, my mother wasn’t happy if we didn’t have the entire family together on the appointed day.

For Thanksgiving, my mother refused to plan anything, and just sat and sulked. My sister asked my mother about plans, and my mother simply shrugged and mumbled that she didn’t know. My sister felt so bad that she volunteered to host a potluck Thanksgiving on Sunday. Everyone except my mother seemed to be happy with that.

Christmas was worse. The previous year, my wife and I offered to come to my parents’ home in the morning to open gifts, after our customary breakfast with my in-laws. We arrived to find that everyone had already opened presents. This time, my brother and his wife offered to host the family Christmas on Christmas Eve. We told everyone that my wife’s extended family gets together that night every year, but we would be at my brother’s as soon as we could. So we arrive and found that once again, all the presents were opened except for ours. Later, I asked my parents why and never got a reason. My sister told me that she had suggested waiting for my wife and I to arrive, but my mother just plowed on ahead with the gift opening. Keep in mind that this "family" celebration included several friends of my brother and sister-in-law, which I thought was odd.

Here’s the grand finale: A week or so before our baby’s due date, we found out that the doctor was going to induce labor. Because both my wife and I were nervous and didn't know what to expect, we decided not to tell my family what time we were going to the hospital. (My wife's parents already knew, since her mother had agreed to be the other labor coach.) We simply asked my family to stand by and wait for my phone call once we knew that the labor was progressing. My father’s response? "That’s not good enough for the women." To this day, I have no idea what he meant by that comment. My mother then went behind my back and called my mother-in-law to find out our arrival time at the hospital. When I found out, I called my mother and told her I didn't appreciate her doing that. Partly because she wouldn't accept our decision, and partly because what she did could have threatened my relationship with my in-laws.

On the day of the delivery, when I called my father to give him the update on my wife’s labor, he told me that I'm not supposed to get mad at my mother. First of all, I’m supposed to let my mother do whatever she wants? Second, why would my father bring that up during the birth of his grandchild? Anyway, when my parents arrived, my mother wouldn’t even give me a hug. I asked them into the delivery room for a couple of minutes, and they stayed much longer. I should have asked them to leave sooner, but I was afraid my mother would cause a scene. So the nurse asked everyone but the coaches to leave. By the look on my mother’s face, you could tell she was angry. She came back a few minutes later to peek over the doorway's curtain!

I didn't mention that travesty when they came to visit the next day. After we got home, they didn’t call or visit. I was disappointed because I wanted to confront them away from the rest of the family and let them know that my mother’s behavior was completely unacceptable. I knew that I had failed to protect my wife from my mother during the delivery and I had to do something about my mother. A few days later on Easter, my mother calls to ask if she can bring a basket for her granddaughter, or "can I leave it on the doorknob." I told her she wasn’t welcome at our house for the time being because of what she had done. She then said, "Oh, okay," and hung up on me!

During the next two months, my father called me a few times to get me to change my mind. Each time he called I berated him, often bringing up grievances that were years old. In the beginning I hadn’t planned on keeping my parents away forever. But I grew more infuriated by my father’s attitude that my mother didn’t owe us an apology. He kept insisting that she did what she did out of love. He never understood how betrayed and violated my wife felt. I ended up telling him not to contact us anymore, because I couldn’t trust either of my parents when it came to my wife or my children.

Since then, the only contact I’ve had with my parents has been an awful, weepy letter from my mother, where she tried to use guilt to manipulate me. I could barely bring myself to read it, because I knew it would make me angry.

My wife and I agree that this was "my turn" with my parents. My brother’s "turn" came years ago when he and his wife first began dating. She is of a different race, and my parents said she wasn’t welcome in their house. After my brother got his own apartment, he boycotted all family events until my parents relented—four years later. I predict my sister’s "turn" will come soon. I learned recently that my mother offered to help pay for the ceremony if my sister and her boyfriend want to get married—help pay, that is, as long as the ceremony is held in a church. My goal now is make sure my children never have their "turns" with my parents.

Relatives 0908-03

I have really enjoyed reading the stories on your site. Here is my story that belongs in hell! It was my 12 year old nephew's birthday (lets call him Dallas.) I had asked my sister what he wanted and she went on and on about how much he had matured and was asking for new clothes as he was just starting Jr. High - specifically blue jeans.

She suggested a gift certificate to a popular store so he could pick out his own jeans. I received a couple of emails talking about how proud she was of him becoming so mature - no wanting toys but new clothes.

We went to his birthday dinner and when it came time for him to open his present he opened his gift certificate - $40 to the popular store.

His face lit up and he was excited so I said - "Dallas - this is for jeans." The look on his face said it all - he was so disappointed, his shoulders slumped and his face fell. I quickly said "or anything you want" - my sister chimed in and said "no - they are for jeans!" She had set both of us up! She is often low on funds and has been the family charity case for years so if she had said she was having problems getting his school clothes together we would have helped however we would have also given the child something HE wanted for his birthday. Needless to say I am not asking what he wants for Christmas!

Relatives 1209-03

Page Last Updated May 18, 2007