General Etiquette > Family and Children

Was I rude to cut off the topic?

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Fragglerocker:
B/G:  DH has a bad relationship with his father.  Parents have been divorced since he was a toddler.  He has, however, kept a relationship with his paternal grandmother, now 92.  For a long time, he had really wanted to cut off his father completely, but was avoiding doing so for the sake of the relationship with his grandmother.  Honestly, he was just hoping she would die. (I know that sounds bad, but he was hoping to spare her any "drama" and didn't want to deal with her and the situation, and just hoped that when she passed away (she has been battling cancer for years, too,) that he could cut off his father and avoid any fallout with the relationship with his grandmother.  But, the relationship with his father had gotten so bad recently--and pretty much all effort to maintain a relationship with his father was on DH's side--that he decided for the sake of his sanity and to protect our own nuclear family (we have a 2 year old daughter) that he was ending further contact with his father.  He didn't want to get into the situation with his grandmother, but she constantly pushed him on it--even before DH had decided to end the relationship--saying things to him like, "You think your father's such a monster," which DH had never said to her, but his father really had earned that title.  Finally DH had had enough and let his grandmother know that he was not continuing a relationship with his father, and clued her in on why. (This was around Christmas/New Years). His grandmother essentially chose to dismiss everything he said, which is fairly typical for her.  (She married two abusive men--one twice--and let them physically and verbally abuse her two sons, and has never taken responsibility for the fact that her choices shaped two very disturbed men, only one of whom has managed to move past his upbringing--that's DH's uncle.)  Still, DH has tried to maintain a relationship with his grandmother, despite all this.


Current situation:  We have gone out to lunch with our DD and DH's grandmother several times recently, and she keeps bringing up things about DH's father & his new family.   DH has previously told her at these lunches that this isn't a topic we want to talk about as it's painful and uncomfortable.  She generally takes a few times to get the hint and drop the topic, but acts like we're being unreasonable for not wanting to discuss the "goings on" of that part of the family. 

Most recently, it happened again--she brought up the newest career move of DH's father's wife (not his mom), and DH tried to be polite when the conversation started, but did not show further interest, hoping she would drop the topic.  Instead, she asked DH "if Fragglerocker" had heard of the same news, (which was pretty irrelevant in of itself, as I was sitting right there and even if I hadn't heard it before, I heard it when she just told DH,) but I said I hadn't, again, hoping she'd drop it by showing no further interest.  Nope--she then started in on when she first met DH's father's wife, and I could tell she would just keep talking and talking and was not getting the hint, so I stated as politely as I could that I would rather not hear about DH's father's wife.  She looked at me like I had two heads, and I went back to tending to our DD (as a two year old in a restaurant tends to need a lot of tending), and DH reiterated what he'd said on previous occasions about it not being a comfortable topic for us. 

She then didn't say anything but appeared to be pouting.  I prompted DH on other topics, but she wouldn't respond to him. (This isn't that uncommon with her--she always has to dictate the conversation and she will simply pretend to have not heard any conversation she isn't interested in pursuing and then will just go on with whatever she wants.) 

We finished lunch and drove her home, and I stayed in our car with DD (who was gearing up for a nap on the way home) while DH walked her in, but it took longer than normal, so when he got back in the car with us, I asked what was up, and he said that his grandmother asked if I was okay.  I noted she was probably upset because I didn't want to talk about DH's father's new family and DH said I hadn't been rude and that we'll just have to keep doing the same thing because she will have to be told every time that we aren't going to discuss that part of the family, but I'm not sure.  Knowing how she is and that she just doesn't get it, am I being rude if I don't just go along with it every time she wants to bring that family up for discussion?

Knitterly:
No, you were not rude, and it is not rude to continue to not want to talk about it.

I know that your DH loves his grandmother, but she is not respecting this boundary.  She probably never will.

The next time she brings up DH's father and stepmother, would you be able to redirect the conversation tangentally?  IE, if she mentions the new wife's career, could you bring up something interesting about something somewhat related to the career? 
Her: "Did you hear she's now working at ABC & XYZ law firm?" 
You:  "Mmm.  I read an interesting article the other day on the ranking system of law schools."
Her:  "Stepmother, blah blah blah, great career, blah blah blah, father, blah blah blah."
You: "It was talking about how they consider Blah factor and Blah issue in the ranking system, and etc..."

In other words, continue your tangental conversation with or without her.  The conversation doesn't even have to be as closely related as the example.  She might talk about an orange blouse the stepmother brought and you could talk about "Oh, that reminds me, oranges are on sale at Grocery Store this week.  Did you see the great price?"  Then talk about how the weather affects produce prices.  And continue talking even if she tries to redirect.

It's the only thing I can think of if you want to keep seeing her.

SPuck:
I would continue along the lines of the blunt and direct approach. She is never going to change, and doesn't appear to be in a place where she can be manipulative, or would be manipulative, besides trying to lay on the guilt. It sounds like this subject is her bone to chew. Just don't let her chew it around your family, and at the very least you should be able to maintain the relationship.

heartmug:
You will probably have to continue to be blunt and try to re-direct.  "No I did not hear about her job nor do I care to.  Where did you get that lovely blue sweater?"

cicero:
you were not rude but you aren't going to change her.

Your DH has to make a difficult choice here - he can continue seeing his grandma and she will continue to push him to have a relationship with his father. or he can stop seeing her. or maybe he can set new boundaries with her - it is possible but it isn't easy and it will be something that you both have to do.

so next time she brings up his father - you tell her *once* "grandma, we told you how much it hurts us when you talk about father. Please stop." if /when she persists, you get up and leave. yes, even at a restaurant. (if you drove her there, then figure out the logistics, but do not continue the meal). same if you visit her "...please stop." and if she doesn't, then you say "we're going now, bye".

I don't know if it will work. My DS , after a LOT of work with a therapist, did confront his bio-dad (who is currently living with *his* mother) and it went badly. he tried to talk to his grandmother but she was supporting her son (as she has done all her life), and as in the case of your DH grandmother - my MIL was married to an abusive man and has a skewed outlook on life. DS has not exactly cut her off, but he doesn't have an ongoing relationshuip with her (more like a twice-a-year phone call).

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