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Christmas Jerky From The Parents

My husband and I still live near his parents, in our hometown. His siblings moved four hours away, about 20 years ago, and don’t try very hard to make it home for the holidays. They have a list of excuses a mile long. Since my parents also live nearby we have spent many years splitting the holiday so both sets of grandparents can see our children. We have always done our best to include everyone and give equal time to both sides.

One year, we decided to invite my husband’s parents over for Christmas Eve dinner since my mother-in-law was griping that she didn’t want to cook for us. We told her it wasn’t about the meal, that we would love to just visit with them, but she insisted a meal had to be involved. So, I bought a turkey and all the trimmings. I thawed that enormous bird and made plans to cook for my husband’s parents on December 24th. I should probably mention that because of our splitting the holiday with both grandparents over the years we had made Christmas Eve our own special night, with our children, so we could have our own family traditions.  For us to let my husband’s parents be part of that was a big deal. It was going to cause a huge disruption to our normal routine for the evening, but we were willing to compromise just to make the mother in law happy. Leading up to the holiday my husband asked her several times if she planned on traveling to the town his siblings live in to visit them on Christmas day and we were assured they did not want to travel. He even said we’d be willing to go at the same time because it had been so long since he and his siblings were together with his parents for the holiday. Again, he was assured that they were not getting together with his siblings.

On December 23rd his parents called to announce they had changed their minds and were leaving that day to go to the other city where the siblings live. They were not coming for dinner, the next day, and they would not see us for Christmas. Our kids could just wait until after the holiday to get their presents. We felt like they got a “better offer” and bailed on us. When he asked if we could change our plans and go to his sister’s for Christmas as well, he was told “No, she doesn’t want guests.” My husband was so stunned he didn’t know what to say.

After the holidays we discussed the situation with my husband’s siblings and were told the mother had lied about our true plans and if they had known we were ditched they never would have offered to have Christmas with the parents and leave us out. “It will never happen again!” we were told. They seemed to understand how much this hurt my husband to be left out of his family’s celebration.

The following year, once again, we were making plans with his parents, only to have them disrupted at the last minute. I was forced to have my mother change her plans which in turn affected my sister and her husband’s extended family. All so they could rush to the sister’s house for Christmas day because she was going to be alone and they didn’t want her to be alone. (Her ex-husband had visitation, that day, so she was going to be alone.) We accepted the parents were doing this for her because they didn’t want her alone on the holiday and that is why we changed our plans at the last minute. We were told the brother and his family had plans with his wife’s family.

On Christmas morning my husband got a call from his sister and could hear a lot of commotion in the background. He thought that was strange considering it was just her and their parents. She informed him she had her child, their parents, the brother and his family all over for Christmas. He was devastated to realize he was again left out of the “family” celebration. It became clear to him that his parents don’t want all three of their children together for the holidays and they go out of their way to leave him out.

That was the day we vowed to never again allow his mother to change our plans at the last minute. The one year we made plans to go ahead and go to the brother’s house for Christmas day, the parents changed their plans, at the last minute, and didn’t go. It’s not like we are horrible people to be around. Our children are well behaved, we have fun, and the siblings have said we are wonderful guests.

Not long ago my husband had the opportunity to open up to his parents and tell them how much this behavior has hurt him over the years. They are unapologetic and blame me for everything. Thankfully my husband understands it’s not my fault this is happening. It’s his parents’ lack of acceptance, manners and compassion that cause them to act this way. They are full of hate, spite and shun him because he still loves me after all these years.

This year, we are doing our own thing and have been told by certain people it’s rude for us to leave them out of our plans.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Hal December 15, 2010, 5:54 am

    I have a sister with whom I became estranged over the years. Our mother was often telling me things and then saying, “Don’t tell ‘Mary.’ ” These were often things hurtful that my sister had said about me. Well, Mother died and my sister and I started to talk. Mom had been playing both sides of the street, so to speak. She eventually had told so many “stories” about both of us she had to keep us apart to save herself. My sister had been told many things but cautioned not to tell me. These siblings in the letter must talk candidly to one another apart from their parents about this situation. As parents age they “boil down” to their essence. If they are self-centered as young people they become obsessed with controlling their children as they age. I’ll bet these siblings can be friends if they sometimes leave their parents out.

  • Xtina December 15, 2010, 9:33 am

    Wow, OP–that is some dysfunctional family. I would second what both Lia and Cat Whisperer have suggested; some guidance on how to deal with the parents-in-law would be useful, as would giving them “their day” that is separate from major holidays–obviously they have proved that they are going to make holidays hellish for their children, and I wouldn’t put up with it, either.

    People like this won’t change on their own. Sometimes, a major life change or event can make people wake up and change their ways, but even then there are no guarantees. The in-laws here sound like bitter and twisted people, and it is a shame that they’ve also managed to scare the OP’s siblings-in-law into playing their sick games. I would most definitely make my own plans or plan directly with the siblings from now on, and only do the parents-in-law the courtesy of telling them what the plans are if they care to join (if you feel like including them), and that the plans will not be changed. Good luck, OP; family dynamics are hard to work out.

  • Katniss December 15, 2010, 9:36 am

    OP-I hope your family Christmas is extremely happy! Good for you for taking a stand against the ILs.

  • KB December 15, 2010, 5:51 pm

    This is my first time commenting, but I felt I had to because this OP’s MIL could be my grandmother. She hated my mother and me because my father, as the youngest son, was supposed to stay home and care for her the rest of her life after her husband died. (He was comparatively young, so that my Dad was only in his twenties.) However Dad did get married and they had me and my grandmother could never forgive Mum and me for existing. She was always barely civil to both of us and it hurt my Dad a lot. She also treated me as inferior to my only cousin (the son of her elder, favourite son), so that, if she got me presents at all, they were always for a younger age group. When that was politely pointed out, she turned to giving me cash instead, as she had been doing for my cousin for years. However we discovered late in life that she generally gave me less than him. While that’s her prerogative, it was the suspicious way in which she did it that was the problem, asking my mother (who was helping her to write Christmas cards when my grandmother was no longer able to do it) “they won’t talk about how much they get, will they?”

    Unfortunately, my father has never been able to forgive himself for, as he sees it, abandoning his mother to marry my mother and have me (much as he loved my mother until her death and continues to have nothing but love and support for me). Sadly my grandmother’s attitude not only made her a suspicious and miserable old woman, but it also gave my father a sense of ongoing guilt that he frankly doesn’t deserve.

    OP, difficult though it may be, I think you’ve done the right thing for the stability of your family. I still resent my grandmother for the way she treated my father and it would be a shame if your children had to feel similar things for the way their parents were treated by their grandmother.

  • Maureen December 15, 2010, 9:10 pm

    Gramma Dishes: I sure did stick up for my beloved SIL and my brother, both. It did not go over well in the household when I not only didn’t join in the mud-slinging fest but stood up and told them off. My parents were very much like the OP’s in-laws and I really get where she is coming from. It’s tough, if not impossible, to understand how cruel some people can be unless you’ve experienced it. You cannot fathom it. It is abuse, even if the ‘children’ are adults and married. When I think back to how we were all treated it amazes me we crawled away sane. “Rude” doesn’t even begin to cover it. You cannot reason with the unreasonable and it’s best not to play into their hands.

    OP – you stick to your guns. Be happy ANYWAY. Nothing annoys them more. It really is the best revenge NOT to let it get to you.

  • NotCinderell December 16, 2010, 8:05 am

    OP, I’m on your side. My mother is going through the same thing with her boyfriend of 11 years and his mother, who is in her 90s. Apparently, his mother hates every woman her son has ever dated, and it was enough to get mom’s BF not to spend Thanksgiving with her this year. Were it not for the fact that his mother is very aged and likely not to be around much longer, I could see this affecting their relationship. As it is, I think my mom is just planning to wait it out.

    To other posters, sometimes parents act irrationally toward their children’s spouses and significant others, and often it has nothing to do with the people’s actions or character at all. I realize that we don’t understand rationally why someone would do this, but knowing that it does happen is enough for me not to make interesting assumptions about the OP’s responsibility for the acrimony in this relationship. I’m fully willing to take her post at face value. Is it bitter? Sure it is. Still, I wonder how serene I could manage to be after years of unprovoked abuse.

  • DGS December 16, 2010, 10:10 am

    OP, thanks for the clarification. Since your in-laws apparently have a very irrational hatred towards you or any of the other children’s spouses, you have done the right thing by distancing your family from your in-laws. As other posters have suggested, there is little changing people like that, as they will not have the insight to see that their strained relationship with their children is the result of their poor behavior – so, have a wonderful Christmas with people who care for you and love you.

  • Angie December 17, 2010, 6:32 pm

    @ Hal – my mother-in-law did the same thing to my husband and his sister. She would tell them things they had said about each other – some of which were never said and some of which were exaggerations of innocent things they had said. They were mad at each other for about ten years until they finally got together and had a good talk and realized what she was up to. What kind of a sick mind would a person have to want her only two children to not get along with each other… like you said, she just wanted to manipulate both of them, and have them both dependent on her.

    I find it a shame the siblings in this story are scared to stick up for OP and her husband. If one of my siblings was always getting left out of things, I would be questioning it, unless he/she was a child molester or something.

  • Judy Migliori December 18, 2010, 12:48 pm

    I happened upon this site searching for help in feeling left out of a family gathering I was not invited to. For each and everyone who responded – thank you. Your thoughts bolstered my crippled ego and make it easier to attend today’s function I am invited to. I will face the rest of my family with my loving children, grandchildren and husband by my side and NOT LET my elderly mother, twin sister and brother know how hurt I was being left out of a family get together. I will be the bigger person and although I still hurt inside I will put the pain aside. The consequence of reacting to the slight by lashing out or not going today would make things worse. Thank you all for your wonderful advice.

  • Rmom December 19, 2010, 7:56 pm

    I came here randomly while looking for something else, but I feel your pain… literally. I believe there is a backstory, but I don’t believe the backstory makes you the bad guy. I have in-laws and half in-laws and step-inlaws… b/c MIL and DIL all have had multiple marriages and kids – pretty much they are all messed up. MIL is the worst and last year when I was 8 mos pregnant with our 4th child…. she sicked a single female on my BELOVED – he claimed it was “innocent” until it became clear it wasn’t. MIL has repetitively said mean and hateful things to me behind AND in front of my BELOVED. He never supported me until THIS year 2010. He has been reading some website on ONENESS in marriage – sorry not sure where. My other suggestion is this past summer I took up to reading the book BOUNDARIES. It impowered me to set the logical and appropriate boundaries with the IL’s. I really encourage you to keep doing what you are doing. DON’t give in to this mean spiteful, hateful, behavior. I could tell you story upon story…. including how Beloved’s family manipulated EVERY holiday for 6 years while my family got the shaft every year – year after year. Including how Beloved left the hospital room after we had our most recent baby and she raged at me without any provacation while I was still hooked up to an IV etc. I have set the boundaries that need to be set… they are still learning that if they want to get together they will need to be KIND AND LOVING to ALL family members including me. They are still learning that they will not get every holiday anymore…. no matter how much they belly ache and complain. They are still learning that if they want to see the grandkids they will need to be kind to their grandkids mother or they are going to miss out on get togethers until they do! They are still learning that when we say No we mean NO and when we say YES we mean YES – and we won’t change our mind no matter how much they try to manipulate things. Really it seems a lot like dealing with children who never grew up. I know that is the case with my MIL. Good luck. I will be praying for you!

  • Lexi January 2, 2011, 4:14 am

    My MIL is one the sweetest people you will ever meet. That being said, my husbands grandparents hate me with a passion. Simply because I married my husband. He is a grown man with a wife and daughter but they still treat him like a child.

    Every time we can’t make it to a family get together, they have A LOT of them (we’re talking about 12 a year), and if we don’t make it to just one, they blame me and tell others that I’m keeping him from his “real” family. Never mind that we live 6 hours away from his family.

    They’ve even gone so far as to say that it was my husbands fault that his father died.
    – His father had cancer and missed a treatment to make it our wedding. (Not anyone’s fault, doctor tried to reschedule.)

    OP, I feel your pain. I feel like the worst thing you can do to “these” people is to just keep loving your spouse more than anything. Kill them with kindness. But don’t break your back for them.

  • Cat June 26, 2011, 1:39 pm

    I was upset when favorite relatives would pass away and I would be told well after the funeral that they were gone. Then I thought,”Who needs ’em?”I’d make my own plans and not dance to their tune. If they want to show up for a buffet on a day that I choose, fine. If they find something they’d rather do, see you.