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Gratitude Hoops – The Update….People Aren’t Always What You Think They Are

Originally published to the blog on December 8 2014…

I must write to share a story that has left me wondering who was in the wrong.

Some background first. In my family, handwritten thank you cards don’t happen. Instead, we (and I include all of my immediate relatives like cousins etc) make a phone call and express thanks and catch up with family. I’ve always written thank you cards to those outside of the family however. I’m the oldest of all of my cousins bar three; they are my step cousins, and as they became part of the family only recently, and are much older than all of us (there is a seven year gap minimum), we don’t know them that well. For example, the oldest, M, recently got married, and none of us were invited. We didn’t expect to be either, but my parents sent a nice card.

Now to the story. Imagine my (pleasant) surprise when M sent me a birthday gift (for the first time). It was a origami bookmark with my name on it. I thought that this was a very kind thing for M to send me, and so I obtained his phone number from my aunt, his stepmother, and called him. We chatted for a little while about university (I’m going to university next year; he just graduated), and I thanked him for the gift. The conversation ended, and I thought that was that.

I was wrong.

About half an hour later, I had a phone call, from M’s phone. I picked up and answered not M, but his wife S (for she-devil). She screamed at me about how “ungrateful I was, and that a phone call does not sufficiently convey gratitude, and that I ought to have sent a card”. She hung up after ranting at me for several minutes. I was rather shaken, but decided that writing a card wouldn’t kill me, and that M was probably too nice to say anything. So I wrote a nice thank you card and sent it, after getting M’s address from my aunt again, thinking it was over.

I was again mistaken.

A few days later (when I presume the card had arrived) I got another phone call seemingly from M. It was S, who now screamed and ranted at me about how ”I had mocked her by sending a card, and how I was a brat” but that she and M never wanted any more contact from me ever again. She again hung up without letting me speak. I was pretty upset this time, but declined to tell my aunt, who I normally tell everything. I received another phone call from M, but I didn’t answer.

Was I totally in the wrong? I can’t help but feel as if this were an over-reaction. Any counsel is most welcome Miss Jeanne 1207-14

You did nothing wrong.  The only error was in possibly presuming M shares the opinion of his wife.   You received a gift from M, you called and spoke with M to thank him so your interactions are with and have been with M.  What S does or says is irrelevant to the situation and should be ignored.  Learn early to have little to do with the family drama queen.    Ask your aunt again for contact information for M that S would not have access to, for example, a work phone number or a work address or send it to your aunt “Attention: M” so that she can hand it to him personally.    Your step cousin’s wife is a disaster in the making and I suspect all is not happy in Newly Married Land.

Updated February 1, 2015 from the original poster:

I am the OP who wrote to you a little while back about my step-sousin and his new, “crazy”, wife. I think I understand better now what has happened, and I thought I’d give you an update.

After reading your advice, I talked to my aunt about getting another number for M. She asked why, and I told her what had happened. She seemed surprised, as she said she’d always got on well with S. So, I probed, and learned a little bit of family history.

My Uncle, my aunt’s husband, divorced his wife about ten years ago. I was only young and so don’t remember much about it. He and his ex-wife were never happy, but all three of their teenage children blamed my aunt for the divorce, saying that she’d “broken up their family”.  This isn’t true, as my aunt and uncle met after divorce proceedings had started.This attitude came from her and her parents, possibly because he was not forced to pay much alimony. So my aunt and her stepchildren never had a good relationship, and this unfortunately led them to dislike our entire family on principal (although they hadn’t met most of us).

After finding out all of this, I called M back several days later, and got S instead. I politely asked to speak to M, but she stopped me. She started to apologise for how she had treated me before, saying that she was acting “in defence”. I asked her what she meant. It appears that M had never got over his resentment of my aunt and my entire family. S had pushed him to send me the bookmark after she found the card from my parents. She simply didn’t know that it was our family tradition to call, but also was under the impression that I had been snippy with M, and hadn’t once thanked him during the entire phone call. Then, he told her how I’d probably write just to try and show her up to my family as the loony new wife, and when she got my letter, he seemed to be right. She had meantime got into contact with my aunt, and had tried to make friends, hoping to be the bigger person. She was surprised to hear no mention of wither phone call, and put two and two together, that M wasn’t exactly being honest. We have now made up, and I hope to stay in contact with her. But not M.

I think I’ve finally learned that you really can’t judge people from first impressions. She really does have anger issues, but is actually nice under all of it. M seemed nice, but is in fact manipulative. I hope I don;t have to see him much, but I am trying to make friends with S.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Raven December 8, 2014, 8:21 am

    Do not engage the crazy. Further interactions with S should be suspended completely, unless she offers a sincere apology, and explanation, and a plan to change her behaviour. M did a kind thing. Who knows – Maybe S is legitimately unbalanced, and M is reaching out for some support and friendship. In any case, stay away from S. Next time, you could end up with a cracked head!

    • mark December 8, 2014, 6:02 pm

      This!! Don’t turn your back and while keeping your eyes on them slowly back a way same as you would with a threatening animal.

  • Ergala December 8, 2014, 8:52 am

    I agree with cutting out s….but how do you do the cut direct for one half of a social unit? We have certain family members we do not want to communicate with and in order to do so it involves cutting out their spouses as well.

    I would contact m however and let him know that you will not tolerate anymore berating by his wife. He needs to handle this.

  • Daphne December 8, 2014, 8:53 am

    I can’t imagine expecting a thank-you note for a paper bookmark, no matter how pretty it was. Talk about an insane overreaction!

    • kit December 8, 2014, 2:23 pm

      Makes one wonder whether M and S sent a thank-you card for the nice card they received from OP’s parents.

  • Hanna December 8, 2014, 9:03 am

    I can’t help but wonder how exaggerated S’s reaction could possibly be by the OP. Maybe it’s not at all, but unless S has some, at least mild, mental issues, who on earth would call someone and “scream” at them for not sending a thank you note for a book? DIRECTLY after getting off the phone with the gift-giver and thanking them for said gift??

    • David December 8, 2014, 3:44 pm

      Many years ago I had a gf that reacted to situations exactly like S reacted in this one. I didn’t find out what type of crazy was happening until after we had broken up because my family and friends didn’t want to bother me with the crazy.

      But this means that I never decide that an OP is suffering from hyperbole.

    • mark December 8, 2014, 6:04 pm

      Every reply I’ve ever posted here has the implied caveat: “Keep in mind we have only heard one side of the story”

    • Syn December 11, 2014, 12:13 am

      Oh you sweet summer child. These people exist. Whether they can be categorised as having mental issues or not is questionable, but I’ll narrow it down by saying they’re neurotypical at least. Some people take everything as a personal insult. This probably wasn’t just about the card – S might not want M to have anything to do with his family, she might have delusions about the OP hating her, who knows. Or maybe she just thinks OP disrespected her because she didn’t honour their gift with a thank you card. Some people (narcissists) have delusions of their own worth.

    • Gee January 13, 2015, 12:00 pm

      I am the adult child of a person like this. These people really do exist. Unfortunately.

  • B December 8, 2014, 9:07 am

    With respect, how can you possibly think you were in the wrong? How, for one second, can you imagine that S is justified in screaming down the phone at you over something so petty and ridiculous?

    There are no grounds whatsoever for thinking that you are wrong, that any rational person could possibly hold. SHE is wrong. She is also deranged.

    You do not owe her anything, and you do not owe her your silence. If I were you, I would absolutely tell people what S did. Do not cover for her appalling behaviour. Shine a light onto it.

    • Maggie December 8, 2014, 8:18 pm

      Heck – I’m wondered why you put up with the screaming over the phone as long as you did! Nothing says you have to sit there and take it – just hang up as soon as she starts up!

  • crebj December 8, 2014, 9:13 am

    What Raven said. If you happen to be around S, remain cordial, and back away smiling, saying “How lovely to see you” if she begins a rant. All you can do is take care of your own behavior.

    • hakayama December 8, 2014, 11:00 am

      CORDIAL?! ………..WHY “cordial”, when the most that S character deserves in public is the absolute minimum of icy politeness? And there need not be any private encounters.
      SMILE? Heck, no. Civility does not equal smiles.* I think turning away and moving on as far as you can. Make believe that S is a pile of smelly contagion.

      * Same goes for “photo ops.” For one, no smiles on ID docs. Also, not all situations call for a smile, as in a post 9/11 group photo of some of my local volunteer fire fighters who went to help at the site. Incredibly enough, one gal was conditioned to smile every time she saw a camera. Or a tripod. Even if it was a land surveyor’s equipment.

      • crebj December 8, 2014, 3:16 pm

        As you wish.

        • jazzgirl205 December 9, 2014, 8:07 am

          I agree with you, crebj. Be beyond reproach. When she freaks out, she will look extra crazy. If she comes to her senses and is embarrassed by her rant, you’ve left a door open. Etiquette is about kindness and consideration. I’m sure most of our mothers taught us that the bad behavior of others should not determine our own.

          • hakayama December 9, 2014, 4:04 pm

            If I’m not mistaken, rules of etiquette do not require anyone to remain in place when attacked. The Ss of this world do not come to their senses mid-rant.
            It would be uncool and unproductive to respond to an S in kind. But you just do not have to stay there and take whatever is dished out. AND SMILE, yet.
            Kindness and consideration do not mean saying that it’s raining when someone spits in your face. You are probably lucky in not having had someone like S cross your path, so you are likely to proceed on theory rather than practice.

      • iwadasn December 8, 2014, 8:40 pm

        What makes you think no one should smile for an ID picture? I wouldn’t want my identification to show me scowling at the camera. Why would you want to represent yourself as a sour-faced curmudgeon every time you’re asked for ID?

        • JennJenn68 December 8, 2014, 10:18 pm

          Here in Ontario, we are specifically told not to smile for all government IDs. Apparently it’s something to do with the facial recognition software. If they take a photo and you’re smiling, they will redo it until your face is in the required “neutral” mode. I can’t help smiling slightly, so I always look like I’m smirking on my driver’s license and health card. Sigh…

          • Goldie December 9, 2014, 9:04 am

            Same here (Midwest), we’re not allowed to smile in ID photos. I can’t help smirking as well. They let it slide for my driver’s license, but retook my passport pictures.

          • iwadasn December 9, 2014, 7:57 pm

            Goldie, I’m from Illinois, and I never ran into any problems when I smiled for my driver’s license or passport pictures. Unless you’re talking about a huge cheesy grin, a smile seems preferable to stony-faced pictures on every ID.

          • Syn December 11, 2014, 12:15 am

            Same where I’m from in Europe.

        • hakayama December 8, 2014, 11:32 pm

          @iwadasm: for totally authoritative statements re. ID photos, please check out the Dept. of State reqs. for passport photos. States vary.
          I am also most sorry to read your words that imply that you apparently have just two facial expressions: scowling and smiling. 😉
          But then you just might be related to a charming ditzy friend of mine, whose comment on the subject was “you don’t want to look like a criminal”. At the moment, I did not have the heart to suggest that she should look at her family’s photo album… I’m talking about portrait pictures taken in a studio, when photographing the family was an event. Or pics were taken only during family events. Check out the newlyweds, the first communion kids, the rest of the unsmiling criminals.

          • Hillary December 9, 2014, 11:16 am

            Hang on–did you NOT smile broadly in newlywed or first communion photos? All of my photos for both have huge smiles because they were two of the happiest moments of my life!

          • hakayama December 9, 2014, 3:54 pm

            @Hillary: I was not referring to YOUR generation, but the folks before YOU. Possibly even before YOUR parents.
            Please find some really old albums, where folks wore their Sunday finery for a session with a photographer. Those are the photos I am talking about. Not the coat hanger in mouth times.

          • Hillary December 11, 2014, 12:13 pm

            @Hakyama, I might be mistaken, but I’m pretty sure that the solemn faces were a holdover from when photos used to take several minutes to develop. Even after photos got quicker, the mentality still stayed the same.

            Also, I have looked at the old photographs my family has, and I much prefer the “coat hanger grins” as you put it. I actually look like I’m excited to marry my husband, and while my great-grandmother looks like she is in pain. Heck, even my grandmother on her wedding day is smiling, so you are talking about a long-gone attitude towards pictures. The same is true of any photographers’ session–most people still dress nicely, but lack the sullen faces.

        • Aletheia December 8, 2014, 11:56 pm

          You’ve probably received a bunch of replies about this, but: As far as I can remember (so it might be a bit off), a neutral expression is actually recommended – if not required outright – instead of a (sometimes forced) smiling one on forms of ID (including passport pictures, etc). Not necessarily scowling, just whatever would be closest to your “normal,” resting face.

          Apparently it helps people connect the ID to the holder of it better, since differing facial expressions can cause people to look vastly different (and it also helps people who have trouble connecting photos to people if they don’t look exactly the same, because they don’t recognise faces very well? There’s a name for that that’s eluding me at the moment…).

          • Rose December 9, 2014, 8:01 am

            The word you’re looking for is, I believe, prosopagnosia.

        • B December 9, 2014, 4:55 am

          You’re not allowed to smile in ID photos where I live.

          • Dee December 9, 2014, 1:01 pm

            Same where I live.

        • Jessica February 4, 2015, 12:58 am

          In australia we cannot smile for 18+ ID, drivers lic, security lic or any form of gov ID.

      • Shannan December 9, 2014, 9:39 am

        What do ID photos and photos have to do with this post????? I’m confused…

        • hakayama December 9, 2014, 3:48 pm

          @Shannan: we went off on a tangent. And it snowballed. Neither is literal. 😉

  • yokozbornak December 8, 2014, 9:19 am

    S is looking to be offended so she would have been offended no matter what you did. I guarantee if you had written a thank you note first, she would have sent you a letter back saying you were ungrateful and should have called. You can’t win with some people so you just stop trying. Being cut off is a win for you!

    • Raven December 8, 2014, 1:58 pm

      True. This is probably not about a bookmark. Maybe S and OP have a history that wasn’t shared with us.

      • hakayama December 8, 2014, 11:12 pm

        Oh, dear… Looks like the “potential underdog” S has a serious advocate. 😉
        Raven: What possible advantage would the OP have in not disclosing a prior “history” with S?
        Are you by chance an attorney? (Likely criminal?) You appear so good at finding wisps of doubt for the “accused”… 😉

        • Raven December 9, 2014, 10:26 am

          LOL Nope, not an attorney – though I’m a pretty good armchair detective 😉

          I meant that maybe OP and S had had some dealings in the past, and that maybe OP isn’t as squeaky clean as the letter indicated. Who knows? Since OP included the phrase “she-devil” in her opening, it made me think that maybe this wasn’t the first time these two had clashed.

          Three possibilities:
          1. S is mentally/emotionally unhinged, and this is not about OP or a bookmark.
          2. S and OP have history (to what percentage per side I couldn’t speculate) and this is not about a bookmark.
          3. OP has grossly exaggerated the situation, and this is not about S or a bookmark.

          My guess is somewhere between 1 and 2, or a mix thereof.

          How’d I do? 😉

          • hakayama December 9, 2014, 3:46 pm

            “You done good”, as they say around here. They also say things like “anyways, boyses, acrosst, I should of went, etc.”.
            As a fellow armchair detective 😉 (my preferred location for reading mystery fiction), I’m looking carefully into the possible motives that OP might have in choices #1 and #2. Unfortunately, I find that there was nothing for OP to gain from not disclosing past history, or exaggerating the rants of one S.
            My almost unwavering vote, therefore, is for #1. The wisdom of my choice 😉 is greatly supported by the findings of the MHI. In my great respect for knowledgeable sources, I take their estimate for the frequency of mental disorders in the US as 15% to be quite believable. Other “in the know” sources claim that 20% is closer to reality.
            Think about it: one in five individuals is affected to some degree. So we should be rather surprised that “quirky” behavior is not more frequently encountered.
            Re #3, the perfectly lovely ladylike woman that exploded at me, did so on her own assumption of my having done something wrong. I did not. But there was no chance of my telling her that. She just went on, and on, and on… My mistake in THAT situation was not walking away from the scene. I understood the meaning and implications of the term “shell shock”.
            My “all in one”* health guide/helper/balancer would probably find the chemical/physical causes of so many of “mind/spirit” issues. (No, she does not chant, burn incense nor invoke deities.)
            *Nutritionist, dr. of naturopathy, energy healer…

  • Goldie December 8, 2014, 9:21 am

    I have, not advice, but a question. How should OP proceed in her interactions with M at this point? M sounds like a nice guy who possibly wants to stay in contact with OP (since he did call – though in all fairness, I do not know what he called OP about). However S did explicitly state that she and M want no contact with OP. What’s the correct thing to do if M initiates contact again?

    • B December 8, 2014, 10:16 am

      I’d say, “M, I would like to stay in contact with you, and if the two of us could meet up, that would be lovely, but I’m afraid that after her screaming, abusive phone calls, I’m not happy being around your wife. I’m really sorry to say that, and it’s awkward, but I would rather be honest. Please let me know.”

      There is no way I would meet up with this woman ever again, but I’m not prepared to lie about it. If you scream abuse at me twice, I will cut you and if asked, I will explain why. Life is too short to waste on people like S. I would be honest: I want to see M, I am not prepared to see his wife. If that means not seeing M, well, I’ll know he’d rather let someone scream abuse at me, so I can handle that.

    • Tracy W December 8, 2014, 11:09 am

      I wouldn’t believe a word S says about M’s wishes. Consequently, if M initiates contact, I’d return it.

      For my own protection, though, I wouldn’t accept any invites from M that could possibly put me in a place where I couldn’t walk away from S going crazy. So no accepting lifts from them, if I’m going to a party where they’d be attending, I’d take my own car or check for bus routes or be prepared to call a cab.

      • tsukinon December 12, 2014, 2:24 am

        The dilemna with M is that he’s now in S’s sphere of influence. The spouses or partners of people with personality disorders (which seems like a possibility for S) can frequently end up enabling their behavior. Even if M is a perfectly reasonable person, he may very well wind up sucked into S’s drama. In my experience (aunt with what’s most likely a personality disorder), an enabling spouse can seem like a great person and you wonder how they put up with the behavior, but when the chips are down and the narcissist (or whatever) is at their worst, you find out their spouse has their back and that will really throw you for a loop.

        After realizing this in the worst possible situation (my maternal aunt visit my mom in the hospital to criticize her over my dad’s funeral and her husband thought this was completely okay), I’ve been carefully distancing myself from people who support my aunt’s behavior to protect myself and my mother. It’s sad and probably seems horrible to people without that family dynamic, but life has been a lot better.

        Basically, OP needs to realize that she’s M’s step-cousin and S is his wife. Unless there’s a divotce, S will win every time. So while there’s no sense in causing a fight, OP needs to be wary and keep her distance.

    • Raven December 8, 2014, 1:57 pm

      Here is what I would say to OP about your question: Tell M exactly what happened, and be clear she is not to contact you again. In a group setting, either exchange a civil “nice to see you” and move on, or avoid.

  • Michelle December 8, 2014, 9:24 am

    I agree with Admin- S sounds like a drama queen and I would refrain from interacting with her ever again, if possible. M sounds a little spineless to me. If he was upset at the way you expressed your thanks, then he should have said something about it instead of letting his wife take over. Better yet, he should have been satisfied with your thanks. Seriously, who lets their SO call a new family member, not once, but twice to complain?

    Spineless M + Drama Queen S= stay away, far, far away.

    • Tracy W December 8, 2014, 11:38 am

      It’s quite possible that M doesn’t know what his new SO is doing. The OP said that the first call was half an hour later, and the next one was a few days later after the letter had arrived. Possibly S waited until M was out of earshot both times. This may be part of some campaign on S’s part to isolate M from his family, the OP said that the marriage was recent.

      This possibility is why I recommend talking about this in a low-drama way and keeping conversation lines going separately to as many family members as possible.

    • crebj December 8, 2014, 12:55 pm

      M may be unaware of his spouse’s interactions w/the OP. I’d give him another chance.

      Signing off, in gratitude that my DH’s family is less challenging!

      • Michelle December 8, 2014, 4:41 pm

        I’ve been thinking about it and it is possible that M has no idea that S called OP. However, I do find it a little hard to believe that S has called OP twice, on M’s phone, screaming at her and M doesn’t know. Is she snatching the phone and going to the car? Hiding in the laundry room?

        OP, If you want to have some semblance of a relationship M, you should be honest with him that you want to talk/communicate with him, without being in contact with S. I don’t get along with all my in-laws, but I would never call them and yell at them over something so trivial and if I did, I would have an angry husband to deal with.

        • Tracy W December 9, 2014, 3:31 am

          Waiting until M leaves the house?

        • AS December 9, 2014, 7:10 am

          @Michelle- maybe the phone number of M that OP has on his/her phone is a land line number, and not a mobile. Hence, S has access to it, and can use it when M is gone.
          Or maybe S and M share a mobile, and have it at different times.

        • kit December 9, 2014, 11:14 am

          My mobile phone is generally in my handbag (right now, next to it, loading). I leave my handbag downstairs where it is easy to grab it when I go out – usually in office that is near door but not exactly in view if some stranger comes in. I spend most of my time upstairs, though. I can’t count the times when my husband in office has shouted me to come take my phone. He could very easily answer it himself. Well, shouting at someone over my phone would be a bit more difficult, but then I don’t hear him shouting for me the very first time, either. So, unless it is a small apartment, or M is in habit of carrying his phone everywhere, I don’t think it would be particularly difficult to take the phone unknown to him and call someone. I also don’t check what kind of outgoing calls have been made from my phone.

          • Amanda H. December 9, 2014, 4:26 pm


            While my husband and I do have separate phones, there are times when we leave them, say, on a desk while we are in another room, so it would be easy enough to grab a spouse’s phone and go make the call from somewhere like a bedroom or bathroom away from the phone’s owner. And we don’t always check the calls made from our phones either.

            Or, as someone else said, the line might be a landline. If the OP entered it in her phone as M’s phone, but it’s actually a landline, that would explain S making calls from the same number.

  • Septima December 8, 2014, 9:41 am

    Actually, this sounds like S is an abuser who is trying to isolate M from his support-network.

    • Marozia December 9, 2014, 1:07 am

      That’s what I was thinking too.
      Caller Identification on the phone always comes in handy as well.

  • BellyJean December 8, 2014, 9:51 am

    I know this is pretty irrelevant, but was there even time to have sent/received a thank-you note?

    Re-reading the story, I mean, you did have a whole 30 minutes between calls. Ought you have driven over to their house (regardless of logic/distance) and dropped the card off in their mailbox? (space/time continuum be damned).

    Also – I’d love to see what the bookmark looks like. Love creative origami. 🙂

    • SJ December 8, 2014, 8:07 pm

      I wondered about that as well.

    • Amanda H. December 9, 2014, 4:29 pm

      I wouldn’t be surprised if this is a case where S has already encountered the extended family practice of calling instead of sending notes, and took this opportunity to scream at OP once the phone call was made knowing that a thank-you card hadn’t been sent (because the thank-you phone call was made instead). If that’s the case, S may have been stewing about the call-instead-of-note practice, and took the opportunity to rant at someone who she was less likely to see frequently.

      Or perhaps OP isn’t the first person S has ranted at about this. Who knows.

  • Abby December 8, 2014, 10:22 am

    No, I don’t think OP did anything wrong, and if I were her, I *would* tell the aunt- I think OP’s aunt must have married M’s father in the last few years, making her the new stepmother. I wouldn’t tell the aunt as a way to shame M- rather, M might really have no idea that S is doing this. I highly doubt a 20 something man was offended that the teenage niece of his new stepmother chose to thank him for sending her a bookmark via a call instead of a thank you card.

    S sounds completely unbalanced. Even if you had skipped the thank you altogether (which would be wrong, I’ll admit) her calling you to berate you for it would be way out of line.

  • hakayama December 8, 2014, 10:41 am

    Wow! Just freaking “WOW”… So sorry for you, OP, for having stepped in barnyard refuse. So sorry for your cousin M for doing same with his marriage to S. The remaining question is, how the dickens did S manage to hide her persona from M before he decided to marry her.
    YOU were blameless, and I do believe your narrative to be a faithful rendering of the events. That in spite of commenters who feel you’re exaggerating, who blissfully have not met “unusually” 😉 behaved people in their whole life.
    In a religion I’m familiar with, one with extreme “allergy” to divorce, undisclosed mental illness was deemed cause for annulment. At least that was when I looked last. Decades ago.
    It’s not likely that M, love-driven newlywed as he is, is likely to examine carefully his Bridezilla’s behavior and drag her to a shrink. Therefore, be prepared for S’s presence on the horizon. She just might be an absolute delight when you see her, but don’t let that deceive you. (See below.)

    😉 Please NOTE: I am really trying very hard to avoid any terms that just MIGHT smack of amateur psychological diagnoses. But that’s only for the people appearing in the stories posted. My own comment is exempt of the promise to “behave” myself.
    A classic case of bi-polar behavior in my experience is a woman with whom I used to have a very good relationship. A pillar of the community, a charming friendly neighbor, the list goes on… Her first “show” for me * was provoked by her misinterpreting a trifling detail. The second stimulus was even more trifling. In between episodes, she remained her “good old package”.
    I wonder if her husband of several decades, and her adult children, realize the severity of the condition. If they have given thought to sneaking a word to her physician, or if the closeness sort of makes them thing “that’s the way she is”…
    ME? I avoid her like the plague, choosing to be far away from the fan when fertilizer hits it.

    * The lady is an “equal opportunity” target shooter.

    • hakayama December 8, 2014, 11:28 am

      Errata: fourth line from bottom, third word from the right should be “thinK”, not “thinG”.

    • AIP December 8, 2014, 4:54 pm

      I wouldn’t assume that M doesn’t know what she’s like. If you’ve ever watched Bridezillas the husbands usually think that their screeching harpies’ behaviour was at best adorable and at worst admirable!

  • Jinx December 8, 2014, 10:52 am

    I get that you didn’t send one, but how did S know you hadn’t sent a card as well as the phone call?

    I mean, you get a gift, you call to say thank you, but it’s entirely within the realm of possibilities you *could* have sent a card.

    Echoing everyone else voting S as crazy. Also a busy body. This is a OP-M interaction only.

    • just4kicks December 9, 2014, 3:26 am

      @Jinx: That was my thought, also. How did “S” know there WASN’T a card on its way?

      • jazzgirl205 December 9, 2014, 8:15 am

        I believe in the social lie. I would’ve said, “Why of course I sent a thankyou. You should be receiving it in a few days.”

        • just4kicks December 9, 2014, 1:37 pm

          This sounds like when I forgot my sister’s b’day, many years ago. We went on vacation later that month and fed-exed her a few pounds of delicious Jersey shore fudge. I told her “of course I didn’t forget your bday! The package must be late!” Oops.
          When she received the fudge, did she call me to say thank you?!? Nope. She called the fudge shop to see what date I had bought it, to “make sure it was still safe to eat.” No…you wanted proof I forgot your bday….which I did.

          • hakayama December 9, 2014, 9:14 pm

            Is it safe to deduce that “youse guys” are NOT soul sisters? 😉
            She did fudge on the wholesomeness of the fudge as, for some reason, I believe that the product has a verrrrrrrrrrrry long shelf life.

          • just4kicks December 10, 2014, 5:18 am

            @Hakayama: “youse” would be correct! We have had a very strained relationship all our lives, and I haven’t said a word to her in over three years. She (I’m not perfect, either) brings a whole level of drama to life which I cannot afford as I get older. And, yes, fudge does last a very long time. That “making sure it’s safe to eat” was NOTHING but a dig at me for forgetting her precious birthday. The whole world stops turning on the glorious day of her birth, didn’t ya know?!? 😉
            A quick example: she remarried over the summer at a destination wedding that my folks and about 25 others went to, at a beach in Florida. She and her new hubby rented a glorious beach house for the week. She and her hubby took the master bedroom suite. No problem there, they are the ones getting married. But, it was the only room with a “walk in” shower in the whole house. My dad has MS, and can barely get around these days, much less climb into a bathtub. My mom asked after they got to the house, and seeing there was only a bathtub in their bathroom, if (my sis and hubby were up and out, of course) she may bring my father into the “suite” to help him shower??? “Ummmm, well…..NO! You may not! That is the BRIDAL SUITE, and the only ones using that bathroom are the bride and her new husband!!!” So, in Florida, in the sticky, humid summertime, my dad had to get sponge baths from my mom everyday they were there. My dad was humiliated, and my mom was furious and hurt that the bride/their daughter refused to let him shower there.
            Just one of many, many selfish stunts she’s pulled over the years.

            ….And, dammit! Now I want fudge….. 🙂

  • Tracy W December 8, 2014, 11:01 am

    This sounds like mental illness. I’d talk with your aunt and with M (or can you email M? or call him at work, or somewhere safer?), and with any other family members to see if they’ve run into this sort of chaos. Not make a big deal of it, just “I had a really weird interaction with S, don’t know where this was coming from…”
    One of my aunts, by marriage, was mentally ill and did this sort of suddenly exploding at people thing. My father and my aunt’s sister met through their older siblings dating and became friends by doing the same courses at uni, and when my mother arrived on the scene she also became great friends with said aunt’s sister, and the shared information flows this friendship permitted was very helpful in coping with aunt’s outbursts.

    • Ergala December 8, 2014, 4:19 pm

      Why is it if someone is incredibly rude or nasty it must be because they are mentally ill or have autism? I have a mental illness and I find it quite offensive.

      • Raymee December 8, 2014, 8:27 pm


      • Cat December 8, 2014, 8:54 pm

        I think it is because we would rather find an excuse for their behavior than face the fact that some people are simply evil in their dealings with others.

        • Tracy W December 9, 2014, 4:05 am

          I’m very reluctant to assume that some people are simply evil. That makes it all too easy to demonise and dehumanise someone else, and, even worse, to overlook the possibility that I may do some terrible things myself (because obviously I’m not evil, so therefore I can’t be doing anything evil).

          And mental illnesses are plausible. Every other organ of the body breaks down from time to time. No one doubts the existance of short-sightedness, or deafness, or a weak shoulder joint, or a gummy knee, or liver failure, or diabetes being caused by insulin getting out of whack, why would the brain be the only organ that always works perfectly?

          • hakayama December 9, 2014, 10:40 am

            I’ve come across different variations on “mean”, “nasty”, “crotchety” characters. There was just ONE “simply evil” and most cunning individual, but he exercised full control on his behavior. He would NEVER blow his stack, scream at anyone or call attention to the devilish workings of his putrid mind. There was no way in the Universe to fix his soul.
            “S”, the cousin in law, just might be fixable. Her obsessing, “idee fixe” if you will, is such a HUUUUUGE indication of malfunction. Too bad that hubby “M” just might be blissfully unaware of a problem, or is in denial.

          • Cat December 9, 2014, 6:55 pm

            Please don’t take what I write out of context. I did not write that ‘…some people are simply evil”. I wrote that, “…some people are simply evil in their dealings with others”.
            There are people who think nothing of stealing from the aged or taunting the handicapped. They may not be evil people, but their actions are cruel and self-serving. What is evil if it is not the choice to be cruel and to think only of oneself?

            As to mental illness-if you ever meet a completely “normal” (whatever that means) person, please introduce me to that individual. I have yet to find anyone who was well-balanced in every aspect of life. Most of us are somewhat skewed somewhere.

          • Tracy W December 10, 2014, 4:31 am

            My apologies for misreading your statement.

            I once dated a guy whose circle of friends regarded “normal” as an insult. Being a bit unbalanced is fine – we’re better off with a diverse range of thinking in society. Mental illnesses are things that cause suffering to the person having them, or seriously maladaptive behaviours (eg calling up people to scream at them over innocous events), not merely diverging from normal. Otherwise we’d have to call Albert Einstein “mentally ill”, because he certainly wasn’t normal.

        • just4kicks December 10, 2014, 6:36 pm

          @Cat: I agree with you, it’s really difficult to say “wow! What a bitch you are!”. It’s much easier, and comforting, to blame an illness rather than to think the worst of people who are horrid.
          My husband did that toward the end of his mom’s life, when even HE couldn’t explain away her nasty comments and awful behavior. “Wow! My mom called that lady a whale right to her face! Well….I guess her mind is going…..” No, sweet pea….she’s just an awful person, but she IS your mom. You tell yourself what you need to sometimes.

      • hakayama December 8, 2014, 8:57 pm

        If memory serves, the factors that signal mental problems hinge mainly on predictability and appropriateness of behavior/reaction to circumstances/stimuli. In the case of an acquaintance of mine, her “blow ups” did not make any rhyme or reason. No correlation between the severity of what she might consider just cause and her going off.
        An “extremely Gemini” Mother had me guessing for years. As I see it, my retrospective “amateur evaluation” of her not being quite on an even keel, is NOT offensive. It is merely a present recognition of the causes of past erratic words and behavior. I reminisce about some of those “mixed up” moments, and smile through tears, and wish that I had known more back then…known more so that I could seek ways of making Her life a bit happier.
        Knowing the nature of the problem is one step closer to easing not only the fallout, but the discomfort that must be felt by those who sometimes “give too much”….
        /I believe the overly simplified guideline was “Different reactions to same stimuli, identical reactions to different stimuli”. /

        • Ergala December 8, 2014, 11:27 pm

          What is offensive is it being tossed out there as an armchair diagnosis. For all we know this is a one time deal. We aren’t doctors and we don’t know s. I can be squirrelly sometimes and I realize what’s going on either during an episode or right after and I own it. But sometimes “normal” people behave badly and there is no medication or treatment plan that can fix that. To toss all Ill behaved people into an already stigmatized group that has been racked across the coals because of the actions of a few.

          • Ergala December 8, 2014, 11:29 pm

            Adding because I forgot I was even typing…yay headaches. But to toss ill behaved people into a group of individuals who have a genuine medical condition as a reason for their behavior, that’s not fair to those of us whom are working so hard to overcome our illnesses so that we can function and be accepted by society.

      • just4kicks December 9, 2014, 3:28 am

        Absolutely! My late MIL was mean as a rattlesnake, but up until her death was sharp as a tack.

      • Tracy W December 9, 2014, 3:42 am

        It’s not the being incredibly rude or nasty in and of itself. It’s the calling up someone and screaming at them for several minutes, twice, the second time in response to the OP doing what the first rant was complaining about the lack of, that makes me think mentally ill. For adults screaming at someone for a long time is exhausting and ravages the throat, except maybe for people professionally trained in this. And the second rant doesn’t make sense even as a nasty training technique, the point about applying negative reinforcement is that the recipient learns to do x to avoid the negative reinforcement. If the recipient gets the negative reinforcement regardless, they give up.

        Different mental illnesses are of course different to each other, and many (most?) mental illnesses do not result in such screaming behaviour or other nastiness, and many nasty people are not mentally ill. I am sorry for not making that clear in my previous comment.

        • Ergala December 9, 2014, 2:47 pm

          I can honestly say that I have had many encounters with people who were just nasty individuals. Had nothing to do with mental illness. They thrived off drama and viewed themselves as superior. Some of them I have known since childhood and they were just as bad when we were in school.

          I would hope if S is mentally ill that M would at least try to explain to the OP what the situation is. I’d rather my husband disclose to someone that I am having an “off” day and why than have them think I’m horrible and him be penalized for my behavior. I’ve always apologized later when I am seeing a little more clearly.

          • Tracy W December 10, 2014, 5:12 am

            Arguably thinking of yourself as superior, when taking to an extreme, becomes a mental illness. It’s certainly a belief that causes problems in life, particularly when people start thinking laws only apply to “little people”, see the most recent car-rage story for an example.

            I know people who thrive off drama, but generally they don’t scream at people for several minutes. That’s very hard physically for adults to do.

            My best wishes for you in handling your mental illness. There’s a fair bit in my family one way and another, although only the one aunt who did those nasty out-of-the-blue personal attacks, so I’m well aware that a mental illness is something I could develop. And I agree with you that if S is mentally ill, M should explain this to OP. It’s possible though that M doesn’t know yet himself.

          • just4kicks December 11, 2014, 12:01 pm

            @Ergala: ….not to bring up my MIL again, but she is exactly the type of person you are describing. I’m certainly not, and never will be perfect, but the stuff that came out of her mouth sometimes floored me. All with an evil glint in her eye….no dementia etc there, just mean as a rabid dog. My kids once came home with a few choice names for minorities after an overnight stay….I almost had a heart attack! THAT was a fun phone call, because my husband refused to call her out on it, I called and asked as nicely as possible…”would you PLEASE not use the words “n@gger and sp@c” in front of my kids!” Good Lord….

  • Princess Buttercup December 8, 2014, 11:39 am

    1) How does she know you hadn’t already planned to send a card and just wanted to call also? There are many people that verbally thank then send a card also because they really want to be sure the person knows how greatful they are.

    2) I’d be curious if the last call actually was M now contacting to say he’s sorry for S’s behavior. I would have answered and if it was S screaming again, blown a whistle or something into the phone or immediately hung up. Screaming into the phone is an assult to your ears and you should take measures to stop assult.

    • Amanda H. December 9, 2014, 5:01 pm

      I was thinking the same on #2. I don’t blame OP for not answering; I wouldn’t either on the assumption that it was S again, but it’s a pity if it was M trying to apologize for his wife’s outrageous behavior.

  • Cady December 8, 2014, 11:40 am

    Yikes. Poor M.

  • Dyan December 8, 2014, 11:43 am

    the woman sounds a bit unstable, it was just a book mark, not a car..

  • L.J. December 8, 2014, 12:14 pm

    Tell your aunt what happened. I’ve made the mistake in the past of “honorably” keeping my mouth shut, only to find out years later that the unpleasant person had taken the opportunity to pour poison in everyone’s ears about me. Calmly tell your aunt what happened, but make it clear that you don’t expect her to do anything or take sides.

    • Cat December 8, 2014, 8:52 pm

      Ditto. In trying not to involve others in what is obviously a ridulous situation, I, too, have left myself open to lies which those who know nothing about me will believe.
      My aunt and uncle told me that a niece (whom I have never met/spoken) had written a series of letters about me which had been dictated by my sociopath brother. My aunt said it was the most hateful thing she had ever read; and my uncle told me that, while it was full of lies about me, no one who knew me would believe it for one second.
      The problem was that the letters were sent to people who knew nothing at all about me. (I was adopted and had just found my birth maternal family.) I asked my aunt and uncle if they had told those who received the letters that they were untrue. No, they both felt it was better that my family believe the lies about me than that they learn that my niece was a liar and my brother was a sociopath. How can anyone counter that?

      • RC December 9, 2014, 2:45 am

        Oh Cat, that sounds awful. Sometimes I wonder what on earth possesses some people to take such actions. And I am sorry your Aunt and Uncle didn’t set them straight.

        • Cat December 9, 2014, 7:04 pm

          They were afraid of starting a family argument and of having people divide off into “camps” backing one side or the other.
          I can see the fear of that, but to pretend a lie is true in order to harm someone is, to me, at least, worse than a family argument. It’s called calumny; and I consider it a sin against one’s personal honor because to pretend a lie is true is to be a liar yourself.

  • EllenS December 8, 2014, 12:21 pm

    Sounds to me like S is trying to control M’s contact with family and drive away anyone who tries to connect with him.

    I like Admin’s advice to maintain cordial relations with M directly or through Aunt. He’s a grown man, he doesn’t need his wife’s permission to speak with his own cousin.

    And related to the above question about dividing a social unit: the idea of a married couple as a “social unit” only applies to relatively formal settings, like weddings or dinner parties. It’s perfectly polite to keep in touch with a friend or relative directly or even get together for lunch, etc. without inviting spouses. They don’t have to be joined at the hip.

  • JWH December 8, 2014, 12:28 pm

    S reminds me of a very religious individual I encountered once when I was departing from a lunchtime music concert at a church near my workplace. I found this individual (obviously from out of town) asking the church’s choir director a lot of questions about the church, the church’s religious doctrines, and the choir director’s own religious views. The choir directly firmly said to the religious individual, “I’m not going to discuss my personal religious views with you” and moved on.

    I encountered this religious individual a second time just in front of the church. He inquired of my religious beliefs (and I freely said I was not religious), and we had quite the conversation. I kept conversation very polite, using jokes about the irredeemability of people in my home town (Washington, home to politicians) to keep things light.

    It was an interesting study before I left him and returned to work. He clearly wanted to rant about religion, but etiquette and the conversation’s content (carefully managed) denied him the excuse to do so. He seemed quite frustrated by the time I left …

  • Dee December 8, 2014, 12:28 pm

    A phone call “thank you” is par with a “thank you” card; it is perfectly acceptable and even, for some, more appreciated. So, OP did nothing wrong there. Hopefully, OP will now know not to listen or take advice from anyone clearly suffering from a serious mental health issue. No matter what you do you cannot get it “right” with them, and the consequences of trying will twist you (and innocent others) inside out. How does OP contact M without S being involved? I don’t know. I don’t even know if it is a good idea, for surely S will find out, and then OP will really get in trouble. This is M’s to deal with, one way or the other, and OP cannot fix it. No one can.

    • Tracy W December 9, 2014, 4:09 am

      I think though it is important for the OP to stay open to M, as S might be trying to deliberately isolate M. OP can’t fix it, but she can offer M a sanity check-point, or a place to run to. And OP can hang up the phone on S.

  • Tyler December 8, 2014, 12:31 pm

    I know some readers may think the descriptions of S are an exaggeration, but I have personally known people like S. They thrive on drama and conflict, and there is absolutely no winning with them. The best thing to do is avoid any and all contact with such people if at all possible.

  • Lisa December 8, 2014, 1:01 pm

    Sadly, I think I’m also related to S. By marriage, thank God.

  • Green123 December 8, 2014, 1:11 pm

    S is clearly a fully paid up member of the offensorati and should be avoided at all costs.

    • Victoria December 8, 2014, 4:54 pm


      I am so happy that I finally have a word for those people who will be offended no matter what. Thank you! (Your card is in the mail, I promise!)

      • Green123 December 9, 2014, 5:58 am

        🙂 Thank you!

        I think it was the British newspaper The Guardian that coined the word, and I absolutely love it!

  • AnaMaria December 8, 2014, 1:16 pm

    I wonder if S has some serious jealousy issues- maybe she’s the kind of person who doesn’t want to share her husband with anyone, including relatives. You would think it would be obvious that a step-cousin is not a threat to their marriage, but jealousy tends to turn to irrationality pretty quickly.

    I think M deserves some kind of communication here- it very well could be that all this is happening behind his back, and the OP might not be S’s only victim. M might be wondering why so many friends and family members are suddenly distancing themselves from him. OP should respectfully explain the situation to him (she may need to go through her aunt to protect herself from another confrontation with S), and then back off. It is M’s responsibility to deal with his wife, and if she is so unstable that he feels threatened, he needs to involve the right people (authorities) and keep innocent people out of it as much as possible. If she is otherwise mentally healthy and is just being a diva, then perhaps a marriage counselor or religious leader could help them, but turning to his step-cousin for support will only make the situation worse.

  • Moralia December 8, 2014, 1:35 pm

    I may be paranoid, but have dealt with some similar situations in my life, so here’s my thought:

    It sounds as though S may be trying to discourage the OP from having any contact with M that is not through her first. Some spouses take on a “gatekeeper” role in their relationship. Sometimes it’s a sign of toxic stuff to come, sometimes it stems from an honest desire to protect the spouse from what they perceive as unhealthy situation within the family (rightly or wrongly).

    If M contacts you, by all means respond directly to him and try to be understanding about S, but don’t take even one word of abuse from either one. Try to stay polite, but keep your distance in that case.

    I’d be reluctant to speak with aunt about this as it would put her in the middle of an uncomfortable situation not of her making. Plus, it would make you look like you’re trying to stir things up.

    • Tracy W December 9, 2014, 4:25 am

      But what if S is doing similar things to the aunt, and the aunt’s reluctant to say anything as it might put other family members in the middle of an uncomfortable situation not of their making, and plus it might make the aunt look like she’s trying to stir things up?

      I’d say something in a low-key way, eg “I had a couple of unusual phone calls from S, have you had anything similar?”

    • MM December 9, 2014, 7:22 am

      But isn’t that how these patterns get established? Staying silent to keep the peace.

      Being a “whistleblower” is not pretty but sometimes it has to be done.

  • AD December 8, 2014, 1:48 pm

    That last phone call might have been an attempt at an apology from M for his wife’s behavior… but that includes the possibility that it might have been that harpy S again. In my opinion, Dame is right. Nurture a relationship with this new relation, but try very hard to avoid his wife, and when you must encounter her, keep your polite spine stiff and your brilliant, sparkling smile riveted in place. Now you know what to expect from her, and while it is not legal to kill this particular viper, you are more than welcome to kiss her to death with kindness. Others will see her acting out and be put on their guard, leaving you the spotless and very nice lady in their eyes that you thus far seem to be in ours. Good luck!

  • Karen L December 8, 2014, 2:01 pm

    Has anyone seen the Llama Song? It’s pretty funny. We should re-write the lyrics:

    Here’s a drama
    There’s a drama
    And another little drama
    Sonny drama
    Daughter drama
    Drama! Drama! F***!

    • Jess December 8, 2014, 5:01 pm

      HAHA I will be humming that all day now!

    • Cherry91 December 8, 2014, 5:50 pm

      Funny drama
      Frustrating drama,
      Grandma, uncle, and auntie drama.
      Partner drama, in-law drama,
      Drama drama (ahem)!

    • EllenS December 8, 2014, 7:06 pm

      I love the llama song!

  • K December 8, 2014, 2:10 pm

    Someone calling to vent their spleen over a thank-you note. Wow. I’m with those who say communicate directly through M from now on.

  • Pat December 8, 2014, 2:35 pm

    Sounds like S has some mental problems and/or is insanely jealous. I wouldn’t go anywhere where you would have to be alone with her and M – just family get-togethers where others would be present and you could avoid her. Putting that aside, I have had situations where I was disappointed not to receive a written thank you note although I knew the person received the gift. It would never occur to me to contact and upbraid the “offender.” It is disappointing, but I just figure that I gave the gift because I wanted to, not to receive any thanks, and you just have to accept that people don’t always do what you think they should.

    • burgerking December 9, 2014, 10:19 am

      yes I believe jealousy is the point of contention here. It is an odd thing for a grown adult this send a bookmark to another grown adult where there has been no previous connection (sweet tho) so I can only assume that ends wife saw that as a red flag and had to react to it.

  • inNM December 8, 2014, 2:37 pm

    Perhaps it is just me, but the last time someone screamed at me for taking anything, I immediately put it back and walked away.

    The bookmark may be beautiful and it is certainly yours to do with what you wish, but it served as an invitation to invite the crazy into your life. If you plan to keep M in your life, my suggestion is to be polite but assertive with S. She will find opportunities to rake you over the coals for your disrespect over this bookmark (either by being passive aggressive, or by drawing you into a conversation about it. Your job is to politely bean dip and move somewhere else in the room. And as beautiful as future gifts from M and S may be, consider that they may be open doors to let the crazy in.

    • KarenK December 8, 2014, 2:43 pm

      Sure, but how did the OP know she was letting the crazy in? This was the first contact she had had with these people.

      • inNM December 8, 2014, 10:19 pm

        Not so much that gift but future gifts from “M” (or S disguised as. M)

  • Catvickie December 8, 2014, 7:23 pm

    Hard to know where nutjob S is coming from, but the daughters-in-law of both my husband’s cousin were like that to my daughters. When younger, when those couples saw my daughters in the mall, the girls would just glare at my daughters–and we barely knew those cousins–we were at their place a few times for Christmas when they were all in grade school. Sadly at a graveyard service, my older daughter hid behind me as much as possible because the wife of one of them was staring daggers at her.

    Maybe S thinks the OP is a possible threat to her marriage–these insecure people can really be crazy.

  • Cat December 8, 2014, 8:41 pm

    There are individuals who cannot distinguish a major insult from every day living. You did nothing wrong; you thanked the gift giver in the manner in which your family thanks people for gifts. A screaming phone call from the wife demanding a written note was rude; you had already thanked him and he had accepted your thanks.
    For the future, you might consider simply hanging up if you are on the receiving end of another phone call like the one you received. You cannot talk to someone who is hysterical and you have no obligation to accept being abused. The sentences, “I am going to hang up now. I will not speak to you while you are this upset.” will make this plain to her.

  • Angel December 8, 2014, 9:01 pm

    I might have been inclined to just return the gift at that point. But then I’m sure “S” would have taken extreme offense to that! She sounds a little scary to me. If “M” contacts you again I would be honest about what “S” said. If people ask, tell them by all means. I don’t care if she is “family” you shouldn’t have to put up with verbal abuse from her. And no one else should either!!

  • MM December 8, 2014, 9:05 pm

    Yikes! Op you were fine. S would have found a reason to be offended regardless of what you did. If you enjoy M’s company find a way to make that relationship work. S is not worth it.

  • Otterpop December 8, 2014, 9:22 pm

    I would try to reach “M” and tell him you received 2 screaming phone calls from his wife with no provocation. Her behavior is not normal and should be addressed. If he shrugs it off or agrees with his wife, then you know they are BOTH unbalanced and should be avoided.

  • Catherine December 8, 2014, 9:31 pm

    I’m going to go for insanely jealous. OP says she’s going to university next year and that M has just graduated so I’m going to speculate that OP is too young and pretty for S’s liking to be anywhere near her new husband. They are only step-cousins, after all.
    Also, I don’t understand why the OP thinks she might be in the wrong when she so clearly isn’t.

    • another Laura December 9, 2014, 8:48 am

      I had the same thought. S is jealous of OP. And to a jealous wife, your spouse buying or making a personalized gift for a young, (we’ll presume) attractive girl who is only recently related by marriage, could easily be viewed as a threat.
      And their family relationship isn’t quite close enough to give envy a reprieve. I know a couple who became step-cousins in their late teens and later ended up getting married.

    • badger December 9, 2014, 9:39 am

      Because she’s young, would be my answer. If she’s the standard age for someone about to go to university, she may not have learned that other people’s drama is their shitake to handle rather than hers.

  • NostalgicGal December 8, 2014, 10:45 pm

    I’m agreeing with it sounds like S is trying to cut M off from the rest of the family and friends. I’m betting S made sure M wasn’t in hearing distance when she placed those calls.

    I’d try to contact M outside of a place where S can’t hear or know, and gently tell M about the screamcapades; is he aware of it, and that as much as you like him; don’t want to communicate with S anymore. A recent marriage? Yep, sounds like M doesn’t know… yet.

  • lakey December 9, 2014, 12:22 am

    Poor M. He’d better make sure he puts the cap on the toothpaste tube and puts the toilet seat down.

  • burgerking December 9, 2014, 10:15 am

    The older I get, the more I am less understanding of the histrionics of others.I have found people to be absolutely crazy over things that I just cannot figure out what the drama is over. I have had to come to the conclusion that some people honestly believe they have a right to their issues, where the rest of civilized society can’t understand at all what their issue is. That doesn’t mean they still don’t have an issue, because in their minds they do. There is absolutely nothing you can do about changing their minds, so the only thing you can do is simply walk away.

    • hakayama December 9, 2014, 9:08 pm

      Hey, BK! Perhaps instead of “understanding” you could say “accepting”. I am sure that by now, quite a few of us understand (as in underlying causes/reasons), but are less willing to accept “misbehavior” with a smile.
      It is sad that some commenters insist on smiles in face of offensive attacks. I am very much in agreement with you about walking away from the person that carries on an unprovoked attack.
      Good manners do not have to equal martyrdom, right?

  • Jaxsue December 9, 2014, 11:34 am

    I have no trouble believing the OP that S did exactly as she described. I have a step-cousin who is known for this type of behavior. I will not make a diagnosis because I am not qualified, but suffice to say that she has pulled stuff like this (and one cousin claimed that she tried to drown her, holding her underwater, when they were kids!). People like this really do exist, sadly.

    • AIP December 9, 2014, 2:34 pm

      It’s not me is it? Apparently I did the same to one of my cousins when we were little.

    • doodlemor December 9, 2014, 4:17 pm

      I agree with Jaxsue.

      The woman’s behavior is so far from the norm that I find the situation very sad.

      She reminds me of a thread from several years ago in which a young woman who was expecting decided that no one else in the extended family could have a baby anytime soon. She belligerently claimed that it was her turn for the spotlight. The OP in that thread was an aunt in her early forties, who had just found out that she was expecting twins. Several other cousins were expecting also, but all of them had been afraid to tell the nasty niece. Aunt was concerned about the fallout to come.

      After several days Aunt reposted that she had just learned that her niece had been on medication to combat her mood swings for several years. Niece had stopped her meds during the pregnancy because she was concerned that they would affect the baby. When aunt realized that a medical condition was involved, all became clear.

  • rachel December 10, 2014, 1:41 am

    Stay as far away from that crazy witch as possible! There is nothing to gain from engaging her ever again.

  • KC Kidder December 10, 2014, 2:26 am

    You cannot be driven crazy by crazies if you don’t give them the keys. Forget the incident as S is either jealous of you or completely whacko.

  • Enna December 10, 2014, 12:34 pm

    I like admin’s advice. I would even go as far to tell M that you ignored a call from him as S was so nasty the past two times. You did nothing wrong as you had thanked him on the phone. She had no right to say what she did to you. You tried to correct the “offence” by sending a card and yet that was the wrong thing to do too! There is literally no winning with the person.

  • Jenny Islander December 10, 2014, 10:18 pm

    Please continue contact with M! The OP send my Toxic Person Alarm ringing like mad. This kind of “I hate you because you are awful and so does this person you know better than you know me, who isn’t actually on the phone at the moment” act is classic. The subtext is “I want to keep this person in my orbit, believing only what I say, and detached from anybody else who might challenge my claimed ability to control the horizontal and the vertical. So I am going to manufacture big huge fights with everybody they knew before.”

    Keep the lines open with M. Don’t tell M that S is bad for M, because that will almost certainly be spun by S or by M’s own self into “This person does not agree with our great love and I must choose–I choose my great love!” Whether M figures out S’s dysfunction or not, M is going to need friendly faces and voices in the years to come.

  • Terrible_Tedi (@Terrible_Tedi) January 10, 2015, 2:17 pm

    Nothing wrong with calling when you got it. How the hell were you supposed to get a card to them that quick. You guys also talked it’s not like you said thanks for the card bye. Tell M that if she calls again he will owe you an APOLOGY card with money to change your phone number and that’s all.

  • Jen a. February 3, 2015, 9:55 am

    Op, have you actually talked with M? This does not sound legit. You’re under no obligation to be friends with either of them, but if I read your letter correctly you only know all this stuff about M because S told you. It’s not like S has proven to be a trustworthy person. She seems to be really blocking your access to M, and throwing him under the bus for the whole mix up. I would follow admin’s original advice and not assume anything.

    • Powers February 3, 2015, 11:20 am

      Except the writer’s aunt seems to vouch for S’s sincerity and M’s animosity. So it’s not just S’s word against no one’s.

  • Goldie February 3, 2015, 10:30 am

    Very fishy. There’s a lot of he said-she said, good cop-bad cop, etc going on. I’d write both of them off as crazy and maintain a cordial relationship with both – nice, polite, and very very infrequent.

  • AIP February 3, 2015, 4:07 pm

    Thanks for the update; the whole shooting-gallery seem like hard work! But at least S had the grace to apologise.