I've had issues- for years- with my in-laws. Nothing I'm not willing to put up with, after all, they can be very nice people when they want to be. But.. when it comes down to it, ten years into it, I'm still not really part of the family- and I'm not real sure I want to be.

Case in point- last Christmas, as I lay in their guest bedroom trying not to expel the contents of my stomach in what was one of the worst bouts of stomach flu ever, I overheard my father-in-law giving my husband a lecture during family worship - and refer to me as "your wife and her leftist tendencies".

This stemmed from a conversation where my father-in-law had parroted talking points about "Obamacare" and I had said something like "Lieberman care, more like."

So, I have dangerous leftist tendencies. And what's worse- I don't get the pleasure of hearing this myself- from a courageous person- but behind my back and without my name. Your wife.

This reminded me of a lesson I learned when I was 8 or 9. My great-great Uncle and Aunt had driven down to take me shopping. Childless, they were still the patriarch and matriarch of our family- and blessed several generations of nieces and nephews with their generosity. We were walking out of the mall, and my Uncle had gone to drive the car closer. They exchanged me, my uncle taking me and the bags to the car and my Aunt stopping in one more store on our way out. My Uncle asked if I'd had a good time and, trying to sound grown-up, I said something like "Your wife insisted on buying me this" as I held up the bag with the new My Little Pony in it. My uncle looked at me mildly and said- 'Don't say "your wife" like that, say Aunt Margie instead please."

He didn't make me feel badly- he just corrected my use of a phrase that worked to distance a very dear person from me and made their presence seem more trivial than it ever could be.

And so, now I know what it really feels like to be referred to in that way. It does make you feel apart somehow- and not in a good way.

More recently, my sister-in-law- who still lives at home with the parents- mentioned something in a letter to another brother that shoved the knife in a little deeper. This brother-in-law is dating a very nice girl that, once again, the family doesn't approve of. She wears a ring. This makes her "that kind of girl". Their words, not mine. 

In this letter, she insists that he should want to be an example to his siblings about how to properly choose a wife. That he should show them how to observe a woman's heart and not only her looks. 

What siblings? Herself? Because the other two brothers are married now, for 12 and 10 years, respectively. Or, was this another clear view of her true feelings toward myself and her other sister-in-law? She said "siblings" and mentioned choosing a woman, so I feel she didn't have herself in mind in this instance.

And so... what to do in this situation? I could go on ignoring these things. We could effectively block them out of our lives. That would take merely saying something about these things. Last time we stood up for ourselves, we had 7 months of silence from them. Peaceful silence.

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Nov. 25, 2010 at 5:14 PM

Could you just talk to them in a way that doesn't seem controversial?  Maybe saying how lucky the family is to have such great diversity of opinion.  Then maybe say how wonderful it is to be so enriched by many different types of people all in one family.  I was thinking it might just help them realize how unfair they are being.

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Nov. 25, 2010 at 11:45 PM

I vote for the peaceful silence...

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Nov. 24, 2011 at 9:40 PM

Simply put, that stinks.  It's just nasty to treat you that way.  I would not personally feel interested in investing myself in a relationship with people who don't appear to value me.  That said, it means that you don't have a relationship with them.  Good/bad?  RIght?  *sigh* wishing you the best.

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