General chatter - In-Law Vent...Advice??

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01-21-2012, 06:31 PM
So my in-laws are really weird. Like, social-disorder weird. I don't know how my husband managed to escape it, but my MIL and SIL are both very nice, but very timid, and seem very, very uncomfortable all the time. For example, my MIL is paranoid that asking people questions is "invasive" so in the four years I've known her, she has never asked me how my job is going, how my week was, etc. She will listen if I volunteer the information, but she won't ask follow-up questions or initiate the conversation. It is hard to get used to, and I am frankly exhausted of trying to hold conversations with people who never ask me any questions back and who respond to my inquiries with one-word answers. It's exhausting.

SIL has a boyfriend and lives out of town. MIL, DH and I went to visit SIL and boyfriend after the holidays (MIL's idea, I wasn't too thrilled about going, but it was MIL's bday and I was trying to be a good sport). I thought everything went ok, but when MIL was alone with SIL and her boyfriend, SIL and Boyfriend told MIL that they are very uncomfortable around me and DH. They said it was because DH and I are "so opinionated that they feel like they can't talk about anything without making it a confrontation." To be honest, I have no idea what they're talking about. They seemed like they were ok around me, even having a good time, and I have NEVER discussed anything contentious, like religion or politics or even current events (they have no interest in anything other than sports and alcohol) with them, so I'm not really sure how they get the impression that I am so "opinionated." And apparently, Boyfriend was VERY offended by me telling him that I thought his new job sounded like something I was not interested in doing (I asked him about it and he was telling me I should consider it). We see SIL and Boyfriend maybe twice a year- I guess I don't understand why they can't just deal with it, since, to be fair, they're really not my cup of tea, either.

MIL had a sit-down with DH about it and told him what SIL had said, I guess with the idea that it would help their relationship. Now, I'm just pissed about the whole thing- all it made me think of was that they had all been sitting around talking behind my back, and MIL (who dislikes Boyfriend but would not tell him or SIL that) didn't even defend me. Since they are all so cowed, it seems like a confrontation is kind of out of the question, but in my family, that's how we would deal with it- there'd be a knock-down, drag-out fight, everyone would be steamed for a couple hours and then we'd have gotten it off our chests and gotten to the bottom of it.

So what do I do? I feel silly, but I kind of feel like I can't just let it go. I'm hurt and irritated, and I don't think I can act "normal" around them. I feel like if I'm so offensive, maybe I should just stop trying to carry on conversations and just sit at the dinner table with my arms crossed and staring at everyone, like they do. DH is annoyed about this, too, but I think he's used to them dealing with things this way, and frankly, I think he's about ready to write all of them off. I'm not sure that's very reasonable.

01-21-2012, 06:37 PM
I would follow DH lead, he knows them better than you do.

01-21-2012, 06:44 PM
Do what your husband wants since it is his family. If you continue going to dinners, I would just act the same way your in-laws act. Don't initiate a conversation. Just wait for them to talk so they don't think you are some confrontational nosy woman for asking how their day went.

01-21-2012, 08:16 PM
We see SIL and Boyfriend maybe twice a year- I guess I don't understand why they can't just deal with it, since, to be fair, they're really not my cup of tea, either.

I think that's the key. You see them so rarely... just go with it for DH's sake. If they have baggage with you, let THEM hold it and deal with that also.

Carry on like normal until they decide they want to talk about it with you and until they do -- just be your usual you. No need for you to worry about it or take up time/energy fretting over "what ifs" and "maybe they meants" and whatever.

If / when they find the courage to talk to you about it, deal with it then. Otherwise it's all their baggage and you don't have to do anything about it much less carry it around for them.


01-21-2012, 09:41 PM
you relationship sounds a lot like mine with my in-laws.

my fellow's parents don't like confrontation ether and would rather talk behind your back.
while i was visiting him during thanksgiving his mother had his GRANDMOTHER talk to us about the decision we were making getting married so young and how they were so against it.

and i wasn't about to get into a confrontation with dear mama, so all i could do was be the bigger person, swallow my pride, and let them say their peace (like you, my family would have dealt with it then and there).

and also like you, i never feel like i can act normal around them anymore. we have so much to say to one another but neither wants to pull the trigger.

mother-in-law and i got into it once over the phone, and where DH just lets her say whatever she wants, i told her strictly that we're not canceling the wedding just because they don't agree with it, and she huffed and puffed and never wanted to confront me again.

i think the best thing to do in a situation like this is to let DH deal with it. he does know them better.
i'm curious what others have to say, though. it's hard being in that spot where you love your fellow dearly but you're hurt by his family.

bandit bear
01-22-2012, 12:32 AM
They sound.... special. I would honestly completely ignore them. My FIL is socially leotarded (if you want to know what I mean, look up Dan Savage, he uses it instead of the r-word, and I think it's funny) and just can't make conversation, so we don't. We barely speak. And I could care less. Your situation is a little different because you're dealing with more than one family member, but I would act like they don't exist. If they don't want to know about your life, then don't ask about theirs. Don't even initiate conversation. My FIL can't initiate and have a normal conversation, so I don't initiate it either. I just sit there and listen while my husband and him talk.

If SIL and her boyfriend are offended over nothing (aka, you being "opinionated" meaning, you have a personality), let them be. I work in retail, and one thing I learned is that people are generally really, really stupid and/or really, really crazy. One woman got offended and complained to my manager because I looked at my watch. Another got offended because I talked to someone else besides her and subsequently complained about it. My lesson was to just let them be and don't fret it.

So just sit there, don't say anything, because it's apparent that they have no interest in being normal, functioning people. Sit back, eat dinner, and don't say a word. Don't even be hurt or irritated because it's not worth your time.

I used to spend my time getting all angry and frustrated and irritated with my FIL until my husband said to me that I need to let it go, let him be weird, because he is never going to change. When he gets us weird crap for Christmas (one year he got me a microscope, another he got me a one-man pontoon boat), to just say thanks and move on. When he does weird things, I just shake my head and my husband laughs. I don't talk to him, he doesn't talk to me, and it works.

01-22-2012, 09:33 AM
It sounds like you've done the best you could with what you've been given.

If you see them so rarely, then be polite/civil for DH's sake, but you have no real need to do more than that if it's clear they don't want more. And from what you've said, it sounds like they prefer nothing more than an absolutely quiet dinner.

This is not an excuse to be PA silent, but rather to stick to the "Good to see you / Yes, thank you. / No, thank you. / Thanks for having us over. / Do take care." pleasantries without having to worry about what they're thinking any longer. It won't matter what they're thinking.

Follow DH's lead when you're at his families' houses. Chances are that there's always going to be something that someone somewhere has a problem with. Even if you mirrored how his side of the family acts, they may think it odd.

Don't put any more energy into it, and just think about how glad you are to have your husband to commiserate about it with afterwards.

Beach Patrol
01-22-2012, 11:15 AM
Hey, here's a suggestion from left field...
You don't HAVE to be around his family.

Some people (well, most people) would say because it's your husband's family that you "have no choice" and that you can't avoid certain "family occasions" and holidays & the such.

I say bullspit.

I don't force myself to be around anyone who makes me completely uncomfortable. I don't care who they are. EVEN SOME OF MY OWN FAMILY. (heh, especially my own family!) ;)

Your husband can go & visit his family anytime he likes. He doesn't have to have you by his side. I go visit my family without my husband several times a year. Not because he doesn't want to be around them, but because of work schedules & so forth. The point is, I don't have to have him there for me to visit my own family.

It's only a big deal if you make it to be one.

01-22-2012, 02:39 PM
Thanks for all the responses.

I do think I will just stop trying to draw them out and converse with them, but not be obvious about it. It's just not the way they are (which is kinda sad), as ya'll pointed out. SIL and boyfriend aren't so much a concern because we do see them so rarely, but MIL lives in town and we see her about once a week. She's divorced, lonely, and has no friends or interests or activities. But I am done feeling sorry for her- she is an adult and has chosen a very quiet, very lonely life, which is not my fault or my problem.

Also, I am going to take about five steps back from being involved in family functions at this point, as others suggested. I just don't need to be there and really shouldn't feel an obligation to go to everything.

bandit bear
01-22-2012, 05:40 PM
She's divorced, lonely, and has no friends or interests or activities. But I am done feeling sorry for her- she is an adult and has chosen a very quiet, very lonely life, which is not my fault or my problem.

Also, I am going to take about five steps back from being involved in family functions at this point, as others suggested. I just don't need to be there and really shouldn't feel an obligation to go to everything.

Yeah, my father-in-law is alone as well, although due to different reasons. My mother-in-law, whom I never got to meet, passed away about 7 years ago but they were not living together prior to that because she was in a car accident when DH was a baby and had to live in an assisted living home for the rest of her life. He is also mentally ill, and he has no friends and is estranged from his brother and his family. FIL lives with his mother and takes care of her, and he's happy having it that way. I think maybe your MIL doesn't know how to interact with other people, like my FIL can't, so she chooses not to. All you have to do is be polite and nice, but leave it at that.

It's disappointing having not so stellar in-laws. My mom was in the same situation, although my dad's dad was a pretty awesome guy, but my grandmother, not so much. She was mean and vindictive, demeaned my mother (and father), and my aunt and uncle are no better. She had crappy in-laws in different ways and didn't want to be around them either. So she avoided them unless she had to be around them. Now that my grandmother has passed away (2.5 years ago) and my grandfather passed away probably 10 years ago, it's just my aunt and uncle and we don't talk to them at all. They weren't even invited to my wedding. So don't feel bad. People live how they want to live, and you shouldn't feel obligated to change to conform to their life.

01-22-2012, 07:16 PM
You say your MIL has no friends, interests or activities. I am wondering if maybe your MIL is dealing with depression or maybe a personality disorder. Also, even if she doesn't, it doesn't sound like she would have much to talk about anyway, not having friends or outside interests, she is not use to having relationships.