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Upsetting family letter

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Old 04-05-2010, 10:52 PM   #1
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We got the oddest letter from hubby's mother today. Essentially the message was "I've noticed you (primarily meaning David) gaining weight rapidly, and I'm really very concerned about you, because of your obesity-related health problems...

I don't understand the timing. I was at my highest weight when we married (7 years ago), and hubby gained quite a bit of weight in the early months of our marriage. Now, we're both about 80 lbs from our highest weight (80 lbs DOWN from our highest weight). Most of the weight for each of us being lost in the last year.

Hubby called and confronted his mother (not a conversation that went well -we were accused of lying about or exagerating our weight loss).

I really don't get it. Maybe I'm being intentionally dense. I want to believe that the letter was well-intended, if misguided. But she does have our wedding picture displayed promininently in their home, and I'm OBVIOUSLY much thinner, and hubs appears to be the same size (he gained about 80 lbs in the early months of our marriage, and we recently were excited to find that he could fit into his wedding suit jacket).

Hubby seems to think his mom's motives are manipulative (that on some level she is aware that we've lost considerable weight, and feels it's an implied invitation for comment. The goal sabotage or to claim partial "credit" for any future weight loss - or some other ulterior motive). She lost a considerable amount of weight (alluded to in the letter).

The psychologist in me, recognizes and understands some of the possible motives (intentional and less so), but it's still hitting me like a ton of bricks. Part of me wants to justify myself and PROVE the work we've done, but that would only reward the manipulative behavior. And the fact is that our results haven't been impressive, they've been modest at best. And even though we're very proud of them, we know how easily our slow progress can be turned against us. I don't how many times I've heard from my own parents over the years, "If you were really serious about this, you'd be losing weight a lot faster."

Aaagh, sometimes I hate people.
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Old 04-05-2010, 10:59 PM   #2
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Well, that's annoying.

My response would be, "Gee, thanks for your concern. We were concerned too - that's why we've both been working to lose about 80 lbs each so far. Our doctors are thrilled" or something that says "you're wrong, I'm on it, and if you think you know more than our physician, you're a crazy person".

I might even respond as though I'd misunderstood her letter...like "Yes, thanks for noticing, we've both lost about 80 lbs!" See her try to respond to that one...what would she say, "No, you misunderstand, I was saying you'd gained weight!". In which case your answer is, "Well, that's strange, because we haven't!"
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Old 04-05-2010, 11:02 PM   #3
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WOW! It really just seems hateful to me that they even sent that. I would take a picture of your husband in the wedding jacket, fold it up in the letter they send you, and ship it back "return to sender" style. (But I can be hateful sometimes).

I can't really wrap my mind about why they think it was even their business to send a letter, and the fact that they even sent a letter instead of a face to face conversation or a phone call sort of tells me they might be a little jealous because you all are now losing weight and gaining the attention away from that relatives weight loss.

I would do my best to ignore them and not take it to heart. Just keep up the good work, losing weight is hard enough without some outside person butting their nose in! Good luck and keep up the good work!
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Old 04-05-2010, 11:03 PM   #4
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HUGS to you both. I got a nasty gram from a relative over the weekend and an ugly followup call this afternoon. I just rode the crap out of my bike to "wear out" my anger and will do whatever is possible to distance myself (one more time) from this person who intruded into my life uninvited. Nobody needs to be treated poorly, and relatives have no more justification for bad behavior than anyone else we happen across in our lives.

Hang in there...you are doing what you need to the way you need to and it ain't nobody else's beeswax!

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Old 04-05-2010, 11:20 PM   #5
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I'd be inclined toward "Thanks for your concern, but in this matter you do not need to concern yourself for my sake. My doctor and I will take care of it."

End of story.

I know sometimes with relatives and family gatherings it is not possible to just ignore the person entirely or just not see them any more.

But you can choose to not engage with this person any more on this topic.

GL!
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Old 04-05-2010, 11:36 PM   #6
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ROFLMAO at any of mandalinn's responses, but hafta really, really vote hard for the deliberately *minsunderstand *it *one. Seriously. I would opt for that one.

I don't mean to make light of this. I don't understand for a minute the motivation behind the letter, but I do understand the hurt you feel, Kaplods. You spend a great deal of effort and thought and human capital on your issues and even more effort trying to help the rest of us. I cannot imagine what would provoke someone from your family to do such a thing. You are wise enough to know it is not about you, but about him/her. That said, as I see it, you have 2 options to invalidate it...one is to ignore and do nothing..and that is very powerful...it just is. ..do nothing to react..so, very powerful........the other is to deliberately misundertand, as Mandalinn suggests, take credit...what can he/she possibly say/do to *that?

Good luck and keep fighting the good fight!
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Old 04-05-2010, 11:55 PM   #7
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David warned me when we married that his family was extremely manipulative (his mom essentially tried to talk me out of marrying her son. Not because I wasn't good enough for him, but I was too good for him. She listed all of the ways that he was just like his father, her evil ex).

I didn't entirely get it. My family can be horrible, but they do have the courtesy to do it directly, and to your face. I know how to defend myself against a direct attack, but this passive aggressive bullpoopy is just maddening.

I can even deal with the "buttinski" part of this, because it's how I was raised - with a family a little TOO willing to share opinions (some of you may have noticed it in my tendency to share my opinion whether it's necessarily welcome or not - though I try for graciousness, I do realize that I risk offending people when I'm "too" honest - but it's who I am to say what I think when I'm asked, and occasionally even when I haven't been).


I really don't have a problem with family members expressing concern or even downright disapproval. It sounds horrible, but I think it's actually been a great gift. Yes we got opinions whether we wanted to or not, but we were also encouraged even as small children to speak our mind, and to value and express our opinions. We were also taught not to hold a grudge. People say stupid things they don't mean when they're upset. You apologize, you forgive, and you move on.


In David's family, it was all battlefield, and mostly unidirectional. The adults got to criticise and attack, but the kids were supposed to shut up and be good, and that's the tone I got from the letter. Advice coming from above.

The condescending tone (and the fact that she didn't seem to be aware of the condescension) hurt far more than what she'd said (because the statements weren't entirely unfounded or untruthful with the exception of the weight "gain" part).

It's the motive that I'm stumped by. There's essentially two possiblities as I see it. It was as benignly intended as claimed, and she's bungled it miserably (whether out of ingnorance or insanity). Or it's some weird and cruel manipulative game.

I prefer to think it's the former, but hubby assures me it's the latter.

I'm the practical optimist (prepare for the worst, but expect the best) and hubby is the philisophical pessimist (People SUCK! is his personal motto and his close, personal friends are just people who suck less than average).
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Old 04-06-2010, 12:06 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by maryblu View Post
ROFLMAO at any of mandalinn's responses, but hafta really, really vote hard for the deliberately *minsunderstand *it *one. Seriously. I would opt for that one...

you have 2 options to invalidate it...one is to ignore and do nothing..and that is very powerful...it just is. ..do nothing to react..so, very powerful........the other is to deliberately misundertand, as Mandalinn suggests, take credit...what can he/she possibly say/do to *that?

Good luck and keep fighting the good fight!

I have deliberately "misunderstood" her in the past, and it drives her insane. She's the queen of the backhanded compliment, and I always pretend to take it as a "real" compliment." Then she ups the stakes by making a less subtle backhanded compliment - and I gush with even more gratitude at the wonderful compliment (at which point, she generally gives up - because the alternative is to come out and say what she really thinks, and she's just incapable of doing that).

In this particular case, I think I will just calmly and sweetly tell her (as I always do the first time I have to tell someone) that the subject is no longer open to discussion, because I don't find her suggestions helpful, and I prefer to get my support from sources I find positive and useful.

And remind her every time she tries to bring the topic up that the subject is off-limits.

The hard (but necessary) part is going to be telling her this even when she is positive and giving out compliments about weight loss, because I think that's what her next move will be, and if I'm not prepared it will turn into a trap.
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Old 04-06-2010, 12:41 AM   #9
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I realized that I identified the "relative," so I went back and editied, and changed my avatar so that I could be more blunt with less risk of hurting anyone unintentionally. If I'm going to confront someone about their behavior, I want it to be direct, not a result of someone stumbling over my emotional venting.
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Old 04-06-2010, 02:25 PM   #10
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Keep in mind I am the queen of avoidance, but I would have thrown the letter away and Never. Said. A. Word. She would have wondered: did it get lost? Was it read? What was the reaction? And by giving her NOTHING to work with, she could stew in her own curiosity and dissatisfaction.
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Old 04-06-2010, 02:41 PM   #11
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i'm with midwife on this one- let her go crazy over it instead of you. then if she says something to your face- you already know what to do- pretend it's a compliment and drive her freaking insane!

you are awesome and everyone here adores you and knows how hard you've worked.
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Old 04-06-2010, 04:27 PM   #12
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So many good suggestions! I really don't know what in the world she must be thinking to send a letter like that but I doubt that there is anyone who knows her better than her own son so my thought is, he's probably right about her motivation. I think you are pretty comfortable with your own solution, so I am just here to support you.

Keep up the good work and let us know what you decide to do and how it all works out.

Best wishes!
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Old 04-06-2010, 04:53 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by midwife View Post
Keep in mind I am the queen of avoidance, but I would have thrown the letter away and Never. Said. A. Word. She would have wondered: did it get lost? Was it read? What was the reaction? And by giving her NOTHING to work with, she could stew in her own curiosity and dissatisfaction.
The thing is that's exactly what she wanted - she even suggested it in the letter that we not speak of the letter (unless we wanted to share our efforts and progress in losing weight). Passive aggression at it's finest, she gets to say everything she wants to say and she hoped we'd be too embarassed to respond.

What I did not know until early this morning, was that she has done this to my husband at least 2 dozen times in his life (not just on weight, but on any of the "bad choices" he was making in girlfriends, friends, jobs, lifestyle choices). Usually within a few days of she not getting her way on something else or of his having done something she didn't approve of.

When he first moved to Illinois, after he declined an invitiation for a holiday or birthday, he apparently received a long letter from his mom as to why his moving to Illinois was a terrible mistake and would destroy his future.

The letters always say how much he is hurting her, and how much her words are out of the deepest "love." He says they're deepest something, but it isn't love. He says they're hard to take seriously when she's always treated her dogs better than him. One of her dogs bit David, and instead of asking if he was alright, she picked up the dog and started cuddling it saying "Did mean David scare you?" David wasn't doing anything threatening, we were just about out the door leaving and the dog dashed and bit David in the calf. I was horrified, she essentially praised the dog for biting. And she's read all of the dog training books, so it's hard to believe she didn't know (on some level) what she's doing.

We believe what set her off this time was what we ordered at a restaurant last week, when we met for family March and April birthdays. We both ordered horrible choices for "dieting," but it had been calculated (and it was the only meal we ate that day). The restaurant is known for decadence - and her choice contained more fat and calories than either of ours). David refused dessert, but had a bite of mine, and I finished my dessert. If we ate like that every day, of course we would be gaining, not losing, but we don't eat like that every day (about once every three to four months).

What really drives me crazy about this is that when he called her, she kept telling him that he should show me the letter and I'd explain to him what she'd meant (she thinks I'd be on her side). I realize why the envelope was addressed to both of us, but the letter was primarily targeting David. He never did tell her that I had read the letter, wanting to let me respond however I want to.

I've decided that weight loss is a topic I will not discuss with her ever again, for good or bad. Even if she compliments one of us, I'm going to remind her that weight is a subject I do not wish to discuss with her under any circumstances. That will be hard, because I'm such an open, honest person who will talk to anyone about anything, even when becomes a passionate debate. I'm just not a person who keeps defensive walls up, but I'm starting to realize why my husband does (I never really understood why he liked my "mean" mom more than his "sweet" mom - now I know. She smiles sweetly while shoving a knife in your gut, twisting it while telling you why it's for your good and how much you are hurting her by making her resort to the stabbing).

I really am fine, now. I just needed to vent and rant a bit.
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Old 04-06-2010, 05:11 PM   #14
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I think David and I may have the same mother.

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Old 04-06-2010, 05:18 PM   #15
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Sounds like she's somethin' else. I'm sorry, Kaplods. I'm not sure I would open any more letters from her.
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