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Not entirely sure where to stand in this family situation, can I ask for some advice please?

(27 Posts)
AlexisCarringtonColby Fri 18-Jan-13 20:11:50

There's a lot of background to this that I'm not entirely sure is relevant so apologies if I dripfeed later, and I'm not entirely sure how to phrase this so hopefully this makes some sense

I have one brother, who is a few years older. He is married with two children under 5. Me, him and my parents all live within about 45 mins of each other. His relationship with my parents has been strained over the years, and I don't know why. My SIL seems to have a problem with having other people around her 'new' family, so neither my family or her family are very involved with them or the kids, more through their choice than the extended families. I know I'm probably biased but I can't entirely see what my parents have done to annoy them (I don't know SIL's family well enough to comment on what is going on there) - there are the usual small niggles with generational differences in childcare, but nothing serious, I have a 1yo myself so I know. My parents have helped him out financially over the years, sometimes in a small way (extra shopping) and sometimes in a large way (paying off bailiffs).

About six weeks ago DB and his family moved to the other side of the country as he got a new job, not a promotion, just a job somewhere they thought was nicer, so they moved within a fortnight of telling everyone. That's perfectly understandable, everyone should try and live where they want to. The problem is that after moving, they've pretty much failed to get in touch with anyone. My parents have called several times, but they can only get hold of my DB at work, which isn't a good thing long term. He keeps promising that he'll get a new mobile that works and that he'll send them his landline number but he doesn't. And now weeks have gone by and he's just not been in touch at all, so they have no news on their grandchildren, and certainly not to suggest when my parents could go and visit. I haven't heard from him at all either.

My parents are enormously hurt. This kind of not getting in touch has kept happening over the years, and my parents are tired and upset of constantly chasing him and being made to feel like an imposition. However, once or twice over the years my brother has complained to me that our parents seemed to expect him to 'always be the one who gets in touch'. But he never is!

Now my parents have decided that they have just had enough, they are finding it too draining and feel my DB is gradually cutting them out. They are going to send him a letter (as they don't really have any other way of getting in touch!) and say that as he seems to not want to be in touch with them they won't try to get in touch with him, but the door is open for him to get in touch if he wants to.

I do sort of agree with this. DB and SIL are being absolute twerps cutting out two perfectly nice, normal extended families who just want to see their children and grandchildren. Of course my parents helping out financially doesn't mean they have an automatic right to see their children, but I think it is enormously rude of my brother not to acknowledge all the support they have given him over the years. I really do understand why they feel that now they have finally hit a point they can't just ignore. But there is a chance that this could be it, this could be the end of contact for quite a long time. I don't have really have much contact with DB aside from through my parents, though I do miss my DNs.

I don't even know what advice I'm looking for sad. Has anyone else been a similar situation, and how did it work out? I'm just so torn on how I feel about this. I agree with my parents, but I'm scared of the long-term implications...

orchidee Fri 18-Jan-13 20:21:35

It sounds like your brother may be busy. If he's going "low contact" or "no contact" as a conscious decision, is there anyone on the periphery of this that could ask him what's going on? Maybe an aunt / uncle / cousin? Either way, I think any letter from your parents should be brief and non-accusatory e.g. "We hope you're all well. Please get in touch whenever you can."

ladyWordy Fri 18-Jan-13 20:27:07

I can't help homing in one thing: that bailiffs have previously called, and been paid off. Plus the poor money management generally - otherwise they wouldn't need help with shopping.

So could he be trying to avoid debt-collectors (if that's even possible)? He sounds as if he doesn't want to be contactable. He might be avoiding your parents out of shame - if that's in his nature.

Only a theory, but I can't help thinking you don't have all the facts.

AlexisCarringtonColby Fri 18-Jan-13 20:32:21

There's no one else to contact him as they are slowly cutting off both sides of the family, sadly.

Yes, there is a chance that he is going to avoid debt collectors sad - we have the same initials so in the past they have even chased me for money!

I hope there are more facts. I really do. They are very much into their own family unit, and when we've visited in past I've felt that they sort of feel we're an imposition into their family time, which my parents do struggle with as they had the hopes before my first DN arrived that they could be hands on GPs, babysitting etc.

AlexisCarringtonColby Fri 18-Jan-13 20:35:15

Posted too soon - I'm sure he's busy, he's just moved, new job etc., that's not a relaxing time, which is one reason why I'm confused how I feel about this. But then I do agree with parents that no matter how busy you are, it's not a massive hardship to send a brief text saying "we're all fine, here's the home number, but we're a bit manic at the mo so will call you when we're free". Especially when your parents have called a few times to check how everything is, so you know they're interested.

ladyWordy Fri 18-Jan-13 21:54:46

If they seem defensive of their family time, for no particular reason: if they're cutting everyone off, for no reason; and if they've moved for no great reason, and without much warning, something's going on that they aren't telling you.

I'm only saying that because it costs money to move, and it doesn't usually pay to cut yourself off from people who love you, or want to help you.

All your parents can do is exactly what they're doing: write a frank, sincere letter, and try to deal with the hurt they must be feeling. I should think you feel hurt, too. Whatever's happening, this is not a kind way for them to deal with things.

springyhope Fri 18-Jan-13 21:59:47

oh dear, this doesn't sound good sad

When my brother married our family lost him to her family. imo it's often up to the wife to keep up comms (not always, obvs) and if the wife is crap at it, or not interested, then comms fall by the wayside.

It sounds to me that your bro and SIL may be taking this opportunity to have their own little family alone. Mad if you ask me, but there's no accounting for folk. My bro is like this as are his children (now adult). They just don't value extended family. A bit arrogant, really.

CogitoErgoSometimes Sat 19-Jan-13 07:40:17

I'd be worried about the mental health and stability of someone that is so insular that they want to detach themselves, not simply from in-laws, but also from their own family. In abusive relationships, it's not uncommon for the abuser to isolate their victim, for example. Not saying that your DB's relationship is abusive but something is very wrong if the only way people can get hold of him is if they track him down at work.

I'd be paying them a surprise visit out of sheer curiosity aside from anything else.

angelicstar Sat 19-Jan-13 08:01:55

OP

I think it sounds like you and your parents are being a bit over the top here. You are describing him as "cutting off contact" but they actually only moved 6 weeks ago and during that time you say your parents have spoken to him a few times at work. I also assume that if they are thinking of sending him a letter that they know where he is living and have his address too!

I know that when we moved house it took a couple of months to organise our landline and with two children under 5 and your DB starting a new job life is pretty hectic. I would be surprised if they had even unpacked everything yet!
TBH knowing what some men can be like your DB probably doesn't even see there as being a problem as far as he is concerned he has spoken to them and told them he is fine. I can understand that it must be hurtful that he hasn't called but I don't really understand this "tit-for-tat" idea of he hasn't called them so they won't call him etc. Surely if you want to speak to your family you just ring them!

When you say they don't have contact with the grandchildren what do you mean by this? Do they never get to see them or is it just not as often as they like? I have to say that as a monther of 2 under 5's I do like to have family time at the weekend and I don't think this is unusual or strange. It doesn't mean that I have cut off everyone else at all. Also you mention that there have been 'niggles' about parenting between your parents and SIL/DB but although you might see them as this maybe your parents have actually offended your SIL by critisicing her parenting.

Personally I don't think your parents should send a snotty letter as this will just make things worse and upset everyone. I think they should send a lovely housewarming card saying that they hope everything is going well and would love to come down and see everyone (offer to stay in a B&B if house isn't big enough). Give some dates and ask which one is suitable and say you can't wait to see there new area...lots of love etc. I also agree with the poster that said usually it is the wife that ends up organsing the social life so they could also work on building their relationship with her (maybe send nice bunch of flowers) or contact her direct to organise a visit.

BranchingOut Sat 19-Jan-13 08:17:56

Agree with Angelicstar, sending the letter would be quite a big step and would escalate things significantly. They have just moved house and been a bit preoccupied with all the things that entails.

Maybe her family has a lower level of communication as 'normal'?

akaemmafrost Sat 19-Jan-13 08:36:34

"He got a new job, not a promotion, just a job".

Just wondering why you reiterated that there was no promotion involved? It makes it sound like you are quite dismissive of their choice to move and I am wondering why that is. It's just a small point but it stood out when I read your post.

I don't think there should be any letters just yet. Perhaps just take a step back for a bit and see how they play it. Give them some space for whatever reason they clearly seem to need it.

I have known some spouses/partners who actively try to create a break between their OH's families though and it's very obvious to all concerned except the OH. Do you think that is going on here?

I'd definitely try the stepping back thing first though, hard as it is and see what happens.

AlexisCarringtonColby Sat 19-Jan-13 08:43:32

Thanks all, it is good to hear the otherside, and which is why I am torn on this. The problems with communication have been going on for 4 years or so since the first DN was born. My parents have generally been the ones who call and ask if they are welcome to visit, which as they lived nearby could be a short visit just to see everyone, not a 2 day stay. On the occasions they left it it could be weeks before DB called. SIL's family lived even nearer and they have about the same level of contact. DB has had no problem, however, calling when he needs something, generally money to pay a bill. I think this is one of the things that is really hurting my parents, that DB is happy to take their money to pay debts but not happy to call and ask them over for lunch one day.

But you are completely right that a move makes it difficult to be organised and is probably accounting for what is going on right now, it is complicating things. The move was completely unexpected and a big surprise to both families, happening as it did a week or so before Christmas.

I know my parents and the letter won't be snotty. Though I suspect maybe one more attempt to make contact would be good. It's difficult when the only way they can make contact is calling DB at his work, which isn't entirely appropriate.

AlexisCarringtonColby Sat 19-Jan-13 08:46:31

Emma, I mentioned that it wasn't a promotion because I wanted to explain that they haven't moved because he will be getting more money, which would be very understandable. I was trying to explain why it is a bit of an odd move - sorry, I can see how it didn't come across that way blush I don't think I am dismissive, though maybe I am... it was more I am surprised and a bit confused as it is a long way away from both families, but there is no obvious reason for the move. Unless, as someone has mentioned above, it is to get away from debts etc.

WaitingForMe Sat 19-Jan-13 08:49:52

You all sound quite stifling and have very strong ideas about how this couple should live their lives. A letter of that nature would be very passive aggressive and would only go to show they were right to create some space.

My inlaws are quite a co-dependent lot and MIL in particular thinks her views should be taken into consideration in how we run our lives. It's tough on the other side.

Six weeks is nothing, tell your parents to leave the poor couple alone!

notnagging Sat 19-Jan-13 09:01:16

Very sad. My brother is the same. We just play nice. Send the usual greetings but rarely speak. We don't make an issue of it anymore. We feel if we did we would lose him completely. I wouldn't send the letter. I know if it was my brother we'd be stepping on egg shells after.sad

notnagging Sat 19-Jan-13 09:04:13

Just to add because of the way my brother is my mother has become very stifling with me which I find difficult. If she didnt ring & Facebook me so often I'd have a chance to miss her.

AThingInYourLife Sat 19-Jan-13 09:08:13

I would be quite worried for him.

Something's not right here.

Bigwuss Sat 19-Jan-13 09:18:33

I think it depends on you're own experiences, but I'm in the it sounds a bit much and stifling camp.

If my parents were phoning me at work to complain I didn't phone just after we'd moved, it wouldn't encourage me to phone them back tbh. I'd be pretty annoyed. Maybe he just has a lot on. Not everyone enjoys spending time with their extended family and maybe past issues over child are haven't been resolved.

Sending the card, some suggested is a better option than the letter.

hermioneweasley Sat 19-Jan-13 09:24:53

Could you call him and ask if there's an issue with your parents? I'm not a fan of communication via letter or email - too much that's open to interpretation and it lasts forever.

crypes Sat 19-Jan-13 09:36:44

It may have something to do with the financial help his had in.the past. Perhaps he felt shame that he needed it or that while he lives near his parents he won't stand on.his own.two feet. How ever if I was your parents I would wonder if he needed financial help before he may be asking for it again before too soon.

Walkacrossthesand Sat 19-Jan-13 09:41:12

I note that there is similarly little contact with SiLs family (and they've moved away from them,too) , so it's not just a question of family aligning with the distaff side as so often happens. I note your timescales, though - 'if parents didn't phone it might be weeks before DB called them'. Weeks pass quickly, and not everyone wants a 'phone every week or two' relationship with family - I know I didn't, when my parents were alive. I guess the test will be, will the next contact he makes, be to ask for money? That might be something your parents have to think about, & decide what their response will be. Maybe a short chatty letter ending with 'look forward to hearing from you with your news' might not be a bad idea.

AlexisCarringtonColby Sat 19-Jan-13 09:42:38

Thanks for the further responses. It is so hard to know what is stiffling or not, isn't it - even this thread shows it, which I do find really interesting. To me, I personally don't think touching base with your parents for ten minutes once a week, or grandparents hoping to be asked over to visit their grandkids, rather than having to invite themselves, is stiffling, but other people do and that's fine. DB and SIL probably do feel it is stiffling, which will be complicating matters for them, though I do have to stress that this is happening SIL's family too. We don't know them well (mainly as DB and SIL haven't done any extended family meet-ups where we could meet them) but we know them by sight, they lived in the same town as DB and SIL, when parents bumped in to them a few months back they said they hadn't seen DB, SIL and the grandkids for about three months. Similarly, it seemed they were frustrated about always being the ones making contact.

(Really sorry if this sounds like I am dripfeeding, I don't mean to, but as I mentioned in the OP there's a few years of history here).

But completely this recent move means they are busy and probably don't have much time.

I don't really have any influence over what my parents will do, so if they want to send a note they will, and I really do understand their hurt. I guess all I can do is my own thing. Maybe I could send him a card in a few weeks - if I send it now it looks too obvious timing wise - as ditto I don't have any other way of getting in contact with him. I also have my DNs Christmas presents to send, we didn't send them at Christmas as there wasn't time and DB didn't see anyone before moving, so parents have all the presents as they were hoping to drive down this month and have a fake Christmas day with the grandkids. I'll get them back and send them on.

I think it can just generally be quite upsetting when one member of a family acts extremely differently from the rest. I'm close to my parents, aunts, cousins etc, DB isn't at all. A lot of what I am mentioning, the invites and phone calls, are just what is considered 'normal' in our family, if that makes any sense. That's why it hurts when he seems to cut off a lot of contact.

ThisIsYourSong Sat 19-Jan-13 09:52:41

This sounds really similar to my sister. My parents have been really upset and hurt by it in the past, but have now accepted it and do things on her terms. She doesn't answer her phone and doesn't always respond to texts. Like your brother she has no problem asking for or taking money.

I felt very angry at her for a long time. She used to tell them is was their fault as she felt guilty about not calling so left it even longer. They tried everything / nothing etc and nothing helped and often they wouldn't hear from her for months.

In the end she has emotional problems and she gets in touch when she feels like it. I feel that she's just selfish and wrapped up in her own life and doesn't give them much thought.

It's really hard being in your position and seeing your parents upset, but he is their son and they will need to make their peace with the situation. All you can do really is be calm about it and support your parents where you can.

My parents are much happier now they have accepted that they hear from her when she wants and don't really have any expectations. They have lots of loving family and she's the one missing out.

AlexisCarringtonColby Sat 19-Jan-13 10:00:19

Thanks thisisyoursong, it's really good to hear from someone in a similar situation. And to hear someone else felt angry. I know I do. I can't help sometimes but feel it is incredibly selfish of my DB not to spare one minute to write a short text and let his family know how things are. It makes me feel childish too - for example, it is DD's 1st birthday in a few weeks and a nasty part of me is wondering whether DB will remember and send her a card or a text blush. I hate that he can make me feel like this.

You're right that maybe they just need to accept this. I know they would never turn him away, so I think they want to say that but to say that they are not going to chase to make contact.

Do you still feel angry with her, or do you feel you have accepted it too?

Roseformeplease Sat 19-Jan-13 10:38:57

Am I the only one that is wondering if something else is going on with the DB? Prison? Avoiding debts? Running away from loan sharks? Or is my imagination too fired by literature? Definitely don't burn any bridges. I have two sisters like this and we just act as if nothing has changed: send cards, the odd email etc but not feel too hurt by the lack of response.

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