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Should I ask DH to reconcile with my parents?

(53 Posts)
FamilyStrife Fri 12-Jul-13 05:32:28

(Have NC-ed for this one - am not a new poster)
My parents and I fell out shortly after the birth of my DS. They came to visit early when I asked them to wait a while and got offended over a range of small imagined slights (mother didn't like where her card was displayed, that MIL got to see DS first because she lives closer, father annoyed we didn't cook for him, DH didn't greet him warmly enough etc). They blew up at me in my house about 1 week after I'd given birth and shouted at me, had a blazing row. DH stood up for me and tried to intervene and they shouted at him and insulted him too.

We were both really shaken after this event and found it really upsetting and stressful. I asked my parents to cut their visit short and go home. They were shell-shocked too as they are used to having their tantrums now and again and people just putting up with it. They apologized later over the telephone but I told them their behavior was totally unacceptable. My DH said to me that he didn't want to see them again.

After about six months of frostiness, I began to patch things up with them and speak on the phone now and again. I sent them photos of my son and cards, presents for birthdays etc. mostly out of a sense of guilt.

Things were complicated for me also because my father got very sick a year ago and was in ICU. He made a full recovery but could easily have died and I felt awful that the last time I had seen him we had fallen out. It felt like a judgement on me. Since that time, I have tried to maintain good relations with them because they're my parents and they're not going to be around forever - so basically out of guilt.

Anyway, we're now planning a visit home. DH is not from my country but is happy to base ourselves there for the visit as he likes it there and it's too much hassle to country-hop when we're coming a long way. We can meet up with my sister and his parents are going to come over too.

I feel i have to meet with my parents when I'm there. I don't enjoy the prospect of it as it's going to be stressful but I want DS to meet them and I want to normalize things a little. DH says that he has no interest in meeting with them, is worried that if I meet with them on my own they'll attack me again and says in general that this is our one holiday in the year so we shouldn't stress ourselves out with them.

We agreed in the end that I would go and meet with them for a couple of days along with my sister. He still has misgivings though and is worried for me. I don't know what to do. I will meet with them because I have to but I would rather that DH was with me really for moral support.

CogitoErgoSometimes Fri 12-Jul-13 06:22:06

Yes, I think you should talk about meeting them again if it's important to you that you do so. Most families have bust-ups but, unlike with other people, they're often short-lived and forgiven rather than allowed to turn into a massive grudge that goes on indefinitely. That's family life.

If it's important to you to remain in contact and if you want them to meet your son, then put that to your DH and say you need his support as your life-partner in making that happen. It's just a couple of old people we're talking about here.... not a Bengal Tiger. Two wrongs don't make a right. As adults, as a team, you can and should stand up for yourselves and have each other's backs. Think through a few possible ways the visit will play out, reduce it to one day rather than two and, if anyone tries to 'attack', then you don't tolerate it and you leave straight away.

CogitoErgoSometimes Fri 12-Jul-13 06:23:51

Should add. Don't ask him to reconcile with them because he's clearly not ready to forgive. Ask him to accompany and support you ... very different and something he should agree to.

BadSkiingMum Fri 12-Jul-13 06:32:38

I think that the fall out after the birth sounds like some of the strange familial adjustment that can go on around that time.

Vivacia Fri 12-Jul-13 06:37:44

I think you need to accept your partner' decision. So long as he's not trying to prevent you going I think you need to respect his decision not to go. He can support you without having to negate his own feelings.

AttilaTheMeerkat Fri 12-Jul-13 06:47:07

If you are only meeting your parents though out of feeling guilty and having ongoing guilt then this is perhaps not a good idea for you to meet them. Many children now adults of parents who weren't actually all that good at all as parents (because said parents were too critical of their children and or too self absorbed within their own selves) do often feel FOG - an acronym for fear, obligation and guilt.

Do you think your parents feel guilty?. I daresay not, well not now anyway. And what if these two blow up at you and or your sister again?.

Do your parents really expect their way to get their own way all the time?. People can be unreasonable and difficult anyway regardless of culture, age or creed. I think you still find them very difficult to deal with and without your DH there to back you up, you could so easily cave in to any demands they make of you. You both did well to throw them out last time around because they were being totally unreasonable and histrionic in terms of behaviours (throwing wobblies over cards is what unreasonable people do). Fortunately for you as well, your DH does support you with regards to them, that makes it easier.

You would not tolerate any of this from a friend and family are truly no different. I am only sad that they are not actually the kind, decent and nice parents you so want them to be. It is NOT your fault they behave like this.

Look at your reasons as well for why you want your DS to meet them?. Is it really out of societal convention?. What if they were to start on you via him?. They could also turn on him as well or try to buy his affections. This can happen, its not beyond the realms of possibility here.

BTW how does your sister get along with them?.

What have your parents actually done to try and repair things or has this really only been one way on your part?. How did they respond to your assertion that their actions were totally unreasonable?. I think their response is important, did these two really take responsibility for their own actions or did they look into blaming you and your DH again for their unreasonable behaviour?.

Do you also think their apology was genuinely meant or just said to you for the sake of it?. If you are happy with the level of contact you have now then I would maintain this level.

If you do meet with them (and if you are only really meeting them out of a sense of both guilt and obligation I would really think again) I would keep the visit short and not stay overnight. You need to have and maintain firm boundaries with regards to your parents, this is vitally important. Boundaries too must be stuck to as well as maintained.

However, if you feel that they are too difficult for you to deal with then they are too difficult for them to be around your vulnerable and defenceless child.

CogitoErgoSometimes Fri 12-Jul-13 06:54:08

I think it's pretty normal for families to want to patch things up and forgive. Even if the motivation for meeting up is guilt, I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. Often someone has to hold out an olive branch and give it a shot or families end up not talking to each other for very silly reasons for years on end.

This pair are said to have 'tantrums' but they've been firmly stood up to by the OP and her DH, lost access to their DD and grandchild for several months and, unless they're really stupid, they're going to be very wary of a repeat performance.

I think the OP and her DH are actually in a stronger position than they give themselves credit for.... and should capitalise on it.

ImTooHecsyForYourParty Fri 12-Jul-13 07:02:32

If you were saying that you wanted to patch things up because you love them and miss them and want them in your life and they're good people who love you too and this was a terrible thing that was a one off and your life is poorer for not having them in it...

I'd say go, make it up, life's too short.

But you say guilt (more than once). you say 'have to'. You say 'judgement'

You describe selfish people who didn't care what you wanted or needed and expected the world to revolve around them and you say that this is how they have always been and you have put up with it, walked on eggshells around them and this is the first time you've stood your ground and look what happened!

If they get you on your own then yes, they probably will try to break you down and put you back in the place at their feet where you are supposed to be.

I agree with your husband. Based on what you have outlined here. It's not worth it.

And you have to ask yourself not if your child deserves grandparents, because every child deserves a werthers original sucking pipe smoking cake baking Grandparent grin but does your child deserve them. With the way they are and how they treat people.

I have experience of this type of person. I remember my dad's mother sitting at the bottom of the garden sulking because I had somehow offended her.

I think I was about 8. hmm

I remember the 'headaches', the taking to the bedroom, the sulking, the writing horrible horrible letters to my parents if they didn't toe the line. I remember the invoice sent to my uncle when he didn't do as he was told - the one that listed everything they'd ever given him and done for him. I remember the time they let themselves into his home when he and his wife were on holiday and redecorated to their taste!

Best thing I ever did was binning the lot of them when I was 16.

Your child seriously doesn't need horrible people in his life. Honestly he doesn't.

If you want to make up with them cos they're good people and you love them and you truly want them in your life, then go for it.

If you are doing it because you feel you have to, out of duty or obligation or some idea of blood being thicker than water or some such nonsense - then I'd say don't inflict that on your family!

ImTooHecsyForYourParty Fri 12-Jul-13 07:02:52

hmm I have GOT to start writing shorter posts.

CogitoErgoSometimes Fri 12-Jul-13 07:35:43

These people live in a whole other country, we're talking about a one or two day visit and mostly the relationship is conducted on the phone. It's hardly like they're going to be living in each others' pockets, interfering with each other's lives on a daily basis and if, by making this trip, the OP can go home feeling like she at least tried to facilitate better relations, I don't see the problem. I think everyone should keep a sense of perspective rather than leaping straight on the 'no contact' bandwagon. 'Jaw jaw rather than war war'?

WinkyWinkola Fri 12-Jul-13 07:40:49

If it makes you happy, go for it.

But is this behaviour their norm? It sounds dreadful if it is.

I'm all for family but if my family behaves badly, they get very short shift from me.

Personally, I couldn't care less who you are to me but you behave well towards me and mine or that's that. Life's too short.

Having said that, if your parents are showing signs of trying to make amends (or are you doing all the running?) then give them another chance.

Don't let them make you or your ds unhappy though.

AttilaTheMeerkat Fri 12-Jul-13 07:41:55

I would like to know some more about the exact nature of the parents apology; it may have well not been meant and perhaps even along the lines of, "well we've now said sorry to you so what more do you want ?".

Emotionally healthy families want to make up, emotionally unhealthy and dysfunctional ones at heart want to continue the same old patterns of behaviour.

CogitoErgoSometimes Fri 12-Jul-13 08:05:23

Which means the OP is emotionally healthy.... surely? Having grown up in a home where we were distanced from great swathes of my DM's family I can see both sides of the argument. The person causing all the problems was pretty awful it's true, but the situation was made far worse by the 'Allied Pacts' which meant that no contact with one automatically excluded lots of others. Those who had married into the family, like the OP's DH, had no motivation to change matters. So with no-one talking and no-one backing down it became like one of those ridiculous neighbour disputes where, forty years down the track and with the original troublemaker long dead, no-one can actually remember what the original problem was.

JessicaBeatriceFletcher Fri 12-Jul-13 08:27:20

You say you have tried to maintain good relationships with them (for whatever reason). I'd like to know what efforts THEY have made with you after their apology before being in the "go see them" or "don't go see them" camp.

As things stand, I think your DH is behaving admirably. He defended you at the time and is obviously being protective of you. I think in his shoes (as they insulted him as well as you) I think I'd be behaving as he is - not having a problem with you going if you wish but not wishing to go himself.

FamilyStrife Fri 12-Jul-13 08:38:51

Cogito - I feel myself drifting towards your point of view. No, as others point out, my motivation for meeting them is not a good one, it's mainly guilt or FOG but also a ridiculously blind optimism that they will love my DS somehow and be nice to him and be that Werthers Original grandparent. I know that. On the other hand, I tried the 'no contact' thing facilitated by us living far away anyway, something that i have never done before with them, something that is totally 100% against my culture and values, and look what happened? My father almost died.

Atilla so glad you have posted back as I love your advice to people on here, it is always sensible. Their apology was partly genuine at the time in that they really did regret having ruined their visit to see their first grandchild by throwing a tantrum. At the same time though I could tell from talking to them that while they knew that it's unreasonable to scream and shout at someone in their home, deep down they seemed to think I had 'brought it on myself' by being such a difficult person(!). I have a very short fuse, you see, and get too impatient, apparently (pot calling kettle black).

I asked them once: 'would you have liked it if my grandparents had come into the house after my eldest brother was born and screamed at you like that?' My father said 'well, no, but we never gave them any cause to fall out with us". That reply said it all to me.

It is hard to explain but basically my father is a very selfish person. His needs always came first in our family and we spent much of our childhood overshadowed by his temper. My mother is his enabler saying 'oh, you know Dad, he gets contrary now and again heh heh'. When I was a teenager, he was horrible to me. As an independent adult, he had learned to respect me and we had found a way to relate to each other, or so I thought.

The bust-up after the birth was like a flashback to my teenage years. They talked to me in my own house like I was 14 years old again, despite me being the mother of my own child at that point. It all revolved around them getting the wrong end of the stick, convinced I was snubbing them or disrespecting them. I was really hurt to realize that they thought so little of me or knew me and my DH so little that they thought I would be like that. The whole thing just brought home to me that in their eyes they still didn't recognize that I was a grown woman and all my work at building a more mature, respectful relationship with them had been a waste of time.

On the other hand... when my DH travels on business, they are the only people who always call me. They call me to check about my DS when he's sick. I know they miss me and would love to see DS. I don't get anything much from the relationship with them anymore though as the relationship I thought I had with them was obviously just a sham as they had not really changed at all underneath the facade of niceness.

Sorry this is getting to long...

CogitoErgoSometimes Fri 12-Jul-13 08:48:11

Your father nearly dying wasn't a consequence of the bad feeling, of course. Purely a coincidence. But sometimes, it takes that 'life's too short' crisis moment for everyone to drop their pride and hurt and start talking. I know my DM took it as a personal slight for a long, long time that I moved to the other end of the country. She felt I was rejecting her specifically rather than - what I was actually doing - making a better life for myself. Even now when I visit their house (that I have not lived in for 30 years) she refers to it as 'coming home'.' It's a case of doing what you feel is best and maintaining your self-respect at the same time.

JessicaBeatriceFletcher Fri 12-Jul-13 08:49:13

1) The fact your father nearly died has NOTHING to do with your going 'no contact' with them for a while. One was not the cause of the other.

2) You say your father is selfish and your mother is an enabler. He was horrible to you as a teenager. Your DS doesn't need grandparents like that.

3) Your final sentence I think says it all: "I don't get anything much from the relationship with them anymore though as the relationship I thought I had with them was obviously just a sham as they had not really changed at all underneath the facade of niceness"

You wouldn't allow this to continue if they weren't family. If friends were like this, you'd have no more to do with them. They say you choose your friends but not your family. True. But you can choose not to have anything more to do with your family. In your case, I wouldn't bother with them. Sorry if that sounds harsh.

FamilyStrife Fri 12-Jul-13 08:50:49

And yes, Atillia re what you say about their apology - I think ultimately they just want to continue their old dysfunctional ways of behaving.

Re how my sister gets along with them, she just lets them continue in their usual pattern of behavior. It's harder for her because she's single. They regularly come and stay with her and treat her house like their own holiday home, complaining about things and criticizing her. She puts up with it because she feels she needs them more. There is a slightly unpleasant element in my family in that none of my siblings has got married or had children except me. The others all still behave like teenagers, emotionally immature. It's like they're trapped in my parents' emotional jail or something. It is really not a healthy family set-up but when I think back about my childhood, I can't really put my finger on anything too egregious. It's just weird, like my parents wove their own little bubble around us as kids and only I have broken through it fully.

One other thing: my DH is under a huge amount of pressure in his job and is the sole earner right now, working very long hours etc, so this is also an issue as he feels he doesn't have the emotional energy to deal with any strife on his only 10 days of vacation this year. I do feel for him in that way and want him to have a relaxing fun holiday not be harangued by a pair of lunatics.

Just questioning whether I have the mental strength to deal with being harangued by the pair by myself! I am thinking I will meet with them but ask them to come up and stay with my sister (which they do love to do anyway!) so we only meet in her house with her around. Then at least I have an ally in the room. It just seems so dysfunctional though that my DH will never see my parents again. He is right, I know, but I just wish he wasn't.

ComtessedeFrouFrou Fri 12-Jul-13 08:51:26

I know it's hard but you must try to disassociate your DF's illness with the disagreement - you DID NOT cause that and you must not say "look what happened". The two are completely unrelated.

I totally get that you want to try and make something of whatever relationship there is - its tough to think of family ties being broken forever. And guilt isn't necessarily the worst reason. But it mustn't become the only reason or you will go round like this in circles for years. If you have a warm, happy reunion with your family, great, perhaps you can put the hurt and upset behind you. But don't hesitate to pick them up on their behaviour if they start trying it on again.

FamilyStrife Fri 12-Jul-13 09:01:41

Thanks Comtesse and Jessica: rationally I know of course that the two events are not related. Irrationally in my superstitious brainwashed by my religious nutter parents brain however I feel like this was a judgement from god. This is nonsense as I am an atheist now but that's how it feels. 'Honour thy father and mother' etc.

I am carrying a huge ton of guilt around with me and I would like to be rid of it. Don't know if this visit will get rid of it but at least I might be able to wipe the slate clean so if my parents do get sick again or die then I can say - hopefully - that we parted on good terms.

ComtessedeFrouFrou Fri 12-Jul-13 09:44:12

Ah. Now we start to get to the crux of it. Amazing how a splash of religion can be a weapon to bludgeon your offspring with, isn't it.

The key tenets of most major religions is mutual respect and tolerance. Sounds like a little mutuality on your parents' part wouldn't go amiss.

HotDAMNlifeisgood Fri 12-Jul-13 10:01:42

I agree with your husband. I think he is very wise to have chosen not to interact with your parents anymore, and he is also very wise to let you make your own decisions. I understand why he is worried about you being with them for 2 days. I am too. You are still fueled by misplaced hopes about what kind of parents/grandparents they could be. But they are not: they are selfish people, and they are not a positive factor in your life, and unlikely to be one in your son's life either.

It's ok not to see people whose company you find difficult or unpleasant. Even if they are related to you.

Lweji Fri 12-Jul-13 10:54:18

Thinking of your DC, I would visit but not stay with them.
As things are, why don't you see them for a meal, then stay another few hours if it goes well?

Lweji Fri 12-Jul-13 10:55:56

On the other hand, I have had bust ups with my mother, including one when she visited 2 weeks after DS was born.

We get along and I can even spend a couple of weeks on holiday with them.
I think it's doable, but I think it works out best when you've told them loud and clear that you won't put up with their tantrums.

AttilaTheMeerkat Fri 12-Jul-13 11:10:23


Your father's stay in hospital and the disagreement they had with you are not connected in any way. You fully need to believe that. Your parents chose to act as they did towards you in your home because this is fundamentally how they are personality wise. You did not cause them to act the way they did, they did that themselves. Emotionally stable people anyway (and those not into histrionics unlike your mother) do not moan about the placement of cards for one thing. Your dad is still selfish and your mother is still his willing enabler. She will continue to put him above you as children now adults and this is still happening.

You go to them even at your sister's house at your emotional peril. Your sister won't be able to back you up because she is in FOG still herself and your DH will not be there to protect you from their onslaught once they get going. They do not like you because you are not theirs to control any more. they likely still see you as "difficult". All these behaviours are par for the course when it comes to such inherently difficult and toxic people.

Meeting such inherently toxic people out of a mix of guilt and societal convention (parents would like their own child to have a nice and stable relationship with their grandparents. However, not all grandparents however are nice and loving and it is certainly a mistake to assume or even hope that they will behave better around your son) is a bad move and I can certainly see why your H has backed off completely from wanting to see them again. Protecting your own mental health and sanity is far more important.

I would also suggest you read "Toxic Parents" written by Susan Forward and "Children of the Self Absorbed" by Nina W Brown.

Thank you for your kind comment written earlier, I felt quite humbled reading such nice words.

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