My immediate apologies to folks who are kind enough to read this. I thought I would post here to avoid actually sending an email I may regret or worse a phone call I may regret. Mostly this is a personal therapy post. If you are having in-law issues you may get a laugh, or at least know you are not alone. No need to read this giant essay, I'm just trying to put it out there to let it go.
Background - Mental Health
SIL in all likelihood has some undiagnosed mental health issues. I don't say this lightly. We have a history of bi-polar in our family and I have watched and supported friends and family with bi-polar and clinical depression. Unfortunately, SIL has a family doctor who is happy to throw her whatever pills she requests for depression or anxiety or whatever without ever suggesting that she actually see a psychiatrist who could more effectively diagnose and treat her.
SIL meets all of the markers of someone who has a serious mental health disease.
- She has struggled with addictions
- She has no long term relationships (friendships, work relationships or romantic relationships)
- Her relationships with her family are heavily strained (most of the family will not associate with her)
- She cannot sustain long-term employment
- She has no support network.
At one point she did become suicidal, we were successful in referring her to a local free counseling program where she felt supported for a short time until the counselor began to suggest some behaviour modification in addition to the prescriptions he was securing for her. At this point she stopped counseling.
Background - Personal Relationships
SIL has had a habit of creating a villain out of one of the family members every few years. When I first met her it was an aunt (who we now haven't seen in a decade), then an uncle, then her mother (who is still in touch) and then a few years ago it was me.
She started by saying I was too opinionated. She asked me to avoid certain topics while around her (politics, religion - the big ones). I did so. Then she said that I used too many big words and it made her feel threatened. So I modified my vocabulary. Then she said that she needed a 'safe word' with me so that if I was making her uncomfortable she could use it and I would stop whatever I was doing. I agreed to this.
Visits with SIL became painful for us both as I withdrew into myself and she continued to be unhappy. In 2009 she called shortly before family Christmas and gave me a 20 minute rant about what a terrible person I am, and how she was having a lot of anxiety around having to see me at Christmas. I told her it sounded like it was a good idea if I skipped the family Christmas, that DP would attend but I would make sure I was not there. At this point she did a 180 and told me that I was ruining family Christmas by not going...
I did take that Christmas off. And the entire next year. I was hoping the distance would help cool things down. When we tried to approach her a year later she was still angry. We decided in October 2011 to invite her to one event per month to try to show her we were still interested in a relationship with her. The events were always:
- in a public place so she didn't feel threatened by me.
- with a large group of people so that she didn't have to see me one-to-one
- with no fixed start or end time so she didn't have to worry about being on our schedule.
- always sent by DP (not me) so that she didn't have to receive unwanted communications from me.
For six months we got varying levels of response. Some positive, some negative but she never showed up.
In March of 2012 my younger brother passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. It was a terrible blow to my family. MIL and SIL showed up for the obligatory viewing, but skipped the funeral, the memorial and have not shown any other support.
What's going on now?
Since my brother passed, SIL has been responding to all of DPs invites in a positive way, she will emphasize how important it is to see him and how much she wants to see him. She'll even tell him about plans she is making to attend. (I should add we live 40 minutes apart). And, consistently she has not shown up.
I think the most painful no-shows for DP were these last few weeks. At the end of August we had a major convention that DP was participating in (he does every year, it's a big deal for him), she sent several emails about her plans to attend, which events to go to etc... etc... And then, as always, was a complete no-show. Not even an email before or after to explain her absence.
This past weekend was DP's birthday. Again, not even so much as a Facebook 'happy birthday' from her.
The biggest problem for DP seems to be that MIL continues to find it necessary to make excuses for SIL's absence. She'll say things that make it sound like she would have been here but this emergency just came up this one time. This has been going on since 2009.
So why are you writing this post?
Personal therapy mostly. Thank you again.
DP's family is a 'sweep-it-under-the-rug-pretend-it-doesn't-exist' family. He has thankfully grown out of this thinking himself, except where his family is concerned.
So much of me wants to tell MIL to just stop making the excuses. It's really hurtful when every time we schedule a visit with her she first tells us she will check with SIL's schedule and then inevitably tells us how sorry she is that SIL can't make it. Sometimes she'll have us reschedule multiple times to try to accommodate SIL who never shows up anyways.
We're okay that we may never be able to repair things with SIL, that we are just going to have to wait for her to come around in her own time, and that time may be never. But, if we are going to continue to have a sane relationship with MIL we need her to be okay just seeing us and not pretending like she's going to orchestrate a big family reunion that is unlikely to ever happen.
I'm sure MIL isn't doing this maliciously. I'm sure she is hoping that SIL will come round, this time, maybe... but it's been three years and we're about to tell her about the baby and I feel like I've spent the whole of the relationship for the last ten years dancing around SIL's various perceived need and I need that to stop.
Thank you internet for listening.