She's never said it, but I can tell and I've been able to tell for years. There were a couple of times that I said or did something that offended her, and I called and apologized, but I kinda resented having to make the apologies. She misunderstood things I said (that were passed on through other people) and flew into a rage without speaking to me first. But those instances happened years ago and there's been a growing gap between us for a long time. She's great with my kids and I'm glad they have an aunt who is loving and interested in their lives, but she treats me like chopped liver. As my kids get older they're going to become more aware of this strange contradiction. At least my dd will.
I skipped out on a family get together at SIL's house last year and dh got several calls and texts from various family members about why I wasn't coming. He ended up getting really angry about it. Next time I know not to tell anyone ahead of time that I'm too busy and stressed to go out of town. Our baby ended up being sick at the time of this get together so I had to stay home anyway and I wished I had just stayed silent in the first place.
My niece's birthday party is coming up and I feel a little sick to my stomach about going to SIL's house. I wish I could just send the kids with dh and that would be acceptable. I want my kids to see their cousins because they have a great time together and dh enjoys being with his family (up to a point.) Why do I have to go? Dh's parents are nice to me, but I feel uncomfortable the whole time. From the moment we walk in the door it starts. SIL greets my children each personally and she doesn't even say hello to me as I stand there with them. I'm just sick of it. She doesn't need to like me, but I wish I didn't have to be subjected to spending a day or two at her house.
Hmmmm....sounds to me like you've already figured it out! Don't go! If you feel like this person undermines your role as Mother to your kids, deal with it from afar. I wouldn't relish a relationship like that in my own children's lives (and do have a similar set up), but you have to decide what your own boundaries are. Some people would be secure in telling their own kids 'Obviously SIL doesn't like me, but I don't really care and she likes you, so as long as you have a good time, it's OK with me'.
My SIL & I don't care for each other. For close to a year, I avoided going to my IL's house if she was there. This was after a really ugly fight, and I just told my ILs that I needed time to decompress from being around her. After a while, I was better able to determine my own boundaries, which made it easier for me to go. Now, I know that if I go, she'll still be the person she is. There's nothing I can do, so I only go if I'm willing to deal with that. If I find that I'm not in the mood one weekend or another, then I just don't visit. DH can go with the kids without me. For me, it was all about making myself important. I felt terrible after every interaction for a long time, though she never felt that way. So, in the end, I was angry and frustrated while everyone else was fine. That just didn't seem fair to me, and once I accepted that *I* matter, too, then it was easier to decide what to do and handle family fallout from that direction.
Sounds tough, mama!
When you say your DH got really angry, was he angry with you or his meddling family members? I can't imagine why they would presume to put themselves in the middle of something like that, and there's nothing wrong with saying so.
I think your SIL sounds like she is being very rude to you. She doesn't have to like you but she does have to be civil if she wants any kind of relationship with your family. Personally, I think if she ignored me I'd call her on it politely, but in front of everyone so there was no possibility of a "misunderstanding" later.
"Aren't you going to say hello, [SIL]? We came all this way to see you!" *warm smile*
"Hi, [SIL]. How are you?" If she ignores you after that, she only makes herself look petty and rude, which is a good reason to go into,
"Are you angry about something? Want to talk about it?" If she ignores you after that, she's being ridiculously childish and it's time to gather the children and leave.
It's very rude to ignore your guests. If she can't be basically decent, why bother going at all? Surely her behavior is not setting a very good example for your children, and they shouldn't see you treated like garbage by anyone, let alone a family member. Very unhealthy, no matter how much they love their cousins.
People who play mind games need secrecy and triangulation (having other relatives be their bulldog, going through a third party to air grievances, etc.), so the best defense is total openness. If your behavior is always impeccably polite and friendly, they can't get away with bad behavior nearly as easily. And it feels good to take the high road, even if the good feeling doesn't come until (much) later.
Loving wife and mama to my sweet little son (Fall 2008) and a beautiful baby girl (Fall 2010)
When a stupid man is doing something he is ashamed of, he always declares that it is his duty. --George Bernard Shaw
I like Peainthepod's response, I had a similar conclusion.
Yes, this. Your SIL doesn't even need to be doing this consciously. Is she older than you, does she feel superior to you because of what you've had to apologize for? If so, be super aware of this dynamic when you're with her. You can politely and powerfully advocate for yourself.
You're right, she doesn't have to like you, but why shouldn't she? Find out what's going on her head, don't presume you already know. Who knows, there may be a great big misunderstanding between the two of you.
And yeah, it's not clear from your post who your dh was angry with.
Thanks for all of your responses. To clarify, my dh was angry with his family members for badgering him, not with me.
I like the suggestion of total openness, but I think it will be hard for me. I already feel insecure and defensive around dh's family. I wish I could just not go to the family gatherings and be ok with that, but it would upset both my children and my MIL, who has always been very helpful to me.
I don't think SIL is angry with me at present, I just don't think she cares for my company. She does talk to me during our visit and sometimes is relaxed and friendly, but the initial arrival is so bizarre. I've never arrived at someone's house before and had them not say hello when I come in the door. And it happens at her house and when she's at her mom's house and we arrive!
I don't think SIL likes the fact that we parent differently from the way she and BIL do. The only other thing I can think of is that she still harbors anger from the two past incidents. One was when she called and asked dh if I could watch her 1 y.o. while she and BIL went to a funeral. She told dh that if I couldn't she'd just bring her son with her. When dh asked, I was in the shower holding my slippery 7 month old and was totally frazzled at the end of a horrible evening spent with a creepy, unstable friend's husband. I was at a hard point in my life then. I was struggling with taking care of two small children on my own all day and looking back I think I also had some PPD going on. I never spoke to SIL on the phone while I was in the shower or at all that night. Dh asked if I had anything going on during the next day and I said I couldn't remember. He asked if I wanted to check my calendar when I got out of the shower and I said I would and would call her back. That was the wrong thing to say. It was really, really offensive to SIL and she truly changed in her demeanor toward me after that. I learned that I was supposed to say, "Yes, of course I'll watch him no matter what we have planned." When she said she'd bring him along to the funeral, she wasn't being honest. She really wanted me to watch him and couldn't believe that I'd check my calendar. I felt like I was barely keeping my head above water with two kids and I needed a moment to think and figure out if we had anything going on that would prevent me from being able to watch 3 children under 3 years old. After I got out of the shower I did look at the calendar and told dh that I could watch him. But SIL was already furious and had asked her sister to watch her son. I apologized.
The second incident was when I sent an email asking her if at Thanksgiving we could have the kids only bring toys (to MIL and FIL's house) that they were willing to share with all of their cousins. I wrote something about dd being sad that toys kept being pulled out of her hands because they were special toys that only her one cousin could use. I actually discussed writing the email with a friend because I wanted to do it right and not offend SIL. I should've called instead of emailing, because it's hard to read someone's tone in an email sometimes. Anyway, SIL was livid again and sent me a very angry response. I apologized again.
I'm tired of trying to please her. I'm sure she talks behind my back because she criticizes BIL's sisters and her own sister to me. I just don't have a desire to work on a relationship with her anymore. I'm glad she has a positive relationship with my kids and with dh, but I just want to be left out of things.
just stop trying to please her. common sense says not to bring some super special toy, that no one else can touch, to a family get together. and common sense says that people cannot always drop everything to watch your ~*~precious~*~ child.
she is being nuts. i can understand being annoyed- slightly, umm maybe? but furious? livid?
My SIL and I do not get along at all either (and don't get me started on one of DH's cousins) but I am lucky that I rarely have to see them. Maybe because of this I could honestly care less about those relationships. I just have no investment at all. This is probably good, because SIL and I are so completely different that we even have to tread lightly while talking about the weather.
I think you are giving your SIL too much power over your comfort. I know that this is easy for me to say, but it really appears to be the case. You are going to her house, yes, but can you find something else to focus on...like the fact that she serves really good coffee or crumpets or something? Then you have something to look forward to rather than an onerous task ahead of you. I have to use this technique for all the family functions I go to because I find them pretty excruciating...but there is always good coffee at the end lol.
Also it sounds like these functions are quite long (do you seriously have to spend two day there?). Would your DH be amiable if you agreed in advance to limit your time there...say agree to leave at 8pm rather than whenever the party winds down? I have had to do this with family stuff because otherwise I really feel trapped. Setting a leaving time in advance makes me feel like I have more control over the situation from the get go. Which makes me panic less as the darn party looms.
Stop apologizing to your SIL. Neither of those examples you gave required an apology, so it just further encourages her to treat you like the inferior you both seem to believe you are. Never apologize unless you have done something wrong.
I very well could be wrong but the way you talk about this gives me the strong impression that there is some sort of superior/inferior dynamic between you both. You say you already feel insecure and defensive around his family (are you having issues with someone else besides the SIL?). No doubt your SIL is picking up on this vibe. Your feelings affect your actions. If you act insecure and defensive then she will feel free to be aggressive and offensive with you.
Yes, being very open might be hard, at first. But you're definitely unhappy with the status quo. It gets easier with practice. It's a worth while investment.
Ditto this. And ditto to PPs saying you didn't do anything that needed apologizing for, either time. I do think it was good of you to apologize, because sometimes that can smooth ruffled feathers. But from now on I'd keep your distance, keep things simple and polite when you're around her, and if she starts some nonsense with you again, don't let her get away with it- tell her it's unacceptable, and ask your DH to back you up as necessary. Enough's enough!
SAHM to 6.5yo DS and 4yo DD. PCOS with two early m/cs. Married 8 yrs. Certified birth doula, writer, editor.
Some stuff I like:
Thanks again for all the new replies.
I never really thought about feeling inferior before. She might see me that way, but I guess I feel more undeserving than inferior. My parents are both elderly and in nursing facilities. I take care of them as much as possible and there's no way they can help me out with my kids. My MIL and FIL have helped me out a lot with babysitting over the past 6 years. I've always felt guilty and undeserving because I'm a SAHM and I wonder if I should really need that help. Both SILs are working moms and their parents help out with their kids while they're at work and also when they go away on vacations without kids. I've always assumed that they resent me taking up their parents' time when I don't work outside the home. They've never said this, so I might be projecting my guilty feelings on them.
Also, my SILs are kind of on a team that I'm not part of. They usually plan get-togethers that work for their schedules and then invite our family to come along. If it doesn't work for our family, we're SOL because we weren't consulted on the timing. I've more than once had to hide from my kids the fact that their cousins are in town or that they went to some amusement park without us because we already had plans.
Oh, and both SIL and MIL have made comments about how my divorced SIL's ex-husband wasn't a *real* uncle to our kids because he wasn't blood related to them. Which, of course, means that I'm not a *real* aunt to my SILs' kids.
I don't think my SILs value what I have to say, either. When I tell them that their car seats are improperly installed or expired, they get defensive and explain why they're doing what they're doing. When I said the same thing to friends they actually took me seriously. When I talk with SIL she often stops to talk to someone or do something right in the middle of me talking and then never comes back to listen to the rest of my sentence. It's weird and I guess maybe it all relates to her viewing me as inferior. And then at other times she's friendly and helpful. It's very confusing.
Anyway, I'm going to focus on feeling equal to everyone in dh's family when we're together and even when we're apart. As much as I hate lots of driving in one day and my kids would like another day with their cousins, I think we'll go to and from SIL's house in one day without spending the night. I hate spending the night there, but my kids don't see their cousins a lot and I've just done it so they have more time together.
Also, I've been a little passive aggressive in the past and I need to stop that.
My posts are so long on this topic! Thanks for reading.