Another awful visit with Aunt & Uncle--update #39 - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 41 Old 01-19-2010, 04:02 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Some of you may remember my thread on this last July, describing how BIL & SIL treated 4 yo dd during a visit to our house:


http://www.mothering.com/discussions....php?t=1105539

We waited 7 months before trying to visit them again, this time at their house, counting on the fact that it would be easier for dd. Wow, did their true colours ever show. It was such a toxic environment that I have decided I don't ever want dd1 to see them again.

The irony is that she & her little cousin, now 2.5 had a great time together for the most part, giggling, chasing, playing fun games. That was the only good part of the visit. Lowlights include:

-BIL. He was a complete and utter a** for the first 20 mins we were there, hovering over dd and constantly correcting her even when she wasn't doing anything. After 20 mins of that I lost it & told dp to talk to him. She told him to lay off dd1, not to be sarcastic with her (a big problem in the past, when he would make 'jokes' that were hurtful and went over her head) and to be nice to her. How did he respond? He STOPPED talking to her AT ALL. My heart broke watching dd1 try and engage him, even say hello or good morning to him, only for him to IGNORE her. Dd2 would toddle by and he would coo and fuss over her, but would ignore dd1. I am livid thinking about this.

-Both dp & I now strongly suspect that BIL does not view dd1 as his 'real niece'. Let me give a bit of background: we are a same-sex couple, married for 10 years. Dd1 is my biochild, Dd2 is dp's biochild. They are BOTH equally our children, we are their moms, legally and in every other sense, always has been always will be. BIL, due to his religious beliefs, disapproves of our relationship, and he treated me as a 2nd class family member for years. We THOUGHT this was largely resolved, but it appears he is instead displacing it onto his 4yo niece. I have no words for how angry this makes me.

-MIL seemed to be anxious that dd1 would offend BIL & SIL and as a result, hovered over, constantly correcting her (even when dp & I were right there!) and negatively comparing her to her cousin, who was clearly the favoured child. MIL is not normally like this, she is usually a loving grandma who can be a bit overbearing, but not too bad. This past weekend? She was TOXIC.

-SIL to her credit was much nicer, though she didn't voluntarily engage with any of our kids, playing, talking to them etc. But at least she responded warmly to them. She has other issues with dp & I (similar to BIL) but at least she was civil.

So that's it. I am DONE with BIL. But it is hard to think of walking away from my girls only cousin, the adorable 2.5 yo neice who we love very much. I will NOT expose my dd to her only uncle again though.

And I'm not sure how to resolve things with MIL, I am really really mad at her as well, but she does not respond well to negative feedback at all, and I don't even know where to start.

thanks for letting me vent.
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#2 of 41 Old 01-19-2010, 04:06 PM
 
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Wow, that's just horrible all around. I'm glad DD has you & DP as parents, though, because sometimes it can be hard to protect your kids from family but it sounds like you are both on the same page regarding how they need to treat your kids.


 

 

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#3 of 41 Old 01-19-2010, 04:16 PM
 
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Oh yuck. I think in your shoes I would choose to not have any contact anymore.

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#4 of 41 Old 01-19-2010, 04:27 PM - Thread Starter
 
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thanks for the affirmation.

In all my venting, I forgot to add a question: Do you think we should try to process/explain any of this to dd? She is a very perceptive kid, very sensitive. I think she likely picked up on all the tension & negativity. I'm really unsure as to whether I should say something, and risk making her think about it or giving her more to be upset about. But I also worry that by ignoring it or not mentioning it, she may be suffering in silence. I asked her if she had fun she said she liked that her baby dd wasn't getting into stuff so she had more attention (But I think she took that from some comments we made on how well childproofed their place is).

What do you think?
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#5 of 41 Old 01-19-2010, 04:31 PM
 
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Absolutely explain to her. Then as your children get older, make sure they both understand what kind of boundaries are in place with their aunt and uncle and why.

She already senses the climate -- they both do -- and having it addressed in a way that respects their age and temperament is the most loving thing to do.

I am so furious for all of you.

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#6 of 41 Old 01-19-2010, 04:42 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks Maria...you're right, that makes sense, I'm sure they do both sense the climate.
Any ideas as to how to explain this to them in a way they would understand? It just makes me sick thinking about it.
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#7 of 41 Old 01-19-2010, 04:50 PM
 
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Oh my goodness!

How in the world would a 4yo OFFEND a grown man?!

What a horrible situation. How sad that SIL is the nice one for being warm to your children, if not actually engaging with them. Sigh.

Please keep your kids away from these people. They'll be fine without their cousin. At the very least, her presence isn't going to make up for the torture these people are putting your kids through.

Goodness.
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#8 of 41 Old 01-19-2010, 04:57 PM
 
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We had religious differences with extended family and just tried to make mild general statements when our (adult) kids were younger (we kept it shorter and at intervals): "Aunt X and Uncle Y are very scared and sad about Topic Z. This keeps them from behaving kindly towards someone who is / does ABC. We miss spending time with them and hope we can again when they're able to respect our family."

Then invite your niece to come over without them.

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#9 of 41 Old 01-19-2010, 05:21 PM
 
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I'm afraid I'd have to say goodbye to any relationship with these people. They obviously are not a healthy couple for your children to be around! I would just explain to dd that her aunt and uncle are mad at you and dp because they don't like that she has 2 mommies, and sadly they took it out on her which wasn't very nice. Simple, to the point and accurate. Unfortunately she may encounter that in the future somewhere along the way, and by addressing it matter of factly rather than dwelling on it or ignoring it, you set the stage for her in the future that that's just how some people are and it's not your family's problem if that makes any sense.

I know you want her to have a relationship with her cousin, but you really need to think about that as well here. Kids learn what they hear at home until they're teens at a the earliest. Your neice is going to hear your BIL's comments after you leave, see the negativity, etc. and it probably won't be long before she picks up on it. This would not be a healthy playmate for your dd to have once that happens. Better imo to not foster a frienship now than have it get really ugly for your dd down the road.

As for MIL, I'd just have dp simply tell her that your family won't be visiting with BIL any longer as the way your dd was treated by everyone in the house was unacceptable and leave it at that. She'll get the hint if she is aware of how she was acting, but this isn't pointing a finger and saying "YOU did this" and getting her on the defensive.

I'm so sorry. People are just rude and insensitive sometimes.
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#10 of 41 Old 01-19-2010, 07:04 PM - Thread Starter
 
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thanks for the helpful suggestions on how to explain this, Maria & SunshineJ.
It's ironic, you know. I haven't had to address homophobia with my girls yet, because we choose our friends & playmates at the moment and we are currently homeschooling so it hasn't been an issue. How sad that we need to address because of a family member. But it's so true that it would be better to give an explanation than have poor dd thinking it was somehow her fault.....

And yes, I agree that we should cut off contact. It is much harder & more painful for dp because this is her brother, her only sibling, her dad died 32 years ago and they had been close. And MIL tends to get very defensive of him....golden child and all that. But it is the right thing to do, I think.
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#11 of 41 Old 01-19-2010, 07:41 PM
 
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i'm sorry you've had to deal with all this!

i just wanted to chime in with some thoughts about growing up without a relationship to an aunt and uncle and two cousins that live nearby.

basically, my aunt is crazy... always has been, always will be. fortunately not cruel or hateful, but definitely not a healthy person to be around, which is evidenced by BOTH her children being in intensive hospital care at one time or another for severe pyschological problems and disorders (including anorexia). personally, i'm glad my mom decided to stop trying to have a relationship with them. she kept things very neutral when we were younger and did see them more frequently (like once every couple of years, as opposed to now... where i've seen them once in 12 years)... but i certainly knew something was wrong with her and their whole family dynamic, and my mom was as honest as she could be without giving us unnecessary information. it was stressful and unpleasant for me to be at their house, and i knew that from a very young age.

i feel bad about the loss of a potential relationship, but not the actual one... like, i wish i had a normal aunt and uncle that lived close by so i could have cousins to interact with, but i never regret not having any relationship with those people as they are. my mom still tries once in a while, especially with her nieces, but nothing has ever really come of it.

your daughter will absolutely be ok without this negative influence in her life. when she is older and can fully understand it, she will be even more ok with it. at that point, she might try to reach out to her cousin, and if that works out, it'll be great, but i don't think anyone will really mourn the loss of this relationship as it is right now.
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#12 of 41 Old 01-19-2010, 07:52 PM
 
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I think you are absolutely correct in not exposing DD 1 to any more cr@p. It is toxic and that stays with a person for a lifetime. I liked Maria's suggestion of having your neice over, maybe even for sleepovers at some point....I think that would be a good way of keeping the cousins in contact with each other without all the drama. As for MIL, my tw cents is to let the situation die down a bit and then have DP address her about it. It's her parent, and she probably needs to be the one to bring it up.

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#13 of 41 Old 01-19-2010, 08:01 PM
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You mention that it will be painful to your dp to cut-off her brother. I wonder if that's necessary? It may be. I just wanted to offer the possibility that you and the children could cease contact while your dp does not.

Our situation is not nearly so fraught, but my ILs rather disapprove of me. So I virtually never talk with them and don't see them much. DH still talks with them fairly often. It works for us.


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#14 of 41 Old 01-19-2010, 08:11 PM
 
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"Let me give a bit of background: we are a same-sex couple, married for 10 years. Dd1 is my biochild, Dd2 is dp's biochild."

Oh. OH. It is now all disgustingly clear, their behavior. I'm so sorry you had to go through that.

In your shoes, I'd also cut off contact. There's nothing you can do to make your ILs treat your DD1 like a relative, but you can certainly make it clear that your family is package deal, and they don't get to choose which children to acknowledge.
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#15 of 41 Old 01-19-2010, 08:51 PM
 
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That is horrendous behaviour and you should not subject your dd to that at all.

That said, getting creative to find ways to spend time with your niece as she grows may be worth. I say this as someone who grew up in a very small-minded environment and will forever be thankful that other people stayed in my life and showed me a better mindset.
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#16 of 41 Old 01-20-2010, 10:41 PM
 
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I am returning this thread. Please remember our User Agreement to post respectfully towards other members. Thank you for your cooperation.

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#17 of 41 Old 01-21-2010, 01:10 AM - Thread Starter
 
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thanks for bringing back the thread. I am still sick over the whole thing. But I feel clear that I do not want dd to see them again (unless there is concrete evidence of change & recognition of their behaviour & it roots....which is a lot to ask for!). The implications of this are hard though. MIL would be heartbroken if we did this, even though the reality is we don't see them very often, and see her much much more often.

I still haven't talked to dd but plan to do so soon as I really feel this is important.
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#18 of 41 Old 01-21-2010, 06:31 AM
 
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I'm so sorry you have to deal with this. In my opinion, the best thing you can do for your family is to cut off contact with them. My TWIN sister perpetually treated my children like that, even worse at times. We briefly stopped talking to them in October of 2008 and then tried again in 2009, after she flew into a rage when I asked her to speak to my children in a decent way. She cursed and screamed at us (in my car) and when I asked her about it 5 months later, she blamed US for the way she acted. She said my 5 yr old son pushed her buttons and he did XYZ to cause her to act like that. She refused to apologise. It broke my heart. In July of last year, she started cursing me about my dog (we were running late and he was outside) and it was the last straw. I watched her scream at my children when they got close to her the whole evening and then she intimidated my (then) 18 month old daughter. My little girl walked up to her and smiled at her and she stared at her so coldly and angrily that my little one got flustered and didn't know what to do or where to look. Ofcourse, she has no idea that I was watching her the whole evening. She cursed me and I told her exactly what I thought of her and her behaviour. We haven't spoken since. They showed up at my parents' place once when we were there and she started her lovey dovey attitude with my children ("How are you sweetie?" Blech!). I completely ignored her, packed up my family and left. My parents know better than to invite her over when we're there, or vice versa now.

It's not easy. But your children are more important than a relationship with family who can't treat them like human beings. Your BIL is immature and needs to grow up. {{ hugs }}
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#19 of 41 Old 01-21-2010, 12:46 PM
 
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((hug))

I don't have any good advice that hasn't already been given.

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#20 of 41 Old 01-21-2010, 02:58 PM
 
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thanks for bringing back the thread. I am still sick over the whole thing. But I feel clear that I do not want dd to see them again (unless there is concrete evidence of change & recognition of their behaviour & it roots....which is a lot to ask for!). The implications of this are hard though. MIL would be heartbroken if we did this, even though the reality is we don't see them very often, and see her much much more often.

I still haven't talked to dd but plan to do so soon as I really feel this is important.

I know this is hard. And I'm sure MIL is going to take it badly, but maybe you could explain it to her this way...no one would have any issues at all about you ceasing contacting with BIL if he were physically abusing or beating your DD. While he may not be hitting her, he is doing the same type of action, only with words and attitude instead of fists. The scars from this type of abuse often last a lifetime, especially when no action is taken to stop it. If MIL wants a big happy family, then she needs to address the source of the problem (BIL) and not hold the victims of it responsible.

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#21 of 41 Old 01-21-2010, 03:10 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks everyone. I really appreciate the support. I think dp & I may want to talk to someone else (maybe from our faith community etc.) to get some outside perspective & support. This is really, really bothering me & upsetting me 4 days later & dp, understandably, finds it hard to listen to me talk about it.
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#22 of 41 Old 01-21-2010, 03:32 PM
 
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As someone who has lots of entire family in-law issues myself I think it is a great idea to talk with someone. I'm also going to second a previous poster who said that you and your dc can cut off contact but that doesn't mean that your dp has to nor that it needs to be a big dramatic announcement. This is your dp's family and while they are not behaving in the way you want them to (ie loving, warm, accepting which are perfectly normal and healthy things to want a family to function as) that does not mean that your dp doesn't have unconditional love (not necessarily approval for the actions!) for them or that she shouldn't be in contact with them. Being dramatic and announcing you will not be part of dp's family does not build up your own family. Instead you deomnstrate to your perseptive children that love is conditional. That if they act poorly or have beliefs you do not agree with that love will be withdrawn from them. I think it is just fine to not see inlaws. You have a responsibility to do what is right for your children. But these are not relationships where you see these people on a daily/weekly basis. 7 months is a long time, especially to a child, you won't be radically changing anyone's life by not seeing them for a year or two. Maybe in that time with dp maintaining the relationship and sharing her point of view and expectations there will be room for getting together.
Perhaps you and she could write some emails about your experiences and sadness to bil/sil. By stating your experiences but acknowledging their beliefs and asking how you can all peacefully and lovingly coexist may help open their eyes.


Lots of families have inlaw issues for a variety of reasons. I am confident your family can find a way to protect your dc and allow your partner to have contact with her family. Tolerance and acceptance is a two way street that *most* families have to negotiate in big and small ways at almost every holiday/get together/phone call.

Take care,

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#23 of 41 Old 01-21-2010, 03:41 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for your perspective, Jenne. I find it really helpful. I really, really value family, and my role has normally been to support dp in building up her relationship with her family. MIL & I in particular have built up a good relationship over the years, that I feel can be restored. That said, I don't think it's okay to continue contact until we have evidence that they are understand the issues & are willing to change. Which is work that dp is going to have to do with BIL. I do think though that no matter what happens, we will be keeping visits short & not staying at the same place as them. They live near lots of other family & friends, so it would be easy to stay elsewhere & visit them briefly, in a public location. My priority number one is protecting my girls. But I do see that it might, just might be possible to negotiate something with them in the future. The irony is that in the past (prior to July) we were the ones who were pushing for a closer relationship...they always seemed content to see us or not see us and left us in charge of inviting them etc. So letting things slide could be quite easy without any dramatic announcements, as you say.
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#24 of 41 Old 01-22-2010, 01:18 PM
 
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I agree with this.

[QUOTE=SunshineJ;14953981]I'm afraid I'd have to say goodbye to any relationship with these people. They obviously are not a healthy couple for your children to be around! I would just explain to dd that her aunt and uncle are mad at you and dp because they don't like that she has 2 mommies, and sadly they took it out on her which wasn't very nice. Simple, to the point and accurate.

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#25 of 41 Old 01-23-2010, 03:33 AM
 
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So sorry your girls have had to witness this horrible behaviour. That would absolutely break my heart.

I agree that disowning them publicly is not helpful but I also think that perhaps a letter is in order reminding them that they're dealing with a CHILD and that whatever their personal beliefs may be that children are sacred and should be treated with love and respect.

I understand why your partner is uncomfortable with the topic, but I do feel that the offending parties need to understand that the way they've behaved toward DD1 is unacceptable.

We're working on this for our ILs too, who over the holidays decided that our three year old is out of control and that their house would be come a "no-touching" obstacle course. They have dogs and ask that we're understanding of them, but refuse to understand the developmental realities of a preschooler. ARGH.

I really hope you find some satisfaction in all of this, and that your DD feels loved as she DESERVES to feel.
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#26 of 41 Old 01-23-2010, 10:58 AM
 
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As someone who has lots of entire family in-law issues myself I think it is a great idea to talk with someone. I'm also going to second a previous poster who said that you and your dc can cut off contact but that doesn't mean that your dp has to nor that it needs to be a big dramatic announcement. This is your dp's family and while they are not behaving in the way you want them to (ie loving, warm, accepting which are perfectly normal and healthy things to want a family to function as) that does not mean that your dp doesn't have unconditional love (not necessarily approval for the actions!) for them or that she shouldn't be in contact with them. Being dramatic and announcing you will not be part of dp's family does not build up your own family. Instead you deomnstrate to your perseptive children that love is conditional. That if they act poorly or have beliefs you do not agree with that love will be withdrawn from them. I think it is just fine to not see inlaws. You have a responsibility to do what is right for your children. But these are not relationships where you see these people on a daily/weekly basis. 7 months is a long time, especially to a child, you won't be radically changing anyone's life by not seeing them for a year or two. Maybe in that time with dp maintaining the relationship and sharing her point of view and expectations there will be room for getting together.
Perhaps you and she could write some emails about your experiences and sadness to bil/sil. By stating your experiences but acknowledging their beliefs and asking how you can all peacefully and lovingly coexist may help open their eyes.
This is fantastic advice. There's definitely no need for a major announcement, and your partner can still have a relationship with her family. It also leaves the door open for future communication between all of you.

As for your daughter, she absolutely does not need to be around them. She's old enough to understand their rejection and to know that they don't care for her and that's just too hurtful for anybody.

I had a very similar situation, but I was much older when it happened. My stepfather's brother, his wife and his mother just don't like me. They decided to not like me from the first time they meet me when I was 14 years old. I was treated very coldly at their houses, often ignored and very often badmouthed. The last time I saw my "uncle" he refused to even speak or look at me for a whole weekend. It was decided at that time that there was just no reason for me to be involved with that part of the "family." My parents were still involved as much as they wanted to be, which frankly, wasn't all that much because of everything. Not seeing them anymore was an amazing relief.

I was a relatively confident teenager when this happened and completely understood that it really had nothing to do with me personally, that it was more their problem. I understood all the reasons they didn't like me (it boils down to them thinking I was a snob, you know, 'cause I liked books and did well in school--all of those "bad" things), but it was still very painful. To this day it still bothers me every so often, and it still smarts a little bit. I absolutely can't imagine being rejected in this way by "family" at a younger age. It's not a healthy situation and it can have a really long-term impact.

Candace - Mama to Molly (02/06), Max (06/08) and Maggie (03/10)
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#27 of 41 Old 01-23-2010, 12:00 PM
 
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Thanks for your perspective, Jenne. I find it really helpful. I really, really value family, and my role has normally been to support dp in building up her relationship with her family. MIL & I in particular have built up a good relationship over the years, that I feel can be restored.
Just thinking on this and I wonder if it would be useful to talk to your MIL and tell her how this is affecting your DD and maybe get her support for the next visit?
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#28 of 41 Old 01-23-2010, 12:42 PM
 
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First of all - {{hugs}} for having to live through such a situation. UGH. And bravo to you for not tolerating it.

Two, part of the challenge your family may have is that BIL/SIL may have no concept that their behavior is unusual or needs changing - afterall, if they knew they were misbehaving, one would presume they would correct it or address it. And you, the offended party, won't be able to raise it because they will most likely dismiss your complaints out of hand.

They clearly have deep homophobia (justified in their minds, perhaps, by their religion, but since I have known many deeply religious people who do not support homosexual relationships but who also would NEVER take it out on a child, I suspect the behavior is based on more run of the mill homophobia combined with disrespect for children).

People who treat children this way - who let their own issues and prejudices affect their interactions with children - I find really hard to deal with, period. For me, it a core religious and ethical belief that children be treated with respect and dignity, regardless of any other factors. It should not matter to him that your daughter is not (in his mind) his "real niece" or that he doesn't approve of your relationship. He needs to treat her as a person deserving of respect and dignity.

This may not be something they can fix, and if so, keep your daughter away as much as possible and/or teach her that this is HIS baggage, not hers. The pps had great advice on how to do this.

ON the other hand, if BIL has the quality of introspection, if someone like your MIL points it out to him, he may learn to treat your children with respect, even if he has deep issues with his sister's relationship/"lifestyle". I wouldn't hold my breath, but people do change sometimes.

I think your plan to limit exposure is a very good one. In addition to limitation of times, I would add dilution; make sure the times you are with them, other positive family members or friends are there. Many people behave their best if they have an audience, and you get "credit" for seeing them even if you in fact only spent 2 minutes saying hello and the rest of the time talking with more positive people.

Again, more power to you for addressing this issue now when your daughters are so young. They will learn so much from you and your partner fighting for them, AND trying to support their right to (healthy) extended family. Good luck.

You know the attributes for a great adult? Initiative, creativity, intellectual curiosity? They make for a helluva kid...
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#29 of 41 Old 01-23-2010, 01:45 PM
 
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Why would your dp want a relationship with people that treat her partner and children like that? Her priority should be you and your children, that's who comes first. If dh put his family of origin who treated me and my kids like crap over me and my kids, there would be some serious problems.
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#30 of 41 Old 01-23-2010, 01:46 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jenne View Post
Being dramatic and announcing you will not be part of dp's family does not build up your own family. Instead you deomnstrate to your perseptive children that love is conditional. That if they act poorly or have beliefs you do not agree with that love will be withdrawn from them.
I see it as the perceptive children seeing that the parents take them being mistreated seriously, and will do what it takes to protect them from bullies.
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