What Is The Proper Way To Deal With This?

Question: Dear Luise: When my husband was in high school, he was told by a neighbor girl (J) that he was the father of her child. He believed her and acted as the child’s father for the first two years. Until he was shown paternity test results from the child’s actual biological father. At which point he apologized to the biological father and took a step back from the child’s life, not wanting to drag things out any further. His parents, however, have continued a very close relationship with the both the child (G) and the child’s mother, J. They consider themselves grandparents to all three of J’s children. They are all included in every family event. They frequently have the children over to spend the night. They attend all their sports games. They even continue to tell this child, (now 13), that my husband is her “special daddy”, against my husband’s wishes. From the first day I met my M-I-L, all she could do was talk about how much she loved J. What she has done for her. What she wanted to do for her. She keeps a picture of J and my husband, looking very cozy, taken when they were dating, up on the family wall of photos. My husband asked her more than once to take it down, but she refused. She keeps none of my husband and I. She claims she doesn’t have any, although I have given them to her.  My husband and I have been married for 5 years. I have 2 children from a previous marriage. We are very rarely included in any family event (although we live only 5 minutes from them). My children are very seldom invited over. Only about twice a year, when G wants them over. My in-laws don’t come to watch any of my kids activities, even when invited. She gets my kids gifts from the thrift store for their birthdays (her husband is a doctor, they are not poor). My husband once called her on it. Her response was, “What? Do you expect me to grandparent anyone you bring in?” J has spread nasty rumors about me to my in-laws. They report it back to my husband as gospel. She has left harassing threatening messages on my husbands phone. When my husband tells his parents, they don’t believe him. When my car broke down, we asked to borrow their spare car. They told us “No because J needed to borrow it.” When she needs help moving or fixing her car, or cleaning out her garage…his parents expect my husband to do it. Then become angry with him for not doing it. They seem to think my husband owes some kind of support to J and G. I agree with him that he doesn’t. He was 16 years old when he was tricked into all this. G was young enough not to remember all this drama, had my in-laws not kept dragging this out. And she does have her real father, who is very much involved.  My husband feels that he’s been replaced in his family by J. He wants her out of his family. Anytime he brings anything up, his parents become very defensive. They won’t hear any of it. At this point we are not speaking to his parents at all. My husband says there is no point, nothing will ever change. My concern is that we live in a very rural area. My in-laws are very well liked and very influential in this area. They have gone public with all this drama, blaming me for every ounce of it. Saying that I am controlling and not allowing my husband to contact them or “his daughter” (G)…which isn’t true. I have always encouraged him to talk to them. They have repeated other very unkind and untrue things about my character. It’s gotten to a point where I can’t go into the store or post office without hearing others talk about me. There are even parents who will no longer allow their children to play with mine because of lies my in-laws and J have spread about me. It’s affecting every area of my life. I’m not sure how I can even live here anymore. What is the proper way to deal with this? Should I defend myself or remain silent? M.

Answer: Dear M.: You have been unsuccessful in defending yourself thus far and I doubt that will change since it’s been five years. You in laws aren’t listening and have no logic to back them up. It’s nuts. Your husband says there is no point in trying because nothing will ever change. I tend to agree with him. They are stuck in a delusional mindset that labels you and your children as second-rate citizens. They are even totally discounting their own son in the same way. Why? Because he didn’t impregnate a promiscuous girl when he was 16? Give me a break!

You have both tried everything I might suggest and, to tell you the truth, I would relocate if it were me. Life is too short to have to live in such a cloistered community with their continued prejudice, rejection and character assassination. Frankly, they sound like people I would never want to know…I don’t care how “influential” they are!

I would also like to suggest that you bring this issue to www.WiseWomeUnite.com : the Web-forum I created specifically for women with issues involving extended families. I think you could find some much-needed support and understanding there. Blessings, Luise

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