Should I Back Away?

Question: Dear Luise: For 21 years I was abused by my parents. I finally stood up to them and told them that they weren’t allowed to do that to me any more. My mother kicked me out of the family just before I was to wed my husband. My husband brought me for a week long visit at his parents house. I was terrified that they wouldn’t love me. So I spent every day cleaning every little thing, doing anything I could to make their lives easier. Three days into the trip my story came tumbling out in sobs. My father in law had said to me that I was a part of the family now. That there would be no in law about it. The entire family took me in and I believed that they loved me dearly. Until this last year. All of a sudden my birthday was forgotten, ignored, and when it was brought up that it was to be my birthday – it became a burden. My sister in law had moved to our city for school and she started using me. She never saw me unless she had a need. My in laws only talked to me about what was going on with my sister in law and would ask me to take care of her. Suddenly, his sister started just fighting with me – getting mad at me for giving my husband a puppy for Christmas. She put and cut me down, but would still expect that I was to do anything for her. I stood my ground and the fighting got worse. All of a sudden  his parents decided that I wasn’t important. They began ignoring me and only focusing on my husband. They would ask him how I was doing in my pregnancy instead of asking me. My sister in law did something stupid and my father in law called my husband to yell at me – claiming that her decision was all my fault. They never apologized and a week later they came out for my husband’s graduation, but couldn’t be bothered to come for mine – blaming financials as the reason. At first I understood until they blew more than enough money my husband’s graduation weekend that could have been spent to come out for my graduation. Now, I invited them to my baby shower and chose the date to be the weekend that my sister in law is to return to school so they will be here and they RSVPed that they just couldn’t make it. I guess I’m floored. I don’t know what I have done to go from being considered a daughter to just the in law. I guess my question is this: should I even bother trying any more? Or should I just back away, let the family be my in laws and my husband, and just continue standing on the side lines looking in? R.

Answer: Dear R.: I think you may have made a serious mistake by thinking that you had to be a certain way to be loved by your husband’s family and by sharing your history with them before you knew you could trust them. You are precious whether your original family knew it or not. You don’t have to do anything to be lovable. They were way off base.

My guess, and it’s just that, is that the novelty of making you one of them has worn off and they are focusing elsewhere and have started treating you like an in law…someone not quite family. It is cruel but it’s pretty obvious. As a result you are seeing them as they really are. They’ve put you on the sidelines and it would serve you well to do the same thing with them. Not out of spite but just because you need to get on with your life.

You and your husband have started a new family unit. That is where I think you will find fulfillment and understanding…in his love. His family-of-origin are the way they are. There’s nothing I know of that you can do to change them and bring the fairness back that you once felt. I think you will find more joy in looking forward to the coming of your child and the love of your husband if let go, as you suggested, of your expectations. Certainly, in the light of the way you were first treated, your expectations were realistic, but they aren’t going to be met.

I would also suggest you consider getting some counseling so you can be a strong, well-adjusted mother for your child. Scars like you have can run deep and be passed on from generation to generation without your realizing it. You deserve a happy life. Focus on giving it to yourself. Blessings, Luise


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