silent treat and a progressing estrangement

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HeadAboveWater

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silent treat and a progressing estrangement
« on: January 14, 2020, 06:42:34 PM »
As some of you may know, it was spending the holidays with my in-laws two years ago that first brought me here to OOTF. As we live nearly 7 hours apart, I don't often see them, but the holidays are always a time when I have some sort of contact with my husband's FOO. Historically, it has always been quite stressful, and I am sure that everyone on this message board can relate in one way or another.

I've made a lot of progress in processing my feelings about my in-laws. I used to approach them like they were rational  actors who treated others fairly. Before I knew about PD, I thought a strategy of accommodation and appeasement would lead to them behaving better. Instead, their behavior remained unchanged, and I was burnt out by excessive emotional labor and their various tantrums and manipulations. Learning the three C's helped so much. Going medium chill has helped too: There is virtually nothing personal they know from my recent life that they can use to hurt me. I've also gone VVLC. To the extent that I spend time with the in-laws, It's solely to support my husband in his decision to still have a relationship with his FOO. Yet, even his patience is starting to wear thin. He now sees that they have lied to him many times, often by omission. He understands that his father's rages are not normal and are quite controlling. As well, he better understands the ways in which their words are designed to be manipulative.

So far, so good.

Yet, here I am still processing my post-Christmas visit with MiL and FiL. I wish they didn't live rent-free in my head  :stars:.

I saw my in-laws for about four hours for a Christmas gift exchange and luncheon. In that time they managed to say nothing to me and little to my husband. They entered our hosts' home and breezed right past us as if we weren't there. Usually I know for what "crime" we are being punished with the silent treatment, but I couldn't even guess how we had wronged them this time, as I haven't seen them in person for a year. I then saw them a day or two later for a follow-up family meal while my husband and I were in town. Once again, they said little to me. In fact, I think I could have eaten the entire meal in stony silence  :-X if my husband hadn't tried, as a test, bringing up in conversation something about me. A day later, my MiL texted my husband to say that I had looked attractive while attending the family meal, particularly my clothing and makeup. She has my phone number and uses it for group texts, but decided to relay this seemingly complementary message through him. Before we departed the meal, MiL also made a point to bring up two past incidents where she and SiL behaved atrociously. One was a milestone dinner for my husband, over 10 years ago. We paid for the other four members of the family to join us at a fine dining restaurant that we like. MiL then ranted about the profligacy of spending so much money on food, ruining the evening. But according to her telling a couple of weeks ago, that dinner is just a lovely memory. What a strange thing to bring up. She also made a point of saying that SiL loooved her visit to my house last fall. SiL spent the visit sour faced and would spend the evenings on the phone to MiL complaining about the activities we had done together during the day.

This week I shared with a friend that I think I am finally estranged from my in-laws. She joked "That's been going on for a while. Did you finally get the t-shirt this time?" And she's not wrong. But I just don't know what, if anything, to do at this point. I feel very strange. I ignored a group text that came from MiL a few days ago. So did my husband. I'm waiting to see what my husband does about upcoming birthdays in his family. I would feel better making a call right now: "I'm done!" Yet, as long as DH has a relationship with his FOO, I know that it will be really hard for him if I don't participate on a minimal level. I can't seem to shake the guilt. Living in relationship limbo isn't easy though  :meh:

Anyway, thanks for reading this far. I welcome your feedback, personal experiences, advice. I'm just processing it all right now.

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Bloomie

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Re: silent treat and a progressing estrangement
« Reply #1 on: January 15, 2020, 12:34:58 PM »
Quote from: HeadAboveWater
I used to approach them like they were rational  actors who treated others fairly. Before I knew about PD, I thought a strategy of accommodation and appeasement would lead to them behaving better. Instead, their behavior remained unchanged, and I was burnt out by excessive emotional labor and their various tantrums and manipulations.

This just so perfectly sums up my own similar realizations and eventual burnout with these taxing relationships.

I stopped for a moment in the swirl that is the holidays this year and gave thanks for the peace that permeates those celebrations now that I have reclaimed those special days and driven people who would not even show me the common courtesy of greeting me and having polite, superficial conversation with me, out of my head.

Maybe this is too simplistic for your situation, but I realized these people are not my family and have not welcomed me into their tribe. They are my DH's family, and yep, if he chooses to continue contact and responsibility for his elderly mother, and he does which is his decision and one I respect, he is going to have to be on the front lines of dealing with all that that entails. That stinks as part of his life package it surely does.

But my role, my position to hold in it all... is to support him and supporting him does not often involve always hosting them in my home, traveling miles to be ignored, setting aside other priorities to attend to their latest drama and every need as it once did.

Maybe all of this internal processing is a result of burnout and will be part of you looking at what works for you as your DH's support and adjusting your LOC with HIS family accordingly?

It is pretty great to embrace that we have freedom to choose when/if to engage and spend our resources on people who are consistently unkind to us. Support of your DH does not have to look like it always has if that is not working for you. And  you don't have make it a grand announcement unless you want to.

After another Mother's Day lunch, where we had taken my uPDmil out to a lovely restaurant, given her a thoughtful gift, where she barely looked at me, didn't want anything on the menu, directed zero conversation toward me much less wish me a Happy Mother's day in return - the scales tipped and I could see the thoughtless and invalidating behaviors I had endured for decades.  :no: I got up from the table and in a very real way got on with my happy life.

I am my DH's wife. My energies and support is abundant within our relationship, but it cannot include being on the front lines with his family members ever again.

I finally got the t-shirt, too and it fits great and is quite comfortable to wear.  :bigwink:
« Last Edit: January 15, 2020, 12:56:27 PM by Bloomie »
"If you focus on the hurt, you will continue to suffer. If you focus on the lesson, you will continue to grow." Dr. Caroline Leaf

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Pepin

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Re: silent treat and a progressing estrangement
« Reply #2 on: January 15, 2020, 01:25:50 PM »
Yet, as long as DH has a relationship with his FOO, I know that it will be really hard for him if I don't participate on a minimal level. I can't seem to shake the guilt. Living in relationship limbo isn't easy though  :meh:

Yes...this.  I too, have felt estranged from the beginning.  At first they were excited -- or so it seemed -- because DH was happy to have me by his side.  But then the reality of me becoming "permanent" caused both PDMil and FIL to ignore me.  Those early days of their childish behavior should have sent me running but somehow I convinced myself to keep going because DH had all eyes on me and that was all that mattered.  He really gave me all of his attention back then and continued that for many years...until FIL passed and everything changed.  His guilt over PDMil being a widow changed everything.

These days, I waver about whether I need to make an appearance or not.  90% of the time, DH visits his mother alone.  Why should I tag along when she doesn't speak to me or that she and DH only converse in their language in front of me?  I bring no value being with them.  On the other hand, my showing up makes it seem more like DH and I are united though...even when there is no conversation in my direction.  And I would butt in more and talk but honestly, there is nothing to talk about and PDMil and DH are only talking shop anyway...

With regards to the rest of the family and those pesky family gatherings, I am feeling that this year, I want to stop attending.  And maybe DH will suddenly understand that without his wife by his side (and sometimes children) that he is vulnerable to the jackals.  The jackal in-laws have played the same silent treatment moves for years with me and our children because they can't stand DH -- which is thanks to PDMil and her divisive behavior.  There is no warmth among DH and his siblings....just general courtesy.  No one really cares about how the other is doing or what they have going on in their lives.  And they all learned that from PDmil, herself.  She wants everyone to know how she is, but not the other way around. 

It's tough and I have been dealing with this for years.  I have spent too much of my time being a doormat...thanks to not having any boundaries.  I just wanted everyone on DH's side to like me and it turns out that I don't like myself because I behaved from a place of dishonesty.  Would I ever be friends with any of them if I didn't know DH?  HECK NO.   
Why work so hard to have a relationship with someone that does not care the same way as you?

No PD is going to tell me what to do.

Born into a dysfunctional family and married into a dysfunctional family.

People who don't bring joy, let them go.

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all4peace

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Re: silent treat and a progressing estrangement
« Reply #3 on: January 15, 2020, 02:47:07 PM »
HeadAboveWater, it sounds to me like you're making huge strides! In my experience, the less contact and the more time and healing that have happened, the shorter those rent-free occupancies last. Maybe a day, then I can move on. I use the contact to remind me of why we need strong boundaries, and I try to move on.

Count me in among the tribe of spouses who has contact only as a support to my husband and kids, whose priority is my FOC and not ILs or FOO. I'm thankful to be in this space, finally. It's peaceful.

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HeadAboveWater

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Re: silent treat and a progressing estrangement
« Reply #4 on: February 06, 2020, 04:57:07 PM »
I just want to offer a very belated thank you to everyone who’s replied. I’ve read your response multiple times, and they’re helping me to process my relationship with my husband’s parents.

In the past month he has been interviewing for a job that will move us much further away. It’s possible that we would no longer be driving distance from the in-laws, and they don’t fly. It would be a higher cost of living area, so I doubt we’d use our budget to see them much. It is such a relief to think about getting even further away and just letting life take its course.

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Pepin

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Re: silent treat and a progressing estrangement
« Reply #5 on: February 06, 2020, 08:08:12 PM »
I just want to offer a very belated thank you to everyone who’s replied. I’ve read your response multiple times, and they’re helping me to process my relationship with my husband’s parents.

In the past month he has been interviewing for a job that will move us much further away. It’s possible that we would no longer be driving distance from the in-laws, and they don’t fly. It would be a higher cost of living area, so I doubt we’d use our budget to see them much. It is such a relief to think about getting even further away and just letting life take its course.

OMG I am crossing my fingers for you and wishing you all the best!  I've been secretly hoping for years that DH's line of work would move us out of the area...the best he can do at the moment is take a new job that would require more travel -- which means less time seeing PDmil and less time catering to her To Do list. 
Why work so hard to have a relationship with someone that does not care the same way as you?

No PD is going to tell me what to do.

Born into a dysfunctional family and married into a dysfunctional family.

People who don't bring joy, let them go.

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beachwalker

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Re: silent treat and a progressing estrangement
« Reply #6 on: March 07, 2020, 05:14:34 PM »
I can relate to this treatment.  It really took a long time to uncover what had been happening over the years.  I put up very strong boundaries and now my only contact with MIL is through letters usually in response to a birthday gift.  For decades our family had been posted globally with the defense department...now we are settled stateside permanently, but not in the same state where MIL/BIL live.  During our moving around time, we always made time to see IL's if we were visiting other FM (my side is also in same area as IL).  The visits were more obligatory and although we were not terrible house guests, it was inferred by BIL that we took advantage of IL's when we visited.  The visits entailed us traveling thousands of miles and sometimes halfway around the world to see them.  We took all of this in and of course we were hurt and very offended that all the time and money we spent to bend over backwards to see IL on our "home visits" was being held against us, not to mention other ridiculous infractions.  The outcome is now that we are settled, the kids are grown and gone, we live several states away from MIL/BIL (and his family) our visits are few and very far in between. My DH speaks to his mother over the phone 2x a month, FIL passed away quite awhile ago. DH had the greatest relationship with his Dad, but once he passed, MIL and BIL became "one" and the dysfunction multiplied.  The VLC has been such a blessing. The last few times I visited my family by myself, I did not go see IL who are a short drive away.  If I had gone to see them, I'm sure I would have committed some "crime" during the visit that would have been brought up to my DH in order to cause chaos for the two of us. Once you figure out what they are doing and you see it for what it is...it's almost laughable...if it wasn't so hurtful. Protect yourself.  Limit your time with them and if you move farther away..yay!  Best wishes for your future peace and quiet! :phoot:
"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."
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