Thicker Than Water

Everyone thinks they have the worst in-laws, but let me assure you, my best friend takes the cake. If you think having a monster in law is bad, imagine what a Jurassic-Park-sized catastrophe it would be if said monster also has seven snarling baby monsters ready to shred apart anything- correction- anyone in front of them. AND some of those babies are younger than yours. Yes, her children have aunts and uncles younger than them. 

The courtship and subsequent marriage started off normal enough. There were some hiccups along the way, but nothing to really indicate the level of fuck-all delusion they were all operating at. But the real trouble started brewing when my friend found herself pregnant soon after the ink dried on their marriage certificate. IT started with what should have been an exciting, exuberant announcement to the family that they were expecting! That certainly sounds like it should’ve been joyous, right? Well, imagine her surprise when it was met with disbelief. Ironically, her sister-in-law (the eldest) is a nurse and could have spoken up because not only could she confirm the incubation period of a human child because of her profession, but because she actually was present for the first ultrasound of the baby! Crazy, right?

Then, THE day arrives. It’s my friend’s first child, so naturally, nothing goes as planned. Yes, she read What to Expect When Expecting; yes, she packed a hospital bag; yes, she made a list; but that’s basically where the “yeses” stop. No, she didn’t quite make it to the hospital on time. No, she wasn’t permitted to get an epidural. And no, the siblings-in-law did not envelope their new sibling and brand-spanking-new niece in warm fuzzy congratulatory feelings of love. Instead, they discussed the whereabouts of a promise ring given to an ex by her husband (their brother!). Why they thought that was the most important topic to bring up at my friend’s bedside right after delivering her little bundle of joy is beyond me. But the real question is why her husband allowed that conversation to continue, let alone come up in the first place.

OH, the holidays. Let me tell you about the holidays. The first one will make your skin crawl. At this point, despite all the eccentric behavior from various family members, my friend is still committed to playing the role of the good wife. They’ve been invited to Thanksgiving at his mother’s house. Of course, all the siblings and their respective partners and children will be there as well. She says yes. A sheep walking into a pack of wolves. When they arrive, everyone exchanges pleasantries and all seems well (superficially). Soon, my friend found herself alone in the house with just the ladies in the family, the men had gone outdoors to enjoy the crisp fall air and their beers. Just as the door slammed shut, the eldest sister pounced! She immediately brought up the topic of her child and his birthday (April) and counted on her fingers some months (inaccurately, I might add) to insinuate that (by her “calculations”) my friend had in fact been pregnant before the marriage and wasn’t carrying her brother’s baby! The joke is on her though because that little girl is absolutely her brother’s baby and because she wished so badly for a bastard niece, she ended up getting one via her younger sister. 

Finally, it’s dinner, the conversation is mundane but my friend tries to stay engaged for the sake of her husband. She excuses herself to find the restroom and wanders a bit through the house. It’s unfamiliar and the family is too wrapped up in roasting each other to be good hosts. She encounters the step-father blocking her path and endures being groped/molested before rejoining the dinner party still jesting and having a grand time. In shock and denial, upon her return to the table, she arranges her facial features into that of a polite mask and graciously motions through the rest of the evening. Once safely at home, she attempts to tell her husband about what transpired unbeknownst to everyone at the dinner. Instead of being enraged- as I’m sure all of you are reading this- he asks her, “Are you sure?” What! 

There was also that time we planned a cross-country trip to visit each other with our families because we had grown up together but hadn’t seen each other in several years. Somehow our family trip turned into his family trip and the eldest sister invited herself along with her family and their younger sister and her family and their younger brother. It was chaos. My friend spent the whole trip bouncing around between her family, my family, and his family (out of politeness to him) even though her extended family and mine had traveled quite far to visit with her and the kids. The last day we were all there together, my friend shows up on our rental doorstep in tears because at some point during the argument about who would be footing the bill for the younger brother (who was a teenager at the time) and why his family had to crash our vacation in the first place, the husband opened the purse my mother had gifted her and poured liquid inside it. Yep. Instead of being upset with his family for crashing a vacation they hadn’t been invited to and sticking him with the bill, he took it out on her. Classy.

Like brother like sister though. It was during our joint family vacation that I got to meet all these extra siblings (not all of them though, thank goodness) and finally connected a particular face to a name. The story goes the younger sister was in a serious relationship with someone for over a year when she found out she was pregnant. She was quite young at the time, so naturally, the family was a little worried but they all had babies (lots of them) so they were pretty supportive. My friend’s husband did the “fatherly” act and asked her if she was sure the boyfriend she was with at the time was the father. Her reaction (I thought) was totally normal because she was livid that he would even dare to ask her such a thing. The pregnancy goes well for a bit, with the boyfriend and his mother really warming up to the idea. It’s short-lived though because a month or two into the pregnancy, one of her best (male) friends dies by suicide which sends her into mourning. Everyone around her tries to be sympathetic as she is hormonal and the guy was her best friend. Well, due to the circumstances in which he passed, an investigation was started which revealed via some “uncovered” messages, that she was sleeping with that friend and the baby she was pregnant with was not the boyfriends. No one knows if it’s the deceased friend’s child either as that family declined to have a DNA test and wants nothing to do with her or the baby. To make matters worse, this whole incident occurred in a small town where everyone knows everyone’s business. Ironically, my friend’s husband had no comment on this whole situation.

It took a few incidents but eventually, we figured it out, as sometimes girls who talk, do. The problem was less about his family acting like assholes and more about her husband not supporting her in the way she needed to be supported. Every time an argument involved a he-said, she-said between my friend and his siblings, he sided with his siblings even going so far as asking her to apologize to them so they could “move on.” Eventually, she didn’t want to move on. She wanted to stay put. Stay firmly put. 

Take Thanksgiving for example. I mean this one. Thanksgiving 2020. After ten years of being polite and giving time, money, and respect to this family, she’s finally putting her foot down. In September, her husband approached her out of the blue to “inform” her that they would be having Thanksgiving Day dinner at his dad’s house. The dad had always been pretty drama-free so she didn’t think anything of it and agreed; after all, that is her children’s grandfather. A few days went by and my friend started to probe for more details because the whole thing just seemed strange… like there were details missing. She tried to find out what they should bring, what time it would take place, who else would be there? Finally, her husband confessed that all the siblings and their significant others and children were invited too! AND that wasn’t all! The husband also volunteered to host Thanksgiving in their home on the Saturday after Thanksgiving for everyone! Every single one of them! Her response was a resounding, “Nope! NO, thank you.” This year, my friend is setting boundaries to maintain her own mental well-being because she’s tired of having to sit stoically through family dinners being insulted while she waits for her husband to stand up for her. She’s even shared that she made plans to visit a winery with her girlfriends the Saturday the family would be over and for her husband to have the house in tip-top shape upon her return!

Supporting your spouse shouldn’t mean that you have to put up with abuse from their family. 

Supporting your spouse shouldn’t be a choice between what makes them happy and you uncomfortable.

Supporting your spouse shouldn’t be measured by how much you integrate with their family.

I’m so proud of my friend for accepting that some people will never be friends beneath the facade of social decorum. It’s so hard to let go of the dream you have before marriage that you will be welcomed into the family with open arms and that you’d be best friends with their sisters and be invited to ball games with their brothers. The reality is sometimes very different from the dream and it takes tremendous strength to say to your spouse, whom you love, “No more.”

While she loves him, she needs to choose herself. She supports him by understanding she will never be close to his family but he should be. She supports him by allowing him to entertain them as he wishes without her opinions about their treatment of her. She supports him by giving him the freedom to decide how often he should see them or call or send gifts. She does this because she loves him; and because she loves herself.

If you like this article, check out: https://www.harnessmagazine.com/relate-to-yourself-at-a-certain-frequency-invite-what-you-want-into-your-life/

by Cordial

I am a professional training consultant who loves sharing information with others. I enjoy reading Romantic and Victorian literature in my free time but I've been branching out to newer texts (and love it!). I use yoga, crystals, and tarot daily to set the tone for my day.

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