Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“Can I Skip My Sister-In Law’s Baby Shower?”

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I’ve been married almost two years now and, for the past few years, I have tried really, really hard to establish a relationship with my husband’s brother and and his wife, “Cheryl.” When I first met her, Cheryl didn’t drive or have a job, and, from what I heard, she was depressed. Especially because she was “depressed,” I would always try to get her out of the house. I would take her out for lunch all the time, support her events, even helped put together her 30th birthday party. When she started working, I drove her to work a few times and brought her lunch often.

She got her license and a car about three years ago and has never once called me to go out for coffee, lunch — nothing, not even a walk. The only time she has called me is to ask for a favor. It became quite clear she was not interested in a friendship and was a user.

Anyway, the turning point in our relationship came five months after my husband and I were married. I had just had surgery and was at my mother-in-law’s house, where my BIL walked right past me as I went to greet him in the foyer. He went straight to the fridge and popped a beer. My MIL and SIL joined him at the table. I was sitting on the couch and the tension was so thick you could cut it with a knife! I was so uncomfortable in so many ways — mind you, I had just had surgery! To ease the tension my MIL asked what I was watching on tv, and when I told her, “Millionaire Matchmaker,” my BIL said that I was a gold-digger! Cheryl didn’t say a word — she just kept eating! I had always been so kind to her, and to him as well, so this was shocking, and I lost all respect for them. I have distanced myself ever since.

I have heard that she is pregnant and I’m going to congratulate her, of course, but would still like to keep my distance. I’ll attend the Christening and birth, and major events like that, but, I do not plan on attending her baby shower. Thoughts? — Hurt by SIL

So . . . you have “heard” Cheryl is pregnant, but this hasn’t been confirmed by her or her husband? And you’re already thinking about skipping a baby shower that you haven’t been invited to for a baby that is still just a rumor at this point? My thoughts are this: You really need to try to let go of the resentment you have over the seeming rejection and disrespect you feel you’ve received from your SIL. She’s family, and, whether you like it (or her) or not, she, and this child she’s maybe carrying, are going to be part of your life as long as you both are married to brothers. From what you’ve described, she’s never actively done anything to offend or hurt you; she’s just failed to reciprocate the invitations you extended to her when you were first getting to know her. And you feel that she should have defended you when your BIL called you a gold-digger? I mean, maybe she didn’t hear him. Or, maybe you didn’t hear him correctly. Or maybe they have such a relationship and dynamic where she doesn’t feel comfortable or safe standing up to him. The fact is SHE wasn’t the one who called you any name. The only “crime” she has committed is not inviting you out to lunch or coffee or whatever you think she should be doing to properly thank you for all the nice things you’ve done for her. For all you know, she doesn’t invite anyone to do anything. Maybe she’s still depressed . . . or depression comes and goes and prevents her from forming the kind of relationship you wanted to have with her.

I get that your feelings are hurt, but to plan so far in advance to skip a baby shower that, again, you have not yet even been invited to and that is probably months away anyhow just screams of stirring drama to me. It’s like you’re LOOKING for a way to try to hurt Cheryl back and, since this might be it, you’re grabbing a-hold and running with it. Slow down, sister. Take a deep breath. Play it by ear. See how you feel in a few months. Maybe there will be a shower and maybe there won’t be. Maybe just you will be invited and maybe it will be a co-ed thing and both you AND your husband will be invited. Are you still going to skip it if he goes? And do you plan to skip the kid’s future birthday parties, too? Because, just like your SIL, this baby (if there even IS one), will also be part of your life as long as you’re married to his or her uncle.

There will be the “major events,” sure (oh, and by the way, I definitely wouldn’t be planning to be at the birth of this baby unless explicitly invited by Cheryl. Many women would rather have their toenails pulled out one by one than have in-laws present at the hospital when they’re in labor, especially in-laws who have been “keeping their distance”); there will also be less major events, like family get-togethers that your husband will probably want to attend. Your deciding now that you won’t be there and putting in motion actions that might ensure that you won’t be invited is just . . . immature and petty and attention-seeking. Why don’t you take it occasion by occasion and invitation by invitation and play it by ear and discuss with your husband and check in with your gut. If you really can’t stomach the idea of showing another shred of support towards your SIL when the time comes, even if it means making a quick appearance at some shower where you can eat a pastry and down a mimosa in the time it takes to watch an episode of “Modern Family,” then make some gracious excuse and send a gift with your MIL. But don’t start making grand statements NOW about how you’re going to totally ghost Cheryl forever and ever because she never invites you to coffee. That’s just childish.

***************

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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com.

40 comments… add one
  • norabb

    norabb February 10, 2015, 9:30 am

    You sound like you’re a very generous, kind person. The problem that nice people get into is that they get offended when people don’t reciprocate. Because in their heads, everyone should KNOW already that they should ask you to go out, or give you gifts, or do favors for you. To YOU it’s very natural, but nice people tend to forget that not everyone thinks the way they do.
    .
    It sounds like you took something very personally that was probably not a big deal at all to her. Some people don’t know how to be kind, or don’t feel the compulsion to do nice things for people. That’s okay! Or she could still very well be depressed. That in itself could explain why. From experience, when you’re depressed you can barely take care of yourself much less maintain a relationship even with those closest to you. She sounds like she doesn’t have very good coping skills, and just because she has a job doesn’t mean that her depression is gone. I think you’re expecting a little too much from her.
    .
    That means you have to let her be who she is. Or better yet, speak up! If you want those things from a friendship, ask her for it! Maybe she had no idea, and from this point on she’ll make more of an effort because she sees there is someone who WANTS to spend time with her. If you’re too afraid to speak up, then keep being your nice self. Don’t change. But also realize that no everyone you meet will reciprocate in the way you want. That’s just life.
    .
    Oh, and reach out to her. If she truly is depressed, WITH a baby on the way…she might need you more than you know.

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    • Amanda

      Amanda February 10, 2015, 9:45 am

      I was thinking the same thing. IF the SIL is pregnant and IF she is still depressed she is still very much going to need support from the LW.

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    • avatar

      RedroverRedrover February 10, 2015, 11:15 am

      For all we know, the SIL doesn’t particularly like the LW, and she *was* being nice by accepting the invitations. I have an SIL that I don’t care for, at all, and I wouldn’t choose to spend any extra time with her. When we are together, I am very nice and pleasant, she doesn’t even know that I’m not that into her. Luckily we live in different cities, but if we lived in the same one I’m positive that she would be inviting me to do things all the time. And I would accept probably 50% or more of those invitations out of “being nice”. But I certainly wouldn’t offer a whole bunch of reciprocating invitations on top of that. I really don’t enjoy being around her. And then she’d be in the same situation as the LW, where she wonders why I never invite her anywhere.

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      • Dear Wendy

        Dear Wendy February 10, 2015, 12:09 pm

        That’s a very good point. But… you probably also wouldn’t be calling in favors if you lived in the same city, unless the favor was very family-centered (like hosting Thanksgiving this year instead of you because you’re pregnant and tired, for example… or something like that; and even then, you’d probably address her AND her husband).

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      • avatar

        RedroverRedrover February 10, 2015, 12:26 pm

        I might, actually. I don’t hate her guts, I just don’t click with her as a friend. We’re still family though. Who do you ask for help if not family? Especially if she’d offered to do the same kinds of favours in the past and seemed happy to do it.

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      • Dear Wendy

        Dear Wendy February 10, 2015, 12:51 pm

        Oh, well, see, if I didn’t particularly like someone, I wouldn’t ask him or her for favors, family or not (unless, as I said, it was a family-focused favor). I’d just as soon ask a close friend or someone I genuinely liked and would be happy to reciprocate the favor for in the future. But that’s just me and I’m pretty boundary-concsious — maybe to a fault sometimes.

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      • avatar

        RedroverRedrover February 10, 2015, 1:12 pm

        For me, family is a boundary that you’re always inside. That’s just how my family is. If she asked me for a favour I’d do it, and I wouldn’t feel weird asking her for a favour. In fact we do favours for each other as it stands, even though I’m not crazy about her. My mom is pretty close to actually hating her, and she still does favours for her. Lots of them, too many in my opinion. But that’s how it’s always worked in my family. I think it’s a bit old-fashioned, maybe, but I’m certainly not going to be the one to try to change it. My mom wouldn’t be too happy with that. 🙂

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  • avatar

    ktfran February 10, 2015, 9:35 am

    Ugh. Why can’t people just get along? Even people I don’t particularly care for, I’m friendly towards. Living with anger or hate or supposed hurt feelings or resentment or jealousy is just not a fun way to live. Unless, of course, you thrive on that stuff. In that case, you’re probably one of those people I don’t particularly care for.
    .
    I will say, it makes for fun reading though. So, I guess, thanks?!?

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  • something random

    something random February 10, 2015, 9:37 am

    WWS

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  • avatar

    SasLinna February 10, 2015, 9:48 am

    You say you’ve worked very hard to build a relationship with Cheryl – maybe she just wasn’t that interested in getting closer to you and so doesn’t think to reciprocate in the way you’re expecting her to? She may have a different idea on how close you need to be as sisters-in-law. The incident you described is odd, but I wonder if you just caught them at a bad time or something else was going on with them that wasn’t about you. Going forward, I would attend events but sort of dial down my expectations of a close relationship.

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  • avatar

    Laura Hope February 10, 2015, 9:52 am

    Gee, I’m gonna take a wild stab here and say they’re pissed at you because they think you’re a gold digger Could that explain why your SIL has been so distant? Is there something you’re not telling us?

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    • Dear Wendy

      Dear Wendy February 10, 2015, 12:10 pm

      Yeah, I feel like the whole “you’re a gold-digger” comment isn’t that comes out of nowhere. I’d love to know the story behind it. You know there must be one.

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      • River

        River February 10, 2015, 6:53 pm

        I almost wonder if it was an off-hand comment about the women on the show that she misconstrued to be directed at her. Like, the BIL simply said “gold-digger” referring to the women on the show and the LW thought he meant her.

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  • avatar

    Hannanas February 10, 2015, 9:55 am

    Maybe your brother-in law was just kidding when he called you a gold-digger. I mean, honestly, why would he say something like that?

    Unless you’re leaving something out here…

    Like where did that tension come from in the first place? And why would you assume it had something to do with you?

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    • norabb

      norabb February 10, 2015, 10:08 am

      yeah I was thinking this too..it seems like she might have played it up in her head where there might not have been that big of an issue. I used to do that ALL the time! But it’s better to remind yourself not to take things personally, that not everyone is thinking about you 24/7

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      • avatar

        Hannanas February 10, 2015, 10:20 am

        I guess we all do that from time to time, but the thing that stuck out to me is that she assumes they’re thinking negatively about her – and also plans to act on it.
        … Self-fulfilling prophecy anyone?

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  • FireStar

    FireStar February 10, 2015, 9:56 am

    You aren’t planning to attend an event you haven’t even been invited to yet?
    So your sister-in-law isn’t your BFF even though you tried cultivating that relationship. Isn’t there room in between Best Friend… and you are dead to me? Isn’t there talking about weather? Commenting on MIL’s garden? Cooing over a sweet little baby that will be related to you and your husband? I get it … her behaviour is disappointing after all that you did for her and the BIL acted poorly that one time. But really – WHO CARES? Are you a gold-digger? Do you REALLY care if someone said that? If my brother-in-law walked past me as I went to greet him I would yell after him “Hey rudeness come say hi like you weren’t raised in the wild” and it would be over. No resentment – no anger. Maybe he was having a bad day. Whatever. Greeting me at the door shouldn’t be a watershed event. I lose nothing by the lack of greeting. I’msureyour life carried on just fine. And understand that if you are kind to someone with an eye towards reciprocation then you need to ask if it is really kind, after all. Generally when people feel taken advantage of, then they just limit the instances where they could be taking advantage of. I get not getting along with family – where there is abuse or chronic disrespect or sabotage…but this is someone not living up to your expectations of behaviour when it comes to your SIL and your BIL acting an ass and making stupid comments one time. You want distance from them – okay. I trust you have had it. What does that mean for your husband? What will that mean for your future children if they don’t have their cousins in the life? Are you okay with those consequences? Over the slights you have received? Is the punishment proportionate to the offence?
    As for the invitation you haven’t received yet – if you don’t want to go then send a nice gift with apologies. Or, you know, go and talk about the weather and maybe build back a little bridge so that there isn’t all this angst in the family over nothing.

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    • Regina Chapman

      Regina Chapman February 11, 2015, 6:36 am

      Perfect response. I was going to write one, too, but you just spared me the trouble:).

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  • Miss MJ

    Miss MJ February 10, 2015, 9:57 am

    My advice? Relax. Seriously.
    .
    Not everything is meant as a slight to you or done at you or meant to hurt you. Most of the time, it’s not even remotely about you because people don’t think about us as much as we think they do. They think about bills, what to wear, what’s for dinner, their schedule, life in general. Slighting someone for no reason is at the bottom of the list. In addition to the possibilities Wendy raised, I can think of other reasons your SIL hasn’t “reciprocated” your invitations. Maybe she doesn’t like going out. Maybe she’s trying to save money. Maybe she’s just tired or stressed or wants to catch up on Orange Is The New Black. Or maybe she doesn’t like you and is trying to passively aggressively stick it to you by … not going anywhere.
    .
    As for your BIL, I mean, you’re upset because he got a beer? Huh? Is he supposed to sweep you off of your feet, fawn over you and carry you to the table or something? Again, I’m pretty sure he was thinking “I’m thirsty” not “I’m going to stick it to LW by …getting a beer.” As for the “gold digger” comment: I wasn’t there, but I’d bet a sizeable sum that no one said anything to him because it was clearly a joke and not an actual comment on what anyone thinks of your character.
    .
    Bottom line: stop reading into every action your BIL and SIL take and acting like it’s all done to spite you. I guaratee you that if don’t, and you keep on causing drama where there really is none, soon you *will* find yourself the target of disdain. Ain’t nobody got time for that crap.

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  • Stonegypsy

    Stonegypsy February 10, 2015, 10:01 am

    LW, you sound like kind of a pain in the ass, to be honest.
    I think you mean really really well, and that you’re a very kind person. In fact, you sound aggressively kind.
    I’m just thinking of the way you’d come off if I were your SIL. I have struggled a lot with depression, and if someone found out about that and then started going waaay out of their way to do all these things for me, it would make me feel pitied and uncomfortable. And when someone is dealing with depression, they don’t have as much emotional energy to invest in reciprocating the types of things you were doing, so it probably created this awful cycle of guilt every time you did her a favor.
    “I would always try to get her out of the house. I would take her out for lunch all the time, support her events, even helped put together her 30th birthday party. When she started working, I drove her to work a few times and brought her lunch often.”
    Did she ask you to? Cause you’re describing her as a “user” but you did all of this stuff voluntarily. Don’t disguise yourself as a rug and then get offended when people walk on you.

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    • norabb

      norabb February 10, 2015, 10:14 am

      yeah, how is someone using you if you voluntarily do these nice things for her? You’re going out of your way, seemingly because you care. But if you did, you wouldn’t mind the lack of reciprocation. seems like you’re using her as much as you think she’s using you! (but she’s ‘winning’)

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      • Lady_Red

        Red_Lady February 10, 2015, 11:41 am

        I think the “user” label came from the SIL only calling to ask for favors, never to hang out. While lw was trying to build a friendship with her SIL, it seems that all she really did was develop the idea that she’s someone the SIL can call when she needs help. Which, LW, can be taken as a good thing! It shows that your SIL feels that she can depend on you. Which is a good quality in family. It sucks that you probably won’t be good friends, but you’re still family. You just need to adjust your expectations.

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      • Stonegypsy

        Stonegypsy February 10, 2015, 1:39 pm

        I actually wonder if it was like “Man, my SIL [LW] really seems to want to help me out. But all of the ways she’s trying to help are actually really unhelpful. Why does she keep trying to get me out of the house? I don’t want to go out. Why does she keep bringing me lunch? I was really looking forward to eating that soup I bought. But she does seem to want to do something, so maybe I’ll call and see if she can grab something at the store on her way over”
        LW seems to be going out of her way to take things personally, so I’m not overly inclined to trust her characterization of it.

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    • avatar

      Simonthegrey February 11, 2015, 5:43 pm

      I know when my depression was at its worst, a person trying to get me out of the house, take me to lunches, put together a birthday party…all that would have been too much to fucking stand, though I would have gone along because depression made me very passive, and I didn’t know how to say NO.

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      • avatar

        MsMisery February 12, 2015, 12:48 pm

        I thought the same thing. Only someone who has never been depressed/doesn’t understand depression would think of this plan. Doesn’t make the LW a bad person, but it wasn’t at all necessary.

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  • norabb

    norabb February 10, 2015, 10:12 am

    I’m increasingly worried about the SIL, because I keep remembering how she was depressed (and likely still is) and is now pregnant. I keep hearing that depression in relation to pregnancy often starts before birth, not just after. This means, that if she has a history of debilitating (it sounds like she couldn’t do much to cope) depression, it will be even harder on her now! If nothing else, look up ways to help friends with mental illness and reach out to her!

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    • Stonegypsy

      Stonegypsy February 10, 2015, 10:20 am

      This is true. But if she has a history of depression and is being treated for that, then that is something they will take into account.

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      • kare

        kare February 10, 2015, 11:59 am

        Is it possible she is off her medication due to pregnancy? I’m not sure if anti depressants are safe to use during pregnancy. Either way, the SIL probably needs support.

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      • Stonegypsy

        Stonegypsy February 10, 2015, 12:02 pm

        Some antidepressants are and some are not safe for pregnancy. In any case, a lot of the time it’s safer to use an antidepressant than it is to not use one, regardless of circumstances.
        But the majority of the time, they would not simply take someone off a treatment plan. It can cause too many issues.

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      • Stonegypsy

        Stonegypsy February 10, 2015, 12:05 pm

        Admittedly though, my knowledge on the subject of antidepressants combined with pregnancy is secondhand. I have never been pregnant, but my sister has. And the brand of depression we struggle with is pretty similar.

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  • avatar

    acastil5 February 10, 2015, 10:13 am

    It hurts when someone doesn’t want to be close with you, I get that, but not everyone wants to be the Brady Bunch y’know? Also do nice things for people to be nice, not because you expect something in return. Yeah it would have been great if your SIL wanted to be friends with you too but it seems like she’s not interested, I mean, does she have any other girlfriends? If the answer is no it seems to me she’s not interested in female friendship, or her depression is still kickin’.

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  • avatar

    Lucy February 10, 2015, 11:06 am

    In general, don’t do nice things expecting to be repaid. Do them because you want to do something nice. Expectations breed disappointment, and you have created this entire situation yourself by deciding what kind of relationship you and this woman should have, apparently without ever taking what she thinks or feels into account.

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  • avatar

    Sonia February 10, 2015, 12:21 pm

    It bothers me that the LW is “depressed” in quotes, as if she doesn’t believe the SIL actually suffers from it esp now that she’s been slighted. Depression is so hard to quantify for those that don’t take it seriously or think people use it as an excuse. If she does suffer from it that could explain A LOT of her behavior.

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    • Stonegypsy

      Stonegypsy February 10, 2015, 12:27 pm

      Yeah… it’s like “My sister in law has “diabetes””
      What does that even mean?

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    • avatar

      Sunshine Brite February 10, 2015, 1:04 pm

      Me too! This x238478239

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  • avatar

    Steph February 10, 2015, 12:28 pm

    I’ve found that most times I’m in an awkward or uncomfortable situation it’s *ME* who I making things feel that way.
    .
    My goddaughter’s 4th birthday was this weekend and my ex boyfriend is good friends with my goddaughters mommies. So I saw him for the first time since we broke up 4 months ago. It was extremely uncomfortable at first and then I realized that *I* was changing my behavior to not make him uncomfortable (I broke up with him, he’s still getting over it) and as soon as I starting acting normal everything was fine.
    .
    My point being this tension and awkwardness is probably you creating it. You are walking on eggshells and you are changing your behavior which is making everyone else feel off. Be yourself. Talk to them at family gatherings (How do you keep your distance and family get-togethers anyway?). And most of all be happy that you’re going to have niece/nephew you to spoil. You already seem to resent this hypothetical baby and he/she hasn’t done anything.

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  • avatar

    Ali February 10, 2015, 12:45 pm

    I’d also like to know what the husband has to say about this. I’m sure he has some insights into his family dynamics–maybe the lw hasn’t shared them here because he also find this situation to be overblown?

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  • bittergaymark

    bittergaymark February 10, 2015, 1:12 pm

    Drama. Drama. Drama. Needless. Pointless. Drama. And all over some one-off sarcastic comment made by somebody else? Honestly? Maybe the BIL was trying to be funny… Honestly, that show IS all about gold-diggers… Think about it. So maybe you need to lighten up… I dunno. PS — But WHY was there so much tension? Why? Honestly? You sound INCREDIBLY dramatic… and NEWSFLASH! Some people, many people… find over dramatic people very taxing to be around… Instead of worrying about whether or not you can skip the shower — Honey, worry about whether or not you’re even invited instead. 😉

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  • avatar

    Sunshine Brite February 10, 2015, 1:15 pm

    I don’t have debilitating depression but even at my worst which isn’t that bad I would’ve been so annoyed by someone trying to get me out of the house all the time, like that was going to make me feel better. That’s super rude that you put her depression (even though that sounds like rumor too) in quotes.

    It doesn’t sound like she reciprocated your efforts before she got a car so why would she after? It doesn’t sound like she used you at all but that you misinterpreted what relationship you were establishing. I’m sure she has a lot less free time now that she’s not working.

    Why do you feel the need to stand up and greet people formally in your MIL’s house. I would feel uncomfortable doing that in mine for sure. Especially if that’s still the childhood home. Why would your BIL need to be formally greeted in his childhood home? It sounds like even though you had surgery you were out and about. The whole situation you described seems weird and I feel like there’s more involved.

    Take life as it comes and stop listening to rumors. I don’t see how in months (years) you can’t muster a cordial afternoon with your in-laws of such a short time and done nothing that seems to warrant a freeze-out in my books. I’m uncomfortable about my in-laws too but my husband buffers and I make sure that I get the opportunity to have some me time each day we spend together.

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  • avatar

    va-in-ny February 10, 2015, 1:31 pm

    There are definitely things missing from this letter – and I know how hard it is to convey the reality of the situation in a concise letter asking for advice.

    You say the tension was “SO THICK you could cut it with a knife” after you had surgery and you were hanging out at your mother in law’s house. Why? Did you have a surgery they didn’t necessarily approve of? Like, a cosmetic procedure? (boob job, nose job, labiaplasty, tummy tuck, lipo?) I think sometimes people can be judgy about those types of things and could explain why a “gold-digger-dig” was thrown in there. Maybe it hit a nerve?

    I don’t know, I think that maybe you’re reading too far into people’s actions and you just need to cool it. Stop worrying so much about everyone else. Just live your life. Not everyone is out to get you!

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