Recently, however, my brother-in-law and his girlfriend got into a huge fight and were on the verge of breaking up. I had no intentions of getting involved, but then the girlfriend started saying truly awful things about my BIL on Facebook, which made things EXTREMELY uncomfortable for me, my husband, and many of our other family members. I decided to post my own Facebook status that was relatively general saying how just because you can say whatever you want on Facebook doesn’t mean you should, and that it’s not the place to air your dirty laundry. She promptly defriended me. I probably should have reached out to her directly, but after she and my BIL got past their fight I reached out to her and we talked through the situation and I thought we had moved on.
A couple of weeks later, we went to a party at their apartment. I was social, brought over a bottle of wine, played with her son and left their place feeling more confident that things would go back to normal. Five days later, however, I received an e-mail from her saying that I disrespected her in her home and showed my “true colors.” She listed my flaws: that I gave her dirty looks, made fun of their pet (I called their bird loud when it was screeching in the kitchen), and that I mocked their dessert choices (I told a close friend that I didn’t like the guy who owned the bakery because he dated my friend, but that he made phenomenal cupcakes). She then proceeded to tell me that she wanted nothing to do with me and that she would never go to my in-laws’ or any function if I was going to be there (we typically go there for Sunday dinners). I personally think she’s still angry with me about the Facebook issue, but was looking for a way to turn it so that I was the bad guy.
I’ve showed the email to my husband who thinks she is acting crazy and he has spoken to his brother who assures us that this will all blow over. Should I reach out to her and try to get her to understand my position? She hasn’t come to my in-laws’ (not even for my MIL’s 60th birthday), and she’s declined invitations to parties at our home. Should I just forget about her and live my life? Help! — Tired of Family Fueding
Yeah, leaving a passive-aggressive message on Facebook obviously directed at your BIL’s somewhat estranged girlfriend probably wasn’t the smartest move to make. And it’s especially ironic given the message was basically, “Don’t use Facebook to make public what should be private.” In the future, use your own advice there. Also, going to someone’s apartment and saying anything remotely critical about their pets, kids, decor, food, etc. when you are on shaky relations with him or her is also pretty dumb. Why call her bird “loud”? Why say anything about the baker from whom she got the desserts? Why even go there? It seems gossipy and unnecessary. You should have said, “Oh, wonderful cupcakes!” (or whatever it was she was serving) and left it at that.
But! Since you can’t turn back the clock and can only look forward, my advice is to make one brief apology (I’d suggest sending a handwritten letter or email) for any misunderstanding between the two of you and expressing how much you’ve missed seeing her at family functions and how you hope you can close this unfortunate chapter and move on. Then let this blow over. Your BIL is right that eventually, if you keep your mouth shut, that’s exactly what will happen. His girlfriend can’t avoid the family forever — especially if she plans to be part of it eventually. And even if she does keeping skipping out on things like big important birthdays and other special occasions, who do you think looks like the jackass in this situation? You, for calling her bird “loud” or her for overreacting in such an incredibly juvenile and pathetic way that everyone is probably wondering what the eff is wrong with her?
In the future, remember the lesson you’ve learned here: this woman is a loose cannon and should be treated with kid gloves. Avoid offending her, avoid being defensive, and … well, just avoid her, period. She sounds a little batshit, and if the very worst thing that happens is you don’t see her at as many family gatherings anymore, well, maybe that isn’t such a bad thing after all.
*If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org and be sure to follow me on Twitter.