Afternoon Quickie: “My Husband’s Family Doesn’t Address Me By Name”

My husband and I have been married for 55 years. My mother-in-law, who died when she was 99, never liked me. She had two children later in her marriage, so her daughter is 20 years younger than my husband. The daughter, my husband’s sister, was brainwashed by her mother to believe that I was a terrible person. My MIL turned many family against me, which caused me great grief. My husband is 83 now and has had many illnesses, including cancer (twice) and triple bypass surgery. We have three grown children, including one daughter with a mental illness who lives with us.

After all these years, no one in my husband’s family has ever sent him a get well card or asked how he is. Then, all of a sudden this past Christmas he receives a Christmas card from one of his sister’s daughters who is 29 years old. She has never met my husband. They live far away in another state. The card is addressed to “Uncle John” with a picture of her 3-year-old little girl. Now, I know her mother most likely told her to send the card only addressed to my husband, and I felt hurt and angry. So, I sent a card back from ‘Uncle John and Aunt Becky’ and wrote a note about how pretty her child is, etc.

Now my question is: If next year she again sends a card only addressed to “Uncle John,” should I respond the same again? I write all the cards. My husband doesn’t do the correspondence. My instinct tells me his sister is bored and is stirring the pot a little to “get to me.” I’ve experienced MANY pot-stirrings in the past and, after my MIL died, I thought I could finally relax. I’m angry at myself at my age to let this bother me, but I don’t want to start playing games again. My husband is ill again and enough is enough. This niece is very active and has a very good life and she is by no means trying to establish a relationship with her uncle. I look forward to your advice. — Aunt Becky, for the Record

You know, your sister-in-law doesn’t sound like the only one in this scenario who is bored and trying to “stir the pot.” You are freaking out over a Christmas card, for God’s sake. Christmas was three months ago and this card is still on your mind? You’re already concerned about whom a potential card may be addressed to this next holiday season which is NINE months away? And THIS is what you consider pot-stirring?! As you said, you are too old for this silliness (and, for the record, I’d consider anything over about 14 to be too old for this silliness).

If you get another card addressed to just your husband, ignore it. Christmas cards aren’t meant to be replied to anyway! This niece has never met your husband, has never sent a get well card or any other correspondence it sounds like, or in anyway shown any interest in your husband or in having a relationship with him, so why feel like you need to reply to her on your husband’s behalf? Obviously, your reply wasn’t about your husband. It was about YOU and wanting to assert yourself because you feel that, after 55 years of marriage, you deserve to be acknowledged as your husband’s wife. But, seriously, who gives a shit what some 29-year-old extended family member neither of you has ever met and who lives far away thinks or doesn’t think of you? You have an ill husband, three grown kids, and a daughter who’s mentally ill that you care for. Isn’t that enough to worry about? And, if it’s not — if you feel bored or unfulfilled, get a hobby! Join a card club, let this go, and continue enjoying the freedom you’ve had from your oppressive in-laws since your MIL’s death.


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  1. It sounds like you have a lot of stress in life. It has to sting that your husband’s family doesn’t show much interest and that they have treated you badly in the past. For all you know the niece wants to get back in touch with family now that she has a child of her own and is watching her grow up. Despite what you think you know about her, you don’t actually know her at this point. Even if she does send a card just to Uncle John again, share it with him and write a note back, if that’s what you both want. Maybe you’ll gain a new family member that you correspond with in your husband’s last years and maybe you won’t. But, stewing and fretting over this won’t do you any good. If your husband can’t be left alone look in to senior care and see if you can get out of the house and like Wendy said take up a hobby. Do you have any family or friends you do anything with now? Maybe schedule some time to hang out with them. Focus on the people and things you do enjoy, don’t spend any more time being bitter.

  2. Yeah MOA (move on already) from this card thing. This reminds me of the other aunt we had on here last week (or was it the week before?) who was putting too much pressure on her grown niece to be involved. Staying in touch with out of town extended family is really tough. I have a lot of trouble even staying in good touch with my immediate family (siblings, parents, in-laws) who are currently spread across 3 continents and 4 U.S. states (in the Northeast, the South, the Midwest, and California, so none of them close). My husband and I also prioritize staying in touch with a few good friends above staying in touch with aunts and uncles, which gets us up to people in 4 continents and 8 U.S. states, not to mention several different timezones. Maybe your niece is dealing with the same kind of thing.

    Regardless, I would guess that your niece did not mean to slight you. Maybe she doesn’t even know your name if your family has been that out of touch, or maybe she wrote it as a dual get-well/christmas card for your husband and thought it strange to add you to the card since you are seemingly well.

  3. Cleopatra Jones says:

    Does anyone else think that this letter wasn’t really about a Christmas card?
    I truly feel like this whole diatribe was about how your MIL treated you all those years and that your husband never stood up for you (in a way that was OK with you) OR about the stressful situation you are in without (or have minimal) family support.
    So please go talk to someone…a therapist, clergy, or a trusted family friend who can help you get resources.
    You definitely need to talk someone about the years of abuse that you endured from the MIL, the stress of parenting a mentally challenged child while also taking care of an ill spouse. All of that could get to anyone and it’s manifesting in you being outraged that an extended family member would dare send a card to your husband.

    1. bittergaymark says:

      Honestly? If she’s THIS batshitcrazy over there simple and nice gesture of a Christmas card — no wonder the mother-in-law loathed her. Frankly, the MIL was right. Apparently, YOU have isolated your husband from his ENTIRE family… seriously? What the fuck more do you want, LW?

      1. Avatar photo something random says:

        where’d you go? your fans want to know.

    2. Anonymous says:

      Agree. * Can relate l. My husband’s family has treated me & our son the same way referenced in this post. A counselor can help!!

  4. Sunshine Brite says:

    Also, it might be her first time navigating those things. I know I’m 27 and *meant* to send Christmas cards so I probably will get around to doing so at approx. age 29

    1. zombeyonce says:

      The niece may not even know the LW’s name so could have just put her uncle’s name on it because of that.

  5. stickelet says:

    It might be just me, but I figured she addressed it directly to him because he is her relative, not the aunt, with the assumption that the aunt is included in the well wishes on the card or whatever. But you’re making this into a way bigger deal than it needs to be.

  6. Sounds like a wonderful family to me. They have so much time to sit around and talk about you. You must be very important in their lives. So much so they’ve put all their time and energy into making sure their lives revolve around you. Even their Christmas cards to their blood relatives are about you! Wow, they really consider you. That’s great! =)

    1. Daniellee says:

      Haha so true! Such a wonderful family that snubs a married partner when addressing a Christmas card to them. If the family is that much of an asshole to not even properly acknowledge/address someone’s own spouse in a Christmas card and act like they don’t exist why would you wanna give them the time of day anyways? I wouldn’t wanna associate with assholes.

  7. Avatar photo Crochet.Ninja says:

    what stickelet said.. it’s not necessarily a slight. if my husband’s niece sent him a card and it only addressed him (and i know the girl), honestly i wouldn’t think much about it.

    after 55 years, you need to just let it go. if they’ve been assholes the entire time, that’s not going to change.

    1. ” if they’ve been assholes the entire time, that’s not going to change.” … and considering they’ve never MET the LW and there has been a family rift, it is possible this woman doesn’t even know her name or maybe that she exists.

  8. There are many ways to better use your time. You know you can send cards, letters, and care packages to soldiers or orphans overseas? They will address you however you want (within reason)! You can even sit on your MIL’s grave while you write them, if it makes you feel better.

  9. zombeyonce says:

    This letter makes me think of one of my favorite maxims: If you meet an asshole in the morning, you’ve met an asshole. If you meet assholes all day, you’re the asshole.

    I think LW may be the asshole if EVERYONE IN THE ENTIRE FAMILY doesn’t like her. I feel bad for the husband in this situation since he has been estranged from his entire family because of his wife. Sure, there are some families where the whole tree is terrible but that’s pretty rare. The MIL may have been horrific, but I’ll be there are plenty of people in his family that aren’t. It makes me really think that the LW could be the problem here, especially reacting in such a petty way to a freaking Christmas card.

    1. Avatar photo Stonegypsy says:

      I kind of had the same thought when I was reading it. Every time I hear someone talk about how everyone is so mean to them, I assume that the problem is with them.

    2. Avatar photo Stonegypsy says:

      Also, you have the best username.

      1. zombeyonce says:


  10. Have a mantra about this when it crosses your mind. Something like “I’ve never even met her so I’m not going to waste mental energy on it”

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