For the first six months of our relationship, Rebecca could not separate her friendship with Gayle from her relationship with Jim. She actively tried to help get them back together and for months belittled and ridiculed Jim’s and my relationship. During this time, Jim and I continued trying to be nice, inviting Rebecca to dinner, etc., until the torrent of texts, calls, and visits from Rebecca and Gayle became too much to handle and he blocked both of their numbers and cut Rebecca from his life.
Jim’s family is very large and VERY close, so, as you can imagine, this completely divided his family. Rebecca played the sympathy card and gained the support from pretty much all of her and Jim’s family (the females, at least). I should mention that Rebecca has a young daughter who is the complete center of the entire family, so really whatever Rebecca wants to do she gets away with without anyone questioning her actions [examples edited out per the LW’s request, but relate to Rebecca’s romantic relationships and scenarios that affect the family’s finances — Wendy].
Rebecca has never made any effort to reconcile (or even apologize), and eighteen months later Jim’s family still continuously go on about how he needs to “let it go.” Yet, Rebecca is still friends with Gayle and I am sure, given half a chance, the two of them would try to destroy our relationship all over again.
This whole situation is such a strain on us all and I simply do not know how to handle it as both our “kill them with kindness” and our “ignore it and they will get bored” approaches have just not worked.
Jim actively talks about our getting married and having a family in the future, but it breaks my heart knowing that, however long we are together, Gayle will always be more a part of his family than I am — something which I am quite sure may be the undoing of our relationship.
I need some straight-talking, non-biased advice, please! — Not Accepted By His Family
Well, yeah, if Jim has a VERY close family and the two of you have cut off the center of it, then probably, yeah, you won’t ever be very close with his family and it may very well be the undoing of your relationship. I mean, what did you expect when you cut off Jim’s sister? That everyone else in the family would just embrace you with open arms and it would be NBD?
If it sounds like I’m coming down on the victims here, it’s because your story sounds like it’s missing something and, without knowing what that something is, I have to assume you played some sort of role in what’s gone down. I mean Rebecca despised Gayle for years, Gayle and Jim broke up with Gayle stealing a considerable amount of money from Jim, you enter the picture, and then suddenly Rebecca and Gayle are inseparable and have joined forces to break up you and Jim?! Something just doesn’t add up. There must have been an inciting incident to cause Rebecca, who had previously hated Gayle, to suddenly prefer her over you. Do you have any idea what that something might be?
And not only did/does Rebecca prefer Gayle for her brother over you, but she also has actively tried to break up you and Jim. That’s just not…. normal. And if that is totally coming out of nowhere, then you have my total sympathy. But some of the way you talk about Rebecca — which I edited out, per your request — makes me suspicious about your feelings of her coming into the relationship and whether there was a relationship between you that you aren’t mentioning or that you had preconceived ideas about her that affected the way you treated her. Her personal relationships, for example, are really none of your concern, or anyone’s concern, and yet you classify them as “actions her family lets her get away with.” Well, yeah, I would hope a family would let a grown woman “get away with” divorcing her husband, for example.
Also, I question how strong your relationship is with Jim if you are truly scared that his sister and Gayle have the power to “destroy” your relationship. Why else would you even care about what they might throw at you guys unless you were really worried that something might stick and that you and Jim could break up over something the two of them said or did? If it were my husband and I, for example, and someone were trying to “destroy” our marriage, I would be angry, sure — I’d be annoyed and be hurt — but I can’t imagine anything anyone could say or do to “destroy” our relationship. We trust each other, we have each other’s backs, we’re committed. That’s something that I know a “torrent of texts, calls, and visits” wouldn’t stand a chance against. If you and Jim are talking marriage, your relationship should be strong enough to withstand some texts and phone calls from his sister (especially since you don’t have to answer them!).
Finally, you say you that “it breaks your heart knowing that, however long you are together, Gayle will always be more a part of his family than you are,” and I’m not sure what that is in reference to. Gayle is friends with Rebecca, but does that mean she’s at family gatherings and being embraced by everyone else in the family? Has that always been the case? Are other members of Jim’s family, besides Rebecca, making their preference for Gayle over you known? Again, I have to wonder why that is. That’s just not very normal behavior outside of affairs that end marriages (and especially marriages with kids involved). In those cases, the “other woman” is sometimes treated coldly by family members for a while, and the alliance is clearly with the ex-wife. But Gayle and Jim weren’t married, and you don’t mention any children between them. So…. I just don’t get it.
If there is more to the story here, I’d love to hear it. But without more details, I have to say that if you really want to be part of Jim’s life and his future, knowing that family is a super important part of his life and worrying that not being accepted by his family will ultimately be your undoing, then I think you need to start ingratiating yourself a little more with his family. And that probably means swallowing your pride and trying to bridge a gap with Rebecca, whom you proclaim to be at the center of the family. I would reach out to her personally — maybe invite her for a coffee — and tell her how much you love Jim, how you would never hurt him, how important it is that you be accepted by his family, and how you would love to start over with her. The worst that will happen is you’ll never have a good relationship with her and she’ll continue to try to “destroy” your relationship. But it sounds as though you’re concerned that your relationship will be destroyed in the long run anyway because you not being accepted by the family, so what do you have to lose?
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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.