From the forums:
We just got invited to a family Christmas get-together and she, too, has been invited. My husband doesn’t have much family so I’m sure he’d love to see them, but I know he absolutely doesn’t want to see his mom. They don’t really do get-togethers like this, so it’s not like we could just see them all another time. His mom has only seen our older son twice and has never met our younger son.
I feel like if we decide to go and she’s there, it could just be an awkward situation for everyone else. I’m honestly not sure if all of the family even knows my husband and his mom are estranged (a couple do for sure). I think she’d cry a lot and probably ask to reconcile in front of everyone.
I hate to think that we have to change our behavior and not go because of her. But going…. Oh geez, that sounds like a potential disaster.
I really like his family (not his mom) and would love to spend time with them. Many of them have not met our children yet.
Should we go? — Husband Estranged From Mom
Your reason for going is a good one: You would love to see the family you like whom you haven’t seen much of and don’t get to see very often. But your reasons for not going are legitimate: You don’t want to see your husband’s mother and you don’t want to make an awkward situation for everyone else (including, I would assume, your young children), some of whom don’t even know about the estrangement. You may not want to have to change your behavior because of the (non)relationship between your husband and his mother, but… that’s too bad. The situation sucks and part of what sucks is that you do have to change some things, including going to family get-together without the worry of dealing with an estranged relative.
You have a few options. Your husband can reach out to his mother before the get-together to diffuse any potential blow-up that might happen when they see each other. I understand he has no interest in reconciling, and, considering the underlying cause of the estrangement, reaching out to her may not do any good anyway. But it would give forewarning to both parties of what to expect (I would also alert the host about the estrangement so s/he can plan accordingly). An email to Mom would suffice: “Mom, I wanted to let you know that we will be at the Christmas get-together. I understand you’ve been invited, too, and I trust we can be adults and enjoy the company of our relatives and let the good cheer of the season and our loved ones absorb whatever tension may arise between us.”
If you didn’t have young children, I might suggest going that route, but the truth is, the relationship is no longer between just your husband and his mother. It now includes, in addition to you, two grandchildren. It’s one thing to let young kids believe Grandma is out of the picture, for whatever the reason, but once they see her in the picture — in the same room — I have to imagine it would be terribly confusing for them to then go back to never seeing her.
I believe your husband has his reasons for not speaking to his mother. If he believes he and your family are better off not having his mother in your lives, then, honestly, I’d avoid an intimate family get-together where she’ll be in attendance. If your main motivation for going is to see family you don’t get to see very often, host them all another time. Why wait until you’re invited to a party? Throw your own. Invite them over for a New Year’s brunch or to celebrate one of your kids’ birthdays. Have them over for a 4th of July BBQ in the summer and then make it an annual affair so you have at least one event each year where you know you’ll see these people, even if you decide to skip any other event where your MIL might be.
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