Friday, May 08, 2009

You Can't Pick Your Relatives Or Your In-Laws: Unwanted Advice (5/8/09)

DEAR ABBY: Most of my extended family are pleasant and enjoy each other's company when we meet at family gatherings several times a year. But three of them (all from the same side of the family) are just plain rude. Every event becomes an uncomfortable exercise in bracing oneself for the verbal attacks that come from these critical, judgmental people.

We have tried talking about it, but hear the same refrains -- "I'm not changing," "Accept me as I am," and, "You have no choice but to put up with me because we are family!"

I am a younger member of this family who occasionally spends holidays with friends or traveling. When I do, I am severely chastised by these three relatives, who say I have "no right" to skip family gatherings. If they were nicer people, I would want to spend more time with them.

I want to do the right thing, but what do people who have the same ancestry "owe" each other when there is no connection of friendship or goodwill?



Absolutely nothing.

The world has changed and people no longer put up with each other "just because they’re family”—people have access to cars and inexpensive airfare now so they can go where they want. They don’t feel obligated to suffer through gatherings of dusty, fusty, musty useless interconnected DNA. These three trolls feel threatened by that (with good reason), so they make things worse for themselves by trying to shame their relatives into accepting them (because who can resist a dose of guilt when it’s doled out by a rotten personality?). Pitiful.

The fact that these people are defiantly and proudly unpleasant should be reason enough for the hosts to stop inviting them. I hope that when you’re older and can host some gatherings of your own, you will bear that in mind.

Furthermore, you’re obviously an adult (though a young one), so they have no business correcting your behavior. Tell them to shove it up their asses.

DEAR ELLIE: My husband's family is ruining our marriage. They call repeatedly if you don't pick up. They'll leave a message that there's an emergency just to get his attention. We have a baby, 3 months, and I allow them to visit at least once a week.
Recently my mother-in-law wanted to visit on my birthday; I said I'd call her in the morning, and she could drop by. She knew I had plans to spend the day with my mother. I left three messages, didn't get a reply, so went on with my day with my mother. She called repeatedly and also got her daughter to call.

I said she could come the next day to visit, as we were going to have dinner soon and celebrate as a family (me, my husband and our two kids). She said, "I'd rather come right now." She's completely self-centered.

My father-in-law has all his mail coming to our home and gave out our home number for business. My husband gets angry with them but eventually gives in and it all starts happening again. I don't want it to ruin my marriage, as I love my husband too much.



Your in-laws are insane. The fact is, however, they’re your husband’s parents, and he’s the one who needs to set them straight. He needs to tell them not to leave “cry-wolf” messages on your machine, or you’ll start ignoring all of them, even if there’s a real emergency.

Then, you visit the post office and have their mail rerouted back to them—there’s no reason their mail should be coming to your house unless they live in a refrigerator box. Ditto for their business calls to your phone. What kind of bullshit is that?!

You need to make clear to your husband that their behavior affects you too. If he wants to stay a family, he needs to do more than “get angry”—he needs to let his sac drop and tell his parents they need to back off. Maybe you should try just not answering the phone during certain hours of the day and telling them that they can only visit certain times. If they insist on showing up anyway, guess what—you’re not home to them. Make some popcorn and sit in the basement.

DEAR MARGO: My husband and I have been married for 10 years. Seven years ago I was blessed, after many miscarriages, to have a son. My husband has three adult children from a previous marriage. The problem is, he has completely destroyed his relationship with two of his children and is on the way to obliterating his relationship with our 7-year-old. My husband believes that total humiliation is the best way to deal with children. He gets in our son’s face and screams at him about how worthless and stupid he is. I want to step in, but that causes a whole bunch of other problems.

Because of his actions we have a grandchild we never get to see, which, of course, has the ex-wife gloating. I hate to see my son be humiliated on a daily basis, and trust me, nothing is ever good enough or done correctly. I don’t know what to do.



If you really don’t know what to do, then you’re probably way too stupid to read this. There is no mystery here as to “what to do”—you dump the son of a bitch and file for sole custody.

You’re pretty vague as to the “whole bunch of other problems” that occur when you step in (or want to, or try to, or wiffle-waffle-woo), but those problems be damned, you are responsible for the well-being of your child first and foremost. Your husband should be concerned with that, too, and if he’s not, then he should be restricted to supervised visits.

If he’s fucked up his relationship with two kids already and doesn’t see the problem, somebody should have snipped his deferens long ago.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Purchasing items at stores isn't a simple transaction anymore. Upon handing the sales clerk my money (be it cash, debit or credit card), I find I am being asked more and more often for my phone number, e-mail address, etc. Even if I have chosen to sign up for that particular store's rewards program or allowed to be put on their e-mail notification list, I am still asked for my personal information at the sales desk.

What happened with simply paying for my purchase and being on my merry way? How may I respond in a tactful way that I do not wish to broadcast that information and just want to pay for my purchase?


If you’re paying cash, you are under no obligation to give them the “verification” (i.e., personal) information that would be necessary in a debit or credit card purchase. And it’s really the only instance that they can’t claim a right to this information.

You can simply say “no thanks” to any rewards program/e-mail newsletter/supercalifragilisticexpialadocius sales event, etc. If they ask again, just smile bigger (even if your cheeks ache and you end up looking like that creepy chauffeur in “Burnt Offerings”), grab your purchases (once you’re done paying, of course) and say, “No thanks, we’re done now.”

DEAR AMY: I have been happily divorced for more than 20 years.

My former husband quit his job, his marriage and all responsibility for his children.

I was able, on my own, to put my kids through college with no child support. He didn't even visit the children for a number of years (he moved to another state), nor did he attend high school or college graduations.

Now that my ex is "retired," he has moved back to the area.

I have no respect for this man. I do not like him, but one of my married sons has welcomed him back with wide-open arms.

He and his wife say that my ex-husband should be included in family celebrations.

I do not wish to associate with my ex and do not feel that I should be guilt-tripped into hosting him at my home.

At my granddaughter's softball games, my ex will move from his seat to sit next to me. I do not like this.

My son's wife thinks that it is wonderful for the "family" to be all together again.

I have been cordial. If they want him in their lives, that's fine but I shouldn't have to deal with him.

I have tried to explain my feelings but they don't "get it."

What to do?



Stop smiling and don’t try to explain this to your kids anymore. If they don’t “get it” by now, they’re never going to. Just tell them once more that this guy is not welcome in your house, and that some day when a spouse fucks them over and abandons them, they’ll understand why you’re justified in your attitude. They have a right to include him at gatherings in their own homes, but you have a right to keep your distance from him. You should not be criticized for this, and if the Brady Bunch starts giving you a hard time, tell them to stuff a jockstrap in it.

And the next time the ex tries to park it next to you at the softball game, tell him to get his ass back to his own seat or you’ll give him a fast and free trip down the bleachers. Head first.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This weeks crop of letters makes me sad to be a part of the human race. Your answers were spot on and I couldn't add a thing.
I still don't have all my grass mowed and now it's raining again. I hope to plant some vegetables. Probably some Tomatoes and Peppers and Onions and Radishes. I tried growing corn but the Raccoons eat it before it gets ripe. I tried watermelons but they need a dry sandy area and my ground is too wet and full of clay. Have a good weekend, Aaron and I know your Mom will be looking down from above this Mother's day with a whole bunch of love. ed

2:40 PM  
Blogger Aaron said...

Thanks for the kind words, Ed. I'll be thinking of her and missing her like crazy this weekend especially. And I'll be sending some love right back up there!

Enjoy your planting! Your ideas sound good, and I especially love the peppers and tomatoes. Nothing like the ones that come out of your own garden.

3:34 PM  

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