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Romancing a Family Separatist


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I think I need advice from a wide array of people who have different interpersonal styles that I'm used to, so I'm turning to the Hive for advice:
 
I have a new "sister-in-law" (she's not really my SIL and it's not legal yet, but she's just had a baby with the son of a family we've been very close to for 35 years) who seems extremely reluctant to interact with us. And possibly even with her own family.
 
I don't understand the whys, and perhaps that's not the point, but this young lady seems to have a very hard time participating in family-togetherness events. My own husband is the same way. With DH and SIL, I feel like we're perceived as a bunch of rambunctious puppies piling onto a couple of Siamese cats who are alternately horrified by the style of it all and actually fearful for their own physical safety. My husband has found a nice middle ground after eight years, but SIL is new to the circus.
 
Overall she is friendly when you engage her in conversation, but her avoidant behavior also pretty clearly rejecting. We've never really been able to talk to her and build a relationship, so it's very hard to say what drives this reaction. Suffice it say, she doesn't trust easily, I think.
 
That said, we love her husband-to-be dearly and we'd like any relationship with their new baby daughter that they can grant us. We would all do anything we could to please this girl and/or entice her to hang out with us, if only she'd give us half a chance.
 
SO...if you have an arm's-length relationship with family, for whatever reason, I'd like to ask: Is there anything we could/should be doing or saying to demonstrate that we just want the opportunity to know her and love her and that we're happy to deal with her on her terms?
 
I think we know that we just have to wait until she's ready to engage, and that will mostly take time, but is there anything we can do in the meanwhile to encourage trust and the development of a relationship?

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SO...if you have an arm's-length relationship with family, for whatever reason, I'd like to ask: Is there anything we could/should be doing or saying to demonstrate that we just want the opportunity to know her and love her and that we're happy to deal with her on her terms?

 

 

No, there is nothing you can "do" other than back off.  

 

If she doesn't want a relationship with you for whatever reason, do not force it.  If she is being pleasant enough to you, just be pleasant back and leave it at that if she doesn't want to be closer.

 

She may never come around, and still, let her be.  On the other hand, she may come around eventually when she realizes you aren't going to be pushy and controlling or judge her.

 

Not everyone has to be best buddies in a family and have a wonderful relationship. 

 

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Not everyone finds family gatherings comfortable. It isn't necessarily dislike for any individual. Your own spouse took time to find a comfortable level of interaction. She may need time.

 

I am okay at my own family gatherings, but I've had my whole life to grow comfortable. I'm still a bit ackward at dh's family gatherings. Part of it is being an introvert.

 

If you haven't tried already, spending time together outside of large gatherings may be better.

 

Mostly though, time. Give her plenty of time to acclimate.

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SO...if you have an arm's-length relationship with family, for whatever reason, I'd like to ask: Is there anything we could/should be doing or saying to demonstrate that we just want the opportunity to know her and love her and that we're happy to deal with her on her terms?

 

 

 

I have a family member like this who is a true introvert. They are not shy but find social things like this extremely exhausting.  They like the people but have no desire for all of this togetherness.

 

I could perfectly see my family member coming across the same way you are describing this young woman. But it can be hard for people to imagine this sort of personality, especially if you are the opposite. You did say that she's friendly and that it seems she likes you all well enough. It's wonderful that you are so open and wanting a closer relationship!

 

You might talk to her privately and just lay it out: "We adore your boyfriend and we are thrilled to have you and baby in the family. We know we can be loud and big and crazy sometimes. We'd do anything to get to know you better!  We want to welcome you into our family and not overwhelm you.  If there's anything we can do to make you more comfortable, please feel free to let me know!"

 

Don't necessarily expect an answer!

 

She may never warm up, but it has nothing to do with you. Accept her as she is and for as much as she is willing to give.  For my family member, big family gatherings like this would be dreadful and they would just want to avoid being any center of attention.  Most of all, don't take it personally! She is just different than (most of) the rest of you!

 

 

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My family can be overwhelming and very loud at times.  Don't draw attention to her, if you see her trying to slip away to a quieter place in the house for a few minutes.  I loved it when I had nursing babies because I was able to stand up for myself on behalf of the baby and state that I needed to go someplace quiet to nurse munchkin for awhile.  If the gathering is at your house, pile everyone's coats in a kids bedroom and bring her into your bedroom and tell her to feel free to use your room for her and the baby anytime.  Tell hubby so he stays out also.  This gives her permission to "hide" if she is overwhelmed.  If you know her favorite drink (say peppermint tea) then learn to have that on hand and make it quietly for her.  Don't draw attention to the fact you are making her a drink, just quietly do it.  I had one cousin who would come over during large gatherings and would hide frequently in my bedroom, I set up a rocking chair in there and would bring her tea and we would quietly chit chat.  Eventually, she confided why she was nervous out there and we slowly brought another female cousin into our "chambers" and another and she became friends with all of us.  It takes time and it sounds like you are willing to invest this time.  So, walk slowly, talk slowly and keep confidences with her.

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we're happy to deal with her on her terms

 

Well, but by this post you are saying that you aren't.  She is showing you her current "terms" - I'd describe it as cordial but distant. 

 

As others have said, let her be.  Like your DH, it may be just a matter of time until she finds her most comfortable niche.  And maybe at that time her "terms" will be different.

 

If I felt like someone (or worse, several someones) was trying to bombard me with affection and "win" me over, I would react by pulling way back.  I'd feel (wrongly) like they were not trying to draw me out pleasantly and make me feel comfortable, but rather to conquer me.

 

I don't mean any of this as criticism, by the way - just setting it out there for consideration.

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My family can be overwhelming and very loud at times. Don't draw attention to her, if you see her trying to slip away to a quieter place in the house for a few minutes. I loved it when I had nursing babies because I was able to stand up for myself on behalf of the baby and state that I needed to go someplace quiet to nurse munchkin for awhile. If the gathering is at your house, pile everyone's coats in a kids bedroom and bring her into your bedroom and tell her to feel free to use your room for her and the baby anytime. Tell hubby so he stays out also. This gives her permission to "hide" if she is overwhelmed. If you know her favorite drink (say peppermint tea) then learn to have that on hand and make it quietly for her. Don't draw attention to the fact you are making her a drink, just quietly do it. I had one cousin who would come over during large gatherings and would hide frequently in my bedroom, I set up a rocking chair in there and would bring her tea and we would quietly chit chat. Eventually, she confided why she was nervous out there and we slowly brought another female cousin into our "chambers" and another and she became friends with all of us. It takes time and it sounds like you are willing to invest this time. So, walk slowly, talk slowly and keep confidences with her.

ETA See post two below for a coherent response😜

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I think we know that we just have to wait until she's ready to engage, and that will mostly take time, but is there anything we can do in the meanwhile to encourage trust and the development of a relationship?

 

I married into a big and very talkative family who have family Sunday dinners every week throughout the year. After 17 years of this I still find it challenging. I MUCH prefer smaller groups, even when it's exactly the same people.

 

If you can get together with her and her partner in a smaller group it would probably be easier on her. Part of the difficulty could be the number of people, but I also find that the topics of conversation in the big family setting often revolves around people and/or places I don't know, and it's very tough to join in.

 

Add in a new baby, which can be really overwhelming in itself, to the big group challenge  and this young lady is probably just needing some space and lots of reassurance that she is welcomed and her presence is appreciated.

 

I would also add that she is not necessarily rejecting you and your family, or wanting to be a "separatist." She is attending these events, which is a great sign that she is making attempts to be accepting of the family and wants to spend time with you. If she stops coming altogether, then you can begin to worry that she's rejecting you all. But until then, I'd just make her feel as welcome as possible.

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How long has she been attending these gatherings? For myself, it is a huge struggle to enter a big gathering and have them expect me to join in and "just be one of the family". I can't feel like one of the family with a bunch of essential strangers - I have no history with them, don't know their history, can't navigate their personalities or humor, dont know how they expect things to be done, etc. It's not that I don't want to be welcomed, though. I get to know people much better and more easily if I can work with them on a task (dishes, scrubbing floors, painting walls, watching the baby, etc) for a period of time or just be allowed to be comfortable on the sidelines for a while.

 

You have 35 years of history with his family, and she has very little with you. I'm also assuming that your friendship was originally established by your own choice, and this isn't really her choice, kwim? You might be farther down her priority list of energy expenditures.

 

Be welcoming and interested in her, but give her time and let the relationship develop (or not) on her terms.

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I wouldn't be surprised if she's just really focused on the baby right now and not thinking too much about her new extended family.  If I were you, I'd drop her a card or an email like this:

 

"Congratulations on the new baby!  I'm so glad you are becoming part of our family, and I look forward to getting to know you better.  If you need anything, let me know.  My phone number is:   _________"  

 

Then let it be.  

 

 

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If she is not close with her own family, she may fear/dread questions about that.  Maybe there is something really wrong there, abuse or NPD or mental illness or craziness.  I have learned over the years that prying vs. interested questions are in the eyes of the beholder and the intent of the questioner has very little to do with the effect on the hearer.  So I think it's important to establish that she is 'safe' from questions that might be too personal/painful/challenging for her.

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It took me years to get used to dh's family. My family gatherings were small and quiet, his were big and loud. It was simply overwhelming. Does she do better one on one? If possible I would invite them over at a quieter time, she may do better in small gatherings. 

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Honestly, this sounds like an introvert's nightmare. You seem to have made a bunch of assumptions about this girl, and then when she doesn't react as you expect, you see it all in a negative light. First, you consider her a new Sil. Does she consider you a Sil? As I understand, her partner is a close, long term family friend but not actually a relative. Maybe she does not view the relationship as close as you do? Then, you use a number of negative terms to describe her actions, i.e., "family separatist", "extremely reluctant to interact with us", "possibly even with her own family", "very hard time participating", "avoidant behavior", "clearly rejecting", "doesn't trust easily". As an introvert myself, this is what I dread about so many social situations, the many unspoken expectations and then the disappointment when those expectations are not met. It's all just too much bother. I would rather stay home and read.

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I have a relative who is an introvert, a WASP, and probably has mild Asperger's Syndrome (never formally diagnosed but now that we've all become more familiar with autism it's pretty clear she has Aspie traits). She married into a large, boisterous Irish Catholic family filled with lots of extroverts. It took a while for the family to realize that she didn't dislike them, just that she found all of them together very overwhelming and that she wasn't very good at making small talk or navigating social situations.

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Thank you guys all for your insight. I will definitely give her a wide berth and let her engage us when and if she's ready. I do think we're all a little hurt that she's not diving in with us full steam-ahead, but I can totally see why, circumstantially, and I am deeply sympathetic to both introverts and to the possibility that she may have her defenses up for other (possibly darker, harder) reasons.

 

I think the message I'm getting is to not take it personally!

 

After some time has passed I'll send the friendly note suggested above, and then we'll just wait and see.

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you stated she doesn't trust easily - let that be your guide that there is probably something going on which you aren't aware.

 

it could be as simple as she doesn't "do" crowds - you could try inviting her for a "girls" day and getting to know her more one-on-one.

 

It may be she's had some pretty difficult relationships in the past and has been hurt and is afraid of getting too close out of fear of getting hurt.

 

or perhaps something happened early in the relationship with extended family and she is hesitant for that reason.

 

before dh and I started dating, his sister wouldn't even bother responding to me when I said hello to her.  she's a VERY outgoing person, but the message I took away was I wasn't worth her time.  even after dh and I were dating and I was at their house, she pretty much ignored me - but the day dh told her we were engaged, she called me up and acted all excited and like my long-lost sister.   um, . . . no.   let's just say, that made me extremely untrusting of her sincerity and set our relationship off to a bad start that has never been fully overcome.

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you stated she doesn't trust easily - let that be your guide that there is probably something going on which you aren't aware.

 

 

It may be she's had some pretty difficult relationships in the past and has been hurt and is afraid of getting too close out of fear of getting hurt.

 

or perhaps something happened early in the relationship with extended family and she is hesitant for that reason.

 

I am using your post as a jumping off point of discussion.

 

I picked out a few quotes just to illustrate some of the assumptions introverts face. Do we, or the OP, in fact know that this young woman does not trust easily? Is it possible she is just more reserved and doesn't feel comfortable speaking about herself and her life? Is this assumption based solely on her behavior or has she actually said anything specific to this effect? This it what I mean about the myriad assumptions introverts face. (And now I have made the assumption that this young woman is in fact an introvert. I intend these remakes more as general observations rather than speaking to the specific situation in the op.)

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Does she come from a really small or dysfunctional family? Or is she just an introvert? My Dh comes from a TINY family (at the time I met him he had one grandparent, a father and mother, two sisters and one brother in law.) I come from a HUGE family (oldest of 12, my father is one of 5, one of my aunts had 7 kids who so far have given her 16 grand kids.) It was a big culture shock for Dh and he was very....reserved and similar to how your future-SIL is described. My family is.....let's just say NOT reserved. ;) They all thought he didn't like him and that he was judging them or something. He just needed to get used to it all and it took time to be comfortable with them. Years, in fact, since he only saw most of them every other Thanksgiving.

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DH is an only child, and his mother was an only child.  If there are more than five people at the dinner table--he thinks it is a huge family gathering!  On top of that, he is an extreme introvert, so he can easily get exhausted at a family gathering.  But, I wouldn't label him as a "family separatist."  I also wouldn't conclude that he has trouble with trust.  

 

I don't know what her family culture is, but I would find it hard to find my place as part of a "family" when I wasn't married to the father of my child.  I would see this as my boyfriend asking his family to consider me family when he hasn't made that commitment yet.  If you extended that beyond family to "good family friends," I would be wondering what exactly my role is.  I wouldn't consider a friend of the family of the father of my child my "sister-in-law."     

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Find a way to value her. Let her teach you about something, recognize her as someone who could contribute (actually) to your life -- then invite her to do so, and make it clear that you have long-wished that you had someone like her in your life. Be inordinately pleased to have found her. Tell her she is smart.

 

Decide that being cool at family gatherings is something that regular people do, and that it's no issue that other people "happen" to be of the more active persuasion. Find something that she likes to read, and let her keep a book 'on the go' at your place. Make it clear that at "these" family gatherings, some people read books, just like at some family gatherings some people watch sports. Maybe your DH to model this: he can do it honestly... And he might well honestly like it.

 

Never tease or twit at her (unless she starts it), don't ask personal questions, and use touch moderatly (unless it is unwelcome). Have brief, satisfying conversations, talk about 'real things' (news, philosophy, shared interests) not social things (your day, the weather, health problems, babies).

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You’ve gotten a lot of good advice. I’m an introvert and only child (and only grandchild) who married into what is to me a big family (only 4 siblings but 20 plus cousins). They are very close-knit and the kind of people that like to spend as much time together as possible. It is overwhelming at times, over the years it’s gotten better but I’ve been married to dh for 13 years and I still find his family culture to be outside my comfort zone at times. It just takes time. 

 

A story from when dh and I first got engaged. We went to a family wedding together. It was a “destination†wedding so there were tons of activities over the course of 4 or 5 days. There were planned brunches and dinners and teas and desserts and outings. All that was a LOT for me. But then, they would all get together informally when there was nothing planned. So the same group of people who had just had lunch together would make arrangements to meet up again in an hour to go for a walk or shopping. And then there would be a scheduled dinner or if not, they would all decide to go somewhere together. After about 2 days I was done. In my head I was screaming “What is wrong with you people?! Can’t you just be alone for five minutes???†Finally, I begged off of going to lunch and said I was going to take a walk. Alone. I did. It recharged me. Later dh and I talked. I admitted I thought his family was nuts for all the continual togetherness. He admitted he had thought it was weird that I went off alone and had wondered if I was mad or upset. He had known me for about 4 years at that point so it’s not like he didn’t know my personality. Fast forward to a few years ago for my 40th birthday. I told him  that my absolute dream present would be to go to a hotel alone for 24 hours. He was happy to give it to me but still doesn’t really get why I would need that. His perfect birthday that year? To have 20 people over and cook dinner for them. 

 

The point being that even in a marriage introverts and extroverts can take years to figure each other out. Give this girl some time (assuming she’s an introvert, it’s a lot of speculation at this point). 

 

One other thing to add is that I feel like I have a lower bandwith than extroverts (or other introverts) for the number of people I can feel close to or have close relationships with. I just don’t need a big circle of friends. Honestly, I don’t want it either. I can be friendly with people but I only let a few people in really close. I would find it really weird if a family friend of my boyfriend/fiancee wanted to be super close to me. It would almost feel inauthentic to me because I take so much longer to warm up to people. 

 

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you stated she doesn't trust easily - let that be your guide that there is probably something going on which you aren't aware.

 

it could be as simple as she doesn't "do" crowds - you could try inviting her for a "girls" day and getting to know her more one-on-one.

 

It may be she's had some pretty difficult relationships in the past and has been hurt and is afraid of getting too close out of fear of getting hurt.

 

or perhaps something happened early in the relationship with extended family and she is hesitant for that reason.

 

before dh and I started dating, his sister wouldn't even bother responding to me when I said hello to her. she's a VERY outgoing person, but the message I took away was I wasn't worth her time. even after dh and I were dating and I was at their house, she pretty much ignored me - but the day dh told her we were engaged, she called me up and acted all excited and like my long-lost sister. um, . . . no. let's just say, that made me extremely untrusting of her sincerity and set our relationship off to a bad start that has never been fully overcome.

Maybe she grew close to an ex of one of her siblings and when they broke up, she had a hard time with the loss as well, promising never to put herself in the same situation. So when it became official, she felt safe to let you in. It's still not an excuse for her rude behavior, but maybe there is another reason of which you're unaware.

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she may have her defenses up for other (possibly darker, harder) reasons.

 

 

 

This phrase caught my eye, because it comes into play in my extended family situation.  My kids and I are often viewed through this lens, and it causes the extended family to treat us like a project.  I am pretty sure they have never explored the deeper reasons of why it is important to them that we respond in a way that makes them feel loved, but in my perception, it stems from this belief they have about our "brokenness" and their "solid family."  I believe that on a deep level, reaching out to us is more about them, and less about knowing us.  

 

Live and let live. 

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This phrase caught my eye, because it comes into play in my extended family situation.  My kids and I are often viewed through this lens, and it causes the extended family to treat us like a project.  I am pretty sure they have never explored the deeper reasons of why it is important to them that we respond in a way that makes them feel loved, but in my perception, it stems from this belief they have about our "brokenness" and their "solid family."  I believe that on a deep level, reaching out to us is more about them, and less about knowing us.  

 

Live and let live. 

 

EXCELLENT point! 

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I feel like we're perceived as a bunch of rambunctious puppies piling onto a couple of Siamese cats who are alternately horrified by the style of it all and actually fearful for their own physical safety. My husband has found a nice middle ground after eight years, but SIL is new to the circus.

Honestly, this sounds migraine inducing for me. I am not shy. In fact, I am fairly outgoing as introverts go, but I hate (hate, hate, HATE) the feeling I get with certain groups of people that I need to brace myself for a raucous circus atmosphere whenever I enter, the kind of environment in which I know unrelenting people who believe themselves to be well meaning will tease ("oh, we're just kidding, lighten up...hahaha!"), (over)share and expect the same from me ("we have no secrets here...hahahaha"), give unsolicited advice (because they think "we are close enough to be honest...hahaha"), parent my kids for me even when I am sitting right there, etc, etc, etc.

 

I recognize you are only saying this is how you imagine you all are being perceived but, kidding aside, I wonder if it is actually pretty on the mark. In similar situations, I dislike the feeling of gleeful overfamiliarity and the disdain I sense when I am being perceived as closed off when the simple truth is that I find the atmosphere obnoxious and wholly offputting. I don't know if this is the case for the person in question, but just reading your OP made me queasy with bad memories. I have just started deliberately limiting the relationship we have with one family because getting together with them feels more like volunteering to be bullied ("all in good fun!") than hanging with friends.

 

SO...if you have an arm's-length relationship with family, for whatever reason, I'd like to ask: Is there anything we could/should be doing or saying to demonstrate that we just want the opportunity to know her and love her and that we're happy to deal with her on her terms?

I would say don't treat her with too much familiarity. Just let her be there and don't expect or pressure her into the same level of engagement as others there. Let her be a "wallflower" if that is how she tends. Be friendly, but not over friendly. And no ribbing. None. Some people just flat out despise it. Actually, we rib a lot in my immediate family, but I despise being ribbed by people I am not close to and/or don't like a great deal.

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This phrase caught my eye, because it comes into play in my extended family situation. My kids and I are often viewed through this lens, and it causes the extended family to treat us like a project. I am pretty sure they have never explored the deeper reasons of why it is important to them that we respond in a way that makes them feel loved, but in my perception, it stems from this belief they have about our "brokenness" and their "solid family." I believe that on a deep level, reaching out to us is more about them, and less about knowing us.

 

Live and let live.

Yeah, the friends and their family I am starting to limit contact with think they are just the bee's knees. In a million years, it wouldn't occur to them that their own family dynamics and style of interaction, which they believe to be so very welcoming and "what family should be" (with all the judgment implicit in that), could actually drive people away. If someone does not engage, there must be something wrong with that person. People are different. That's all.

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Maybe she grew close to an ex of one of her siblings and when they broke up, she had a hard time with the loss as well, promising never to put herself in the same situation. So when it became official, she felt safe to let you in. It's still not an excuse for her rude behavior, but maybe there is another reason of which you're unaware.

dh and I weren't even dating when she would ignore me if I even tried to say hello to her at social gatherings.  (she didn't even say excuse me and walk off, she completely ignored me.).  after the fact she used dh's dating history as an excuse (not bothering to get close to his girlfriends) - but the fact is we weren't even dating at the time this started and she couldn't even be bothered to say hello in return?  the ONLY excuse to not return a greeting (unless you have objections towards the other person) is she didn't hear. once or twice maybe, but not every time.   then she went from ignore to the opposite in the space of one phone call. 

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Another viewpoint maybe........ She may be thinking why in the world am I spending my limited holiday time with my baby's father's family friends. Because no matter how close the families have been or how well you know him, you aren't family relations like mom. She may be trying to figure out why are we here and how do I make him understand that I certainly won't be spending the rest of my holidays with a bunch of people that we aren't related to!

 

 

Holidays are short enough with all the demands family puts on a couple especially one with a new baby. You may have no idea how many people she is trying to please with seeing over the holidays and the idea of giving up a slot for non family just because his family and you are dear friends may be one straw too many. In my family, you would be stretching it quite a bit to consider yourself family. She might be having the same reaction.

 

 

I know I laid it out for my hubby with a drawing. Here are the off times we have, here are all the people who are demanding we see them, their locations... Now pick who gets what time slots and who gets left off. Long time family friend celebrations bit the Dust quickly. Both our parents had hurt feelings over no longer attending these get togethers but the Other choice was not to spend any time with them. In other words, did they give up their holiday time with us so we can spend it with them and the family friends ? Or did they value having us at a private celebration over a more public affair with the long term family friends? One parent even had issues with us spending time with her at grandma's house and then not spending time with her again at her house just us. Geez, There is only so many "family" get togethers one can attend. Something had to give. My family alone has 6 different holiday events- one every single weekend and sometime 2 in a weekend from thanksgiving to New Years. His side easily had that many again. Priorities have to be set or you wind up with cranky out of sort miserable babies and even more stressed momma. Don't get upset if your event falls to the bottom of the list. You may have to figure out non holiday times.

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Give her the same 8 years your husband got.

 

And be prepared, that even then, things might be no different.

 

I keep BIL and family at arm's reach.  Honestly, I like BIL but he comes with his family and I just don't care for his wife.  And what makes things even worse, when they all get together with MIL as well, they spend time talking about stuff they  did 20+ years ago.  I've been  married to DH for almost 12 years, but I still feel like an outsider.  

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Yeah, the friends and their family I am starting to limit contact with think they are just the bee's knees. In a million years, it wouldn't occur to them that their own family dynamics and style of interaction, which they believe to be so very welcoming and "what family should be" (with all the judgment implicit in that), could actually drive people away. If someone does not engage, there must be something wrong with that person. People are different. That's all.

 

Yeah, a lot of the replies seem to be assuming that her reservedness stems from a place of dysfunction (bad childhood, mental illness, etc.). While it could be true, it's not a particularly respectful interpretation. Regardless of the cause, it's a part of her unique self, and if you value her, you should value that. People are different.

 

There are also a lot of negative interpretations - she's rejecting you. She doesn't trust easily. Look for nice, positive interpretations instead - maybe she's thoughtful, and a good listener. Someone who is comfortable with silence and doesn't feel the need to talk just to make noise. Someone who is more interested in hearing about others than talking about herself.  

 

As a somewhat socially awkward introvert, sometimes it's not that I have nothing to say, but that I find it hard to know how to get a word in edgewise. This is especially true when I'm an outsider in an established group. I'm generally more comfortable just listening until I get a better feel for the group. (This definitely doesn't mean to single her out to ask for her input or anything like that - just be sensitive to nonverbal cues, or continue the conversation one-on-one).

 

Another thing to consider - is there some sort of difference in background or values - political views, religion, class, race, etc. - that may be making her uncomfortable or distrusting? Or maybe she has something in her life that, while not "dark" or bad in any way, she prefers not to discuss as it doesn't often get a positive response - to take an example from a recent thread, maybe her biggest hobby is coloring. 

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I come from a large, close, loud family. Dh is pretty much an only child who wasn't really brought up around his extended family. He's an introvert (and not socially awkward at all, quite the opposite). But, my family tries to be understanding about that. They send him to the store alone or let him find other ways to go chill alone for a while. Not everyone finds it enjoyable or comfortable to constantly engage at a high energy level. That's okay.

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She may knowingly or unknowingly suffer from Social Anxiety and/or an Avoidant Personality Disorder, in which case social situations and people in general, can be terrifying.  No matter the cause, I think she would find it reassuring to know that you accept her on her terms and are open to whatever kind of interaction she is capable of. Subtextual warmth and acceptance can often transcend overt social gestures. And babies are great ice breakers!

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