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Keep grinning and bearing or talk it out? Catholic/Protestant


speedmom4
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Hello Hive,

 

Seriously, I need WWYD advice and not JAWM. 

 

Background: My husband and I have been married for 20 years. I've always thought my in-laws were a bit strange and the feeling is probably mutual. They are very different culturally from my family. They are from the deep South. My grandparents were from the Midwest and transplanted to Texas. I grew up in a lot of different places but didn't identify with one geographical location. My FIL was a professional athlete and life revolved around him and his career. 

 

I was raised Catholic and they are all Born Again Evangelical Christians. Once my husband and I were married we moved near them and I became a Protestant. I tried very hard to be more like them. I wanted them to like me. They are super nice people but are rather self centered. They frequently promised things to my children and never delivered. Usually it was promises to spend time with them but if another more interesting opportunity arose they would ditch my kids. I began to seriously resent them.

 

I finally had an epiphany after a close death in my family and decided I had to be myself. I could no longer try to be someone else. That's when the problems really began. I returned to Catholicism (after 15 years as a Protestant) and my husband and two of our four children converted. At the time they believed that I was pushing my husband in that direction but he was as passionate about Catholicism as I was. My husband sat them down and explained why he was converting. 

 

Since then they have had little to do with our children who converted. We live 10 minutes away and they see them a handful of times a year. They have spent much more time with our oldest two, who did not convert. The oldest two are girls and the younger two are boys and I do believe that has something to do with it. They like more girl centered activities. They take trips with their other children and grandchildren but not us. Their son-in-law is a southern Protestant as well and they seem to like him a lot.

 

So fast forward to last night. They invited us for dinner and to watch the Super Bowl. It was just awkward. It feels like we walked into a room just after everyone was talking about us. It's strained. There is no yelling, no fighting, just weird. There's tension in the air. This extends to my sisters and brothers-in-law as well. 

 

I believe there are several factors. Cultural differences as well as religious. If I have ever done anything to offend them I would want to apologize but for the life of me I can't imagine what that would be. They are not the kind that like to "talk" it out. My family is very open and frank. My in-laws like to pretend everything is fine and exchange pleasantries. I just don't know if I can take it anymore. I DREAD seeing them. I am NOT good at faking smiles and small talk when I'm upset. There is a big part of me that would like to just hash it out and see where the cookie crumbles but the other part worries about the long term ramifications of doing that. 

 

WWYD? 

 

Thanks for taking the time to read all of my ramblings!

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((Hugs)) I don't have answers for you. But reading your post reminded me of my own family. Especially your description of the super bowl party. I've been there. I can tell you what didn't work here. Talking it out - my honesty was met with denials that anything was wrong. And when I decided, a few years ago, that I can't fake it on holidays anymore, and ruin the holiday, it's like we disappeared. We see them once a year now. It's superficial. And it breaks my heart. So that didn't work either.

 

I'm sorry. I hope that talking this out works better for you. Or that you find another solution.

 

Wishing you peace.

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I am in almost the same situation.  I'm Catholic, my in-laws are nominally nothing (MIL is occasionally some nebulous version of "spiritual"...FIL is a proclaimed athiest, but not of the rabid "I hate God and everyone who believes variety).  They are, for reasons that no one will share with us, completely disinterested in my kids (the only grandkids they will ever have, because all of their children are well past childbearing age).  Not rude, or mean, and generically friendly enough when we see them (which has been 3 years, even though they only live 2 hours away, because they won't invite us and I got tired of calling and asking).  Some of this is because some members of that family are intimidated by our Catholicism (nothing I can do about that, it's not like we try to convert anyone or even talk about it much).  A lot of it is just because that's who they are.

 

What to do?  There's nothing you can do.  People are who they are.  Probably they like the other people more than you, because they like they other people more than you.  It probably has little to do with your Catholicism (and even if it doesn't, that doesn't really matter), it has to do with we all prefer different types of people.  You will only make yourself crazy wishing that reality is different than it is.  They aren't being mean, so just ignore everything that you wish they were, and accept whatever limited amount they can give you.

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((Hugs)) I don't have answers for you. But reading your post reminded me of my own family. Especially your description of the super bowl party. I've been there. I can tell you what didn't work here. Talking it out - my honesty was met with denials that anything was wrong. And when I decided, a few years ago, that I can't fake it on holidays anymore, and ruin the holiday, it's like we disappeared. We see them once a year now. It's superficial. And it breaks my heart. So that didn't work either.

 

I'm sorry. I hope that talking this out works better for you. Or that you find another solution.

 

Wishing you peace.

Thank you for sharing. It's helpful to know we aren't alone.

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((Hugs)) I don't have answers for you. But reading your post reminded me of my own family. Especially your description of the super bowl party. I've been there. I can tell you what didn't work here. Talking it out - my honesty was met with denials that anything was wrong. And when I decided, a few years ago, that I can't fake it on holidays anymore, and ruin the holiday, it's like we disappeared. We see them once a year now. It's superficial. And it breaks my heart. So that didn't work either.

 

I'm sorry. I hope that talking this out works better for you. Or that you find another solution.

 

Wishing you peace.

 

:iagree: I tried to broach with my inlaws a few times, but nothing.  I think they are honestly in denial about it themselves.  It just made things more awkward for me to be the one who wanted to talk about it.

 

And yes, to the holidays thing, also.  I just flat refused to do any more holidays with them, because I didn't like them being ruined for me.  I am willing to go a fair way to make things work with people, but I'm not having my holidays ruined by people who pretty much don't care about us.

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:iagree: I tried to broach with my inlaws a few times, but nothing. I think they are honestly in denial about it themselves. It just made things more awkward for me to be the one who wanted to talk about it.

 

And yes, to the holidays thing, also. I just flat refused to do any more holidays with them, because I didn't like them being ruined for me. I am willing to go a fair way to make things work with people, but I'm not having my holidays ruined by people who pretty much don't care about us.

Yes! I would like to enjoy my holidays again! I read this quote and it resonated with me:

 

"Stay away from people who make you feel you're hard to love."

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Honestly, after reading your post I don't think it is so much about religion (though it may be part of it). It sounds like you are just different people with different backgrounds/cultures. What does your husband think? Personally, I would just try to make get-togethers as pleasant as possible (without going against your beliefs etc.) and let it be. But then again that is my personality/family culture so may not work for you.

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What does your husband think?  Does he feel the same way as you do?    Does he understand how you feel even if he doesn't feel the same way?  Does he want to maintain a relationship with his family?

 

Sometimes there is no point in trying to talk things out.  My in-laws would deny that there was any problem so talking would go nowhere.

 

I'm not big on cutting people out of my life but I would limit my time with such people as much as possible, and do what I could to shield my kids from them and their hurtful attitudes.

 

We stopped spending holidays with my in-laws when our daughter, while talking about the possibility of a Christmas trip to see them, said "can we not ruin Christmas this year?"  I think it was at that point I stopped stressing out about a relationship with my in-laws.   I think that was also when I realized that my kids understood their grandparents. They don't particularly like them, but they are no longer hurt by their indifference. 

 

I have always had my husband take the lead with his family, but have taken a hard line when the kids were younger and I saw they were getting hurt.  I think it is generally best when sons- and daughters-in-law let the spouse take the lead with their birth family (as much as possible).

 

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On the very practical side, I can suggest this:

 

1. Don't go to things at their house unless you really want, or your husband realllllly wants you to.  Like, if they ask about Super Bowl again, just skip it.  Let dh go, and any of the kids who want to, but you find something else for yourself.  You dh will still be able to maintain his relationship with them, they will maybe be able to relax better without you there, and you won't be put through the whole "drama play".  Stay home, drink some wine, eat some cake (and, if you're like me, laugh at your victory of getting everyone else out of the house).

 

2. If you do go, bring something to do by yourself. Nothing too obtrusive, but just something to occupy yourself with, where you can give the appearance of being available to talk if someone wants to, but not have to sit there like a stump, either.  I like knitting, so I would probably bring knitting, or at least a ball of yarn to untangle, or something like that.

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I could have written so much of your post. My situation is much the same.

 

We had a major confrontation years ago. It didn't do any good because they refused to acknowledge that they had done anything wrong. I learned who they are by their reaction to the situation, the things they said. I also learned they were not going to change. They weren't even going to try and meet in the middle. I walked away. I see them on occasion when they come to take my kids somewhere but I don't go to their house. Ever. I gave up. I didn't know how to function in their world and hated how being around them made me feel.

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The lady who sponsored me into the Church (and incidentally taught the RCIA classes) and I have had many conversations about this. It's a cultural thing in the South. If you're Catholic down here you've got to have a pair of brass ones. You're outnumbered and many denominations preach the typical anti-Catholic stuff as fire and brimstone gospel. Nothing will change their view. With the right people, I'll discuss it but generally it's just a good way to get told how deceived you are and possibly even have issues with demons and such. It costs you friends and status to decide to be Catholic in the South, especially in my home state of Mississippi. I don't know about TX...I'm mostly hooked into the Catholic community here so if I'm missing out I am not as aware of it.

 

Our relationship with my husband's family exploded after we converted. We had been atheistic pagans before we met, but when we converted and it was not to their denomination, everything went south in a way that ended with assaults, restraining orders, and a cross country move. It ended up being a blessing, but what a ride. I remember my sponsor telling me that when you're on the right path the Adversary panics and redoubles his efforts. It certainly happened with us. Be strong.

 

Oh, my first priest had a story he liked to tell. When he was in seminary in Ireland, they had discussed what sort of ministry each priest was interested in. He told them mission territory and that he wanted to tend the flock where the Church was challenged. He was thinking third world countries. The day he got his assignment he went to the person in charge of the assignments and was angry because they sent him to America of all places! This person patiently explained that he was being sent to a rural part of Mississippi and that less than 2% of the population was Catholic, therefore it was mission territory. He told him he would be more challenged in MS by Protestant influences on his flock than anywhere else. After 50 years as a priest, he is still there and quietly admits that he got more challenge than he ever expected.

 

This is the mentality you're dealing with. It is my experience that meaningful dialogue and a change of behavior is just not going to happen.

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I would like to think it's not based on your religion, but my mom is like this. Anyone not being exactly like her in thinking, is well, not fully welcomed.  The fact that they dropped the ball with your kids before the conversion is really the truth about who they are.  They can claim your conversion is the trigger, but really, they weren't being super nice before.  This just push one more button they didn't like and chose to be ugly about it all.  

 

Walls are good for people like this.  Dh had to do it with his family.  And at times we have done it with my mom.  I know you wish there was a better relationship, but there isn't.  You can't change it.  You can be polite.  But otherwise, you have to live your life and  not let them bother you.  We have had to find 'family' outside of our blood relatives over the years.  I think it's fine to just do the minimal contact.  Do you really want your kids around people who disappoint?  I was sad at first when I realized how the relationship was going to be.  Now, if they have contact with us, fine.  But it's really just better if we don't.  

 

I hope you come to peace with the situation.  Do your part when you are together...by being nice.  But you don't owe them anything more.  The rest of the relationship comes from them.  

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Hello Hive,

 

Seriously, I need WWYD advice and not JAWM. 

 

Background: My husband and I have been married for 20 years. I've always thought my in-laws were a bit strange and the feeling is probably mutual. They are very different culturally from my family. They are from the deep South. My grandparents were from the Midwest and transplanted to Texas. I grew up in a lot of different places but didn't identify with one geographical location. My FIL was a professional athlete and life revolved around him and his career. 

 

I was raised Catholic and they are all Born Again Evangelical Christians. Once my husband and I were married we moved near them and I became a Protestant. I tried very hard to be more like them. I wanted them to like me. They are super nice people but are rather self centered. They frequently promised things to my children and never delivered. Usually it was promises to spend time with them but if another more interesting opportunity arose they would ditch my kids. I began to seriously resent them.

 

I finally had an epiphany after a close death in my family and decided I had to be myself. I could no longer try to be someone else. That's when the problems really began. I returned to Catholicism (after 15 years as a Protestant) and my husband and two of our four children converted. At the time they believed that I was pushing my husband in that direction but he was as passionate about Catholicism as I was. My husband sat them down and explained why he was converting. 

 

Since then they have had little to do with our children who converted. We live 10 minutes away and they see them a handful of times a year. They have spent much more time with our oldest two, who did not convert. The oldest two are girls and the younger two are boys and I do believe that has something to do with it. They like more girl centered activities. They take trips with their other children and grandchildren but not us. Their son-in-law is a southern Protestant as well and they seem to like him a lot.

 

So fast forward to last night. They invited us for dinner and to watch the Super Bowl. It was just awkward. It feels like we walked into a room just after everyone was talking about us. It's strained. There is no yelling, no fighting, just weird. There's tension in the air. This extends to my sisters and brothers-in-law as well. 

 

I believe there are several factors. Cultural differences as well as religious. If I have ever done anything to offend them I would want to apologize but for the life of me I can't imagine what that would be. They are not the kind that like to "talk" it out. My family is very open and frank. My in-laws like to pretend everything is fine and exchange pleasantries. I just don't know if I can take it anymore. I DREAD seeing them. I am NOT good at faking smiles and small talk when I'm upset. There is a big part of me that would like to just hash it out and see where the cookie crumbles but the other part worries about the long term ramifications of doing that. 

 

WWYD? 

 

Thanks for taking the time to read all of my ramblings!

 

:grouphug:

 

Keep grinning and bearing it.

 

It is possible that the tension you felt last night wasn't really there, but even if it were so, one of you has to behave charitably, and it might as well be you.

 

Also, since we're talking about your husband's family (and you say they were difficult even before you came back to the Church with Mr. Speedmom4), what does *he* think? His family, his job to make things work. And I'm not being all husband-is-the-head-of-the-house-and-wife-should-suck-it-up. It's his family to deal with.

 

You have probably not done anything to offend them, other than enticing their son to leave the true faith and become Catholic. They might not be thinking that, but it's pretty common. My advice would be to just love on them as much as possible.

 

1 Corinthians 13:4-7: Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

 

And also...welcome home. :001_wub:

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(((HUGS))) not easy. Not, not easy. My parents are uber conservative protestants, my husband and I along with our sons have decided that we fit best in the Lutheran faith (parents are dang unhappy about that), my brother and his wife are pentacostal, and my sister is a deist...believes in Intelligent Design but not a deity that takes any interest in the day to day affairs of people. You can imagine how well THAT goes over.

 

My sister has it the worst.

 

One thing that seems to work the best is to not meet at my parents' home. They are old school. If it is their house, their rules, their comfort zone, and therefore they preach and get snarky. Invited to other people's homes, they are more polite and easy going. Restaurants are also a good bet, or were before my dad became a stage 4 cancer patient. So one option is to choose what I call "neutral ground" for get together functions. Avoid going to their home, but extend invitations often to other places, and if possible, offer to pay their expenses.

 

You will never be able to get them to stop playing favorites. With my MIL, her two grandchildren that are the oldest, her daughter's children, are the cat's meow. She likes mine. But the gushing behavior, the go the extra mile behavior, the bending over backward to spend time with behavior, always goes to those two and in particular the grand daughter. I stopped fighting it years ago.

 

Don't write them off, but also do not feel the need to keep the conversation going. I often find that if I have to spend a long period of time with my folks, since I don't want to deal with religious attitudes, having some hand quilting (I don't knit or crochet) or something like that works well for me personally. I have something that I can be distracted by and if the conversation turns into an awkward silence, so be it. I've got something I'm accomplishing! I have been known to take a board game and if things feel tense, set it up on the table and play it with my sons. If grandma and grandpa want to join in, great we'll teach you to play too. If not, oh well. I'm just being a good mom playing a game with her teens. Hard to find fault with that!

 

I like what Ellie says concerning ! Cor. 13. Just show love as much as you can. It does become a different problem all together if they get verbally abusive, toxic, or nasty to your kids. That's different. You don't turn the other cheek on that. You protect your family from it which means they aren't going to get to be around your family. Their choice. Not. yours. But as long as it is just a matter of feeling a little weird and everyone having feelings to work through, I'd keep on keeping on like Ellie said, and show love.

 

We had this issue for years with dh's dad. He never forgave us for moving to Michigan so it was always a bit weird when we would make our annual trip to Florida or when he would make his annual trip to Michigan. We just kind of muddled through the weirdness for the sake of the kids being able to see their grandpa. They didn't have a super close relationship with him. But the man was not toxic or narcissistic by any stretch so it was good that we didn't get in the way of them knowing him.

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My gut tells me that you can't change these folks into people who can "talk it out."

The only thing I can suggest is that you start exchanging pleasantries such as, "oh we so appreciate the ___ you gave/did for my kid, she just loves it bla bla bla."  "Oh I just love this [decoration /garment], is it new?"  Safe stuff that could maybe start to break the ice.

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WWYD? 

 

I would put on a friendly face and move on. Moving on includes having other plans than doing things with the in-laws. "Superbowl party sounds like fun, by golly, but wouldn't you know it dd and I have plans to scour the sinks and pull all the hair from every drain! Too bad we'll miss fun. Save us some bean dip!"

 

Some people don't do "hash it out," as it may feel an awful lot like, "airing dirty laundry," or "complaining about other people and things you can't change anyway." I'm not a hasher-outer in general. I find I can't articulate my thoughts well when put on the spot (as hashing it out undoubtedly does), then after everyone has had their say and feels generally bad and wishes they didn't say what they did, I ruminate over what I could have or should have said instead. I'm not much for confrontations in person. I think they're uncomfortable, self-serving, and ineffective. If there's a specific problem that can be addressed, that's different, but you're talking about a general ill-feeling about you which may or may not be inspired by their religious beliefs. I'm not saying I'm right by any means, but hopefully offering you an insider's opinion as to why hashing it out might backfire. I personally don't think it would solve your problems, it would only create new ones. Hash out your feelings here. Here's where you'll get sympathy and commiseration. 

 

I am in almost the same situation.  I'm Catholic, my in-laws are nominally nothing (MIL is occasionally some nebulous version of "spiritual"...FIL is a proclaimed athiest, but not of the rabid "I hate God and everyone who believes variety). 

 

If he doesn't at least eat a baby or two each year, his card should be revoked at the very least. Perhaps even tarred and feathered. 

Edited by albeto.
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WWID?  I would stop going myself and just send DH if he wanted to go and whatever kids felt like going along.  DH would get to handle all the interactions going forward.  Your kids are mostly older and capable of understanding whether they are wanted at an event or not.

 

I would not "talk it out" - like others, I find that to be pointless.  This isn't a logical issue and nothing you can say will change their position.  

 

I would just drop out and not engage any more except for formal events like weddings and funerals where social interactions are minimal.

 

 

 

 

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If that's the way they are, then quite honestly, I wouldn't want to have much more to do with them.  I can't understand that attitude from people who are supposed to be your family, at all.  

 

I don't have much patience for judgy people.

 

I'd let your dh deal with it.

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I just wanted to say that I grew up in the south and my best friend was Catholic. I guess you could call me a Protestant, but I'd have to go look it up :). I believe in the Bible and prefer to just call myself a follower of Christ. She came and visited my church with me (southern Baptist) and I visited hers with her all the time growing up. It was never a big deal :).

 

And now to comment on the actual post..

I agree with others that talking things out with them will probably not help. They will deny everything. If you simply cant tolerate it anymore, say what you need to say and move on. If you cant tolerate gatherings, then don't go.

We are without any family at all on either side. We lived two houses down from my husbands mother for two years and she never came over to see her grandkids once. I feel bad for my kids, but it is what it is.

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My gut tells me that you can't change these folks into people who can "talk it out."

 

The only thing I can suggest is that you start exchanging pleasantries such as, "oh we so appreciate the ___ you gave/did for my kid, she just loves it bla bla bla."  "Oh I just love this [decoration /garment], is it new?"  Safe stuff that could maybe start to break the ice.

 

:iagree:  They did bother to invite you over for something that certainly wasn't necessary.  I'm not sure how you'd broach a discussion with them anyway if things just seem a bit awkward at the moment.  Maybe this is there version of trying and acceptence and over time they'll be able to relax more.  I'd be yourself.  I'd work on having the type of relationship you want to have with them.  I'd be surface level, happy, polite, jovial with them.  If they have a problem with it, they can bring it up. 

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I would just blow the boat out of the water and have a head-on with them.  That would be a relief compared to letting the issue fester for decades.  They can either choose to embrace you as family regardless of religious differences, or choose to go their own way thinking that religion is more important than love and relationships.  Put it on the table, and let them decide one way or the other. 

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I would, above all, not allow them to show favoritism with my kids. Either they treat them all the same or they don't see them.

 

Drop the rope with them. You don't have to be mean or unkind, but you don't have to spend time with them. It is not a requirement. You are an adult and get to make your own decisions about with whom you spend time.

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I would want to have a talk with them, but only if I believed I could remain relatively calm. However, I don't know your dh's family so it is hard to say. What does your dh think? Could he talk to them? The fact that they are treating the older children and younger children differently would bother me a lot. I don't think I could keep quiet about that.

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As one who was raised in the Deep South, I vote NOT to talk it out. We just don't do that sort of thing. I know it sounds crazy, dysfunctional really but we keep things inside. I really don't think anything good can/will come from an "air it all out" session. Sorry. I know this is hard. :(

 

You know, I agree. That will just feed the flames. Just smile and be polite. That's what they are doing, and it may have to be enough. 

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Hugs.  I'm sorry things are uncomfortable.

 

Having been on the other side of your talk, I vote don't talk it out.  I've had someone confront me with not being comfortable with them and making them feel left out.  It was a person who was trying hard not to do anything that I found uncomfortable but who occasionally misjudged.  I loved the person.  I couldn't think of anything to say except that I loved them and to please keep trying, which was totally inadequate.  If they'd been a thick sort of person, they wouldn't have noticed anything.  They were a sensitive person who picked up on my being slightly on guard around them.  It was very sad.

 

What is it that you would like your in-laws to say?  What can they say that would make you feel better?  Can you imagine them saying that?  Are they likely to?  Is it just going to make them feel even more uncomfortable around you, even if they manage to say what you need them to say?  Do you think this is something they are already aware of and are doing their best with?  Or are they totally oblivious to how you are feeling?

 

If you are uncomfortable with a person, for whatever reason, it doesn't tend to make you more comfortable with that person to have that person tell you that they have noticed.  Especially if you are trying hard to BE comfortable with the person.  Or at least not inflict that discomfort on the poor person.

 

Can you come up with something specific that would make you feel more comfortable?  For example, if your mother-in-law kisses everyone else when they say goodbye but doesn't kiss you, perhaps you could smile at her when you say goodbye and ask if you could have a kiss, too.  Or if it is being left out of the conversation (which happens when a lot of people do the same things together and you don't), perhaps you could find some things that you do have in common and bring those things up?  Or maybe you could try to make them more comfortable by asking them about the things they are doing?  If you do that consistently, then you might be able to get to the point where you can ask how something you talked about last time worked out, which gives some continuity.  But perhaps you've already tried that sort of thing...

 

Maybe you could work on developing a relationship with one person at a time, instead of tackling everyone at once?  Not by confronting them with the problem, but by trying to get to know each person better?  I found with my own mother-in-law that I had to share some of my worries about my children in order for her to consider me not stand-off-ish.  It was really really hard for me to do because it felt totally wrong to me - I was betraying my children.  And complaining (a huge nono).   And burdening someone else with my worries.  I had to work hard to find things to share that were genuine, so I didn't seem fake, but weren't something that I minded sharing too much or that I thought my children would mind too much.  My mother-in-law, with all her experience, provided me with some great solutions to problems, so that worked out pretty well.  As backwards as it seemed to me, complaining to her seemed to make things better.  I guess to her, my complaining was sharing, not complaining.  Maybe sharing worries is not the same thing as complaining about something that has already happened and nobody can fix?  I don't know.  Whatever it was, it seemed to work.

 

If you don't think any of that would work, I like the suggestion of bringing something to do like knitting and board games.

 

Hugs,

Nan

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Some evangelical and fundamentalist denominations don't consider Catholics "real" Christians.  I have no idea where the Roman Catholic Church stands on denominations outside the RCC being "real" Christians, but I suspect there's a significant probability that your in-laws from the Deep South classifying themselves as Protestant Christians take the view that Catholics are not Christians.  So in their minds, their son and 2 of their 4 grandkids aren't "real" Christians anymore because of your influence. I don't know if they're as upset with him abandoning the faith they shared as much as you (he's a grown, competent man responsible for his own decisions after all) but one way or the other, it's probably a big deal to them.  Here's the thing-no one gets to decide someone else's definition of Christian.  They have their ideas, you have yours and they are just as  unlikely to change their definition as you are to change yours.   You make your choices and you live with them.  You have no control over anyone but yourself.  You can only deal with how reality is, not what you want it to be.

I think people from The South are probably less aware of just how drastically different they are culturally to other regions of America.  (My maternal grandparents who helped raise me were from The South and so are my step-dad and one of my SIL.) That may be true of any subculture in America, but the South is so much more culturally cohesive than other parents of the country, due to a shared love of tradition, that they encounter different subcultures and changing social norms less frequently than those of us living in very subcultrually diverse areas.  It's not likely your in-laws are ever going to change because their environment probably doesn't demand it of them as much as other environments.

So, while many people consider being direct, straightforward and willing to hash things out as the honorable route, others will consider it rude, combative, aggressive and unnecessarily antagonizing.  A lot of Southern culture is like that.  Lots of smiling and nodding and not bringing things up no matter what.  That's cultural differences for you.

I would say your husband should take the lead (it's his family so he knows them better) on deciding what boundaries need to be set (assuming he's in agreement with you on the nature and extent of the problem) and how they will be enforced. Of course you have just as much say as he does, but his perspective is the expert opinion because of his years of intimate experience with them.   Generally, short visits where you're free to leave as soon as a boundary is crossed is best.  Everyone in your immediate family who is old enough, needs to know before you arrive at the get together what kinds of things are boundary violations and exactly how enforcement will happen. Practice what you will say and how you will say it for the kinds of situations you've already encountered and any you anticipate so you don't have to figure it out in the heat of the moment.  Over-prepare and go with the flow.

I'm sorry you have to deal with all this crap. 

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I might try asking if I have done anything to offend them.  probably just to mil OR fil at one time, just one on one. it *might* lead to a discussion that would improve things.  don't hold your breath.

 

My mother's family is also from the Midwest.  very "sweep it under the rug" and ignore the elephant in the room.  which just leads to more tension - and a lot of misunderstandings.

 

it could also be you're catholic, their son is now catholic, and two of their grandchildren are too.  there is NOTHING you can do about their displeasure about that one.   just be true to yourself, and minimize the contact with ALL of your children.  including the two who didn't convert.  I'd be worried about their attitude being passed on to them.

 

don't have any expectations.  they're going to play favorites.  it could be because they're prejudice, or something else.

 

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I am a Yankee transplant to the Deep South. I've lived here nearly all of my adult life.

 

I used to be Catholic, but am now a nondenominational Jesus loving Protestant.

 

It sounds to me like it's really a North / South thing, and not a religion thing. I learned very quickly that "southern hospitality" is really just "polite to your face" in a "bless your heart" kind of way. I don't think it's a personal thing ("I hate you!"), but more of an ambivalent to others outside one's social circle.

 

If I were you (and kind of was a number of years ago), I would accept where they are, warts and all. Let go your expectations of an ideal, dreamy family set up. They aren't going to change. Expecting them to will just stress you out. Sometimes we just click more with other people (and it sounds like they have with your BIL). Be polite. Be kind. Not fake - be as genuine as possible. Don't mention it again to your DH. I know others will revolt here, but in my experience - he knows, there's nothing he can do to change them, he doesn't want to have to chose between you and them in a bridge burning kind of way (since it doesn't sound like they are dangerous), and it's likely very stressful for him to be in the middle. So drop it. Go when they invite, encourage him in his relationship with his parents, be cheerful, bring flowers, send a thank you note, and let it go. In the end, you'll feel much better about how you behaved and how you were so kind to your husband's parents. Being the bigger person doesn't make you weak. Sometimes I think it just makes you the better person. Hope it works out.

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