January 12, 2011 in Features

In-laws’ silence ‘weird,’ not personal

Washington Post
 

Hi, Carolyn: My dad died last November. My husband’s family has never said one word to me to acknowledge his passing.

We spent Christmas with them and again, nothing. I have been with my husband for 10 years, and have shared many of their milestones with them, happy and sad.

After I realized none of them was ever going to say anything, I told my husband – not in an angry, accusing way – that it really hurt my feelings, that I couldn’t understand it, and I just couldn’t let it go. His response was to ask if I wanted him to say anything to them (of course not) and then to act annoyed with me that I had brought it up.

How can I reconcile this hurtful oversight with the fact that I am going to be spending significant amounts of time with them for the rest of my life? – Va

Seems to me your husband himself gave you a window into his family’s nonresponse.

To his mind, apparently, the only reason for mentioning your hard feelings was to ask him to take action on your behalf – right?

That’s an unusual enough reaction to warrant attention. Specifically: He had several possible responses available to him that would have cost him nothing and would have eased your mind. “I’m sorry they let you down” or even the dour but useful “That’s just the way they are” – how tough is that?

So. Does this sound familiar? Your husband’s family had several possible responses to your father’s death that would have cost them nothing and would have eased your mind. “I’m sorry for your loss,” “I heard about your Dad, how are you doing?” – how tough is that?

Answer: Very tough, if sympathetic words are not in this family’s emotional lexicon.

Dealing with it is a whole other journey. However, if it is indeed a family trait, then there’s something else you can be sure it isn’t: personal. “These people are weird” sounds a lot easier to live with than “Wow these people are mean.”


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