Friday, February 10, 2006

Inlaws and the rest of us


I've been contemplating the delicate situation that is inlaws since I read Tracy's post this morning. Supposedly some people manage to marry into a family that is virtually the same as theirs and the transition into their new family is smooth as can be. I just don't know anyone like that myself. It seems like most of the time, becoming a member of a family you did not grow up in is a shock to the system that just keeps on shocking.
For starters, I am perfectly grateful that I'm not having the same inlaw problems that Tracy is. That on top of all her other troubles is just too extreme. I'd have cracked long ago if I were in her place.
That said.... I've still got a handful of issues. Things I just don't understand. (Disclaimer: I love my inlaws very much, even if I don't understand them)
My family likes making a big deal out of things. We celebrate birthdays, we get excited when someone accomplishes something, we show up when invited to special occasions like baptisms, weddings, and baby blessings. Renn's family - they just don't care. His grandpa is turning 80 next week. If I live to be 80, I expect to have a huge celebratory shin-dig. But for whatever reason, nobody else thinks it's a big deal that Grandpa is having a birthday, let alone that it's a milestone number, let alone that his health is not-so-hot and it very well may be his last birthday. Nope, no parties being held here. Renn and his dad and I will drive up there all by our lonesomes and have a very small celebratory dinner and then drive back. The whole thing makes me sad and a little sick. ( Oh wait, I was already sick... never mind.)
So somehow I married into a family that doesn't celebrate birthdays, doesn't exchange gifts on Christmas (they do give some gifts... But they don't really wait until Christmas to open any of them), doesn't get excited to see each other, and are generally disinterested in all things I associate with family bonding.
Lest I lead you astray into thinking that they are horrid, let me clarify. One SIL spent Thanksgiving day on the phone with a friend in her bedroom talking about how "if she'd been thinking at all she would have volunteered at a soup kitchen or something instead of staying home." This was on one of the rare occasions when we had actually managed to get more than half of Renn's siblings together with his parents to celebrate. Nobody (except me I guess) really cared to be there. Even when they are all there, it's like they're not giving 100% - they are somehow distracted (by what, I do not have a clue.) They are good people and they do good things, it just seems to me (an outsider) like something is missing.
But does everybody feel that way about their inlaws? They are not like our family of origin so something seems to be missing? I feel guilty that I feel this way about my new family. I feel sometimes like they are silly or shallow because it feels like they are missing out on so much that matters so much. Is it all in my head?

3 comments:

Tracy M said...

Oh, Em, I am the very last person to give you advice! As you so aptly pointed out, my inlaw situation is a MESS.

It is hard and weird when you come from a close and friendly family to see a group of people who, outwardly, don't seem to really like each other. While my MIL is the crown jewel of bizarre and aggravating, the rest of the family is just detatched and odd. Maybe growing up with such a wacko mother made them all want to run away- which makes the healthy, sane man my DH is, all the more astounding.

SO I guess there is no advice in there, just a sympathy for the dificulty of assimilating to a new family. Hang in there.

hairyshoefairy said...

I totally agree there's a huge adjustment that has to be made and I don't know that anyone ever fully makes it. I, too love my in-laws dearly, and don't have the issues that either you or Tracy shared, but I do have issues all the same. What I find most difficult about it is I want to talk to someone about it. Tell them how I'm really feeling about it (my MIL specifically). I can't talk to my husband (or his siblings who really are all awesome people!) because he can say something critical and it's okay, but if I agree or add my two cents then I am being critical and should be put in front of a firing squad. Okay, so I understnad that. When He says stuff about my mom I get defensive, too. So he's out. I don't feel like I can tell my mom because for some reason it doesn't feel right. I think it's because she's too close. She and my MIL have a good relationship (at least from my mom
s POV; I think my MIL feels threatened sometimes by my 'rents but that's another can of worms). I don't really want to point out faults to someone that close. So she's out. I do have a couple of friends here that I've shared some things with because they have similar problems and it's such a relief to get it out of my system. My only qualm with that is I don't want to come across as a girl who gripes about her MIL every time she opens her mouth. I'm afraid I can't blog about it because quite a few people who read my blog know my MIL and love her and I don't want to tarnish her for them (she really is a great lady!). So you see the dilema. I just need to vent sometimes (it's unhealthy for me to bottle) and ask "why does she do this!?" aloud to someone who will respond but not judge me for being too critical and it would help if I knew they would never meet my in-laws. Wouldn't it be nice if we could all have someone to unquestioningly share with?

Em said...

I guess that's one advantage that I have. Renn and I both agree that our parents (all of them... to some extent) are slightly crazy. Neither of us is extremely defensive when discussing issues the other has with our family.... When my husband complains about the 15 year old blind incontinent puppy on the other hand... I get all riled up. But generally speaking I am able to voice all of my thoughts and concerns with him without any problem... so I guess I am lucky after all.

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