Our widowed son remarried three years ago, becoming stepfather to two more children. All four children are currently late-teens and early-20s.
Our new daughter-in-law initially exclaimed that we’d see them as much as possible. In three years, that’s been once at our house (albeit three hours’ drive away) and twice a year at other family functions.
We’re planning to be in their town (not invited to stay in their spare bedroom, so we’ll stay with friends). We offered to take them to lunch, and were politely told they’re having a barbecue for her mother's birthday and all of her family (but not us).
My husband’s shattered. Should we ignore everything, or ask what the problem is? He doesn't want to make waves.
Say nothing when you’re feeling “livid,” or you’ll create a storm, not just waves.
You should call your son regularly within reason (it’s a full household). Perhaps once in two weeks. Be polite to his wife, and warm to ALL the kids if they’re around to say hello.
Then his father should mention that you’d both love to see him, and his family, when a visit either way can be arranged. The three-hour drive is worth it from your perspective.
Four teenagers/young-20s are a lot of personalities to handle. The parents have their hands full. His wife isn’t hugely welcoming – she should’ve included you at her family party – but perhaps feels you haven’t reached out to her children. Or, she’s just very busy and/or not that thoughtful a person.
If your son rejects your attempt at regular chats and an arranged visit, that’s when it’s time to ask if somehow you’ve offended his wife, or there’s another problem you’re missing.
Otherwise, there’s nothing to be gained by bringing this to a confrontation.
My husband and his brother-in-law never got along. My husband and his sister don't talk to each other.
Now my husband's niece is getting married and we have no relationship with her either. We’re not invited to the wedding.
He sees no reason to give his niece a gift. I like doing the “right” thing and feel that giving her a gift is taking the high road. She has nothing to do with the broken relationship between my husband and his sister.
This is only about how I feel. I’m not worried whether his niece will be upset if we don't give her a gift. Of course, I’ll respect my husband's wish. Just wondering what you think.
The Right Thing
I’m personally big on taking the “high road” and doing what appears to be “the right thing” too, when it’s at all possible.
But I have learned along the way that if you go that route, you must not expect any applause for it, or be disappointed about not receiving it.
That said, weddings are beginnings, a fresh start in their lives for that couple. An affordable gift is a gesture of good wishes and celebration.
It’s not likely to change hardened hearts and anger between battling siblings, but it separates this happy occasion from all that history that has nothing to do with your niece.
Present the idea of a gift this way to your husband. It’s only about wishing a young couple well. By refusing to do so, he and his sister perpetuate the distance and distrust into another generation and perhaps even further.
However, if he’s adamant against a gift, just call your niece to wish her well.
FEEDBACK Regarding the man who was considering leaving his wife because of her short temper, weight gain, etc. (August 23):
Reader – “I've been there, in the wife’s situation. It was the worst time of my life.
“Fortunately, I had an excellent doctor who diagnosed me with both a serious thyroid condition and depression.
“I’ve been on thyroid medication and a mild antidepressant for years, and my life is wonderful.
“If a doctor doesn't screen for thyroid irregularities in middle-aged women, the patient should request it.
“When someone has this type of problem, it may be a physiological problem more than an emotional one.”
Ellie – It’s always good to hear from readers about personal experiences that could help others find solutions for their problems, health or otherwise.
In this case, the husband had already mentioned his wife’s “other health issues” that affected her, so it’s likely she was under a doctor’s care. Nevertheless, thyroid testing may have been overlooked.
Tip of the day:
In-law issues should be approached with outreach, and a desire to rise above them, if possible.