Friday, December 4, 2009

Family. Specifically In-Laws.

My sister's in-laws came to stay with them over Thanksgiving weekend. It was a disaster. And it got me thinking about my own relationship with my in-laws.

Maybe in-laws isn't the right term. Maybe it is.

I'm thinking a lot about the struggles we have to merge the two families. Everything from scheduling holidays, scheduling time with FireGirl (now that they are grandparents), to how we communicate, traditions we have, how we handle things differently, view things differently, etc.

I struggle a lot. A lot.

I try not to show it, but I know it comes out from time-to-time.

My in-laws are not, by any means, bad. They are great people. They are very nice, and can be very generous.

But we do not see eye-to-eye in a lot of areas. And that creates... tension. We also do things differently, and handle communication differently.

For example, my family plans things in advance. FireMan's family does not. This has created some tension regarding holidays, as my in-laws now feel that they are being slighted and are "not important" to see during the holidays. Not the case.
What happens is that my family plans holiday gatherings way in advance. Sometimes months. My in-laws usually wait until a day or two before to decide what they are doing. When we tell them we already have plans, they feel slighted, as if we are giving my family preference. I'm honestly not sure how to make this situation better. I've tried asking ahead of time what they're plans are, and I get a lot of "I-don't-know"s, probablys, maybes, etc. So I feel like I have no choice but to go ahead & commit to my family, because we have no other plans. But then my mother-in-law gets upset when we can't make it to her plans, or ask her to change her plans, because she doesn't plan anything or notifiy us until right before. I just don't know what to do.

We also struggle with the issue of respect.
I feel like I am fighting to gain respect in their eyes as the matriarch of my own family, and I am pretty darn sure she feels like I am not respecting her because I don't let her do whatever she wants. It's a fine line, and I don't know that either one of us is going to win this struggle.
I understand her point of view. She is a very strong womanly presence in her family of men (3 sons, no daughters). She has run their family & household, and run it well.
Then her baby (FireMan is indeed the baby of the family) goes off & marries another strong woman.
I don't think she likes that he has another woman in his life. In fact, I know she doesn't. FireMan has told me himself that his relationship with his mother was a cause of tension in his first marriage, because he gave his mom priority over his wife. And he has learned from that, and knows that once you are married your spouse is to be the priority, and so works to that end in our relationship. And momma no like that.
And I don't feel like she respects me at all. Or him, really. I think she still sees him as her baby. And I don't know how she sees me. But not as someone to be respected, that's for sure.

I've been with FireMan for almost four years. Married for over two. And I still don't feel accepted as part of the family. It still feels... almost... like when you start dating someone. You know? and you're just kind of that outsider at family functions? and it seems like no matter what you say, it comes out wrong (or is taken wrong)? and they don't get you? and so you feel awkward and just want to go home, but you can't because it's your new beau's family and he wants to stay? I still feel like that.
FireMan & I are perfect fit. But I do not fit with his family at all. And I don't really know how to make it better, without compromising who I am, which I'm not really willing to do.

I don't know. I realize this post is kind of rambling. And I have so much more to say on this matter. But I'll stop for now.


1 comment:

Cynthia said...

I can't help you out with the respect issue other than to just say 'don't worry about it and just be yourself, to hell with the rest'.

But as for the planning thing, maybe you can put your skills to work there. Instead of asking what the in-laws plans are, invite them to YOUR plan. 'We would like to get together with you for Christmas on the 18th. That's the date WE have available and I wanted to make sure WE got you on OUR calendar before it got booked for something else. We can do either house or go to a restaurant, whichever works for you.' Call them with a plan already made so all they have to say is yes or no. And if they 'no' you, then you have the fallback spot of 'well, we tried and YOU weren't availabe'.

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